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Title: Chronicles of the Canongate, 1st Series
Author: Scott, Walter
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chronicles of the Canongate, 1st Series" ***

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CHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE.

By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.



Transcriber’s Note: Footnotes and references to the notes at the end of
the printed book have been inserted in the etext in square brackets
(“[]”) close to the place where they were indicated by a suffix in the
original text. The notes at the end are now numbered instead of using
pages to identify them as was done in the printed text.

Text in italics has been written in capital letters.

The Pound Sterling symbol has been written as “L”.



CONTENTS.

  Introduction to Chronicles of the Canongate.
  Appendix to Introduction--The Theatrical Fund Dinner.
  Introductory--Mr. Chrystal Croftangry.
  The Highland Widow.
  The Two Drovers.
  Notes.



INTRODUCTION TO CHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE.

The preceding volume of this Collection concluded the last of the pieces
originally published under the NOMINIS UMBRA of The Author of Waverley;
and the circumstances which rendered it impossible for the writer to
continue longer in the possession of his incognito were communicated
in 1827, in the Introduction to the first series of Chronicles of the
Canongate, consisting (besides a biographical sketch of the imaginary
chronicler) of three tales, entitled “The Highland Widow,” “The Two
Drovers,” and “The Surgeon’s Daughter.” In the present volume the two
first named of these pieces are included, together with three detached
stories which appeared the year after, in the elegant compilation called
“The Keepsake.” “The Surgeon’s Daughter” it is thought better to defer
until a succeeding volume, than to

  “Begin, and break off in the middle.”

I have, perhaps, said enough on former occasions of the misfortunes
which led to the dropping of that mask under which I had, for a long
series of years, enjoyed so large a portion of public favour. Through
the success of those literary efforts, I had been enabled to indulge
most of the tastes which a retired person of my station might be
supposed to entertain. In the pen of this nameless romancer, I seemed
to possess something like the secret fountain of coined gold and pearls
vouchsafed to the traveller of the Eastern Tale; and no doubt believed
that I might venture, without silly imprudence, to extend my personal
expenditure considerably beyond what I should have thought of, had my
means been limited to the competence which I derived from inheritance,
with the moderate income of a professional situation. I bought, and
built, and planted, and was considered by myself, as by the rest of the
world, in the safe possession of an easy fortune. My riches, however,
like the other riches of this world, were liable to accidents, under
which they were ultimately destined to make unto themselves wings, and
fly away. The year 1825, so disastrous to many branches of industry and
commerce, did not spare the market of literature; and the sudden
ruin that fell on so many of the booksellers could scarcely have been
expected to leave unscathed one whose career had of necessity connected
him deeply and extensively with the pecuniary transactions of that
profession. In a word, almost without one note of premonition, I found
myself involved in the sweeping catastrophe of the unhappy time,
and called on to meet the demands of creditors upon commercial
establishments with which my fortunes had long been bound up, to the
extent of no less a sum than one hundred and twenty thousand pounds.

The author having, however rashly, committed his pledges thus largely
to the hazards of trading companies, it behoved him, of course, to
abide the consequences of his conduct, and, with whatever feelings, he
surrendered on the instant every shred of property which he had been
accustomed to call his own. It became vested in the hands of gentlemen
whose integrity, prudence, and intelligence were combined with all
possible liberality and kindness of disposition, and who readily
afforded every assistance towards the execution of plans, in the
success of which the author contemplated the possibility of his ultimate
extrication, and which were of such a nature that, had assistance of
this sort been withheld, he could have had little prospect of carrying
them into effect. Among other resources which occurred was the project
of that complete and corrected edition of his Novels and Romances (whose
real parentage had of necessity been disclosed at the moment of
the commercial convulsions alluded to), which has now advanced with
unprecedented favour nearly to its close; but as he purposed also to
continue, for the behoof of those to whom he was indebted, the exercise
of his pen in the same path of literature, so long as the taste of his
countrymen should seem to approve of his efforts, it appeared to him
that it would have been an idle piece of affectation to attempt getting
up a new incognito, after his original visor had been thus dashed from
his brow. Hence the personal narrative prefixed to the first work of
fiction which he put forth after the paternity of the “Waverley Novels”
 had come to be publicly ascertained; and though many of the particulars
originally avowed in that Notice have been unavoidably adverted to in
the Prefaces and Notes to some of the preceding volumes of the present
collection, it is now reprinted as it stood at the time, because some
interest is generally attached to a coin or medal struck on a special
occasion, as expressing, perhaps, more faithfully than the same artist
could have afterwards conveyed, the feelings of the moment that gave
it birth. The Introduction to the first series of Chronicles of the
Canongate ran, then, in these words:--



INTRODUCTION.

All who are acquainted with the early history of the Italian stage are
aware that Arlecchino is not, in his original conception, a mere worker
of marvels with his wooden sword, a jumper in and out of windows, as
upon our theatre, but, as his party-coloured jacket implies, a buffoon
or clown, whose mouth, far from being eternally closed, as amongst us,
is filled, like that of Touchstone, with quips, and cranks, and witty
devices, very often delivered extempore. It is not easy to trace how he
became possessed of his black vizard, which was anciently made in
the resemblance of the face of a cat; but it seems that the mask was
essential to the performance of the character, as will appear from the
following theatrical anecdote:--

An actor on the Italian stage permitted at the Foire du St. Germain, in
Paris, was renowned for the wild, venturous, and extravagant wit, the
brilliant sallies and fortunate repartees, with which he prodigally
seasoned the character of the party-coloured jester. Some critics,
whose good-will towards a favourite performer was stronger than their
judgment, took occasion to remonstrate with the successful actor on
the subject of the grotesque vizard. They went wilily to their purpose,
observing that his classical and Attic wit, his delicate vein of humour,
his happy turn for dialogue, were rendered burlesque and ludicrous by
this unmeaning and bizarre disguise, and that those attributes would
become far more impressive if aided by the spirit of his eye and the
expression of his natural features. The actor’s vanity was easily so
far engaged as to induce him to make the experiment. He played Harlequin
barefaced, but was considered on all hands as having made a total
failure. He had lost the audacity which a sense of incognito bestowed,
and with it all the reckless play of raillery which gave vivacity to
his original acting. He cursed his advisers, and resumed his grotesque
vizard, but, it is said, without ever being able to regain the careless
and successful levity which the consciousness of the disguise had
formerly bestowed.

Perhaps the Author of Waverley is now about to incur a risk of the same
kind, and endanger his popularity by having laid aside his incognito. It
is certainly not a voluntary experiment, like that of Harlequin; for
it was my original intention never to have avowed these works during my
lifetime, and the original manuscripts were carefully preserved (though
by the care of others rather than mine), with the purpose of supplying
the necessary evidence of the truth when the period of announcing
it should arrive. [These manuscripts are at present (August 1831)
advertised for public sale, which is an addition, though a small one,
to other annoyances.] But the affairs of my publishers having,
unfortunately, passed into a management different from their own, I had
no right any longer to rely upon secrecy in that quarter; and thus my
mask, like my Aunt Dinah’s in “Tristram Shandy,” having begun to wax a
little threadbare about the chin, it became time to lay it aside with
a good grace, unless I desired it should fall in pieces from my face,
which was now become likely.

Yet I had not the slightest intention of selecting the time and place in
which the disclosure was finally made; nor was there any concert betwixt
my learned and respected friend LORD MEADOWBANK and myself upon that
occasion. It was, as the reader is probably aware, upon the 23rd
February last, at a public meeting, called for establishing a
professional Theatrical Fund in Edinburgh, that the communication took
place. Just before we sat down to table, Lord Meadowbank [One of the
Supreme Judges of Scotland, termed Lords of Council and Session.] asked
me privately whether I was still anxious to preserve my incognito on the
subject of what were called the Waverley Novels? I did not immediately
see the purpose of his lordship’s question, although I certainly might
have been led to infer it, and replied that the secret had now of
necessity become known to so many people that I was indifferent on the
subject. Lord Meadowbank was thus induced, while doing me the great
honour of proposing my health to the meeting, to say something on the
subject of these Novels so strongly connecting them with me as the
author, that by remaining silent I must have stood convicted, either of
the actual paternity, or of the still greater crime of being supposed
willing to receive indirectly praise to which I had no just title. I
thus found myself suddenly and unexpectedly placed in the confessional,
and had only time to recollect that I had been guided thither by a most
friendly hand, and could not, perhaps, find a better public opportunity
to lay down a disguise which began to resemble that of a detected
masquerader.

I had therefore the task of avowing myself, to the numerous and
respectable company assembled, as the sole and unaided author of these
Novels of Waverley, the paternity of which was likely at one time to
have formed a controversy of some celebrity, for the ingenuity with
which some instructors of the public gave their assurance on the subject
was extremely persevering. I now think it further necessary to say
that, while I take on myself all the merits and demerits attending these
compositions, I am bound to acknowledge with gratitude hints of subjects
and legends which I have received from various quarters, and have
occasionally used as a foundation of my fictitious compositions, or
woven up with them in the shape of episodes. I am bound, in particular,
to acknowledge the unremitting kindness of Mr. Joseph Train, supervisor
of excise at Dumfries, to whose unwearied industry I have been indebted
for many curious traditions and points of antiquarian interest. It was
Mr. Train who brought to my recollection the history of Old Mortality,
although I myself had had a personal interview with that celebrated
wanderer so far back as about 1792, when I found him on his usual task.
He was then engaged in repairing the Gravestones of the Covenanters who
had died while imprisoned in the Castle of Dunnottar, to which many of
them were committed prisoners at the period of Argyle’s rising. Their
place of confinement is still called the Whigs’ Vault. Mr. Train,
however, procured for me far more extensive information concerning
this singular person, whose name was Patterson, than I had been able
to acquire during my own short conversation with him. [See, for
some further particulars, the notes to Old Mortality, in the present
collective edition.] He was (as I think I have somewhere already
stated) a native of the parish of Closeburn, in Dumfriesshire; and it
is believed that domestic affliction, as well as devotional feeling,
induced him to commence the wandering mode of life which he pursued
for a very long period. It is more than twenty years since Robert
Patterson’s death, which took place on the highroad near Lockerby, where
he was found exhausted and expiring. The white pony, the companion of
his pilgrimage, was standing by the side of its dying master the whole
furnishing a scene not unfitted for the pencil. These particulars I had
from Mr. Train.

