Introduction to Chronicles of the Canongate.
Appendixto Introduction The Theatrical Fund Dinner.
IntroductoryMr. Chrystal Croftangry.
INTRODUCTIONTO CHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE.
Thepreceding volume of this Collection concluded the last of thepiecesoriginally published under the NOMINIS UMBRA of The AuthorofWaverley; and the circumstances which rendered it impossiblefor thewriter to continue longer in the possession of hisincognitowere communicated in 1827in the Introduction to thefirstseries of Chronicles of the Canongateconsisting (besidesabiographical sketch of the imaginary chronicler) of threetalesentitled "The Highland Widow" "The Two Drovers"and "TheSurgeon'sDaughter." In the present volume the two first namedof thesepieces are includedtogether with three detachedstorieswhich appeared the year afterin the elegant compilationcalled"The Keepsake." "The Surgeon's Daughter" itis thoughtbetter todefer until a succeeding volumethan to
"Beginand break off in the middle."
I haveperhapssaid enough on former occasions of themisfortuneswhich led to the dropping of that mask under which Ihadfor along series of yearsenjoyed so large a portion ofpublicfavour. Through the success of those literary effortsIhad beenenabled to indulge most of the tastes which a retiredperson ofmy station might be supposed to entertain. In the penof thisnameless romancerI seemed to possess something like thesecretfountain of coined gold and pearls vouchsafed to thetravellerof the Eastern Tale; and no doubt believed that I mightventurewithout silly imprudenceto extend my personalexpenditureconsiderably beyond what I should have thought ofhad mymeans been limited to the competence which I derived frominheritancewith the moderate income of a professionalsituation.
I boughtand builtand plantedand was consideredby myselfas by the rest of the worldin the safe possession ofan easyfortune. My richeshoweverlike the other riches ofthisworldwere liable to accidentsunder which they wereultimatelydestined to make unto themselves wingsand fly away.The year1825so disastrous to many branches of industry andcommercedid not spare the market of literature; and the suddenruin thatfell on so many of the booksellers could scarcely havebeenexpected to leave unscathed one whose career had ofnecessityconnected him deeply and extensively with the pecuniarytransactionsof that profession. In a wordalmost without onenote ofpremonitionI found myself involved in the sweepingcatastropheof the unhappy timeand called on to meet thedemands ofcreditors upon commercial establishments with whichmyfortunes had long been bound upto the extent of no less asum thanone hundred and twenty thousand pounds.
The authorhavinghowever rashlycommitted his pledges thuslargely tothe hazards of trading companiesit behoved himofcoursetoabide the consequences of his conductandwithwhateverfeelingshe surrendered on the instant every shred ofpropertywhich he had been accustomed to call his own. It becamevested inthe hands of gentlemen whose integrityprudenceandintelligencewere combined with all possible liberality andkindnessof dispositionand who readily afforded everyassistancetowards the execution of plansin the success ofwhich theauthor contemplated the possibility of his ultimateextricationand which were of such a nature thathad assistanceof thissort been withheldhe could have had little prospect ofcarryingthem into effect. Among other resources which occurredwas theproject of that complete and corrected edition of hisNovels andRomances (whose real parentage had of necessity beendisclosedat the moment of the commercial convulsions alludedto)whichhas now advanced with unprecedented favour nearly toits close;but as he purposed also to continuefor the behoof ofthose towhom he was indebtedthe exercise of his pen in thesame pathof literatureso long as the taste of his countrymenshouldseem to approve of his effortsit appeared to him that itwould havebeen an idle piece of affectation to attempt gettingup a newincognitoafter his original visor had been thus dashedfrom hisbrow. Hence the personal narrative prefixed to thefirst workof fiction which he put forth after the paternity ofthe"Waverley Novels" had come to be publicly ascertained; andthoughmany of the particulars originally avowed in that Noticehave beenunavoidably adverted to in the Prefaces and Notes tosome ofthe preceding volumes of the present collectionit isnowreprinted as it stood at the timebecause some interest isgenerallyattached to a coin or medal struck on a specialoccasionas expressingperhapsmore faithfully than the sameartistcould have afterwards conveyedthe feelings of the momentthat gaveit birth. The Introduction to the first series ofChroniclesof the Canongate ranthenin these words:
All whoare acquainted with the early history of the Italianstage areaware that Arlecchino is notin his originalconceptiona mere worker of marvels with his wooden swordajumper inand out of windowsas upon our theatrebutas hisparty-colouredjacket impliesa buffoon or clownwhose mouthfar frombeing eternally closedas amongst usis filledlikethat ofTouchstonewith quipsand cranksand witty devicesvery oftendelivered extempore. It is not easy to trace how hebecamepossessed of his black vizardwhich was anciently made intheresemblance of the face of a cat; but it seems that the maskwasessential to the performance of the characteras will appearfrom thefollowing theatrical anecdote:
An actoron the Italian stage permitted at the Foire du St.Germainin Pariswas renowned for the wildventurousandextravagantwitthe brilliant sallies and fortunate reparteeswith whichhe prodigally seasoned the character of the party-colouredjester. Some criticswhose good-will towards afavouriteperformer was stronger than their judgmenttookoccasionto remonstrate with the successful actor on the subjectof thegrotesque vizard. They went wilily to their purposeobservingthat his classical and Attic withis delicate vein ofhumourhis happy turn for dialoguewere rendered burlesque andludicrousby this unmeaning and bizarre disguiseand that thoseattributeswould become far more impressive if aided by thespirit ofhis eye and the expression of his natural features.Theactor's vanity was easily so far engaged as to induce him tomake theexperiment. He played Harlequin barefacedbut wasconsideredon all hands as having made a total failure. He hadlost theaudacity which a sense of incognito bestowedand withit all thereckless play of raillery which gave vivacity to hisoriginalacting. He cursed his advisersand resumed hisgrotesquevizardbutit is saidwithout ever being able toregain thecareless and successful levity which the consciousnessof thedisguise had formerly bestowed.
Perhapsthe Author of Waverley is now about to incur a risk ofthe samekindand endanger his popularity by having laid asidehisincognito. It is certainly not a voluntary experimentlikethat ofHarlequin; for it was my original intention never to haveavowedthese works during my lifetimeand the originalmanuscriptswere carefully preserved (though by the care ofothersrather than mine)with the purpose of supplying thenecessaryevidence of the truth when the period of announcing itshouldarrive. [These manuscripts are at present (August 1831)advertisedfor public salewhich is an additionthough a smallonetoother annoyances.] But the affairs of my publishershavingunfortunatelypassed into a management different fromtheir ownI had no right any longer to rely upon secrecy in thatquarter;and thus my masklike my Aunt Dinah's in "TristramShandy"having begun to wax a little threadbare about the chinit becametime to lay it aside with a good graceunless Idesired itshould fall in pieces from my facewhich was nowbecomelikely.
Yet I hadnot the slightest intention of selecting the time andplace inwhich the disclosure was finally made; nor was there anyconcertbetwixt my learned and respected friend LORD MEADOWBANKand myselfupon that occasion. It wasas the reader is probablyawareupon the 23rd February lastat a public meetingcalledforestablishing a professional Theatrical Fund in Edinburghthat thecommunication took place. Just before we sat down totableLord Meadowbank [One of the Supreme Judges of ScotlandtermedLords of Council and Session.] asked me privately whetherI wasstill anxious to preserve my incognito on the subject ofwhat werecalled the Waverley Novels? I did not immediately seethepurpose of his lordship's questionalthough I certainlymight havebeen led to infer itand replied that the secret hadnow ofnecessity become known to so many people that I wasindifferenton the subject. Lord Meadowbank was thus inducedwhiledoing me the great honour of proposing my health to themeetingto say something on the subject of these Novels sostronglyconnecting them with me as the authorthat by remainingsilent Imust have stood convictedeither of the actualpaternityor of the still greater crime of being supposedwilling toreceive indirectly praise to which I had no justtitle.
I thus found myself suddenly and unexpectedly placed intheconfessionaland had only time to recollect that I had beenguidedthither by a most friendly handand could notperhapsfind abetter public opportunity to lay down a disguise whichbegan toresemble that of a detected masquerader.
I hadtherefore the task of avowing myselfto the numerous andrespectablecompany assembledas the sole and unaided author oftheseNovels of Waverleythe paternity of which was likely atone timeto have formed a controversy of some celebrityfor theingenuitywith which some instructors of the public gave theirassuranceon the subject was extremely persevering. I now thinkit furthernecessary to say thatwhile I take on myself all themerits anddemerits attending these compositionsI am bound toacknowledgewith gratitude hints of subjects and legends which Ihavereceived from various quartersand have occasionally usedas afoundation of my fictitious compositionsor woven up withthem inthe shape of episodes. I am boundin particulartoacknowledgethe unremitting kindness of Mr. Joseph Trainsupervisorof excise at Dumfriesto whose unwearied industry Ihave beenindebted for many curious traditions and points ofantiquarianinterest. It was Mr. Train who brought to myrecollectionthe history of Old Mortalityalthough I myself hadhad apersonal interview with that celebrated wanderer so farback asabout 1792when I found him on his usual task. He wasthenengaged in repairing the Gravestones of the Covenanters whohad diedwhile imprisoned in the Castle of Dunnottarto whichmany ofthem were committed prisoners at the period of Argyle'srising.
Their place of confinement is still called the Whigs'Vault.
Mr. Trainhoweverprocured for me far more extensiveinformationconcerning this singular personwhose name wasPattersonthan I had been able to acquire during my own shortconversationwith him. [Seefor some further particularsthenotes toOld Mortalityin the present collective edition.] Hewas (as Ithink I have somewhere already stated) a native of theparish ofCloseburnin Dumfriesshire; and it is believed thatdomesticafflictionas well as devotional feelinginduced himtocommence the wandering mode of life which he pursued for avery longperiod. It is more than twenty years since RobertPatterson'sdeathwhich took place on the highroad nearLockerbywhere he was found exhausted and expiring. The whiteponythecompanion of his pilgrimagewas standing by the sideof itsdying master the whole furnishing a scene not unfitted forthepencil. These particulars I had from Mr. Train.
Anotherdebtwhich I pay most willinglyI owe to an unknowncorrespondent(a lady)[The late Mrs. Goldie.] who favoured mewith thehistory of the upright and high-principled femalewhomin theHeart of Mid-LothianI have termed Jeanie Deans. Thecircumstanceof her refusing to save her sister's life by an actofperjuryand undertaking a pilgrimage to London to obtain herpardonare both represented as true by my fair and obligingcorrespondent;and they led me to consider the possibility ofrenderinga fictitious personage interesting by mere dignity ofmind andrectitude of principleassisted by unpretending goodsense andtemperwithout any of the beautygracetalentaccomplishmentand wit to which a heroine of romance is supposedto have aprescriptive right. If the portrait was received withinterestby the publicI am conscious how much it was owing tothe truthand force of the original sketchwhich I regret that Iam unableto present to the publicas it was written with muchfeelingand spirit.
Old andodd booksand a considerable collection of familylegendsformed another quarryso ample that it was much morelikelythat the strength of the labourer should be exhausted thanthatmaterials should fail. I may mentionfor example's sakethat theterrible catastrophe of the Bride of Lammermoor actuallyoccurredin a Scottish family of rank. The female relativebywhom themelancholy tale was communicated to me many years sincewas a nearconnection of the family in which the event happenedand alwaystold it with an appearance of melancholy mystery whichenhancedthe interest. She had known in her youth the brotherwho rodebefore the unhappy victim to the fatal altarwhothoughthen a mere boyand occupied almost entirely with thegaiety ofhis own appearance in the bridal processioncould notbut remarkthat the hand of his sister was moistand cold asthat of astatue. It is unnecessary further to withdraw the veilfrom thisscene of family distressnoralthough it occurredmore thana hundred years sincemight it be altogether agreeableto therepresentatives of the families concerned in thenarrative.
It may be proper to say that the events alone areimitated;but I had neither the means nor intention of copyingthemannersor tracing the charactersof the persons concernedin thereal story. IndeedI may here state generally thatalthough Ihave deemed historical personages free subjects ofdelineationI have never on any occasion violated the respectdue toprivate life. It was indeed impossible that traits propertopersonsboth living and deadwith whom I have hadintercoursein societyshould not have risen to my pen in suchworks asWaverleyand those which followed it. But I havealwaysstudied to generalize the portraitsso that they shouldstillseemon the wholethe productions of fancythoughpossessingsome resemblance to real individuals. Yet I must ownmyattempts have not in this last particular been uniformlysuccessful.
There are men whose characters are so peculiarlymarkedthat the delineation of some leading and principalfeatureinevitably places the whole person before you in hisindividuality.
Thusthe character of Jonathan Oldbuckin theAntiquarywas partly founded on that of an old friend of myyouthtowhom I am indebted for introducing me to Shakespeareand otherinvaluable favours; but I thought I had so completelydisguisedthe likeness that his features could not be recognizedby any onenow alive. I was mistakenhoweverand indeed hadendangeredwhat I desired should be considered as a secret; for Iafterwardslearned that a highly-respectable gentlemanone ofthe fewsurviving friends of my fatherand an acute critic[JamesChalmersEsq.Solicitor at LawLondonwho (died duringthepublication of the present edition of these Novels. (Aug.1831.)]had saidupon the appearance of the workthat he wasnowconvinced who was the author of itas he recognized in theAntiquaryof Monkbarns traces of the character of a very intimatefriend ofmy father's family.
I may herealso notice that the sort of exchange of gallantrywhich isrepresented as taking place betwixt the Baron ofBradwardineand Colonel Talbotis a literal fact. The realcircumstancesof the anecdotealike honourable to Whig and Toryare these:
AlexanderStewart of Invernahylea name which I cannot writewithoutthe warmest recollections of gratitude to the friend ofmychildhoodwho first introduced me to the Highlandstheirtraditionsand their mannershad been engaged actively in thetroublesof 1745. As he charged at the battle of Preston withhis clanthe Stewarts of Appinhe saw an officer of theoppositearmy standing alone by a battery of four cannonofwhich hedischarged three on the advancing Highlandersand thendrew hissword. Invernahyle rushed on himand required him tosurrender.
"Never to rebels!" was the undaunted replyaccompaniedwith a lungewhich the Highlander received on histargetbut instead of using his sword in cutting down his nowdefencelessantagonisthe employed it in parrying the blow of aLochaberaxe aimed at the officer by the Millerone of his ownfollowersa grim-looking old Highlanderwhom I remember to haveseen.
Thus overpoweredLieutenant-Colonel Allan Whitefoordagentlemanof rank and consequenceas well as a brave officergave uphis swordand with it his purse and watchwhichInvernahyleacceptedto save them from his followers. After theaffair wasoverMr. Stewart sought out his prisonerand theywereintroduced to each other by the celebrated John Roy Stewartwhoacquainted Colonel Whitefoord with the quality of his captorand madehim aware of the necessity of receiving back hispropertywhich he was inclined to leave in the hands into whichit hadfallen. So great became the confidence establishedbetwixtthemthat Invernahyle obtained from the Chevalier hisprisoner'sfreedom upon parole; and soon afterwardshaving beensent backto the Highlands to raise menhe visited ColonelWhitefoordat his own houseand spent two happy days with himand hisWhig friendswithout thinking on either side of thecivil warwhich was then raging.
When thebattle of Culloden put an end to the hopes of CharlesEdwardInvernahylewounded and unable to movewas borne fromthe fieldby the faithful zeal of his retainers. But as he hadbeen adistinguished Jacobitehis family and property wereexposed tothe system of vindictive destruction too generallycarriedinto execution through the country of the insurgents. Itwas nowColonel Whitefoord's turn to exert himselfand heweariedall the authoritiescivil and militarywith hissolicitationsfor pardon to the saver of his lifeor at leastfor aprotection for his wife and family. His applications werefor a longtime unsuccessful. "I was found with the mark of theBeast uponme in every list" was Invernahyle's expression. AtlengthColonel Whitefoord applied to the Duke of Cumberlandandurged hissuit with every argument which he could think ofbeingstillrepulsedhe took his commission from his bosomand havingsaidsomething of his own and his family's exertions in the causeof theHouse of Hanoverbegged to resign his situation in theirservicesince he could not be permitted to show his gratitude tothe personto whom he owed his life. The dukestruck with hisearnestnessdesired him to take up his commissionand grantedtheprotection required for the family of Invernahyle.
Thechieftain himself lay concealed in a cave near his own housebeforewhich a small body of regular soldiers were encamped. Hecould heartheir muster-roll called every morningand theirdrums beatto quarters at nightand not a change of thesentinelsescaped him. As it was suspected that he was lurkingsomewhereon the propertyhis family were closely watchedandcompelledto use the utmost precaution in supplying him withfood.
One of his daughtersa child of eight or ten years oldwasemployed as the agent least likely to be suspected. She wasaninstanceamong othersthat a time of danger and difficultycreates apremature sharpness of intellect. She made herselfacquaintedamong the soldierstill she became so familiar tothem thather motions escaped their notice; and her practice wasto strollaway into the neighbourhood of the caveand leave whatslendersupply of food she carried for that purpose under someremarkablestoneor the root of some treewhere her fathermight findit as he crept by night from his lurking-place. Timesbecamemilderand my excellent friend was relieved fromproscriptionby the Act of Indemnity. Such is the interestingstorywhich I have rather injured than improved by the manner inwhich itis told in Waverley.
Thisincidentwith several other circumstances illustrating theTales inquestionwas communicated by me to my late lamentedfriendWilliam Erskine (a Scottish judgeby the title of LordKinedder)who afterwards reviewed with far too much partialitythe Talesof my Landlordfor the Quarterly Review of January1817.
[Lord Kinedder died in August 1822. EHEU! (Aug. 1831.)]In thesame article are contained other illustrations of theNovelswith which I supplied my accomplished friendwho tookthetrouble to write the review. The reader who is desirous ofsuchinformation will find the original of Meg MerriliesandIbelieveof one or two other personages of the same cast ofcharacterin the article referred to.
I may alsomention that the tragic and savage circumstances whicharerepresented as preceding the birth of Allan MacAulay in theLegend ofMontrosereally happened in the family of Stewart ofArdvoirlich.
The wager about the candlestickswhose place wassuppliedby Highland torch-bearerswas laid and won by one oftheMacDonalds of Keppoch.
There canbe but little amusement in winnowing out the few grainsof truthwhich are contained in this mass of empty fiction. Imayhoweverbefore dismissing the subjectallude to thevariouslocalities which have been affixed to some of the sceneryintroducedinto these Novelsby whichfor exampleWolf's Hopeisidentified with Fast Castle in BerwickshireTillietudlem withDraphanein Clydesdaleand the valley in the MonasterycalledGlendeargwith the dale of the river Allanabove LordSomerville'svillanear Melrose. I can only say thatin theseand otherinstancesI had no purpose of describing anyparticularlocal spot; and the resemblance must therefore be ofthatgeneral kind which necessarily exists between scenes of thesamecharacter. The iron-bound coast of Scotland affords uponitsheadlands and promontories fifty such castles as Wolf's Hope;everycounty has a valley more or less resembling Glendearg; andif castleslike Tillietudlemor mansions like the Baron ofBradwardine'sare now less frequently to be met withit isowing tothe rage of indiscriminate destructionwhich hasremoved orruined so many monuments of antiquitywhen they werenotprotected by their inaccessible situation. [I wouldparticularlyintimate the Kaim of Uricon the eastern coast ofScotlandas having suggested an idea for the tower called Wolf'sCragwhich the public more generally identified with the ancienttower ofFast Castle.]
The scrapsof poetry which have been in most cases tacked to thebeginningof chapters in these Novels are sometimes quoted eitherfromreading or from memorybutin the general caseare pureinvention.
I found it too troublesome to turn to the collectionof theBritish Poets to discover apposite mottoesandin thesituationof the theatrical mechanistwhowhen the white paperwhichrepresented his shower of snow was exhaustedcontinued thestorm bysnowing brownI drew on my memory as long as I couldand whenthat failedeked it out with invention. I believe thatin somecaseswhere actual names are affixed to the supposedquotationsit would be to little purpose to seek them in theworks ofthe authors referred to. In some cases I have beenentertainedwhen Dr. Watts and other graver authors have beenransackedin vain for stanzas for which the novelist alone wasresponsible.
And nowthe reader may expect mewhile in the confessionaltoexplainthe motives why I have so long persisted in disclaimingthe worksof which I am now writing. To this it would bedifficultto give any other replysave that of Corporal Nymitwas theauthor's humour or caprice for the time. I hope it willnot beconstrued into ingratitude to the publicto whoseindulgenceI have owed my SANG-FROID much more than to any meritof my ownif I confess that I amand have beenmoreindifferentto success or to failure as an authorthan may bethe casewith otherswho feel more strongly the passion forliteraryfameprobably because they are justly conscious of abettertitle to it. It was not until I had attained the age ofthirtyyears that I made any serious attempt at distinguishingmyself asan author; and at that period men's hopesdesiresandwisheshave usually acquired something of a decisive characterand arenot eagerly and easily diverted into a new channel. WhenI made thediscoveryfor to me it was onethat by amusingmyselfwith compositionwhich I felt a delightful occupationIcould alsogive pleasure to othersand became aware thatliterarypursuits were likely to engage in future a considerableportion ofmy timeI felt some alarm that I might acquire thosehabits ofjealousy and fretfulness which have lessenedand evendegradedthe character even of great authorsand rendered themby theirpetty squabbles and mutual irritabilitythe laughing-stock ofthe people of the world. I resolvedthereforein thisrespect toguard my breastperhaps an unfriendly critic may addmybrowwith triple brass[Not altogether impossiblewhen itisconsidered that I have been at the bar since 1792. (Aug.1831.)]and as much as possible to avoid resting my thoughts andwishesupon literary successlest I should endanger my own peaceof mindand tranquillity by literary failure. It would argueeitherstupid apathy or ridiculous affectation to say that I havebeeninsensible to the public applausewhen I have been honouredwith itstestimonies; and still more highly do I prize theinvaluablefriendships which some temporary popularity hasenabled meto form among those of my contemporaries mostdistinguishedby talents and geniusand which I venture to hopenow restupon a basis more firm than the circumstances which gaverise tothem. Yetfeeling all these advantages as a man oughtto doandmust doI may saywith truth and confidencethat IhaveIthinktasted of the intoxicating cup with moderationand that Ihave nevereither in conversation or correspondenceencourageddiscussions respecting my own literary pursuits. OnthecontraryI have usually found such topicseven whenintroducedfrom motives most flattering to myselfRatherembarrassingand disagreeable.
I have nowfrankly told my motives for concealmentso far as Iamconscious of having anyand the public will forgive theegotism ofthe detailas what is necessarily connected with it.Theauthorso long and loudly called forhas appeared on thestageandmade his obeisance to the audience. Thus far hisconduct isa mark of respect. To linger in their presence wouldbeintrusion.
I haveonly to repeat that I avow myself in printas formerly inwordsthesole and unassisted author of all the Novels publishedas worksof "The Author of Waverley." I do this without shamefor I amunconscious that there is any thing in their compositionwhichdeserves reproacheither on the score of religion ormorality;and without any feeling of exultationbecausewhatevermay have been their temporary successI am well awarehow muchtheir reputation depends upon the caprice of fashion;and I havealready mentioned the precarious tenure by which it isheldas areason for displaying no great avidity in grasping atthepossession.
I ought tomentionbefore concludingthat twenty personsatleastwereeither from intimacyor from the confidence whichcircumstancesrendered necessaryparticipant of this secret; andas therewas no instanceto my knowledgeof any one of thenumberbreaking faithI am the more obliged to thembecause theslight andtrivial character of the mystery was not qualified toinspiremuch respect in those entrusted with it. Neverthelesslike Jackthe Giant-KillerI was fully confident in theadvantageof my "Coat of Darkness;" and had it not been fromcompulsorycircumstancesI would haveindeedbeen verycautioushow I parted with it.
As for thework which followsit was meditatedand in partprintedlong before the avowal of the novels took placeandoriginallycommenced with a declaration that it was neither tohaveintroduction nor preface of any kind. This long proemprefixedto a work intended not to have anymayhoweverserveto showhow human purposes in the most triflingas well as themostimportant affairsare liable to be controlled by the courseofevents. Thus we begin to cross a strong river with our eyesand ourresolution fixed on that point of the opposite shore onwhich wepurpose to land; but gradually giving way to thetorrentare gladby the aid perhaps of branch or bushtoextricateourselves at some distant and perhaps dangerouslanding-placemuch farther down the stream than that on which wehad fixedour intentions.
Hopingthat the Courteous Reader will afford to a known andfamiliaracquaintance some portion of the favour which heextendedto a disguised candidate for his applauseI beg leavetosubscribe myself his obliged humble servant
Such wasthe little narrative which I thought proper to put forthin October1827; nor have I much to add to it now. About toappear forthe first time in my own name in this department oflettersit occurred to me that something in the shape of aperiodicalpublication might carry with it a certain air ofnoveltyand I was willing to breakif I may so express ittheabruptnessof my personal forthcomingby investing an imaginarycoadjutorwith at least as much distinctness of individualexistenceas I had ever previously thought it worth while tobestow onshadows of the same convenient tribe. Of courseithad neverbeen in my contemplation to invite the assistance ofany realperson in the sustaining of my quasi-editorial characterandlabours. It had long been my opinionthat any thing like aliteraryPICNIC is likely to end in suggesting comparisonsjustlytermed odiousand therefore to be avoided; andindeedIhad alsohad some occasion to knowthat promises of assistancein effortsof that orderare apt to be more magnificent than thesubsequentperformance. I therefore planned a Miscellanyto bedependentafter the old fashionon my own resources aloneandalthoughconscious enough that the moment which assigned to theAuthor ofWaverley "a local habitation and a name" had seriouslyendangeredhis spellI felt inclined to adopt the sentiment ofmy oldhero Montroseand to say to myselfthat in literatureas in war
"Heeither fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all."
To theparticulars explanatory of the plan of these Chronicleswhich thereader is presented with in Chapter II. by theimaginaryEditorMr. CroftangryI have now to addthat theladytermed in his narrativeMrs. Bethune Balliolwas designedto shadowout in its leading points the interesting character ofa dearfriend of mineMrs. Murray Keithwhose death occurringshortlybeforehad saddened a wide circlemuch attached to heras wellfor her genuine virtue and amiable qualities ofdispositionas for the extent of information which shepossessedand the delightful manner in which she was used tocommunicateit. In truththe author hadon many occasionsbeenindebted to her vivid memory for the SUBSTRATUM of hisScottishfictionsand she accordingly had beenfrom an earlyperiodatno loss to fix the Waverley Novels on the rightculprit.
[TheKeiths of Craigin Kincardineshiredescended from JohnKeithfourth son of Williamsecond Earl Marischalwho got fromhisfatherabout 1480the lands of Craigand part of Garvockin thatcounty. In Douglas's Baronage443 to 445is a pedigreeof thatfamily. Colonel Robert Keith of Craig (the seventh indescentfrom John) by his wifeAgnesdaughter of Robert MurrayofMurrayshallof the family of Blackbaronywidow of ColonelStirlingof the family of Keirhad one sonnamely Robert Keithof Craigambassador to the court of Viennaafterwards to St.Petersburghwhich latter situation he held at the accession ofKingGeorge III.who died at Edinburgh in 1774. He marriedMargaretsecond daughter of Sir William Cunningham ofCapringtonby Janetonly child and heiress of Sir James Dick ofPrestonfield;andamong other children of this marriage were thelatewell-known diplomatistSir Robert Murray KeithK.B.ageneral inthe armyand for some time ambassador at Vienna; SirBasilKeithKnightcaptain in the navywho died Governor ofJamaica;and my excellent friendAnne Murray Keithwhoultimatelycame into possession of the family estatesand diednot longbefore the date of this Introduction (1831).]
In thesketch of Chrystal Croftangry's own historythe authorhas beenaccused of introducing some not polite allusions torespectableliving individuals; but he may safelyhe presumespass oversuch an insinuation. The first of the narratives whichMr.Croftangry proceeds to lay before the public"The HighlandWidow"was derived from Mrs. Murray Keithand is givenwiththeexception of a few additional circumstancesthe introductionof which Iam rather inclined to regretvery much as theexcellentold lady used to tell the story. Neither the HighlandciceroneMacturk nor the demure washingwomanwere drawn fromimagination;and on re-reading my taleafter the lapse of a fewyearsandcomparing its effect with my remembrance of my worthyfriend'soral narrationwhich was certainly extremely affectingI cannotbut suspect myself of having marred its simplicity bysome ofthose interpolationswhichat the time when I pennedthemnodoubt passed with myself for embellishments.
The nexttaleentitled "The Two Drovers" I learned from anotheroldfriendthe late George ConstableEsq. of Wallace-CraigienearDundeewhom I have already introduced to my reader as theoriginalAntiquary of Monkbarns. He had been presentI thinkat thetrial at Carlisleand seldom mentioned the venerablejudgescharge to the jurywithout shedding tearswhich hadpeculiarpathosas flowing down featurescarrying rather asarcasticor almost a cynical expression.
Thisworthy gentleman's reputation for shrewd Scottish senseknowledgeof our national antiquitiesand a racy humour peculiartohimselfmust be still remembered. For myselfI have prideinrecording that for many years we werein Wordsworth'slanguage
"Apair of friendsthough I was young
And 'George' was seventy-two."
[It hasbeen suggested to the Author that it might be well toreprinthere a detailed account of the public dinner alluded toin theforegoing Introductionas given in the newspapers of thetime; andthe reader is accordingly presented with the followingextractfrom the EDINBURGH WEEKLY JOURNAL for Wednesday28thFebruary1827.]
THETHEATRICAL FUND DINNER.
Beforeproceeding with our account of this very interestingfestivalforso it may be termedit is our duty to present toourreaders the following letterwhich we have received from thePresident:
TO THEEDITOR OF THE "EDINBURGH WEEKLY JOURNAL."
SirI amextremely sorry I have not leisure to correct the copyyou sentme of what I am stated to have said at the dinner fortheTheatrical Fund. I am no oratorand upon such occasions asarealluded toI say as well as I can what the time requires.
HoweverIhope your reporter has been more accurate in otherinstancesthan in mine. I have corrected one passagein which Iam made tospeak with great impropriety and petulancerespectingtheopinions of those who do not approve of dramaticentertainments.
I have restored what I saidwhich was meant toberespectfulas every objection founded in conscience isin myopinionentitled to be so treated. Other errors I left as Ifoundthemit being of little consequence whether I spoke senseornonsense in what was merely intended for the purpose of thehour.
EDINBURGHMONDAY. WALTER SCOTT.
TheTheatrical Fund Dinnerwhich took place on Fridayin theAssemblyRoomswas conducted with admirable spirit. TheChairmanSir WALTER SCOTTamong his other great qualificationsis wellfitted to enliven such an entertainment. His manners areextremelyeasyand his style of speaking simple and naturalyetfull ofvivacity and point; and he has the artif it be artofrelaxinginto a certain homeliness of mannerwithout losing oneparticleof his dignity. He thus takes off some of that solemnformalitywhich belongs to such meetingsandby his easyandgracefulfamiliarityimparts to them somewhat of the pleasingcharacterof a private entertainment. Near Sir W. Scott sat theEarl ofFifeLord MeadowbankSir John Hope of PinkieBart.AdmiralAdamBaron Clerk RattrayGilbert InnesEsq.JamesWalkerEsq.Robert DundasEsq.Alexander SmithEsq.etc.
The clothbeing removed"Non nobisDomine" was sung by Messrs.ThorneSwiftCollierand Hartleyafter which the followingtoastswere given from the chair:
"TheKing"all the honours.
"TheDuke of Clarence and the Royal Family."
TheCHAIRMANin proposing the next toastwhich he wished to bedrunk insolemn silencesaid it was to the memory of aregretted-princewhom we had lately lost. Every individualwould atonce conjecture to whom he alluded. He had no intentionto dwellon his military merits. They had been told in thesenate;they had been repeated in the cottage; and whenever asoldierwas the themehis name was never far distant. But itwaschiefly in connection with the business of this meetingwhich hislate Royal Highness had condescended in a particularmanner topatronizethat they were called on to drink hishealth.
To that charity he had often sacrificed his timeandhad givenup the little leisure which he had from importantbusiness.
He was always ready to attend on every occasion ofthis kindand it was in that view that he proposed to drink tothe memoryof his late Royal Highness the Duke of York.Drunk insolemnsilence.
TheCHAIRMAN then requested that gentlemen would fill a bumper asfull as itwould holdwhile he would say only a few words. Hewas in thehabit of hearing speechesand he knew the feelingwith whichlong ones were regarded. He was sure that it wasperfectlyunnecessary for him to enter into any vindication ofthedramatic artwhich they had come here to support. Thishoweverhe considered to be the proper time and proper occasionfor him tosay a few words on that love of representation whichwas aninnate feeling in human nature. It was the firstamusementthat the child had. It grew greater as he grew up; andeven inthe decline of life nothing amuses so much as when acommontale is told with appropriate personification. The firstthing achild does is to ape his schoolmaster by flogging achair.
The assuming a character ourselvesor the seeing othersassume animaginary characteris an enjoyment natural tohumanity.
It was implanted in our very nature to take pleasurefrom suchrepresentationsat proper times and on properoccasions.
In all ages the theatrical art had kept pace with theimprovementof mankindand with the progress of letters and thefinearts. As man has advanced from the ruder stages of societythe loveof dramatic representations has increasedand all worksof thisnature have keen improved in character and in structure.They hadonly to turn their eyes to the history of ancientGreecealthough he did not pretend to be very deeply versed initsancient drama. Its first tragic poet commanded a body oftroops atthe battle of Marathon. Sophocles and Euripides weremen ofrank in Athens when Athens was in its highest renown.They shookAthens with their discoursesas their theatricalworksshook the theatre itself. If they turned to France in thetime ofLouis the Fourteenththat era which is the classicalhistory ofthat countrythey would find that it was referred toby allFrenchmen as the golden age of the drama there. And alsoin Englandin the time of Queen Elizabeth the drama was at itshighestpitchwhen the nation began to mingle deeply and wiselyin thegeneral politics of Europenot only not receiving lawsfromothersbut giving laws to the worldand vindicating therights ofmankind. (Cheers.) There have been various times whenthedramatic art subsequently fell into disrepute. Itsprofessorshave been stigmatizedand laws have been passedagainstthemless dishonourable to them than to the statesmen bywhom theywere proposedand to the legislators by whom they wereadopted.
What were the times in which these laws were passed?Was it notwhen virtue was seldom inculcated as a moral duty thatwe wererequired to relinquish the most rational of all ouramusementswhen the clergy were enjoined celibacyand when thelaity weredenied the right to read their Bibles? He thoughtthat itmust have been from a notion of penance that they erectedthe dramainto an ideal place of profanenessand spoke of thetheatre asof the tents of sin. He did not mean to dispute thatthere weremany excellent persons who thought differently fromhimandhe disclaimed the slightest idea of charging them withbigotry orhypocrisy on that account. He gave them full creditfor theirtender consciencesin making these objectionsalthoughthey did not appear relevant to him. But to thesepersonsbeingas he believed themmen of worth and pietyhewas surethe purpose of this meeting would furnish some apologyfor anerrorif there be anyin the opinions of those whoattend.
They would approve the giftalthough they might differin otherpoints. Such might not approve of going to the theatrebut atleast could not deny that they might give away from theirsuperfluitywhat was required for the relief of the sickthesupport ofthe agedand the comfort of the afflicted. Thesewereduties enjoined by our religion itself. (Loud cheers.)
Theperformers are in a particular manner entitled to the supportor regardwhen in old age or distressof those who havepartakenof the amusements of those places which they render anornamentto society. Their art was of a peculiarly delicate andprecariousnature. They had to serve a long apprenticeship. Itwas verylong before even the first-rate geniuses could acquirethemechanical knowledge of the stage business. They mustlanguishlong in obscurity before they can avail themselves oftheirnatural talents; and after that they have but a short spaceof timeduring which they are fortunate if they can provide themeans ofcomfort in the decline of life. That comes lateandlasts buta short time; after which they are left dependent.Theirlimbs failtheir teeth are loosenedtheir voice is lostand theyare leftafter giving happiness to othersin a mostdisconsolatestate. The public were liberal and generous tothosedeserving their protection. It was a sad thing to bedependenton the favourorhe might sayin plain termson thecapriceof the public; and this more particularly for a class ofpersons ofwhom extreme prudence is not the character. Theremight beinstances of opportunities being neglected. But leteachgentleman tax himselfand consider the opportunities THEYhadneglectedand the sums of money THEY had wasted; let everygentlemanlook into his own bosomand say whether these werecircumstanceswhich would soften his own feelingswere he to beplungedinto distress. He put it to every generous bosomtoeverybetter feelingto say what consolation was it to old ageto be toldthat you might have made provision at a time which hadbeenneglected(loud cheers)and to find it objectedthat ifyou hadpleased you might have been wealthy. He had hithertobeenspeaking of whatin theatrical languagewas called STARS;but theywere sometimes falling ones. There was another class ofsufferersnaturally and necessarily connected with the theatrewithoutwhom it was impossible to go on. The sailors have asayingEvery man cannot be a boatswain. If there must be agreatactor to act Hamletthere must also be people to actLaertesthe KingRosencrantzand Guildensternotherwise adramacannot go on. If even Garrick himself were to rise fromthe deadhe could not act Hamlet alone. There must be generalscolonelscommanding-officerssubalterns. But what are theprivatesoldiers to do? Many have mistaken their own talentsand havebeen driven in early youth to try the stageto whichthey arenot competent. He would know what to say to theindifferentpoet and to the bad artist. He would say that it wasfoolishand he would recommend to the poet to become a scribeand theartist to paint sign-posts. (Loud laughter.) But youcould notsend the player adrift; for if he cannot play Hamlethe mustplay Guildenstern. Where there are many labourerswagesmust below and no man in such a situation can decently support awife andfamilyand save something off his income for old age.What isthis man to do in later life? Are you to cast him offlike anold hingeor a piece of useless machinerywhich hasdone itswork? To a person who had contributed to our amusementthis wouldbe unkindungratefuland unchristian. His wants arenot of hisown makingbut arise from the natural sources ofsicknessand old age. It cannot be denied that there is oneclass ofsufferers to whom no imprudence can be ascribedexcepton firstentering on the profession. After putting his hand tothedramatic ploughhe cannot draw backbut must continue atitandtoiltill death release him from wantor charitybyits milderinfluencesteps in to render that want moretolerable.
He had little more to sayexcept that he sincerelyhoped thatthe collection to-dayfrom the number of respectablegentlemenpresentwould meet the views entertained by thepatrons.
He hoped it would do so. They should not bedisheartened.
Though they could not do a great dealthey mightdosomething. They had this consolationthat everything theypartedwith from their superfluity would do some good. Theywouldsleep the better themselves when they had been the means ofgivingsleep to others. It was ungrateful and unkind that thosewho hadsacrificed their youth to our amusement should notreceivethe reward due to thembut should be reduced to hardfare intheir old age. We cannot think of poor Falstaff going tobedwithout his cup of sackor Macbeth fed on bones asmarrowlessas those of Banquo. (Loud cheers and laughter.) As hebelievedthat they were all as fond of the dramatic art as he wasin hisyounger dayshe would propose that they should drink "TheTheatricalFund" with three times three.
Mr. MACKAYroseon behalf of his brethrento return theirthanks forthe toast just drunk. Many of the gentlemen presenthe saidwere perhaps not fully acquainted with the nature andintentionof the institutionand it might not be amiss to enterinto someexplanation on the subject. With whomsoever the ideaof aTheatrical Fund might have originated (and it had beendisputedby the surviving relatives of two or three individuals)certain itwas that the first legally constituted Theatrical Fundowed itsorigin to one of the brightest ornaments of theprofessionthe late David Garrick. That eminent actor conceivedthatby aweekly subscription in the theatrea fund might beraisedamong its membersfrom which a portion might be given tothose ofhis less fortunate brethrenand thus an opportunitywould beoffered for prudence to provide what fortune had deniedacomfortable provision for the winter of life. With thewelfare ofhis profession constantly at heartthe zeal withwhich helaboured to uphold its respectabilityand to impressupon theminds or his brethrennot only the necessitybut theblessingof independencethe Fund became his peculiar care. Hedrew up aform of laws for its governmentprocured at his ownexpensethe passing of an Act of Parliament for its confirmationbequeathedto it a handsome legacyand thus became the father ofthe DruryLane Fund. So constant was his attachment to thisinfantestablishmentthat he chose to grace the close of thebrightesttheatrical life on record by the last display of histranscendenttalent on the occasion of a benefit for this childof hisadoptionwhich ever since has gone by the name of theGarrickFund. In imitation of his noble examplefunds had beenestablishedin several provincial theatres in England; but itremainedfor Mrs. Henry Siddons and Mr. William Murray to becomethefounders of the first Theatrical Fund in Scotland. (Cheers.)This Fundcommenced under the most favourable auspices. It wasliberallysupported by the managementand highly patronized bythepublic. Notwithstandingit fell short in the accomplishmentof itsintentions. What those intentions werehe (Mr. Mackay)need notrecapitulatebut they failed; and he did not hesitateto confessthat a want of energy on the part of the performerswas theprobable cause. A new set of Rules and Regulations werelatelydrawn upsubmitted to and approved of at a generalmeeting ofthe members of the Theatreand accordingly the Fundwasremodelled on the 1st of January last. And here he thoughthe did butecho the feelings of his brethrenby publiclyacknowledgingthe obligations they were under to the managementfor theaid given and the warm interest they had all along takenin thewelfare of the Fund. (Cheers.) The nature and object oftheprofession had been so well treated of by the President thathe wouldsay nothing; but of the numerous offspring of scienceand geniusthat court precarious famethe actor boasts theslenderestclaim of allthe sport of fortunethe creatures offashionand the victims of capricethey are seenheardandadmiredbut to be forgot. They leave no traceno memorial oftheirexistencethey "come like shadowsso depart."
(Cheers.)Yet humblethough their pretensions bethere was no professiontradeorcalling where such a combination of requisitesmentalandbodilywere indispensable. In all others the principal maypractiseafter he has been visited by the afflicting hand ofProvidencesomeby the loss of limbsome of voiceand manywhen thefaculty of the mind is on the wanemay be assisted bydutifulchildren or devoted servants. Not so the actorHe mustretain allhe ever did possessor sink dejected to a mournfulhome.
(Applause.) Yet while they are toiling for ephemeraltheatricfamehow very few ever possess the means of hoarding intheiryouth that which would give bread in old age! But now abrighterprospect dawned upon themand to the success of thistheirinfant establishment they looked with hopeas to acomfortableand peaceful home in their declining years. Heconcludedby tendering to the meetingin the name of hisbrethrenand sisterstheir unfeigned thanks for their liberalsupportand begged to propose "The Health of the Patrons of theEdinburghTheatrical Fund." (Cheers.)
LordMEADOWBANK said thatby desire of his Hon. Friend in thechairandof his Noble Friend at his right handhe begged leaveto returnthanks for the honour which had been conferred on thePatrons ofthis excellent institution. He could answer forhimselfhecould answer for them allthat they were deeplyimpressedwith the meritorious objects which it has in viewandof theiranxious wish to promote its interests. For himselfhehoped hemight be permitted to say that he was rather surprisedat findinghis own name as one of the Patronsassociated with somanyindividuals of high rank and powerful influence. But it wasan excusefor those who had placed him in a situation sohonourableand so distinguishedthat when this charity wasinstitutedhe happened to hold a high and responsible stationunder theCrownwhen he might have been of use in assisting andpromotingits objects. His Lordship much feared that he couldhavelittle expectationsituated as he now wasof doing either;but hecould confidently assert that few things would give himgreatergratification than being able to contribute to itsprosperityand support. And indeedwhen one recollects thepleasurewhich at all periods of life he has received from theexhibitionsof the stageand the exertions of the meritoriousindividualsfor whose aid this Fund has been establishedhe mustbedivested both of gratitude and feeling who would not give hisbestendeavours to promote its welfare. And nowthat he mightin somemeasure repay the gratification which had been affordedhimselfhe would beg leave to propose a toastthe health of oneof thePatronsa great and distinguished individualwhose namemustalways stand by itselfand whichin an assembly such asthisorin any other assembly of Scotsmencan never bereceivednothe would saywith ordinary feelings of pleasureor ofdelightbut with those of rapture and enthusiasm. Indoing sohe felt that he stood in a somewhat new situation.Whoeverhad been called upon to propose the health of his Hon.Friend towhom he alludedsome time agowould have foundhimselfenabledfrom the mystery in which certain matters wereinvolvedto gratify himself and his auditors by allusions whichfound aresponding chord in their own feelingsand to deal inthelanguagethe sincere languageof panegyricwithoutintrudingon the modesty of the great individual to whom hereferred.
But it was no longer possibleconsistently with therespect toone's auditorsto use upon this subject terms eitherofmystification or of obscure or indirect allusion. The cloudshave beendispelled; the DARKNESS VISIBLE has been cleared away;and theGreat Unknownthe minstrel of our native landthemightymagician who has rolled back the current of timeandconjuredup before our living senses the men and the manners ofdays whichhave long passed awaystands revealed to the heartsand theeyes of his affectionate and admiring countrymen. If hehimselfwere capable of imagining all that belonged to thismightysubjectwere he even able to give utterance to all thatas afriendas a manand as a Scotsmanhe must feel regardingityetknowingas he well didthat this illustrious individualwas notmore distinguished for his towering talents than forthosefeelings which rendered such allusions ungrateful tohimselfhowever sparingly introducedhe wouldon that accountstillrefrain from doing that which would otherwise be no lesspleasingto him than to his audience. But this his Lordshiphoped hewould be allowed to say (his auditors would not pardonhim werehe to say less)we owe to himas a peoplea large andheavy debtof gratitude. He it is who has opened to foreignersthe grandand characteristic beauties of our country. It is tohim thatwe owe that our gallant ancestors and the struggles ofourillustrious patriotswho fought and bled in order to obtainand securethat independence and that liberty we now enjoyhaveobtained afame no longer confined to the boundaries of a remoteandcomparatively obscure nationand who has called down upontheirstruggles for glory and freedom the admiration of foreigncountries.
He it is who has conferred a new reputation on ournationalcharacterand bestowed on Scotland an imperishablenamewereit only by her having given birth to himself. (Loudandrapturous applause.)
Sir WALTERSCOTT certainly did not think thatin coming here to-dayhewould have the task of acknowledgingbefore threehundredgentlemena secret whichconsidering that it wascommunicatedto more than twenty peoplehad been remarkably wellkept.
He was now before the bar of his countryand might beunderstoodto be on trial before Lord Meadowbank as an offender;yet he wassure that every impartial jury would bring in averdict ofNot Proven. He did not now think it necessary toenter intothe reasons of his long silence. Perhaps capricemight havea consider able share in it. He had now to sayhoweverthat the merits of these worksif they had anyandtheirfaultswere entirely imputable to himself. (Long and loudcheering.)
He was afraid to think on what he had done. "Lookon't againI dare not." He had thus far unbosomed himself and heknew thatit would be reported to the public. He meantthenseriouslyto statethat when he said he was the authorhe wasthe totaland undivided author. With the exception ofquotationsthere was not a single word that was not derived fromhimselfor suggested in the course of his reading. The wand wasnowbrokenand the book buried. You will allow me further tosaywithProsperoit is your breath that has filled my sailsand tocrave one single toast in the capacity of the author ofthesenovels; and he would dedicate a bumper to the health of onewho hasrepresented some of those charactersof which he hadendeavouredto give the skeletonwith a degree of livelinesswhichrendered him grateful. He would propose "The Health ofhis friendBailie Nicol Jarvie"(loud applause)and he was surethat whenthe author of Waverley and Rob Roy drinks to NicolJarvieitwould be received with that degree of applause towhich thatgentleman has always been accustomedand that theywould takecare that on the present occasion it should bePRODIGIOUS!
(Long and vehement applause.)
Mr.MACKAYwho here spoke with great humour in the character ofBailieJarvie.My conscience! My worthy father the deacon couldnot havebelieved that his son could hae had sic a complimentpaid tohim by the Great Unknown!
Sir WALTERSCOTT.The Small Known nowMr. Bailie.
Mr.MACKAY.He had been long identified with the Bailieand hewas vainof the cognomen which he had now worn for eight years;and hequestioned if any of his brethren in the Council had givensuchuniversal satisfaction. (Loud laughter and applause.)Before hesat downhe begged to propose "The Lord Provost andthe Cityof Edinburgh."
Sir WALTERSCOTT apologized for the absence of the Lord Provostwho hadgone to London on public business.
Tune"Withina mile of Edinburgh town."
Sir WALTERSCOTT gave "The Duke of Wellington and the army."
Glee"Howmerrily we live."
LordMelville and the Navythat fought till they left nobody tofightwithlike an arch sportsman who clears all and goes afterthe game."
Mr. PAT.ROBERTSON.They had heard this evening a toastwhichhad beenreceived with intense delightwhich will be publishedin everynewspaperand will be hailed with joy by all Europe.He had onetoast assigned him which he had great pleasure ingiving.
He was sure that the stage had in all ages a greateffect onthe morals and manners of the people. It was verydesirablethat the stage should be well regulated; and there wasnocriterion by which its regulation could be better determinedthan bythe moral character and personal respectability of theperformers.
He was not one of those stern moralists who objectedto thetheatre. The most fastidious moralist could not possiblyapprehendany injury from the stage of Edinburghas it waspresentlymanagedand so long as it was adorned by thatillustriousindividualMrs. Henry Siddonswhose publicexhibitionswere not more remarkable for feminine grace anddelicacythan was her private character for every virtue whichcould beadmired in domestic life. He would conclude withreciting afew words from Shakespearein a spirit not ofcontradictionto those stern moralists who disliked the theatrebut ofmeekness: "Goodmy lordwill you see the players wellbestowed?
Do you hearlet them be well usedfor they are theabstractand brief chronicles of the time." He then gave "Mrs.HenrySiddonsand success to the Theatre Royal of Edinburgh."
Mr.MURRAY.GentlemenI rise to return thanks for the honouryou havedone Mrs. Siddonsin doing which I am somewhatdifficultedfrom the extreme delicacy which attends a brother'sexpatiatingupon a sister's claims to honours publicly paid(hearhear)yetgentlemenyour kindness emboldens me to saythatwereI to give utterance to all a brother's feelingsIshould notexaggerate those claims. (Loud applause.) Ithereforegentlementhank you most cordially for the honour youhave doneherand shall now request permission to make anobservationon the establishment of the Edinburgh TheatricalFund.
Mr. Mackay has done Mrs. Henry Siddons and myself thehonour toascribe the establishment to us. But nogentlemenitowes itsorigin to a higher sourcethe publication of the novelof RobRoythe unprecedented success of the opera adapted fromthatpopular production. (Hearhear.) It was that success whichrelievedthe Edinburgh Theatre from its difficultiesand enabledMrs.Siddons to carry into effect the establishment of a fund shehad longdesiredbut was prevented from effecting from theunsettledstate of her theatrical concerns. I therefore hopethat infuture yearswhen the aged and infirm actor derivesrelieffrom this fundhe willin the language of the gallantHighlander"Cast his eye to good old Scotlandand not forgetRob Roy."
Sir WALTERSCOTT here stated that Mrs. Siddons wanted the meansbut notthe will of beginning the Theatrical Fund. He herealluded tothe great merits of Mr. Murray's managementand tohis meritsas an actorwhich were of the first orderand ofwhichevery person who attends the Theatre must be sensible; andafteralluding to the embarrassments with which the Theatre hadbeen atone period threatenedhe concluded by giving "The Healthof Mr.Murray" which was drunk with three times three.
Mr.MURRAY.GentlemenI wish I could believe that in any degreeI meritedthe compliments with which it has pleased Sir WalterScott topreface the proposal of my healthor the veryflatteringmanner in which you have done me the honour to receiveit.