Another debt, which I pay most willingly, I owe to an unknown
correspondent (a lady), [The late Mrs. Goldie.] who favoured me with the
history of the upright and high-principled female, whom, in the Heart
of Mid-Lothian, I have termed Jeanie Deans. The circumstance of her
refusing to save her sister’s life by an act of perjury, and undertaking
a pilgrimage to London to obtain her pardon, are both represented as
true by my fair and obliging correspondent; and they led me to consider
the possibility of rendering a fictitious personage interesting by mere
dignity of mind and rectitude of principle, assisted by unpretending
good sense and temper, without any of the beauty, grace, talent,
accomplishment, and wit to which a heroine of romance is supposed to
have a prescriptive right. If the portrait was received with interest by
the public, I am conscious how much it was owing to the truth and force
of the original sketch, which I regret that I am unable to present to
the public, as it was written with much feeling and spirit.

Old and odd books, and a considerable collection of family legends,
formed another quarry, so ample that it was much more likely that the
strength of the labourer should be exhausted than that materials should
fail. I may mention, for example’s sake, that the terrible catastrophe
of the Bride of Lammermoor actually occurred in a Scottish family of
rank. The female relative, by whom the melancholy tale was communicated
to me many years since, was a near connection of the family in which
the event happened, and always told it with an appearance of melancholy
mystery which enhanced the interest. She had known in her youth the
brother who rode before the unhappy victim to the fatal altar, who,
though then a mere boy, and occupied almost entirely with the gaiety of
his own appearance in the bridal procession, could not but remark that
the hand of his sister was moist, and cold as that of a statue. It
is unnecessary further to withdraw the veil from this scene of family
distress, nor, although it occurred more than a hundred years since,
might it be altogether agreeable to the representatives of the families
concerned in the narrative. It may be proper to say that the events
alone are imitated; but I had neither the means nor intention of copying
the manners, or tracing the characters, of the persons concerned in the
real story. Indeed, I may here state generally that, although I have
deemed historical personages free subjects of delineation, I have never
on any occasion violated the respect due to private life. It was indeed
impossible that traits proper to persons, both living and dead, with
whom I have had intercourse in society, should not have risen to my
pen in such works as Waverley, and those which followed it. But I have
always studied to generalize the portraits, so that they should still
seem, on the whole, the productions of fancy, though possessing some
resemblance to real individuals. Yet I must own my attempts have not
in this last particular been uniformly successful. There are men whose
characters are so peculiarly marked, that the delineation of some
leading and principal feature inevitably places the whole person before
you in his individuality. Thus, the character of Jonathan Oldbuck, in
the Antiquary, was partly founded on that of an old friend of my youth,
to whom I am indebted for introducing me to Shakespeare, and other
invaluable favours; but I thought I had so completely disguised the
likeness that his features could not be recognized by any one now alive.
I was mistaken, however, and indeed had endangered what I desired
should be considered as a secret; for I afterwards learned that a
highly-respectable gentleman, one of the few surviving friends of my
father, and an acute critic, [James Chalmers, Esq., Solicitor at Law,
London, who (died during the publication of the present edition of these
Novels. Aug. 1831.)] had said, upon the appearance of the work, that
he was now convinced who was the author of it, as he recognized in the
Antiquary of Monkbarns traces of the character of a very intimate friend
of my father’s family.

I may here also notice that the sort of exchange of gallantry which is
represented as taking place betwixt the Baron of Bradwardine and Colonel
Talbot, is a literal fact. The real circumstances of the anecdote, alike
honourable to Whig and Tory, are these:--

Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle--a name which I cannot write without
the warmest recollections of gratitude to the friend of my childhood,
who first introduced me to the Highlands, their traditions, and their
manners--had been engaged actively in the troubles of 1745. As he
charged at the battle of Preston with his clan, the Stewarts of Appin,
he saw an officer of the opposite army standing alone by a battery of
four cannon, of which he discharged three on the advancing Highlanders,
and then drew his sword. Invernahyle rushed on him, and required him to
surrender. “Never to rebels!” was the undaunted reply, accompanied with
a lunge, which the Highlander received on his target, but instead of
using his sword in cutting down his now defenceless antagonist, he
employed it in parrying the blow of a Lochaber axe aimed at the officer
by the Miller, one of his own followers, a grim-looking old Highlander,
whom I remember to have seen. Thus overpowered, Lieutenant-Colonel Allan
Whitefoord, a gentleman of rank and consequence, as well as a brave
officer, gave up his sword, and with it his purse and watch, which
Invernahyle accepted, to save them from his followers. After the affair
was over, Mr. Stewart sought out his prisoner, and they were introduced
to each other by the celebrated John Roy Stewart, who acquainted Colonel
Whitefoord with the quality of his captor, and made him aware of the
necessity of receiving back his property, which he was inclined to leave
in the hands into which it had fallen. So great became the confidence
established betwixt them, that Invernahyle obtained from the Chevalier
his prisoner’s freedom upon parole; and soon afterwards, having been
sent back to the Highlands to raise men, he visited Colonel Whitefoord
at his own house, and spent two happy days with him and his Whig
friends, without thinking on either side of the civil war which was then
raging.

When the battle of Culloden put an end to the hopes of Charles Edward,
Invernahyle, wounded and unable to move, was borne from the field by
the faithful zeal of his retainers. But as he had been a distinguished
Jacobite, his family and property were exposed to the system of
vindictive destruction too generally carried into execution through the
country of the insurgents. It was now Colonel Whitefoord’s turn to exert
himself, and he wearied all the authorities, civil and military, with
his solicitations for pardon to the saver of his life, or at least for
a protection for his wife and family. His applications were for a long
time unsuccessful. “I was found with the mark of the Beast upon me in
every list,” was Invernahyle’s expression. At length Colonel Whitefoord
applied to the Duke of Cumberland, and urged his suit with every
argument which he could think of, being still repulsed, he took his
commission from his bosom, and having said something of his own and
his family’s exertions in the cause of the House of Hanover, begged to
resign his situation in their service, since he could not be permitted
to show his gratitude to the person to whom he owed his life. The duke,
struck with his earnestness, desired him to take up his commission, and
granted the protection required for the family of Invernahyle.

The chieftain himself lay concealed in a cave near his own house, before
which a small body of regular soldiers were encamped. He could hear
their muster-roll called every morning, and their drums beat to quarters
at night, and not a change of the sentinels escaped him. As it was
suspected that he was lurking somewhere on the property, his family were
closely watched, and compelled to use the utmost precaution in supplying
him with food. One of his daughters, a child of eight or ten years
old, was employed as the agent least likely to be suspected. She was an
instance, among others, that a time of danger and difficulty creates a
premature sharpness of intellect. She made herself acquainted among the
soldiers, till she became so familiar to them that her motions escaped
their notice; and her practice was to stroll away into the neighbourhood
of the cave, and leave what slender supply of food she carried for that
purpose under some remarkable stone, or the root of some tree, where her
father might find it as he crept by night from his lurking-place. Times
became milder, and my excellent friend was relieved from proscription by
the Act of Indemnity. Such is the interesting story which I have rather
injured than improved by the manner in which it is told in Waverley.

This incident, with several other circumstances illustrating the Tales
in question, was communicated by me to my late lamented friend,
William Erskine (a Scottish judge, by the title of Lord Kinedder),
who afterwards reviewed with far too much partiality the Tales of my
Landlord, for the Quarterly Review of January 1817. [Lord Kinedder died
in August 1822. EHEU! (Aug. 1831.)] In the same article are contained
other illustrations of the Novels, with which I supplied my accomplished
friend, who took the trouble to write the review. The reader who is
desirous of such information will find the original of Meg Merrilies,
and, I believe, of one or two other personages of the same cast of
character, in the article referred to.

I may also mention that the tragic and savage circumstances which are
represented as preceding the birth of Allan MacAulay in the Legend of
Montrose, really happened in the family of Stewart of Ardvoirlich.
The wager about the candlesticks, whose place was supplied by Highland
torch-bearers, was laid and won by one of the MacDonalds of Keppoch.

There can be but little amusement in winnowing out the few grains of
truth which are contained in this mass of empty fiction. I may, however,
before dismissing the subject, allude to the various localities which
have been affixed to some of the scenery introduced into these Novels,
by which, for example, Wolf’s Hope is identified with Fast Castle in
Berwickshire, Tillietudlem with Draphane in Clydesdale, and the valley
in the Monastery, called Glendearg, with the dale of the river Allan,
above Lord Somerville’s villa, near Melrose. I can only say that, in
these and other instances, I had no purpose of describing any particular
local spot; and the resemblance must therefore be of that general kind
which necessarily exists between scenes of the same character. The
iron-bound coast of Scotland affords upon its headlands and promontories
fifty such castles as Wolf’s Hope; every county has a valley more or
less resembling Glendearg; and if castles like Tillietudlem, or mansions
like the Baron of Bradwardine’s, are now less frequently to be met with,
it is owing to the rage of indiscriminate destruction, which has removed
or ruined so many monuments of antiquity, when they were not protected
by their inaccessible situation. [I would particularly intimate the Kaim
of Uric, on the eastern coast of Scotland, as having suggested an
idea for the tower called Wolf’s Crag, which the public more generally
identified with the ancient tower of Fast Castle.]

The scraps of poetry which have been in most cases tacked to the
beginning of chapters in these Novels are sometimes quoted either from
reading or from memory, but, in the general case, are pure invention. I
found it too troublesome to turn to the collection of the British Poets
to discover apposite mottoes, and, in the situation of the theatrical
mechanist, who, when the white paper which represented his shower of
snow was exhausted, continued the storm by snowing brown, I drew on
my memory as long as I could, and when that failed, eked it out with
invention. I believe that in some cases, where actual names are affixed
to the supposed quotations, it would be to little purpose to seek them
in the works of the authors referred to. In some cases I have been
entertained when Dr. Watts and other graver authors have been ransacked
in vain for stanzas for which the novelist alone was responsible.

And now the reader may expect me, while in the confessional, to explain
the motives why I have so long persisted in disclaiming the works of
which I am now writing. To this it would be difficult to give any other
reply, save that of Corporal Nym--it was the author’s humour or caprice
for the time. I hope it will not be construed into ingratitude to the
public, to whose indulgence I have owed my SANG-FROID much more than
to any merit of my own, if I confess that I am, and have been, more
indifferent to success or to failure as an author, than may be the
case with others, who feel more strongly the passion for literary fame,
probably because they are justly conscious of a better title to it. It
was not until I had attained the age of thirty years that I made any
serious attempt at distinguishing myself as an author; and at that
period men’s hopes, desires, and wishes have usually acquired something
of a decisive character, and are not eagerly and easily diverted into
a new channel. When I made the discovery--for to me it was one--that by
amusing myself with composition, which I felt a delightful occupation,
I could also give pleasure to others, and became aware that literary
pursuits were likely to engage in future a considerable portion of my
time, I felt some alarm that I might acquire those habits of jealousy
and fretfulness which have lessened, and even degraded, the character
even of great authors, and rendered them, by their petty squabbles and
mutual irritability, the laughing-stock of the people of the world.
I resolved, therefore, in this respect to guard my breast--perhaps an
unfriendly critic may add, my brow--with triple brass, [Not altogether
impossible, when it is considered that I have been at the bar since
1792. (Aug. 1831.)] and as much as possible to avoid resting my thoughts
and wishes upon literary success, lest I should endanger my own peace of
mind and tranquillity by literary failure. It would argue either stupid
apathy or ridiculous affectation to say that I have been insensible to
the public applause, when I have been honoured with its testimonies;
and still more highly do I prize the invaluable friendships which
some temporary popularity has enabled me to form among those of my
contemporaries most distinguished by talents and genius, and which I
venture to hope now rest upon a basis more firm than the circumstances
which gave rise to them. Yet, feeling all these advantages as a man
ought to do, and must do, I may say, with truth and confidence, that I
have, I think, tasted of the intoxicating cup with moderation, and
that I have never, either in conversation or correspondence, encouraged
discussions respecting my own literary pursuits. On the contrary, I
have usually found such topics, even when introduced from motives most
flattering to myself, Rather embarrassing and disagreeable.

I have now frankly told my motives for concealment, so far as I am
conscious of having any, and the public will forgive the egotism of the
detail, as what is necessarily connected with it. The author, so long
and loudly called for, has appeared on the stage, and made his obeisance
to the audience. Thus far his conduct is a mark of respect. To linger in
their presence would be intrusion.

I have only to repeat that I avow myself in print, as formerly in words,
the sole and unassisted author of all the Novels published as works of
“The Author of Waverley.” I do this without shame, for I am unconscious
that there is any thing in their composition which deserves reproach,
either on the score of religion or morality; and without any feeling of
exultation, because, whatever may have been their temporary success,
I am well aware how much their reputation depends upon the caprice of
fashion; and I have already mentioned the precarious tenure by which it
is held, as a reason for displaying no great avidity in grasping at the
possession.

I ought to mention, before concluding, that twenty persons, at least,
were, either from intimacy, or from the confidence which circumstances
rendered necessary, participant of this secret; and as there was no
instance, to my knowledge, of any one of the number breaking faith, I
am the more obliged to them, because the slight and trivial character of
the mystery was not qualified to inspire much respect in those entrusted
with it. Nevertheless, like Jack the Giant-Killer, I was fully confident
in the advantage of my “Coat of Darkness;” and had it not been from
compulsory circumstances, I would have, indeed, been very cautious how I
parted with it.

As for the work which follows, it was meditated, and in part printed,
long before the avowal of the novels took place, and originally
commenced with a declaration that it was neither to have introduction
nor preface of any kind. This long proem, prefixed to a work intended
not to have any, may, however, serve to show how human purposes in the
most trifling, as well as the most important affairs, are liable to
be controlled by the course of events. Thus we begin to cross a strong
river with our eyes and our resolution fixed on that point of the
opposite shore on which we purpose to land; but gradually giving way
to the torrent, are glad, by the aid perhaps of branch or bush, to
extricate ourselves at some distant and perhaps dangerous landing-place,
much farther down the stream than that on which we had fixed our
intentions.

Hoping that the Courteous Reader will afford to a known and familiar
acquaintance some portion of the favour which he extended to a disguised
candidate for his applause, I beg leave to subscribe myself his obliged
humble servant,

WALTER SCOTT.

ABBOTSFORD, OCTOBER 1, 1827.

*****

Such was the little narrative which I thought proper to put forth in
October 1827; nor have I much to add to it now. About to appear for the
first time in my own name in this department of letters, it occurred to
me that something in the shape of a periodical publication might carry
with it a certain air of novelty, and I was willing to break, if I may
so express it, the abruptness of my personal forthcoming, by investing
an imaginary coadjutor with at least as much distinctness of individual
existence as I had ever previously thought it worth while to bestow on
shadows of the same convenient tribe. Of course, it had never been in
my contemplation to invite the assistance of any real person in the
sustaining of my quasi-editorial character and labours. It had long been
my opinion, that any thing like a literary PICNIC is likely to end
in suggesting comparisons, justly termed odious, and therefore to
be avoided; and, indeed, I had also had some occasion to know, that
promises of assistance, in efforts of that order, are apt to be more
magnificent than the subsequent performance. I therefore planned a
Miscellany, to be dependent, after the old fashion, on my own resources
alone, and although conscious enough that the moment which assigned to
the Author of Waverley “a local habitation and a name,” had seriously
endangered his spell, I felt inclined to adopt the sentiment of my old
hero Montrose, and to say to myself, that in literature, as in war,--

  “He either 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 the particulars explanatory of the plan of these Chronicles, which
the reader is presented with in Chapter II. by the imaginary Editor, Mr.
Croftangry, I have now to add, that the lady, termed in his narrative,
Mrs. Bethune Balliol, was designed to shadow out in its leading points
the interesting character of a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Murray Keith,
whose death occurring shortly before, had saddened a wide circle, much
attached to her, as well for her genuine virtue and amiable qualities of
disposition, as for the extent of information which she possessed, and
the delightful manner in which she was used to communicate it. In truth,
the author had, on many occasions, been indebted to her vivid memory for
the SUBSTRATUM of his Scottish fictions, and she accordingly had been,
from an early period, at no loss to fix the Waverley Novels on the right
culprit.

[The Keiths of Craig, in Kincardineshire, descended from John Keith,
fourth son of William, second Earl Marischal, who got from his father,
about 1480, the lands of Craig, and part of Garvock, in that county. In
Douglas’s Baronage, 443 to 445, is a pedigree of that family. Colonel
Robert Keith of Craig (the seventh in descent from John) by his wife,
Agnes, daughter of Robert Murray of Murrayshall, of the family of
Blackbarony, widow of Colonel Stirling, of the family of Keir, had one
son--namely Robert Keith of Craig, ambassador to the court of Vienna,
afterwards to St. Petersburgh, which latter situation he held at the
accession of King George III.--who died at Edinburgh in 1774. He married
Margaret, second daughter of Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, by
Janet, only child and heiress of Sir James Dick of Prestonfield;
and, among other children of this marriage were the late well-known
diplomatist, Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., a general in the army, and
for some time ambassador at Vienna; Sir Basil Keith, Knight, captain in
the navy, who died Governor of Jamaica; and my excellent friend, Anne
Murray Keith, who ultimately came into possession of the family estates,
and died not long before the date of this Introduction (1831).]

In the sketch of Chrystal Croftangry’s own history, the author has been
accused of introducing some not polite allusions to respectable
living individuals; but he may safely, he presumes, pass over such an
insinuation. The first of the narratives which Mr. Croftangry proceeds
to lay before the public, “The Highland Widow,” was derived from Mrs.
Murray Keith, and is given, with the exception of a few additional
circumstances--the introduction of which I am rather inclined to
regret--very much as the excellent old lady used to tell the story.
Neither the Highland cicerone Macturk nor the demure washingwoman, were
drawn from imagination; and on re-reading my tale, after the lapse of
a few years, and comparing its effect with my remembrance of my worthy
friend’s oral narration, which was certainly extremely affecting, I
cannot but suspect myself of having marred its simplicity by some of
those interpolations, which, at the time when I penned them, no doubt
passed with myself for embellishments.

The next tale, entitled “The Two Drovers,” I learned from another old
friend, the late George Constable, Esq. of Wallace-Craigie, near Dundee,
whom I have already introduced to my reader as the original Antiquary of
Monkbarns. He had been present, I think, at the trial at Carlisle,
and seldom mentioned the venerable judges charge to the jury, without
shedding tears,--which had peculiar pathos, as flowing down features,
carrying rather a sarcastic or almost a cynical expression.

This worthy gentleman’s reputation for shrewd Scottish sense, knowledge
of our national antiquities, and a racy humour peculiar to himself, must
be still remembered. For myself, I have pride in recording that for many
years we were, in Wordsworth’s language,--

  “A pair of friends, though I was young,
     And ‘George’ was seventy-two.”

W. S.

ABBOTSFORD, AUG. 15, 1831.


*****



APPENDIX TO INTRODUCTION.

[It has been suggested to the Author that it might be well to reprint
here a detailed account of the public dinner alluded to in the foregoing
Introduction, as given in the newspapers of the time; and the reader
is accordingly presented with the following extract from the EDINBURGH
WEEKLY JOURNAL for Wednesday, 28th February, 1827.]


THE THEATRICAL FUND DINNER.

Before proceeding with our account of this very interesting
festival--for so it may be termed--it is our duty to present to
our readers the following letter, which we have received from the
President:--

TO THE EDITOR OF THE “EDINBURGH WEEKLY JOURNAL.”

Sir,--I am extremely sorry I have not leisure to correct the copy
you sent me of what I am stated to have said at the dinner for the
Theatrical Fund. I am no orator, and upon such occasions as are alluded
to, I say as well as I can what the time requires.

However, I hope your reporter has been more accurate in other instances
than in mine. I have corrected one passage, in which I am made to speak
with great impropriety and petulance, respecting the opinions of those
who do not approve of dramatic entertainments. I have restored what I
said, which was meant to be respectful, as every objection founded in
conscience is, in my opinion, entitled to be so treated. Other errors
I left as I found them, it being of little consequence whether I spoke
sense or nonsense in what was merely intended for the purpose of the
hour.

I am, sir,

Your obedient servant,

EDINBURGH, MONDAY. WALTER SCOTT.

*****

The Theatrical Fund Dinner, which took place on Friday, in the Assembly
Rooms, was conducted with admirable spirit. The Chairman, Sir WALTER
SCOTT, among his other great qualifications, is well fitted to enliven
such an entertainment. His manners are extremely easy, and his style of
speaking simple and natural, yet full of vivacity and point; and he has
the art, if it be art, of relaxing into a certain homeliness of manner,
without losing one particle of his dignity. He thus takes off some of
that solemn formality which belongs to such meetings, and, by his easy,
and graceful familiarity, imparts to them somewhat of the pleasing
character of a private entertainment. Near Sir W. Scott sat the Earl
of Fife, Lord Meadowbank, Sir John Hope of Pinkie, Bart., Admiral Adam,
Baron Clerk Rattray, Gilbert Innes, Esq., James Walker, Esq., Robert
Dundas, Esq., Alexander Smith, Esq., etc.