The approbation of such an assembly is most gratifying tomeandmight encourage feelings of vanitywere not suchfeelingscrushed by my conviction that no man holding thesituationI have so long held in Edinburgh could have failedplaced inthe peculiar circumstances in which I have been placed.GentlemenI shall not insult your good taste by eulogiums uponyourjudgment or kindly feelingthough to the first I owe anyimprovementI may have made as an actorand certainly my successas amanager to the second. (Applause.) Whenupon the deathofmy dearbrotherthe late Mr. Siddonsit was proposed that Ishouldundertake the management of the Edinburgh TheatreIconfess Idrew backdoubting my capability to free it from theload ofdebt and difficulty with which it was surrounded. Inthis stateof anxietyI solicited the advice of one who had everhonouredme with his kindest regardand whose name no member ofmyprofession can pronounce without feelings of the deepestrespectand gratitude. I allude to the late Mr. John Kemble.(Greatapplause.) To him I appliedand with the repetition ofhis adviceI shall cease to trespass upon your time(hearhear)"Mydear Williamfear not. Integrity and assiduity must proveanovermatch for all difficulty; and though I approve your notindulginga vain confidence in your own abilityand viewing withrespectfulapprehension the judgment of the audience you have toactbeforeyet be assured that judgment will ever be tempered bythefeeling that you are acting for the widow and thefatherless."
(Loud applause.) Gentlementhose words have neverpassedfrom my mind; and I feel convinced that you have pardonedmy manyerrorsfrom the feeling that I was striving for thewidow andthe fatherless. (Long and enthusiastic applausefollowedMr. Murray's address.)
Sir WALTERSCOTT gave "The Health of the Stewards."
Mr.VANDENHOFF.-Mr. President and Gentlementhe honourconferredupon the Stewardsin the very flattering complimentyou havejust paid uscalls forth our warmest acknowledgments.Intendering you our thanks for the approbation you have beenpleased toexpress of our humble exertionsI would beg leave toadvert tothe cause in which we have been engaged. Yetsurroundedas I am by the geniusthe eloquenceof thisenlightenedcityI cannot but feel the presumption whichventuresto address you on so interesting a subject. Accustomedto speakin the language of othersI feel quite at a loss fortermswherein to clothe the sentiments excited by the presentoccasion.
(Applause.) The nature of the institution which hassoughtyour fostering patronageand the objects which itcontemplateshave been fully explained to you. Butgentlementhe reliefwhich it proposes is not a gratuitous reliefbut tobepurchased by the individual contribution of its memberstowardsthe general good. This Fund lends no encouragement toidlenessor improvidencebut it offers an opportunity toprudencein vigour and youth to make provision against theevening oflife and its attendant infirmity. A period is fixedat whichwe admit the plea of age as an exemption fromprofessionallabour. It is painful to behold the veteran on thestage(compelled by necessity) contending against physical decaymockingthe joyousness of mirth with the feebleness of agewhentheenergies declinewhen the memory fails! and "the bigmanlyvoiceturning again towards childish treblepipes and whistlesin thesound." We would remove him from the mimic scenewherefictionconstitutes the charm; we would not view old agecaricaturingitself. (Applause.) But as our means may be foundin time ofneedinadequate to the fulfilment of our wishesfearful ofraising expectations which we may be unable togratifydesirousnot "to keep the word of promise to the earand breakit to the hope"we have presumed to court theassistanceof the friends of the drama to strengthen our infantinstitution.
Our appeal has been successful beyond our mostsanguineexpectations. The distinguished patronage conferred onus by yourpresence on this occasionand the substantial supportwhich yourbenevolence has so liberally afforded to ourinstitutionmust impress every member of the Fund with the mostgratefulsentimentssentiments which no language can expressnotimeobliterate. (Applause.) I will not trespass longer onyourattention.
I would the task of acknowledging our obligation hadfalleninto abler hands. (Hearhear.) In the name of theStewardsI most respectfully and cordially thank you for thehonour youhave done uswhich greatly overpays our poorendeavours.
[Thisspeechthough rather inadequately reportedwas one of thebestdelivered on this occasion. That it was creditable to Mr.Vandenhoff'staste and feelingsthe preceding sketch will show;but howmuch it was soit does not show.]
Mr. J. CAYgave "Professor Wilson and the University ofEdinburghof which he was one of the brightest ornaments"
LordMEADOWBANKafter a suitable eulogiumgave "The Earl ofFife"which was drunk with three times three.
Earl FIFEexpressed his high gratification at the honourconferredon him. He intimated his approbation of theinstitutionand his readiness to promote its success by everymeans inhis power. He concluded with giving "The Health of theCompany ofEdinburgh."
Mr. JONESon rising to return thanksbeing received withconsiderableapplausesaid he was truly grateful for the kindencouragementhe had experiencedbut the novelty of thesituationin which he now was renewed all the feelings heexperiencedwhen he first saw himself announced in the bills as ayounggentlemanbeing his first appearance on any stage.(Laughterand applause.) Although in the presence of those whoseindulgencehadin another sphereso often shielded him from thepenaltiesof inabilityhe was unable to execute the task whichhad sounexpectedly devolved upon him in behalf of his brethrenandhimself. He therefore begged the company to imagine all thatgratefulhearts could prompt the most eloquent to utterand thatwould be acopy of their feelings. (Applause.) He begged totrespassanother moment on their attentionfor the purpose ofexpressingthe thanks of the members of the Fund to the Gentlemenof theEdinburgh Professional Society of Musicianswhofindingthat thismeeting was appointed to take place on the same eveningwith theirconcerthadin the handsomest manneragreed topostponeit. Although it was his duty thus to preface the toasthe had toproposehe was certain the meeting required no furtherinducementthan the recollection of the pleasure the exertions ofthosegentlemen had often afforded them within those wallstojoinheartily in drinking "Health and Prosperity to the EdinburghProfessionalSociety of Musicians." (Applause.)
Mr. PAT.ROBERTSON Proposed "The Health of Mr. Jeffrey" whoseabsencewas owing to indisposition. The public was well awarethat hewas the most distinguished advocate at the bar. He waslikewisedistinguished for the kindnessfranknessand cordialmanner inwhich he communicated with the junior members of theprofessionto the esteem of whom his splendid talents wouldalwaysentitle him.
Mr. J.MACONOCHIE gave "The Health of Mrs. Siddonsseniorthemostdistinguished ornament of the stage."
Sir W.SCOTT said that if anything could reconcile him to oldageitwas the reflection that he had seen the rising as well asthesetting sun of Mrs. Siddons. He remembered well theirbreakfastingnear to the Theatrewaiting the whole daythecrushingat the doors at six o'clockand their going in andcountingtheir fingers till seven o'clock. But the very firststepthevery first word which she utteredwas sufficient tooverpayhim for all his labours. The house was literallyelectrified;and it was only from witnessing the effects of hergeniusthat he could guess to what a pitch theatrical excellencecould becarried. Those young gentlemen who have only seen thesettingsun of this distinguished performerbeautiful and sereneas thatwasmust give us old fellowswho have seen its rise anditsmeridianleave to hold our heads a little higher.
Mr. DUNDASgave "The Memory of Homethe author of Douglas."
Mr. MACKAYhere announced that the subscriptions for the nightamountedto L280and he expressed gratitude for this substantialproof oftheir kindness. [We are happy to state thatsubscriptionshave since flowed in very liberally.]
Mr. MACKAYhere entertained the company with a pathetic song.
Sir WALTERSCOTT apologized for having so long forgotten theirnativeland. He would now give "Scotlandthe land of Cakes."He wouldgive every riverevery lochevery hillfrom Tweed toJohnnieGroat's houseevery lass in her cottage and countess inhercastleand may her sons stand by heras their fathers didbeforethem; and he who would not drink a bumper to his toastmay henever drink whisky more!
Sir WALTERSCOTT here gave "Lord Meadowbank" who returnedthanks.
Mr. H. G.BELL said that he should not have ventured to intrudehimselfupon the attention of the assemblydid he not feelconfidentthat the toast he begged to have the honour to proposewould makeamends for the very imperfect manner in which he mightexpresshis sentiments regarding it. It had been said thatnotwithstandingthe mental supremacy of the present agenotwithstandingthat the page of our history was studded withnamesdestined also for the page of immortalitythat the geniusofShakespeare was extinctand the fountain of his inspirationdried up.
It might be that these observations were unfortunatelycorrector it might be that we were bewildered with a namenotdisappointedof the reality; for though Shakespeare had brought aHamletanOthelloand a Macbethan Ariela Julietand aRosalindupon the stagewere there not authors living who hadbrought asvariedas exquisitely paintedand as undying a rangeofcharacters into our hearts? The shape of the mere mould intowhichgenius poured its golden treasures was surely a matter oflittlemomentlet it be called a Tragedya Comedyor aWaverleyNovel. But even among the dramatic authors of thepresentdayhe was unwilling to allow that there was a great andpalpabledecline from the glory of preceding agesand his toastalonewould bear him out in denying the truth of the proposition.Aftereulogizing the names of BaillieByronColeridgeMaturinandothershe begged to have the honour of proposing "The Healthof JamesSheridan Knowles."
Sir WALTERSCOTT. GentlemenI crave a bumper all over. Thelast toastreminds me of a neglect of duty. Unaccustomed to apublicduty of this kinderrors in conducting the ceremonial ofit may beexcusedand omissions pardoned. Perhaps I have madeone or twoomissions in the course of the evening for which Itrust youwill grant me your pardon and indulgence. One thing inparticularI have omittedand I would now wish to make amendsfor it bya libation of reverence and respect to the memory ofSHAKESPEARE.
He was a man of universal geniusand from a periodsoon afterhis own era to the present day he has been universallyidolized.
When I come to his honoured nameI am like the sickman whohung up his crutches at the shrineand was obliged toconfessthat he did not walk better than before. It is indeeddifficultgentlemento compare him to any other individual.The onlyone to whom I call at all compare him is the wonderfulArabiandervisewho dived into the body of eachand in this waybecamefamiliar with the thoughts and secrets of their hearts.He was aman of obscure originandas a playerlimited in hisacquirements;but he was born evidently with a universal genius.His eyesglanced at all the varied aspects of lifeand his fancyportrayedwith equal talents the king on the throne and the clownwhocrackles his chestnuts at a Christmas fire. Whatever note hetakeshestrikes it just and trueand awakens a correspondingchord inour own bosomsGentlemenI propose "The Memory ofWilliamShakespeare."
Glee"Lightlytread'tis hallowed ground."
After thegleeSir WALTER rose and begged to propose as a toastthe healthof a ladywhose living merit is not a littlehonourableto Scotland. The toast (said he) is also flatteringto thenational vanity of a Scotchmanas the lady whom I intendto proposeis a native of this country. From the public herworks havemet with the most favourable reception. One piece ofhersinparticularwas often acted here of late yearsand gavepleasureof no mean kind to many brilliant and fashionableaudiences.
In her private character she (he begged leave to say)is asremarkable as in a public sense she is for her genius. Inshorthewould in one word name"Joanna Baillie."
Thishealth being drunkMr. THORNE was called on for a songandsungwithgreat taste and feeling"The Anchor's Weighed."
W.MENZIESEsq.Advocaterose to propose the health of agentlemanfor many years connected at intervals with the dramaticart inScotland. Whether we look at the range of characters heperformsor at the capacity which he evinces in executing thosewhich heundertakeshe is equally to he admired. In all hisparts heis unrivalled. The individual to whom he alluded is(said he)well known to the gentlemen presentin the charactersofMalvolioLord Oglebyand the Green Man; and in addition tohis otherqualitieshe meritsfor his perfection in thesecharactersthe grateful sense of this meeting. He would wishin thefirst placeto drink his health as an actor. But he wasnot lessestimable in domestic lifeand as a private gentleman;and whenhe announced him as one whom the chairman had honouredwith hisfriendshiphe was sure that all present would cordiallyjoin himin drinking "The Health of Mr. Terry."
Mr.WILLIAM ALLANbankersaid that he did not rise with theintentionof making a speech. He merely wished to contribute ina fewwords to the mirth of the eveningan evening whichcertainlyhad not passed off without some blunders. It had beenunderstoodatleast he had learnt or supposed from theexpressionsof Mr. Pritchardthat it would be sufficient to puta paperwith the name of the contributorinto the boxand thatthegentleman thus contributing would be called on for the moneynextmorning. Hefor his parthad committed a blunder but itmightserve as a caution to those who may be present at thedinner ofnext year. He had merely put in his namewritten on aslip ofpaperwithout the money. But he would recommend thatas some ofthe gentlemen might be in the same situationthe boxshould beagain sent roundand he was confident that theyaswell ashewould redeem their error.
Sir WALTERSCOTT said that the meeting was somewhat in thesituationof Mrs. Anne Pagewho had L300 and possibilities. Wehavealready gotsaid heL280but I should likeI confesstohave theL300. He would gratify himself by proposing the healthof anhonourable personthe Lord Chief Baronwhom England hassent tousand connecting with it that of his "yokefellow on thebench"as Shakespeare saysMr. Baron ClerkThe Court ofExchequer.
Mr. BaronCLERK regretted the absence of his learned brother.Nonehewas surecould be more generous in his natureor moreready tohelp a Scottish purpose.
Sir WALTERSCOTTThere is one who ought to be remembered onthisoccasion. He isindeedwell entitled to our gratefulrecollectiononein shortto whom the drama in this city owesmuch.
He succeedednot without troubleand perhaps at someconsiderablesacrificein establishing a theatre. The youngerpart ofthe company may not recollect the theatre to which Ialludebut there are some who with me may remember by name aplacecalled Carrubber's Close. There Allan Ramsay establishedhis littletheatre. His own pastoral was not fit for the stagebut it hasits admirers in those who love the Doric language inwhich itis written; and it is not without merits of a verypeculiarkind. But laying aside all considerations of hisliterarymeritAllan was a goodjovialhonest fellowwhocouldcrack a bottle with the best. "The Memory of AllanRamsay."
Mr.MURRAYon being requestedsung "'Twas merry in the hall"and at theconclusion was greeted with repeated rounds ofapplause.
Mr.JONES.One omission I conceive has been made. The cause ofthe Fundhas been ably advocatedbut it is still susceptibleinmyopinionof an additional charm
"Without the smile from partial beauty won
Ohwhat were man?a world without a sun!"
And therewould not be a darker spot in poetry than would be thecorner inShakespeare Squareiflike its fellowthe RegisterOfficethe Theatre were deserted by the ladies. They areinfactourmost attractive stars. "The Patronesses of theTheatrethe Ladies of the City of Edinburgh." This toast I askleave todrink with all the honours which conviviality canconfer.
Mr.PATRICK ROBERTSON would be the last man willingly tointroduceany topic calculated to interrupt the harmony of theevening;yet he felt himself treading upon ticklish ground whenheapproached the region of the Nor' Loch. He assured thecompanyhoweverthat he was not about to enter on the subjectof theImprovement Bill. They all knew that if the public wereunanimousifthe consent of all parties were obtainedif therights andinterests of everybody were therein attended tosavedreservedrespectedand exceptedif everybody agreed toitandfinallya most essential pointif nobody opposed itthenandin that caseand provided also that due intimationweregiventhe bill in question might passwould passormightcouldwouldor should passall expenses being defrayed.(Laughter.)
He was the advocate of neither championand wouldneitheravail himself of the absence of the Right Hon. the LordProvostnor take advantage of the non-appearance of his friendMr.Cockburn. (Laughter.) But in the midst of these civic broilsthere hadbeen elicited a ray of hope thatat some futureperiodinBereford Parkor some other placeif all partieswereconsulted and satisfiedand if intimation were duly made atthe kirkdoors of all the parishes in Scotlandin terms of thestatute inthat behalf providedthe people of Edinburgh might bypossibilityget a new Theatre. (Cheers and laughter.) Butwhereverthe belligerent powers might be pleased to set down thisnewTheatrehe was sure they all hoped to meet the Old Companyin it.
He should therefore propose "Better Accommodation to theOldCompany in the new Theatresite unknown."Mr. Robertson'sspeech wasmost humorously givenand he sat down amidst loudcheers andlaughter.
Sir WALTERSCOTT.Wherever the new Theatre is builtI hope itwill notbe large. There are two errors which we commonlycommittheone arising from our pridethe other from ourpoverty.
If there are twelve plansit is odds but the largestwithoutany regard to comfortor an eye to the probable expenseisadopted. There was the College projected on this scaleandundertakenin the same mannerand who shall see the end of it?It hasbeen building all my lifeand may probably last duringthe livesof my childrenand my children's children. Let notthe sameprophetic hymn be sung when we commence a new Theatrewhich wasperformed on the occasion of laying the foundation-stone of acertain edifice"Behold the endless work begun."Playgoingfolks should attend somewhat to convenience. The newTheatreshouldin the first placebe such as may be finished ineighteenmonths or two years; andin the second placeit shouldbe one inwhich we can hear our old friends with comfort. It isbetterthat a moderate-sized house should be crowded now andthenthanto have a large theatre with benches continuallyemptytothe discouragement of the actors and the discomfort ofthespectators. (Applause.) He then commented in flatteringterms onthe genius of Mackenzie and his private worthandconcludedby proposing "The Health of Henry MackenzieEsq."
Immediatelyafterwards he said:Gentlemenit is now wearinglateandI shall request permission to retire. Like PartridgeI may say"NON SUM QUALIS ERAM." At my time of day I can agreewith LordOgilvie as to his rheumatismand say"There's atwinge."
I hopethereforeyou will excuse me for leaving thechair.Theworthy Baronet then retired amidst longloudandrapturouscheering.
Mr.PATRICK ROBERTSON was then called to the chair by commonacclamation.
Gentlemensaid Mr. RobertsonI take the liberty of asking youto fill abumper to the very brim. There is not one of us whowill notrememberwhile he livesbeing present at this day'sfestivaland the declaration made this night by the gentlemanwho hasjust left the chair. That declaration has rent the veilfrom thefeatures of the Great Unknowna name which must nowmerge inthe name of the Great Known. It will be henceforthcoupledwith the name of SCOTTwhich will become familiar like ahouseholdword. We have heard the confession from his ownimmortallips(cheering)and we cannot dwell with too much ortoofervent praise on the merits of the greatest man whomScotlandhas produced.
Afterwhich several other toasts were givenand Mr. Robertsonleft theroom about half-past eleven. A few choice spiritshoweverrallied round Captain Broadhead of the 7th Hussarswhowas calledto the chairand the festivity was prolonged till anearly houron Saturday morning.
The bandof the Theatre occupied the galleryand that of the 7thHussarsthe end of the roomopposite the chairwhoseperformanceswere greatly admired. It is but justice to Mr. Gibbto statethat the dinner was very handsome (though slowly servedin)andthe wines good. The attention of the stewards wasexemplary.
Mr. Murray and Mr. Vandenhoffwith great good tasteattendedon Sir Walter Scott's right and leftand we know thathe hasexpressed himself much gratified by their anxiouspolitenessand sedulity.
CHRONICLESOF THE CANONGATE - INTRODUCTORY.
MR.CHRYSTAL CROFTANGRY'S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF.
Sic iturad astra.
"Thisis the path to heaven." Such is the ancient motto attachedto thearmorial bearings of the Canongateand which isinscribedwith greater or less proprietyupon all the publicbuildingsfrom the church to the pilloryin the ancient quarterofEdinburgh which bearsor rather once borethe same relationto theGood Town that Westminster does to Londonbeing stillpossessedof the palace of the sovereignas it formerly wasdignifiedby the residence of the principal nobility and gentry.I maythereforewith some proprietyput the same motto at thehead ofthe literary undertaking by which I hope to illustratethehitherto undistinguished name of Chrystal Croftangry.
The publicmay desire to know something of an author who pitchesat suchheight his ambitious expectations. The gentle readerthereforeforI am much of Captain Bobadil's humourand couldto noother extend myself so farthe GENTLE readerthenwillbe pleasedto understand that I am a a Scottish gentleman of theoldschoolwith a fortunetemperand personrather the worsefor wear.
I have known the world for these forty yearshavingwrittenmyself man nearly since that periodand I do not thinkit is muchmended. But this is an opinion which I keep to myselfwhen I amamong younger folkfor I recollectin my youthquizzingthe Sexagenarians who carried back their ideas of aperfectstate of society to the days of laced coats and triplerufflesand some of them to the blood and blows of the Forty-five.
Therefore I am cautious in exercising the right ofcensorshipwhich is supposed to be acquired by men arrived atorapproachingthe mysterious period of lifewhen the numbersof sevenand nine multiplied into each otherform what sageshavetermed the Grand Climacteric.
Of theearlier part of my life it is only necessary to saythatI sweptthe boards of the Parliament-House with the skirts of mygown forthe usual number of years during which young Lairds werein my timeexpected to keep termgot no feeslaughedand madeotherslaughdrank claret at Bayle'sFortune'sand Walker'sand ateoysters in the Covenant Close.
Becomingmy own masterI flung my gown at the bar-keeperandcommencedgay man on my own account. In EdinburghI ran intoall theexpensive society which the place then afforded. When Iwent to myhouse in the shire of LanarkI emulated to the utmosttheexpenses of men of large fortuneand had my huntersmyfirst-ratepointersmy game-cocksand feeders. I can moreeasilyforgive myself for these folliesthan for others of astill moreblamable kindso indifferently cloaked overthat mypoormother thought herself obliged to leave my habitationandbetakeherself to a small inconvenient jointure-housewhich sheoccupiedtill her death. I thinkhoweverI was not exclusivelyto blamein this separationand I believe my mother afterwardscondemnedherself for being too hasty. Thank Godthe adversitywhichdestroyed the means of continuing my dissipationrestoredme to theaffections of my surviving parent.
My courseof life could not last. I ran too fast to run long;and when Iwould have checked my careerI was perhaps too nearthe brinkof the precipice. Some mishaps I prepared by my ownfollyothers came upon me unawares. I put my estate out tonurse to afat man of businesswho smothered the babe he shouldhavebrought back to me in health and strengthandin disputewith thishonest gentlemanI foundlike a skilful generalthatmyposition would be most judiciously assumed by taking it upnear theAbbey of Holyrood. [See Note 1.Holyrood.] It was thenI firstbecame acquainted with the quarterwhich my little workwillIhoperender immortaland grew familiar with thosemagnificentwildsthrough which the Kings of Scotland oncechased thedark-brown deerbut which were chiefly recommended tome inthose daysby their being inaccessible to thosemetaphysicalpersonswhom the law of the neighbouring countryterms JohnDoe and Richard Roe. In shortthe precincts of thepalace arenow best known as being a place of refuge at any timefrom allpursuit for civil debt.
Dire wasthe strife betwixt my quondam doer and myself; duringwhich mymotions were circumscribedlike those of some conjureddemonwithin a circlewhich"beginning at the northern gate ofthe King'sParkthence running northwaysis bounded on the leftby theKing's garden-walland the gutteror kennelin a linewherewithit crosses the High Street to the Watergateandpassingthrough the seweris bounded by the walls of the TennisCourt andPhysic Gardensetc. It then follows the wall of thechurchyardjoins the north west wall of St Ann's Yardsandgoing eastto the clackmill-houseturns southward to theturnstilein the King's Park walland includes the whole King'sParkwithin the Sanctuary."
Theselimitswhich I abridge from the accurate Maitlandoncemarked theGirthor Asylumbelonging to the Abbey of Holyroodand whichbeing still an appendage to the royal palacehasretainedthe privilege of an asylum for civil debt. One wouldthink thespace sufficiently extensive for a man to stretch hislimbs inasbesides a reasonable proportion of level ground(consideringthat the scene lies in Scotland)it includes withinitsprecincts the mountain of Arthur's Seat and the rocks andpastureland called Salisbury Crags. But yet it is inexpressiblehowaftera certain time had elapsedI used to long for Sundaywhichpermitted me to extend my walk without limitation. Duringthe othersix days of the week I felt a sickness of heartwhichbut forthe speedy approach of the hebdomadal day of libertyIcouldhardly have endured. I experienced the impatience of amastiffwho tugs in vain to extend the limits which his chainpermits.
Day afterday I walked by the side of the kennel which dividestheSanctuary from the unprivileged part of the Canongate; andthough themonth was Julyand the scene the old town ofEdinburghI preferred it to the fresh air and verdant turf whichI mighthave enjoyed in the King's Parkor to the cool andsolemngloom of the portico which surrounds the palace. To anindifferentperson either side of the gutter would have seemedmuch thesamethe houses equally meanthe children as raggedand dirtythe carmen as brutalthe whole forming the samepicture oflow life in a deserted and impoverished quarter of alargecity. But to me the gutter or kennel was what the brookKidron wasto Shimei: death was denounced against him should hecross itdoubtless because it was known to his wisdom whopronouncedthe doom thatfrom the time the crossing the streamwasdebarredthe devoted man's desire to transgress the preceptwouldbecome irresistibleand he would be sure to draw down onhis headthe penalty which he had already justly incurred bycursingthe anointed of God. For my partall Elysium seemedopening onthe other side of the kennel; and I envied the littleblackguardswhostopping the current with their little dam-dykes ofmudhad a right to stand on either side of the nastypuddlewhich best pleased them. I was so childish as even tomake anoccasional excursion acrosswere it only for a fewyardsandfelt the triumph of a schoolboywhotrespassing inanorchardhurries back again with a fluttering sensation of joyandterrorbetwixt the pleasure of having executed his purposeand thefear of being taken or discovered.
I havesometimes asked myself what I should have done in case ofactualimprisonmentsince I could not bear without impatience arestrictionwhich is comparatively a mere trifle; but I reallycouldnever answer the question to my own satisfaction. I haveall mylife hated those treacherous expedients called MEZZO-TERMINIand it is possible with this disposition I might haveenduredmore patiently an absolute privation of liberty than themoremodified restrictions to which my residence in the Sanctuaryat thisperiod subjected me. Ifhoweverthe feelings I thenexperiencedwere to increase in intensity according to thedifferencebetween a jail and my actual conditionI must havehangedmyselfor pined to deaththere could have been no otheralternative.
Amongstmany companions who forgot and neglected meof coursewhen mydifficulties seemed to be inextricableI had one truefriend;and that friend was a barristerwho knew the laws of hiscountrywelland tracing them up to the spirit of equity andjustice inwhich they originatehad repeatedly preventedby hisbenevolentand manly exertionsthe triumphs of selfish cunningoversimplicity and folly. He undertook my causewith theassistanceof a solicitor of a character similar to his own. Myquondamdoer had ensconced himself chin-deep among legaltrencheshornworksand covered ways; but my two protectorsshelledhim out of his defencesand I was at length a free manat libertyto go or stay wheresoever my mind listed.
I left mylodgings as hastily as if it had been a pest-house. Idid noteven stop to receive some change that was due to me onsettlingwith my landladyand I saw the poor woman stand at herdoorlooking after my precipitate flightand shaking her head asshewrapped the silver which she was counting for me in aseparatepiece of paperapart from the store in her own moleskinpurse.
An honest Highlandwoman was Janet MacEvoyand deserved agreaterremunerationhad I possessed the power of bestowing it.But myeagerness of delight was too extreme to pause forexplanationwith Janet. On I pushed through the groups ofchildrenof whose sports I had been so often a lazyloungingspectator.
I sprung over the gutter as if it had been the fatalStyxandI a ghostwhicheluding Pluto's authoritywas makingits escapefrom Limbo lake. My friend had difficulty to restrainme fromrunning like a madman up the street; and in spite of hiskindnessand hospitalitywhich soothed me for a day or twoIwas notquite happy until I found myself aboard of a Leith smackandstanding down the Firth with a fair windmight snap myfingers atthe retreating outline of Arthur's Seatto thevicinityof which I had been so long confined.
It is notmy purpose to trace my future progress through life. Ihadextricated myselfor rather had been freed by my friendsfrom thebrambles and thickets of the law; butas befell thesheep inthe fablea great part of my fleece was left behind me.Somethingremainedhowever: I was in the season for exertionandas mygood mother used to saythere was always life forlivingfolk. Stern necessity gave my manhood that prudence whichmy youthwas a stranger to. I faced dangerI endured fatigueIsoughtforeign climatesand proved that I belonged to the nationwhich isproverbially patient of labour and prodigal of life.Independencelike liberty to Virgil's shepherdcame latebutcame atlastwith no great affluence in its trainbut bringingenough tosupport a decent appearance for the rest of my lifeand toinduce cousins to be civiland gossips to say"I wonderwhom oldCroft will make his heir? He must have picked upsomethingand I should not be surprised if it prove more thanfolk thinkof."
My firstimpulse when I returned home was to rush to the house ofmybenefactorthe only man who had in my distress interestedhimself inmy behalf. He was a snuff-takerand it had been thepride ofmy heart to save the IPSA CORPORA of the first score ofguineas Icould hoardand to have them converted into astasteful asnuff-box as Rundell and Bridge could devise. This Ihad thrustfor security into the breast of my waistcoatwhileimpatientto transfer it to the person for whom it was destinedI hastenedto his house in Brown Square. When the front of thehousebecame visible a feeling of alarm checked me. I had beenlongabsent from Scotland; my friend was some years older than I;he mighthave been called to the congregation of the just. Ipausedand gazed on the house as if I had hoped to form someconjecturefrom the outward appearance concerning the state ofthe familywithin. I know not how it wasbut the lower windowsbeing allclosedand no one stirringmy sinister forebodingswererather strengthened. I regretted now that I had not madeinquirybefore I left the inn where I alighted from the mail-coach.
But it was too late; so I hurried oneager to know thebest orthe worst which I could learn.
Thebrass-plate bearing my friend's name and designation wasstill onthe doorand when it was opened the old domesticappeared agood deal olderI thoughtthan he ought naturally tohavelookedconsidering the period of my absence. "Is Mr.Sommervilleat home?" said Ipressing forward.
"Yessir" said Johnplacing himself in opposition to myentrance"he is at homebut"
"Buthe is not in" said I. "I remember your phrase ofoldJohn.
ComeI will step into his roomand leave a line forhim."
John wasobviously embarrassed by my familiarity. I was someonehesawwhom he ought to recollect. At the same time it wasevident heremembered nothing about me.
"Aysirmy master is inand in his own roombut"
I wouldnot hear him outbut passed before him towards the well-knownapartment. A young lady came out of the room a littledisturbedas it seemedand said"Johnwhat is the matter?"
"AgentlemanMiss Nellythat insists on seeing my master."
"Avery old and deeply-indebted friend" said I"thatventuresto pressmyself on my much-respected benefactor on my return fromabroad."
"Alassir" replied she"my uncle would be happy to see youbut"
At thismoment something was heard within the apartment like thefalling ofa plateor glassand immediately after my friend'svoicecalled angrily and eagerly for his niece. She entered theroomhastilyand so did I. But it was to see a spectaclecomparedwith which that of my benefactor stretched on his bierwould havebeen a happy one.
Theeasy-chair filled with cushionsthe extended limbs swathedinflannelthe wide wrapping-gown and nightcapshowed illness;but thedimmed eyeonce so replete with living firethe blabberlipwhosedilation and compression used to give such characterto hisanimated countenancethe stammering tonguethat oncepouredforth such floods of masculine eloquenceand had oftenswayed theopinion of the sages whom he addressedall these sadsymptomsevinced that my friend was in the melancholy conditionof thosein whom the principle of animal life has unfortunatelysurvivedthat of mental intelligence. He gazed a moment at mebut thenseemed insensible of my presenceand went onheoncethe mostcourteous and well-bredto babble unintelligible butviolentreproaches against his niece and servantbecause hehimselfhad dropped a teacup in attempting to place it on a tableat hiselbow. His eyes caught a momentary fire from hisirritation;but he struggled in vain for words to express himselfadequatelyaslooking from his servant to his nieceand thento thetablehe laboured to explain that they had placed it(though ittouched his chair) at too great a distance from him.
The youngpersonwho had naturally a resigned Madonna-likeexpressionof countenancelistened to his impatient chiding withthe mosthumble submissionchecked the servantwhose lessdelicatefeelings would have entered on his justificationandgraduallyby the sweet and soft tone of her voicesoothed torest thespirit of causeless irritation.
She thencast a look towards mewhich expressed"You see allthatremains of him whom you call friend." It seemed also tosay"Yourlonger presence here can only be distressing to usall."
"Forgivemeyoung lady" I saidas well as tears would permit;"I ama person deeply obliged to your uncle. My name isCroftangry."
and that I should not hae minded yeMaister Croftangry"said theservant. "AyI mind my master had muckle fash aboutyour job.
I hae heard him order in fresh candles as midnightchappitand till't again. Indeedye had aye his gude wordMr.Croftangryfor a' that folks said about you."
"Holdyour tongueJohn" said the ladysomewhat angrily; andthencontinuedaddressing herself to me"I am suresiryoumust besorry to see my uncle in this state. I know you are hisfriend.
I have heard him mention your nameand wonder he neverheard fromyou." A new cut thisand it went to my heart. Butshecontinued"I really do not know if it is right that anyshouldIfmy uncle should know youwhich I scarce thinkpossiblehe would be much affectedand the doctor says that anyagitationButhere comes Dr. to give his own opinion."
Dr. entered. I had left him a middle-aged man. He was now anelderlyone; but still the same benevolent Samaritanwho wentaboutdoing goodand thought the blessings of the poor as good arecompenseof his professional skill as the gold of the rich.
He lookedat me with surprisebut the young lady said a word ofintroductionand Iwho was known to the doctor formerlyhastenedto complete it. He recollected me perfectlyandintimatedthat he was well acquainted with the reasons I had forbeingdeeply interested in the fate of his patient. He gave me averymelancholy account of my poor frienddrawing me for thatpurpose alittle apart from the lady. "The light of life" hesaid"wastrembling in the socket; he scarcely expected it wouldever leapup even into a momentary flashbut more wasimpossible."
He then stepped towards his patientand put somequestionsto which the poor invalidthough he seemed torecognizethe friendly and familiar voiceanswered only in afalteringand uncertain manner.
The youngladyin her turnhad drawn back when the doctorapproachedhis patient. "You see how it is with him" said thedoctoraddressing me. "I have heard our poor friendin one ofthe mosteloquent of his pleadingsgive a description of thisverydiseasewhich he compared to the tortures inflicted byMezentiuswhen he chained the dead to the living. The soulhesaidisimprisoned in its dungeon of fleshand though retainingitsnatural and unalienable propertiescan no more exert themthan thecaptive enclosed within a prison-house can act as a freeagent.
Alas! to see HIMwho could so well describe what thismalady wasin othersa prey himself to its infirmities! I shallneverforget the solemn tone of expression with which he summedup theincapacities of the paralyticthe deafened earthedimmedeyethe crippled limbsin the noble words of Juvenal
Membrorum damno majordementiaquae nec
Nomina servorumnec vultum agnoscit amici.'"
As thephysician repeated these linesa flash of intelligenceseemed torevive in the invalid's eyesunk againagainstruggledand he spoke more intelligibly than beforeand in thetone ofone eager to say something which he felt would escape himunlesssaid instantly. "A question of death-beda question ofdeath-beddoctora reduction EX CAPITE LECTI Withering againstWilibus aboutthe MORBUS SONTICUS. I pleaded the cause
forthepursuer Iand whyI shall forget my own name Iand he thatwas the wittiest and the best-humoured man living"
Thedescription enabled the doctor to fill up the blankand thepatientjoyfully repeated the name suggested. "Ayay" hesaid"justheHarrypoor Harry" The light in his eye died awayand hesunk back in his easy-chair.
"Youhave now seen more of our poor friendMr. Croftangry" saidthephysician"than I dared venture to promise you; and now Imust takemy professional authority on meand ask you to retire.MissSommerville willI am surelet you know if a moment shouldby anychance occur when her uncle can see you."
What couldI do? I gave my card to the young ladyand taking myofferingfrom my bosom"if my poor friend" I saidwith accentsas brokenalmost as his own"should ask where this came fromname meand say from the most obliged and most grateful manalive.
Saythe gold of which it is composed was saved by grainsat a timeand was hoarded with as much avarice as ever was amiser's.
To bring it here I have come a thousand miles; and nowalasIfind him thus!"
I laid thebox on the tableand was retiring with a lingeringstep.
The eye of the invalid was caught by itas that of achild by aglittering toyand with infantine impatience hefalteredout inquiries of his niece. With gentle mildness sherepeatedagain and again who I wasand why I cameetc. I wasabout toturnand hasten from a scene so painfulwhen thephysicianlaid his hand on my sleeve. "Stop" he said"thereisa change."
There wasindeedand a marked one. A faint glow spread overhis pallidfeaturesthey seemed to gain the look of intelligencewhichbelongs to vitalityhis eye once more kindledhis lipcolouredanddrawing himself up out of the listless posture hehadhitherto maintainedhe rose without assistance. The doctorand theservant ran to give him their support. He waved themasideandthey were contented to place themselves in such apositionbehind as might ensure against accidentshould hisnewly-acquiredstrength decay as suddenly as it had revived.
"Mydear Croftangry" he saidin the tone of kindness of otherdays"Iam glad to see you returned. You find me but poorly;but mylittle niece here and Dr. are very kind. God blessyoumydear friend! We shall not meet again till we meet in abetterworld."
I pressedhis extended hand to my lipsI pressed it to my bosomI wouldfain have flung myself on my knees; but the doctorleavingthe patient to the young lady and the servantwhowheeledforward his chairand were replacing him in ithurriedme out ofthe room. "My dear sir" he said"you ought tobesatisfied;you have seen our poor invalid more like his formerself thanhe has been for monthsor than he may be perhaps againuntil allis over. The whole Faculty could not have assured suchaninterval. I must see whether anything can be derived from itto improvethe general health. Praybegone." The last argumenthurried mefrom the spotagitated by a crowd of feelingsall ofthempainful.
When I hadovercome the shock of this great disappointmentIrenewedgradually my acquaintance with one or two old companionswhothough of infinitely less interest to my feelings than myunfortunatefriendserved to relieve the pressure of actualsolitudeand who were not perhaps the less open to my advancesthat I wasa bachelor somewhat stricken in yearsnewly arrivedfromforeign partsand certainly independentif not wealthy.
I wasconsidered as a tolerable subject of speculation by someand Icould not be burdensome to any. I was thereforeaccordingto theordinary rule of Edinburgh hospitalitya welcome guest inseveralrespectable families. But I found no one who couldreplacethe loss I had sustained in my best friend andbenefactor.
I wanted something more than mere companionshipcould givemeand where was I to look for it? Among thescatteredremnants of those that had been my gay friends of yore?Alas!
"Many a lad I loved was dead
And many a lass grown old."
Besidesall community of ties between us had ceased to existand suchof former friends as were still in the world held theirlife in adifferent tenor from what I did.
Some hadbecome misersand were as eager in saving sixpence asever theyhad been in spending a guinea. Some had turnedagriculturists;their talk was of oxenand they were only fitcompanionsfor graziers. Some stuck to cardsand though nolongerdeep gamblersrather played small game than sat out.This Iparticularly despised. The strong impulse of gamingalas!
I had felt in my time. It is as intense as it iscriminal;but it produces excitation and interestand I canconceivehow it should become a passion with strong and powerfulminds.
But to dribble away life in exchanging bits of paintedpasteboardround a green table for the piddling concern of a fewshillingscan only be excused in folly or superannuation. It islikeriding on a rocking-horsewhere your utmost exertion nevercarriesyou a foot forward; it is a kind of mental treadmillwhere youare perpetually climbingbut can never rise an inch.From thesehintsmy readers will perceive I am incapacitated forone of thepleasures of old agewhichthough not mentioned byCiceroisnot the least frequent resource in the present daytheclub-roomand the snug hand at whist.
To returnto my old companions. Some frequented publicassemblieslike the ghost of Beau Nashor any other beau ofhalf acentury backthrust aside by tittering youthand pitiedby thoseof their own age. In finesome went into devotionasthe Frenchterm itand othersI fearwent to the devil; a fewfoundresources in science and letters; one or two turnedphilosophersin a small waypeeped into microscopesand becamefamiliarwith the fashionable experiments of the day; some tooktoreadingand I was one of them.
Somegrains of repulsion towards the society around mesomepainfulrecollections of early faults and folliessome touch ofdispleasurewith living mankindinclined me rather to a study ofantiquitiesand particularly those of my own country. ThereaderifI can prevail on myself to continue the present workwillprobably be able to judge in the course of it whether I havemade anyuseful progress in the study of the olden times.
I owedthis turn of studyin partto the conversation of mykind manof businessMr. Fairscribewhom I mentioned as havingsecondedthe efforts of my invaluable friend in bringing thecause onwhich my liberty and the remnant of my property dependedto afavourable decision. He had given me a most kind receptionon myreturn. He was too much engaged in his profession for meto intrudeon him oftenand perhaps his mind was too muchtrammelledwith its details to permit his being willinglywithdrawnfrom them. In shorthe was not a person of my poorfriendSommerville's expanded spiritand rather a lawyer of theordinaryclass of formalists; but a most able and excellent man.When myestate was sold! he retained some of the older title-deedsarguingfrom his own feelingsthat they would be of moreconsequenceto the heir of the old family than to the newpurchaser.
And when I returned to Edinburghand found him stillin theexercise of the profession to which he was an honourhesent to mylodgings the old family Biblewhich lay always on myfather'stabletwo or three other mouldy volumesand a coupleofsheepskin bags full of parchments and paperswhose appearancewas by nomeans inviting.
The nexttime I shared Mr. Fairscribe's hospitable dinnerIfailed notto return him due thanks for his kindnesswhichacknowledgmentindeedI proportioned rather to the idea which Iknew heentertained of the value of such thingsthan to theinterestwith which I myself regarded them. But the conversationturning onmy familywho were old proprietors in the Upper WardofClydesdalegradually excited some interest in my mind andwhen Iretired to my solitary parlourthe first thing I did wasto lookfor a pedigree or sort of history of the family or HouseofCroftangryonce of that Ilklatterly of Glentanner. Thediscoverieswhich I made shall enrich the next chapter.
IN WHICHMR. CROFTANGRY CONTINUES HIS STORY.
"What's propertydear Swift? I see it alter
From you to mefrom me to Peter Walter."
"CroftangryCroftandrewCroftanridgeCroftandgreyfor sa monywise haththe name been spellitis weel known to be ane house ofgritantiquity; and it is said that King Milcolumbor Malcolmbeing thefirst of our Scottish princes quha removit across theFirth ofForthdid reside and occupy ane palace at Edinburghand hadthere ane valziant manwho did him man-service bykeepingthe croftor corn-landwhich was tilled for theconvenienceof the King's householdand was thence callit Croft-an-rithat is to saythe King his croft; quhilk placethoughnowcoverit with biggingsis to this day called Croftangryandlyeth nearto the royal palace. And whereas that some of thosewho bearthis auld and honourable name may take scorn that itarisethfrom the tilling of the groundquhilk men account aslavishoccupationyet we ought to honour the pleugh and spadeseeing weall derive our being from our father Adamwhose lot itbecame tocultivate the earthin respect of his fall andtransgression.
"Alsowe have witnessas weel in holy writt as in profanehistoryof the honour in quhilk husbandrie was held of oldandhowprophets have been taken from the pleughand great captainsraised upto defend their ain countriessic as Cincinnatusandthe likewho fought not the common enemy with the less valiancythat theiralms had been exercised in halding the stilts of thepleughand their bellicose skill in driving of yauds and owsen.
"Likewisethere are sindry honorable familiesquhilk are now ofour nativeScottish nobilityand have clombe higher up the braeofpreferment than what this house of Croftangry hath donequhilkshame not to carry in their warlike shield and insignia ofdignitythe tools and implements the quhilk their firstforefathersexercised in labouring the croft-rigoras the poetVirgiliuscalleth it eloquentlyin subduing the soiland nodoubt thisancient house of Croftangrywhile it continued to becalled ofthat Ilkproduced many worshipful and famous patriotsof quhom Inow praetermit the names; it being my purposeif Godshallspare me life for sic ane pious officiumor dutytoresume thefirst part of my narrative touching the house ofCroftangrywhen I can set down at length the evidents andhistoricalwitness anent the facts which I shall allegeseeingthatwordswhen they are unsupported by proofsare like seedsown onthe naked rocksor like an house biggit on the flittingandfaithless sands."
Here Istopped to draw breath; for the style of my grandsiretheinditer ofthis goodly matterwas rather lengthyas ourAmericanfriends say. IndeedI reserve the rest of the pieceuntil Ican obtain admission to the Bannatine Club[This Clubof whichthe Author of Waverley has the honour to be Presidentwasinstituted in February 1823for the purpose of printing andpublishingworks illustrative of the historyliteratureandantiquitiesof Scotland. It continues to prosperand hasalreadyrescued from oblivion many curious materials of Scottishhistory.]
when I propose to throw off an editionlimitedaccordingto the rules of that erudite Societywith a facsimileof themanuscriptemblazonry of the family arms surrounded bytheirquarteringand a handsome disclamation of family pridewith HAECNOS NOVIMUS ESSE NIHILor VIX EA NOSTRA VOCO.
In themeantimeto speak truthI cannot but suspect thatthough myworthy ancestor puffed vigorously to swell up thedignity ofhis familywe had neverin factrisen above therank ofmiddling proprietors. The estate of Glentanner came tous by theintermarriage of my ancestor with Tib Sommeriltermedby thesouthrons Sommervillea daughter of that noble housebutIfearon what my great-grandsire calls "the wrong side oftheblanket." [The ancient Norman family of theSommervillescame intothis island with William the Conquerorand establishedone branchin Gloucestershireanother in Scotland. After thelapse ofseven hundred yearsthe remaining possessions of thesetwobranches were united in the person of the late LordSommervilleon the death of his English kinsmanthe well-knownauthor of"The Chase."] Her husbandGilbertwas killedfightingas the INQUISITIO POST MORTEM has it"SUB VEXILLOREGISAPUD PRAELIUM JUXTA BRANXTONLIE FLODDDEN-FIELD."
We had ourshare in other national misfortuneswere forfeitedlike SirJohn Colville of the Dalefor following our betters tothe fieldof Langside; and in the contentious times of the lastStewartswe were severely fined for harbouring and resettingintercommunedministersand narrowly escaped giving a martyr totheCalendar of the Covenantin the person of the father of ourfamilyhistorian. He "took the sheaf from the mare"howeverasthe MS.expresses itand agreed to accept of the terms of pardonoffered byGovernmentand sign the bond in evidence he wouldgive nofurther ground of offence. My grandsire glosses over hisfather'sbacksliding as smoothly as he canand comforts himselfwithascribing his want of resolution to his unwillingness towreck theancient name and familyand to permit his lands andlineage tofall under a doom of forfeiture.
"Andindeed" said the venerable compiler"aspraised be Godwe seldommeet in Scotland with these belly-gods andvoluptuarieswhilk are unnatural enough to devour theirpatrimonybequeathed to them by their forbears in chambering andwantonnessso that they comewith the prodigal sonto thehusks andthe swine-trough; and as I have the less to dreid theexistenceof such unnatural Neroes in mine own family to devourthesubstance of their own house like brute beasts out of meregluttonieand Epicurishnesseso I need only warn minedescendantsagainst over-hastily meddling with the mutations instate andin religionwhich have been near-hand to the bringingthis poorhouse of Croftangry to perditionas we have shown morethanonce. And albeit I would not that my successors sat stillaltogetherwhen called on by their duty to Kirk and Kingyet Iwould havethem wait till stronger and walthier men thanthemselveswere upso that either they may have the betterchance ofgetting through the dayorfailing of thattheconqueringparty having some fatter quarry to live uponmaylikegorged hawksspare the smaller game."
There wassomething in this conclusion which at first readingpiqued meextremelyand I was so unnatural as to curse the wholeconcernas poorbaldpitiful trashin which a silly old manwas sayinga great deal about nothing at all. Naymy firstimpressionwas to thrust it into the firethe rather that itremindedmein no very flattering mannerof the loss of thefamilypropertyto which the compiler of the history was so muchattachedin the very manner which he most severely reprobated.It evenseemed to my aggrieved feelings that his unprescient gazeonfuturityin which he could not anticipate the folly of one ofhisdescendantswho should throw away the whole inheritance in afew yearsof idle expense and follywas meant as a personalincivilityto myselfthough written fifty or sixty years beforeI wasborn.
A littlereflection made me ashamed or this feeling ofimpatienceand as I looked at the evenconciseyet tremuloushand inwhich the manuscript was writtenI could not helpthinkingaccording to an opinion I have heard seriouslymaintainedthat something of a man's character may beconjecturedfrom his handwriting. That neat but crowded andconstrainedsmall-hand argued a man of a good consciencewell-regulatedpassionsandto use his own phrasean upright walkin life;but it also indicated narrowness of spiritinveterateprejudiceand hinted at some degree of intolerancewhichthough notnatural to the dispositionhad arisen out of alimitededucation. The passages from Scripture and the classicsratherprofusely than happily introducedand written in a half-textcharacter to mark their importanceillustrated thatpeculiarsort of pedantry which always considers the argument asgained ifsecured by a quotation. Then the flourished capitalletterswhich ornamented the commencement of each paragraphandthe namesof his family and of his ancestors whenever theseoccurredin the pagedo they not express forcibly the pride andsense ofimportance with which the author undertook andaccomplishedhis task? I persuaded myself the whole was socomplete aportrait of the manthat it would not have been amoreundutiful act to have defaced his pictureor even to havedisturbedhis bones in his coffinthan to destroy hismanuscript.
I thoughtfor a momentof presenting it to Mr.Fairscribe;but that confounded passage about the prodigal andswine-troughIsettled at last it was as well to lock it up inmy ownbureauwith the intention to look at it no more.
But I donot know how it wasthat the subject began to sitnearer myheart than I was aware ofand I found myselfrepeatedlyengaged in reading descriptions of farms which were nolongermineand boundaries which marked the property of others.A love ofthe NATALE SOLUMif Swift be right in translatingthesewords"family estate" began to awaken in my bosomtherecollectionsof my own youth adding little to itsave what wasconnectedwith field-sports. A career of pleasure isunfavourablefor acquiring a taste for natural beautyand stillmore sofor forming associations of a sentimental kindconnectingus with the inanimate objects around us.
I hadthought little about my estate while I possessed and waswastingitunless as affording the rude materials out of which acertaininferior race of creaturescalled tenantswere bound toproduce(in a greater quantity than they actually did) a certainreturncalled rentwhich was destined to supply my expenses.This wasmy general view of the matter. Of particular placesIrecollectedthat Garval Hill was a famous piece of rough uplandpasturefor rearing young coltsand teaching them to throw theirfeet; thatMinion Burn had the finest yellow trout in thecountry;that Seggy-cleugh was unequalled for woodcocks; thatBengibbertMoors afforded excellent moorfowl-shooting; and thatthe clearbubbling fountain called the Harper's Well was thebestrecipe in the world on the morning after a HARD-GO with myneighbourfox-hunters. Stillthese ideas recalledby degreespicturesof which I had since learned to appreciate the meritscenes ofsilent lonelinesswhere extensive moorsundulatinginto wildhillswere only disturbed by the whistle of the ploveror thecrow of the heathcock; wild ravines creeping up intomountainsfilled with natural woodand whichwhen traceddownwardsalong the path formed by shepherds and nutterswerefoundgradually to enlarge and deepenas each formed a channelto its ownbrooksometimes bordered by steep banks of earthoften withthe more romantic boundary of naked rocks or cliffscrestedwith oakmountain ashand hazelall gratifying the eyethe morethat the scenery wasfrom the bare nature of thecountryaroundtotally unexpected.
I hadrecollectionstooof fair and fertile holmsor levelplainsextending between the wooded banks and the bold stream ofthe Clydewhichcoloured like pure amberor rather having thehue of thepebbles called Cairngormrushes over sheets of rockand bedsof gravelinspiring a species of awe from the few andfaithlessfords which it presentsand the frequency of fatalaccidentsnow diminished by the number of bridges. Thesealluvialholms were frequently bordered by triple and quadruplerows oflarge treeswhich gracefully marked their boundaryanddippedtheir long arms into the foaming stream of the river.Otherplaces I rememberedwhich had been described by the oldhuntsmanas the lodge of tremendous wild-catsor the spot wheretraditionstated the mighty stag to have been brought to bayorwhereheroeswhose might was now as much forgottenwere said tohave beenslain by surpriseor in battle.