The cloth being removed, “Non nobis, Domine,” was sung by Messrs.
Thorne, Swift, Collier, and Hartley, after which the following toasts
were given from the chair:--

“The King”--all the honours.

“The Duke of Clarence and the Royal Family.”

The CHAIRMAN, in proposing the next toast, which he wished to be drunk
in solemn silence, said it was to the memory of a regretted-prince, whom
we had lately lost. Every individual would at once conjecture to whom he
alluded. He had no intention to dwell on his military merits. They had
been told in the senate; they had been repeated in the cottage; and
whenever a soldier was the theme, his name was never far distant. But it
was chiefly in connection with the business of this meeting, which
his late Royal Highness had condescended in a particular manner to
patronize, that they were called on to drink his health. To that charity
he had often sacrificed his time, and had given up the little leisure
which he had from important business. He was always ready to attend on
every occasion of this kind, and it was in that view that he proposed to
drink to the memory of his late Royal Highness the Duke of York.--Drunk
in solemn silence.

The CHAIRMAN then requested that gentlemen would fill a bumper as full
as it would hold, while he would say only a few words. He was in the
habit of hearing speeches, and he knew the feeling with which long ones
were regarded. He was sure that it was perfectly unnecessary for him to
enter into any vindication of the dramatic art, which they had come
here to support. This, however, he considered to be the proper time
and proper occasion for him to say a few words on that love of
representation which was an innate feeling in human nature. It was the
first amusement that the child had. It grew greater as he grew up; and
even in the decline of life nothing amuses so much as when a common tale
is told with appropriate personification. The first thing a child does
is to ape his schoolmaster by flogging a chair. The assuming a character
ourselves, or the seeing others assume an imaginary character, is an
enjoyment natural to humanity. It was implanted in our very nature to
take pleasure from such representations, at proper times and on proper
occasions. In all ages the theatrical art had kept pace with the
improvement of mankind, and with the progress of letters and the fine
arts. As man has advanced from the ruder stages of society, the love
of dramatic representations has increased, and all works of this nature
have keen improved in character and in structure. They had only to turn
their eyes to the history of ancient Greece, although he did not pretend
to be very deeply versed in its ancient drama. Its first tragic poet
commanded a body of troops at the battle of Marathon. Sophocles and
Euripides were men of rank in Athens when Athens was in its highest
renown. They shook Athens with their discourses, as their theatrical
works shook the theatre itself. If they turned to France in the time of
Louis the Fourteenth--that era which is the classical history of that
country--they would find that it was referred to by all Frenchmen as the
golden age of the drama there. And also in England in the time of Queen
Elizabeth the drama was at its highest pitch, when the nation began to
mingle deeply and wisely in the general politics of Europe, not only
not receiving laws from others, but giving laws to the world, and
vindicating the rights of mankind. (Cheers.) There have been various
times when the dramatic art subsequently fell into disrepute. Its
professors have been stigmatized, and laws have been passed against
them, less dishonourable to them than to the statesmen by whom they were
proposed, and to the legislators by whom they were adopted. What were
the times in which these laws were passed? Was it not when virtue was
seldom inculcated as a moral duty that we were required to relinquish
the most rational of all our amusements, when the clergy were enjoined
celibacy, and when the laity were denied the right to read their Bibles?
He thought that it must have been from a notion of penance that they
erected the drama into an ideal place of profaneness, and spoke of the
theatre as of the tents of sin. He did not mean to dispute that there
were many excellent persons who thought differently from him, and he
disclaimed the slightest idea of charging them with bigotry or hypocrisy
on that account. He gave them full credit for their tender consciences,
in making these objections, although they did not appear relevant to
him. But to these persons, being, as he believed them, men of worth
and piety, he was sure the purpose of this meeting would furnish some
apology for an error, if there be any, in the opinions of those who
attend. They would approve the gift, although they might differ in other
points. Such might not approve of going to the theatre, but at least
could not deny that they might give away from their superfluity what was
required for the relief of the sick, the support of the aged, and the
comfort of the afflicted. These were duties enjoined by our religion
itself. (Loud cheers.)

The performers are in a particular manner entitled to the support or
regard, when in old age or distress, of those who have partaken of the
amusements of those places which they render an ornament to society.
Their art was of a peculiarly delicate and precarious nature. They
had to serve a long apprenticeship. It was very long before even the
first-rate geniuses could acquire the mechanical knowledge of the stage
business. They must languish long in obscurity before they can avail
themselves of their natural talents; and after that they have but a
short space of time, during which they are fortunate if they can provide
the means of comfort in the decline of life. That comes late, and lasts
but a short time; after which they are left dependent. Their limbs
fail--their teeth are loosened--their voice is lost and they are left,
after giving happiness to others, in a most disconsolate state. The
public were liberal and generous to those deserving their protection.
It was a sad thing to be dependent on the favour, or, he might say, in
plain terms, on the caprice, of the public; and this more particularly
for a class of persons of whom extreme prudence is not the character.
There might be instances of opportunities being neglected. But let
each gentleman tax himself, and consider the opportunities THEY had
neglected, and the sums of money THEY had wasted; let every gentleman
look into his own bosom, and say whether these were circumstances which
would soften his own feelings, were he to be plunged into distress. He
put it to every generous bosom--to every better feeling--to say what
consolation was it to old age to be told that you might have made
provision at a time which had been neglected--(loud cheers)--and to find
it objected, that if you had pleased you might have been wealthy. He
had hitherto been speaking of what, in theatrical language, was called
STARS; but they were sometimes falling ones. There was another class of
sufferers naturally and necessarily connected with the theatre, without
whom it was impossible to go on. The sailors have a saying, Every man
cannot be a boatswain. If there must be a great actor to act Hamlet,
there must also be people to act Laertes, the King, Rosencrantz, and
Guildenstern, otherwise a drama cannot go on. If even Garrick himself
were to rise from the dead, he could not act Hamlet alone. There must
be generals, colonels, commanding-officers, subalterns. But what are the
private soldiers to do? Many have mistaken their own talents, and have
been driven in early youth to try the stage, to which they are not
competent. He would know what to say to the indifferent poet and to the
bad artist. He would say that it was foolish, and he would recommend to
the poet to become a scribe, and the artist to paint sign-posts. (Loud
laughter.) But you could not send the player adrift; for if he cannot
play Hamlet, he must play Guildenstern. Where there are many labourers,
wages must be low and no man in such a situation can decently support a
wife and family, and save something off his income for old age. What is
this man to do in later life? Are you to cast him off like an old hinge,
or a piece of useless machinery, which has done its work? To a person
who had contributed to our amusement, this would be unkind, ungrateful,
and unchristian. His wants are not of his own making, but arise from the
natural sources of sickness and old age. It cannot be denied that there
is one class of sufferers to whom no imprudence can be ascribed, except
on first entering on the profession. After putting his hand to the
dramatic plough, he cannot draw back, but must continue at it, and toil,
till death release him from want, or charity, by its milder influence,
steps in to render that want more tolerable. He had little more to say,
except that he sincerely hoped that the collection to-day, from
the number of respectable gentlemen present, would meet the views
entertained by the patrons. He hoped it would do so. They should not
be disheartened. Though they could not do a great deal, they might do
something. They had this consolation, that everything they parted with
from their superfluity would do some good. They would sleep the better
themselves when they had been the means of giving sleep to others. It
was ungrateful and unkind that those who had sacrificed their youth to
our amusement should not receive the reward due to them, but should be
reduced to hard fare in their old age. We cannot think of poor Falstaff
going to bed without his cup of sack, or Macbeth fed on bones as
marrowless as those of Banquo. (Loud cheers and laughter.) As he
believed that they were all as fond of the dramatic art as he was in his
younger days, he would propose that they should drink “The Theatrical
Fund,” with three times three.

Mr. MACKAY rose, on behalf of his brethren, to return their thanks
for the toast just drunk. Many of the gentlemen present, he said,
were perhaps not fully acquainted with the nature and intention of the
institution, and it might not be amiss to enter into some explanation
on the subject. With whomsoever the idea of a Theatrical Fund might have
originated (and it had been disputed by the surviving relatives of two
or three individuals), certain it was that the first legally constituted
Theatrical Fund owed its origin to one of the brightest ornaments of the
profession, the late David Garrick. That eminent actor conceived that,
by a weekly subscription in the theatre, a fund might be raised among
its members, from which a portion might be given to those of his
less fortunate brethren, and thus an opportunity would be offered for
prudence to provide what fortune had denied--a comfortable provision
for the winter of life. With the welfare of his profession constantly at
heart, the zeal with which he laboured to uphold its respectability, and
to impress upon the minds or his brethren, not only the necessity, but
the blessing of independence, the Fund became his peculiar care. He drew
up a form of laws for its government, procured at his own expense the
passing of an Act of Parliament for its confirmation, bequeathed to it
a handsome legacy, and thus became the father of the Drury Lane Fund. So
constant was his attachment to this infant establishment, that he chose
to grace the close of the brightest theatrical life on record by the
last display of his transcendent talent on the occasion of a benefit for
this child of his adoption, which ever since has gone by the name of
the Garrick Fund. In imitation of his noble example, funds had been
established in several provincial theatres in England; but it remained
for Mrs. Henry Siddons and Mr. William Murray to become the founders
of the first Theatrical Fund in Scotland. (Cheers.) This Fund commenced
under the most favourable auspices. It was liberally supported by the
management, and highly patronized by the public. Notwithstanding,
it fell short in the accomplishment of its intentions. What those
intentions were, he (Mr. Mackay) need not recapitulate, but they failed;
and he did not hesitate to confess that a want of energy on the part
of the performers was the probable cause. A new set of Rules and
Regulations were lately drawn up, submitted to and approved of at a
general meeting of the members of the Theatre, and accordingly the Fund
was remodelled on the 1st of January last. And here he thought he did
but echo the feelings of his brethren, by publicly acknowledging the
obligations they were under to the management for the aid given and
the warm interest they had all along taken in the welfare of the Fund.
(Cheers.) The nature and object of the profession had been so well
treated of by the President that he would say nothing; but of the
numerous offspring of science and genius that court precarious fame,
the actor boasts the slenderest claim of all--the sport of fortune, the
creatures of fashion, and the victims of caprice, they are seen, heard,
and admired, but to be forgot. They leave no trace, no memorial of their
existence--they “come like shadows, so depart.” (Cheers.) Yet humble
though their pretensions be, there was no profession, trade, or
calling where such a combination of requisites, mental and bodily, were
indispensable. In all others the principal may practise after he has
been visited by the afflicting hand of Providence--some by the loss of
limb, some of voice, and many, when the faculty of the mind is on the
wane, may be assisted by dutiful children or devoted servants. Not so
the actor, He must retain all he ever did possess, or sink dejected to
a mournful home. (Applause.) Yet while they are toiling for ephemeral
theatric fame, how very few ever possess the means of hoarding in
their youth that which would give bread in old age! But now a brighter
prospect dawned upon them, and to the success of this their infant
establishment they looked with hope, as to a comfortable and peaceful
home in their declining years. He concluded by tendering to the meeting,
in the name of his brethren and sisters, their unfeigned thanks for
their liberal support, and begged to propose “The Health of the Patrons
of the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund.” (Cheers.)