It is notto be supposed that these finished landscapes becamevisiblebefore the eyes of my imaginationas the scenery of thestage isdisclosed by the rising of the curtain. I have saidthat I hadlooked upon the country around meduring the hurriedanddissipated period of my lifewith the eyesindeedof mybodybutwithout those of my understanding. It was piece bypieceasa child picks out its lessonthat I began to recollectthebeauties of nature which had once surrounded me in the homeof myforefathers. A natural taste for them must have lurked atthe bottomof my heartwhich awakened when I was in foreigncountriesand becoming by degrees a favourite passiongraduallyturned itseyes inwardsand ransacked the neglected stores whichmy memoryhad involuntarily recordedandwhen excitedexertedherself tocollect and to complete.
I begannow to regret more bitterly than ever the having fooledaway myfamily propertythe care and improvement of which I sawmight haveafforded an agreeable employment for my leisurewhichonly wentto brood on past misfortunesand increase uselessrepining.
"Had but a single farm been reservedhowever small"said I oneday to Mr. Fairscribe"I should have had a place Icould callmy homeand something that I could call business."
"Itmight have been managed" answered Fairscribe; "and for mypartIinclined to keep the mansion housemainsand some ofthe oldfamily acres together; but both Mr. and you were ofopinionthat the money would be more useful."
"Truetruemy good friend" said I; "I was a fool thenand didnot thinkI could incline to be Glentanner with L200 or L300 ayearinstead of Glentanner with as many thousands. I was then ahaughtypettishignorantdissipatedbroken-down Scottishlaird; andthinking my imaginary consequence altogether ruinedIcared nothow soonor how absolutelyI was rid of everythingthatrecalled it to my own memoryor that of others."
"Andnow it is like you have changed your mind?" saidFairscribe."Wellfortune is apt to circumduce the term upon us;but Ithink she may allow you to revise your condescendence."
"Howdo you meanmy good friend?"
"Nay"said Fairscribe"there is ill luck in averring till oneis sure ofhis facts. I will look back on a file of newspapersandto-morrow you shall hear from me. Comehelp yourselfIhave seenyou fill your glass higher."
"Andshall see it again" said Ipouring out what remained ofour bottleof claret; "the wine is capitaland so shall ourtoastbe"To your firesidemy good friend. And now we shall gobeg aScots song without foreign graces from my little sirenMissKatie."
The nextdayaccordinglyI received a parcel from Mr.Fairscribewith a newspaper enclosedamong the advertisements ofwhich onewas marked with a cross as requiring my attention. Ireadtomy surprise:
"DESIRABLE ESTATE FOR SALE.
"Byorder of the Lords of Council and Sessionwill be exposed tosale inthe New Sessions House of Edinburghon Wednesdaythe25thNovember18all and whole the lands and barony ofGlentannernow called Castle Treddleslying in the Middle WardofClydesdaleand shire of Lanarkwith the teindsparsonageandvicaragefishings in the Clydewoodsmossesmoorsandpasturages"etc.etc.
Theadvertisement went on to set forth the advantages of thesoilsituationnatural beautiesand capabilities ofimprovementnot forgetting its being a freehold estatewith theparticularpolypus capacity of being sliced up into twothreeorwith alittle assistancefour freehold qualificationsand ahint thatthe county was likely to be eagerly contested betweentwo greatfamilies. The upset price at which "the said lands andbarony andothers" were to be exposed was thirty years' purchaseof theproven rentalwhich was about a fourth more than thepropertyhad fetched at the last sale. Thiswhich wasmentionedI supposeto show the improvable character of thelandwould have given another some pain. But let me speak truthof myselfin good as in evilit pained not me. I was only angrythatFairscribewho knew something generally of the extent of myfundsshould have tantalized me by sending me information thatmy familyproperty was in the marketsince he must have knownthat theprice was far out of my reach.
But aletter dropped from the parcel on the floorwhichattractedmy eyeand explained the riddle. A client of Mr.Fairscribe'sa moneyed manthought of buying Glentannermerelyas aninvestment of moneyit was even unlikely he would ever seeit; and sothe price of the whole being some thousand poundsbeyondwhat cash he had on handthis accommodating Dives wouldgladlytake a partner in the sale for any detached farmandwould makeno objection to its including the most desirable partof theestate in point of beautyprovided the price was madeadequate.
Mr. Fairscribe would take care I was not imposed on inthematterand said in his card he believedif I really wishedto makesuch a purchaseI had better go out and look at thepremisesadvising meat the same timeto keep a strictincognitoanadvice somewhat superfluoussince I am naturallyof aretired and reserved disposition.
MR.CROFTANGRYINTER ALIAREVISITS GLENTANNER.
Then sing of stage-coaches
Andfear no reproaches
For riding in one; Butdaily be jogging
Whilstwhistling and flogging
Whilstwhistling and flogging
Thecoachman drives on.
Disguisedin a grey surtout which had seen servicea whitecastor onmy headand a stout Indian cane in my handthe nextweek sawme on the top of a mail-coach driving to the westward.
I likemail-coachesand I hate them. I like them for myconvenience;but I detest them for setting the whole world a-gaddinginstead of sitting quietly still minding their ownbusinessand preserving the stamp of originality of characterwhichnature or education may have impressed on them. Off theygojingling against each other in the rattling vehicle till theyhave nomore variety of stamp in them than so many smoothshillingsthesame even in their Welsh wigs and greatcoatseachwithoutmore individuality than belongs to a partner of thecompanyas the waiter calls themof the North Coach.
Worthy Mr.Piperbest of contractors who ever furnished fourframpaljades for public useI bless you when I set out on ajourneymyself; the neat coaches under your contract render theintercoursefrom Johnnie Groat's House to Ladykirk and CornhillBridgesafepleasantand cheap. ButMr. Piperyou who are ashrewdarithmeticiandid it never occur to you to calculate howmanyfools' headswhich might have produced an idea or two inthe yearif suffered to remain in quietget effectually addledby joltingto and fro in these flying chariots of yours; how manydecentcountrymen become conceited bumpkins after a cattle-showdinner inthe capitalwhich they could not have attended savefor yourmeans; how many decent country parsons return criticsandspoutersby way of importing the newest taste fromEdinburgh?
And how will your conscience answer one day forcarryingso many bonny lasses to barter modesty for conceit andlevity atthe metropolitan Vanity Fair?
Considertoothe low rate to which you reduce human intellect.I do notbelieve your habitual customers have their ideas moreenlargedthan one of your coach-horses. They KNOWS the roadlike theEnglish postilionand they know nothing besides. Theydatelikethe carriers at Gadshillfrom the death of RobinOstler;[See Act II. Scene 1 of the First Part of Shakespeare'sHenry IV.]the succession of guards forms a dynasty in theireyes;coachmen are their ministers of state; and an upset is tothem agreater incident than a change of administration. Theironly pointof interest on the road is to save the timeand seewhetherthe coach keeps the hour. This is surely a miserabledegradationof human intellect. Take my advicemy good siranddisinterestedlycontrive that once or twice a quarter your mostdexterouswhip shall overturn a coachful of these superfluoustravellersIN TERROREM to those whoas Horace says"delight inthe dustraised by your chariots."
Yourcurrent and customary mail-coach passengertoogetsabominablyselfishschemes successfully for the best seatthefreshesteggthe right cut of the sirloin. The mode oftravellingis death to all the courtesies and kindnesses of lifeand goes agreat way to demoralize the characterand cause it toretrogradeto barbarism. You allow us excellent dinnersbutonlytwenty minutes to eat them. And what is the consequence?Bashfulbeauty sits on the one side of ustimid childhood on theother;respectableyet somewhat feebleold age is placed on ourfront; andall require those acts of politeness which ought toput everydegree upon a level at the convivial board. But havewe timewethe strong and active of the partyto perform theduties ofthe table to the more retired and bashfulto whomtheselittle attentions are due? The lady should be pressed toherchickenthe old man helped to his favourite and tenderslicethechild to his tart. But not a fraction of a minutehave we tobestow on any other person than ourselves; and thePRUT-PRUTTUT-TUTof the guard's discordant note summons us tothe coachthe weaker party having gone without their dinnerandtheable-bodied and active threatened with indigestionfromhavingswallowed victuals like a Lei'stershire clown boltingbacon.
On thememorable occasion I am speaking of I lost my breakfastsheerlyfrom obeying the commands of a respectable-looking oldladywhoonce required me to ring the belland another time tohelp thetea-kettle. I have some reason to think she wasliterallyan OLD-STAGERwho laughed in her sleeve at mycomplaisance;so that I have sworn in my secret soul revenge uponher sexand all such errant damsels of whatever age and degreewhom I mayencounter in my travels. I mean all this without theleastill-will to my friend the contractorwhoI thinkhasapproachedas near as any one is like to do towards accomplishingthe modestwish cf the Amatus and Amata of the Peri Bathous
"Yegodsannihilate but time and space
And make two lovers happy."
I intendto give Mr. P. his full revenge when I come to discussthe morerecent enormity of steamboats; meanwhileI shall onlysay ofboth these modes of conveyancethat
"There is no living with them or without them."
I amperhapsmore critical on themail-coach on thisparticularoccasionthat I did not meet all the respect from theworshipfulcompany in his Majesty's carriage that I think I wasentitledto. I must say it for myself that I bearin my ownopinion atleastnot a vulgar point about me. My face has seenservicebut there is still a good set of teethan aquilinenoseanda quickgrey eyeset a little too deep under theeyebrow;and a cue of the kind once called military may serve toshow thatmy civil occupations have been sometimes mixed withthose ofwar. Neverthelesstwo idle young fellows in thevehicleor rather on the top of itwere so much amused with thedeliberationwhich I used in ascending to the same place ofeminencethat I thought I should have been obliged to pull themup alittle. And I was in no good-humour at an unsuppressedlaughfollowing my descent when set down at the anglewhere acrossroadstriking off from the main oneled me towardsGlentannerfrom which I was still nearly five miles distant.
It was anold-fashioned roadwhichpreferring ascents tosloughswas led in a straight line over height and hollowthroughmoor and dale. Every object around me; as I passed theminsuccessionreminded me of old daysand at the same timeformed thestrongest contrast with them possible. Unattendedonfootwitha small bundle in my handdeemed scarce sufficientgoodcompany for the two shabby-genteels with whom I had beenlatelyperched on the top of a mail-coachI did not seem to bethe sameperson with the young prodigalwho lived with thenoblestand gayest in the landand whothirty years beforewouldinthe same countryhavebeen on the back of a horsethat hadbeen victor for a plateor smoking aloof in histravellingchaise-and-four. My sentiments were not less changedthan mycondition. I could quite well remember that my rulingsensationin the days of heady youth was a mere schoolboy'seagernessto get farthest forward in the race in which I hadengaged;to drink as many bottles as ; to be thought as good ajudge of ahorse as ; to have the knowing cut of 's jacket.These werethy godsO Israel!
Now I wasa mere looker-on; seldom an unmovedand sometimes anangryspectatorbut still a spectator onlyof the pursuits ofmankind.
I felt how little my opinion was valued by thoseengaged inthe busy turmoilyet I exercised it with theprofusionof an old lawyer retired from his professionwhothrustshimself into his neighbour's affairsand gives advicewhere itis not wantedmerely under pretence of loving the crackof thewhip.
I cameamid these reflections to the brow of a hillfrom which Iexpectedto see Glentannera modest-looking yet comfortablehouseitswalls covered with the most productive fruit-trees inthat partof the countryand screened from the most stormyquartersof the horizon by a deep and ancient woodwhichoverhungthe neighbouring hill. The house was gone; a great partof thewood was felled; and instead of the gentlemanlike mansionshroudedand embosomed among its old hereditary treesstoodCastleTreddlesa huge lumping four-square pile of freestoneasbare as mynailexcept for a paltry edging of decayed andlingeringexoticswith an impoverished lawn stretched before itwhichinstead of boasting deep green tapestryenamelled withdaisiesand with crowsfoot and cowslipsshowed an extent ofnakednessrakedindeedand levelledbut where the sowngrasseshad failed with droughtand the earthretaining itsnaturalcomplexionseemed nearly as brown and bare as when itwas newlydug up.
The housewas a large fabricwhich pretended to its name ofCastleonly from the front windows being finished in acute Gothicarches(beingby the waythe very reverse of the castellatedstyle)and each angle graced with a turret about the size of apepper-box.
In every other respect it resembled a large town-housewhichlike a fat burgesshad taken a walk to the countryon aholidayand climbed to the top of all eminence to lookaroundit. The bright red colour of the freestonethe size ofthebuildingthe formality of its shapeand awkwardness of itspositionharmonized as ill with the sweeping Clyde in frontandthebubbling brook which danced down on the rightas the fatcivicformwith bushy wiggold-headed canemaroon-colouredcoatandmottled silk stockingswould have accorded with thewild andmagnificent scenery of Corehouse Linn.
I went upto the house. It was in that state of desertion whichis perhapsthe most unpleasant to look onfor the place wasgoing todecay without having been inhabited. There were aboutthemansionthough desertednone of the slow mouldering touchesof timewhich communicate to buildingsas to the human frameasort ofreverencewhile depriving them of beauty and ofstrength.
The disconcerted schemes of the Laird of CastleTreddleshad resembled fruit that becomes decayed without everhavingripened. Some windows brokenothers patchedothersblocked upwith dealsgave a disconsolate air to all aroundandseemed tosay"There Vanity had purposed to fix her seatbutwasanticipated by Poverty."
To theinsideafter many a vain summonsI was at lengthadmittedby an old labourer. The house contained everycontrivancefor luxury and accommodation. The kitchens were amodel; andthere were hot closets on the office staircasethatthe dishesmight not coolas our Scottish phrase goesbetweenthekitchen and the hall. But instead of the genial smell ofgoodcheerthese temples of Comus emitted the damp odour ofsepulchralvaultsand the large cabinets of cast-iron lookedlike thecages of some feudal Bastille. The eating room anddrawing-roomwith an interior boudoirwere magnificentapartmentsthe ceiling was fretted and adorned with stucco-workwhichalready was broken in many placesand looked in othersdamp andmouldering; the wood panelling was shrunk and warpedandcracked; the doorswhich had not been hung for more than twoyearswereneverthelessalready swinging loose from theirhinges.
Desolationin shortwas where enjoyment had neverbeen; andthe want of all the usual means to preserve was fastperformingthe work of decay.
The storywas a common oneand told in a few words. Mr.Treddlesseniorwho bought the estatewas a cautiousmoney-makingperson. His sonstill embarked in commercialspeculationsdesired at the same time to enjoy his opulence andtoincrease it. He incurred great expensesamongst which thisedificewas to benumbered. To support these he speculatedboldlyand unfortunately; and thus the whole history is toldwhich mayserve for more places than Glentanner.
Strangeand various feelings ran through my bosom as I loiteredin thesedeserted apartmentsscarce hearing what my guide saidto meabout the size and destination of each room. The firstsentimentI am ashamed to saywas one of gratified spite. Mypatricianpride was pleased that the mechanicwho had notthoughtthe house of the Croftangrys sufficiently good for himhad nowexperienced a fall in his turn. My next thought was asmeanthough not so malicious. "I have had the better of thisfellow"thought I. "If I lost the estateI at least spent theprice; andMr. Treddles has lost his among paltry commercialengagements."
said the secret voice within"darest thou exult inthyshame? Recollect how thy youth and fortune was wasted inthoseyearsand triumph not in the enjoyment of an existencewhichlevelled thee with the beasts that perish. Bethink theehow thispoor man's vanity gave at least bread to the labourerpeasantand citizen; and his profuse expenditurelike waterspilt onthe groundrefreshed the lowly herbs and plants whereit fell.
But thou! Whom hast thou enriched during thy career ofextravagancesave those brokers of the devilvintnerspandersgamblersand horse-jockeys?" The anguish produced by this self-reproofwas so strong that I put my hand suddenly to my foreheadand wasobliged to allege a sudden megrim to my attendantinapologyfor the actionand a slight groan with which it wasaccompanied.
I thenmade an effort to turn my thoughts into a morephilosophicalcurrentand muttered half aloudas a charm tolull anymore painful thoughts to rest
"NUNC AGER UMBRENI SUB NOMINENUPER OFELLI
DICTUS ERIT NULLI PROPRIUS; SED CEDIT IN USUM
NUNC MIHINUNC ALII. QUOCIRCA VIVITE FORTES
FORTIAQUE ADVERSIS OPPONITE PECTORA REBUS."
[HoraceSat.II Lib.2. The meaning will be best conveyed to theEnglishreader in Pope's imitation:
"What's propertydear Swift? You see it alter
From you to mefrom me to Peter Walter;
Or in a mortgage prove a lawyer's share;
Or in a jointure vanish from the heir.
* * *
* * *
"Shadesthat to Bacon could retreat afford
Become the portion of a booby lord;
And Helmsleyonce proud Buckingham's delight
Slides to a scrivener and city knight.
Let lands and houses have what lords they will
Let us be fix'dand our own masters still."]
In myanxiety to fix the philosophical precept in my mindIrecitedthe last line aloudwhichjoined to my previousagitationI afterwards found became the cause of a report that amadschoolmaster had come from Edinburghwith the idea in hishead ofbuying Castle Treddles.
As I sawmy companion was desirous of getting rid of meI askedwhere Iwas to find the person in whose hands were left the mapof theestateand other particulars connected with the sale.The agentwho had this in possessionI was toldlived at thetown ofwhich I was informedand indeed knew wellwasdistantfive miles and a bittockwhich may pass in a countrywhere theyare less lavish of their land for two or three more.Beingsomewhat afraid of the fatigue of walking so farIinquiredif a horse or any sort of carriage was to be hadandwasanswered in the negative.
"But"said my cicerone"you may halt a blink till next morningat theTreddles Armsa very decent housescarce a mile off."
"Anew houseI suppose?" replied I.
"Noit's a new publicbut it's an auld house; it was aye theLeddy'sjointure-house in the Croftangry folk's time. But Mr.Treddleshas fitted it up for the convenience of the countrypoor manhe was a public-spirited man when he had the means."
"Duntarkina public-house!" I exclaimed.
said the fellowsurprised at my naming the place by itsformertitle; "ye'll hae been in this country beforeI'mthinking?"
"Longsince" I replied. "And there is good accommodationat thewhat-d'ye-call-'emarmsand a civil landlord?" This I said byway ofsaying somethingfor the man stared very hard at me.
"Verydecent accommodation. Ye'll no be for fashing wi' wineI'mthinking; and there's walth o' porteraleand a drap gudewhisky"(in an undertone)"Fairntoshif you call get on thelee-sideof the gudewifefor there is nae gudeman. They ca' herChristieSteele."
I almoststarted at the sound. Christie Steele! Christie Steelewas mymother's body-servanther very right handandbetweenourselvessomething like a viceroy over her. I recollected herperfectly;and though she had in former times been no favouriteof mineher name now sounded in my ear like that of a friendand wasthe first word I had heard somewhat in unison with theassociationsaround me. I sallied from Castle Treddlesdeterminedto make the best of my way to Duntarkinand myciceronehung by me for a little waygiving loose to his love oftalkinganopportunity whichsituated as he wasthe seneschalof adeserted castlewas not likely to occur frequently.
"Somefolk think" said my companion"that Mr. Treddles might asweel haveput my wife as Christie Steele into the Treddles Arms;forChristie had been aye in serviceand never in the publiclineandso it's like she is ganging back in the worldas Ihear.
Nowmy wife had keepit a victualling office."
"Thatwould have been an advantagecertainly" I replied.
"ButI am no sure that I wad ha' looten Eppie take itif theyhad put itin her offer."
"That'sa different consideration."
"OnywayI wadna ha' liked to have offended Mr. Treddles. Hewas a weetoustie when you rubbed him again the hair; but a kindweel-meaningman."
I wantedto get rid of this species of chatand finding myselfnear theentrance of a footpath which made a short cut toDuntarkinI put half a crown into my guide's handbade himgood-eveningand plunged into the woods.
"Houtsirfiesirno from the like of you. Staysiryewunna findthe way that gate.Odd's mercyhe maun ken the gateas weel asI do mysel'. WeelI wad Iike to ken wha the chieldis."
Such werethe last words of my guide's drowsyuninteresting toneof voiceand glad to be rid of himI strode out stoutlyindespite oflarge stonesbriersand BAD STEPSwhich abounded inthe road Ihad chosen. In the interimI tried as much as Icouldwith verses from Horace and Priorand all who have laudedthemixture of literary with rural lifeto call back the visionsof lastnight and this morningimagining myself settled in samedetachedfarm of the estate of Glentanner
"Which sloping hills around enclose
Where many a birch and brown oak grows"
when Ishould have a cottage with a small librarya smallcellaraspare bed for a friendand live more happy and morehonouredthan when I had the whole barony. But the sight ofCastleTreddles had disturbed all my own castles in the air. Therealitiesof the matterlike a stone plashed into a limpidfountainhad destroyed the reflection of the objects aroundwhichtill this act of violencelay slumbering on the crystalsurfaceand I tried in vain to re-establish the picture whichhad beenso rudely broken. WellthenI would try it anotherway.
I would try to get Christie Steele out of her PUBLICsinceshe wasnot striving in itand she who had been my mother'sgovernanteshould be mine. I knew all her faultsand I told herhistoryover to myself.
She wasgrand-daughterI believeat least some relativeof thefamousCovenanter of the namewhom Dean Swift's friendCaptainCreichtonshot on his own staircase in the times of thepersecutions;[See Note 2.Steele a Covenantershot by CaptainCreichton.]and had perhaps derived from her native stock muchboth ofits good and evil properties. No one could say of herthat shewas the life and spirit of the familythough in mymother'stime she directed all family affairs. Her look wasaustereand gloomyand when she was not displeased with youyoucould onlyfind it out by her silence. If there was cause forcomplaintreal or imaginaryChristie was loud enough. Sheloved mymother with the devoted attachment of a younger sister;but shewas as jealous of her favour to any one else as if shehad beenthe aged husband of a coquettish wifeand as severe inherreprehensions as an abbess over her nuns. The command whichsheexercised over her was thatI fearof a strong anddeterminedover a feeble and more nervous disposition and thoughit wasused with rigouryetto the best of Christie Steele'sbeliefshe was urging her mistress to her best and most becomingcourseand would have died rather than have recommended anyother.
The attachment of this woman was limited to the family ofCroftangry;for she had few relationsand a dissolute cousinwhom latein life she had taken as a husbandhad long left her awidow.
To me shehad ever a strong dislike. Even from my earlychildhoodshe was jealousstrange as it may seemof my interestin mymother's affections. She saw my foibles and vices withabhorrenceand without a grain of allowance; nor did she pardontheweakness of maternal affection even whenby the death of twobrothersI came to be the only child of a widowed parent. Atthe timemy disorderly conduct induced my mother to leaveGlentannerand retreat to her jointure-houseI always blamedChristieSteele for having influenced her resentment andpreventedher from listening to my vows of amendmentwhich attimes werereal and seriousand mightperhapshave acceleratedthatchange of disposition which has sinceI trusttaken place.ButChristie regarded me as altogether a doomed and predestinatedchild ofperditionwho was sure to hold on my courseand dragdownwardswhosoever might attempt to afford me support.
Stillthough I knew such had been Christie's prejudices againstme inother daysyet I thought enough of time had since passedaway todestroy all of them. I knew that whenthrough thedisorderof my affairsmy mother underwent some temporaryinconvenienceabout money mattersChristieas a thing ofcoursestood in the gapand having sold a small inheritancewhich haddescended to herbrought the purchase money to hermistresswith a sense of devotion as deep as that which inspiredtheChristians of the first agewhen they sold all they hadandfollowedthe apostles of the church. I therefore thought that wemightinold Scottish phrase"let byganes be byganes" andbegin upona new account. Yet I resolvedlike a skilfulgeneralto reconnoitre a little before laying down any precisescheme ofproceedingand in the interim I determined to preservemyincognito.
MR.CROFTANGRY BIDS ADIEU TO CLYDESDALE.
Alashow changed from what it once had been!
'Twas now degraded to a common inn. GAY.
An hour'sbrisk walkingor thereaboutsplaced me in front ofDuntarkinwhich had alsoI foundundergone considerablealterationsthough it had not been altogether demolished liketheprincipal mansion. An inn-yard extended before the door ofthe decentlittle jointure-houseeven amidst the remnants of thehollyhedges which had screened the lady's garden. Then a broadraw-lookingnew-made road intruded itself up the little gleninstead ofthe old horsewayso seldom used that it was almostentirelycovered with grass. It is a great enormityof whichgentlementrustees on the highways are sometimes guiltyinadoptingthe breadth necessary for an avenue to the metropoliswhere allthat is required is an access to some sequestered andunpopulousdistrict. I do not say anything of the expensethatthetrustees and their constituents may settle as they please.But thedestruction of silvan beauty is great when the breadth ofthe roadis more than proportioned to the vale through which itrunsandlowersof coursethe consequence of any objects ofwood orwateror broken and varied groundwhich might otherwiseattractnotice and give pleasure. A bubbling runnel by the sideof one ofthose modern Appian or Flaminian highways is but like akennel;the little hill is diminished to a hillockthe romantichillock toa molehillalmost too small for sight.
Such anenormityhoweverhad destroyed the quiet loneliness ofDuntarkinand intruded its breadth of dust and graveland itsassociationsof pochays and mail-coachesupon one of the mostsequesteredspots in the Middle Ward of Clydesdale. The housewas oldand dilapidatedand looked sorry for itselfas ifsensibleof a derogation; but the sign was strong and newandbrightlypainteddisplaying a heraldic shield (three shuttles ina fielddiapre)a web partly unfolded for crestand two stoutgiants forsupporterseach one holding a weaver's beam proper.To havedisplayed this monstrous emblem on the front of the housemight havehazarded bringing down the wallbut for certain wouldhaveblocked up one or two windows. It was therefore establishedindependentof the mansionbeing displayed in an iron frameworkandsuspended upon two postswith as much wood and iron about itas wouldhave builded a brig; and there it hungcreakinggroaningand screaming in every blast of windand frighteningfor fivemiles' distancefor aught I knowthe nests of thrushesandlinnetsthe ancient denizens of the little glen.
When Ientered the place I was received by Christie Steeleherselfwho seemed uncertain whether to drop me in the kitchenor usherme into a separate apartmentas I called for teawithsomethingrather more substantial than bread and butterandspoke ofsupping and sleepingChristie at last inducted me intothe roomwhere she herself had been sittingprobably the onlyone whichhad a firethough the month was October. Thisansweredmy plan; and as she was about to remove her spinning-wheelIbegged she would have the goodness to remain and make myteaadding that I liked the sound of the wheeland desired notto disturbher housewife thrift in the least.
"Idinna kensir" she repliedin a dryREVECHE tonewhichcarried meback twenty years"I am nane of thae heartsomelandleddiesthat can tell country cracksand make themsel'sagreeableand I was ganging to put on a fire for you in the RedRoom; butif it is your will to stay herehe that pays thelawingmaun choose the lodging."
Iendeavoured to engage her in conversation; but though sheansweredwith a kind of stiff civilityI could get her into nofreedom ofdiscourseand she began to look at her wheel and atthe doormore than onceas if she meditated a retreat. I wasobligedthereforeto proceed to some special questions; thatmight haveinterest for a person whose ideas were probably of averybounded description.
I lookedround the apartmentbeing the same in which I had lastseen mypoor mother. The author of the family historyformerlymentionedhad taken great credit to himself for the improvementshe hadmade in this same jointure-house of Duntarkinand howupon hismarriagewhen his mother took possession of the same asherjointure-house"to his great charges and expenses he causedbox thewalls of the great parlour" (in which I was now sitting)"empanelthe sameand plaster the rooffinishing the apartmentwith aneconcave chimneyand decorating the same with picturesand abarometer and thermometer." And in particularwhich hisgoodmother used to say she prized above all the resthe hadcaused hisown portraiture be limned over the mantlepiece by askilfulhand. Andin good faiththere he remained stillhavingmuch the visage which I was disposed to ascribe to him ontheevidence of his handwritinggrim and austereyet notwithout acast of shrewdness and determination; in armourthoughhe neverwore itI fancy; one hand on an open bookand oneresting onthe hilt of his swordthough I dare say his headneverached with readingnor his limbs with fencing.
"Thatpicture is painted on the woodmadam" said I.
"Aysiror it's like it would not have been left there; theylook a'they could."
"Mr.Treddles's creditorsyou mean?" said I.
"Na"replied she dryly"the creditors of another familythatsweepitcleaner than this poor man'sbecause I fancy there wasless togather."
"Anolder familyperhapsand probably more remembered andregrettedthan later possessors?"
Christiehere settled herself in her seatand pulled her wheeltowardsher. I had given her something interesting for herthoughtsto dwell uponand her wheel was a mechanicalaccompanimenton such occasionsthe revolutions of whichassistedher in the explanation of her ideas.
"Mairregrettedmair missed? I liked ane of the auld familyvery weelbut I winna say that for them a'. How should they bemairmissed than the Treddleses? The cotton mill was such athing forthe country! The mair bairns a cottar body had thebetter;they would make their awn keep frae the time they werefive yearsauldand a widow wi' three or four bairns was awealthywoman in the time of the Treddleses."
"Butthe health of these poor childrenmy good friendtheireducationand religious instruction"
"Forhealth" said Christielooking gloomily at me"ye maunkenlittle ofthe warldsirif ye dinna ken that the health of thepoor man'sbodyas well as his youth and his strengthare allat thecommand of the rich man's purse. There never was a tradesounhealthy yet but men would fight to get wark at it for twapennies aday aboon the common wage. But the bairns werereasonablyweel cared for in the way of air and exerciseand averyresponsible youth heard them their Carritchand gied themlessons inReediemadeasy ["Reading made Easy" usually sopronouncedin Scotland.] Nowwhat did they ever get before?Maybe on awinter day they wad be called out to beat the wood forcocks orsiclike; and then the starving weans would maybe get abite ofbroken breadand maybe nojust as the butler was inhumourthatwas a' they got."
"Theywere notthena very kind family to the poorthese oldpossessors?"
said Isomewhat bitterly; for I had expected tohear myancestors' praises recordedthough I certainly despairedof beingregaled with my own.
"Theywerena ill to themsirand that is aye something. Theywere justdecent bien bodies; ony poor creature that had face tobeg got anawmousand welcomethey that were shamefaced gaedbyandtwice as welcome. But they keepit an honest walk beforeGod andmanthe Croftangrysandas I said beforeif they didlittlegoodthey did as little ill. They lifted their rentsand spentthem; called in their kain and ate them; gaed to thekirk of aSunday; bowed civilly if folk took aff their bannets asthey gaedbyand lookit as black as sin at them that keepit themon."
"Theseare their arms that you have on the sign?"
on the painted board that is skirling and groaning at thedoor?
Nathese are Mr. Treddles's arms though they look as likelegs asarms. Ill pleased I was at the fule thingthat cost asmuckle aswould hae repaired the house from the wa' stane to therigging-tree.
But if I am to bide hereI'll hae a decent boardwi' apunch bowl on it."
"Isthere a doubt of your staying hereMrs. Steele?"
"DinnaMistress me" said the cross old womanwhose fingers werenow plyingtheir thrift in a manner which indicated nervousirritation;"there was nae luck in the land since Luckie turnedMistressand Mistress my Leddy. And as for staying hereif itconcernsyou to kenI may stay if I can pay a hundred pundsterlingfor the leaseand I may flit if I cannaand so gudee'en toyouChristie"and round went the wheel with muchactivity.
"Andyou like the trade of keeping a public-house?"
"Ican scarce say that" she replied. "But worthy Mr.Prendergastis clear of its lawfulness; and I hae gotten used toitandmade a decent livingthough I never make out a fausereckoningor give ony ane the means to disorder reason in myhouse."
said I; "in that casethere is no wonder you have notmade upthe hundred pounds to purchase the lease."
"Howdo you ken" said she sharply"that I might not have had ahundredpunds of my ain fee? If I have it notI am sure it ismy ainfaut. And I wunna ca' it faut neitherfor it gaed to herwha wasweel entitled to a' my service." Again she pulledstoutly atthe flaxand the wheel went smartly round.
"Thisold gentleman" said Ifixing my eye on the painted panel"seemsto have had HIS arms painted as well as Mr. Treddlesthatisifthat painting in the corner be a scutcheon."
"Ayaycushionjust sae. They maun a' hae their cushionsthere'ssma' gentry without thatand so the armsas they ca'themofthe house of Glentanner may be seen on an auld stane inthe westend of the house. But to do them justice; they didnapropalesae muckle about them as poor Mr. Treddles didit's likethey werebetter used to them."
"Verylikely. Are there any of the old family in lifegoodwife?"
"No"she replied; then added; after a moment's hesitation"Notthat Iknow of"and the wheelwhich had intermittedbeganagain torevolve.
"Goneabroadperhaps?" I suggested.
She nowlooked upand faced me. "Nosir. There were threesons ofthe last laird of Glentanneras he was then called.John andWilliam were hopeful young gentlemenbut they diedearlyoneof a decline brought on by the mizzlesthe other losthis lifein a fever. It would hae been lucky for mony ane thatChrystalhad gane the same gate."
"Ohhe must have been the young spendthrift that sold theproperty?
Wellbut you should you have such an ill-will againsthim;remember necessity has no law. And thengoodwifehe wasnot moreculpable than Mr. Treddleswhom you are so sorry for."
"Iwish I could think saesirfor his mother's sake. But Mr.Treddleswas in tradeand though he had no preceese right to dosoyetthere was some warrant for a man being expensive thatimaginedhe was making a mint of money. But this unhappy laddevouredhis patrimonywhen he kenned that he was living like aratten ina Dunlap cheeseand diminishing his means at a' hands.I cannabide to think on't." With this she broke out into asnatch ofa balladbut little of mirth was there either in thetone orthe expression:
"For he did spendand make an end
Of gear that his forefathers wan;
Of land and ware he made him bare
So speak nae mair of the auld gudeman."
"Comedame" said I"it is a long lane that has no turning.
Iwill notkeep from you that I have heard something of this poorfellowChrystal Croftangry. He has sown his wild oatsas theysayandhas settled into a steadyrespectable man."
"Andwha tell'd ye that tidings?" said shelooking sharply atme.
"Notperhapsthe best judge in the world of his characterforit washimselfdame."
"Andif he tell'd you truthit was a virtue he did not aye usetopractise" said Christie.
"Thedevil!" said Iconsiderably nettled; "all the worldheldhim to bea man of honour."
"Ayay! he would hae shot onybody wi' his pistols and his gunsthat hadevened him to be a liar. But if he promised to pay anhonesttradesman the next term-daydid he keep his word then?And if hepromised a puirsilly lass to make gude her shamedidhe speaktruth then? And what is that but being a liarand ablack-hearteddeceitful liar to boot?"
Myindignation was risingbut I strove to suppress it; indeedIshouldonly have afforded my tormentor a triumph by an angryreply.
I partly suspected she began to recognize meyet shetestifiedso little emotion that I could not think my suspicionwellfounded. I went onthereforeto sayin a tone asindifferentas I could command"WellgoodwifeI see you willbelieve nogood of this Chrystal of yourstill he comes back andbuys agood farm on the estateand makes you his housekeeper."
The oldwoman dropped her threadfolded her handsas she lookedup toheaven with a face of apprehension. "The Lord" sheexclaimed"forbid! The Lord in His mercy forbid! O sir!
ifyou reallyknow this unlucky manpersuade him to settle wherefolk kenthe good that you say he has come toand dinna ken theevil ofhis former days. He used to be proud enoughO dinna lethim comehereeven for his own sake. He used once to have somepride."
Here sheonce more drew the wheel close to herand began to pullat theflax with both hands. "Dinna let him come hereto belookeddown upon by ony that may be left of his auld reivingcompanionsand to see the decent folk that he looked over hisnose atlook over their noses at himbaith at kirk and market.Dinna lethim come to his ain countryto be made a tale aboutwhen onyneighbour points him out to anotherand tells what heisandwhat he wasand how he wrecked a dainty estateandbroughtharlots to the door-cheek of his father's housetill hemade itnae residence for his mother; and how it had beenforetauldby a servant of his ain house that he was a ne'er-do-weel and achild of perditionand how her words were made goodand"
"Stoptheregoodwifeif you please" said I; "you have said asmuch as Ican well rememberand more than it may be safe torepeat.
I can use a great deal of freedom with the gentleman wespeak of;but I thinkwere any other person to carry him half ofyourmessageI would scarce ensure his personal safety. Andnowas Isee the night is settled to be a fine oneI will walkon towhere I must meet a coach to-morrow as it passes toEdinburgh."
So sayingI paid my moderate reckoningand took my leavewithoutbeing able to discover whether the prejudiced and hard-heartedold woman didor did notsuspect the identity of herguest withthe Chrystal Croftangry against whom she harboured somuchdislike.
The nightwas fine and frostythoughwhen I pretended to seewhat itscharacter wasit might have rained like the deluge. Ionly madethe excuse to escape from old Christie Steele. Thehorseswhich run races in the Corso at Rome without any ridersin orderto stimulate their exertioncarry each his own spursnamelysmall balls of steelwith sharpprojecting spikeswhich areattached to loose straps of leatherandflying aboutin theviolence of the agitationkeep the horse to his speed byprickinghim as they strike against his flanks. The old woman'sreproacheshad the same effect on meand urged me to a rapidpaceasif it had been possible to escape from my ownrecollections.
In the best days of my lifewhen I won one ortwo hardwalking matchesI doubt if I ever walked so fast as Ididbetwixt the Treddles Arms and the borough town for which Iwasbound. Though the night was coldI was warm enough by thetime I gotto my inn; and it required a refreshing draught ofporterwith half an hour's reposeere I could determine to giveno furtherthought to Christie and her opinions than those of anyothervulgarprejudiced old woman. I resolved at last to treatthe thingEN BAGATELLEand calling for writing materialsIfolded upa cheque for L100with these lines on the envelope:
Child destined to the deil
Sends this to Christie Steele."
And I wasso much pleased with this new mode of viewing thesubjectthat I regretted the lateness of the hour prevented myfinding aperson to carry the letter express to its destination.
"But with the morning cool reflection came."
Iconsidered that the moneyand probably morewas actually dueby me onmy mother's account to Christiewho had lent it in amoment ofgreat necessityand that the returning it in a lightorludicrous manner was not unlikely to prevent so touchy andpunctiliousa person from accepting a debt which was most justlyher dueand which it became me particularly to see satisfied.Sacrificingthenmy triad with little regret (for it lookedbetter bycandlelightand through the medium of a pot of porterthan itdid by daylightand with bohea for a menstruum)Ideterminedto employ Mr. Fairscribe's mediation in buying up thelease ofthe little innand conferring it upon Christie in theway whichshould make it most acceptable to her feelings. It isonlynecessary to add that my plan succeededand that WidowSteeleeven yet keeps the Treddles Arms. Do not saythereforethat Ihave been disingenuous with youreader; sinceif I havenot toldall the ill of myself I might have doneI haveindicatedto you a person able and willing to supply the blankbyrelating all my delinquencies as well as my misfortunes.
In themeantime I totally abandoned the idea of redeeming anypart of mypaternal propertyand resolved to take ChristieSteele'sadviceas young Norval does Glenalvon's"although itsoundedharshly."
MR.CROFTANGRY SETTLES IN THE CANONGATE.
If you will know my house
'Tis at the tuft of olives here hard by. AS YOULIKE IT.
By arevolution of humour which I am unable to account forIchanged mymind entirely on my plans of lifein consequence ofthedisappointmentthe history of which fills the last chapter.I began todiscover that the country would not at all suit me;for I hadrelinquished field-sportsand felt no inclinationwhateverto farmingthe ordinary vocation of country gentlemen.BesidesthatI had no talent for assisting either candidate incase of anexpected electionand saw no amusement in the dutiesof a roadtrusteea commissioner of supplyor even in themagisterialfunctions of the bench. I had begun to take sometaste forreading; and a domiciliation in the country must removeme fromthe use of booksexcepting the small subscriptionlibraryin which the very book which you want is uniformly sureto beengaged.
Iresolvedthereforeto make the Scottish metropolis my regularresting-placereserving to myself to take occasionally thoseexcursionswhichspite of all I have said against mail-coachesMr. Piperhas rendered so easy. Friend of our life and of ourleisurehe secures by dispatch against loss of timeand by thebest ofcoachescattleand steadiest of driversagainst hazardof limband wafts usas well as our lettersfrom Edinburgh toCape Wrathin the penning of a paragraph.
When mymind was quite made up to make Auld Reekie myheadquartersreserving the privilege of EXPLORING in alldirectionsI began to explore in good earnest for the purpose ofdiscoveringa suitable habitation. "And whare trew ye I gaed?"as SirPertinax says. Not to George's Squarenor to CharlotteSquarenorto the old New Townnor to the new New Townnor tothe CaltonHill. I went to the Canongateand to the veryportion ofthe Canongate in which I had formerly been immuredlike theerrant knightprisoner in some enchanted castlewherespellshave made the ambient air impervious to the unhappycaptivealthough the organs of sight encountered no obstacle tohis freepassage.
Why Ishould have thought of pitching my tent here I cannot tell.Perhaps itwas to enjoy the pleasures of freedom where I had solongendured the bitterness of restrainton the principle of theofficerwhoafter he had retired from the armyordered hisservant tocontinue to call him at the hour or paradesimplythat hemight have the pleasure of saying"Dn the parade!"andturning to the other side to enjoy his slumbers. Or perhapsI expectedto find in the vicinity some little old-fashionedhousehaving somewhat of the RUS IN URBE which I was ambitiousofenjoying. Enough: I wentas aforesaidto the Canongate.
I stood bythe kennelof which I have formerly spokenandmymind beingat easemy bodily organs were more delicate. I wasmoresensible than heretoforethatlike the trade of Pompey inMEASUREFOR MEASUREit did in some sortpah an ounce of civetgoodapothecary! Turning from thencemy steps naturallydirectedthemselves to my own humble apartmentwhere my littleHighlandlandladyas dapper and as tight as ever(for old womenwear ahundred times better than the hard-wrought seniors of themasculinesex)stood at the doorTEEDLING to herself a Highlandsong asshe shook a table napkin over the fore-stairand thenproceededto fold it up neatly for future service.
"Thankyegood sir" answered my old friendwithout looking atme; "butye might as weel say Mrs. MacEvoyfor she is naa'body'sShanetumph."
"Youmust be MY Janetthoughfor all that. Have you forgot me?Do you notremember Chrystal Croftangry?"
The lightkind-hearted creature threw her napkin into the opendoorskipped down the stair like a fairythree steps at onceseized meby the handsboth handsjumped upand actuallykissedme. I was a little ashamed; but what swainof somewhereincliningto sixty could resist the advances of a faircontemporary?
So we allowed the full degree of kindness to themeetingHONISOIT QUI MAL Y PENSEand then Janet enteredinstantlyupon business. "An ye'll gae inmanand see yourauldlodgingsnae doubt and Shanet will pay ye the fifteenshillingsof change that ye ran away withoutand without biddingShanetgood day. But never mind" (nodding good-humouredly)"Shanetsaw you were carried for the time."
By thistime we were in my old quartersand Janetwith herbottle ofcordial in one hand and the glass in the otherhadforced onme a dram of usquebaughdistilled with saffron andotherherbsafter some old-fashioned Highland receipt. Then wasunfoldedout of many a little scrap of paperthe reserved sumof fifteenshillingswhich Janet had treasured for twenty yearsandupwards.
"Herethey are" she saidin honest triumph"just the same Iwasholding out to ye when ye ran as if ye had been fey. Shanethas hadsillerand Shanet has wanted sillermony a time sincethat. Andthe gauger has comeand the factor has comeand thebutcherand bakerCot bless us just like to tear poor auldShanet topieces; but she took good care of Mr. Croftangry'sfifteenshillings."
"Butwhat if I had never come backJanet?"
"Ochif Shanet had heard you were deadshe would hae gien it tothe poorof the chapelto pray for Mr. Croftangry" said Janetcrossingherselffor she was a Catholic"You maybe do not thinkit woulddo you coodbut the blessing of the poor can never dono harm"
I agreedheartily in Janet's conclusion; and as to have desiredher toconsider the hoard as her own property would have been anindelicatereturn to her for the uprightness of her conductIrequestedher to dispose of it as she had proposed to do in theevent ofmy deaththat isif she knew any poor people of meritto whom itmight be useful.
"Owermony of them" raising the corner of her checked apron tohereyes"e'en ower mony of themMr. Croftangry. Ochay.'There isthe puir Highland creatures frae Glensheethat camdown forthe harvestand are lying wi' the feverfive shillingsto them;and half a crown to Bessie MacEvoywhose coodmanpuircreaturedied of the frostbeing a shairmanfor a' the whiskyhe coulddrink to keep it out o' his stamoch; and"
But shesuddenly interrupted the bead-roll of her proposedcharitiesand assuming a very sage lookand primming up herlittlechattering mouthshe went on in a different tone"ButochMr.Croftangrybethink ye whether ye will not need a' thissilleryoursel'and maybe look back and think lang for ha'enkiven itawaywhilk is a creat sin to forthink a wark o'charityand also is unluckyand moreover is not the thought ofashentleman's son like yoursel'dear. And I say thisthat yemay thinka bitfor your mother's son kens that ye are no socareful asyou should be of the gearand I hae tauld ye of itbeforejewel."
I assuredher I could easily spare the moneywithout risk offuturerepentance; and she went on to infer that in such a case"Mr.Croftangry had grown a rich man in foreign partsand wasfree ofhis troubles with messengers and sheriff-officersandsiclikescum of the earthand Shanet MacEvoy's mother's daughterbe ablithe woman to hear it. But if Mr. Croftangry was introublethere was his roomand his pedand Shanet to wait onhimandtak payment when it was quite convenient."
Iexplained to Janet my situationin which she expressedunqualifieddelight. I then proceeded to inquire into her owncircumstancesand though she spoke cheerfully and contentedlyIcould seethey were precarious. I had paid more than was due;otherlodgers fell into an opposite errorand forgot to payJanet atall. ThenJanet being ignorant of all indirect modesofscrewing money out of her lodgersothers in the same line oflifewhowere sharper than the poorsimple Highland womanwereenabled tolet their apartments cheaper in appearancethough theinmatesusually found them twice as dear in the long run.
As I hadalready destined my old landlady to be my house-keeperandgovernanteknowing her honestygood-natureandalthough aScotchwomanher cleanliness and excellent temper (saving theshort andhasty expressions of anger which Highlanders call aFUFF)Inow proposed the plan to her in such a way as was likelyto make itmost acceptable. Very acceptable as the proposal wasas I couldplainly seeJanethowevertook a day to considerupon it;and her reflections against our next meeting hadsuggestedonly one objectionwhich was singular enough.
"Myhonour" so she now termed me"would pe for biding in somefinestreet apout the town. Now Shanet wad ill like to live in aplacewhere polishand sheriffsand bailiffsand sie thievesand trashof the worldcould tak puir shentlemen by the throatjustbecause they wanted a wheen dollars in the sporran. She hadlived inthe bonny glen of Tomanthoulick. Cotan ony of theverminthad come thereher father wad hae wared a shot on themand hecould hit a buck within as mony measured yards as e'er aman of hisclanAnd the place here was so quiet frae themtheydurst naput their nose ower the gutter. Shanet owed nobody abodlebutshe couldna pide to see honest folk and prettyshentlemenforced away to prison whether they would or no; andthenifShanet was to lay her tangs ower ane of the ragamuffins'headsitwould bemaybethat the law would gi'ed a hard name."
One thingI have learned in lifenever to speak sense whennonsensewill answer the purpose as well. I should have hadgreatdifficulty to convince this practical and disinterestedadmirerand vindicator of libertythat arrests seldom or neverwere to beseen in the streets of Edinburgh; and to satisfy herof theirjustice and necessity would have been as difficult as toconverther to the Protestant faith. I therefore assured her myintentionif I could get a suitable habitationwas to remain inthequarter where she at present dwelt. Janet gave three skipson thefloorand uttered as many shortshrill yells of joy.Yet doubtalmost instantly returnedand she insisted on knowingwhatpossible reason I could have for making my residence wherefew livedsave those whose misfortunes drove them thither. Itoccurredto me to answer her by recounting the legend of the riseof myfamilyand of our deriving our name from a particularplace nearHolyrood Palace. Thiswhich would have appeared tomostpeople a very absurd reason for choosing a residencewasentirelysatisfactory to Janet MacEvoy.
"Ochnae doubt! if it was the land of her fathersthere wasnae mairto be said. Put it was queer that her family estateshouldjust lie at the town tailand covered with houseswherethe King'scowsCot bless themhide and hornused to crazeupon. Itwas strange changes." She mused a littleand thenadded:
"Put it is something better wi' Croftangry when thechanges isfrae the field to the habited placeand not from theplace ofhabitation to the desert; for Shanether nainsellkenta glenwhere there were men as weel as there may be inCroftangryand if there werena altogether sae mony of themtheywere asgood men in their tartan as the others in theirbroadcloth.
And there were housestoo; and if they were notbiggitwith stane and limeand lofted like the houses atCroftangryyet they served the purpose of them that lived thereand mony abraw bonnetand mony a silk snood and comely whitecurchwould come out to gang to kirk or chapel on the Lord'sdayandlittle bairns toddling after. And nowOchOchOhellanyOhonari! the glen is desolateand the braw snoods andbonnetsare ganeand the Saxon's house stands dull and lonelylike thesingle bare-breasted rock that the falcon builds onthefalconthat drives the heath-bird frae the glen."
Janetlike many Highlanderswas full of imaginationandwhenmelancholythemes came upon herexpressed herself almostpoeticallyowing to the genius of the Celtic language in whichshethoughtand in whichdoubtlessshe would have spokenhadIunderstood Gaelic. In two minutes the shade of gloom andregret hadpassed from her good-humoured featuresand she wasagain thelittlebusypratingimportant old womanundisputedowner ofone flat of a small tenement in the Abbey Yardandabout tobe promoted to be housekeeper to an elderly bachelorgentlemanChrystal CroftangryEsq.
It was notlong before Janet's local researches found out exactlythe sortof place I wantedand there we settled. Janet wasafraid Iwould not be satisfiedbecause it is not exactly partofCroftangry; but I stopped her doubts by assuring her it hadbeen partand pendicle thereof in my forefather' timewhichpassedvery well.
I do notintend to possess any one with an exact knowledge of mylodging;thoughas Bobadil says"I care not who knows itsincethe cabinis convenient." But I may state in generalthat it isa house"within itself" oraccording to a newer phraseology inadvertisementsSELF-CONTAINEDhas a garden of near half anacreanda patch of ground with trees in front. It boasts fiverooms andservants' apartmentslooks in front upon the palaceand frombehind towards the hill and crags of the King's Park.Fortunatelythe place had a namewhichwith a littleimprovementserved to countenance the legend which I had imposedon Janetand would notperhaps have been sorry if I had beenable toimpose on myself. It was called Littlecroft; we havedubbed itLittle Croftangryand the men of letters belonging tothe PostOffice have sanctioned the changeand deliver letterssoaddressed. Thus I am to all intents and purposes ChrystalCroftangryof that Ilk.