Lord MEADOWBANK said that, by desire of his Hon. Friend in the chair,
and of his Noble Friend at his right hand, he begged leave to return
thanks for the honour which had been conferred on the Patrons of this
excellent institution. He could answer for himself--he could answer for
them all--that they were deeply impressed with the meritorious
objects which it has in view, and of their anxious wish to promote its
interests. For himself, he hoped he might be permitted to say that he
was rather surprised at finding his own name as one of the Patrons,
associated with so many individuals of high rank and powerful influence.
But it was an excuse for those who had placed him in a situation so
honourable and so distinguished, that when this charity was instituted
he happened to hold a high and responsible station under the Crown, when
he might have been of use in assisting and promoting its objects. His
Lordship much feared that he could have little expectation, situated as
he now was, of doing either; but he could confidently assert that
few things would give him greater gratification than being able
to contribute to its prosperity and support. And indeed, when one
recollects the pleasure which at all periods of life he has received
from the exhibitions of the stage, and the exertions of the meritorious
individuals for whose aid this Fund has been established, he must be
divested both of gratitude and feeling who would not give his best
endeavours to promote its welfare. And now, that he might in some
measure repay the gratification which had been afforded himself, he
would beg leave to propose a toast, the health of one of the Patrons,
a great and distinguished individual, whose name must always stand by
itself, and which, in an assembly such as this, or in any other assembly
of Scotsmen, can never be received, not, he would say, with ordinary
feelings of pleasure or of delight, but with those of rapture and
enthusiasm. In doing so he felt that he stood in a somewhat new
situation. Whoever had been called upon to propose the health of his
Hon. Friend to whom he alluded, some time ago, would have found himself
enabled, from the mystery in which certain matters were involved, to
gratify himself and his auditors by allusions which found a responding
chord in their own feelings, and to deal in the language, the sincere
language, of panegyric, without intruding on the modesty of the
great individual to whom he referred. But it was no longer possible,
consistently with the respect to one’s auditors, to use upon this
subject terms either of mystification or of obscure or indirect
allusion. The clouds have been dispelled; the DARKNESS VISIBLE has
been cleared away; and the Great Unknown--the minstrel of our native
land--the mighty magician who has rolled back the current of time, and
conjured up before our living senses the men and the manners of days
which have long passed away--stands revealed to the hearts and the eyes
of his affectionate and admiring countrymen. If he himself were capable
of imagining all that belonged to this mighty subject--were he even able
to give utterance to all that, as a friend, as a man, and as a Scotsman,
he must feel regarding it--yet knowing, as he well did, that this
illustrious individual was not more distinguished for his towering
talents than for those feelings which rendered such allusions ungrateful
to himself, however sparingly introduced, he would, on that account,
still refrain from doing that which would otherwise be no less pleasing
to him than to his audience. But this his Lordship, hoped he would be
allowed to say (his auditors would not pardon him were he to say less),
we owe to him, as a people, a large and heavy debt of gratitude. He it
is who has opened to foreigners the grand and characteristic beauties of
our country. It is to him that we owe that our gallant ancestors and the
struggles of our illustrious patriots--who fought and bled in order to
obtain and secure that independence and that liberty we now enjoy--have
obtained a fame no longer confined to the boundaries of a remote
and comparatively obscure nation, and who has called down upon their
struggles for glory and freedom the admiration of foreign countries. He
it is who has conferred a new reputation on our national character, and
bestowed on Scotland an imperishable name, were it only by her having
given birth to himself. (Loud and rapturous applause.)

Sir WALTER SCOTT certainly did not think that, in coming here to-day, he
would have the task of acknowledging, before three hundred gentlemen, a
secret which, considering that it was communicated to more than twenty
people, had been remarkably well kept. He was now before the bar of his
country, and might be understood to be on trial before Lord Meadowbank
as an offender; yet he was sure that every impartial jury would bring in
a verdict of Not Proven. He did not now think it necessary to enter into
the reasons of his long silence. Perhaps caprice might have a consider
able share in it. He had now to say, however, that the merits of these
works, if they had any, and their faults, were entirely imputable to
himself. (Long and loud cheering.) He was afraid to think on what he had
done. “Look on’t again I dare not.” He had thus far unbosomed himself
and he knew that it would be reported to the public. He meant, then,
seriously to state, that when he said he was the author, he was the
total and undivided author. With the exception of quotations, there was
not a single word that was not derived from himself, or suggested in the
course of his reading. The wand was now broken, and the book buried. You
will allow me further to say, with Prospero, it is your breath that has
filled my sails, and to crave one single toast in the capacity of the
author of these novels; and he would dedicate a bumper to the health
of one who has represented some of those characters, of which he had
endeavoured to give the skeleton, with a degree of liveliness which
rendered him grateful. He would propose “The Health of his friend Bailie
Nicol Jarvie”--(loud applause)--and he was sure that when the author of
Waverley and Rob Roy drinks to Nicol Jarvie, it would be received
with that degree of applause to which that gentleman has always been
accustomed, and that they would take care that on the present occasion
it should be PRODIGIOUS! (Long and vehement applause.)

Mr. MACKAY, who here spoke with great humour in the character of Bailie
Jarvie.--My conscience! My worthy father the deacon could not have
believed that his son could hae had sic a compliment paid to him by the
Great Unknown!

Sir WALTER SCOTT.--The Small Known now, Mr. Bailie.

Mr. MACKAY.--He had been long identified with the Bailie, and he was
vain of the cognomen which he had now worn for eight years; and
he questioned if any of his brethren in the Council had given such
universal satisfaction. (Loud laughter and applause.) Before he sat
down, he begged to propose “The Lord Provost and the City of Edinburgh.”

Sir WALTER SCOTT apologized for the absence of the Lord Provost, who had
gone to London on public business.

Tune--“Within a mile of Edinburgh town.”

Sir WALTER SCOTT gave “The Duke of Wellington and the army.”

Glee--“How merrily we live.”

“Lord Melville and the Navy, that fought till they left nobody to fight
with, like an arch sportsman who clears all and goes after the game.”

Mr. PAT. ROBERTSON.--They had heard this evening a toast, which had
been received with intense delight, which will be published in every
newspaper, and will be hailed with joy by all Europe. He had one toast
assigned him which he had great pleasure in giving. He was sure that the
stage had in all ages a great effect on the morals and manners of the
people. It was very desirable that the stage should be well regulated;
and there was no criterion by which its regulation could be better
determined than by the moral character and personal respectability of
the performers. He was not one of those stern moralists who objected to
the theatre. The most fastidious moralist could not possibly apprehend
any injury from the stage of Edinburgh, as it was presently managed,
and so long as it was adorned by that illustrious individual, Mrs. Henry
Siddons, whose public exhibitions were not more remarkable for feminine
grace and delicacy than was her private character for every virtue which
could be admired in domestic life. He would conclude with reciting a few
words from Shakespeare, in a spirit not of contradiction to those stern
moralists who disliked the theatre, but of meekness: “Good, my lord,
will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well
used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time.”
 He then gave “Mrs. Henry Siddons, and success to the Theatre Royal of
Edinburgh.”

Mr. MURRAY.--Gentlemen, I rise to return thanks for the honour you have
done Mrs. Siddons, in doing which I am somewhat difficulted, from the
extreme delicacy which attends a brother’s expatiating upon a sister’s
claims to honours publicly paid--(hear, hear)--yet, gentlemen, your
kindness emboldens me to say that, were I to give utterance to all
a brother’s feelings, I should not exaggerate those claims. (Loud
applause.) I therefore, gentlemen, thank you most cordially for the
honour you have done her, and shall now request permission to make an
observation on the establishment of the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund. Mr.
Mackay has done Mrs. Henry Siddons and myself the honour to ascribe the
establishment to us. But no, gentlemen, it owes its origin to a higher
source--the publication of the novel of Rob Roy--the unprecedented
success of the opera adapted from that popular production. (Hear,
hear.) It was that success which relieved the Edinburgh Theatre from
its difficulties, and enabled Mrs. Siddons to carry into effect the
establishment of a fund she had long desired, but was prevented from
effecting from the unsettled state of her theatrical concerns. I
therefore hope that in future years, when the aged and infirm actor
derives relief from this fund, he will, in the language of the gallant
Highlander, “Cast his eye to good old Scotland, and not forget Rob Roy.”
 (Loud applause.)

Sir WALTER SCOTT here stated that Mrs. Siddons wanted the means but not
the will of beginning the Theatrical Fund. He here alluded to the great
merits of Mr. Murray’s management, and to his merits as an actor, which
were of the first order, and of which every person who attends the
Theatre must be sensible; and after alluding to the embarrassments with
which the Theatre had been at one period threatened, he concluded by
giving “The Health of Mr. Murray,” which was drunk with three times
three.

Mr. MURRAY.--Gentlemen, I wish I could believe that in any degree I
merited the compliments with which it has pleased Sir Walter Scott to
preface the proposal of my health, or the very flattering manner in
which you have done me the honour to receive it. The approbation of such
an assembly is most gratifying to me, and might encourage feelings of
vanity, were not such feelings crushed by my conviction that no man
holding the situation I have so long held in Edinburgh could have
failed, placed in the peculiar circumstances in which I have been
placed. Gentlemen, I shall not insult your good taste by eulogiums
upon your judgment or kindly feeling, though to the first I owe any
improvement I may have made as an actor, and certainly my success as
a manager to the second. (Applause.) When, upon the death of my dear
brother, the late Mr. Siddons, it was proposed that I should undertake
the management of the Edinburgh Theatre, I confess I drew back, doubting
my capability to free it from the load of debt and difficulty with which
it was surrounded. In this state of anxiety, I solicited the advice of
one who had ever honoured me with his kindest regard, and whose name no
member of my profession can pronounce without feelings of the deepest
respect and gratitude. I allude to the late Mr. John Kemble. (Great
applause.) To him I applied, and with the repetition of his advice I
shall cease to trespass upon your time--(hear, hear)--“My dear William,
fear not. Integrity and assiduity must prove an overmatch for all
difficulty; and though I approve your not indulging a vain confidence in
your own ability, and viewing with respectful apprehension the judgment
of the audience you have to act before, yet be assured that judgment
will ever be tempered by the feeling that you are acting for the widow
and the fatherless.” (Loud applause.) Gentlemen, those words have never
passed from my mind; and I feel convinced that you have pardoned my
many errors, from the feeling that I was striving for the widow and
the fatherless. (Long and enthusiastic applause followed Mr. Murray’s
address.)

Sir WALTER SCOTT gave “The Health of the Stewards.”

Mr. VANDENHOFF.---Mr. President and Gentlemen, the honour conferred upon
the Stewards, in the very flattering compliment you have just paid us,
calls forth our warmest acknowledgments. In tendering you our thanks
for the approbation you have been pleased to express of our humble
exertions, I would beg leave to advert to the cause in which we have
been engaged. Yet, surrounded as I am by the genius--the eloquence--of
this enlightened city, I cannot but feel the presumption which ventures
to address you on so interesting a subject. Accustomed to speak in the
language of others, I feel quite at a loss for terms wherein to clothe
the sentiments excited by the present occasion. (Applause.) The nature
of the institution which has sought your fostering patronage, and the
objects which it contemplates, have been fully explained to you. But,
gentlemen, the relief which it proposes is not a gratuitous relief, but
to be purchased by the individual contribution of its members towards
the general good. This Fund lends no encouragement to idleness or
improvidence, but it offers an opportunity to prudence in vigour and
youth to make provision against the evening of life and its attendant
infirmity. A period is fixed at which we admit the plea of age as an
exemption from professional labour. It is painful to behold the veteran
on the stage (compelled by necessity) contending against physical decay,
mocking the joyousness of mirth with the feebleness of age, when the
energies decline, when the memory fails! and “the big, manly voice,
turning again towards childish treble, pipes and whistles in the sound.”
 We would remove him from the mimic scene, where fiction constitutes the
charm; we would not view old age caricaturing itself. (Applause.) But as
our means may be found, in time of need, inadequate to the fulfilment
of our wishes--fearful of raising expectations which we may be unable to
gratify--desirous not “to keep the word of promise to the ear, and break
it to the hope”--we have presumed to court the assistance of the friends
of the drama to strengthen our infant institution. Our appeal has been
successful beyond our most sanguine expectations. The distinguished
patronage conferred on us by your presence on this occasion, and the
substantial support which your benevolence has so liberally afforded
to our institution, must impress every member of the Fund with the most
grateful sentiments--sentiments which no language can express, no time
obliterate. (Applause.) I will not trespass longer on your attention.
I would the task of acknowledging our obligation had fallen into abler
hands. (Hear, hear.) In the name of the Stewards, I most respectfully
and cordially thank you for the honour you have done us, which greatly
overpays our poor endeavours. (Applause.)

[This speech, though rather inadequately reported, was one of the best
delivered on this occasion. That it was creditable to Mr. Vandenhoff’s
taste and feelings, the preceding sketch will show; but how much it was
so, it does not show.]

Mr. J. CAY gave “Professor Wilson and the University of Edinburgh, of
which he was one of the brightest ornaments.”

Lord MEADOWBANK, after a suitable eulogium, gave “The Earl of Fife,”
 which was drunk with three times three.

Earl FIFE expressed his high gratification at the honour conferred on
him. He intimated his approbation of the institution, and his readiness
to promote its success by every means in his power. He concluded with
giving “The Health of the Company of Edinburgh.”

Mr. JONES, on rising to return thanks, being received with considerable
applause, said he was truly grateful for the kind encouragement he
had experienced, but the novelty of the situation in which he now
was renewed all the feelings he experienced when he first saw himself
announced in the bills as a young gentleman, being his first appearance
on any stage. (Laughter and applause.) Although in the presence of those
whose indulgence had, in another sphere, so often shielded him from the
penalties of inability, he was unable to execute the task which had so
unexpectedly devolved upon him in behalf of his brethren and himself. He
therefore begged the company to imagine all that grateful hearts could
prompt the most eloquent to utter, and that would be a copy of their
feelings. (Applause.) He begged to trespass another moment on their
attention, for the purpose of expressing the thanks of the members
of the Fund to the Gentlemen of the Edinburgh Professional Society of
Musicians, who, finding that this meeting was appointed to take place
on the same evening with their concert, had, in the handsomest manner,
agreed to postpone it. Although it was his duty thus to preface the
toast he had to propose, he was certain the meeting required no further
inducement than the recollection of the pleasure the exertions of those
gentlemen had often afforded them within those walls, to join heartily
in drinking “Health and Prosperity to the Edinburgh Professional Society
of Musicians.” (Applause.)

Mr. PAT. ROBERTSON Proposed “The Health of Mr. Jeffrey,” whose absence
was owing to indisposition. The public was well aware that he was the
most distinguished advocate at the bar. He was likewise distinguished
for the kindness, frankness, and cordial manner in which he communicated
with the junior members of the profession, to the esteem of whom his
splendid talents would always entitle him.

Mr. J. MACONOCHIE gave “The Health of Mrs. Siddons, senior, the most
distinguished ornament of the stage.”

Sir W. SCOTT said that if anything could reconcile him to old age, it
was the reflection that he had seen the rising as well as the setting
sun of Mrs. Siddons. He remembered well their breakfasting near to
the Theatre--waiting the whole day--the crushing at the doors at six
o’clock--and their going in and counting their fingers till seven
o’clock. But the very first step--the very first word which she
uttered--was sufficient to overpay him for all his labours. The house
was literally electrified; and it was only from witnessing the effects
of her genius that he could guess to what a pitch theatrical excellence
could be carried. Those young gentlemen who have only seen the setting
sun of this distinguished performer, beautiful and serene as that was,
must give us old fellows, who have seen its rise and its meridian, leave
to hold our heads a little higher.

Mr. DUNDAS gave “The Memory of Home, the author of Douglas.”

Mr. MACKAY here announced that the subscriptions for the night amounted
to L280, and he expressed gratitude for this substantial proof of their
kindness. [We are happy to state that subscriptions have since flowed in
very liberally.]

Mr. MACKAY here entertained the company with a pathetic song.

Sir WALTER SCOTT apologized for having so long forgotten their native
land. He would now give “Scotland, the land of Cakes.” He would give
every river, every loch, every hill, from Tweed to Johnnie Groat’s
house--every lass in her cottage and countess in her castle--and may her
sons stand by her, as their fathers did before them; and he who would
not drink a bumper to his toast, may he never drink whisky more!

Sir WALTER SCOTT here gave “Lord Meadowbank,” who returned thanks.

Mr. H. G. BELL said that he should not have ventured to intrude himself
upon the attention of the assembly, did he not feel confident that the
toast he begged to have the honour to propose would make amends for the
very imperfect manner in which he might express his sentiments regarding
it. It had been said that, notwithstanding the mental supremacy of the
present age--notwithstanding that the page of our history was studded
with names destined also for the page of immortality--that the genius of
Shakespeare was extinct, and the fountain of his inspiration dried up.
It might be that these observations were unfortunately correct, or it
might be that we were bewildered with a name, not disappointed of the
reality; for though Shakespeare had brought a Hamlet, an Othello, and a
Macbeth, an Ariel, a Juliet, and a Rosalind, upon the stage, were there
not authors living who had brought as varied, as exquisitely painted,
and as undying a range of characters into our hearts? The shape of the
mere mould into which genius poured its golden treasures was surely
a matter of little moment, let it be called a Tragedy, a Comedy, or a
Waverley Novel. But even among the dramatic authors of the present day,
he was unwilling to allow that there was a great and palpable decline
from the glory of preceding ages, and his toast alone would bear him out
in denying the truth of the proposition. After eulogizing the names of
Baillie, Byron, Coleridge, Maturin, and others, he begged to have the
honour of proposing “The Health of James Sheridan Knowles.”

Sir WALTER SCOTT. Gentlemen, I crave a bumper all over. The last toast
reminds me of a neglect of duty. Unaccustomed to a public duty of this
kind, errors in conducting the ceremonial of it may be excused, and
omissions pardoned. Perhaps I have made one or two omissions in the
course of the evening for which I trust you will grant me your pardon
and indulgence. One thing in particular I have omitted, and I would now
wish to make amends for it by a libation of reverence and respect to
the memory of SHAKESPEARE. He was a man of universal genius, and from a
period soon after his own era to the present day he has been universally
idolized. When I come to his honoured name, I am like the sick man who
hung up his crutches at the shrine, and was obliged to confess that he
did not walk better than before. It is indeed difficult, gentlemen, to
compare him to any other individual. The only one to whom I call at all
compare him is the wonderful Arabian dervise, who dived into the body of
each, and in this way became familiar with the thoughts and secrets of
their hearts. He was a man of obscure origin, and, as a player, limited
in his acquirements; but he was born evidently with a universal genius.
His eyes glanced at all the varied aspects of life, and his fancy
portrayed with equal talents the king on the throne and the clown who
crackles his chestnuts at a Christmas fire. Whatever note he takes, he
strikes it just and true, and awakens a corresponding chord in our own
bosoms, Gentlemen, I propose “The Memory of William Shakespeare.”

Glee--“Lightly tread, ‘tis hallowed ground.”

After the glee, Sir WALTER rose and begged to propose as a toast the
health of a lady, whose living merit is not a little honourable to
Scotland. The toast (said he) is also flattering to the national vanity
of a Scotchman, as the lady whom I intend to propose is a native of this
country. From the public her works have met with the most favourable
reception. One piece of hers, in particular, was often acted here of
late years, and gave pleasure of no mean kind to many brilliant and
fashionable audiences. In her private character she (he begged leave
to say) is as remarkable as in a public sense she is for her genius. In
short, he would in one word name--“Joanna Baillie.”

This health being drunk, Mr. THORNE was called on for a song, and sung,
with great taste and feeling, “The Anchor’s Weighed.”