Myestablishment consists of Janetan under maid-servantand aHighlandwench for Janet to exercise her Gaelic uponwith ahandy ladwho can lay the clothand take carebesidesof aponyonwhich I find my way to Portobello sandsespecially whenthecavalry have a drill; forlike an old fool as I amI havenotaltogether become indifferent to the tramp of horses and theflash ofweaponsof whichthough no professional soldierithas beenmy fate to see something in my youth. For wet morningsI have mybook; is it fine weather? I visitor I wander on theCragsasthe humour dictates. My dinner is indeed solitaryyetnot quiteso neither; for though Andrew waitsJanetoras sheis to allthe world but her master and certain old HighlandgossipsMrs. MacEvoyattendsbustles aboutand desires to seeeverythingis in first-rate orderand to tell meCot pless usthewonderful news of the palace for the day. When the cloth isremovedand I light my cigarand begin to husband a pint ofportor aglass of old whisky and waterit is the rule of thehouse thatJanet takes a chair at some distanceand nods orworks herstockingas she may be disposedready to speakif Iam in thetalking humourand sitting quiet as a mouse if I amratherinclined to study a book or the newspaper. At sixpreciselyshe makes my teaand leaves me to drink it; and thenoccurs aninterval of time which most old bachelors find heavy ontheirhands. The theatre is a good occasional resourceespeciallyif Will Murray actsor a bright star of eminenceshinesforth; but it is distantand so are one or two publicsocietiesto which I belong. Besidesthese evening walks areallincompatible with the elbow-chair feelingwhich desires someemploymentthat may divert the mind without fatiguing the body.
Under theinfluence of these impressionsI have sometimesthought ofthis literary undertaking. I must have been theBonassushimself to have mistaken myself for a genius; yet I haveleisureand reflections like my neighbours. I am a bordereralsobetween two generationsand can point out moreperhapsthanothers of those fading traces of antiquity which are dailyvanishing;and I know many a modern instance and many an oldtraditionand therefore I ask
"What ails meI may not as well as they
Rake up some threadbare talesthat mouldering lay
In chimney cornerswont by Christmas fires
To read and rock to sleep our ancient sires?
No man his threshold better knowsthan I
Brute's first arrival and first victory
Saint George's sorrel and his cross of blood
Arthur's round board and Caledonian wood."
No shop isso easily set up as an antiquary's. Like those of thelowestorder of pawnbrokersa commodity of rusty irona bay ortwo ofhobnailsa few odd shoe-bucklescashiered kail-potsandfire-ironsdeclared incapable of serviceare quite sufficient toset himup. If he add a sheaf or two of penny ballads andbroadsideshe is a great manan extensive trader. And thenlike thepawnbrokers aforesaidif the author understands alittlelegerdemainhe mayby dint of a little picking andstealingmake the inside of his shop a great deal richer thanthe outand be able to show you things which cause those who donotunderstand the antiquarian trick of clean conveyance towonder howthe devil he came by them.
It may besaid that antiquarian articles interest but fewcustomersand that we may bawl ourselves as rusty as the wareswe deal inwithout any one asking; the price of our merchandise.But I donot rest my hopes upon this department of my laboursonly.
I propose also to have a corresponding shop for SentimentandDialoguesand Disquisitionwhich may captivate the fancy ofthose whohave no relishas the established phrase goesforpureantiquitya sort of greengrocer's stall erected in front ofmyironmongery waresgarlanding the rusty memorials of ancienttimes withcressescabbagesleeksand water purpy.
As I havesome idea that I am writing too well to be understoodI humblemyself to ordinary languageand averwith becomingmodestythat I do think myself capable of sustaining apublicationof a miscellaneous natureas like to the Spectatoror theGuardianthe Mirror or the Loungeras my poor abilitiesmay beable to accomplish. Not that I have any purpose ofimitatingJohnsonwhose general learning and power of expressionI do notdenybut many of whose Ramblers are little better thana sort ofpageantwhere trite and obvious maxims are made toswagger inlofty and mystic languageand get some credit onlybecausethey are not easily understood. There are some of thegreatmoralist's papers which I cannot peruse without thinking onasecond-rate masqueradewhere the best-known and least-esteemedcharactersin town march in as heroesand sultansand so forthandbydint of tawdry dressesget some consideration until theyare foundout. It is nothoweverprudent to commence withthrowingstonesjust when I am striking out windows of my own.
I thinkeven the local situation of Little Croftangry may beconsideredas favourable to my undertaking. A nobler contrastthere canhardly exist than that of the huge citydark with thesmoke ofagesand groaning with the various sounds of activeindustryor idle reveland the lofty and craggy hillsilent andsolitaryas the graveone exhibiting the full tide of existencepressingand precipitating itself forward with the force of aninundation;the other resembling some time-worn anchoritewhoselifepasses as silent and unobserved as the slender rill whichescapesunheardand scarce seenfrom the fountain of hispatronsaint. The city resembles the busy templewhere themodernComus and Mammon hold their courtand thousands sacrificeeaseindependenceand virtue itself at their shrine; the mistyand lonelymountain seems as a throne to the majestic butterribleGenius of feudal timeswhen the same divinitiesdispensedcoronets and domains to those who had heads to deviseand armsto execute bold enterprises.
I haveasit werethe two extremities of the moral world at mythreshold.
From the front door a few minutes' walk brings meinto theheart of a wealthy and populous city; as many paces frommyopposite entrance place me in a solitude as complete asZimmermancould have desired. Surelywith such aids to myimaginationI may write better than if I were in a lodging inthe NewTown or a garret in the old. As the Spaniard says"VIAMOSCARACCO!"
I have notchosen to publish periodicallymy reason for whichwastwofold. In the first placeI don't like to be hurriedandhave hadenough of duns in an early part of my life to make mereluctantto hear of or see oneeven in the less awful shape ofaprinter's devil. Butsecondlya periodical paper is noteasilyextended in circulation beyond the quarter in which it ispublished.
This workif published in fugitive numberswouldscarcewithout a high pressure on the part of the booksellerberaisedabove the Netherbowand never could be expected to ascendto thelevel of Princes Street. NowI am ambitious that mycompositionsthough having their origin in this Valley ofHolyroodshould not only be extended into those exalted regionsI havementionedbut also that they should cross the Forthastonishthe long town of Kirkcaldyenchant the skippers andcolliersof the East of Fifeventure even into the classicarcades ofSt. Andrewsand travel as much farther to the northas thebreath of applause will carry their sails. As for asouthwarddirectionit is not to be hoped for in my fondestdreams.
I am informed that Scottish literaturelike Scottishwhiskywill be presently laid under a prohibitory duty. Butenough ofthis. If any reader is dull enough not to comprehendtheadvantages whichin point of circulationa compact book hasover acollection of fugitive numberslet him try the range of agun loadedwith hail-shot against that of the same piece chargedwith anequal weight of lead consolidated in a single bullet.
Besidesit was of less consequence that I should have publishedperiodicallysince I did not mean to solicit or accept of thecontributionsof friendsor the criticisms of those who may belesskindly disposed. Notwithstanding the excellent exampleswhichmight be quotedI will establish no begging-boxeitherunder thename of a lion's head or an ass's. What is good or illshall bemine ownor the contribution of friends to whom I mayhaveprivate access. Many of my voluntary assistants might beclevererthan myselfand then I should have a brilliant articleappearamong my chiller effusionslike a patch of lace on aScottishcloak of Galashiels grey. Some might be worseand thenI mustreject themto the injury of the feelings of the writeror elseinsert themto make my own darkness yet more opaque andpalpable.
"Let every herring" says our old-fashioned proverb"hangby his own head."
OnepersonhoweverI may distinguishas she is now no morewholiving to the utmost term of human lifehonoured me with agreatshare of her friendshipasindeedwe were blood-relativesin the Scottish senseHeaven knows how many degreesremovedandfriends in the sense of Old England. I mean thelateexcellent and regretted Mrs. Bethune Baliol. But as Idesignthis admirable picture of the olden time for a principalcharacterin my workI will only say here that she knew andapprovedof my present purpose; and though she declined tocontributeto it while she livedfrom a sense of dignifiedretirementwhich she thought became her agesexand conditionin lifeshe left me some materials for carrying on my proposedwork whichI coveted when I heard her detail them inconversationand which nowwhen I have their substance in herownhandwritingI account far more valuable than anything I havemyself tooffer. I hope the mentioning her name in conjunctionwith myown will give no offence to any of her numerous friendsas it washer own express pleasure that I should employ themanuscriptswhich she did me the honour to bequeath me in themanner inwhich I have now used them. It must be addedhoweverthat inmost cases I have disguised namesand in some have addedshadingand colouring to bring out the narrative.
Much of mymaterialsbesides theseare derived from friendsliving ordead. The accuracy of some of these may be doubtfulin whichcase I shall be happy to receivefrom sufficientauthoritythe correction of the errors which must creep intotraditionaldocuments. The object of the whole publication is tothrow somelight on the manners of Scotland as they wereand tocontrastthem occasionally with those of the present day. My ownopinionsare in favour of our own times in many respectsbut notin so faras affords means for exercising the imagination orexcitingthe interest which attaches to other times. I am gladto be awriter or a reader in 1826but I would be mostinterestedin reading or relating what happened from half acentury toa century before. We have the best of it. Scenes inwhich ourancestors thought deeplyacted fiercelyand dieddesperatelyare to us tales to divert the tedium of a winter'seveningwhen we are engaged to no partyor beguile a summer'smorningwhen it is too scorching to ride or walk.
Yet I donot mean that my essays and narratives should be limitedtoScotland. I pledge myself to no particular line of subjectsbutonthe contrarysay with Burns
"Perhaps it may turn out a sang
Perhaps turn out a sermon."
I haveonly to addby way of postscript to these preliminarychaptersthat I have had recourse to Moliere's recipeand readmymanuscript over to my old womanJanet MacEvoy.
Thedignity of being consulted delighted Janet; and WilkieorAllanwould have made a capital sketch of heras she satupright inher chairinstead of her ordinary lounging postureknittingher stocking systematicallyas if she meant every twistof herthread and inclination of the wires to bear burden to thecadence ofmy voice. I am afraidtoothat I myself felt moredelightthan I ought to have done in my own compositionand reada littlemore oratorically than I should have ventured to dobefore anauditor of whose applause I was not so secure. And theresult didnot entirely encourage my plan of censorship. Janetdid indeedseriously incline to the account of my previous lifeandbestowed some Highland maledictionsmore emphatic thancourteouson Christie Steele's reception of a "shentlemans indistress"and of her own mistress's house too. I omitted forcertainreasonsor greatly abridgedwhat related to her-self.But when Icame to treat of my general views in publicationIsaw poorJanet was entirely thrown outthoughlike a jadedhunterpantingpuffingand short of windshe endeavoured atleast tokeep up with the chase. Orratherher perplexity madeher lookall the while like a deaf person ashamed of hisinfirmitywho does not understand a word you are sayingyetdesiresyou to believe that he does understand youand who isextremelyjealous that you suspect his incapacity. When she sawthat someremark was necessaryshe resembled exactly in hercriticismthe devotee who pitched on the "sweet word Mesopotamia"as themost edifying note which she could bring away from asermon.
She indeed hastened to bestow general praise on what shesaid wasall "very fine;" but chiefly dwelt on what Ihad saidabout Mr.Timmermanas she was pleased to call the Germanphilosopherand supposed he must be of the same descent with theHighlandclan of M'Intyrewhich signifies Son of the Carpenter."Anda fery honourable name tooShanet's own mither was aM'Intyre."
In shortit was plain the latter part of my introduction wasaltogetherlost on poor Janet; and soto have acted up toMoliere'ssystemI should have cancelled the wholeand writtenit anew.
But I do not know how it is. I retainedI supposesometolerable opinion of my own compositionthough Janet didnotcomprehend itand felt loath to retrench those Delilahs oftheimaginationas Dryden calls themthe tropes and figures ofwhich arecaviar to the multitude. BesidesI hate rewriting asmuch asFalstaff did paying backit is a double labour. So Ideterminedwith myself to consult Janetin futureonly on suchthings aswere within the limits of her comprehensionand hazardmyarguments and my rhetoric on the public without herimprimatur.
I am pretty sure she will "applaud it done." and insuchnarratives as come within her range of thought and feeling IshallasI first intendedtake the benefit of herunsophisticatedjudgmentand attend to it deferentiallythatiswhenit happens not to be in peculiar opposition to my own;forafterallI say with Almanzor
"Know that I alone am king of me."
The readerhas now my who and my whereaboutthe purpose of theworkandthe circumstances under which it is undertaken. He hasalso aspecimen of the author's talentsand may judge forhimselfand proceedor send back the volume to the bookselleras his owntaste shall determine.
MR.CROFTANGRY'S ACCOUNT OF MRS. BETHUNE BALIOL.
The moonwere she earthlyno nobler. CORIOLANUS.
When weset out on the jolly voyage of lifewhat a brave fleetthere isaround usasstretching our finest canvas to thebreezeall "shipshape and Bristol fashion" pennons flyingmusicplayingcheering each other as we passwe are ratheramusedthan alarmed when some awkward comrade goes right ashorefor wantof pilotage! Alas! when the voyage is well spentandwe lookabout ustoil-worn marinershow few of our ancientconsortsstill remain in sight; and theyhow torn and wastedandlikeourselvesstruggling to keep as long as possible offthe fatalshoreagainst which we are all finally drifting!
I feltthis very trite but melancholy truth in all its force theother daywhen a packet with a black seal arrivedcontaining aletteraddressed to me by my late excellent friend Mrs. MarthaBethuneBalioland marked with the fatal indorsation"To bedeliveredaccording to addressafter I shall be no more." Aletterfrom her executors accompanied the packetmentioning thatthey hadfound in her will a bequest to me of a painting of somevaluewhich she stated would just fit the space above mycupboardand fifty guineas to buy a ring. And thus I separatedwith allthe kindness which we had maintained for many yearsfrom afriendwhothough old enough to have been the companionof mymotherwas yetin gaiety of spirits and admirablesweetnessof tempercapable of being agreeableand evenanimatingsocietyfor those who write themselves in the vawardof youthan advantage which I have lost for these five-and-thirtyyears. The contents of the packet I had no difficulty inguessingand have partly hinted at them in the last chapter.But toinstruct the reader in the particularsand at the sametime toindulge myself with recalling the virtues and agreeablequalitiesof my late friendI will give a short sketch of hermannersand habits.
Mrs.Martha Bethune Baliol was a person of quality and fortuneas theseare esteemed in Scotland. Her family was ancientandherconnections honourable. She was not fond of speciallyindicatingher exact agebut her juvenile recollectionsstretchedbackwards till before the eventful year 1745and sherememberedthe Highland clans being in possession of the Scottishcapitalthough probably only as an indistinct vision. Herfortuneindependent by her father's bequestwas renderedopulent bythe death of more than one brave brotherwho fellsuccessivelyin the service of their countryso that the familyestatesbecame vested in the only surviving child of the ancienthouse ofBethune Baliol. My intimacy was formed with theexcellentlady after this eventand when she was alreadysomethingadvanced in age.
Sheinhabitedwhen in Edinburghwhere she regularly spent thewinterseasonone of those old hotels whichtill of latewereto befound in the neighbourhood of the Canongate and of thePalace ofHolyrood Houseand whichseparated from the streetnow dirtyand vulgarby paved courts and gardens of some extentmadeamends for an indifferent accessby showing something ofaristocraticstate and seclusion when you were once admittedwithintheir precincts. They have pulled her house down; forindeedbetwixt building and burningevery ancient monument oftheScottish capital is now likely to be utterly demolished. Ipause onthe recollections of the placehowever; and sincenature hasdenied a pencil when she placed a pen in my handIwillendeavour to make words answer the purpose of delineation.
Baliol'sLodgingso was the mansion namedreared its high stackofchimneysamong which were seen a turret or twoand one ofthosesmall projecting platforms called bartizansabove the meanand modernbuildings which line the south side of the Canongatetowardsthe lower end of that streetand not distant from thePalace.
A PORTE COCHEREhaving a wicket for foot passengerswasupondue occasionunfolded by a lame old mantallgraveand thinwho tenanted a hovel beside the gateand acted asporter.
To this office he had been promoted by my friend'scharitablefeelings for an old soldierand partly by an ideathat hisheadwhich was a very fine onebore some resemblanceto that ofGarrick in the character of Lusignan. He was a mansaturninesilentand slow in his proceedingsand would neveropen thePORTE COCHERE to a hackney coachindicating the wicketwith hisfinger as the proper passage for all who came in thatobscurevehiclewhich was not permitted to degrade with itsticketedpresence the dignity of Baliol's Lodging. I do notthink thispeculiarity would have met with his lady'sapprobationany more than the occasional partiality of Lusignanorasmortals called himArchie Macreadyto a dram. But Mrs.MarthaBethune Baliolconscious thatin case of convictionshecouldnever have prevailed upon herself to dethrone the King ofPalestinefrom the stone bench on which he sat for hours knittinghisstockingrefusedby accrediting the intelligenceeven toput himupon his trialwell judging that he would observe morewholesomecaution if he conceived his character unsuspectedthanif he weredetectedand suffered to pass unpunished. For afterallshesaidit would be cruel to dismiss an old Highlandsoldierfor a peccadillo so appropriate to his country andprofession.
Thestately gate for carriagesor the humble accommodation forfoot-passengersadmitted into a narrow and short passage runningbetweentwo rows of lime-treeswhose green foliage during thespringcontrasted strangely with the swart complexion of the twowalls bythe side of which they grew. This access led to thefront ofthe housewhich was formed by two gable endsnotchedand havingtheir windows adorned with heavy architecturalornaments.
They joined each other at right angles; and a halfcirculartowerwhich contained the entrance and the staircaseoccupiedthe point of junctionand rounded the acute angle. Oneof othertwo sides of the little courtin which there was justsufficientroom to turn a carriagewas occupied by some lowbuildingsanswering the purpose of offices; the otherby aparapetsurrounded by a highly-ornamented iron railingtwinedround withhoneysuckle and other parasitical shrubswhichpermittedthe eye to peep into a pretty suburban gardenextendingdown to the road called the South Back of theCanongateand boasting a number of old treesmany flowersandeven somefruit. We must not forget to state that the extremecleanlinessof the courtyard was such as intimated that mop andpail haddone their utmost in that favoured spot to atone for thegeneraldirt and dinginess of the quarter where the premises weresituated.
Over thedoorway were the arms of Bethune and Baliolwithvariousother devicescarved in stone. The door itself wasstuddedwith iron nailsand formed of black oak; an iron raspas it wascalledwas placed on itinstead of a knockerfor thepurpose ofsummoning the attendants. [See Note 3.Iron Rasp.]He whousually appeared at the summons was a smart ladin ahandsomeliverythe son of Mrs. Martha's gardener at MountBaliol.
Now and then a servant girlnicely but plainly dressedand fullyaccoutred with stockings and shoeswould perform thisduty; andtwice or thrice I remember being admitted by Beauffethimselfwhose exterior looked as much like that of a clergymanof rank asthe butler of a gentleman's family. He had beenvalet-de-chambreto the last Sir Richard Bethune Balioland wasa personhighly trusted by the present lady. A full standas itis calledin Scotlandof garments of a dark colourgold bucklesin hisshoes and at the knees of his breecheswith his hairregularlydressed and powderedannounced him to be a domestic oftrust andimportance. His mistress used to say of him
"He is sad and civil
And suits well for a servant with my fortunes."
As no onecan escape scandalsome said that Beauffet made aratherbetter thing of the place than the modesty of his old-fashionedwages wouldunassistedhave amounted to. But the manwas alwaysvery civil to me. He had been long in the familyhadenjoyedlegaciesand lain by a something of his ownupon whichhe nowenjoys ease with dignityin as far as his newly-marriedwifeTibbie Shortacreswill permit him.
TheLodgingdearest readerif you are tiredpray pass over thenext fouror five pageswas not by any means so large as itsexternalappearance led people to conjecture. The interioraccommodationwas much cut up by cross walls and long passagesand thatneglect of economizing space which characterizes oldScottisharchitecture. But there was far more room than my oldfriendrequiredeven when she hadas was often the casefouror fiveyoung cousins under her protection; and I believe much ofthe housewas unoccupied. Mrs. Bethune Baliol neverin mypresenceshowed herself so much offended as once with a meddlingperson whoadvised her to have the windows of these supernumeraryapartmentsbuilt up to save the tax. She said in ire thatwhileshe livedthe light of God should visit the house of herfathers;and while she had a pennyking and country should havetheirdue. Indeedshe was punctiliously loyaleven in thatmoststaggering test of loyaltythe payment of imposts. Mr.Beauffettold me he was ordered to offer a glass of wine to theperson whocollected the income taxand that the poor man was soovercomeby a reception so unwontedly generousthat he had well-nighfainted on the spot.
Youentered by a matted anteroom into the eating-parlourfilledwithold-fashioned furnitureand hung with family portraitswhichexcepting one of Sir Bernard Bethunein James the Sixth'stimesaidto be by Jamesonwere exceedingly frightful. Asaloonasit was calleda longnarrow chamberled out of thedining-parlourand served for a drawing-room. It was a pleasantapartmentlooking out upon the south flank of Holyrood Housethegigantic slope of Arthur's Seatand the girdle of loftyrockscalled Salisbury Crags; objects so rudely wildthat themind canhardly conceive them to exist in the vicinage of apopulousmetropolis. [The Rev. Mr. Bowles derives the name ofthesecragsas of the Episcopal city in the west of Englandfrom thesame rootbothin his opinionwhich he very ablydefendsand illustrateshaving been the sites of Druidicaltemples.]
The paintings of the saloon came from abroadand hadsome ofthem much merit. To see the best of themhoweveryoumust beadmitted into the very PENETRALIA of the templeandallowed todraw the tapestry at the upper end of the saloonandenter Mrs.Martha's own special dressing-room. This was acharmingapartmentof which it would be difficult to describethe formit had so many recesses which were filled up withshelves ofebony and cabinets of japan and ormolusome forholdingbooksof which Mrs. Martha had an admirable collectionsome for adisplay of ornamental chinaothers for shells andsimilarcuriosities. In a little nichehalf screened by acurtain ofcrimson silkwas disposed a suit of tilting armour ofbrightsteel inlaid with silverwhich had been worn on somememorableoccasion by Sir Bernard Bethunealready mentioned;while overthe canopy of the niche hung the broadsword with whichher fatherhad attempted to change the fortunes of Britain in1715andthe spontoon which her elder brother bore when he wasleading ona company of the Black Watch at Fontenoy. [The well-knownoriginal designation of the gallant 42nd Regiment. Beingthe firstcorps raised for the royal service in the Highlandsandallowed to retain their national garbthey were thus namedfrom thecontrast which their dark tartans furnished to thescarletand white of the other regiments.]
There weresome Italian and Flemish pictures of admittedauthenticitya few genuine bronzesand other objects ofcuriositywhich her brothers or herself had picked up whileabroad.
In shortit was a place where the idle were tempted tobecomestudiousthe studious to grow idle where the grave mightfindmatter to make them gayand the gay subjects for gravity.
That itmight maintain some title to its nameI must not forgetto saythat the lady's dressing-room exhibited a superb mirrorframed insilver filigree work; a beautiful toilettethe coverof whichwas of Flanders lace; and a set of boxes correspondinginmaterials and work to the frame of the mirror.
Thisdressing apparatushoweverwas mere matter of parade.Mrs.Martha Bethune Baliol always went through the actual dutiesof thetoilette in an inner apartmentwhich corresponded withhersleeping-room by a small detached staircase. There wereIbelievemore than one of those TURNPIKE STAIRSas they werecalledabout the houseby which the public roomsall of whichenteredthrough each otherwere accommodated with separate andindependentmodes of access. In the little boudoir we havedescribedMrs. Martha Baliol had her choicest meetings. Shekept earlyhours; and if you went in the morningyou must notreckonthat space of day as extending beyond three o'clockorfour atthe utmost. These vigilant habits were attended withsomerestraint on her visitorsbut they were indemnified by youralwaysfinding the best society and the best information whichwere to behad for the day in the Scottish capital. Without atallaffecting the blue stockingshe liked books. They amusedher; andif the authors were persons of charactershe thoughtshe owedthem a debt of civilitywhich she loved to discharge bypersonalkindness. When she gave a dinner to a small partywhich shedid now and thenshe had the good nature to look forand thegood luck to discoverwhat sort of people suited eachotherbestand chose her company as Duke Theseus did hishounds
"Matched in mouth like bells
Each under each"
[Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's DreamAct IV. Sc. I.]
so thatevery guest could take his part in the cryinstead ofone mightyTom of a fellowlike Dr. Johnsonsilencing allbesides bythe tremendous depth of his diapason. On suchoccasionsshe afforded CHERE EXQUISE; and every now and thenthere wassome dish of Frenchor even Scottish derivationwhichaswell as the numerous assortment of VINSEXTRAORDINAIRESproduced by Mr. Beauffetgave a sort of antiqueandforeign air to the entertainmentwhich rendered it moreinteresting.
It was agreat thing to be asked to such parties; and not less soto beinvited to the early CONVERSAZIONEwhichin spite offashionby dint of the best coffeethe finest teaand CHASSECAFE thatwould have called the dead to lifeshe contrived nowand thento assemble in her saloon already mentionedat theunnaturalhour of eight in the evening. At such time thecheerfulold lady seemed to enjoy herself so much in thehappinessof her guests that they exerted themselves in turn toprolongher amusement and their own; and a certain charm wasexcitedaroundseldom to be met with in parties of pleasureandwhich wasfounded on the general desire of every one present tocontributesomething to the common amusement.
Butalthough it was a great privilege to be admitted to wait onmyexcellent friend in the morningor be invited to her dinneror eveningpartiesI prized still higher the right which I hadacquiredby old acquaintanceof visiting Baliol's Lodging uponthe chanceof finding its venerable inhabitant preparing for teajust aboutsix o'clock in the evening. It was only to two orthree oldfriends that she permitted this freedom; nor was thissort ofchance-party ever allowed to extend itself beyond five innumber.
The answer to those who came later announced that thecompanywas filled up for the eveningwhich had the doubleeffect ofmaking those who waited on Mrs. Bethune Baliol in thisunceremoniousmanner punctual in observing her hourand ofadding thezest of a little difficulty to the enjoyment of theparty.
It morefrequently happened that only one or two persons partookof thisrefreshment on the same evening; orsupposing the caseof asingle gentlemanMrs. Marthathough she did not hesitateto admithim to her boudoirafter the privilege of the Frenchand theold Scottish schooltook careas she used to saytoprescribeall possible proprietyby commanding the attendance ofherprincipal female attendantMrs. Alice Lambskinwho mightfrom thegravity and dignity of her appearancehave sufficed tomatronizea whole boarding-schoolinstead of one maiden lady ofeighty andupwards. As the weather permittedMrs. Alice satdulyremote from the company in a FAUTEUIL behind the projectingchimney-pieceor in the embrasure of a windowand prosecuted inCarthusiansilencewith indefatigable zeala piece ofembroiderywhich seemed no bad emblem of eternity.
But I haveneglected all this while to introduce my friendherself tothe readerat least so far as words can convey thepeculiaritiesby which her appearance and conversation weredistinguished.
A littlewomanwith ordinary features and an ordinary formandhair whichin youth had no decided colourwe may believe Mrs.Marthawhen she said of herself that she was never remarkable forpersonalcharms; a modest admissionwhich was readily confirmedby certainold ladiesher contemporarieswhowhatever mighthave beenthe youthful advantages which they more than hinted hadbeenformerly their own sharewere now in personal appearanceas well asin everything elsefar inferior to my accomplishedfriend.
Mrs. Martha's features had been of a kind which might besaid towear well; their irregularity was now of littleconsequenceanimatedas they wereby the vivacity of herconversation.
Her teeth were excellentand her eyesalthoughincliningto greywere livelylaughingand undimmed by time.A slightshade of complexionmore brilliant than her yearspromisedsubjected my friend amongst strangers to the suspicionof havingstretched her foreign habits as far as the prudenttouch ofthe rouge. But it was a calumny; for when telling orlisteningto an interesting and affecting storyI have seen hercolourcome and go as if it played on the cheek of eighteen.
Her hairwhatever its former deficiencies was now the mostbeautifulwhite that time could bleachand was disposed withsomedegree of pretensionthough in the simplest mannerpossibleso as to appear neatly smoothed under a cap of Flanderslaceofan old-fashioned butas I thoughtof a very handsomeformwhich undoubtedly has a nameand I would endeavour torecur toitif I thought it would make my description a bit moreintelligible.
I think I have heard her say these favourite capshad beenher mother'sand had come in fashion with a peculiarkind ofwig used by the gentlemen about the time of the battle ofRamillies.
The rest of her dress was always rather costly anddistinguishedespecially in the evening. A silk or satin gownof somecolour becoming her ageand of a form whichthoughcomplyingto a certain degree with the present fashionhadalways areference to some more distant periodwas garnishedwithtriple ruffles. Her shoes had diamond bucklesand wereraised alittle at heelan advantage whichpossessed in heryouthshealleged her size would not permit her to forego in herold age.
She always wore ringsbraceletsand other ornamentsof valueeither for the materials or the workmanship; nayperhapsshe was a little profuse in this species of display. Butshe worethem as subordinate mattersto which the habits ofbeingconstantly in high life rendered her indifferent; she worethembecause her rank required itand thought no more of them asarticlesof finery than a gentleman dressed for dinner thinks ofhis cleanlinen and well-brushed coatthe consciousness of whichembarrassesthe rustic beau on a Sunday.
Now andthenhoweverif a gem or ornament chanced to be noticedfor itsbeauty or singularitythe observation usually led theway to anentertaining account of the manner in which it had beenacquiredor the person from whom it had descended to its presentpossessor.
On such and similar occasions my old friend spokewillinglywhich is not uncommon; but she alsowhich is morerarespoke remarkably welland had in her little narrativesconcerningforeign parts or former dayswhich formed aninterestingpart of her conversationthe singular art ofdismissingall the usual protracted tautology respecting timeplaceandcircumstances which is apt to settle like a mist uponthe coldand languid tales of ageand at the same time ofbringingforwarddwelling uponand illustrating those incidentsandcharacters which give point and interest to the story.
She hadas we have hintedtravelled a good deal in foreigncountries;for a brotherto whom she was much attachedhad beensent uponvarious missions of national importance to theContinentand she had more than once embraced the opportunity ofaccompanyinghim. This furnished a great addition to theinformationwhich she could supplyespecially during the lastwarwhenthe Continent was for so many years hermetically sealedagainstthe English nation. ButbesidesMrs. Bethune Baliolvisiteddifferent countriesnot in the modern fashionwhenEnglishtravel in caravans togetherand see in France and Italylittlebesides the same society which they might have enjoyed athome.
On the contraryshe mingled when abroad with the nativesof thosecountries she visitedand enjoyed at once the advantageof theirsocietyand the pleasure of comparing it with that ofBritain.
In thecourse of her becoming habituated with foreign mannersMrs.Bethune Baliol hadperhapsacquired some slight tinctureof themherself. Yet I was always persuaded that the peculiarvivacityof look and mannerthe pointed and appropriate actionwith whichshe accompanied what she saidthe use of the gold andgemmedTABATIEREor ratherI should sayBONBONNIERE (for shetook nosnuffand the little box contained only a few pieces ofcandledangelicaor some such ladylike sweetmeat)were of realold-fashionedScottish growthand such as might have graced thetea-tableof SusannahCountess of Eglintonthe patroness ofAllanRamsay [See Note 4.Countess of Eglinton.] or of theHon. Mrs.Colonel Ogilvywho was another mirror by whom theMaidens ofAuld Reekie were required to dress themselves.Althoughwell acquainted with the customs of other countrieshermannershad been chiefly formed in her ownat a time when greatfolk livedwithin little space and when the distinguished namesof thehighest society gave to Edinburgh the ECLAT which we nowendeavourto derive from the unbounded expense and extendedcircle ofour pleasures.
I was moreconfirmed in this opinion by the peculiarity of thedialectwhich Mrs. Baliol used. It was ScottishdecidedlyScottishoftencontaining phrases and words little used in thepresentday. But then her tone and mode of pronunciation were asdifferentfrom the usual accent of the ordinary Scotch PATOISasthe accentof St. James's is from that of Billingsgate. Thevowelswere not pronounced much broader than in the Italianlanguageand there was none of the disagreeable drawl which issooffensive to southern ears. In shortit seemed to be theScottishas spoken by the ancient Court of Scotlandto which noidea ofvulgarity could be attached; and the lively manners andgestureswith which it was accompanied were so completely inaccordwith the sound of the voice and the style of talkingthatI cannotassign them a different origin. In long derivationperhapsthe manner of the Scottish court might have beenoriginallyformed on that of Franceto which it had certainlysomeaffinity; but I will live and die in the belief that thoseof Mrs.Baliolas pleasing as they were peculiarcame to her bydirectdescent from the high dames who anciently adorned withtheirpresence the royal halls of Holyrood.
MRS.BALIOL ASSISTS MR. CROFTANGRY IN HIS LITERARY SPECULATIONS.
Such as Ihave described Mrs. Bethune Baliolthe reader willeasilybelieve thatwhen I thought of the miscellaneous natureof myworkI rested upon the information she possessedand hercommunicativedispositionas one of the principal supports of myenterprise.
Indeedshe by no means disapproved of my proposedpublicationthough expressing herself very doubtful how far shecouldpersonally assist ita doubt which might beperhapssetdown to alittle ladylike coquetrywhich required to be sued forthe boonshe was not unwilling to grant. Orperhapsthe goodold ladyconscious that her unusual term of years must soon drawto aclosepreferred bequeathing the materials in the shape of alegacytosubjecting them to the judgment of a critical publicduring herlifetime.
Many atime I usedin our conversations of the Canongatetoresume myrequest of assistancefrom a sense that my friend wasthe mostvaluable depository of Scottish traditions that wasprobablynow to be found. This was a subject on which my mindwas somuch made up thatwhen I heard her carry her descriptionof mannersso far back beyond her own timeand describe howFletcherof Salton spokehow Graham of Claverhouse dancedwhatwere thejewels worn by the famous Duchess of Lauderdaleand howshe cameby themI could not help telling her I thought her somefairywhocheated us by retaining the appearance of a mortal ofour owndaywhenin factshe had witnessed the revolutions ofcenturies.
She was much diverted when I required her to takesomesolemn oath that she had not danced at the balls given byMary ofEstewhen her unhappy husband occupied Holyrood in aspecies ofhonourable banishment; [The Duke of York afterwardsJames II.frequently resided in Holyrood House when his religionrenderedhim an object of suspicion to the English Parliament.]or askedwhether she could not recollect Charles the Second whenhe came toScotland in 1650and did not possess some slightrecollectionsof the bold usurper who drove him beyond the Forth.
"BEAUCOUSIN" she saidlaughing"none of these do I rememberpersonallybut you must know there has been wonderfully littlechange onmy natural temper from youth to age. From which itfollowscousinthatbeing even now something too young inspirit forthe years which Time has marked me in his calendarIwaswhena girla little too old for those of my own standingand asmuch inclined at that period to keep the society of elderpersonsas I am now disposed to admit the company of gay youngfellows offifty or sixty like yourselfrather than collectabout meall the octogenarians. Nowalthough I do not actuallycome fromElflandand therefore cannot boast any personalknowledgeof the great personages you enquire aboutyet I haveseen andheard those who knew them welland who have given me asdistinctan account of them as I could give you myself of theEmpressQueenor Frederick of Prussia; and I will frankly add"said shelaughing and offering her BONBONNIERE"that I HAVEheard somuch of the years which immediately succeeded theRevolutionthat I sometimes am apt to confuse the vividdescriptionsfixed on my memory by the frequent and animatedrecitationof othersfor things which I myself have actuallywitnessed.
I caught myself but yesterday describing to Lord Mthe ridingof the last Scottish Parliamentwith as muchminutenessas if I had seen itas my mother didfrom thebalcony infront of Lord Moray's Lodging in the Canongate."
"I amsure you must have given Lord M a high treat."
"Itreated him to a hearty laughI believe" she replied; "butit is youyou vile seducer of youthwho lead me into suchfollies.
But I will be on my guard against my own weakness. Ido notwell know if the Wandering Jew is supposed to have a wifebut Ishould be sorry a decent middle-aged Scottish gentlewomanshould besuspected of identity with such a supernatural person."
"Forall thatI must torture you a little moreMA BELLECOUSINEwith my interrogatories; for how shall I ever turnauthorunless on the strength of the information which you haveso oftenprocured me on the ancient state of manners?"
"StayI cannot allow you to give your points of enquiry a nameso veryvenerableif I am expected to answer them. Ancient is aterm forantediluvians. You may catechise me about the battle ofFloddenor ask particulars about Bruce and Wallaceunderpretext ofcuriosity after ancient manners; and that last subjectwould wakemy Baliol bloodyou know."
"WellbutMrs. Baliolsuppose we settle our era: you do notcall theaccession of James the Sixth to the kingdom of Britainveryancient?"
nocousin; I think I could tell you more of that thanfolknowadays remember. For instancethat as James was troopingtowardsEnglandbag and baggagehis journey was stopped nearCockenzieby meeting the funeral of the Earl of Wintonthe oldandfaithful servant and follower of his ill-fated motherpoorMary!
It was an ill omen for the INFAREand so was seen of itcousin."
[See Note 5.Earl of Winton.]
I did notchoose to prosecute this subjectwell knowing Mrs.BethuneBaliol did not like to be much pressed on the subject oftheStewartswhose misfortunes she pitiedthe rather that herfather hadespoused their cause. And yet her attachment to thepresentdynasty being very sincereand even ardentmoreespeciallyas her family had served his late Majesty both inpeace andwarshe experienced a little embarrassment inreconcilingher opinions respecting the exiled family with thosesheentertained for the present. In factlike many an oldJacobiteshe was contented to be somewhat inconsistent on thesubjectcomforting herself that NOW everything stood as it oughtto doandthat there was no use in looking back narrowly on theright orwrong of the matter half a century ago.
"TheHighlands" I suggested"should furnish you with amplesubjectsof recollection. You have witnessed the complete changeof thatprimeval countryand have seen a race not far removedfrom theearliest period of society melted down into the greatmass ofcivilization; and that could not happen without incidentsstrikingin themselvesand curious as chapters in the history ofthe humanrace."
"Itis very true" said Mrs. Baliol; "one would think it shouldhavestruck the observers greatlyand yet it scarcely did so.For meIwas no Highlander myselfand the Highland chiefs ofoldofwhom I certainly knew severalhad little in theirmanners todistinguish them from the Lowland gentrywhen theymixed insociety in Edinburghand assumed the Lowland dress.Theirpeculiar character was for the clansmen at home; and youmust notimagine that they swaggered about in plaids andbroadswordsat the Crossor came to the Assembly Rooms inbonnetsand kilts."
"Iremember" said I"that Swiftin his JournaltellsStellahe haddined in the house of a Scots noblemanwith two Highlandchiefswhom he had found as well-bred men as he had ever metwith."
[Extract of Journal to Stella."I dined to-day (12thMarch1712) with Lord Treasurer and two gentlemen of theHighlandsof Scotlandyet very polite men." SWIFT'S WORKSVOL.III. p.7.EDIN. 1824.]
"Verylikely" said my friend. "The extremes of societyapproachmuch moreclosely to each other than perhaps the Dean of SaintPatrick'sexpected. The savage is always to a certain degreepolite.
Besidesgoing always armedand having a verypunctiliousidea of their own gentility and consequencetheyusuallybehaved to each other and to the Lowlanders with a gooddeal offormal politenesswhich sometimes even procured them thecharacterof insincerity."
"Falsehoodbelongs to an early period of societyas well as thedeferentialforms which we style politeness" I replied. "Achild doesnot see the least moral beauty in truth until he hasbeenflogged half a dozen times. It is so easyand apparentlysonaturalto deny what you cannot be easily convicted ofthata savageas well as a child lies to excuse himself almost asinstinctivelyas he raises his hand to protect his head. The oldsaying'Confess and be hanged' carries much argument in it. Iobserved aremark the other day in old Birrel. He mentions thatM'Gregorof Glenstrae and some of his people had surrenderedthemselvesto one of the Earls of Argyleupon the expressconditionthat they should be conveyed safe into England. TheMaccallumMhor of the day kept the word of promisebut it wasonly tothe ear. He indeed sent his captives to Berwickwherethey hadan airing on the other side of the Tweed; but it wasunder thecustody of a strong guardby whom they were broughtback toEdinburghand delivered to the executioner. ThisBirrelcalls keeping a Highlandman's promise." [See Note 6.M'Gregorof Glenstrae.]
"Well"replied Mrs. Baliol"I might add that many of theHighlandchiefs whom I knew in former days had been brought up inFrancewhich might improve their politenessthough perhaps itdid notamend their sincerity. But considering thatbelongingto thedepressed and defeated faction in the statethey werecompelledsometimes to use dissimulationyou must set theiruniformfidelity to their friends; against their occasionalfalsehoodto their enemiesand then you will not judge poor JohnHighlandmantoo severely. They were in a state of society wherebrightlights are strongly contrasted with deep shadows."
"Itis to that point I would bring youMA BELLE COUSINE; andthereforethey are most proper subjects for composition."
"Andyou want to turn composermy good friendand set my oldtales tosome popular tune? But there have been too manycomposersif that be the wordin the field before. TheHighlandsWERE indeed a rich mine; but they haveI thinkbeenfairlywrought outas a good tune is grinded into vulgarity whenitdescends to the hurdy-gurdy and the barrel-organ."
"Ifit be really tune" I replied"it will recover its betterqualitieswhen it gets into the hands of better artists."
said Mrs. Balioltapping her box"we are happy in ourown goodopinion this eveningMr. Croftangry. And so you thinkyou canrestore the gloss to the tartan which it has lost bybeingdragged through so many fingers?"
"Withyour assistance to procure materialsmy dear ladymuchIthinkmaybe done."
"WellI must do my bestI supposethough all I know about theGael isbut of little consequence. IndeedI gathered it chieflyfromDonald MacLeish."
"Andwho might Donald MacLeish be?"
"Neitherbard nor sennachieI assure younor monk nor hermittheapproved authorities for old traditions. Donald was as goodapostilion as ever drove a chaise and pair between Glencroe andInverary.
I assure youwhen I give you my Highland anecdotesyou willhear much of Donald MacLeish. He was Alice Lambskin'sbeau andmine through a long Highland tour."
"Butwhen am I to possess these anecdotes? you answer me asHarley didpoor Prior
'Let that be done which Mat doth say
Yeaquoth the Earlbut not to-day.'"
"WellMON BEAU COUSINif you begin to remind me of my crueltyI mustremind you it has struck nine on the Abbey clockand itis timeyou were going home to Little Croftangry. For my promiseto assistyour antiquarian researchesbe assured I will one daykeep it tothe utmost extent. It shall not be a Highlandman'spromiseas your old citizen calls it."
I by thistime suspected the purpose of my friend'sprocrastination;and it saddened my heart to reflect that I wasnot to getthe information which I desiredexcepting in theshape of alegacy. I found accordinglyin the packettransmittedto me after the excellent lady's deathseveralanecdotesrespecting the Highlandsfrom which I have selectedthat whichfollowschiefly on account of its possessing greatpower overthe feelings of my critical housekeeperJanet M'Evoywho weptmost bitterly when I read it to her.
It ishoweverbut a very simple taleand may have no interestforpersons beyond Janet's rank of life or understanding.
Itwound as near as near could be Butwhat it is she cannot tell; Onthe other side it seemed to be Ofthe huge broad-breasted old oak-tree. COLERIDGE.
Mrs.Bethune Baliol's memorandum begins thus:
It isfive-and-thirtyor perhaps nearer forty years agosinceto relievethe dejection of spirits occasioned by a great familylosssustained two or three months beforeI undertook what wascalled theshort Highland tour. This had become in some degreefashionable;but though the military roads were excellentyettheaccommodation was so indifferent that it was reckoned alittleadventure to accomplish it. Besidesthe Highlandsthough nowas peaceable as any part of King George's dominionswas asound which still carried terrorwhile so many survivedwho hadwitnessed the insurrection of 1745; and a vague idea offear wasimpressed on many as they looked from the towers ofStirlingnorthward to the huge chain of mountainswhich riseslike adusky rampart to conceal in its recesses a people whosedressmannersand language differed still very much from thoseof theirLowland countrymen. For my partI come of a race notgreatlysubject to apprehensions arising from imagination only.I had someHighland relatives; know several of their families ofdistinction;and though only having the company of my bower-maidenMrs. Alice LambskinI went on my journey fearless.
But then Ihad a guide and ciceronealmost equal to Greatheartin thePilgrim's Progressin no less a person than DonaldMacLeishthe postilion whom I hired at Stirlingwith a pair ofable-bodiedhorsesas steady as Donald himselfto drag mycarriagemy duennaand myselfwheresoever it was my pleasureto go.
DonaldMacLeish was one of a race of post-boys whomI supposemail-coachesand steamboats have put out of fashion. They wereto befound chiefly at PerthStirlingor Glasgowwhere theyand theirhorses were usually hired by travellersor touriststoaccomplish such journeys of business or pleasure as they mighthave toperform in the land of the Gael. This class of personsapproachedto the character of what is called abroad aCONDUCTEUR;or might be compared to the sailing-master on board aBritishship of warwho follows out after his own manner thecoursewhich the captain commands him to observe. You explainedto yourpostilion the length of your tourand the objects youweredesirous it should embrace; and you found him perfectlycompetentto fix the places of rest or refreshmentwith dueattentionthat those should be chosen with reference to yourconvenienceand to any points of interest which you might desireto visit.
Thequalifications of such a person were necessarily muchsuperiorto those of the "first ready" who gallops thrice-a-dayover thesame ten miles. Donald MacLeishbesides being quitealert atrepairing all ordinary accidents to his horses andcarriageand in making shift to support themwhere forage wasscarcewith such substitutes as bannocks and cakeswas likewisea man ofintellectual resources. He had acquired a generalknowledgeof the traditional stories of the country which he hadtraversedso often; and if encouraged (for Donald was a man ofthe mostdecorous reserve)he would willingly point out to youthe siteof the principal clan-battlesand recount the mostremarkablelegends by which the roadand the objects whichoccurredin travelling ithad been distinguished. There wassomeoriginality in the man's habits of thinking and expressinghimselfhis turn for legendary lore strangely contrasting with aportion ofthe knowing shrewdness belonging to his actualoccupationwhich made his conversation amuse the way wellenough.
Add tothisDonald knew all his peculiar duties in the countrywhich hetraversed so frequently. He could tellto a daywhenthey would"be killing" lamb at Tyndrum or Glenuilt; so that thestrangerwould have some chance of being fed like a Christian;and knewto a mile the last village where it was possible toprocure awheaten loaf for the guidance of those who were littlefamiliarwith the Land of Cakes. He was acquainted with the roadeverymileand could tell to an inch which side of a Highlandbridge waspassablewhich decidedly dangerous. [This isor wasat leasta necessary accomplishment. In one of the mostbeautifuldistricts of the Highlands wasnot many years sinceabridgebearing this startling caution"Keep to the right sidethe leftbeing dangerous."] In shortDonald MacLeish was notonly ourfaithful attendant and steady servantbut our humbleandobliging friend; and though I have known the half-classicalciceroneof Italythe talkative French valet-de-placeand eventhemuleteer of Spainwho piques himself on being a maize-eaterand whosehonour is not to be questioned without dangerI do notthink Ihave ever had so sensible and intelligent a guide.
Ourmotions were of course under Donald's direction; and itfrequentlyhappenedwhen the weather was serenethat wepreferredhalting to rest his horses even where there was noestablishedstageand taking our refreshment under a cragfromwhichleaped a waterfallor beside the verge of a fountainenamelledwith verdant turf and wild-flowers. Donald had an eyefor suchspotsand though he hadI dare saynever read GilBlas orDon Quixoteyet he chose such halting-places as Le SageorCervantes would have described. Very oftenas he observedthepleasure I took in conversing with the country peoplehewouldmanage to fix our place of rest near a cottagewhere therewas someold Gael whose broadsword had blazed at Falkirk orPrestonand who seemed the frail yet faithful record of timeswhich hadpassed away. Or he would contrive to quarter usasfar as acup of tea wentupon the hospitality of some parishministerof worth and intelligenceor some country family of thebetterclasswho mingled with the wild simplicity of theiroriginalmannersand their ready and hospitable welcomea sortofcourtesy belonging to a peoplethe lowest of whom areaccustomedto consider themselves as beingaccording to theSpanishphrase"as good gentlemen as the kingonly not quite sorich."
To allsuch persons Donald MacLeish was well knownand hisintroductionpassed as current as if we had brought letters fromsome highchief of the country.
Sometimesit happened that the Highland hospitalitywhichwelcomedus with all the variety of mountain farepreparationsof milkand eggsand girdle-cakes of various kindsas well asmoresubstantial daintiesaccording to the inhabitant's means ofregalingthe passengerdescended rather too exuberantly onDonaldMacLeish in the shape of mountain dew. Poor Donald! hewas onsuch occasions like Gideon's fleecemoist with the nobleelementwhichof coursefell not on us. But it was his onlyfaultandwhen pressed to drink DOCH-AN-DORROCH to my ladyship'sgoodhealthit would have been ill taken to have refused thepledge;nor was he willing to do such discourtesy. It wasIrepeathis only fault. Nor had we any great right to complain;for if itrendered him a little more talkativeit augmented hisordinaryshare of punctilious civilityand he only drove slowerand talkedlonger and more pompouslythan when he had not comeby a dropof usquebaugh. It waswe remarkedonly on suchoccasionsthat Donald talked with an air of importance of thefamily ofMacLeish; and we had no title to be scrupulous incensuringa foiblethe consequences of which were confinedwithinsuch innocent limits.
We becameso much accustomed to Donald's mode of managing usthat weobserved with some interest the art which he used toproduce alittle agreeable surpriseby concealing from us thespot wherehe proposed our halt to be madewhen it was of anunusualand interesting character. This was so much his wontthatwhenhe made apologies at setting off for being obliged tostop insome strangesolitary place till the horses should eatthe cornwhich he brought on with them for that purposeourimaginationused to be on the stretch to guess what romanticretreat hehad secretly fixed upon for our noontide baiting-place.
We hadspent the greater part of the morning at the delightfulvillage ofDalmallyand had gone upon the lake under theguidanceof the excellent clergyman who was then incumbent atGlenorquhy[This venerable and hospitable gentleman's name wasMacIntyre.]and had heard a hundred legends of the stern chiefsof LochAweDuncan with the thrum bonnetand the other lords ofthe nowmouldering towers of Kilchurn. [See Note 7.Loch Awe.]Thus itwas later than usual when we set out on our journeyafter ahint or two from Donald concerning the length of the wayto thenext stageas there was no good halting-place betweenDalmallyand Oban.
Having bidadieu to our venerable and kind ciceronewe proceededon ourtourwinding round the tremendous mountain calledCruachanBenwhich rushes down in all its majesty of rocks andwildernesson the lakeleaving only a passin whichnotwithstandingits extreme strengththe warlike clan ofMacDougalof Lorn were almost destroyed by the sagacious RobertBruce.
That Kingthe Wellington of his dayhad accomplishedby aforced marchthe unexpected manoeuvre of forcing a body oftroopsround the other side of the mountainand thus placed themin theflank and in the rear of the men of Lornwhom at the sametimeheattacked in front. The great number of cairns yetvisible asyou descend the pass on the westward side shows theextent ofthe vengeance which Bruce exhausted on his inveterateandpersonal enemies. I amyou knowthe sister of soldiersand it hassince struck me forcibly that the manoeuvre whichDonalddescribedresembled those of Wellington or of Bonaparte.He was agreat man Robert Bruceeven a Baliol must admit that;althoughit begins now to be allowed that his title to the crownwas scarceso good as that of the unfortunate family with whom hecontended.
But let that pass. The slaughter had been thegreateras the deep and rapid river Awe is disgorged from thelake justin the rear of the fugitivesand encircles the base ofthetremendous mountain; so that the retreat of the unfortunatefleers wasintercepted on all sides by the inaccessible characterof thecountrywhich had seemed to promise them defence andprotection.
[See Note 8.Battle betwixt the armies of the BruceandMacDougal of Lorn.]
Musinglike the Irish lady in the song"upon things which arelongenough a-gone" [This is a line from a very pathetic balladwhich Iheard sung by one of the young ladies of Edgeworthstownin 1825.
I do not know that it has been printed.] we felt noimpatienceat the slow and almost creeping pace with which ourconductorproceeded along General Wade's military roadwhichnever orrarely condescends to turn aside from the steepestascentbut proceeds right up and down hillwith theindifferenceto height and hollowsteep or levelindicated bythe oldRoman engineers. Stillhoweverthe substantialexcellenceof these great worksfor such are the militaryhighwaysin the Highlandsdeserved the compliment of the poetwhowhether he came from our sister kingdomand spoke in hisowndialector whether he supposed those whom he addressed mighthave somenational pretension to the second sightproduced thecelebratedcouplet
"Had you but seen these roads BEFORE they were made
You would hold up your hands and bless General Wade."
Nothingindeedcan be more wonderful than to see thesewildernessespenetrated and pervious in every quarter by broadaccessesof the best possible constructionand so superior towhat thecountry could have demanded for many centuries for anypacificpurpose of commercial intercourse. Thus the traces ofwar aresometimes happily accommodated to the purposes of peace.Thevictories of Bonaparte have been without results but his roadover theSimplon will long be the communication betwixt peacefulcountrieswho will apply to the ends of commerce and friendlyintercoursethat gigantic workwhich was formed for theambitiouspurpose of warlike invasion.
While wewere thus stealing alongwe gradually turned round theshoulderof Ben Cruachanand descending the course of thefoamingand rapid Aweleft behind us the expanse of the majesticlake whichgives birth to that impetuous river. The rocks andprecipiceswhich stooped down perpendicularly on our path on theright handexhibited a few remains of the wood which once clothedthembutwhich had in later times been felled to supplyDonaldMacLeishinformed usthe iron foundries at the Bunawe. Thismade usfix our eyes with interest on one large oakwhich grewon theleft hand towards the river. It seemed a tree ofextraordinarymagnitude and picturesque beautyand stood justwherethere appeared to be a few roods of open ground lying amonghugestoneswhich had rolled down from the mountain. To add totheromance of the situationthe spot of clear ground extendedround thefoot of a proud-browed rockfrom the summit of whichleaped amountain stream in a fall of sixty feetin which it wasdissolvedinto foam and dew. At the bottom of the fall therivuletwith difficulty collectedlike a routed generalitsdispersedforcesandas if tamed by its descentfound anoiselesspassage through the heath to join the Awe.
I was muchstruck with the tree and waterfalland wished myselfnearerthem; not that I thought of sketch-book or portfolioforin myyounger days misses were not accustomed to black-leadpencilsunless they could use them to some good purposebutmerely toindulge myself with a closer view. Donald immediatelyopened thechaise doorbut observed it was rough walking downthe braeand that I would see the tree better by keeping theroad for ahundred yards fartherwhen it passed closer to thespotforwhich he seemedhoweverto have no predilection. "Heknew"he said"a far bigger tree than that nearer Bunaweandit was aplace where there was flat ground for the carriage tostandwhich it could jimply do on these braes; but just as myleddyshipliked."
Myladyship did choose rather to look at the fine tree before methan topass it by in hopes of a finer; so we walked beside thecarriagetill we should come to a pointfrom whichDonaldassureduswe mightwithout scramblinggo as near the tree aswe chose"though he wadna advise us to go nearer than thehighroad."
There wassomething grave and mysterious in Donald's sun-brownedcountenancewhen he gave us this intimationand his manner wassodifferent from his usual franknessthat my female curiositywas set inmotion. We walked on the whilstand I found thetreeofwhich we had now lost sight by the intervention of somerisinggroundwas really more distant than I had at firstsupposed.
"I could have sworn now" said I to my cicerone"thatyon treeand waterfall was the very place where you intended tomake astop to-day."
"TheLord forbid!" said Donald hastily.
"Andfor whatDonald? Why should you be willing to pass sopleasant aspot?"
"It'sower near Dalmallymy leddyto corn the beasts; it wouldbringtheir dinner ower near their breakfastpoor things. An'besidesthe place is not canny."
then the mystery is out. There is a bogle or a brownieawitch or agyre-carlina bodach or a fairyin the case?"
"Thene'er a bitmy leddyye are clean aff the roadas I maysay.
But if your leddyship will just hae patienceand wait tillwe are bythe place and out of the glenI'll tell ye all aboutit.
There is no much luck in speaking of such things in theplace theychanced in."
I wasobliged to suspend my curiosityobservingthat if Ipersistedin twisting the discourse one way while Donald wastwining itanotherI should make his objectionlike a hempencordjustso much the tougher. At length the promised turn ofthe roadbrought us within fifty paces of the tree which Idesired toadmireand I now saw to my surprisethat there was ahumanhabitation among the cliffs which surrounded it. It was ahut of theleast dimensionsand most miserable description thatI ever saweven in the Highlands. The walls of sodor DIVOTasthe Scotchcall itwere not four feet high; the roof was ofturfrepaired with reeds and sedges; the chimney was composed ofclaybound round by straw ropes; and the whole wallsroofandchimneywere alike covered with the vegetation of house-leekrye-grassand moss common to decayed cottages formed of suchmaterials.
There was not the slightest vestige of a kale-yardthe usualaccompaniment of the very worst huts; and of livingthings wesaw nothingsave a kid which was browsing on the roofof thehutand a goatits motherat some distancefeedingbetwixtthe oak and the river Awe.
"Whatman" I could not help exclaiming"can have committed sindeepenough to deserve such a miserable dwelling!"
"Sinenough" said Donald MacLeishwith a half-suppressed groan;"andGod he knowethmisery enough too. And it is no man'sdwellingneitherbut a woman's."
"Awoman's!" I repeated"and in so lonely a place!
What sortof a womancan she be?"
"Comethis waymy leddyand you may judge that for yourself"saidDonald. And by advancing a few stepsand making a sharpturn tothe leftwe gained a sight of the side of the greatbroad-breastedoakin the direction opposed to that in which wehadhitherto seen it.
"Ifshe keeps her old wontshe will be there at this hour of theday"said Donald; but immediately became silentand pointedwith hisfingeras one afraid of being overheard. I lookedandbeheldnot without some sense of awea female form seated bythe stemof the oakwith her head droopingher hands claspedand adark-coloured mantle drawn over her headexactly as Judahisrepresented in the Syrian medals as seated under her palm-tree.
I was infected with the fear and reverence which my guideseemed toentertain towards this solitary beingnor did I thinkofadvancing towards her to obtain a nearer view until I had castanenquiring look on Donald; to which be replied in a halfwhisper"She has been a fearfu' bad womanmy leddy."
"Madwomansaid you" replied Ihearing him imperfectly; "thenshe isperhaps dangerous?"
"Nosheis not mad" replied Donald; "for then it may be shewould behappier than she is; though when she thinks on what shehas doneand caused to be donerather than yield up a hair-breadth ofher ain wicked willit is not likely she can be verywellsettled. But she neither is mad nor mischievous; and yetmy leddyI think you had best not go nearer to her." And thenin a fewhurried wordshe made me acquainted with the storywhich I amnow to tell more in detail. I heard the narrativewith amixture of horror and sympathywhich at once impelled metoapproach the suffererand speak to her the words of comfortor ratherof pityand at the same time made me afraid to do so.
Thisindeed was the feeling with which she was regarded by theHighlandersin the neighbourhoodwho looked upon ElspatMacTavishor the Woman of the Treeas they called heras theGreeksconsidered those who were pursued by the Furiesandenduredthe mental torment consequent on great criminal actions.Theyregarded such unhappy beings as Orestes and OEdipusasbeing lessthe voluntary perpetrators of their crimes than as thepassiveinstruments by which the terrible decrees of Destiny hadbeenaccomplished; and the fear with which they beheld them wasnotunmingled with veneration.
I alsolearned further from Donald MacLeishthat there was someapprehensionof ill luck attending those who had the boldness toapproachtoo nearor disturb the awful solitude of a being sounutterablymiserablethat it was supposed that whosoeverapproachedher must experience in some respect the contagion ofherwretchedness.
It wastherefore with some reluctance that Donald saw me prepareto obtaina nearer view of the suffererand that he himselffollowedto assist me in the descent down a very rough path. Ibelievehis regard for me conquered some ominous feelings in hisownbreastwhich connected his duty on this occasion with thepresagingfear of lame horseslost linch-pinsoverturnsandotherperilous chances of the postilion's life.
I am notsure if my own courage would have carried me so close toElspat hadhe not followed. There was in her countenance thesternabstraction of hopeless and overpowering sorrowmixed withthecontending feelings of remorseand of the pride whichstruggledto conceal it. She guessedperhapsthat it wascuriosityarising out of her uncommon storywhich induced me tointrude onher solitude; and she could not be pleased that a fatelike hershad been the theme of a traveller's amusement. Yet thelook withwhich she regarded me was one of scorn instead ofembarrassment.
The opinion of the world and all its childrencould notadd or take an iota from her load of misery; andsavefrom thehalf smile that seemed to intimate the contempt of abeing raptby the very intensity of her affliction above thesphere ofordinary humanitiesshe seemed as indifferent to mygazeasif she had been a dead corpse or a marble statue.
Elspat wasabove the middle stature. Her hairnow grizzledwasstillprofuseand it had been of the most decided black. Sowere hereyesin whichcontradicting the stern and rigidfeaturesof her countenancethere shone the wild and troubledlight thatindicates an unsettled mind. Her hair was wrapt rounda silverbodkin with some attention to neatnessand her darkmantle wasdisposed around her with a degree of tastethough thematerialswere of the most ordinary sort.
Aftergazing on this victim of guilt and calamity till I wasashamed toremain silentthough uncertain how I ought to addressherIbegan to express my surprise at her choosing such a desertanddeplorable dwelling. She cut short these expressions ofsympathyby answering in a stern voicewithout the least changeofcountenance or posture"Daughter of the strangerhe has toldyou mystory." I was silenced at onceand felt how little allearthlyaccommodation must seem to the mind which had suchsubjectsas hers for rumination. Without again attempting toopen theconversationI took a piece of gold from my purse(forDonald hadintimated she lived on alms)expecting she would atleaststretch her hand to receive it. But she neither acceptednorrejected the gift; she did not even seem to notice itthoughtwentytimes as valuableprobablyas was usually offered. Iwasobliged to place it on her kneesaying involuntarilyas Idid so"May God pardon you and relieve you!" I shall neverforget thelook which she cast up to Heavennor the tone inwhich sheexclaimedin the very words of my old friend JohnHome
It was thelanguage of natureand arose from the heart of thedeprivedmotheras it did from that gifted imaginative poetwhilefurnishing with appropriate expressions the ideal grief ofLadyRandolph.
OhI'm come to the Low Country
Without a penny in my pouch
To buy a meal for me. Iwas the proudest of my clan
Longlong may I repine; AndDonald was the bravest man
And Donald he was mine.
Elspat hadenjoyed happy daysthough her age had sunk intohopelessand inconsolable sorrow and distress. She was once thebeautifuland happy wife of Hamish MacTavishfor whom hisstrengthand feats of prowess had gained the title of MacTavishMhor.
His life was turbulent and dangeroushis habits being ofthe oldHighland stamp which esteemed it shame to want anythingthat couldbe had for the taking. Those in the Lowland line wholay nearhimand desired to enjoy their lives and property inquietwere contented to pay him a small compositionin name ofprotectionmoneyand comforted themselves with the old proverbthat itwas better to "fleech the deil than fight him."
Otherswhoaccounted such composition dishonourablewere oftensurprisedby MacTavish Mhor and his associates and followerswhousuallyinflicted an adequate penaltyeither in person orpropertyor both. The creagh is yet remembered in which heswept onehundred and fifty cows from Monteith in one drove; andhow heplaced the laird of Ballybught naked in a sloughforhavingthreatened to send for a party of the Highland Watch toprotecthis property.
Whateverwere occasionally the triumphs of this daring cateranthey wereoften exchanged for reverses; and his narrow escapesrapidflightsand the ingenious stratagems with which heextricatedhimself from imminent dangerwere no less rememberedandadmired than the exploits in which he had been successful.In weal orwoethrough every species of fatiguedifficultyanddangerElspat was his faithful companion. She enjoyed with himthe fitsof occasional prosperity; and when adversity pressedthem hardher strength of mindreadiness of witand courageousenduranceof danger and toilare said often to have stimulatedtheexertions of her husband.
Theirmorality was of the old Highland castfaithful friends andfierceenemies. The Lowland herds and harvests they accountedtheir ownwhenever they had the means of driving off the one orof seizingupon the other; nor did the least scruple on the rightofproperty interfere on such occasions. Hamish Mhor argued likethe oldCretan warrior:
"Myswordmy spearmy shaggy shield
They make me lord of all below;
For he who dreads the lance to wield
Before my shaggy shield must bow.
His landshis vineyardsmust resign
And all that cowards have is mine."
But thosedays of perilousthough frequently successfuldepredationbegan to be abridged after the failure of theexpeditionof Prince Charles Edward. MacTavish Mhor had not satstill onthat occasionand he was outlawedboth as a traitor tothe stateand as a robber and cateran. Garrisons were nowsettled inmany places where a red-coat had never before beenseenandthe Saxon war-drum resounded among the most hiddenrecessesof the Highland mountains. The fate of MacTavish becameevery daymore inevitable; and it was the more difficult for himto makehis exertions for defence or escapethat Elspatamidhis evildayshad increased his family with an infant childwhich wasa considerable encumbrance upon the necessary rapidityof theirmotions.
At lengththe fatal day arrived. In a strong pass on the skirtsof BenCrunchanthe celebrated MacTavish Mhor was surprised by adetachmentof the Sidier Roy. [The Red Soldier.] His wifeassistedhim heroicallycharging his piece from time to time;and asthey were in possession of a post that was nearlyunassailablehe might have perhaps escaped if his ammunition hadlasted.
But at length his balls were expendedalthough it wasnot untilhe had fired off most of the silver buttons from hiswaistcoat;and the soldiersno longer deterred by fear of theunerringmarksmanwho had slain three and wounded more of theirnumberapproached his strongholdandunable to take him aliveslew himafter a most desperate resistance.
All thisElspat witnessed and survived; for she hadin the childwhichrelied on her for supporta motive for strength andexertion.
In what manner she maintained herself it is not easyto say.
Her only ostensible means of support were a flock ofthree orfour goatswhich she fed wherever she pleased on themountainpasturesno one challenging the intrusion. In thegeneraldistress of the countryher ancient acquaintances hadlittle tobestow; but what they could part with from their ownnecessitiesthey willingly devoted to the relief of othersFromLowlandersshe sometimes demanded tributerather than requestedalms.
She had not forgotten she was the widow of MacTavish Mhoror thatthe child who trotted by her knee mightsuch were herimaginationsemulate one day the fame of his fatherand commandthe sameinfluence which he had once exerted without control.Sheassociated so little with otherswent so seldom and sounwillinglyfrom the wildest recesses of the mountainswhere sheusuallydwelt with her goatsthat she was quite unconscious ofthe greatchange which had taken place in the country around herthesubstitution of civil order for military violenceand thestrengthgained by the law and its adherents over those who werecalled inGaelic song"the stormy sons of the sword." Her owndiminishedconsequence and straitened circumstances she indeedfeltbutfor this the death of MacTavish Mhor wasin herapprehensiona sufficing reason; and she doubted not that sheshouldrise to her former state of importance when Hamish Bean(orfair-haired James) should be able to wield the arms of hisfather.
IfthenElspat was repelledrudely when she demandedanythingnecessary for her wantsor the accommodation of herlittleflockby a churlish farmerher threats of vengeanceobscurelyexpressedyet terrible in their tenorused frequentlyto extortthrough fear of her maledictionsthe relief which wasdenied toher necessities; and the trembling goodwifewho gavemeal ormoney to the widow of MacTavish Mhorwished in her heartthat thestern old carlin had been burnt on the day her husbandhad hisdue.
Years thusran onand Hamish Bean grew upnotindeedto be ofhisfather's size or strengthbut to become an activehigh-spiritedfair-haired youthwith a ruddy cheekan eye like aneagle'sand all the agilityif not all the strengthof hisformidablefatherupon whose history and achievements his motherdweltinorder to form her son's mind to a similar course ofadventures.
But the young see the present state of thischangefulworld more keenly than the old. Much attached to hismotherand disposed to do all in his power for her supportHamish yetperceivedwhen he mixed with the worldthat thetrade ofthe cateran was now alike dangerous and discreditableand thatif he were to emulate his father's progressit must bein someother line of warfare more consonant to the opinions ofthepresent day.
As thefaculties of mind and body began to expandhe became moresensibleof the precarious nature of his situationof theerroneousviews of his motherand her ignorance respecting thechanges ofthe society with which she mingled so little. Invisitingfriends and neighbourshe became aware of the extremelyreducedscale to which his parent was limitedand learned thatshepossessed little or nothing more than the absolutenecessariesof lifeand that these were sometimes on the pointoffailing. At times his success in fishing and the chase wasable toadd something to her subsistence; but he saw no regularmeans ofcontributing to her supportunless by stooping toservilelabourwhichif he himself could have endured itwouldheknewhave been like a death's-wound to the pride ofhismother.
Elspatmeanwhilesaw with surprise that Hamish Beanalthoughnow talland fit for the fieldshowed no disposition to enter onhisfather's scene of action. There was something of the motherat herheartwhich prevented her from urging him in plain termsto takethe field as a cateranfor the fear occurred of theperilsinto which the trade must conduct him; and when she wouldhavespoken to him on the subjectit seemed to her heatedimaginationas if the ghost of her husband arose between them inhis bloodytartansand laying his finger on his lipsappearedtoprohibit the topic. Yet she wondered at what seemed his wantof spiritsighed as she saw him from day to day lounging aboutin thelong-skirted Lowland coat which the legislature hadimposedupon the Gael instead of their own romantic garbandthoughthow much nearer he would have resembled her husband hadhe beenclad in the belted plaid and short hosewith hispolishedarms gleaming at his side.
Besidesthese subjects for anxietyElspat had others arisingfrom theengrossing impetuosity of her temper. Her love ofMacTavishMhor had been qualified by respect and sometimes evenby fearfor the cateran was not the species of man who submitsto femalegovernment; but over his son she had exertedat firstduringchildhoodand afterwards in early youthan imperiousauthoritywhich gave her maternal love a character of jealousy.She couldnot bear when Hamishwith advancing lifemaderepeatedsteps towards independenceabsented himself from hercottage atsuch season and for such length of time as he choseand seemedto consideralthough maintaining towards her everypossibledegree of respect and kindnessthat the control andresponsibilityof his actions rested on himself alone. Thiswould havebeen of little consequencecould she have concealedherfeelings within her own bosom; but the ardour and impatienceof herpassions made her frequently show her son that sheconceivedherself neglected and ill-used. When he was absent forany lengthof time from her cottage without giving intimation ofhispurposeher resentment on his return used to be sounreasonablethat it naturally suggested to a young man fond ofindependenceand desirous to amend his situation in the worldto leavehereven for the very purpose of enabling him toprovidefor the parent whose egotistical demands on his filialattentiontended to confine him to a desertin which both werestarvingin hopeless and helpless indigence.
Upon oneoccasionthe son having been guilty of some independentexcursionby which the mother felt herself affronted anddisobligedshe had been more than usually violent on his returnandawakened in Hamish a sense of displeasurewhich clouded hisbrow andcheek. At lengthas she persevered in her unreasonableresentmenthis patience became exhaustedand taking his gunfrom thechimney cornerand muttering to himself the reply whichhisrespect for his mother prevented him from speaking aloudhewas aboutto leave the hut which he had but barely entered.
"Hamish"said his mother"are you again about to leave me?"But Hamishonly replied by looking at and rubbing the lock of hisgun.
"Ayrub the lock of your gun" said his parent bitterly. "I amglad youhave courage enough to fire it? though it be but at aroe-deer."
Hamish started at this undeserved tauntand cast alook ofanger at her in reply. She saw that she had found themeans ofgiving him pain.
"Yes"she said"look fierce as you will at an old womanandyourmother; it would be long ere you bent your brow on the angrycountenanceof a bearded man."
"Besilentmotheror speak of what you understand" saidHamishmuch irritated"and that is of the distaff and thespindle."
"Andwas it of spindle and distaff that I was thinking when Ibore youaway on my back through the fire of six of the Saxonsoldiersand you a wailing child? I tell youHamishI know ahundredfoldmore of swords and guns than ever you will; and youwill neverlearn so much of noble war by yourselfas you haveseen whenyou were wrapped up in my plaid."
"Youare determinedat leastto allow me no peace at homemother;but this shall have an end" said Hamishasresuminghispurpose of leaving the huthe rose and went towards thedoor.
"StayI command you" said his mother"stay! or may the gunyou carrybe the means of your ruin! may the road you are goingbe thetrack of your funeral!"
"Whatmakes you use such wordsmother?" said the young manturning alittle back; "they are not goodand good cannot comeof them.
Farewell just now! we are too angry to speak togetherfarewell!
It will be long ere you see me again." And hedepartedhis motherin the first burst of her impatienceshoweringafter him her maledictionsand in the next invokingthem onher own headso that they might spare her son's. Shepassedthat day and the next in all the vehemence of impotent andyetunrestrained passionnow entreating Heavenand such powersas werefamiliar to her by rude traditionto restore her dearson"thecalf of her heart;" now in impatient resentmentmeditatingwith what bitter terms she should rebuke his filialdisobedienceupon his returnand now studying the most tenderlanguageto attach him to the cottagewhichwhen her boy waspresentshe would notin the rapture of her affectionhaveexchangedfor the apartments of Taymouth Castle.
Two dayspassedduring whichneglecting even the slender meansofsupporting nature which her situation affordednothing butthestrength of a frame accustomed to hardships and privations ofevery kindcould have kept her in existencenotwithstanding theanguish ofher mind prevented her being sensible of her personalweakness.
Her dwelling at this period was the same cottage nearwhich Ihad found herbut then more habitable by the exertionsof Hamishby whom it had been in a great measure built andrepaired.
It was onthe third day after her son had disappearedas she satat thedoor rocking herselfafter the fashion of hercountrywomenwhen in distressor in painthat the then unwontedcircumstanceoccurred of a passenger being seen on the highroadabove thecottage. She cast but one glance at him. He was onhorsebackso that it could not be Hamish; and Elspat cared notenough forany other being on earth to make her turn her eyestowardshim a second time. The strangerhoweverpausedoppositeto her cottageand dismounting from his ponyled itdown thesteep and broken path which conducted to her door.
"Godbless youElspat MacTavish!" She looked at the man as headdressedher in her native languagewith the displeased air ofone whosereverie is interrupted; but the traveller went on tosay"Ibring you tidings of your son Hamish." At oncefrombeing themost uninteresting objectin respect to Elspatthatcouldexistthe form of the stranger became awful in her eyesas that ofa messenger descended from heavenexpressly topronounceupon her death or life. She started from her seatandwith handsconvulsively clasped togetherand held up to Heaveneyes fixedon the stranger's countenanceand person stoopingforward tohimshe looked those inquiries which her falteringtonguecould not articulate. "Your son sends you his dutifulremembranceand this" said the messengerputting into Elspat'shand asmall purse containing four or five dollars.
"Heis gone! he is gone!" exclaimed Elspat; "he hassoldhimself tobe the servant of the Saxonsand I shall never morebeholdhim! Tell meMiles MacPhadraickfor now I know youisit theprice of the son's blood that you have put into themother'shand?"
"NowGod forbid!" answered MacPhadraickwho was a tacksmanand hadpossession of a considerable tract of ground under hischiefaproprietor who lived about twenty miles off"God forbidI shoulddo wrongor say wrongto youor to the son ofMacTavishMhor! I swear to you by the hand of my chief that yourson iswelland will soon see you; and the rest he will tell youhimself."
So sayingMacPhadraick hastened back up the pathwaygained theroadmounted his ponyand rode upon his way.
ElspatMacTavish remained gazing on the money as if the impressof thecoin could have conveyed information how it was procured.
"Ilove not this MacPhadraick" she said to herself. "Itwas hisrace ofwhom the Bard hath spokensayingFear them not whentheirwords are loud as the winter's windbut fear them whenthey fallon you like the sound of the thrush's song. And yetthisriddle can be read but one way: My son hath taken the swordto winthatwith strength like a manwhich churls would keephim fromwith the words that frighten children." This ideawhenonce itoccurred to herseemed the more reasonablethatMacPhadraickas she well knewhimself a cautious manhad sofarencouraged her husband's practices as occasionally to buycattle ofMacTavishalthough he must have well known how theywere comebytaking carehoweverthat the transaction was somade as tobe accompanied with great profit and absolute safety.Who solikely as MacPhadraick to indicate to a young cateran theglen inwhich he could commence his perilous trade with mostprospectof success? Who so likely to convert his booty intomoney?
The feelings which another might have experienced onbelievingthat an only son had rushed forward on the same path inwhich hisfather had perishedwere scarce known to the Highlandmothers ofthat day. She thought of the death of MacTavish Mhoras that ofa hero who had fallen in his proper trade of warandwho hadnot fallen unavenged. She feared less for her son's lifethan forhis dishonour. She dreadedon his accountthesubjectionto strangersand the death-sleep of the soul which isbrought onby what she regarded as slavery.
The moralprinciple which so naturally and so justly occurs tothe mindof those who have been educated under a settledgovernmentof laws that protect the property of the weak againsttheincursions of the strongwas to poor Elspat a book sealedand afountain closed. She had been taught to consider thosewhom theycall Saxons as a race with whom the Gael wereconstantlyat war; and she regarded every settlement of theirswithin thereach of Highland incursion as affording a legitimateobject ofattack and plunder. Her feelings on this point hadbeenstrengthened and confirmednot only by the desire ofrevengefor the death of her husbandbut by the sense of generalindignationentertainednot unjustlythrough the Highlands ofScotlandon account of the barbarous and violent conduct of thevictorsafter the battle of Culloden. Other Highland clanstoosheregarded as the fair objects of plunderwhen that waspossibleupon the score of ancient enmities and deadly feuds.
Theprudence that might have weighed the slender means which thetimesafforded for resisting the efforts of a combinedgovernmentwhich hadin its less compact and establishedauthoritybeen unable to put down the ravages of such lawlesscateransas MacTavish Mhorwas unknown to a solitary woman whoseideasstill dwelt upon her own early times. She imagined thather sonhad only to proclaim himself his father's successor inadventureand enterpriseand that a force of menas gallant asthose whohad followed his father's bannerwould crowd around tosupport itwhen again displayed. To her Hamish was the eagle whohad onlyto soar aloft and resume his native place in the skieswithouther being able to comprehend how many additional eyeswould havewatched his flighthow many additional bullets wouldhave beendirected at his bosom. To be briefElspat was one whoviewed thepresent state of society with the same feelings withwhich sheregarded the times that had passed away. She had beenindigentneglectedoppressed since the days that her husbandhad nolonger been feared and powerfuland she thought that theterm ofher ascendence would return when her son had determinedto playthe part of his father. If she permitted her eye toglancefarther into futurityit was but to anticipate that shemust befor many a day cold in the gravewith the coronach ofher tribecried duly over herbefore her fair-haired Hamishcouldaccording to her calculationdie with his hand on thebasket-hiltof the red claymore. His father's hair was greyereaftera hundred dangershe had fallen with his arms in hishands.
That she should have seen and survived the sight was anaturalconsequence of the manners of that age. And better itwassuchwas her proud thoughtthat she had seen him so diethan tohave witnessed his departure from life in a smoky hovelon a bedof rotten straw like an over-worn houndor a bullockwhich diedof disease. But the hour of her youngher braveHamishwas yet far distant. He must succeedhe must conquerlike hisfather. And when he fell at lengthfor sheanticipatedfor him no bloodless deathElspat would ere thenhave lainlong in the graveand could neither see his death-strugglenor mourn over his grave-sod.
With suchwild notions working in her brainthe spirit of Elspatrose toits usual pitchorratherto one which seemed higher.In theemphatic language of Scripturewhich in that idiom doesnotgreatly differ from her ownshe aroseshe washed andchangedher appareland ate breadand was refreshed.
She longedeagerly for the return of her sonbut she now longednot withthe bitter anxiety of doubt and apprehension. She saidto herselfthat much must be done ere he could in these timesarise tobe an eminent and dreaded leader. Yet when she saw himagainshealmost expected him at the head of a daring bandwithpipesplaying and banners flyingthe noble tartans flutteringfree inthe windin despite of the laws which had suppressedundersevere penaltiesthe use of the national garb and all theappurtenancesof Highland chivalry. For all thisher eagerimaginationwas content only to allow the interval of some days.
From themoment this opinion had taken deep and seriouspossessionof her mindher thoughts were bent upon receiving herson at thehead of his adherents in the manner in which she usedto adornher hut for the return of his father.
Thesubstantial means of subsistence she had not the power ofprovidingnor did she consider that of importance. Thesuccessfulcaterans would bring with them herds and flocks. Buttheinterior of her hut was arranged for their receptiontheusquebaughwas brewed or distilled in a larger quantity than itcould havebeen supposed one lone woman could have made ready.Her hutwas put into such order as mightin some degreegive ittheappearance of a day of rejoicing. It was swept anddecoratedwith boughs of various kindslike the house of aJewessupon what is termed the Feast of the Tabernacles. Theproduce ofthe milk of her little flock was prepared in as greatvariety offorms as her skill admittedto entertain her son andhisassociates whom sheexpected to receive along with him.
But theprincipal decorationwhich she sought with the greatesttoilwasthe cloud-berrya scarlet fruitwhich is only foundon veryhigh hills; and these only in small quantities. Herhusbandor perhaps one of his forefathershad chosen this asthe emblemof his familybecause it seemed at once to implybyitsscarcitythe smallness of their clanandby the places inwhich itwas foundthe ambitious height of their pretensions.
For thetime that these simple preparations of welcome enduredElspat wasin a state of troubled happiness. In facther onlyanxietywas that she might be able to complete all that she coulddo towelcome Hamish and the friends who she supposed must haveattachedthemselves to his bandbefore they should arrive andfind herunprovided for their reception.
But whensuch efforts as she could make had been accomplishedshe oncemore had nothing left to engage her save the triflingcare ofher goats; and when these had been attended toshe hadonly toreview her little preparationsrenew such as were of atransitorynaturereplace decayed branches and fading boughsand thento sit down at her cottage-door and watch the road as itascendedon the one side from the banks of the Aweand on theotherwound round the heights of the mountainwith such a degreeofaccommodation to hill and level as the plan of the militaryengineerpermitted. While so occupiedher imaginationanticipatingthe future from recollections of the pastformedout of themorning mist or the evening cloud the wild forms of anadvancingbandwhich were then called "Sidier Dhu" (darksoldiers)dressed in their native tartanand so named todistinguishthem from the scarlet ranks of the British army. Inthisoccupation she spent many hours of each morning and evening.
It was invain that Elspat's eyes surveyed the distant path bytheearliest light of the dawn and the latest glimmer of thetwilight.
No rising dust awakened the expectation of noddingplumes orflashing arms. The solitary traveller trudgedlistlesslyalong in his brown lowland greatcoathis tartans dyedblack orpurpleto comply with or evade the law which prohibitedtheirbeing worn in their variegated hues. The spirit of theGaelsunkand broken by the severe though perhaps necessarylawsthatproscribed the dress and arms which he considered ashisbirthrightwas intimated by his drooping head and dejectedappearance.
Not in such depressed wanderers did Elspat recognisethe lightand free step of her sonnowas she concludedregeneratedfrom every sign of Saxon thraldom. Night by nightasdarkness cameshe removed from her unclosed doorto throwherself onher restless palletnot to sleepbut to watch. Thebrave andthe terribleshe saidwalk by night. Their steps areheard indarknesswhen all is silent save the whirlwind and thecataract.
The timid deer comes only forth when the sun is uponthemountain's peakbut the bold wolf walks in the red light oftheharvest-moon. She reasoned in vain; her son's expectedsummonsdid not call her from the lowly couch where she laydreamingof his approach. Hamish came not.
"Hopedeferred" saith the royal sage"maketh the heart sick;"and strongas was Elspat's constitutionshe began to experiencethat itwas unequal to the toils to which her anxious andimmoderateaffection subjected herwhen early one morning theappearanceof a traveller on the lonely mountain-roadrevivedhopeswhich had begun to sink into listless despair. There wasno sign ofSaxon subjugation about the stranger. At a distanceshe couldsee the flutter of the belted-plaid that drooped ingracefulfolds behind himand the plume thatplaced in thebonnetshowed rank and gentle birth. He carried a gun over hisshoulderthe claymore was swinging by his side with its usualappendagesthe dirkthe pistoland the SPORRAN MOLLACH. [Thegoat-skinpouchworn by the Highlanders round their waist.] Ereyet hereye had scanned all these particularsthe light step ofthetraveller was hastenedhis arm was waved in token ofrecognitionamoment moreand Elspat held in her arms herdarlingsondressed in the garb of his ancestorsand lookingin hermaternal eyesthe fairest among ten thousand!
The firstoutpouring of affection it would be impossible todescribe.
Blessings mingled with the most endearing epithetswhich herenergetic language affords in striving to express thewildrapture of Elspat's joy. Her board was heaped hastily withall shehad to offerand the mother watched the young soldieras hepartook of the refreshmentwith feelings how similar toyet howdifferent fromthose with which she had seen him drawhis firstsustenance from her bosom!
When thetumult of joy was appeasedElspat became anxious toknow herson's adventures since they partedand could not helpgreatlycensuring his rashness for traversing the hills in theHighlanddress in the broad sunshinewhen the penalty was soheavyandso many red soldiers were abroad in the country.
"Fearnot for memother" said Hamishin a tone designed torelieveher anxietyand yet somewhat embarrassed; "I may weartheBREACAN [That which is variegatedthat isthe tartan.] atthe gateof Fort-Augustusif I like it."
"Ohbe not too daringmy beloved Hamishthough it be the faultwhich bestbecomes thy father's sonyet be not too daring!Alas!
they fight not now as in former dayswith fair weaponsand onequal termsbut take odds of numbers and of armsso thatthe feebleand the strong are alike levelled by the shot of aboy.
And do not think me unworthy to be called your father'swidow andyour mother because I speak thus; for God knoweththatmanto manI would peril thee against the best inBreadalbaneand broad Lorn besides."
"Iassure youmy dearest mother" replied Hamish"that I aminnodanger. But have you seen MacPhadraickmother? and whathashe said toyou on my account?"
"Silverhe left me in plentyHamish; but the best of his comfortwas thatyou were welland would see me soon. But beware ofMacPhadraickmy son; for when he called himself the friend ofyourfatherhe better loved the most worthless stirk in his herdthan hedid the life-blood of MacTavish Mhor. Use his servicesthereforeand pay him for themfor it is thus we should dealwith theunworthy; but take my counseland trust him not."
Hamishcould not suppress a sighwhich seemed to Elspat tointimatethat the caution came too late. "What have you donewithhim?" she continuedeager and alarmed. "I hadmoney ofhimandhe gives not that without value; he is none of those whoexchangebarley for chaff. Ohif you repent you of yourbargainand if it be one which you may break off withoutdisgraceto your truth or your manhoodtake back his silverandtrust notto his fair words."
"Itmay not bemother" said Hamish; "I do not repent myengagementunless that it must make me leave you soon."
"Leaveme! how leave me? Silly boythink you I know not whatdutybelongs to the wife or mother of a daring man? Thou art buta boy yet;and when thy father had been the dread of the countryfor twentyyearshe did not despise my company and assistancebut oftensaid my help was worth that of two strong gillies."
"Itis not on that scoremotherbut since I must leave thecountry"
"Leavethe country!" replied his motherinterrupting him.
"Andthink youthat I am like a bushthat is rooted to the soil whereit growsand must die if carried elsewhere? I have breathedotherwinds than these of Ben Cruachan. I have followed yourfather tothe wilds of Ross and the impenetrable deserts of Y MacY Mhor.
Tushman! my limbsold as they arewill bear me asfar asyour young feet can trace the way."
"Alasmother" said the young manwith a faltering accent"butto crossthe sea"
"Thesea! who am I that I should fear the sea? Have I neverbeen in abirling in my lifenever known the Sound of MulltheIsles ofTreshornishand the rough rocks of Harris?"
"AlasmotherI go farfar from all of these. I am enlisted inone of thenew regimentsand we go against the French inAmerica."
uttered the astonished mother"against MY willwithout MYconsent! You could not! you would not!" Thenrisingupandassuming a posture of almost imperial command"Hamishyou DAREDnot!"
"Despairmotherdares everything" answered Hamishin a toneofmelancholy resolution. "What should I do herewhere I canscarce getbread for myself and youand when the times aregrowingdaily worse? Would you but sit down and listenI wouldconvinceyou I have acted for the best."
With abitter smile Elspat sat downand the same severe ironicalexpressionwas on her featuresaswith her lips firmly closedshelistened to his vindication.
Hamishwent onwithout being disconcerted by her expecteddispleasure.
"When I left youdearest motherit was to go toMacPhadraick'shouse; for although I knew he is crafty andworldlyafter the fashion of the Sassenachyet he is wiseandI thoughthow he would teach meas it would cost him nothinginwhich wayI could mend our estate in the world."
"Ourestate in the world!" said Elspatlosing patience at theword; "andwent you to a base fellow with a soul no better thanthat of acowherdto ask counsel about your conduct? Yourfatherasked nonesave of his courage and his sword."
"Dearestmother" answered Hamish"how shall I convince you thatyou livein this land of our fathers as if our fathers were yetliving?
You walk as it were in a dreamsurrounded by thephantomsof those who have been long with the dead. When myfatherlived and foughtthe great respected the man of thestrongright handand the rich feared him. He had protectionfromMacallum Mhorand from Caberfaeand tribute from meanermen.
[CaberfaeANGLICEthe Stag's-headthe Celtic designationfor thearms of the family of the high Chief of Seaforth.] Thatis endedand his son would only earn a disgraceful and unpitieddeath bythe practices which gave his father credit and poweramongthose who wear the breacan. The land is conquered; itslights arequenchedGlengarryLochielPerthLord Lewisallthe highchiefs are dead or in exile. We may mourn for itbutwe cannothelp it. Bonnetbroadswordand sporranpowerstrengthand wealthwere all lost on Drummossie Muir."
"Itis false!" said Elspatfiercely; "you and such likedastardlyspirits are quelled by your own faint heartsnot bythestrength of the enemy; you are like the fearful waterfowltowhom theleast cloud in the sky seems the shadow of the eagle."
"Mother"said Hamish proudly"lay not faint heart to my charge.I go wheremen are wanted who have strong arms and bold heartstoo.
I leave a desertfor a land where I may gather fame."
"Andyou leave your mother to perish in wantageand solitude"saidElspatessaying successively every means of moving aresolutionwhich she began to see was more deeply rooted than shehad atfirst thought.
"Notsoneither" he answered; "I leave you to comfort andcertaintywhich you have yet never known. Barcaldine's son ismade aleaderand with him I have enrolled myself. MacPhadraickacts forhimand raises menand finds his own in doing it."
"Thatis the truest word of the talewere all the rest as falseas hell"said the old womanbitterly.
"Butwe are to find our good in it also" continued Hamish; "forBarcaldineis to give you a shieling in his wood of Letter-findreightwith grass for your goatsand a cowwhen you pleaseto haveoneon the common; and my own paydearest motherthough Iam far awaywill do more than provide you with mealand withall else you can want. Do not fear for me. I enter aprivategentleman; but I will returnif hard fighting andregularduty can deserve itan officerand with half a dollar aday."
"Poorchild!" replied Elspatin a tone of pity mingled withcontempt"and you trust MacPhadraick?"
"Imight mother" said Hamishthe dark red colour of his racecrossinghis forehead and cheeks"for MacPhadraick knows thebloodwhich flows in my veinsand is awarethat should he breaktrust withyouhe might count the days which could bring Hamishback toBreadalbaneand number those of his life within threesunsmore. I would kill him at his own hearthdid he break hisword withmeI wouldby the great Being who made us both!"
The lookand attitude of the young soldier for a moment overawedElspat;she was unused to see him express a deep and bitter moodwhichreminded her so strongly of his father. But she resumedherremonstrances in the same taunting manner in which she hadcommencedthem.
"Poorboy!" she said; "and you think that at the distanceofhalf theworld your threats will be heard or thought of! Butgogoplaceyour neck under him of Hanover's yokeagainst whomevery trueGael fought to the death. Godisown the royalStewartfor whom your fatherand his fathersand your mother'sfathershave crimsoned many a field with their blood. Goputyour headunder the belt of one of the race of DermidwhosechildrenmurderedYes" she addedwith a wild shriek"murderedyourmother's fathers in their peaceful dwellings in Glencoe!Yes"she again exclaimedwith a wilder and shriller scream"Iwas thenunbornbut my mother has told meand I attended to thevoice ofMY motherwell I remember her words! They came inpeaceandwere received in friendshipand blood and fire aroseandscreams and murder!" [See Note 9.Massacre of Glencoe.]
"Mother"answered Hamishmournfullybut with a decided tone"allthat I have thought over. There is not a drop of the bloodof Glencoeon the noble hand of Barcaldine; with the unhappyhouse ofGlenlyon the curse remainsand on them God hath avengedit."
"Youspeak like the Saxon priest already" replied his mother;"willyou not better stayand ask a kirk from Macallum Mhorthat youmay preach forgiveness to the race of Dermid?"
"Yesterdaywas yesterday" answered Hamish"and to-day is to-day.
When the clans are crushed and confounded togetherit iswell andwise that their hatreds and their feuds should notsurvivetheir independence and their power. He that cannotexecutevengeance like a manshould not harbour useless enmitylike acraven. Motheryoung Barcaldine is true and brave. Iknow thatMacPhadraick counselled him that he should not let metake leaveof youlest you dissuaded me from my purpose; but hesaid'Hamish MacTavish is the son of a brave manand he willnot breakhis word.' MotherBarcaldine leads an hundred of thebravest ofthe sons of the Gael in their native dressand withtheirfathers' armsheart to heartshoulder to shoulder. Ihave swornto go with him. He has trusted meand I will trusthim."
At thisreplyso firmly and resolvedly pronouncedElspatremainedlike one thunderstruckand sunk in despair. Theargumentswhich she had considered so irresistibly conclusivehadrecoiled like a wave from a rock. After a long pauseshefilled herson's quaighand presented it to him with an air ofdejecteddeference and submission.
"Drink"she said"to thy father's roof-treeere you leave itfor ever;and tell mesince the chains of a new Kingand of anew chiefwhom your fathers knew not save as mortal enemiesarefastenedupon the limbs of your father's sontell me how manylinks youcount upon them?"
Hamishtook the cupbut looked at her as if uncertain of hermeaning.
She proceeded in a raised voice. "Tell me" she said"forI have a right to knowfor how many days the will of thoseyou havemade your masters permits me to look upon you? In otherwordshowmany are the days of my life? for when you leave methe earthhas nought besides worth living for!"
"Mother"replied Hamish MacTavish"for six days I may remainwith you;and if you will set out with me on the fifthI willconductyou in safety to your new dwelling. But if you remainherethenI will depart on the seventh by daybreakthenas atthe lastmomentI MUST set out for Dunbartonfor if I appearnot on theeighth dayI am subject to punishment as a deserterand amdishonoured as a soldier and a gentleman."
"Yourfather's foot" she answered"was free as the wind on theheathitwere as vain to say to himwhere goest thou? as toask thatviewless driver of the cloudswherefore blowest thou?Tell meunder what penalty thou mustsince go thou mustand gothouwiltreturn to thy thraldom?"
"Callit not thraldommother; it is the service of an honourablesoldiertheonly service which is now open to the son ofMacTavishMhor."
"Yetsay what is the penalty if thou shouldst not return?"repliedElspat.
"Militarypunishment as a deserter" answered Hamishwrithinghoweveras his mother failed not to observeunder some internalfeelingswhich she resolved to probe to the uttermost.
"Andthat" she saidwith assumed calmnesswhich her glancingeyedisowned"is the punishment of a disobedient houndis itnot?"
"Askme no moremother" said Hamish; "the punishment isnothingto one whowill never deserve it."
"Tome it is something" replied Elspat"since I know betterthan thouthat where there is power to inflictthere is oftenthe willto do so without cause. I would pray for theeHamishand I mustknow against what evils I should beseech Him wholeavesnone unguardedto protect thy youth and simplicity."
"Mother"said Hamish"it signifies little to what a criminalmay beexposedif a man is determined not to be such. OurHighlandchiefs used also to punish their vassalsandas I haveheardseverely. Was it not Lachlan MacIanwhom we remember ofoldwhosehead was struck off by order of his chieftain forshootingat the stag before him?"
"Ay"said Elspat"and right he had to lose itsince hedishonouredthe father of the people even in the face of theassembledclan. But the chiefs were noble in their ire; theypunishedwith the sharp bladeand not with the baton. Theirpunishmentsdrew bloodbut they did not infer dishonour. Canstthou saythe same for the laws under whose yoke thou hast placedthyfreeborn neck?"
"IcannotmotherI cannot" said Hamish mournfully. "Isawthempunish a Sassenach for deserting as they called ithisbanner.
He was scourgedI own itscourged like a hound who hasoffendedan imperious master. I was sick at the sightI confessit.
But the punishment of dogs is only for those worse thandogswhoknow not how to keep their faith."
"Tothis infamyhoweverthou hast subjected thyselfHamish"repliedElspat"if thou shouldst giveor thy officers takemeasure ofoffence against thee. I speak no more to thee on thypurpose.
Were the sixth day from this morning's sun my dyingdayandthou wert to stay to close mine eyesthou wouldst runthe riskof being lashed like a dog at a postyes! unless thouhadst thegallant heart to leave me to die aloneand upon mydesolatehearththe last spark of thy father's fireand of thyforsakenmother's lifeto be extinguished together!"Hamishtraversedthe hut with an impatient and angry pace.
"Mother"he said at length"concern not yourself about suchthings.
I cannot be subjected to such infamyfor never will Ideserveit; and were I threatened with itI should know how todie beforeI was so far dishonoured."
"Therespoke the son of the husband of my heart!" repliedElspatand she changed the discourseand seemed to listen inmelancholyacquiescencewhen her son reminded her how short thetime waswhich they were permitted to pass in each other'ssocietyand entreated that it might be spent without useless andunpleasantrecollections respecting the circumstances under whichthey mustsoon be separated.
Elspat wasnow satisfied that her sonwith some of his father'sotherpropertiespreserved the haughty masculine spirit whichrenderedit impossible to divert him from a resolution which hehaddeliberately adopted. She assumedthereforean exterior ofapparentsubmission to their inevitable separation; and if shenow andthen broke out into complaints and murmursit was eitherthat shecould not altogether suppress the natural impetuosity ofhertemperor because she had the wit to consider that a totalandunreserved acquiescence might have seemed to her sonconstrainedand suspiciousand induced him to watch and defeatthe meansby which she still hoped to prevent his leaving her.Her ardentthough selfish affection for her sonincapable ofbeingqualified by a regard for the true interests of theunfortunateobject of her attachmentresembled the instinctivefondnessof the animal race for their offspring; and divinglittlefarther into futurity than one of the inferior creaturesshe onlyfelt that to be separated from Hamish was to die.
In thebrief interval permitted themElspat exhausted every artwhichaffection could deviseto render agreeable to him thespacewhich they were apparently to spend with each other. Hermemorycarried her far back into former daysand her stores oflegendaryhistorywhich furnish at all times a principalamusementof the Highlander in his moments of reposewereaugmentedby an unusual acquaintance with the songs of ancientbardsandtraditions of the most approved seannachies andtellers oftales. Her officious attentions to her son'saccommodationindeedwere so unremitted as almost to give himpainandhe endeavoured quietly to prevent her from taking somuchpersonal toil in selecting the blooming heath for his bedorpreparing the meal for his refreshment. "Let me aloneHamish"she would reply on such occasions; "you follow your ownwill indeparting from your motherlet your mother have hers indoing whatgives her pleasure while you remain."
So muchshe seemed to be reconciled to the arrangements which hehad madein her behalfthat she could hear him speak to her ofherremoving to the lands of Green Colinas the gentleman wascalledonwhose estate he had provided her an asylum. In truthhowevernothing could be farther from her thoughts. From whathe hadsaid during their first violent disputeElspat hadgatheredthatif Hamish returned not by the appointed timepermittedby his furloughhe would incur the hazard of corporalpunishment.
Were he placed within the risk of being thusdishonouredshe was well aware that he would never submit to thedisgraceby a return to the regiment where it might be inflicted.Whethershe looked to any farther probable consequences of herunhappyscheme cannot be known; but the partner of MacTavishMhorinall his perils and wanderingswas familiar with anhundredinstances of resistance or escapeby which one bravemanamidst a land of rockslakesand mountainsdangerouspassesand dark forestsmight baffle the pursuit of hundreds.For thefuturethereforeshe feared nothing; her soleengrossingobject was to prevent her son from keeping his wordwith hiscommanding officer.
With thissecret purposeshe evaded the proposal which Hamishrepeatedlymadethat they should set out together to takepossessionof her new abode; and she resisted it upon groundsapparentlyso natural to her character that her son was neitheralarmednor displeased. "Let me not" she said"in thesameshortweekbid farewell to my only sonand to the glen in whichI have solong dwelt. Let my eyewhen dimmed with weeping fortheestill look aroundfor a while at leastupon Loch Awe andon BenCruachan."
Hamishyielded the more willingly to his mother's humour in thisparticularthat one or two persons who resided in a neighbouringglenandhad given their sons to Barcaldine's levywere also tobeprovided for on the estate of the chieftainand it wasapparentlysettled that Elspat was to take her journey along withthem whenthey should remove to their new residence. ThusHamishbelieved that he had at once indulged his mother's humourandensured her safety and accommodation. But she nourished inher mindvery different thoughts and projects.
The periodof Hamish's leave of absence was fast approachingandmore thanonce he proposed to departin such time as to ensurehisgaining easily and early Dunbartonthe town where were thehead-quartersof his regiment. But still his mother'sentreatieshis own natural disposition to linger among sceneslong dearto himandabove allhis firm reliance in his speedandactivityinduced him to protract his departure till thesixth daybeing the very last which he could possibly afford tospend withhis motherif indeed he meant to comply with theconditionsof his furlough.
Butfor your sonbelieve itohbelieve it
Most dangerously you have with him prevailed Ifnot most mortal to him.
On theevening which preceded his proposed departureHamishwalkeddown to the river with his fishing-rodto practise in theAweforthe last timea sport in which he excelledand tofindatthe same timethe means for making one social meal withhis motheron something better than their ordinary cheer. He wasassuccessful as usualand soon killed a fine salmon. On hisreturnhomeward an incident befell himwhich he afterwardsrelated asominousthough probably his heated imaginationjoined tothe universal turn of his countrymen for themarvellousexaggerated into superstitious importance some veryordinaryand accidental circumstance.
In thepath which he pursued homewardhe was surprised toobserve apersonwholike himselfwas dressed and armed afterthe oldHighland fashion. The first idea that struck him wasthat thepassenger belonged to his own corpswholevied bygovernmentand bearing arms under royal authoritywere notamenablefor breach of the statutes against the use of theHighlandgarb or weapons. But he was struck on perceivingas hemended hispace to make up to his supposed comrademeaning torequesthis company for the next day's journeythat the strangerwore awhite cockadethe fatal badge which was proscribed in theHighlands.
The stature of the man was talland there wassomethingshadowy in the outlinewhich added to his size; andhis modeof motionwhich rather resembled gliding than walkingimpressedHamish with superstitious fears concerning thecharacterof the being which thus passed before him in thetwilight.
He no longer strove to make up to the strangerbutcontentedhimself with keeping him in viewunder thesuperstitioncommon to the Highlandersthat you ought neither tointrudeyourself on such supernatural apparitions as you maywitnessnor avoid their presencebut leave it to themselves towithholdor extend their communicationas their power maypermitorthe purpose of their commission require.