W. MENZIES, Esq., Advocate, rose to propose the health of a gentleman
for many years connected at intervals with the dramatic art in Scotland.
Whether we look at the range of characters he performs, or at the
capacity which he evinces in executing those which he undertakes, he is
equally to be admired. In all his parts he is unrivalled. The individual
to whom he alluded is (said he) well known to the gentlemen present,
in the characters of Malvolio, Lord Ogleby, and the Green Man; and in
addition to his other qualities, he merits, for his perfection in these
characters, the grateful sense of this meeting. He would wish, in
the first place, to drink his health as an actor. But he was not less
estimable in domestic life, and as a private gentleman; and when he
announced him as one whom the chairman had honoured with his friendship,
he was sure that all present would cordially join him in drinking “The
Health of Mr. Terry.”

Mr. WILLIAM ALLAN, banker, said that he did not rise with the intention
of making a speech. He merely wished to contribute in a few words to
the mirth of the evening--an evening which certainly had not passed off
without some blunders. It had been understood--at least he had learnt
or supposed from the expressions of Mr. Pritchard--that it would be
sufficient to put a paper, with the name of the contributor, into the
box, and that the gentleman thus contributing would be called on for
the money next morning. He, for his part, had committed a blunder but
it might serve as a caution to those who may be present at the dinner
of next year. He had merely put in his name, written on a slip of paper,
without the money. But he would recommend that, as some of the gentlemen
might be in the same situation, the box should be again sent round, and
he was confident that they, as well as he, would redeem their error.

Sir WALTER SCOTT said that the meeting was somewhat in the situation
of Mrs. Anne Page, who had L300 and possibilities. We have already got,
said he, L280, but I should like, I confess, to have the L300. He would
gratify himself by proposing the health of an honourable person, the
Lord Chief Baron, whom England has sent to us, and connecting with it
that of his “yokefellow on the bench,” as Shakespeare says, Mr. Baron
Clerk--The Court of Exchequer.

Mr. Baron CLERK regretted the absence of his learned brother. None, he
was sure, could be more generous in his nature, or more ready to help a
Scottish purpose.

Sir WALTER SCOTT,--There is one who ought to be remembered on
this occasion. He is, indeed, well entitled to our grateful
recollection--one, in short, to whom the drama in this city owes much.
He succeeded, not without trouble, and perhaps at some considerable
sacrifice, in establishing a theatre. The younger part of the company
may not recollect the theatre to which I allude, but there are some who
with me may remember by name a place called Carrubber’s Close. There
Allan Ramsay established his little theatre. His own pastoral was not
fit for the stage, but it has its admirers in those who love the Doric
language in which it is written; and it is not without merits of a
very peculiar kind. But laying aside all considerations of his literary
merit, Allan was a good, jovial, honest fellow, who could crack a bottle
with the best. “The Memory of Allan Ramsay.”

Mr. MURRAY, on being requested, sung “‘Twas merry in the hall,” and at
the conclusion was greeted with repeated rounds of applause.

Mr. JONES.--One omission I conceive has been made. The cause of the Fund
has been ably advocated, but it is still susceptible, in my opinion, of
an additional charm--

  “Without the smile from partial beauty won,
   Oh, what were man?--a world without a sun!”

And there would not be a darker spot in poetry than would be the corner
in Shakespeare Square, if, like its fellow, the Register Office,
the Theatre were deserted by the ladies. They are, in fact, our most
attractive stars. “The Patronesses of the Theatre, the Ladies of the
City of Edinburgh.” This toast I ask leave to drink with all the honours
which conviviality can confer.

Mr. PATRICK ROBERTSON would be the last man willingly to introduce any
topic calculated to interrupt the harmony of the evening; yet he felt
himself treading upon ticklish ground when he approached the region of
the Nor’ Loch. He assured the company, however, that he was not about to
enter on the subject of the Improvement Bill. They all knew that if the
public were unanimous--if the consent of all parties were obtained--if
the rights and interests of everybody were therein attended to, saved,
reserved, respected, and excepted--if everybody agreed to it--and,
finally, a most essential point, if nobody opposed it--then, and in
that case, and provided also that due intimation were given, the bill
in question might pass--would pass--or might, could, would, or should
pass--all expenses being defrayed. (Laughter.) He was the advocate of
neither champion, and would neither avail himself of the absence of the
Right Hon. the Lord Provost, nor take advantage of the non-appearance
of his friend, Mr. Cockburn. (Laughter.) But in the midst of these
civic broils there had been elicited a ray of hope that, at some future
period, in Bereford Park, or some other place, if all parties were
consulted and satisfied, and if intimation were duly made at the kirk
doors of all the parishes in Scotland, in terms of the statute in that
behalf provided--the people of Edinburgh might by possibility get a
new Theatre. (Cheers and laughter.) But wherever the belligerent powers
might be pleased to set down this new Theatre, he was sure they all
hoped to meet the Old Company in it. He should therefore propose “Better
Accommodation to the Old Company in the new Theatre, site unknown.”--Mr.
Robertson’s speech was most humorously given, and he sat down amidst
loud cheers and laughter.

Sir WALTER SCOTT.--Wherever the new Theatre is built, I hope it will not
be large. There are two errors which we commonly commit--the one arising
from our pride, the other from our poverty. If there are twelve plans,
it is odds but the largest, without any regard to comfort, or an eye
to the probable expense, is adopted. There was the College projected on
this scale, and undertaken in the same manner, and who shall see the end
of it? It has been building all my life, and may probably last during
the lives of my children, and my children’s children. Let not the
same prophetic hymn be sung when we commence a new Theatre, which was
performed on the occasion of laying the foundation-stone of a certain
edifice, “Behold the endless work begun.” Playgoing folks should attend
somewhat to convenience. The new Theatre should, in the first place,
be such as may be finished in eighteen months or two years; and, in the
second place, it should be one in which we can hear our old friends with
comfort. It is better that a moderate-sized house should be crowded now
and then, than to have a large theatre with benches continually
empty, to the discouragement of the actors and the discomfort of the
spectators. (Applause.) He then commented in flattering terms on the
genius of Mackenzie and his private worth, and concluded by proposing
“The Health of Henry Mackenzie, Esq.”

Immediately afterwards he said:--Gentlemen, it is now wearing late, and
I shall request permission to retire. Like Partridge, I may say, “NON
SUM QUALIS ERAM.” At my time of day I can agree with Lord Ogilvie as to
his rheumatism, and say, “There’s a twinge.” I hope, therefore, you will
excuse me for leaving the chair.--The worthy Baronet then retired amidst
long, loud, and rapturous cheering.

Mr. PATRICK ROBERTSON was then called to the chair by common
acclamation.

Gentlemen, said Mr. Robertson, I take the liberty of asking you to fill
a bumper to the very brim. There is not one of us who will not
remember, while he lives, being present at this day’s festival, and
the declaration made this night by the gentleman who has just left the
chair. That declaration has rent the veil from the features of the Great
Unknown--a name which must now merge in the name of the Great Known.
It will be henceforth coupled with the name of SCOTT, which will become
familiar like a household word. We have heard the confession from his
own immortal lips--(cheering)--and we cannot dwell with too much or
too fervent praise on the merits of the greatest man whom Scotland has
produced.

After which several other toasts were given, and Mr. Robertson left
the room about half-past eleven. A few choice spirits, however, rallied
round Captain Broadhead of the 7th Hussars, who was called to the chair,
and the festivity was prolonged till an early hour on Saturday morning.

The band of the Theatre occupied the gallery, and that of the 7th
Hussars the end of the room, opposite the chair, whose performances were
greatly admired. It is but justice to Mr. Gibb to state that the dinner
was very handsome (though slowly served in), and the wines good. The
attention of the stewards was exemplary. Mr. Murray and Mr. Vandenhoff,
with great good taste, attended on Sir Walter Scott’s right and left,
and we know that he has expressed himself much gratified by their
anxious politeness and sedulity.


*****



CHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE--INTRODUCTORY.



CHAPTER I. MR. CHRYSTAL CROFTANGRY’S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF.

Sic itur ad astra.

“This is the path to heaven.” Such is the ancient motto attached to the
armorial bearings of the Canongate, and which is inscribed, with greater
or less propriety, upon all the public buildings, from the church to the
pillory, in the ancient quarter of Edinburgh which bears, or rather
once bore, the same relation to the Good Town that Westminster does
to London, being still possessed of the palace of the sovereign, as it
formerly was dignified by the residence of the principal nobility and
gentry. I may therefore, with some propriety, put the same motto at
the head of the literary undertaking by which I hope to illustrate the
hitherto undistinguished name of Chrystal Croftangry.

The public may desire to know something of an author who pitches at such
height his ambitious expectations. The gentle reader, therefore--for I
am much of Captain Bobadil’s humour, and could to no other extend myself
so far--the GENTLE reader, then, will be pleased to understand that I
am a a Scottish gentleman of the old school, with a fortune, temper,
and person, rather the worse for wear. I have known the world for these
forty years, having written myself man nearly since that period--and I
do not think it is much mended. But this is an opinion which I keep
to myself when I am among younger folk, for I recollect, in my youth,
quizzing the Sexagenarians who carried back their ideas of a perfect
state of society to the days of laced coats and triple ruffles, and
some of them to the blood and blows of the Forty-five. Therefore I am
cautious in exercising the right of censorship, which is supposed to
be acquired by men arrived at, or approaching, the mysterious period
of life, when the numbers of seven and nine multiplied into each other,
form what sages have termed the Grand Climacteric.

Of the earlier part of my life it is only necessary to say, that I swept
the boards of the Parliament-House with the skirts of my gown for the
usual number of years during which young Lairds were in my time expected
to keep term--got no fees--laughed, and made others laugh--drank claret
at Bayle’s, Fortune’s, and Walker’s--and ate oysters in the Covenant
Close.

Becoming my own master, I flung my gown at the bar-keeper, and commenced
gay man on my own account. In Edinburgh, I ran into all the expensive
society which the place then afforded. When I went to my house in the
shire of Lanark, I emulated to the utmost the expenses of men of large
fortune, and had my hunters, my first-rate pointers, my game-cocks, and
feeders. I can more easily forgive myself for these follies, than for
others of a still more blamable kind, so indifferently cloaked over,
that my poor mother thought herself obliged to leave my habitation,
and betake herself to a small inconvenient jointure-house, which she
occupied till her death. I think, however, I was not exclusively to
blame in this separation, and I believe my mother afterwards condemned
herself for being too hasty. Thank God, the adversity which destroyed
the means of continuing my dissipation, restored me to the affections of
my surviving parent.