Upon anelevated knoll by the side of the roadjust where thepathwayturned down to Elspat's hutthe stranger made a pauseand seemedto await Hamish's coming up. Hamishon his partseeing itwas necessary he should pass the object of hissuspicionmustered up his courageand approached the spot wherethestranger had placed himself; who first pointed to Elspat'shutandmadewith arm and heada gesture prohibiting Hamish toapproachitthen stretched his hand to the road which led to thesouthwardwith a motion which seemed to enjoin his instantdeparturein that direction. In a moment afterwards the plaidedform wasgoneHamish did not exactly say vanishedbecause therewere rocksand stunted trees enough to have concealed him; but itwas hisown opinion that he had seen the spirit of MacTavishMhorwarning him to commence his instant journey to Dunbartonwithoutwaiting till morningor again visiting his mother's hut.
In factso many accidents might arise to delay his journeyespeciallywhere there were many ferriesthat it became hissettledpurposethough he could not depart without bidding hismotheradieuthat he neither could nor would abide longer thanfor thatobject; and that the first glimpse of next day's sunshould seehim many miles advanced towards Dunbarton. Hedescendedthe paththereforeand entering the cottagehecommunicatedin a hasty and troubled voicewhich indicatedmentalagitationhis determination to take his instantdeparture.
Somewhat to his surpriseElspat appeared not tocombat hispurposebut she urged him to take some refreshmentere heleft her for ever. He did so hastilyand in silencethinkingon the approaching separationand scarce yet believingit wouldtake place without a final struggle with his mother'sfondness.
To his surpriseshe filled the quaigh with liquor forhisparting cup.
"Go"she said"my sonsince such is thy settled purpose; butfirststand once more on thy mother's hearththe flame on whichwill beextinguished long ere thy foot shall again be placedthere."
"Toyour healthmother!" said Hamish; "and may we meetagain inhappinessin spite of your ominous words."
"Itwere better not to part" said his motherwatching him as hequaffedthe liquorof which he would have held it ominous tohave lefta drop.
"Andnow" she saidmuttering the words to herself"goif thoucanst go."
"Mother"said Hamishas he replaced on the table the emptyquaigh"thy drink is pleasant to the tastebut it takes awaythestrength which it ought to give."
"Suchis its first effectmy son" replied Elspat. "Butliedown uponthat soft heather couchshut your eyes but for amomentandin the sleep of an houryou shall have morerefreshmentthan in the ordinary repose of three whole nightscould theybe blended into one."
"Mother"said Hamishupon whose brain the potion was now takingrapideffect"give me my bonnetI must kiss you and begoneyetit seemsas if my feet were nailed to the floor."
"Indeed"said his mother"you will be instantly wellif youwill sitdown for half an hourbut half an hour. It is eighthours todawnand dawn were time enough for your father's son tobegin sucha journey."
"Imust obey youmotherI feel I must" said Hamishinarticulately;"but call me when the moon rises."
He satdown on the bedreclined backand almost instantly wasfastasleep. With the throbbing glee of one who has brought toan end adifficult and troublesome enterpriseElspat proceededtenderlyto arrange the plaid of the unconscious slumberertowhom herextravagant affection was doomed to be so fatalexpressingwhile busied in her officeher delightin tones ofmingledtenderness and triumph. "Yes" she said"calfof myheartthemoon shall arise and set to theeand so shall thesun; butnot to light thee from the land of thy fathersor temptthee toserve the foreign prince or the feudal enemy! To no sonof Dermidshall I be deliveredto be fed like a bondswoman; buthe who ismy pleasure and my pride shall be my guard and myprotector.
They say the Highlands are changed; but I see BenCruachanrear his crest as high as ever into the evening sky; noone hathyet herded his kine on the depths of Loch Awe; andyonder oakdoes not yet bend like a willow. The children of themountainswill be such as their fathersuntil the mountainsthemselvesshall be levelled with the strath. In these wildforestswhich used to support thousands of the bravethere isstillsurely subsistence and refuge left for one aged womanandonegallant youth of the ancient race and the ancient manners."
While themisjudging mother thus exulted in the success of herstratagemwe may mention to the reader that it was founded ontheacquaintance with drugs and simples which Elspataccomplishedin all things belonging to the wild life which shehad ledpossessed in an uncommon degreeand which she exercisedforvarious purposes. With the herbswhich she knew how toselect aswell as how to distilshe could relieve more diseasesthan aregular medical person could easily believe. She appliedsome todye the bright colours of the tartan; from others shecompoundeddraughts of various powersand unhappily possessedthe secretof one which was strongly soporific. Upon the effectsof thislast concoctionas the reader doubtless has anticipatedshereckoned with security on delaying Hamish beyond the periodfor whichhis return was appointed; and she trusted to his horrorfor theapprehended punishment to which he was thus renderedliabletoprevent him from returning at all.
Sound anddeepbeyond natural restwas the sleep of HamishMacTavishon that eventful eveningbut not such the repose ofhismother. Scarce did she close her eyes from time to timebutsheawakened again with a startin the terror that her son hadarisen anddeparted; and it was only on approaching his couchandhearing his deep-drawn and regular breathingthat shereassuredherself of the security of the repose in which he wasplunged.
Stilldawningshe fearedmight awaken himnotwithstanding theunusualstrength of the potion with which she had drugged hiscup.
If there remained a hope of mortal man accomplishing thejourneyshe was aware that Hamish would attempt itthough hewere todie from fatigue upon the road. Animated by this newfearshestudied to exclude the lightby stopping all thecranniesand crevices through whichrather than through anyregularentrancethe morning beams might find access to hermiserabledwelling; and this in order to detain amid its wantsandwretchedness the being on whomif the world itself had beenat herdisposalshe would have joyfully conferred it.
Her painswere bestowed unnecessarily. The sun rose high abovetheheavensand not the fleetest stag in Breadalbanewere thehounds athis heelscould have spedto save his lifeso fastas wouldhave been necessary to keep Hamish's appointment. Herpurposewas fully attainedher son's return within the periodassignedwas impossible. She deemed it equally impossiblethathe wouldever dream of returningstandingas he must now dointhe dangerof an infamous punishment. By degreesand atdifferenttimesshe had gained from him a full acquaintance withthepredicament in which he would be placed by failing to appearon the dayappointedand the very small hope he could entertainof beingtreated with lenity.
It is wellknownthat the great and wise Earl of Chatham pridedhimself onthe schemeby which he drew together for the defenceof thecolonies those hardy Highlanderswhountil his timehadbeen theobjects of doubtfearand suspicionon the part ofeachsuccessive administration. But some obstacles occurredfrom thepeculiar habits and temper of this peopleto theexecutionof his patriotic project. By nature and habiteveryHighlanderwas accustomed to the use of armsbut at the sametimetotally unaccustomed toand impatient ofthe restraintsimposed bydiscipline upon regular troops. They were a speciesofmilitiawho had no conception of a camp as their only home.If abattle was lostthey dispersed to save themselvesand lookout forthe safety of their families; if wonthey went back totheirglens to hoard up their bootyand attend to their cattleand theirfarms. This privilege of going and coming at pleasurethey wouldnot be deprived of even by their chiefswhoseauthoritywas in most other respects so despotic. It followed asa matterof coursethat the new-levied Highland recruits couldscarce bemade to comprehend the nature of a military engagementwhichcompelled a man to serve in the army longer than hepleased;and perhapsin many instancessufficient care was nottaken atenlisting to explain to them the permanency of theengagementwhich they came underlest such a disclosure shouldinducethem to change their mind. Desertions were thereforebecomenumerous from the newly-raised regimentand the veterangeneralwho commanded at Dunbarton saw no better way of checkingthem thanby causing an unusually severe example to be made of adeserterfrom an English corps. The young Highland regiment wasobliged toattend upon the punishmentwhich struck a peoplepeculiarlyjealous of personal honourwith equal horror anddisgustand not unnaturally indisposed some of them to theservice.
The old generalhoweverwho had been regularly bredin theGerman warsstuck to his own opinionand gave out inordersthat the first Highlander who might either desertor failto appearat the expiry of his furloughshould be brought to thehalberdsand punished like the culprit whom they had seen inthatcondition. No man doubted that General would keep hiswordrigorously whenever severity was requiredand Elspatthereforeknew that her sonwhen he perceived that duecompliancewith his orders was impossiblemust at the same timeconsiderthe degrading punishment denounced against his defectionasinevitableshould he place himself within the general'spower.
[See Note 10.Fidelity of the Highlanders.]
When noonwas well passednew apprehensions came on the mind ofthe lonelywoman. Her son still slept under the influence of thedraught;but what ifbeing stronger than she had ever known itadministeredhis health or his reason should be affected by itspotency?
For the first timelikewisenotwithstanding her highideas onthe subject of parental authorityshe began to dreadtheresentment of her sonwhom her heart told her she hadwronged.
Of lateshe had observed that his temper was lessdocileand his determinationsespecially upon this lateoccasionof his enlistmentindependently formedand then boldlycarriedthrough. She remembered the stern wilfulness of hisfatherwhen he accounted himself ill-usedand began to dreadthatHamishupon finding the deceit she had put upon himmightresent iteven to the extent of cutting her offand pursuing hisown coursethrough the world alone. Such were the alarming andyet thereasonable apprehensions which began to crowd upon theunfortunatewomanafter the apparent success of her ill-advisedstratagem.
It wasnear evening when Hamish first awokeand then he was farfrom beingin the full possession either of his mental or bodilypowers.
From his vague expressions and disordered pulseElspatat firstexperienced much apprehension; but she used suchexpedientsas her medical knowledge suggestedand in the courseof thenight she had the satisfaction to see him sink once moreinto adeep sleepwhich probably carried off the greater part oftheeffects of the drugfor about sunrising she heard him ariseand callto her for his bonnet. This she had purposely removedfrom afear that he might awaken and depart in the night-timewithouther knowledge.
"Mybonnetmy bonnet" cried Hamish; "it is time to takefarewell.
Motheryour drink was too strongthe sun is upbutwith thenext morning I will still see the double summit of theancientDun. My bonnetmy bonnetmother; I must be instant inmydeparture." These expressions made it plain that poorHamishwasunconscious that two nights and a day had passed since he haddrainedthe fatal quaighand Elspat had now to venture on whatshe feltas the almost perilousas well as painfultask ofexplainingher machinations.
"Forgivememy son" she saidapproaching Hamishand takinghim by thehand with an air of deferential awewhich perhaps shehad notalways used to his fathereven when in his moody fits.
"Forgiveyoumother!for what?" said Hamishlaughing; "forgiving mea dram that was too strongand which my head stillfeels thismorningor for hiding my bonnet to keep me an instantlonger?
Naydo YOU forgive ME. Give me the bonnetand letthat bedone which now must be done. Give me my bonnetor I gowithoutit; surely I am not to be delayed by so trifling a wantas thatIwho have gone for years with only a strap of deer'shide totie back my hair. Trifle notbut give it meor I mustgobareheadedsince to stay is impossible."
"Myson" said Elspatkeeping fast hold of his hand"what isdonecannot be recalled. Could you borrow the wings of yondereagleyouwould arrive at the Dun too late for what you purposetoo soonfor what awaits you there. You believe you see thesun risingfor the first time since you have seen him set; butyesterdaybeheld him climb Ben Cruachanthough your eyes wereclosed tohis light."
Hamishcast upon his mother a wild glance of extreme terrortheninstantlyrecovering himselfsaid"I am no child to be cheatedout of mypurpose by such tricks as these. Farewellmother!eachmoment is worth a lifetime."
"Stay"she said"my dearmy deceived sonrun not on infamyand ruin.
Yonder I see the priest upon the high-road on hiswhitehorse. Ask him the day of the month and week; let himdecidebetween us."
With thespeed of an eagleHamish darted up the acclivityandstood bythe minister of Glenorquhywho was pacing out thusearly toadminister consolation to a distressed family nearBunawe.
The goodman was somewhat startled to behold an armed Highlanderthen sounusual a sightand apparently much agitatedstop hishorse bythe bridleand ask him with a faltering voice the dayof theweek and month. "Had you been where you should have beenyesterdayyoung man" replied the clergyman"you would haveknown thatit was God's Sabbath; and that this is Mondaythesecond dayof the weekand twenty-first of the month."
"Andthis is true?" said Hamish.
"Astrue" answered the surprised minister"as that Iyesterdaypreachedthe word of God to this parish. What ails youyoungman?areyou sick?are you in your right mind?"
Hamishmade no answeronly repeated to himself the firstexpressionof the clergyman"Had you been where you should havebeenyesterday;" and so sayinghe let go the bridleturned fromthe roadand descended the path towards the hutwith the lookand paceof one who was going to execution. The minister lookedafter himwith surprise; but although he knew the inhabitant ofthe hovelthe character of Elspat had not invited him to openanycommunication with herbecause she was generally reputed aPapistorrather one indifferent to all religionexcept somesuperstitiousobservances which had been handed down from herparents.
On Hamish the Reverend Mr. Tyrie had bestowedinstructionswhen he was occasionally thrown in his way; and ifthe seedfell among the brambles and thorns of a wild anduncultivateddispositionit had not yet been entirely checked ordestroyed.
There was something so ghastly in the presentexpressionof the youth's features that the good man was temptedto go downto the hoveland inquire whether any distress hadbefallenthe inhabitantsin which his presence might beconsolingand his ministry useful. Unhappily he did notperseverein this resolutionwhich might have saved a greatmisfortuneas he would have probably become a mediator for theunfortunateyoung man; but a recollection of the wild moods ofsuchHighlanders as had been educated after the old fashion ofthecountryprevented his interesting himself in the widow andson of thefar-dreaded robberMacTavish Mhorand he thus missedanopportunitywhich he afterwards sorely repentedof doingmuch good.
WhenHamish MacTavish entered his mother's hutit was only tothrowhimself on the bed he had leftand exclaiming"Undoneundone!"
to give ventin cries of grief and angerto his deepsense ofthe deceit which had been practised on himand of thecruelpredicament to which he was reduced.
Elspat wasprepared for the first explosion of her son's passionand saidto herself"It is but the mountain torrentswelled bythethunder shower. Let us sit and rest us by the bank; for allitspresent tumultthe time will soon come when we may pass itdryshod."
She suffered his complaints and his reproacheswhichwereevenin the midst of his agonyrespectful andaffectionateto die away without returning any answer; and whenat lengthhaving exhausted all the exclamations of sorrow whichhislanguagecopious in expressing the feelings of the heartaffords tothe suffererhe sunk into a gloomy silenceshesufferedthe interval to continue near an hour ere she approachedher son'scouch.
"Andnow" she said at lengthwith a voice in which theauthorityof the mother was qualified by her tenderness"haveyouexhausted your idle sorrowsand are you able to place whatyou havegained against what you have lost? Is the false son ofDermidyour brotheror the father of your tribethat you weepbecauseyou cannot bind yourself to his beltand become one ofthose whomust do his bidding? Could you find in yonder distantcountrythe lakes and the mountains that you leave behind youhere?
Can you hunt the deer of Breadalbane in the forests ofAmericaor will the ocean afford you the silver-scaled salmon ofthe Awe?
Considerthenwhat is your lossandlike a wisemansetit against what you have won."
"Ihave lost allmother" replied Hamish"since I havebrokenmy wordand lost my honour. I might tell my talebut whoohwho wouldbelieve me?" The unfortunate young man again claspedhis handstogetherandpressing them to his foreheadhid hisface uponthe bed.
Elspat wasnow really alarmedand perhaps wished the fataldeceit hadbeen left unattempted. She had no hope or refugesaving inthe eloquence of persuasionof which she possessed nosmallsharethough her total ignorance of the world as itactuallyexisted rendered its energy unavailing. She urged hersonbyevery tender epithet which a parent could bestowto takecare forhis own safety.
"Leaveme" she said"to baffle your pursuers. I will saveyourlifeI willsave your honour. I will tell them that my fair-hairedHamish fell from the Corrie Dhu (black precipice) into thegulfofwhich human eye never beheld the bottom. I will tellthem thisand I will fling your plaid on the thorns which growon thebrink of the precipicethat they may believe my words.They willbelieveand they will return to the Dun of the double-crest; forthough the Saxon drum can call the living to dieitcannotrecall the dead to their slavish standard. Then will wetraveltogether far northward to the salt lakes of Kintailandplaceglens and mountains betwixt us and the sons of Dermid. Wewill visitthe shores of the dark lake; and my kinsmenfor wasnot mymother of the children of Kennethand will they notrememberus with the old love?my kinsmen will receive us withtheaffection of the olden timewhich lives in those distantglenswhere the Gael still dwell in their noblenessunmingledwith thechurl Saxonsor with the base brood that are theirtools andtheir slaves."
The energyof the languagesomewhat allied to hyperboleeven inits mostordinary expressionsnow seemed almost too weak toaffordElspat the means of bringing out the splendid picturewhich shepresented to her son of the land in which she proposedto him totake refuge. Yet the colours were few with which shecouldpaint her Highland paradise. "The hills" she said"werehigher andmore magnificent than those of BreadalbaneBenCruachanwas but a dwarf to Skooroora. The lakes were broaderandlargerand abounded not only with fishbut with theenchantedand amphibious animal which gives oil to the lamp.[The sealsare considered by the Highlanders as enchantedprinces.]
The deer were larger and more numerous; the white-tuskedboarthe chase of which the brave loved bestwas yet tobe rousedin those western solitudes; the men were noblerwiserandstronger than the degenerate brood who lived under the Saxonbanner.
The daughters of the land were beautifulwith blue eyesand fairhairand bosoms of snow; and out of these she wouldchoose awife for Hamishof blameless descentspotless famefixed andtrue affectionwho should be in their summer bothy asa beam ofthe sunand in their winter abode as the warmth of theneedfulfire."
Such werethe topics with which Elspat strove to soothe thedespair ofher sonand to determine himif possibleto leavethe fatalspoton which he seemed resolved to linger. The styleof herrhetoric was poeticalbut in other respects resembledthatwhichlike other fond mothersshe had lavished on Hamishwhile achild or a boyin order to gain his consent to dosomethinghe had no mind to; and she spoke louderquickerandmoreearnestlyin proportion as she began to despair of herwordscarrying conviction.
On themind of Hamish her eloquence made no impression. He knewfar betterthan she did the actual situation of the countryandwassensible thatthough it might be possible to hide himself asa fugitiveamong more distant mountainsthere was now no cornerin theHighlands in which his father's profession could bepractisedeven if he had not adoptedfrom the improved ideas ofthe timewhen he livedthe opinion that the trade of the cateranwas nolonger the road to honour and distinction. Her words werethereforepoured into regardless earsand she exhausted herselfin vain inthe attempt to paint the regions of her mother'skinsmen insuch terms as might tempt Hamish to accompany herthither.
She spoke for hoursbut she spoke in vain. She couldextort noanswersave groans and sighs and ejaculationsexpressingthe extremity of despair.
At lengthstarting on her feetand changing the monotonous tonein whichshe had chantedas it werethe praises of the provinceof refugeinto the shortstern language of eager passion"I ama fool"she said"to spend my words upon an idlepoor-spiritedunintelligent boywho crouches like a hound to thelash.
Wait hereand receive your taskmastersand abide yourchastisementat their hands; but do not think your mother's eyeswillbehold it. I could not see it and live. My eyes havelookedoften upon deathbut never upon dishonour. FarewellHamish!
We never meet again."
She dashedfrom the hut like a lapwingand perhaps for themomentactually entertained the purpose which she expressedofpartingwith her son for ever. A fearful sight she would havebeen thatevening to any who might have met her wandering throughthewilderness like a restless spiritand speaking to herself inlanguagewhich will endure no translation. She rambled forhoursseeking rather than shunning the most dangerous paths.Theprecarious track through the morassthe dizzy path along theedge ofthe precipice or by the banks of the gulfing riverwerethe roadswhichfar from avoidingshe sought with eagernessandtraversed with reckless haste. But the courage arising fromdespairwas the means of saving the life which (though deliberatesuicidewas rarely practised in the Highlands) she was perhapsdesirousof terminating. Her step on the verge of the precipicewas firmas that of the wild goat. Her eyein that state ofexcitationwas so keen as to discerneven amid darknesstheperilswhich noon would not have enabled a stranger to avoid.
Elspat'scourse was not directly forwardelse she had soon beenfar fromthe bothy in which she had left her son. It wascircuitousfor that hut was the centre to which her heartstringswerechainedand though she wandered around itshe felt itimpossibleto leave the vicinity. With the first beams ofmorningshe returned to the hut. Awhile she paused at thewattleddooras if ashamed that lingering fondness should havebroughther back to the spot which she had left with the purposeof neverreturning; but there was yet more of fear and anxiety inherhesitationof anxietylest her fair-haired son had sufferedfrom theeffects of her potionof fearlest his enemies hadcome uponhim in the night. She opened the door of the hutgentlyand entered with noiseless step. Exhausted with hissorrow andanxietyand not entirely relieved perhaps from theinfluenceof the powerful opiateHamish Bean again slept thesternsound sleep by which the Indians are said to be overcomeduring theinterval of their torments. His mother was scarcelysure thatshe actually discerned his form on the bedscarcecertainthat her ear caught the sound of his breathing. With athrobbingheartElspat went to the fireplace in the centre ofthe hutwhere slumberedcovered with a piece of turftheglimmeringembers of the firenever extinguished on a Scottishhearthuntil the indwellers leave the mansion for ever.
"Feeblegreishogh" [Greishogha glowing ember.] she saidasshelightedby the help of a matcha splinter of bog pine whichwas toserve the place of a candle"weak greishoghsoon shaltthou beput out for everand may Heaven grant that the life ofElspatMacTavish have no longer duration than thine!"
While shespoke she raised the blazing light towards the bedonwhichstill lay the prostrate limbs of her sonin a posture thatleft itdoubtful whether he slept or swooned. As she advancedtowardshimthe light flashed upon his eyeshe started up in aninstantmade a stride forward with his naked dirk in his handlike a manarmed to meet a mortal enemyand exclaimed"Standoff!on thylifestand off!"
"Itis the word and the action of my husband" answered Elspat;"andI know by his speech and his step the son of MacTavishMhor."
"Mother"said Hamishrelapsing from his tone of desperatefirmnessinto one of melancholy expostulation"ohdearestmotherwherefore have you returned hither?"
"Askwhy the hind comes back to the fawn" said Elspat"why thecat of themountain returns to her lodge and her young. KnowyouHamishthat the heart of the mother only lives in the bosomof thechild."
"Thenwill it soon cease to throb" said Hamish"unless it canbeatwithin a bosom that lies beneath the turf. Motherdo notblame me.
If I weepit is not for myself but for you; for mysufferingswill soon be overbut yoursohwho but Heaven shallset aboundary to them?"
Elspatshuddered and stepped backwardbut almost instantlyresumedher firm and upright position and her dauntless bearing.
"Ithought thou wert a man but even now" she said"and thouartagain achild. Hearken to me yetand let us leave this placetogether.
Have I done thee wrong or injury? if soyet do notavenge itso cruelly. SeeElspat MacTavishwho never kneeledbeforeeven to a priestfalls prostrate before her own sonandcraves hisforgiveness." And at once she threw herself on herkneesbefore the young manseized on his handand kissing it anhundredtimesrepeated as oftenin heart-breaking accentsthemostearnest entreaties for forgiveness. "Pardon" sheexclaimed"pardonfor the sake of your father's ashespardonfor thesake of the pain with which I bore theethe care withwhich Inurtured thee!Hear itHeavenand behold itEarththe motherasks pardon of her childand she is refused!"
It was invain that Hamish endeavoured to stem this tide ofpassionby assuring his motherwith the most solemnasseverationsthat he forgave entirely the fatal deceit whichshe hadpractised upon him.
"Emptywords" she said"idle protestationswhich are but usedto hidethe obduracy of your resentment. Would you have mebelieveyouthen leave the hut this instantand retire from acountrywhich every hour renders more dangerous. Do thisand Imay thinkyou have forgiven me; refuse itand again I call onmoon andstarsheaven and earthto witness the unrelentingresentmentwith which you prosecute your mother for a faultwhichifit be onearose out of love to you."
"Mother"said Hamish"on this subject you move me not. I willfly beforeno man. If Barcaldine should send every Gael that isunder hisbannerhereand in this placewill I abide them; andwhen youbid me flyyou may as well command yonder mountain tobeloosened from its foundations. Had I been sure of the road bywhich theyare coming hitherI had spared them the pains ofseekingme; but I might go by the mountainwhile they perchancecame bythe lake. Here I will abide my fate; nor is there inScotland avoice of power enough to bid me stir from henceandbeobeyed."
"HerethenI also stay" said Elspatrising up and speakingwithassumed composure. "I have seen my husband's deathmyeyelidsshall not grieve to look on the fall of my son. ButMacTavishMhor died as became the bravewith his good sword inhis righthand; my son will perish like the bullock that isdriven tothe shambles by the Saxon owner who had bought him fora price."
"Mother"said the unhappy young man"you have taken my life.To thatyou have a rightfor you gave it; but touch not myhonour!
It came to me from a brave train of ancestorsandshould besullied neither by man's deed nor woman's speech. WhatI shalldoperhaps I myself yet know not; but tempt me nofarther byreproachful wordsyou have already made wounds morethan youcan ever heal."
"Itis wellmy son" said Elspatin reply. "Expectneitherfarthercomplaint nor remonstrance from me; but let us be silentand waitthe chance which Heaven shall send us."
The sunarose on the next morningand found the bothy silent asthegrave. The mother and son had arisenand were engaged eachin theirseparate taskHamish in preparing and cleaning his armswith thegreatest accuracybut with an air of deep dejection.Elspatmore restless in her agony of spiritemployed herself inmakingready the food which the distress of yesterday had inducedthem bothto dispense with for an unusual number of hours. Sheplaced iton the board before her son so soon as it was preparedwith thewords of a Gaelic poet"Without daily foodthehusbandman'sploughshare stands still in the furrow; withoutdailyfoodthe sword of the warrior is too heavy for his hand.Our bodiesare our slavesyet they must be fed if we would havetheirservice. So spake in ancient days the Blind Bard to thewarriorsof Fion."
The youngman made no replybut he fed on what was placed beforehimas ifto gather strength for the scene which he was toundergo.
When his mother saw that he had eaten what sufficedhimsheagain filled the fatal quaighand proffered it as theconclusionof the repast. But he started aside with a convulsivegestureexpressive at once of fear and abhorrence.
"Naymy son" she said"this time surelythou hast no cause offear."
"Urgeme notmother" answered Hamish"or put the leprous toadinto aflagonand I will drink; but from that accursed cupandof thatmind-destroying potionnever will I taste more!"
"Atyour pleasuremy son" said Elspathaughtilyand beganwith muchapparent assiduitythe various domestic tasks whichhad beeninterrupted during the preceding day. Whatever was ather heartall anxiety seemed banished from her looks anddemeanour.
It was but from an over-activity of bustling exertionthat itmight have been perceivedby a close observerthat heractionswere spurred by some internal cause of painfulexcitement;and such a spectatortoomight also have observedhow oftenshe broke off the snatches of songs or tunes which shehummedapparently without knowing what she was doingin orderto cast ahasty glance from the door of the hut. Whatever mightbe in themind of Hamishhis demeanour was directly the reverseof thatadopted by his mother. Having finished the task ofcleaningand preparing his armswhich he arranged within thehuthesat himself down before the door of the bothyandwatchedthe opposite hilllike the fixed sentinel who expectstheapproach of an enemy. Noon found him in the same unchangedpostureand it was an hour after that periodwhen his motherstandingbeside himlaid her hand on his shoulderand saidina toneindifferentas if she had been talking of some friendlyvisit"When dost thou expect them?"
"Theycannot be here till the shadows fall long to the eastward"repliedHamish; "that iseven supposing the nearest partycommandedby Sergeant Allan Breack Cameronhas been commandedhither byexpress from Dunbartonas it is most likely theywill."
"Thenenter beneath your mother's roof once more; partake thelast timeof the food which she has prepared; after thisletthem comeand thou shalt see if thy mother is an uselessencumbrancein the day of strife. Thy handpractised as it iscannotfire these arms so fast as I can load them; nayif it isnecessaryI do not myself fear the flash or the reportand myaim hasbeen held fatal."
"Inthe name of Heavenmothermeddle not with this matter!"saidHamish. "Allan Breack is a wise man and a kind oneandcomes of agood stem. It may behe can promise for our officersthat theywill touch me with no infamous punishment; and if theyoffer meconfinement in the dungeonor death by the muskettothat I maynot object."
"Alasand wilt thou trust to their wordmy foolish child?Rememberthe race of Dermid were ever fair and false; and nosoonershall they have gyves on thy handsthan they will stripthyshoulders for the scourge."
"Saveyour advicemother" said Hamishsternly; "for memymind ismade up."
But thoughhe spoke thusto escape the almost persecutingurgency ofhis motherHamish would have found itat thatmomentimpossible to say upon what course of conduct he had thusfixed.
On one point alone he was determinednamelyto abidehisdestinybe what it mightand not to add to the breach ofhis wordof which he had been involuntarily rendered guiltybyattemptingto escape from punishment. This act of self-devotionheconceived to be due to his own honour and that of hiscountrymen.
Which of his comrades would in future be trustedifhe shouldbe considered as having broken his wordand betrayedtheconfidence of his officers? and whom but Hamish BeanMacTavishwould the Gael accuse for having verified and confirmedthesuspicions which the Saxon General was well known toentertainagainst the good faith of the Highlanders? He wasthereforebent firmly to abide his fate. But whether hisintentionwas to yield himself peaceably into the bands of theparty whoshould come to apprehend himor whether he purposedby a showof resistanceto provoke them to kill him on the spotwas aquestion which he could not himself have answered. Hisdesire tosee Barcaldineand explain the cause of his absence attheappointed timeurged him to the one course; his fear of thedegradingpunishmentand of his mother's bitter upbraidingsstronglyinstigated the latter and the more dangerous purpose.He left itto chance to decide when the crisis should arrive; nordid hetarry long in expectation of the catastrophe.
Eveningapproached; the gigantic shadows of the mountainsstreamedin darkness towards the eastwhile their western peakswere stillglowing with crimson and gold. The road which windsround BenCruachan was fully visible from the door of the bothywhen aparty of five Highland soldierswhose arms glanced in thesunwheeled suddenly into sight from the most distant extremitywhere thehighway is hidden behind the mountain. One of thepartywalked a little before the other fourwho marchedregularlyand in filesaccording to the rules of militarydiscipline.
There was no disputefrom the firelocks which theycarriedand the plaids and bonnets which they worethat theywere aparty of Hamish's regimentunder a non-commissionedofficer;and there could be as little doubt of the purpose oftheirappearance on the banks of Loch Awe.
"Theycome briskly forward"said the widow of MacTavish Mhor;"Iwonder how fast or how slow some of them will return again!But theyare fiveand it is too much odds for a fair field.Step backwithin the hutmy sonand shoot from the loopholebeside thedoor. Two you may bring down ere they quit thehighroadfor the footpaththere will remain but three; and yourfatherwith my aidhas often stood against that number."
HamishBean took the gun which his mother offeredbut did notstir fromthe door of the hut. He was soon visible to the partyon thehighroadas was evident from their increasing their paceto arunthe fileshoweverstill keeping together like coupledgreyhoundsand advancing with great rapidity. In far less timethan wouldhave been accomplished by men less accustomed to themountainsthey had left the highroadtraversed the narrow pathandapproached within pistol-shot of the bothyat the door ofwhichstood Hamishfixed like a statue of stonewith hisfirelockin his bandwhile his motherplaced behind himandalmostdriven to frenzy by the violence of her passionsreproachedhim in the strongest terms which despair could inventfor hiswant of resolution and faintness of heart. Her wordsincreasedthe bitter gall which was arising in the young man'sownspiritas he observed the unfriendly speed with which hislatecomrades were eagerly making towards himlike houndstowardsthe stag when he is at bay. The untamed and angrypassionswhich he inherited from father and motherwere awakenedby thesupposed hostility of those who pursued him; and therestraintunder which these passions had been hitherto held byhis soberjudgment began gradually to give way. The sergeant nowcalled tohim"Hamish Bean MacTavishlay down your arms andsurrender."
"DoYOU standAllan Breack Cameronand command your men tostandorit will be the worse for us all."
"Haltmen" said the sergeantbut continuing himself toadvance.
"Hamishthink what you doand give up your gun; youmay spillbloodbut you cannot escape punishment."
"Thescourgethe scourgemy sonbeware the scourge!"whisperedhis mother.
"TakeheedAllan Breack" said Hamish. "I would not hurtyouwillinglybut I will not be taken unless you can assure meagainstthe Saxon lash."
answered Cameron"you know I cannot. Yet I will do allI can.
I will say I met you on your returnand the punishmentwill belight; but give up your musketCome onmen."
Instantlyhe rushed forwardextending his arm as if to pushaside theyoung man's levelled firelock. Elspat exclaimed"Nowspare notyour father's blood to defend your father's hearth!"Hamishfired his pieceand Cameron dropped dead. All thesethingshappenedit might be saidin the same moment of time.Thesoldiers rushed forward and seized Hamishwhoseemingpetrifiedwith what he had doneoffered not the leastresistance.
Not so his motherwhoseeing the men about to puthandcuffson her sonthrew herself on the soldiers with suchfurythatit required two of them to hold herwhile the restsecuredthe prisoner.
"Areyou not an accursed creature" said one of the men toHamish"to have slain your best friendwho was contrivingduring thewhole marchhow he could find some way of getting youoffwithout punishment for your desertion?"
"Doyou hear THATmother?" said Hamishturning himself asmuchtowardsher as his bonds would permit; but the mother heardnothingand saw nothing. She had fainted on the floor of herhut.
Without waiting for her recoverythe party almostimmediatelybegan their homeward march towards Dunbartonleadingalong withthem their prisoner. They thought it necessaryhoweverto stay for a little space at the village of Dalmallyfrom whichthey despatched a party of the inhabitants to bringaway thebody of their unfortunate leaderwhile they themselvesrepairedto a magistrateto state what had happenedand requirehisinstructions as to the farther course to be pursued. Thecrimebeing of a military characterthey were instructed tomarch theprisoner to Dunbarton without delay.
The swoonof the mother of Hamish lasted for a length of timethe longerperhaps that her constitutionstrong as it wasmusthave beenmuch exhausted by her previous agitation of three days'endurance.
She was roused from her stupor at length by femalevoiceswhich cried the coronachor lament for the deadwithclappingof hands and loud exclamations; while the melancholynote of alamentappropriate to the clan Cameronplayed on thebagpipewas heard from time to time.
Elspatstarted up like one awakened from the deadand withoutanyaccurate recollection of the scene which had passed beforeher eyes.
There were females in the hut who were swathing thecorpse inits bloody plaid before carrying it from the fatalspot.
"Women" she saidstarting up and interrupting theirchant atonce and their labour"Tell mewomenwhy sing you thedirge ofMacDhonuil Dhu in the house of MacTavish Mhor?"
"She-wolfbe silent with thine ill-omened yell" answered one ofthefemalesa relation of the deceased"and let us do our dutyto ourbeloved kinsman. There shall never be coronach criedordirgeplayedfor thee or thy bloody wolf-burd. [Wolf-broodthat iswolf-cub.] The ravens shall eat him from the gibbetandthe foxesand wild-cats shall tear thy corpse upon the hill.Cursed behe that would sain [Bless.] your bonesor add a stoneto yourcairn!"
"Daughterof a foolish mother" answered the widow of MacTavishMhor"know that the gibbet with which you threaten us is noportion ofour inheritance. For thirty years the Black Tree ofthe Lawwhose apples are dead men's bodieshungered after thebelovedhusband of my heart; but he died like a brave manwiththe swordin his handand defrauded it of its hopes and itsfruit."
"Soshall it not be with thy childbloody sorceress" repliedthe femalemournerwhose passions were as violent as those ofElspatherself. "The ravens shall tear his fair hair to linetheirnestsbefore the sun sinks beneath the Treshornishislands."
Thesewords recalled to Elspat's mind the whole history of thelast threedreadful days. At first she stood fixedas if theextremityof distress had converted her into stone; but in aminutethe pride and violence of her temperoutbraved as shethoughtherself on her own thresholdenabled her to reply"Yesinsultinghagmy fair-haired boy may diebut it will not bewith awhite hand. It has been dyed in the blood of his enemyin thebest blood of a Cameronremember that; and when you layyour deadin his gravelet it be his best epitaph that he waskilled byHamish Bean for essaying to lay hands on the son ofMacTavishMhor on his own threshold. Farewellthe shame ofdefeatlossand slaughter remain with the clan that has enduredit!"
Therelative of the slaughtered Cameron raised her voice inreply; butElspatdisdaining to continue the objurgationorperhapsfeeling her grief likely to overmaster her power ofexpressingher resentmenthad left the hutand was walkingforth inthe bright moonshine.
Thefemales who were arranging the corpse of the slaughtered manhurriedfrom their melancholy labour to look after her tallfigure asit glided away among the cliffs. "I am glad she isgone"said one of the younger persons who assisted. "I would assoon dressa corpse when the great fiend himselfGod sain us!stoodvisibly before usas when Elspat of the Tree is amongstus.
Ayayeven overmuch intercourse hath she had with theenemy inher day."
"Sillywoman" answered the female who had maintained thedialoguewith the departed Elspat"thinkest thou that there is aworsefiend on earthor beneath itthan the pride and fury ofanoffended womanlike yonder bloody-minded hag? Know thatblood hasbeen as familiar to her as the dew to the mountaindaisy.Many and many a brave man has she caused to breathe theirlast forlittle wrong they had done to her or theirs. But herhough-sinewsare cutnow that her wolf-burd mustlike amurdereras he ismake a murderer's end."
Whilst thewomen thus discoursed togetheras they watched thecorpse ofAllan Breack Cameronthe unhappy cause of his deathpursuedher lonely way across the mountain. While she remainedwithinsight of the bothyshe put a strong constraint onherselfthat by no alteration of pace or gesture she mightafford toher enemies the triumph of calculating the excess ofher mentalagitationnaydespair. She stalkedthereforewitha slowrather than a swift stepandholding herself uprightseemed atonce to endure with firmness that woe which was passedand biddefiance to that which was about to come. But when shewas beyondthe sight of those who remained in the hutshe couldno longersuppress the extremity of her agitation. Drawing hermantlewildly round hershe stopped at the first knollandclimbingto its summitextended her arms up to the bright moonas ifaccusing heaven and earth for her misfortunesand utteredscream onscreamlike those of an eagle whose nest has beenplunderedof her brood. Awhile she vented her grief in theseinarticulatecriesthen rushed on her way with a hasty andunequalstepin the vain hope of overtaking the party which wasconveyingher son a prisoner to Dunbarton. But her strengthsuperhumanas it seemedfailed her in the trial; nor was itpossiblefor herwith her utmost effortsto accomplish herpurpose.
Yet shepressed onwardwith all the speed which her exhaustedframecould exert. When food became indispensableshe enteredthe firstcottage. "Give me to eat" she said. "I amthe widowofMacTavish MhorI am the mother of Hamish MacTavish Beangive me toeatthat I may once more see my fair-haired son."Her demandwas never refusedthough granted in many cases with akind ofstruggle between compassion and aversion in some of thoseto whomshe appliedwhich was in others qualified by fear. Theshare shehad had in occasioning the death of Allan BreackCameronwhich must probably involve that of her own sonwas notaccuratelyknown; butfrom a knowledge of her violent passionsand formerhabits of lifeno one doubted that in one way orother shehad been the cause of the catastropheand Hamish Beanwasconsideredin the slaughter which he had committedratheras theinstrument than as the accomplice of his mother.
Thisgeneral opinion of his countrymen was of little service totheunfortunate Hamish. As his captainGreen Colinunderstoodthemanners and habits of his countryhe had no difficulty incollectingfrom Hamish the particulars accompanying his supposeddesertionand the subsequent death of the non-commissionedofficer.
He felt the utmost compassion for a youthwho had thusfallen avictim to the extravagant and fatal fondness of aparent.
But he had no excuse to plead which could rescue hisunhappyrecruit from the doom which military discipline and theaward of acourt-martial denounced against him for the crime hehadcommitted.
No timehad been lost in their proceedingsand as little wasinterposedbetwixt sentence and execution. General haddeterminedto make a severe example of the first deserter whoshouldfall into his powerand here was one who had defendedhimself bymain forceand slain in the affray the officer sentto takehim into custody. A fitter subject for punishment couldnot haveoccurredand Hamish was sentenced to immediateexecution.
All which the interference of his captain in hisfavourcould procure was that he should die a soldier's death;for therehad been a purpose of executing him upon the gibbet.
The worthyclergyman of Glenorquhy chanced to be at Dunbartoninattendanceupon some church courtsat the time of thiscatastrophe.
He visited his unfortunate parishioner in hisdungeonfound him ignorant indeedbut not obstinateand theanswerswhich he received from himwhen conversing on religioustopicswere such as induced him doubly to regret that a mindnaturallypure and noble should have remained unhappily so wildanduncultivated.
When heascertained the real character and disposition of theyoung manthe worthy pastor made deep and painful reflections onhis ownshyness and timiditywhicharising out of the evil famethatattached to the lineage of Hamishhad restrained him fromcharitablyendeavouring to bring this strayed sheep within thegreatfold. While the good minister blamed his cowardice intimespastwhich had deterred him from risking his persontosaveperhapsan immortal soulhe resolved no longer to begovernedby such timid counselsbut to endeavourby applicationto hisofficersto obtain a reprieveat leastif not a pardonfor thecriminalin whom he felt so unusually interestedatonce fromhis docility of temper and his generosity ofdisposition.
Accordinglythe divine sought out Captain Campbell at thebarrackswithin the garrison. There was a gloomy melancholy onthe browof Green Colinwhich was not lessenedbut increasedwhen theclergyman stated his namequalityand errand. "Youcannottell me better of the young man than I am disposed tobelieve"answered the Highland officer; "you cannot ask me to domore inhis behalf than I am of myself inclinedand have alreadyendeavouredto do. But it is all in vain. General is half aLowlanderhalf an Englishman. He has no idea of the high andenthusiasticcharacter which in these mountains often bringsexaltedvirtues in contact with great crimeswhichhoweverarelessoffences of the heart than errors of the understanding. Ihave goneso far as to tell himthat in this young man he wasputting todeath the best and the bravest of my companywherealloralmost allare good and brave. I explained to him bywhatstrange delusion the culprit's apparent desertion wasoccasionedand how little his heart was accessory to the crimewhich hishand unhappily committed. His answer was'These areHighlandvisionsCaptain Campbellas unsatisfactory and vain asthose ofthe second sight. An act of gross desertion mayin anycasebepalliated under the plea of intoxication; the murder ofan officermay be as easily coloured over with that of temporaryinsanity.
The example must be madeand if it has fallen on amanotherwise a good recruitit will have the greater effect.'Such beingthe general's unalterable purpose" continued CaptainCampbellwith a sigh"be it your carereverend sirthat yourpenitentprepare by break of day tomorrow for that great changewhich weshall all one day be subjected to."
"Andfor which" said the clergyman"may God prepare us allasI in myduty will not be wanting to this poor youth!"
Nextmorningas the very earliest beams of sunrise saluted thegreytowers which crown the summit of that singular andtremendousrockthe soldiers of the new Highland regimentappearedon the paradewithin the Castle of Dunbartonandhavingfallen into orderbegan to move downward by steepstaircasesand narrow passages towards the external barrier-gatewhich is at the very bottom of the rock. The wild wailingsof thepibroch were heard at timesinterchanged with the drumsand fifeswhich beat the Dead March.
Theunhappy criminal's fate did notat firstexcite thatgeneralsympathy in the regiment which would probably have arisenhad hebeen executed for desertion alone. The slaughter of theunfortunateAllan Breack had given a different colour to Hamish'soffence;for the deceased was much belovedand besides belongedto anumerous and powerful clanof whom there were many in theranks.
The unfortunate criminalon the contrarywas littleknown toand scarcely connected withany of his regimentalcompanions.
His father had beenindeeddistinguished for hisstrengthand manhood; but he was of a broken clanas those nameswerecalled who had no chief to lead them to battle.
It wouldhave been almost impossible in another case to haveturned outof the ranks of the regiment the party necessary forexecutionof the sentence; but the six individuals selected forthatpurposewere friends of the deceaseddescendedlike himfrom therace of MacDhonuil Dhu; and while they prepared for thedismaltask which their duty imposedit was not without a sternfeeling ofgratified revenge. The leading company of theregimentbegan now to defile from the barrier-gateand wasfollowedby the otherseach successively moving and haltingaccordingto the orders of the adjutantso as to form threesides ofan oblong squarewith the ranks faced inwards. Thefourthorblank side of the squarewas closed up by the hugeand loftyprecipice on which the Castle rises. About the centreof theprocessionbare-headeddisarmedand with his handsboundcame the unfortunate victim of military law. He wasdeadlypalebut his step was firm and his eye as bright as ever.Theclergyman walked by his side; the coffinwhich was toreceivehis mortal remainswas borne before him. The looks ofhiscomrades were stillcomposedand solemn. They felt for theyouthwhose handsome form and manly yet submissive deportmenthadassoon as he was distinctly visible to themsoftened thehearts ofmanyeven of some who had been actuated by vindictivefeelings.
The coffindestined for the yet living body of Hamish Bean wasplaced atthe bottom of the hollow squareabout two yardsdistantfrom the foot of the precipicewhich rises in that placeas steepas a stone wall to the height of three or four hundredfeet.
Thither the prisoner was also ledthe clergyman stillcontinuingby his sidepouring forth exhortations of courage andconsolationto which the youth appeared to listen withrespectfuldevotion. With slowandit seemedalmost unwillingstepsthefiring party entered the squareand were drawn upfacing theprisonerabout ten yards distant. The clergyman wasnow aboutto retire. "Thinkmy son" he said"on what Ihavetold youand let your hope be rested on the anchor which I havegiven.
You will then exchange a short and miserable existencehere for alife in which you will experience neither sorrow norpain.
Is there aught else which you can entrust to me to executefor you?"
The youthlooked at his sleeve buttons. They were of goldbootyperhapswhich his father had taken from some English officerduring thecivil wars. The clergyman disengaged them from hissleeves.
"Mymother!" he said with some effort"give them to mypoormother!
See hergood fatherand teach her what she shouldthink ofall this. Tell her Hamish Bean is more glad to die thanever hewas to rest after the longest day's hunting. Farewellsirfarewell!"
The goodman could scarce retire from the fatal spot. An officeraffordedhim the support of his arm. At his last look towardsHamishhebeheld him alive and kneeling on the coffin; the fewthat werearound him had all withdrawn. The fatal word wasgiventherock rung sharp to the sound of the dischargeandHamishfalling forward with a groandiedit may be supposedwithoutalmost a sense of the passing agony.
Ten ortwelve of his own company then came forwardand laid withsolemnreverence the remains of their comrade in the coffinwhile theDead March was again struck upand the severalcompaniesmarching in single filespassed the coffin one byoneinorder that all might receive from the awful spectacle thewarningwhich it was peculiarly intended to afford. The regimentwas thenmarched off the groundand reascended the ancientclifftheir musicas usual on such occasionsstriking livelystrainsas if sorrowor even deep thoughtshould as short awhile aspossible be the tenant of the soldier's bosom.
At thesame time the small partywhich we before mentionedborethe bierof the ill-fated Hamish to his humble gravein a cornerof thechurchyard of Dunbartonusually assigned to criminals.Hereamong the dust of the guiltylies a youthwhose namehadhesurvived the ruin of the fatal events by which he was hurriedintocrimemight have adorned the annals of the brave.
Theminister of Glenorquhy left Dunbarton immediately after hehadwitnessed the last scene of this melancholy catastrophe. Hisreasonacquiesced in the justice of the sentencewhich requiredblood forbloodand he acknowledged that the vindictivecharacterof his countrymen required to be powerfully restrainedby thestrong curb of social law. But still he mourned over theindividualvictim. Who may arraign the bolt of Heaven when itburstsamong the sons of the forest? yet who can refrain frommourningwhen it selects for the object of its blighting aim thefair stemof a young oakthat promised to be the pride of thedell inwhich it flourished? Musing on these melancholy eventsnoon foundhim engaged in the mountain passesby which he was toreturn tohis still distant home.
Confidentin his knowledge of the countrythe clergyman had leftthe mainroadto seek one of those shorter pathswhich are onlyused bypedestriansor by menlike the ministermounted on thesmallbutsure-footedhardyand sagacious horses of thecountry.
The place which he now traversed was in itself gloomyanddesolateand tradition had added to it the terror ofsuperstitionby affirming it was haunted by an evil spirittermedCLOGHT-DEARGthat isRedmantlewho at all timesbutespeciallyat noon and at midnighttraversed the glenin enmityboth toman and the inferior creationdid such evil as her powerwaspermitted to extend toand afflicted with ghastly terrorsthose whomshe had not license otherwise to hurt.
Theminister of Glenorquhy had set his face in opposition to manyof thesesuperstitionswhich he justly thought were derived fromthe darkages of Poperyperhaps even from those of paganismandunfit tobe entertained or believed by the Christians of anenlightenedage. Some of his more attached parishionersconsideredhim as too rash in opposing the ancient faith of theirfathers;and though they honoured the moral intrepidity of theirpastorthey could not avoid entertaining and expressing fearsthat hewould one day fall a victim to his temerityand be tornto piecesin the glen of the Cloght-deargor some of those otherhauntedwildswhich he appeared rather to have a pride andpleasurein traversing aloneon the days and hours when thewickedspirits were supposed to have especial power over man andbeast.
Theselegends came across the mind of the clergymanandsolitaryas he wasa melancholy smile shaded his cheekas hethought ofthe inconsistency of human natureand reflected howmany bravemenwhom the yell of the pibroch would have sentheadlongagainst fixed bayonetsas the wild bull rushes on hisenemymight have yet feared to encounter those visionaryterrorswhich he himselfa man of peaceand in ordinary perilsno wayremarkable for the firmness of his nerveswas now riskingwithouthesitation.
As helooked around the scene of desolationhe could not butacknowledgein his own mindthat it was not ill chosen for thehaunt ofthose spiritswhich are said to delight in solitude anddesolation.
The glen was so steep and narrow that there was butjust roomfor the meridian sun to dart a few scattered rays uponthe gloomyand precarious stream which stole through itsrecessesfor the most part in silencebut occasionallymurmuringsullenly against the rocks and large stones whichseemeddetermined to bar its further progress. In winteror inthe rainyseasonthis small stream was a foaming torrent of themostformidable magnitudeand it was at such periods that it hadtorn openand laid bare the broad-faced and huge fragments ofrockwhichat the season of which we speakhid its course fromthe eyeand seemed disposed totally to interrupt its course."Undoubtedly"thought the clergyman"this mountain rivuletsuddenlyswelled by a waterspout or thunderstormhas often beenthe causeof those accidents whichhappening in the glen calledby hernamehave been ascribed to the agency of the Cloght-dearg."
Just asthis idea crossed his mindhe heard a female voiceexclaimin a wild and thrilling accent"Michael Tyrie! MichaelTyrie!"
He looked round in astonishmentand not without somefear.
It seemed for an instantas if the evil beingwhoseexistencehe had disownedwas about to appear for the punishmentof hisincredulity. This alarm did not hold him more than aninstantnor did it prevent his replying in a firm voice"Whocalls?
and where are you?"
"Onewho journeys in wretchednessbetween life and death"answeredthe voice; and the speakera tall femaleappeared fromamong thefragments of rocks which had concealed her from view.
As sheapproached more closelyher mantle of bright tartaninwhich thered colour much predominatedher staturethe longstridewith which she advancedand the writhen features and wildeyes whichwere visible from under her curchwould have made hernoinadequate representative of the spirit which gave name to thevalley.
But Mr. Tyrie instantly knew her as the Woman of theTreethewidow of MacTavish Mhorthe now childless mother ofHamishBean. I am not sure whether the minister would not haveenduredthe visitation of the Cloght-dearg herselfrather thanthe shockof Elspat's presenceconsidering her crime and hermisery.
He drew up his horse instinctivelyand stoodendeavouringto collect his ideaswhile a few paces brought herup to hishorse's head.
"MichaelTyrie" said she"the foolish women of the Clachan [Thevillage;literallythe stones.] hold thee as a godbe one tomeandsay that my son lives. Say thisand I too will be ofthyworship; I will bend my knees on the seventh day in thy houseofworshipand thy God shall be my God."
"Unhappywoman" replied the clergyman"man forms not pactionswith hisMaker as with a creature of clay like himself. Thinkestthou tochaffer with Himwho formed the earthand spread outtheheavensor that thou canst offer aught of homage or devotionthat canbe worth acceptance in his eyes? He hath askedobediencenot sacrifice; patience under the trials with which Heafflictsusinstead of vain bribessuch as man offers to hischangefulbrother of claythat he may be moved from hispurpose."
"Besilentpriest!" answered the desperate woman; "speaknot tome thewords of thy white book. Elspat's kindred were of thosewhocrossed themselves and knelt when the sacring bell was rungand sheknows that atonement can be made on the altar for deedsdone inthe field. Elspat had once flocks and herdsgoats uponthecliffsand cattle in the strath. She wore gold around herneck andon her hairthick twistsas those worn by the heroesof old.
All these would she have resigned to the priestallthese; andif he wished for the ornaments of a gentle ladyorthesporran of a high chiefthough they had been great asMacallumMhor himselfMacTavish Mhor would have procured themif Elspathad promised them. Elspat is now poorand has nothingto give.
But the Black Abbot of Inchaffray would have bidden herscourgeher shouldersand macerate her feet by pilgrimage; andhe wouldhave granted his pardon to her when he saw that herblood hadflowedand that her flesh had been torn. These werethepriests who had indeed power even with the most powerful;theythreatened the great men of the earth with the word of theirmouththesentence of their bookthe blaze of their torchthesound oftheir sacring bell. The mighty bent to their willandunloosedat the word of the priests those whom they had bound intheirwrathand set at libertyunharmedhim whom they hadsentencedto deathand for whose blood they had thirsted. Thesewere apowerful raceand might well ask the poor to kneelsincetheirpower could humble the proud. But you!against whom areye strongbut against women who have been guilty of follyandmen whonever wore sword? The priests of old were like thewintertorrent which fills this hollow valleyand rolls thesemassiverocks against each other as easily as the boy plays withthe ballwhich he casts before him. But you!you do butresemblethe summer-stricken streamwhich is turned aside by therushesand stemmed by a bush of sedges. Woe worth youforthere isno help in you!"
Theclergyman was at no loss to conceive that Elspat had lost theRomanCatholic faith without gaining any otherand that shestillretained a vague and confused idea of the composition withthepriesthoodby confessionalmsand penanceand of theirextensivepowerwhichaccording to her notionwas adequateifdulypropitiatedeven to effecting her son's safety.Compassionatingher situationand allowing for her errors andignorancehe answered her with mildness.
"Alasunhappy woman! Would to God I could convince thee aseasilywhere thou oughtest to seekand art sure to findconsolationas I can assure you with a single wordthat wereRome andall her priesthood once more in the plenitude of theirpowerthey could notfor largesse or penanceafford to thymisery anatom of aid or comfortElspat MacTavishI grieve totell youthe news."
"Iknow them without thy speech" said the unhappy woman. "Myson isdoomed to die."
"Elspat"resumed the clergyman"he WAS doomedand the sentencehas beenexecuted."
Thehapless mother threw her eyes up to heavenand uttered ashriek sounlike the voice of a human beingthat the eagle whichsoared inmiddle air answered it as she would have done the callof hermate.
"Itis impossible!" she exclaimed"it is impossible!
Men donotcondemn and kill on the same day! Thou art deceiving me.The peoplecall thee holyhast thou the heart to tell a mothershe hasmurdered her only child?"
"Godknows" said the priestthe tears falling fast from hiseyes"that were it in my powerI would gladly tell bettertidings.
But these which I bear are as certain as they arefatal.
My own ears heard the death-shotmy own eyes beheld thyson'sdeaththy son's funeral. My tongue bears witness to whatmy earsheard and my eyes saw."
Thewretched female clasped her bands close togetherand heldthem uptowards heaven like a sibyl announcing war anddesolationwhilein impotent yet frightful rageshe pouredforth atide of the deepest imprecations. "Base Saxon churl!"sheexclaimed"vile hypocritical juggler! May the eyes thatlookedtamely on the death of my fair-haired boy be melted intheirsockets with ceaseless tearsshed for those that arenearestand most dear to thee! May the ears that heard hisdeath-knellbe dead hereafter to all other sounds save thescreech ofthe ravenand the hissing of the adder! May thetonguethat tells me of his death and of my own crimebewitheredin thy mouthor betterwhen thou wouldst pray with thypeoplemay the Evil One guide itand give voice to blasphemiesinstead ofblessingsuntil men shall fly in terror from thypresenceand the thunder of heaven be launched against thy headand stopfor ever thy cursing and accursed voice! Begonewiththismalison! Elspat will nevernever again bestow so manywords uponliving man."
She kepther word. From that day the world was to her awildernessin which she remained without thoughtcareorinterestabsorbed in her own griefindifferent to every thingelse.
With hermode of lifeor rather of existencethe reader isalready asfar acquainted as I have the power of making him. Ofher deathI can tell him nothing. It is supposed to havehappenedseveral years after she had attracted the attention ofmyexcellent friend Mrs. Bethune Baliol. Her benevolencewhichwas neversatisfied with dropping a sentimental tearwhen therewas roomfor the operation of effective charityinduced her tomakevarious attempts to alleviate the condition of this mostwretchedwoman. But all her exertions could only render Elspat'smeans ofsubsistence less precariousa circumstance whichthoughgenerally interesting even to the most wretched outcastsseemed toher a matter of total indifference. Every attempt toplace anyperson in her hut to take charge of her miscarriedthroughthe extreme resentment with which she regarded allintrusionon her solitudeor by the timidity of those who hadbeenpitched upon to be inmates with the terrible Woman of theTree.
At lengthwhen Elspat became totally unable (inappearanceat least) to turn herself on the wretched settle whichserved herfor a couchthe humanity of Mr. Tyrie's successorsent twowomen to attend upon the last moments of the solitarywhichcould notit was judgedbe far distantand to avert thepossibilitythat she might perish for want of assistance or foodbefore shesunk under the effects of extreme age or mortalmalady.
It was ona November eveningthat the two women appointed forthismelancholy purpose arrived at the miserable cottage which wehavealready described. Its wretched inmate lay stretched uponthe bedand seemed almost already a lifeless corpsesave forthewandering of the fierce dark eyeswhich rolled in theirsockets ina manner terrible to look uponand seemed to watchwithsurprise and indignation the motions of the strangersaspersonswhose presence was alike unexpected and unwelcome. Theywerefrightened at her looks; butassured in each other'scompanythey kindled a firelighted a candleprepared foodand madeother arrangements for the discharge of the dutyassignedthem.
Theassistants agreed they should watch the bedside of the sickperson byturns; butabout midnightovercome by fatigue(forthey hadwalked far that morning)both of them fell fast asleep.When theyawokewhich was not till after the interval of somehoursthehut was emptyand the patient gone. They rose interrorand went to the door of the cottagewhich was latched asit hadbeen at night. They looked out into the darknessandcalledupon their charge by her name. The night-raven screamedfrom theold oak-treethe fox howled on the hillthe hoarsewaterfallreplied with its echoes; but there was no human answer.Theterrified women did not dare to make further search tillmorningshould appear; for the sudden disappearance of a creatureso frailas Elspattogether with the wild tenor of her historyintimidatedthem from stirring from the hut. They remainedthereforein dreadful terrorsometimes thinking they heard hervoicewithoutand at other timesthat sounds of a differentdescriptionwere mingled with the mournful sigh of the night-breezeorthe dashing of the cascade. Sometimestoothe latchrattledas if some frail and impotent hand were in vainattemptingto lift itand ever and anon they expected theentranceof their terrible patientanimated by supernaturalstrengthand in the companyperhapsof some being moredreadfulthan herself. Morning came at length. They soughtbrakerockand thicket in vain. Two hours after daylighttheministerhimself appearedandon the report of the watcherscaused thecountry to be alarmedand a general and exact searchto be madethrough the whole neighbourhood of the cottage and theoak-tree.
But it was all in vain. Elspat MacTavish was neverfoundwhether dead or alive; nor could there ever be traced theslightestcircumstance to indicate her fate.
Theneighbourhood was divided concerning the cause of herdisappearance.
The credulous thought that the evil spiritunderwhoseinfluence she seemed to have actedhad carried her away inthe body;and there are many who are still unwillingat untimelyhourstopass the oak-treebeneath whichas they allegeshemay stillbe seen seated according to her wont. Others lesssuperstitious
supposedthat had it been possible to search thegulf ofthe Corri Dhuthe profound deeps of the lakeor thewhelmingeddies of the riverthe remains of Elspat MacTavishmight havebeen discoveredas nothing was more naturalconsideringher state of body and mindthan that she should havefallen inby accidentor precipitated herself intentionallyinto oneor other of those places of sure destruction. Theclergymanentertained an opinion of his own. He thought thatimpatientof the watch which was placed over herthis unhappywoman'sinstinct had taught heras it directs various domesticanimalsto withdraw herself from the sight of her own racethatthedeath-struggle might take place in some secret denwhereinallprobabilityher mortal relics would never meet the eyes ofmortals.
This species of instinctive feeling seemed to him of atenor withthe whole course of her unhappy lifeand most likelytoinfluence her when it drew to a conclusion.˙End of THEHIGHLAND WIDOW.
MR.CROFTANGRY INTRODUCES ANOTHER TALE.
Togetherboth on the high lawns appeared. Underthe opening eyelids of the morn Theydrove afield.
ELEGY ON LYCIDAS.
I havesometimes wondered why all the favourite occupations andpastimesof mankind go to the disturbance of that happy state oftranquillitythat OTIUMas Horace terms itwhich he says isthe objectof all men's prayerswhether preferred from sea orland; andthat the undisturbed reposeof which we are sotenaciouswhen duty or necessity compels us to abandon itispreciselywhat we long to exchange for a state of excitationassoon as wemay prolong it at our own pleasure. Brieflyyou haveonly tosay to a man"Remain at rest" and you instantly inspirethe loveof labour. The sportsman toils like his gamekeeperthemaster ofthe pack takes as severe exercise as his whipper-inthestatesman or politician drudges more than the professionallawyer;andto come to my own casethe volunteer authorsubjectshimself to the risk of painful criticismand theassuredcertainty of mental and manual labourjust as completelyas hisneedy brotherwhose necessities compel him to assume thepen.
Thesereflections have been suggested by an annunciation on thepart ofJanet"that the little Gillie-whitefoot was come fromtheprinting-office."
"Gillie-blackfootyou should call himJanet" was my response"forhe is neither more nor less than an imp of the devilcometo tormentme for COPYfor so the printers call a supply ofmanuscriptfor the press."
"NowCot forgie your honour" said Janet; "for it is no likeyourainsell to give such names to a faitherless bairn."
"Ihave got nothing else to give himJanet; he must wait alittle."
"ThenI have got some breakfast to give the bit gillie" saidJanet;"and he can wait by the fireside in the kitchentill yourhonour'sready; and cood enough for the like of himif he was towait yourhonour's pleasure all day."
"ButJanet" said I to my little active superintendenton herreturn tothe parlourafter having made her hospitablearrangements"I begin to find this writing our Chronicles israthermore tiresome than I expectedfor here comes this littlefellow toask for manuscriptthat isfor something to printand I havegot none to give him."
"Yourhonour can be at nae loss. I have seen you write fast andfastenough; and for subjectsyou have the whole Highlands towriteaboutand I am sure you know a hundred tales better thanthat aboutHamish MacTavishfor it was but about a young cateranand anauld carlinwhen all's done; and if they had burned therudasquean for a witchI am thinkingmay be they would nothave tynedtheir coalsand her to gar her ne'er-do-weel sonshoot agentleman Cameron! I am third cousin to the Cameronsmysel'myblood warms to them. And if you want to write aboutdesertersI am sure there were deserters enough on the top ofArthur'sSeatwhen the MacRaas broke outand on that woeful daybesideLeith Pierohonari!"
Here Janetbegan to weepand to wipe her eyes with her apron.For mypartthe idea I wanted was suppliedbut I hesitated tomake useof it. Topicslike timesare apt to become common byfrequentuse. It is only an ass like Justice Shallowwho wouldpitch uponthe over-scutched tuneswhich the carmen whistledand try topass them off as his FANCIES and his GOOD-NIGHTS.NowtheHighlandsthough formerly a rich mine for originalmatterareas my friend Mrs. Bethune Baliol warned mein somedegreeworn out by the incessant labour of modern romancers andnovelistswhofinding in those remote regions primitive habitsandmannershave vainly imagined that the public can never tireof them;and so kilted Highlanders are to be found as frequentlyand nearlyof as genuine descenton the shelves of a circulatinglibraryas at a Caledonian ball. Much might have been made atan earliertime out of the history of a Highland regimentandthesingular revolution of ideas which must have taken place inthe mindsof those who composed itwhen exchanging their nativehills forthe battle-fields of the Continentand their simpleandsometimes indolent domestic habits for the regular exertionsdemandedby modern discipline. But the market is forestalled.There isMrs. Grant of Lagganhas drawn the mannerscustomsandsuperstitions of the mountains in their naturalunsophisticatedstate; [Letters from the Mountains3 vols.Essays onthe Superstitions of the HighlandersThe Highlandersand otherPoemsetc.] and my friendGeneral Stewart of Garth[Thegallant and amiable author of the History of the HighlandRegimentsin whose glorious services his own share had beengreatwent out Governor of St Lucia in 1828and died in thatisland onthe 18th of December 1829no man more regrettedorperhaps bya wider circle of friends and acquaintance.] ingiving thereal history of the Highland regimentshas renderedanyattempt to fill up the sketch with fancy-colouring extremelyrash andprecarious. Yet Itoohave still a lingering fancy toadd astone to the cairn; and without calling in imagination toaid theimpressions of juvenile recollectionI may just attemptto embodyone or two scenes illustrative of the Highlandcharacterand which belong peculiarly to the Chronicles of theCanongateto the grey-headed eld of whom they are as familiar astoChrystal Croftangry. Yet I will not go back to the days ofclanshipand claymores. Have at yougentle readerwith a taleof TwoDrovers. An oyster may be crossed in lovesays thegentleTilburinaand a drover may be touched on a point ofhonoursays the Chronicler of the Canongate.
It was theday after Doune Fair when my story commences. It hadbeen abrisk market. Several dealers had attended from thenorthernand midland counties in Englandand English money hadflown somerrily about as to gladden the hearts of the Highlandfarmers.
Many large droves were about to set off for Englandunder theprotection of their ownersor of the topsmen whom theyemployedin the tediouslaboriousand responsible office ofdrivingthe cattle for many hundred milesfrom the market wherethey hadbeen purchasedto the fields or farmyards where theywere to befattened for the shambles.
TheHighlanders in particular are masters of this difficult tradeofdrivingwhich seems to suit them as well as the trade of war.It affordsexercise for all their habits of patient endurance andactiveexertion. They are required to know perfectly the drove-roadswhich lie over the wildest tracts of the countryand toavoid asmuch as possible the highwayswhich distress the feetof thebullocksand the turnpikeswhich annoy the spirit of thedrover;whereas on the broad green or grey track which leadsacross thepathless moorthe herd not only move at ease andwithouttaxationbutif they mind their businessmay pick up amouthfulof food by the way. At night the drovers usually sleepalong withtheir cattlelet the weather be what it will; andmany ofthese hardy men do not once rest under a roof during ajourney onfoot from Lochaber to Lincolnshire. They are paidveryhighlyfor the trust reposed is of the last importanceasit dependson their prudencevigilanceand honesty whether thecattlereach the final market in good orderand afford a profitto thegrazier. But as they maintain themselves at their ownexpensethey are especially economical in that particular. Atthe periodwe speak ofa Highland drover was victualled for hislong andtoilsome journey with a few handfulls of oatmeal and twoor threeonionsrenewed from time to timeand a ram's hornfilledwith whiskywhich he used regularlybut sparinglyeverynight andmorning. His dirkor SKENE-DHU(that isblack-knife)soworn as to be concealed beneath the armor by thefolds ofthe plaidwas his only weaponexcepting the cudgelwith whichhe directed the movements of the cattle. A Highlanderwas neverso happy as on these occasions. There was a variety inthe wholejourneywhich exercised the Celt's natural curiosityand loveof motion. There were the constant change of place andscenethepetty adventures incidental to the trafficand theintercoursewith the various farmersgraziersand tradersintermingledwith occasional merry-makingsnot the lessacceptableto Donald that they were void of expense. And therewas theconsciousness of superior skill; for the Highlanderachildamongst flocksis a prince amongst herdsand his naturalhabitsinduce him to disdain the shepherd's slothful lifesothat hefeels himself nowhere more at home than when following agallantdrove of his country cattle in the character of theirguardian.
Of thenumber who left Doune in the morningand with the purposewe havedescribednot a GLUNAMIE of them all cocked his bonnetmorebrisklyor gartered his tartan hose under knee over a pairof morepromising SPIOGS(legs)than did Robin Oig M'Combichcalledfamiliarly Robin Oigthat is youngor the LesserRobin.Thoughsmall of statureas the epithet Oig impliesand not verystronglylimbedhe was as light and alert as one of the deer ofhismountains. He had an elasticity of step whichin the courseof a longmarchmade many a stout fellow envy him; and themanner inwhich he busked his plaid and adjusted his bonnetargued aconsciousness that so smart a John Highlandman ashimselfwould not pass unnoticed among the Lowland lasses. Theruddycheekred lipsand white teeth set off a countenancewhich hadgained by exposure to the weather a healthful and hardyratherthan a rugged hue. If Robin Oig did not laughor evensmilefrequentlyasindeedis not the practice among hiscountrymenhisbright eyes usually gleamed from under his bonnetwith anexpression of cheerfulness ready to be turned into mirth.
Thedeparture of Robin Oig was an incident in the little towninand nearwhich he had many friendsmale and female. He was atoppingperson in his waytransacted considerable business onhis ownbehalfand was entrusted by the best farmers in theHighlandsin preference to any other drover in that district.He mighthave increased his business to any extent had hecondescendedto manage it by deputy; but except a lad or twosister'ssons of his ownRobin rejected the idea of assistanceconsciousperhapshow much his reputation depended upon hisattendingin person to the practical discharge of his duty ineveryinstance. He remainedthereforecontented with thehighestpremium given to persons of his descriptionandcomfortedhimself with the hopes that a few journeys to Englandmightenable him to conduct business on his own accountin amannerbecoming his birth. For Robin Oig's fatherLachlanM'Combich(or SON OF MY FRIENDhis actual clan surname beingM'Gregor)had been so called by the celebrated Rob Roybecauseof theparticular friendship which had subsisted between thegrandsireof Robin and that renowned cateran. Some people evensaid thatRobin Oig derived his Christian name from one asrenownedin the wilds of Loch Lomond as ever was his namesakeRobin Hoodin the precincts of merry Sherwood. "Of suchancestry"as James Boswell says"who would not be proud?"Robin Oigwas proud accordingly; but his frequent visits toEnglandand to the Lowlands had given him tact enough to knowthatpretensions which still gave him a little right todistinctionin his own lonely glenmight be both obnoxious andridiculousif preferred elsewhere. The pride of birththereforewas like the miser's treasurethe secret subject ofhiscontemplationbut never exhibited to strangers as a subjectofboasting.
Many werethe words of gratulation and good-luck which werebestowedon Robin Oig. The judges commended his droveespeciallyRobin's own propertywhich were the best of them.Somethrust out their snuff-mulls for the parting pinchotherstenderedthe DOCH-AN-DORRACHor parting cup. All cried"Good-lucktravel out with you and come home with you. Give you luckin theSaxon marketbrave notes in the LEABHAR-DHU" (blackpocket-book)"and plenty of English gold in the SPORRAN" (pouchofgoat-skin).
The bonnylasses made their adieus more modestlyand more thanoneitwas saidwould have given her best brooch to be certainthat itwas upon her that his eye last rested as he turnedtowardsthe road.
Robin Oighad just given the preliminary "HOO-HOO!" to urgeforwardthe loiterers of the drovewhen there was a cry behindhim:
"StayRobinbide a blink. Here is Janet of TomahourichauldJanetyour father's sister."
"Plagueon herfor an auld Highland witch and spaewife" said afarmerfrom the Carse of Stirling; "she'll cast some of hercantripson the cattle."
"Shecanna do that" said another sapient of the same profession."RobinOig is no the lad to leave any of them without tying SaintMungo'sknot on their tailsand that will put to her speed thebest witchthat ever flew over Dimayet upon a broomstick."
It may notbe indifferent to the reader to know that the Highlandcattle arepeculiarly liable to be TAKENor infectedby spellsandwitchcraftwhich judicious people guard against by knittingknots ofpeculiar complexity on the tuft of hair which terminatestheanimal's tail.
But theold woman who was the object of the farmer's suspicionseemedonly busied about the droverwithout paying any attentionto thedrove. Robinon the contraryappeared rather impatientof herpresence.
"Whatauld-world fancy" he said"has brought you so early fromtheingle-side this morningMuhme? l am sure I bid you good-evenandhad your God-speedlast night."
"Andleft me more siller than the useless old woman will use tillyou comeback againbird of my bosom" said the sibyl. "Butitis littleI would care for the food that nourishes meor thefire thatwarms meor for God's blessed sun itselfif aught butweelshould happen to the grandson of my father. So let me walkthe DEASILround youthat you may go safe out into the farforeignlandand come safe home."
Robin Oigstoppedhalf embarrassedhalf laughingand signingto thosearound that he only complied with the old woman tosoothe herhumour. In the meantimeshe traced around himwithwaveringstepsthe propitiationwhich some have thought hasbeenderived from the Druidical mythology. It consistsas iswellknownin the person who makes the DEASIL walking threetimesround the person who is the object of the ceremonytakingcare tomove according to the course of the sun. At oncehowevershe stopped shortand exclaimedin a voice of alarmandhorror"Grandson of my fatherthere is blood on your hand."
"Hushfor God's sakeaunt!" said Robin Oig. "Youwill bringmoretrouble on yourself with this TAISHATARAGH" (second sight)"thanyou will be able to get out of for many a day."
The oldwoman only repeatedwith a ghastly look"There is bloodon yourhandand it is English blood. The blood of the Gael isricher andredder. Let us seelet us"
Ere RobinOig could prevent herwhichindeedcould only havebeen bypositive violenceso hasty and peremptory were herproceedingsshe had drawn from his side the dirk which lodged inthe foldsof his plaidand held it upexclaimingalthough theweapongleamed clear and bright in the sun"BloodbloodSaxonbloodagain. Robin Oig M'Combichgo not this day to England!"
"Prutttrutt" answered Robin Oig"that will never do neitherit wouldbe next thing to running the country. For shameMuhmegiveme the dirk. You cannot tell by the colour thedifferencebetwixt the blood of a black bullock and a white oneand youspeak of knowing Saxon from Gaelic blood. All men havetheirblood from AdamMuhme. Give me my skene-dhuand let mego on myroad. I should have been half way to Stirling brig bythistime. Give me my dirkand let me go."
"Neverwill I give it to you" said the old woman"Never will Iquit myhold on your plaidunless you promise me not to wearthatunhappy weapon."
The womenaround him urged him alsosaying few of his aunt'swords fellto the ground; and as the Lowland farmers continued tolookmoodily on the sceneRobin Oig determined to close it atanysacrifice.
"Wellthen" said the young drovergiving the scabbard of theweapon toHugh Morrison"you Lowlanders care nothing for thesefreats.
Keep my dirk for me. I cannot give it youbecause itwas myfather's; but your drove follows oursand I am content itshould bein your keepingnot in mine.Will this doMuhme?"
"Itmust" said the old woman"that isif the Lowlander is madenough tocarry the knife."
The strongWestlandman laughed aloud.
"Goodwife"said he"I am Hugh Morrison from Glenaecome of theManlyMorrisons of auld lang synethat never took short weaponagainst aman in their lives. And neither needed they. They hadtheirbroadswordsand I have this bit supple"showing aformidablecudgel; "for dirking ower the boardI leave that toJohnHighlandman.Ye needna snortnone of you Highlandersandyou inespecialRobin. I'll keep the bit knifeif you arefeared forthe auld spaewife's taleand give it back to youwheneveryou want it."
Robin wasnot particularly pleased with some part of HughMorrison'sspeech; but he had learned in his travels morepatiencethan belonged to his Highland constitution originallyand heaccepted the service of the descendant of the ManlyMorrisonswithout finding fault with the rather depreciatingmanner inwhich it was offered.
"Ifhe had not had his morning in his headand been but aDumfriesshirehog into the boothe would have spoken more like agentleman.
But you cannot have more of a sow than a grumph.It's shamemy father's knife should ever slash a haggis for thelike ofhim."
Thussaying(but saying it in Gaelic)Robin drove on hiscattleand waved farewell to all behind him. He was in thegreaterhastebecause he expected to join at Falkirk a comradeandbrother in professionwith whom he proposed to travel incompany.
RobinOig's chosen friend was a young EnglishmanHarry Wakefieldby namewell known at every northern marketand in his way asmuch famedand honoured as our Highland driver of bullocks. Hewas nearlysix feet highgallantly formed to keep the rounds atSmithfieldor maintain the ring at a wrestling match; andalthoughhe might have been overmatchedperhapsamong theregularprofessors of the Fancyyetas a yokel or rusticor achancecustomerhe was able to give a bellyful to any amateur ofthepugilistic art. Doncaster races saw him in his glorybettinghis guineaand generally successfully; nor was there amainfought in Yorkshirethe feeders being persons of celebrityat whichhe was not to be seen if business permitted. But thougha SPRACKladand fond of pleasure and its hauntsHarryWakefieldwas steadyand not the cautious Robin Oig M'Combichhimselfwas more attentive to the main chance. His holidays wereholidaysindeed; but his days of work were dedicated to steadyandpersevering labour. In countenance and temperWakefield wasthe modelof Old England's merry yeomenwhose clothyard shaftsin so manyhundred battlesasserted her superiority over thenationsand whose good sabresin our own timeare her cheapestand mostassured defence. His mirth was readily excited; forstrong inlimb and constitutionand fortunate in circumstanceshe wasdisposed to be pleased with every thing about himandsuchdifficulties as he might occasionally encounter wereto aman of hisenergyrather matter of amusement than seriousannoyance.
With all the merits of a sanguine temperour youngEnglishdrover was not without his defects. He was irasciblesometimesto the verge of being quarrelsome; and perhaps not thelessinclined to bring his disputes to a pugilistic decisionbecause hefound few antagonists able to stand up to him in theboxingring.
It isdifficult to say how Harry Wakefield and Robin Oig firstbecameintimatesbut it is certain a close acquaintance hadtakenplace betwixt themalthough they had apparently few commonsubjectsof conversation or of interestso soon as their talkceased tobe of bullocks. Robin Oigindeedspoke the Englishlanguagerather imperfectly upon any other topics but stots andkyloesand Harry Wakefield could never bring his broad Yorkshiretongue toutter a single word of Gaelic. It was in vain Robinspent awhole morningduring a walk over Minch Moorinattemptingto teach his companion to utterwith true precisiontheshibboleth LLHUwhich is the Gaelic for a calf. FromTraquairto Murder Cairnthe hill rung with the discordantattemptsof the Saxon upon the unmanageable monosyllableand theheartfeltlaugh which followed every failure. They hadhoweverbettermodes of awakening the echoes; for Wakefield could singmany aditty to the praise of MollSusanand Cicelyand RobinOig had aparticular gift at whistling interminable pibrochsthroughall their involutionsand what was more agreeable to hiscompanion'ssouthern earknew many of the northern airsbothlively andpatheticto which Wakefield learned to pipe a bass.Thusthough Robin could hardly have comprehended his companion'sstoriesabout horse-racingand cock-fightingor fox-huntingandalthough his own legends of clan-fights and CREAGHSvariedwith talkof Highland goblins and fairy folkwould have beencaviare tohis companionthey contrivednevertheless to find adegree ofpleasure in each other's companywhich had for threeyears backinduced them to join company and travel togetherwhenthedirection of their journey permitted. Eachindeedfoundhisadvantage in this companionship; for where could theEnglishmanhave found a guide through the Western Highlands likeRobin OigM'Combich? and when they were on what Harry called theRIGHT sideof the Borderhis patronagewhich was extensiveandhis pursewhich was heavywere at all times at the service ofhisHighland friendand on many occasions his liberality did himgenuineyeoman's service.
The pairof friends had traversed with their usual cordiality thegrassywilds of Liddesdaleand crossed the opposite part ofCumberlandemphatically called The Waste. In these solitaryregionsthe cattle under the charge of our drovers derived theirsubsistencechiefly by picking their food as they went along thedrove-roador sometimes by the tempting opportunity of a STARTANDOWERLOUPor invasion of the neighbouring pasturewhere anoccasionpresented itself. But now the scene changed beforethem.
They were descending towards a fertile and enclosedcountrywhere no such liberties could be taken with impunityorwithout aprevious arrangement and bargain with the possessors oftheground. This was more especially the caseas a greatnorthernfair was upon the eve of taking placewhere both theScotch andEnglish drover expected to dispose of a part of theircattlewhich it was desirable to produce in the market restedand ingood order. Fields were therefore difficult to beobtainedand only upon high terms. This necessity occasioned atemporaryseparation betwixt the two friendswho went tobargaineach as he couldfor the separate accommodation of hisherd.
Unhappily it chanced that both of themunknown to eachotherthought of bargaining for the ground they wanted on thepropertyof a country gentleman of some fortunewhose estate layin theneighbourhood. The English drover applied to the bailiffon thepropertywho was known to him. It chanced that theCumbrianSquirewho had entertained some suspicions of hismanager'shonestywas taking occasional measures to ascertainhow farthey were well foundedand had desired that anyenquiriesabout his enclosureswith a view to occupy them for atemporarypurposeshould be referred to himself. As howeverMr. Irebyhad gone the day before upon a journey of some milesdistanceto the northwardthe bailiff chose to consider thecheck uponhis full powers as for the time removedand concludedthat heshould best consult his master's interestand perhapshis ownin making an agreement with Harry Wakefield. Meanwhileignorantof what his comrade was doingRobin Oigon his sidechanced tobe overtaken by a good-looking smart little man upon aponymostknowingly hogged and croppedas was then the fashionthe riderwearing tight leather breechesand long-necked brightspurs.
This cavalier asked one or two pertinent questions aboutmarketsand the price of stock. So Robinseeing him a well-judgingcivil gentlemantook the freedom to ask him whether hecould lethim know if there was any grass-land to be let in thatneighbourhoodfor the temporary accommodation of his drove. Hecould nothave put the question to more willing ears. Thegentlemanof the buckskins was the proprietorwith whose bailiffHarryWakefield had dealtor was in the act of dealing.
"Thouart in good luckmy canny Scot" said Mr. Ireby"to havespoken tomefor I see thy cattle have done their day's workand I haveat my disposal the only field within three miles thatis to belet in these parts."
"Thedrove can pe gang twothreefour miles very pratty weelindeed"saidthe cautious Highlander; "put what would his honourpe axingfor the peasts pe the headif she was to tak the parkfor twa orthree days?"
"Wewon't differSawneyif you let me have six stots forwinterersin the way of reason."
"Andwhich peasts wad your honour pe for having?"
"Whyletme seethe two blackthe dun oneyon doddyhim withthetwisted hornthe brockitHow much by the head?"
"Ah"said Robin"your honour is a shudgea real shudge. Icouldnahave set off the pest six peasts petter mysel'me thatken themas if they were my pairnspuir things."
"Wellhow much per headSawney?" continued Mr. Ireby.
"Itwas high markets at Doune and Falkirk" answered Robin.
And thusthe conversation proceededuntil they had agreed on thePRIX JUSTEfor the bullocksthe Squire throwing in the temporaryaccommodationof the enclosure for the cattle into the bootandRobinmakingas he thoughta very good bargainprovided thegrass wasbut tolerable. The Squire walked his pony alongside ofthe drovepartly to show him the wayand see him put intopossessionof the fieldand partly to learn the latest news ofthenorthern markets.
Theyarrived at the fieldand the pasture seemed excellent. Butwhat wastheir surprise when they saw the bailiff quietlyinductingthe cattle of Harry Wakefield into the grassy Goshenwhich hadjust been assigned to those of Robin Oig M'Combich bytheproprietor himself! Squire Ireby set spurs to his horsedashed upto his servantand learning what had passed betweenthepartiesbriefly informed the English drover that his bailiffhad letthe ground without his authorityand that he might seekgrass forhis cattle wherever he wouldsince he was to get nonethere.
At the same time he rebuked his servant severely forhavingtransgressed his commandsand ordered him instantly toassist inejecting the hungry and weary cattle of HarryWakefieldwhich were just beginning to enjoy a meal of unusualplentyand to introduce those of his comradewhom the Englishdrover nowbegan to consider as a rival.
Thefeelings which arose in Wakefield's mind would have inducedhim toresist Mr. Ireby's decision; but every Englishman has atolerablyaccurate sense of law and justiceand JohnFleecebumpkinthe bailiffhaving acknowledged that he hadexceededhis commissionWakefield saw nothing else for it thanto collecthis hungry and disappointed chargeand drive them onto seekquarters elsewhere. Robin Oig saw what had happened withregretand hastened to offer to his English friend to share withhim thedisputed possession. But Wakefield's pride was severelyhurtandhe answered disdainfully"Take it allmantake itall; nevermake two bites of a cherry. Thou canst talk over thegentryand blear a plain man's eye. Out upon youman. I wouldnot kissany man's dirty latchets for leave to bake in his oven."
Robin Oigsorry but not surprised at his comrade's displeasurehastenedto entreat his friend to wait but an hour till he hadgone tothe Squire's house to receive payment for the cattle hehad soldand he would come back and help him to drive the cattleinto someconvenient place of restand explain to him the wholemistakethey had both of them fallen into. But the Englishmancontinuedindignant: "Thou hast been sellinghast thou? Ayay; thouis a cunning lad for kenning the hours of bargaining.Go to thedevil with thyselffor I will ne'er see thy fauseloon'svisage againthou should be ashamed to look me in theface."
"I amashamed to look no man in the face" said Robin Oigsomethingmoved; "andmoreoverI will look you in the face thisblesseddayif you will bide at the Clachan down yonder."
"Mayhapyou had as well keep away" said his comrade; and turninghis backon his former friendhe collected his unwillingassociatesassisted by the bailiffwho took some real and someaffectedinterest in seeing Wakefield accommodated.
Afterspending some time in negotiating with more than one of theneighbouringfarmerswho could notor would notafford theaccommodationdesiredHenry Wakefield at lastand in hisnecessityaccomplished his point by means of the landlord of thealehouseat which Robin Oig and he had agreed to pass the nightwhen theyfirst separated from each other. Mine host was contentto let himturn his cattle on a piece of barren moorat a pricelittleless than the bailiff had asked for the disputedenclosure;and the wretchedness of the pastureas well as theprice paidfor itwere set down as exaggerations of the breachof faithand friendship of his Scottish crony. This turn ofWakefield'spassions was encouraged by the bailiff(who had hisownreasons for being offended against poor Robinas having beentheunwitting cause of his falling into disgrace with hismaster)as well as by the innkeeperand two or three chanceguestswho stimulated the drover in his resentment against hisquondamassociatesome from the ancient grudge against theScotswhichwhen it exists anywhereis to be found lurking inthe Bordercountiesand some from the general love of mischiefwhichcharacterises mankind in all ranks of lifeto the honourof Adam'schildren be it spoken. Good John Barleycorn alsowhoalwaysheightens and exaggerates the prevailing passionsbe theyangry orkindlywas not wanting in his offices on this occasionandconfusion to false friends and hard masters was pledged inmore thanone tankard.
In themeanwhile Mr. Ireby found some amusement in detaining thenortherndrover at his ancient hall. He caused a cold round ofbeef to beplaced before the Scot in the butler's pantrytogetherwith a foaming tankard of home-brewedand took pleasurein seeingthe hearty appetite with which these unwonted edibleswerediscussed by Robin Oig M'Combich. The Squire himselflightinghis pipecompounded between his patrician dignity andhis loveof agricultural gossipby walking up and down while heconversedwith his guest.
"Ipassed another drove" said the Squirewith one of yourcountrymenbehind them. They were something less beasts thanyourdrovedoddies most of them. A big man was with them. Noneof yourkiltsthoughbut a decent pair of breeches. D'ye knowwho he maybe?"
"Houtaye; that mightcouldand would be Hughie Morrison. Ididnathink he could hae peen sae weel up. He has made a day onus; buthis Argyleshires will have wearied shanks. How far washepehind?"
"Ithink about six or seven miles" answered the Squire"forIpassedthem at the Christenbury Cragand I overtook you at theHollanBush. If his beasts be leg-wearyhe will be maybesellingbargains."
"NanaHughie Morrison is no the man for pargainsye maun cometo someHighland body like Robin Oig hersel' for the like ofthese.
Put I maun pe wishing you goot nightand twenty of themlet alaneaneand I maun down to the Clachan to see if the ladHarryWaakfelt is out of his humdudgeons yet."
The partyat the alehouse were still in full talkand thetreacheryof Robin Oig still the theme of conversationwhen thesupposedculprit entered the apartment. His arrivalas usuallyhappens insuch a caseput an instant stop to the discussion ofwhich hehad furnished the subjectand he was received by thecompanyassembled with that chilling silence whichmore than athousandexclamationstells an intruder that he is unwelcome.Surprisedand offendedbut not appalled by the reception whichheexperiencedRobin entered with an undaunted and even ahaughtyairattempted no greetingas he saw he was receivedwith noneand placed himself by the side of the firea littleapart froma table at which Harry Wakefieldthe bailiffand twoor threeother personswere seated. The ample Cumbrian kitchenwould haveafforded plenty of roomeven for a larger separation.
Robin thusseatedproceeded to light his pipeand call for apint oftwopenny.
"Wehave no twopence ale" answered Ralph Heskett the landlord;"butas thou find'st thy own tobaccoit's like thou mayst findthy ownliquor tooit's the wont of thy countryI wot."
"Shamegoodman" said the landladya blithebustlinghousewifehastening herself to supply the guest with liquor."Thouknowest well enow what the strange man wantsand it's thytrade tobe civilman. Thou shouldst knowthat if the Scotlikes asmall pothe pays a sure penny."
Withouttaking any notice of this nuptial dialoguetheHighlandertook the flagon in his handand addressing thecompanygenerallydrank the interesting toast of "Good markets"to theparty assembled.
"Thebetter that the wind blew fewer dealers from the north"said oneof the farmers"and fewer Highland runts to eat up theEnglishmeadows."
"Saulof my podyput you are wrang theremy friend" answeredRobinwith composure; "it is your fat Englishmen that eat up ourScotscattlepuir things."
"Iwish there was a summat to eat up their drovers" saidanother;"a plain Englishman canna make bread within a kenning ofthem."
"Oran honest servant keep his master's favour but they will comesliding inbetween him and the sunshine" said the bailiff.
"Ifthese pe jokes" said Robin Oigwith the same composure"thereis ower mony jokes upon one man."
"Itis no jokebut downright earnest" said the bailiff."HarkyeMr. Robin Oggor whatever is your nameit's right weshouldtell you that we are all of one opinionand that isthatyouMr.Robin Ogghave behaved to our friend Mr. HarryWakefieldherelike a raff and a blackguard."
"Naedoubtnae doubt" answered Robinwith great composure;"andyou are a set of very pretty judgesfor whose prains orpehaviourI wad not gie a pinch of sneeshing. If Mr. HarryWaakfeltkens where he is wrangedhe kens where he may berighted."
"Hespeaks truth" said Wakefieldwho had listened to whatpasseddivided between the offence which he had taken at Robin'slatebehaviourand the revival of his habitual feelings ofregard.
He nowroseand went towards Robinwho got up from his seat asheapproachedand held out his hand.
"That'srightHarrygo itserve him out" resounded on allsides"tiphim the nailershow him the mill."
"Holdyour peace all of youand be" said Wakefield; and thenaddressinghis comradehe took him by the extended handwithsomethingalike of respect and defiance. "Robin" he said"thouhast usedme ill enough this day; but if you meanlike a frankfellowtoshake handsand take a tussle for love on the sodwhy I'llforgie theemanand we shall be better friends thanever."
"Andwould it not pe petter to pe cood friends without more ofthematter?" said Robin; "we will be much petterfriendshipswith ourpanes hale than proken."
HarryWakefield dropped the hand of his friendor rather threwit fromhim.
"Idid not think I had been keeping company for three years witha coward."
"Cowardpelongs to none of my name" said Robinwhose eyes beganto kindlebut keeping the command of his temper. "It was nocoward'slegs or handsHarry Waakfeltthat drew you out of thefords ofFrewwhen you was drifting ower the plack rockandevery eelin the river expected his share of you."
"Andthat is true enoughtoo" said the Englishmanstruck bytheappeal.
exclaimed the bailiff"sure Harry Wakefieldthenattiestlad at Whitson TrysteWooler FairCarlisle SandsorStagshawBankis not going to show white feather? Ahthiscomes ofliving so long with kilts and bonnetsmen forget theuse oftheir daddles."
"Imay teach youMaster Fleecebumpkinthat I have not lost theuse ofmine" said Wakefield and then went on. "This willneverdoRobin. We must have a turn-upor we shall be the talk ofthecountry-side. I'll be dd if I hurt theeI'll put on thegloves ginthou like. Comestand forward like a man."
"Tobe peaten like a dog" said Robin; "is there any reason inthat?
If you think I have done you wrongI'll go before yourshudgethough I neither know his law nor his language."
A generalcry of "Nonono lawno lawyer! a bellyful and befriends"was echoed by the bystanders.
"But"continued Robin"if I am to fightI have no skill tofight likea jackanapeswith hands and nails."
"Howwould you fight then?" said his antagonist; "though Iamthinkingit would be hard to bring you to the scratch anyhow."
"Iwould fight with proadswordsand sink point on the firstplooddrawnlike a gentlemans."
A loudshout of laughter followed the proposalwhich indeed hadratherescaped from poor Robin's swelling heartthan been thedictate ofhis sober judgment.
"Gentlemanquotha!" was echoed on all sideswith a shout ofunextinguishablelaughter; "a very pretty gentlemanGod wot.Canst gettwo swords for the gentleman to fight withRalphHeskett?"
"Nobut I can send to the armoury at Carlisleand lend them twoforkstobe making shift with in the meantime."
"Tushman" said another"the bonny Scots come into the worldwith theblue bonnet on their headsand dirk and pistol at theirbelt."
"Bestsend post" said Mr. Fleecebumpkin"to the Squire of CorbyCastletocome and stand second to the GENTLEMAN."
In themidst of this torrent of general ridiculethe Highlanderinstinctivelygriped beneath the folds of his plaid
"Butit's better not" he said in his own language. "Ahundredcurses onthe swine-eaterswho know neither decency norcivility!"
"Makeroomthe pack of you" he saidadvancing to the door.
But hisformer friend interposed his sturdy bulkand opposed hisleavingthe house; and when Robin Oig attempted to make his wayby forcehe hit him down on the floorwith as much ease as aboy bowlsdown a nine-pin.
"Aringa ring!" was now shouteduntil the dark raftersandthe hamsthat hung on themtrembled againand the very platterson theBINK clattered against each other. "Well doneHarry""Giveit him homeHarry""Take care of him nowhe sees hisownblood!"
Such werethe exclamationswhile the Highlanderstarting fromthegroundall his coldness and caution lost in frantic ragesprung athis antagonist with the furythe activityand thevindictivepurpose of an incensed tiger-cat. But when could rageencounterscience and temper? Robin Oig again went down in theunequalcontest; and as the blow was necessarily a severe onehelaymotionless on the floor of the kitchen. The landlady ran tooffer someaidbut Mr. Fleecebumpkin would not permit her toapproach.
"Lethim alone" he said"he will come to within timeand comeup to thescratch again. He has not got half his broth yet."
"Hehas got all I mean to give himthough" said his antagonistwhoseheart began to relent towards his old associate; "and Iwouldrather by half give the rest to yourselfMr.Fleecebumpkinfor you pretend to know a thing or twoand Robinhad notart enough even to peel before setting tobut foughtwith hisplaid dangling about him.Stand upRobinmy man! Allfriendsnow; and let me hear the man that will speak a wordagainstyouor your countryfor your sake."
Robin Oigwas still under the dominion of his passionand eagerto renewthe onset; but being withheld on the one side by thepeacemakingDame Heskettand on the otheraware that Wakefieldno longermeant to renew the combathis fury sunk into gloomysullenness.
"Comecomenever grudge so much at itman" said the brave-spiritedEnglishmanwith the placability of his country; "shakehandsandwe will be better friends than ever."
exclaimed Robin Oig with strong emphasis"friends!Never.
Look to yourselfHarry Waakfelt."
"Thenthe curse of Cromwell on your proud Scots stomachas theman saysin the playand you may do your worstand be dd; forone mancan say nothing more to another after a tusslethan thathe issorry for it."
On theseterms the friends parted. Robin Oig drew outinsilenceapiece of moneythrew it on the tableand then leftthealehouse. But turning at the doorhe shook his hand atWakefieldpointing with his forefinger upwardsin a mannerwhichmight imply either a threat or a caution. He thendisappearedin the moonlight.
Some wordspassed after his departurebetween the bailiffwhopiquedhimself on being a little of a bullyand Harry Wakefieldwhowithgenerous inconsistencywas now not indisposed to begina newcombat in defence of Robin Oig's reputation"although hecould notuse his daddles like an Englishmanas it did not comenatural tohim." But Dame Heskett prevented this second quarrelfromcoming to a head by her peremptory interference. "Thereshould beno more fighting in her house" she said; "there hadbeen toomuch already.And youMr. Wakefieldmay live tolearn"she added"what it is to make a deadly enemy out of agoodfriend."
"Pshawdame! Robin Oig is an honest fellowand will never keepmalice."
"Donot trust to that; you do not know the dour temper of theScotsthough you have dealt with them so often. I have a rightto knowthemmy mother being a Scot."
"Andso is well seen on her daughter" said Ralph Heskett.
Thisnuptial sarcasm gave the discourse another turn. Freshcustomersentered the tap-room or kitchenand others left it.Theconversation turned on the expected marketsand the reportof pricesfrom different parts both of Scotland and England.Treatieswere commencedand Harry Wakefield was lucky enough tofind achap for a part of his droveand at a very considerableprofitanevent of consequence more than sufficient to blot outallremembrances of the unpleasant scuffle in the earlier part ofthe day.
But there remained one party from whose mind thatrecollectioncould not have been wiped away by the possession ofevery headof cattle betwixt Esk and Eden.
This wasRobin Oig M'Combich. "That I should have had noweapon"he said"and for the first time in my life! Blightedbe thetongue that bids the Highlander part with the dirk. Thedirkha!
the English blood! My Muhme's word! When did herword fallto the ground?"
Therecollection of the fatal prophecy confirmed the deadlyintentionwhich instantly sprang up in his mind.
Morrison cannot be many miles behind; and if it were anhundredwhat then?"
Hisimpetuous spirit had now a fixed purpose and motive ofactionand he turned the light foot of his country towards thewildsthrough which he knewby Mr. Ireby's reportthatMorrisonwas advancing. His mind was wholly engrossed by thesense ofinjuryinjury sustained from a friend; and by thedesire ofvengeance on one whom he now accounted his most bitterenemy.
The treasured ideas of self-importance and self-opinionof idealbirth and qualityhad become more precious to him(like thehoard to the miser) because he could only enjoy them insecret.
But that hoard was pillagedthe idols which he hadsecretlyworshipped had been desecrated and profaned. Insultedabusedand beatenhe was no longer worthyin his own opinionof thename he boreor the lineage which he belonged to.Nothingwas left to himnothing but revenge; and as thereflectionadded a galling spur to every stephe determined itshould beas sudden and signal as the offence.
When RobinOig left the door of the alehouseseven or eightEnglishmiles at least lay betwixt Morrison and him. The advanceof theformer was slowlimited by the sluggish pace of hiscattle;the latter left behind him stubble-field and hedgerowcrag anddark heathall glittering with frost-rime in the broadNovembermoonlightat the rate of six miles an hour. And nowthedistant lowing of Morrison's cattle is heard; and now theyare seencreeping like moles in size and slowness of motion onthe broadface of the moor; and now he meets thempasses themand stopstheir conductor.
"Maygood betide us" said the Westlander. "Is this youRobinM'Combichor your wraith?"
"Itis Robin Oig M'Combich" answered the Highlander"and itisnot.
But never mind thatput pe giving me the skene-dhu."
you are for back to the Highlands! The devil! Have youselt alloff before the fair? This beats all for quick markets!"
"Ihave not soldI am not going northmaype I will never gonorthagain. Give me pack my dirkHugh Morrisonor there willpe wordspetween us."
"IndeedRobinI'll be better advised before I gie it back toyou; it isa wanchancy weapon in a Highlandman's handand I amthinkingyou will be about some harns-breaking."
"Prutttrutt! let me have my weapon" said Robin Oigimpatiently.
"Hoolyand fairly" said his well-meaning friend. "I'll tellyouwhat willdo better than these dirking doings. Ye kenHighlanderand Lowlanderand Border-men are a' ae man's bairnswhen youare over the Scots dyke. Seethe Eskdale callantsandfightingCharlie of Liddesdaleand the Lockerby ladsand thefourDandies of Lustrutherand a wheen mair grey plaidsarecoming upbehind; and if you are wrangedthere is the hand of aManlyMorrisonwe'll see you rightedif Carlisle and Stanwixbaith tookup the feud."
"Totell you the truth" said Robin Oigdesirous of eluding thesuspicionsof his friend"I have enlisted with a party of theBlackWatchand must march off to-morrow morning."
Were you mad or drunk? You must buy yourself off. Ican lendyou twenty notesand twenty to thatif the drovesell."
"Ithank youthank yeHughie; but I go with good-will the gatethat I amgoing. So the dirkthe dirk!"
"Thereit is for you thensince less wunna serve. But think onwhat I wassaying. Waes meit will be sair news in the braes ofBalquidderthat Robin Oig M'Combich should have run an ill gateand ta'enon."
"Illnews in Balquidderindeed!" echoed poor Robin. "ButCotspeed youHughieand send you good marcats. Ye winna meet withRobin Oigagaineither at tryste or fair."
So sayinghe shook hastily the hand of his acquaintanceand setout in thedirection from which he had advancedwith the spiritof hisformer pace.
"Thereis something wrang with the lad" muttered the Morrison tohimself;"but we will maybe see better into it the morn'smorning."
But longere the morning dawnedthe catastrophe of our tale hadtakenplace. It was two hours after the affray had happenedandit wastotally forgotten by almost every onewhen Robin Oigreturnedto Heskett's inn. The place was filled at once byvarioussorts of menand with noises corresponding to theircharacter.
There were the grave low sounds of men engaged inbusytrafficwith the laughthe songand the riotous jest ofthose whohad nothing to do but to enjoy themselves. Among thelast wasHarry Wakefieldwhoamidst a grinning group of smock-frockshobnailed shoesand jolly English physiognomieswastrollingforth the old ditty
"What though my name be Roger
Who drives the plough and cart"
when hewas interrupted by a well-known voice saying in a highand sternvoicemarked by the sharp Highland accent"HarryWaakfeltifyou be a man stand up!"
"Whatis the matter?what is it?" the guests demanded of eachother.
"Itis only a dd Scotsman" said Fleecebumpkinwho was by thistime verydrunk"whom Harry Wakefield helped to his broth to-daywhois now come to have HIS CAULD KAIL het again."
"HarryWaakfelt" repeated the same ominous summons"stand upif you bea man!"
There issomething in the tone of deep and concentrated passionwhichattracts attention and imposes aweeven by the very sound.The guestsshrunk back on every sideand gazed at the Highlanderas hestood in the middle of themhis brows bentand hisfeaturesrigid with resolution.
"Iwill stand up with all my heartRobinmy boybut it shallbe toshake hands with youand drink down all unkindness. It isnot thefault of your heartmanthat you don't know how toclenchyour hands."
By thistime he stood opposite to his antagonisthis open andunsuspectinglook strangely contrasted with the stern purposewhichgleamed wilddarkand vindictive in the eyes of theHighlander.
"'Tisnot thy faultmanthatnot having the luck to be anEnglishmanthou canst not fight more than a school-girl."
"Ican fight" answered Robin Oig sternlybut calmly"andyoushall knowit. YouHarry Waakfeltshowed me to-day how theSaxonchurls fight; I show you now how the Highland Dunnie-wasselfights."
Heseconded the word with the actionand plunged the daggerwhich hesuddenly displayedinto the broad breast of the Englishyeomanwith such fatal certainty and force that the hilt made ahollowsound against the breast-boneand the double-edged pointsplit thevery heart of his victim. Harry Wakefield fell andexpiredwith a single groan. His assassin next seized thebailiff bythe collarand offered the bloody poniard to histhroatwhilst dread and surprise rendered the man incapable ofdefence.
"Itwere very just to lay you peside him" he said"but theblood of apase pickthank shall never mix on my father's dirkwith thatof a brave man."
As hespokehe cast the man from him with so much force that hefell onthe floorwhile Robinwith his other handthrew thefatalweapon into the blazing turf-fire.
"There"he said"take me who likesand let fire cleanse bloodif itcan."
The pauseof astonishment still continuingRobin Oig asked for apeace-officerand a constable having stepped outhe surrenderedhimself tohis custody.
"Abloody night's work you have made of it" said the constable.
"Yourown fault" said the Highlander. "Had you kept hishandsoff me twahours sincehe would have been now as well and merryas he wastwa minutes since."
"Itmust be sorely answered" said the peace-officer.
"Neveryou mind thatdeath pays all debts; it will pay thattoo."
The horrorof the bystanders began now to give way toindignationand the sight of a favourite companion murdered inthe midstof themthe provocation beingin their opinionsoutterlyinadequate to the excess of vengeancemight have inducedthem tokill the perpetrator of the deed even upon the very spot.Theconstablehoweverdid his duty on this occasionand withtheassistance of some of the more reasonable persons presentprocuredhorses to guard the prisoner to Carlisleto abide hisdoom atthe next assizes. While the escort was preparingtheprisonerneither expressed the least interestnor attempted theslightestreply. Onlybefore he was carried from the fatalapartmenthe desired to look at the dead bodywhichraisedfrom thefloorhad been deposited upon the large table (at thehead ofwhich Harry Wakefield had presided but a few minutesbeforefull of lifevigourand animation)until the surgeonsshouldexamine the mortal wound. The face of the corpse wasdecentlycovered with a napkin. To the surprise and horror ofthebystanderswhich displayed itself in a general AH! drawnthroughclenched teeth and half-shut lipsRobin Oig removed theclothandgazed with a mournful but steady eye on the lifelessvisagewhich had been so lately animated that the smile of good-humouredconfidence in his own strengthof conciliation at onceandcontempt towards his enemystill curled his lip. Whilethosepresent expected that the woundwhich had so latelyfloodedthe apartment with gorewould send forth fresh streamsat thetouch of the homicideRobin Oig replaced the coveringwith thebrief exclamation"He was a pretty man!"
My storyis nearly ended. The unfortunate Highlander stood histrial atCarlisle. I was myself presentand as a young Scottishlawyerorbarrister at leastand reputed a man of some qualitythepoliteness of the Sheriff of Cumberland offered me a place onthebench. The facts of the case were proved in the manner Ihaverelated them; and whatever might be at first the prejudiceof theaudience against a crime so un-English as that ofassassinationfrom revengeyet when the rooted nationalprejudicesof the prisoner had been explainedwhich made himconsiderhimself as stained with indelible dishonourwhensubjectedto personal violencewhen his previous patiencemoderationand endurance were consideredthe generosity of theEnglishaudience was inclined to regard his crime as the waywardaberrationof a false idea of honour rather than as flowing froma heartnaturally savageor perverted by habitual vice. I shallneverforget the charge of the venerable judge to the juryalthoughnot at that time liable to be much affected either bythat whichwas eloquent or pathetic.
"Wehave had" he said"in the previous part of our duty"(alludingto some former trials)"to discuss crimes which inferdisgustand abhorrencewhile they call down the well-meritedvengeanceof the law. It is now our still more melancholy taskto applyits salutary though severe enactments to a case of averysingular characterin which the crime (for a crime it isand a deepone) arose less out of the malevolence of the heartthan theerror of the understandingless from any idea ofcommittingwrongthan from an unhappily perverted notion of thatwhich isright. Here we have two menhighly esteemedit hasbeenstatedin their rank of lifeand attachedit seemstoeach otheras friendsone of whose lives has been alreadysacrificedto a punctilioand the other is about to prove thevengeanceof the offended laws; and yet both may claim ourcommiserationat leastas men acting in ignorance of eachother'snational prejudicesand unhappily misguided rather thanvoluntarilyerring from the path of right conduct.
"Inthe original cause of the misunderstandingwe must injusticegive the right to the prisoner at the bar. He hadacquiredpossession of the enclosurewhich was the object ofcompetitionby a legal contract with the proprietorMr. Ireby;and yetwhen accosted with reproaches undeserved in themselvesandgallingdoubtlessto a temper at least sufficientlysusceptibleof passionhe offered notwithstandingto yield uphalf hisacquisitionfor the sake of peace and goodneighbourhoodand his amicable proposal was rejected with scorn.Thenfollows the scene at Mr. Heskett the publican'sand youwillobserve how the stranger was treated by the deceasedandIam sorryto observeby those aroundwho seem to have urged himin amanner which was aggravating in the highest degree. Whilehe askedfor peace and for compositionand offered submission toamagistrateor to a mutual arbiterthe prisoner was insultedby a wholecompanywho seem on this occasion to have forgottenthenational maxim of 'fair play;' and while attempting to escapefrom theplace in peacehe was interceptedstruck downandbeaten tothe effusion of his blood.
"Gentlemenof the juryit was with some impatience that I heardmy learnedbrother who opened the case for the crown give anunfavourableturn to the prisoner's conduct on this occasion. Hesaid theprisoner was afraid to encounter his antagonist in fairfightorto submit to the laws of the ring; and that thereforelike acowardly Italianhe had recourse to his fatal stilettoto murderthe man whom he dared not meet in manly encounter. Iobservedthe prisoner shrink from this part of the accusationwith theabhorrence natural to a brave man; and as I would wishto make mywords impressive when I point his real crimeI mustsecure hisopinion of my impartiality by rebutting everythingthat seemsto me a false accusation. There can be no doubt thattheprisoner is a man of resolutiontoo much resolution. I wishto Heaventhat he had lessorrather that he had had a bettereducationto regulate it.
"Gentlemenas to the laws my brother talks ofthey may be knownin thebull-ringor the bear-gardenor the cock-pitbut theyare notknown here. Orif they should be so far admitted asfurnishinga species of proof that no malice was intended in thissort ofcombatfrom which fatal accidents do sometimes ariseitcan onlybe so admitted when both parties are IN PARI CASUequallyacquainted withand equally willing to refer themselvestothatspecies of arbitrament. But will it be contended that aman ofsuperior rank and education is to be subjectedor isobliged tosubject himselfto this coarse and brutal strifeperhaps inopposition to a youngerstrongeror more skilfulopponent?
Certainly even the pugilistic codeif founded uponthe fairplay of Merry Old Englandas my brother alleges it tobecancontain nothing so preposterous. Andgentlemen of thejuryifthe laws would support an English gentlemanwearingwewillsupposehis swordin defending himself by force against aviolentpersonal aggression of the nature offered to thisprisonerthey will not less protect a foreigner and a strangerinvolvedin the same unpleasing circumstances. Ifthereforegentlemenof the jurywhen thus pressed by a VIS MAJORtheobject ofobloquy to a whole companyand of direct violence fromone atleastandas he might reasonably apprehendfrom morethe panelhad produced the weapon which his countrymenas we areinformedgenerally carry about their personsand the sameunhappycircumstance had ensued which you have heard detailed inevidenceI could not in my conscience have asked from you averdict ofmurder. The prisoner's personal defence might indeedeven inthat casehave gone more or less beyond the MODERAMENINCULPATAETUTELAEspoken of by lawyers; but the punishmentincurredwould have been that of manslaughternot of murder. Ibeg leaveto add that I should have thought this milder speciesof chargewas demanded in the case supposednotwithstanding thestatute ofJames I. cap. 8which takes the case of slaughter bystabbingwith a short weaponeven without MALICE PREPENSEoutof thebenefit of clergy. For this statute of stabbingas it istermedarose out of a temporary cause; and as the real guilt isthe samewhether the slaughter be committed by the daggeror bysword orpistolthe benignity of the modern law places them allon thesameor nearly the samefooting.
"Butgentlemen of the jurythe pinch of the case lies in theintervalof two hours interposed betwixt the reception of theinjury andthe fatal retaliation. In the heat of affray andCHAUDEMELEElawcompassionating the infirmities of humanitymakesallowance for the passions which rule such a stormy momentfor thesense of present painfor the apprehension of furtherinjuryfor the difficulty of ascertaining with due accuracy theprecisedegree of violence which is necessary to protect theperson ofthe individualwithout annoying or injuring theassailantmore than is absolutely necessary. But the timenecessaryto walk twelve mileshowever speedily performedwasaninterval sufficient for the prisoner to have recollectedhimself;and the violence with which he carried his purpose intoeffectwith so many circumstances of deliberate determinationcouldneither be induced by the passion of angernor that offear.
It was the purpose and the act of predetermined revengefor whichlaw neither canwillnor ought to have sympathy orallowance.
"Itis truewe may repeat to ourselvesin alleviation of thispoor man'sunhappy actionthat his case is a very peculiar one.Thecountry which he inhabits wasin the days of many now aliveinaccessibleto the lawsnot only of Englandwhich have noteven yetpenetrated thitherbut to those to which our neighboursofScotland are subjectedand which must be supposed to beandno doubtactually arefounded upon the general principles ofjusticeand equity which pervade every civilized country.Amongsttheir mountainsas among the North American Indiansthevarioustribes were wont to make war upon each otherso thateach manwas obliged to go armed for his own protection. Thesemenfromthe ideas which they entertained of their own descentand oftheir own consequenceregarded themselves as so manycavaliersor men-at-armsrather than as the peasantry of apeacefulcountry. Those laws of the ringas my brother termsthemwereunknown to the race of warlike mountaineers; thatdecisionof quarrels by no other weapons than those which naturehas givenevery man must to them have seemed as vulgar and aspreposterousas to the NOBLESSE of France. Revengeon the otherhandmusthave been as familiar to their habits of society as tothose ofthe Cherokees or Mohawks. It is indeedas described byBaconatbottom a kind of wild untutored justice; for the fearofretaliation must withhold the hands of the oppressor wherethere isno regular law to check daring violence. But though allthis maybe grantedand though we may allow thatsuch havingbeen thecase of the Highlands in the days of the prisoner'sfathersmany of the opinions and sentiments must still continuetoinfluence the present generationit cannotand ought noteven inthis most painful caseto alter the administration ofthe laweither in your handsgentlemen of the juryor in mine.The firstobject of civilisation is to place the generalprotectionof the lawequally administeredin the room of thatwildjustice which every man cut and carved for himselfaccordingto the length of his sword and the strength of his arm.The lawsays to the subjectswith a voice only inferior to thatof theDeity'Vengeance is mine.' The instant that there is timeforpassion to cooland reason to interposean injured partymustbecome aware that the law assumes the exclusive cognisanceof theright and wrong betwixt the partiesand opposes herinviolablebuckler to every attempt of the private party to righthimself.
I repeat that this unhappy man ought personally to bethe objectrather of our pity than our abhorrencefor he failedin hisignoranceand from mistaken notions of honour. But hiscrime isnot the less that of murdergentlemenandin yourhigh andimportant officeit is your duty so to find.Englishmenhave their angry passions as well as Scots; and shouldthis man'saction remain unpunishedyou may unsheathundervariouspretencesa thousand daggers betwixt the Land's-End andtheOrkneys."
Thevenerable Judge thus ended whatto judge by his apparentemotionand by the tears which filled his eyeswas really apainfultask. The juryaccording to his instructionsbroughtin averdict of Guilty; and Robin Oig M'CombichALIAS McGregorwassentenced to deathand left for executionwhich took placeaccordingly.
He met his fate with great firmnessandacknowledgedthe justice of his sentence. But he repelledindignantlythe observations of those who accused him ofattackingan unarmed man. "I give a life for the life I took"he said"and what can I do more?" [See Note 11.Robert Donn'sPoems.]
NOTES TOCHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE.
The readermay be gratified with Hector Boece's narrative of theoriginalfoundation of the famous abbey of Holyroodor the HolyCrossasgiven in Bellenden's translation:
"Eftirdeath of Alexander the firsthis brothir David come outofInglandand wes crownit at Sconethe yeir of God MCXXIVyeirisand did gret justiceeftir his coronationin all partisof hisrealme. He had na weris during the time of King Hary; andwes sopietuousthat he sat daylie in judgementto caus hispurecommonis to have justice; and causit the actionis of hisnoblis tobe decidit be his othir jugis. He gart ilk juge redrestheskaithis that come to the party be his wrang sentence; throwquhilkhedecorit his realm with mony nobil actisand ejeckitthevennomus custome of riotus cheirquhilk wes inducit afore beInglismenquhen thay com with Quene Margaret; for the samin wesnoisum toal gud manerismakand his pepil tender and effeminat.
"Inthe fourt yeir of his regnethis nobill prince come to visiethe madinCastell of Edinburgh. At this timeall the boundis ofScotlandwere ful of woddislesourisand medois; for thecountrewes more gevin to store of bestiallthan ony productiounof cornis;and about this castell was ane gret forestfull ofharishindistoddisand siclike maner of beistis. Now was theRude Daycumincalled the Exaltation of the Croce; andbecausthe saminwes ane hie solempne daythe king past to hiscontemplation.
Eftir the messis wer done with maist solempnitieandreverencecomperit afore him mony young and insolent baronisofScotlandricht desirus to haif sum plesur and solacebechace ofhundis in the said forest. At this time wes with theking aneman of singulare and devoit lifenamit Alkwinechannoneftir theordour of Sanct Augustinequhilk well lang timeconfessoureaforeto King David in Inglandthe time that hewes Erleof Huntingtoun and Northumbirland. This religious mandissuaditthe kingbe mony reasonisto pas to this huntis; andallegitthe day wes so solempnebe reverence of the haly crocethat hesuld gif him erarfor that dayto contemplationthanony othirexersition. Nochtheleshis dissuasion is litillavalit;for the king wes finallie so provokitbe inoportunesolicitatiounof his baronisthat he pastnochtwithstanding thesolempniteof this dayto his hountis. At lastquhen he wescuminthrow the vail that lyis to the gret eist fra the saidcastellquhare now lyis the Canongaitthe staik past throw thewod withsic noyis and din of rachis and bugillisthat all thebestiswere rasit fra thair dennis. Now wes the king cumin tothe futeof the cragand all his nobilis severitheir andthairfrahimat thair game and solace; quhen suddenlie apperitto hissicht the fairist hart that evir wes sene afore withlevandcreature. The noyis and din of this hart rinnandasapperitwith awful and braid tindismaid the kingis hors soeffrayitthat na renzeis micht hald himbot ranperforceouirmire andmossisaway with the king. Nochthelesthe hartfollowitso fastthat he dang baith the king and his hors to theground.
Than the king kest abak his handis betwix the tindis ofthis hartto haif savit him fra the strak thairof; and the halycroceslaidincontinentin his handis. The hart fled away withgretviolenceand evanist in the same place quhare now springisthe RudeWell. The pepil richt affrayitlyreturnit to him outof allpartis of the wodto comfort him efter his trubill; andfell onkneisdevotly adoring the haly croce; for it was notcumin butsum hevinly providenceas weill apperis; for thair isna man canschaw of quhat mater it is ofmetal or tre. Soneeftirtheking returnit to his castell; and in the nichtfollowinghe was admonistbe ane vision in his sleipto bigane abbayof channonis regular in the same place quhare he gatthecroce. Als sone as he was awalkinnithe schew his visionetoAlkwinehis confessoure; and he na thing suspended his gudmindboterar inflammit him with maist fervent devotion thairto.The kingincontinentsend his traist servandis in France andFlanderisand brocht richt crafty masonis to big this abbay;synededicat it in the honour of this haly croce. The croceremanitcontinewally in the said abbayto the time of King DavidBruce;quhilk was unhappily tane with it at Duramequhare it ishaldin yitin gret veneration."BOECEBOOK 12CH. 16.
It is byno means clear what Scottish prince first built apalaceproperly so calledin the precincts of this renownedseat ofsanctity. The abbeyendowed by successive sovereignsand manypowerful nobles with munificent gifts of lands andtithescamein process of timeto be one of the most importantof theecclesiastical corporations of Scotland; and as early asthe daysof Robert Bruceparliaments were held occasionallywithin itsbuildings. We have evidence that James IV. had aroyallodging adjoining to the cloister; but it is generallyagreedthat the first considerable edifice for the accommodationof theroyal family erected here was that of James V.anno 1525great partof which still remainsand forms the north-westernside ofthe existing palace. The more modern buildings whichcompletethe quadrangle were erected by King Charles II. Thename ofthe old conventual church was used as the parish churchof theCanongate from the period of the Reformationuntil JamesII.claimed it for his chapel royaland had it fitted upaccordinglyin a style of splendour which grievously outraged thefeelingsof his Presbyterian subjects. The roof of this fragmentof a oncemagnificent church fell in in the year 1768and it hasremainedever since in a state of desolation. For fullerparticularssee the PROVINCIAL ANTIQUITIES OF SCOTLANDor theHISTORY OFHOLYROODBY MR. CHARLES MACKIE.
Thegreater part of this ancient palace is now again occupied byhisMajesty Charles the Tenth of Franceand the rest of thatillustriousfamilywhichin former ages so closely connected bymarriageand alliance with the house of Stewartseems to havebeendestined to run a similar career of misfortune. REQUIESCANTIN PACE!
Note2.STEELEA COVENANTERSHOT BY CAPTAIN CREICHTON.
Thefollowing extract from Swift's Life of Creichton gives theparticularsof the bloody scene alluded to in the text:
"Havingdrank hard one nightI (Creichton) dreamed that I hadfoundCaptain David Steelea notorious rebelin one of the fivefarmers'houses on a mountain in the shire of Clydesdaleandparish ofLismahagowithin eight miles of Hamiltona place thatI was wellacquainted with. This man was head of the rebelssince theaffair of Airs-Mosshaving succeeded to Hackstonwhohad beenthere takenand afterward hangedas the reader hasalreadyheard; foras to Robert Hamiltonwho was thenCommander-in-chiefat Bothwell Bridgehe appeared no more amongthembutfledas it was believedto Holland.
"Steeleand his father before himheld a farm in the estate ofHamiltonwithin two or three miles of that town. When he betookhimself toarmsthe farm lay wasteand the Duke could find nootherperson who would venture to take it; whereupon his Gracesentseveral messages to Steeleto know the reason why he keptthe farmwaste. The Duke received no other answer than that hewould keepit wastein spite of him and the king too; whereuponhis Graceat whose table I had always the honour to be a welcomeguestdesired I would use my endeavours to destroy that rogueand Iwould oblige him for ever.
"Ireturn to my story. When I awaked out of my dreamas I haddonebefore in the affair of Wilson (and I desire the sameapology Imade in the introduction to these Memoirs may serve forboth)Ipresently roseand ordered thirty-six dragoons to be atthe placeappointed by break of day. When we arrived thitherIsent aparty to each of the five farmers' houses. This villainSteele hadmurdered above forty of the king's subjects in coldbloodandas I was informedhad often laid snares to entrapme; but ithappened thatalthough he usually kept a gang toattendhimyet at this time he had nonewhen he stood in thegreatestneed. One of the party found him in one of the farmers'housesjust as I happened to dream. The dragoons first searchedall therooms below without successtill two of them hearingsomebodystirring over their headswent up a pair of turnpikestairs.
Steele had put on his clothes while the search wasmakingbelow; the chamber where he lay was called the Chamber ofDeese[Orchamber of state; so called from the DAISor canopyandelevation of floorwhich distinguished the part of old hallswhich wasoccupied by those of high rank. Hence the phrase wasobliquelyused to signify state in general.] which is the namegiven to aroom where the laird lies when he comes to a tenant'shouse.
Steele suddenly opening the doorfired a blunderbussdown atthe two dragoonsas they were coming up the stairs; butthebullets grazing against the side of the turnpikeonlywoundedand did not kill them. Then Steele violently threwhimselfdown the stairs among themand made towards the door tosave hislifebut lost it upon the spot; for the dragoons whoguardedthe house dispatched him with their broadswords. I wasnot withthe party when he was killedbeing at that timeemployedin searching one of the other housesbut I soon foundwhat hadhappenedby hearing the noise of the shot made with theblunderbuss;from whence I returned straight to Lanarkandimmediatelysent one of the dragoons express to General DrummondatEdinburgh."SWIFT'S WORKSVOL.XII. (MEMOIRS OF CAPTAIN JOHNCREICHTON)pages 57-59Edit. Edinb. 1824.
Woodrowgives a different account of this exploit:"In Decemberthis year(1686)David Steilin the parish of Lismahagowwassurprisedin the fields by Lieutenant Creichtonand after hissurrenderof himself on quartershe was in a very little timemostbarbarously shotand lies buried in the churchyard there."
Theingenious Mr. R. CHAMBERS'S Traditions of Edinburgh give thefollowingaccount of the forgotten rasp or risp:
"Thishouse had a PIN or RISP at the doorinstead of the moremodernconveniencea knocker. The pinrendered interesting bythe figurewhich it makes in Scottish songwas formed of a smallrod ofirontwisted or notchedwhich was placedperpendicularlystarting out a little from the doorand bore asmall ringof the same metalwhich an applicant for admittancedrewrapidly up and down the NICKSso as to produce a gratingsound.
Sometimes the rod was simply stretched across theVIZZYINGholea convenient aperture through which the portercould takecognisance of the person applying; in which case itacted alsoas a stanchion. These were almost all disused aboutsixtyyears agowhen knockers were generally substituted as moregenteel.
But knockers at that time did not long remain inreputethough they have never been altogether supersededevenby bellsin the Old Town. The comparative merit of knockers andpins wasfor a long time a subject of doubtand many knockersgot theirheads twisted off in the course of the dispute."CHAMBERS'STRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH.
Note4.COUNTESS OF EGLINTON.
SusannahKennedydaughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy of CulleanBart.byElizabeth Leslydaughter of David Lord Newarkthirdwife ofAlexander 9th Earl of Eglintonand mother of the 10thand 11thEarls. She survived her husbandwho died 1729no lessthanfifty-seven yearsand died March 1780in her ninety-firstyear.
Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherdpublished 1726isdedicatedto herin verseby Hamilton of Bangour.
Thefollowing account of this distinguished lady is taken fromBoswell'sLife of Johnson by Mr. Croker:
"LadyMargaret Dalrympleonly daughter of JohnEarl of Stairmarried in1700to Hughthird Earl of Loudoun. She died in1777agedONE HUNDRED. Of this venerable ladyand of theCountessof Eglintounewhom Johnson visited next dayhe thusspeaks inhis JOURNEY:'Length of life is distributedimpartiallyto very different modes of lifein very differentclimates;and the mountains have no greater examples of age thantheLowlandswhere I was introduced to two ladies of highqualityone of whom (Lady Loudoun) in her ninety-fourth yearpresidedat her table with the full exercise of all her powersand theother (Lady Eglintoun) had attained her eighty-fourthyearwithout any diminution of her vivacityand little reasonto accusetime of depredations on her beauty.'"
"LadyEglintounethough she was now in her eighty-fifth yearand hadlived in the retirement of the country for almost half acenturywas still a very agreeable woman. She was of the noblehouse ofKennedyand had all the elevation which theconsciousnessof such birth inspires. Her figure was majestichermanners high-bredher reading extensiveand herconversationelegant. She had been the admiration of the gaycircles oflifeand the patroness of poets. Dr. Johnson wasdelightedwith his reception here. Her principles in church andstate werecongenial with his. She knew all his meritand hadheard muchof him from her sonEarl Alexanderwho loved tocultivatethe acquaintance of men of talents in everydepartment."
"Inthe course of our conversation this dayit came out thatLadyEglintoune was married the year before Dr. Johnson was born;upon whichshe graciously said to himthat she might have beenhismotherand that she now adopted himand when we were goingawaysheembraced himsaying'My dear sonfarewell!' Myfriend wasmuch pleased with this day's entertainmentand ownedthat I haddone well to force him out."
"AtSir Alexander Dick'sfrom that absence of mind to whichevery manis at times subjectI toldin a blundering mannerLadyEglintoune's complimentary adoption of Dr. Johnson as herson; for Iunfortunately stated that her ladyship adopted him asher sonin consequence of her having been married the year AFTERhe wasborn. Dr. Johnson instantly corrected me. 'Sirdon'tyouperceive that you are defaming the Countess? Forsupposingme to beher sonand that she was not married till the yearafter mybirthI must have been her NATURAL son.' A young ladyof qualitywho was present very handsomely said'Might not theson havejustified the fault?' My friend was much flattered bythiscomplimentwhich he never forgot. When in more thanordinaryspiritsand talking of his journey in Scotlandhe hascalled tome'Boswellwhat was it that the young lady ofqualitysaid of me at Sir Alexander Dick's?' Nobody will doubtthat I washappy in repeating it."
Note5.EARL OF WINTON.
Theincident here alluded to is thus narrated in Nichols'Progressesof James I.Vol.III. p.306:
"Thefamily" (of Winton) "owed its first elevation to the unionof SirChristopher Seton with a sister of King Robert Bruce.With KingJames VI. they acquired great favourwhohavingcreatedhis brother Earl of Dunfermline in 1599made RobertseventhLord SetonEarl of Winton in 1600. Before the King'saccessionto the English thronehis Majesty and the Queen werefrequentlyat Setonwhere the Earl kept a very hospitable tableat whichall foreigners of quality were entertained on theirvisits toScotland. His Lordship died in 1603and was buried onthe 5th ofAprilon the very day the King left Edinburgh forEngland.
His Majestywe are toldwas pleased to rest himselfat thesouth-west round of the orchard of Setonon the highwaytill thefuneral was overthat he might not withdraw the noblecompany;and he said that he had lost a goodfaithfuland loyalsubject."NICHOLS'PROGRESSES OF K. JAMES I.VOL.III. p.306.
Note6.MACGREGOR OF GLENSTRAE.
"The2 of Octr: (1603) Allaster MacGregor of Glenstrae tane bethe lairdArkynlesbot escapit againe; bot after taken be theEarle ofArgyll the 4 of Januariiand brought to Edr: the 9 ofJanuar:
1604wt: 18 mae of hes friendes MacGregors. He wesconvoyitto Berwick be the gairdconform to the Earle's promes;for hepromesit to put him out of Scottis grund: Suahe keipitanHielandman's promesin respect he sent the gaird to convoyhim out ofScottis grund; bot yai wer not directit to pairt wt:himbotto fetche him bak againe. The 18 of Januarhe came atevinagaine to Edinburghe; and upone the 20 dayhe was hangit atthecrosseand ij of his freindes and nameupon ane gallows:himselfbeing chieffhe was hangit his awin hight above the restof hesfreindis."BIRRELL'S DIARY(IN DALZELL'S FRAGMENTS OFSCOTTISHHISTORY)pp.6061.
˙NOTES TOTHE HIGHLAND WIDOW.
"LochAweupon the banks of which the scene of action tookplaceisthirty-four miles in length. The north side is boundedby widemuirs and inconsiderable hillswhich occupy an extent ofcountryfrom twelve to twenty miles in breadthand the whole ofthis spaceis enclosed as by circumvallation. Upon the north itis barredby Loch Eitiveon the south by Loch Aweand on theeast bythe dreadful pass of Brandirthrough which an arm of thelatterlake opensat about four miles from its easternextremityand discharges the river Awe into the former. Thepass isabout three miles in length; its east side is bounded bythe almostinaccessible steeps which form the base of the vastand ruggedmountain of Cruachan. The crags rise in some placesalmostperpendicularly from the waterand for their chief extentshow nospace nor level at their feetbut a rough and narrowedge ofstony beach. Upon the whole of these cliffs grows athick andinterwoven wood of all kinds of treesboth timberdwarfandcoppice; no track existed through the wildernessbuta windingpathwhich sometimes crept along the precipitousheightand sometimes descended in a straight pass along themargin ofthe water. Near the extremity of the defilea narrowlevelopened between the water and the crag; but a great part ofthisaswell as of the preceding steepswas formerly envelopedin athicketwhich showed little facility to the feet of any butthemartens and wild cats. Along the west side of the pass liesa wall ofsheer and barren crags. From behind they rise inroughunevenand heathy declivitiesout of the wide muirbeforementionedbetween Loch Eitive and Loch Awe; but in fronttheyterminate abruptly in the most frightful precipiceswhichform thewhole side of the passand descend at one fall into thewaterwhich fills its trough. At the north end of the barrierand at thetermination of the passlies that part of the cliffwhich iscalled Craiganuni; at its foot the arm of the lakegraduallycontracts its water to a very narrow spaceand atlengthterminates at two rocks (called the Rocks of Brandir)which forma strait channelsomething resembling the lock of acanal.
From this outlet there is a continual descent towardsLochEitiveand from hence the river Awe pours out its currentin afurious streamfoaming over a bed broken with holesandcumberedwith masses of granite and whinstone.
"Ifever there was a bridge near Craiganuni in ancient timesitmust havebeen at the Rocks of Brandir. From the days of Wallaceto thoseof General Wadethere were never passages of this kindbut inplaces of great necessitytoo narrow for a boatand toowide for aleap; even then they were but an unsafe footway formedof thetrunks of trees placed transversely from rock to rockunstrippedof their barkand destitute of either plank or rail.For such astructure there is no place in the neighbourhood ofCraiganunibut at the rocks above mentioned. In the lake and onthe riverthe water is far too wide; but at the strait the spaceis notgreater than might be crossed by a tall mountain pineandthe rockson either side are formed by nature like a pier. Thatthis pointwas always a place of passage is rendered probable byitsfacility and the use of recent times. It is not long sinceit was thecommon gate of the country on either side the riverand thepass: the mode of crossing is yet in the memory ofpeoplelivingand was performed by a little currach moored oneitherside the waterand a stout cable fixed across the streamfrom bankto bankby which the passengers drew themselves acrossin themanner still practised in places of the same nature. Itis noargument against the existence of a bridge in former timesthat theabove method only existed in oursrather than a passageof thatkindwhich would seem the more improved expedient. Thecontradictionis sufficiently accounted for by the decay oftimber inthe neighbourhood. Of oldboth oaks and firs of animmensesize abounded within a very inconsiderable distance; butit is nowmany years since the destruction of the forests of GlenEitive andGlen Urcha has deprived the country of all the treesofsufficient size to cross the strait of Brandir; and it isprobablethat the currach was not introduced till the want oftimber haddisenabled the inhabitants of the country frommaintaininga bridge. It only further remains to be noticed thatat somedistance below the Rocks of Brandir there was formerly afordwhich was used for cattle in the memory of people living;from thenarrowness of the passagethe force of the streamandthe brokenbed of the riverit washowevera dangerous passand couldonly be attempted with safety at leisure and byexperience."NOTESTO THE BRIDAL OF CAOLCHAIRN.
Note8.BATTLE BETWIXT THE ARMIES OF THE BRUCE AND MACDOUGAL OFLORN.
"Butthe Kingwhose dear-bought experience in war had taught himextremecautionremained in the Braes of Balquhidder till he hadacquiredby his spies and outskirries a perfect knowledge of thedispositionof the army of Lornand the intention of its leader.He thendivided his force into two columnsentrusting thecommand ofthe firstin which he placed his archers and lightestarmedtroopsto Sir James Douglaswhilst he himself took theleading ofthe otherwhich consisted principally of his knightsandbarons. On approaching the defileBruce dispatched SirJamesDouglas by a pathway which the enemy had neglected tooccupywith directions to advance silentlyand gain the heightsabove andin front of the hilly ground where the men of Lorn wereconcealed;and having ascertained that this movement had beenexecutedwith successhe put himself at the head of his owndivisionand fearlessly led his men into the defile. Herepreparedas he was for what was to take placeit was difficultto preventa temporary panic when the yell whichto this dayinvariablyprecedes the assault of the mountaineerburst fromthe ruggedbosom of Ben Cruachan; and the woods whichthe momentbeforehad waved in silence and solitudegave forth their birthofsteel-clad warriorsandin an instantbecame instinct withthedreadful vitality of war. But although appalled and checkedfor abrief space by the suddenness of the assaultand themasses ofrock which the enemy rolled down from the precipicesBruceatthe head of his divisionpressed up the side of themountain.
Whilst this party assaulted the men of Lorn with theutmostfurySir James Douglas and his party shouted suddenlyupon theheights in their frontshowering down their arrows uponthem; andwhen these missiles were exhaustedattacking themwith theirswords and battle-axes. The consequence of such anattackboth in front and rearwas the total discomfiture of thearmy ofLorn; and the circumstances to which this chief had soconfidentlylooked forwardas rendering the destruction of Brucealmostinevitablewere now turned with fatal effect againsthimself.
His great superiority of numbers cumbered and impededhismovements. Thrust by the double assaultand by the peculiarnature ofthe groundinto such narrow room as the pass affordedand drivento fury by finding themselves cut to pieces in detailwithoutpower of resistancethe men of Lorn fled towards LochEitivewhere a bridge thrown over the Aweand supported upontwoimmense rocksknown by the name of the Rocks of Brandirformed thesolitary communication between the side of the riverwhere thebattle took place and the country of Lorn. Theirobject wasto gain the bridgewhich was composed entirely ofwoodandhaving availed themselves of it in their retreattodestroyitand thus throw the impassable torrent of the Awebetweenthem and their enemies. But their intention wasinstantlydetected by Douglaswhorushing down from the highgrounds atthe head of his archers and light-armed forestersattackedthe body of the mountaineerswhich had occupied thebridgeand drove them from it with great slaughterso thatBruce andhis divisionon coming uppassed it withoutmolestation;and this last resource being taken from themthearmy ofLorn werein a few hoursliterally cut to pieceswhilsttheir chiefwho occupied Loch Eitive with his fleetsawfrom hisshipsthe discomfiture of his menand found itimpossibleto give them the least assistance."TYTLER'S LIFE OFBRUCE.
Note9.MASSACRE OF GLENCOE.
Thefollowing succinct account of this too celebrated eventmaybesufficient for this place:
"Inthe beginning of the year 1692 an action of unexampledbarbaritydisgraced the government of King William III. inScotland.
In the August precedinga proclamation had beenissuedoffering an indemnity to such insurgents as should takethe oathsto the King and Queenon or before the last day ofDecember;and the chiefs of such tribesas had been in arms forJamessoon after took advantage of the proclamation. ButMacdonaldof Glencoe was prevented by accidentrather thandesignfrom tendering his submission within the limited time.In the endof December he went to Colonel Hillwho commanded thegarrisonin Fort Williamto take the oaths of allegiance to thegovernment;and the latter having furnished him with a letter toSir ColinCampbellSheriff of the county of Argylldirected himto repairimmediately to Inveraryto make his submission in alegalmanner before that magistrate. But the way to Inverary laythroughalmost impassable mountainsthe season was extremelyrigorousand the whole country was covered with a deep snow. Soeagerhoweverwas Macdonald to take the oaths before thelimitedtime should expirethatthough the road lay within halfa mile ofhis own househe stopped not to visit his familyandaftervarious obstructionsarrived at Inverary. The time hadelapsedand the sheriff hesitated to receive his submission; butMacdonaldprevailed by his importunitiesand even tearsininducingthat functionary to administer to him the oath ofallegianceand to certify the cause of his delay. At this timeSir JohnDalrympleafterwards Earl of Stairbeing in attendanceuponWilliam as Secretary of State for Scotlandtook advantageofMacdonald's neglecting to take the oath within the timeprescribedand procured from the King a warrant of militaryexecutionagainst that chief and his whole clan. This was doneat theinstigation of the Earl of Breadalbanewhose lands theGlencoemen had plunderedand whose treachery to government innegotiatingwith the Highland clans Macdonald himself hadexposed.
The King was accordingly persuaded that Glencoe was themainobstacle to the pacification of the Highlands; and the factof theunfortunate chief's submission having been concealedthesanguinaryorders for proceeding to military execution againsthis clanwere in consequence obtained. The warrant was bothsigned andcountersigned by the King's own handand theSecretaryurged the officers who commanded in the Highlands toexecutetheir orders with the utmost rigour. Campbell ofGlenlyona captain in Argyll's regimentand two subalternswereordered to repair to Glencoe on the first of February with ahundredand twenty men. Campbell being uncle to youngMacdonald'swifewas received by the father with all manner offriendshipand hospitality. The men were lodged at free quartersin thehouses of his tenantsand received the kindestentertainment.
Till the 13th of the month the troops lived inthe utmostharmony and familiarity with the peopleand on thevery nightof the massacre the officers passed the evening atcards inMacdonald's house. In the night Lieutenant Lindsaywith aparty of soldierscalled in a friendly manner at hisdoorandwas instantly admitted. Macdonaldwhile in the act ofrising toreceive his guestwas shot dead through the back withtwobullets. His wife had already dressed; but she was strippednaked bythe soldierswho tore the rings off her fingers withtheirteeth. The slaughter now became generaland neither agenorinfirmity was spared. Some womenin defending theirchildrenwere killed; boysimploring mercywere shot dead byofficerson whose knees they hung. In one place nine personsasthey satenjoying themselves at tablewere butchered by thesoldiers.
In InverriggonCampbell's own quartersnine men werefirstbound by the soldiersand then shot at intervalsone byone.
Nearly forty persons were massacred by the troopsandseveralwho fled to the mountains perished by famine and theinclemencyof the season. Those who escaped owed their lives toatempestuous night. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamiltonwho hadreceivedthe charge of the execution from Dalrymplewas on hismarch withfour hundred mento guard all the passes from thevalley ofGlencoe; but he was obliged to stop by the severity oftheweatherwhich proved the safety of the unfortunate clan.Next dayhe entered the valleylaid the houses in ashesandcarriedaway the cattle and spoilwhich were divided among theofficersand soldiers."ARTICLE "BRITAIN;" ENCYC. BRITANNICANEWEDITION.
Note10.FIDELITY OF THE HIGHLANDERS.
Of thestrongundeviating attachment of the Highlanders to thepersonand their deference to the will or commands of theirchiefs andsuperiorstheir rigid adherence to duty andprincipleandtheir chivalrous acts of self-devotion to these inthe faceof danger and deaththere are many instances recordedin GeneralStewart of Garth's interesting Sketches of theHighlandersand Highland Regimentswhich might not inaptlysupplyparallels to the deeds of the Romans themselvesat theera whenRome was in her glory. The following instances of suchare worthyof being here quoted:
"Inthe year 1795 a serious disturbance broke out in Glasgowamong theBreadalbane Fencibles. Several men having beenconfinedand threatened with corporal punishmentconsiderablediscontentand irritation were excited among their comradeswhichincreased to such violencethatwhen some men wereconfinedin the guard-housea great proportion of the regimentrushed outand forcibly released the prisoners. This violationofmilitary discipline was not to be passed overand accordinglymeasureswere immediately taken to secure the ringleaders. Butso manywere equally concernedthat it was difficultif notimpossibleto fix the crime on anyas being more prominentlyguilty.
And here was shown a trait of character worthy of abettercauseand which originated from a feeling alive to thedisgraceof a degrading punishment. The soldiers being madesensibleof the nature of their misconductand the consequentnecessityof public exampleSEVERAL MEN VOLUNTARILY OFFEREDTHEMSELVESTO STAND TRIALand suffer the sentence of the law asanatonement for the whole. These men were accordingly marchedtoEdinburgh Castletriedand four condemned to be shot. Threeof themwere afterwards reprievedand the fourthAlexanderSutherlandwas shot on Musselburgh Sands.
"Thefollowing semi-official account of this unfortunatemisunderstandingwas published at the time:
"'Duringthe afternoon of Mondaywhen a private of the lightcompany ofthe Breadalbane Fencibleswho had been confined for aMILITARYoffencewas released by that companyand some othercompanieswho had assembled in a tumultuous manner before theguard-houseno person whatever was hurtand no violenceoffered;and however unjustifiable the proceedingsit originatednot fromany disrespect or ill-will to their officersbut from amistakenpoint of honourin a particular set of men in thebattalionwho thought themselves disgraced by the impendingpunishmentof one of their number. The men havein everyrespectsince that period conducted themselves with the greatestregularityand strict subordination. The whole of the battalionseemedextremely sensible of the improper conduct of such as wereconcernedwhatever regret they might feel for the fate of thefewindividuals who had so readily given themselves up asprisonersto be tried for their own and others' misconduct.'
"Onthe march to Edinburgh a circumstance occurredthe moreworthy ofnoticeas it shows a strong principle of honour andfidelityto his word and to his officer in a common Highlandsoldier.
One of the men stated to the officer commanding thepartythat he knew what his fate would bebut that he had leftbusinessof the utmost importance to a friend in Glasgowwhichhe wishedto transact before his death; thatas to himselfhewas fullyprepared to meet his fate; but with regard to hisfriendhecould not die in peace unless the business wassettledand thatif the officer would suffer him to return toGlasgowafew hours there would be sufficientand he would joinhim beforehe reached Edinburghand march as a prisoner with theparty.
The soldier added'You have known me since I was achild; youknow my country and kindred; and you may believe Ishallnever bring you to any blame by a breach of the promise Inow maketo be with you in full time to be delivered up in theCastle.'This was a startling proposal to the officerwho was ajudicioushumane manand knew perfectly his risk andresponsibilityin yielding to such an extraordinary application.Howeverhis confidence was suchthat he complied with therequest ofthe prisonerwho returned to Glasgow at nightsettledhis businessand left the town before daylight to redeemhispledge. He took a long circuit to avoid being seenapprehendedas a deserterand sent back to Glasgowas probablyhisaccount of his officer's indulgence would not have beencredited.
In consequence of this cautionand the lengthenedmarchthrough woods and over hills by an unfrequented routethere wasno appearance of him at the hour appointed. Theperplexityof the officer when he reached the neighbourhood ofEdinburghmay be easily imagined. He moved forward slowlyindeedbut no soldier appeared; and unable to delay any longerhe marchedup to the Castleand as he was delivering over theprisonersbut before any report was given inMacmartintheabsentsoldierrushed in among his fellow prisonersall palewithanxiety and fatigueand breathless with apprehension of theconsequencesin which his delay might have involved hisbenefactor.
"Inwhatever light the conduct of the officer (my respectablefriendMajor Colin Campbell) may be consideredeither bymilitarymen or othersin this memorable exemplification of thecharacteristicprinciple of his countrymenfidelity to theirworditcannot but be wished that the soldier's magnanimousself-devotionhad been taken as an atonement for his ownmisconductand that of the wholewho also had made a highsacrificein the voluntary offer of their lives for the conductof theirbrother soldiers. Are these a people to be treated asmalefactorswithout regard to their feelings and principles?and mightnot a disciplinesomewhat different from the usualmodebewith advantageapplied to them?"Vol.II. pp.413-15.3rd Edit.
"Asoldier of this regiment(The Argyllshire Highlanders)desertedand emigrated to Americawhere he settled. Severalyearsafter his desertiona letter was received from himwith asum ofmoneyfor the purpose of procuring one or two men tosupply hisplace in the regimentas the only recompense he couldmake for'breaking his oath to his God and his allegiance to hisKingwhich preyed on his conscience in such a mannerthat hehad norest night nor day.'
"Thisman had had good principles early instilled into his mindand thedisgrace which he had been originally taught to believewouldattach to a breach of faith now operated with full effect.Thesoldier who deserted from the 42nd Regiment at Gibraltarin1797exhibited the same remorse of conscience after he hadviolatedhis allegiance. In countries where such principlesprevailand regulate the character of a peoplethe mass of thepopulationmayon occasions of trialbe reckoned on as soundandtrustworthy."Vol.II.p.218. 3rd Edit.
"Thelate James Menzies of Culdareshaving engaged in therebellionof 1715and been taken at Prestonin Lancashirewascarried toLondonwhere he was tried and condemnedbutafterwardsreprieved. Grateful for this clemencyhe remained athome in1745butretaining a predilection for the old causehesent ahandsome charger as a present to Prince Charleswhenadvancingthrough England. The servant who led and delivered thehorse wastaken prisonerand carried to Carlislewhere he wastried andcondemned. To extort a discovery of the person whosent thehorsethreats of immediate execution in case ofrefusaland offers of pardon on his giving informationwereheld outineffectually to the faithful messenger. He knewhesaidwhatthe consequence of a disclosure would be to hismasterand his own life was nothing in the comparison. Whenbroughtout for executionhe was again pressed to inform on hismaster.
He asked if they were serious in supposing him such avillain.
If he did what they desiredand forgot his master andhis trusthe could not return to his native countryforGlenlyonwould be no home or country for himas he would bedespisedand hunted out of the glen. Accordingly he kept steadyto histrustand was executed. This trusty servant's name wasJohnMacnaughtonfrom Glenlyonin Perthshire. He deserves tobementionedboth on account of his incorruptible fidelityandof histestimony to the honourable principles of the peopleandto theirdetestation of a breach of trust to a kind andhonourablemasterhowever great might be the riskor howeverfatal theconsequencesto the individual himself."Vol.1.pp.52533rdEdit.
˙NOTE TOTHE TWO DROVERS.
Note11.ROBERT DONN'S POEMS.
I cannotdismiss this story without resting attention for amoment onthe light which has been thrown on the character of theHighlandDrover since the time of its first appearanceby theaccount ofa drover poetby name Robert Mackayoras he wascommonlycalledRob Donnthat isBrown Robertand certainspecimensof his talentspublished in the ninetieth number oftheQuarterly Review. The picture which that paper gives of thehabits andfeelings of a class of persons with which the generalreaderwould be apt to associate no ideas but those of wildsuperstitionand rude mannersis in the highest degreeinterestingand I cannot resist the temptation of quoting two ofthe songsof this hitherto unheard-of poet of humble life. Theyare thusintroduced by the reviewer:
"Uponone occasionit seemsRob's attendance upon his master'scattlebusiness detained him a whole year from homeand at hisreturn hefound that a fair maiden to whom his troth had beenplightedof yore had lost sight of her vowsand was on the eveof beingmarried to a rival (a carpenter by trade)who hadprofitedby the young drover's absence. The following song wascomposedduring a sleepless nightin the neighbourhood ofCreiffinPerthshireand the home sickness which it expressesappears tobe almost as much that of the deer-hunter as of thelovingswain.
'EASY IS MY BEDIT IS EASY
BUT IT IS NOT TO SLEEP THAT I INCLINE;
THE WIND WHISTLES NORTHWARDSNORTHWARDS
AND MY THOUGHTS MOVE WITH IT.
More pleasant were it to be with thee
In the little glen of calves
Than to be counting of droves
In the enclosures of Creiff.
EASY IS MY BEDETC.
'Great is my esteem of the maiden
Towards whose dwelling the north wind blows;
She is ever cheerfulsportivekindly
Without follywithout vanitywithout pride.
True is her heartwere I under hiding
And fifty men in pursuit of my footsteps
I should find protectionwhen they surrounded me most
In the secret recess of that shieling.
EASY IS MY BEDETC.
'Ohfor the day for turning my face homeward
That I may see the maiden of beauty
Joyful will it be to me to be with thee
Fair girl with the long heavy locks!
Choice of all places for deer-hunting
Are the brindled rock and the ridge!
How sweet at evening to be dragging the slain deer
Downwards along the piper's cairn!
EASY IS MY BEDETC.
'Great is my esteem for the maiden
Who parted from me by the west side of the enclosed field;
Late yet again will she linger in that fold
Long after the kine are assembled.
It is I myself who have taken no dislike to thee
Though far away from thee am I now.
It is for the thought of thee that sleep flies from me;
Great is the profit to me of thy parting kiss!
EASY IS MY BEDETC.
'Dear to me are the boundaries of the forest;
Far from Creiff is my heart;
My remembrance is of the hillocks of sheep
And the heath of many knolls.
Oh for the red-streaked fissures of the rock
Where in spring time the fawns leap;
Oh for the crags towards which the wind is blowing
Cheap would be my bed to be there!
EASYIS MY BEDETC.'
"Thefollowing describes Rob's feelings on the first discoveryof hisdamsel's infidelity. The airs of both these piecesare hisownandthe Highland ladies sayvery beautiful.
'Heavy to me is the shielingand the hum that is in it
Since the ear that was wont to listen is now no more on the
Where is Isabelthe courteousthe conversablea sister in
Where is Annethe slender-browedthe turret-breastedwhose
glossy hair pleased me when yet a boy?
HEICH! WHAT AN HOUR WAS MY RETURNING!
PAIN SUCH AS THAT SUNSET BROUGHTWHAT AVAILETH ME TO TELL IT?
'Itraversed the foldand upward among the trees
Each placefar and nearwherein I was wont to salute my
When I looked down from the cragand beheld the fair-haired
stranger dallying with his bride
I wished I had never revisited the glen of my dreams.
SUCH THINGS CAME INTO MY HEART AS THAT SUN WAS GOING DOWN
A PAIN OF WHICH I SHALL NEVER BE RIDWHAT AVAILETH ME TO TELL
'Since it has been heard that the carpenter had persuaded thee
My sleep is disturbedbusy is foolishness within me at
The kindness that has been between usI cannot shake off that
memory in visions;
Thou callest me not to thy side; but love is to me for a
THERE IS STRIFE WITHIN MEAND I TOSS TO BE AT LIBERTY;
AND EVER THE CLOSER IT CLINGSAND THE DELUSION IS GROWING TO
ME AS A TREE.
'Anneyellow-haired daughter of Donaldsurely thou knowest
not how it is with me
That it is old loveunrepaidwhich has worn down from me my
That when far from theebeyond many mountainsthe wound in
my heart was throbbing
Stirringand searching for everas when I sat beside thee on
NOWTHENHEAR ME THIS ONCEIF FOR EVER I AM TO BE WITHOUT
MY SPIRIT IS BROKENGIVE ME ONE KISS ERE I LEAVE THIS LAND!
'Haughtily and scornfully the maid looked upon me:
Never will it be work for thy fingers to unloose the band from
Thou hast been absent a twelvemonthand six were seeking me
Was thy superiority so high that there should be no end of
abiding for thee?
HA! HA! HA! HAST THOU AT LAST BECOME SICK?
IS IT LOVE THAT IS TO GIVE DEATH TO THEE? SURELY THE ENEMY
HAS BEEN IN NO HASTE.
'But how shall I hate theeeven though towards me thou hast
When my discourse is most angry concerning thy name in thine
Of sudden thine imagewith its old dearnesscomes visibly
into my mind
And a secret voice whispers that love will yet prevail!
AND I BECOME SURETY FOR IT ANEWDARLING
AND IT SPRINGS UP AT THAT HOUR LOFTY AS A TOWER.'
"Rudeand bald as these things appear in a verbal translationand roughas they might possibly appeareven were the originalsintelligiblewe confess we are disposed to think they would ofthemselvesjustify Dr. Mackay (their Editor) in placing thisherdsman-loveramong the true sons of song."QUARTERLY REVIEWNO. XC.JULY 1831.