My course of life could not last. I ran too fast to run long; and when
I would have checked my career, I was perhaps too near the brink of the
precipice. Some mishaps I prepared by my own folly, others came upon
me unawares. I put my estate out to nurse to a fat man of business,
who smothered the babe he should have brought back to me in health and
strength, and, in dispute with this honest gentleman, I found, like a
skilful general, that my position would be most judiciously assumed by
taking it up near the Abbey of Holyrood. [See Note 1.--Holyrood.] It was
then I first became acquainted with the quarter, which my little work
will, I hope, render immortal, and grew familiar with those magnificent
wilds, through which the Kings of Scotland once chased the dark-brown
deer, but which were chiefly recommended to me in those days, by their
being inaccessible to those metaphysical persons, whom the law of the
neighbouring country terms John Doe and Richard Roe. In short, the
precincts of the palace are now best known as being a place of refuge at
any time from all pursuit for civil debt.

Dire was the strife betwixt my quondam doer and myself; during which my
motions were circumscribed, like those of some conjured demon, within
a circle, which, “beginning at the northern gate of the King’s
Park, thence running northways, is bounded on the left by the King’s
garden-wall, and the gutter, or kennel, in a line wherewith it crosses
the High Street to the Watergate, and passing through the sewer, is
bounded by the walls of the Tennis Court and Physic Gardens, etc. It
then follows the wall of the churchyard, joins the north west wall of St
Ann’s Yards, and going east to the clackmill-house, turns southward to
the turnstile in the King’s Park wall, and includes the whole King’s
Park within the Sanctuary.”

These limits, which I abridge from the accurate Maitland, once marked
the Girth, or Asylum, belonging to the Abbey of Holyrood, and which,
being still an appendage to the royal palace, has retained the privilege
of an asylum for civil debt. One would think the space sufficiently
extensive for a man to stretch his limbs in, as, besides a reasonable
proportion of level ground (considering that the scene lies in
Scotland), it includes within its precincts the mountain of Arthur’s
Seat and the rocks and pasture land called Salisbury Crags. But yet it
is inexpressible how, after a certain time had elapsed, I used to long
for Sunday, which permitted me to extend my walk without limitation.
During the other six days of the week I felt a sickness of heart, which,
but for the speedy approach of the hebdomadal day of liberty, I could
hardly have endured. I experienced the impatience of a mastiff who tugs
in vain to extend the limits which his chain permits.

Day after day I walked by the side of the kennel which divides the
Sanctuary from the unprivileged part of the Canongate; and though the
month was July, and the scene the old town of Edinburgh, I preferred
it to the fresh air and verdant turf which I might have enjoyed in
the King’s Park, or to the cool and solemn gloom of the portico which
surrounds the palace. To an indifferent person either side of the gutter
would have seemed much the same, the houses equally mean, the children
as ragged and dirty, the carmen as brutal--the whole forming the same
picture of low life in a deserted and impoverished quarter of a large
city. But to me the gutter or kennel was what the brook Kidron was to
Shimei: death was denounced against him should he cross it, doubtless
because it was known to his wisdom who pronounced the doom that, from
the time the crossing the stream was debarred, the devoted man’s desire
to transgress the precept would become irresistible, and he would be
sure to draw down on his head the penalty which he had already justly
incurred by cursing the anointed of God. For my part, all Elysium
seemed opening on the other side of the kennel; and I envied the little
blackguards, who, stopping the current with their little dam-dykes of
mud, had a right to stand on either side of the nasty puddle which best
pleased them. I was so childish as even to make an occasional excursion
across, were it only for a few yards, and felt the triumph of a
schoolboy, who, trespassing in an orchard, hurries back again with a
fluttering sensation of joy and terror, betwixt the pleasure of having
executed his purpose and the fear of being taken or discovered.

I have sometimes asked myself what I should have done in case of actual
imprisonment, since I could not bear without impatience a restriction
which is comparatively a mere trifle; but I really could never answer
the question to my own satisfaction. I have all my life hated those
treacherous expedients called MEZZO-TERMINI, and it is possible with
this disposition I might have endured more patiently an absolute
privation of liberty than the more modified restrictions to which my
residence in the Sanctuary at this period subjected me. If, however, the
feelings I then experienced were to increase in intensity according
to the difference between a jail and my actual condition, I must
have hanged myself, or pined to death--there could have been no other
alternative.

Amongst many companions who forgot and neglected me, of course, when my
difficulties seemed to be inextricable, I had one true friend; and
that friend was a barrister, who knew the laws of his country well,
and tracing them up to the spirit of equity and justice in which
they originate, had repeatedly prevented, by his benevolent and manly
exertions, the triumphs of selfish cunning over simplicity and folly.
He undertook my cause, with the assistance of a solicitor of a character
similar to his own. My quondam doer had ensconced himself chin-deep
among legal trenches, hornworks, and covered ways; but my two protectors
shelled him out of his defences, and I was at length a free man, at
liberty to go or stay wheresoever my mind listed.

I left my lodgings as hastily as if it had been a pest-house. I did not
even stop to receive some change that was due to me on settling with my
landlady, and I saw the poor woman stand at her door looking after my
precipitate flight, and shaking her head as she wrapped the silver which
she was counting for me in a separate piece of paper, apart from the
store in her own moleskin purse. An honest Highlandwoman was Janet
MacEvoy, and deserved a greater remuneration, had I possessed the power
of bestowing it. But my eagerness of delight was too extreme to pause
for explanation with Janet. On I pushed through the groups of children,
of whose sports I had been so often a lazy, lounging spectator. I sprung
over the gutter as if it had been the fatal Styx, and I a ghost, which,
eluding Pluto’s authority, was making its escape from Limbo lake. My
friend had difficulty to restrain me from running like a madman up the
street; and in spite of his kindness and hospitality, which soothed me
for a day or two, I was not quite happy until I found myself aboard of
a Leith smack, and, standing down the Firth with a fair wind, might snap
my fingers at the retreating outline of Arthur’s Seat, to the vicinity
of which I had been so long confined.

It is not my purpose to trace my future progress through life. I had
extricated myself, or rather had been freed by my friends, from the
brambles and thickets of the law; but, as befell the sheep in the
fable, a great part of my fleece was left behind me. Something remained,
however: I was in the season for exertion, and, as my good mother used
to say, there was always life for living folk. Stern necessity gave my
manhood that prudence which my youth was a stranger to. I faced danger,
I endured fatigue, I sought foreign climates, and proved that I belonged
to the nation which is proverbially patient of labour and prodigal of
life. Independence, like liberty to Virgil’s shepherd, came late, but
came at last, with no great affluence in its train, but bringing enough
to support a decent appearance for the rest of my life, and to induce
cousins to be civil, and gossips to say, “I wonder whom old Croft will
make his heir? He must have picked up something, and I should not be
surprised if it prove more than folk think of.”

My first impulse when I returned home was to rush to the house of my
benefactor, the only man who had in my distress interested himself in my
behalf. He was a snuff-taker, and it had been the pride of my heart to
save the IPSA CORPORA of the first score of guineas I could hoard,
and to have them converted into as tasteful a snuff-box as Rundell and
Bridge could devise. This I had thrust for security into the breast of
my waistcoat, while, impatient to transfer it to the person for whom it
was destined, I hastened to his house in Brown Square. When the front of
the house became visible a feeling of alarm checked me. I had been long
absent from Scotland; my friend was some years older than I; he might
have been called to the congregation of the just. I paused, and gazed
on the house as if I had hoped to form some conjecture from the outward
appearance concerning the state of the family within. I know not how
it was, but the lower windows being all closed, and no one stirring, my
sinister forebodings were rather strengthened. I regretted now that I
had not made inquiry before I left the inn where I alighted from the
mail-coach. But it was too late; so I hurried on, eager to know the best
or the worst which I could learn.

The brass-plate bearing my friend’s name and designation was still on
the door, and when it was opened the old domestic appeared a good deal
older, I thought, than he ought naturally to have looked, considering
the period of my absence. “Is Mr. Sommerville at home?” said I, pressing
forward.

“Yes, sir,” said John, placing himself in opposition to my entrance, “he
is at home, but--”

“But he is not in,” said I. “I remember your phrase of old, John. Come,
I will step into his room, and leave a line for him.”

John was obviously embarrassed by my familiarity. I was some one, he
saw, whom he ought to recollect. At the same time it was evident he
remembered nothing about me.

“Ay, sir, my master is in, and in his own room, but--”

I would not hear him out, but passed before him towards the well-known
apartment. A young lady came out of the room a little disturbed, as it
seemed, and said, “John, what is the matter?”

“A gentleman, Miss Nelly, that insists on seeing my master.”

“A very old and deeply-indebted friend,” said I, “that ventures to press
myself on my much-respected benefactor on my return from abroad.”

“Alas, sir,” replied she, “my uncle would be happy to see you, but--”

At this moment something was heard within the apartment like the falling
of a plate, or glass, and immediately after my friend’s voice called
angrily and eagerly for his niece. She entered the room hastily, and
so did I. But it was to see a spectacle, compared with which that of my
benefactor stretched on his bier would have been a happy one.

The easy-chair filled with cushions, the extended limbs swathed in
flannel, the wide wrapping-gown and nightcap, showed illness; but the
dimmed eye, once so replete with living fire--the blabber lip, whose
dilation and compression used to give such character to his animated
countenance--the stammering tongue, that once poured forth such floods
of masculine eloquence, and had often swayed the opinion of the sages
whom he addressed,--all these sad symptoms evinced that my friend was in
the melancholy condition of those in whom the principle of animal life
has unfortunately survived that of mental intelligence. He gazed a
moment at me, but then seemed insensible of my presence, and went
on--he, once the most courteous and well-bred--to babble unintelligible
but violent reproaches against his niece and servant, because he himself
had dropped a teacup in attempting to place it on a table at his elbow.
His eyes caught a momentary fire from his irritation; but he struggled
in vain for words to express himself adequately, as, looking from his
servant to his niece, and then to the table, he laboured to explain that
they had placed it (though it touched his chair) at too great a distance
from him.

The young person, who had naturally a resigned Madonna-like expression
of countenance, listened to his impatient chiding with the most humble
submission, checked the servant, whose less delicate feelings would have
entered on his justification, and gradually, by the sweet and soft tone
of her voice, soothed to rest the spirit of causeless irritation.

She then cast a look towards me, which expressed, “You see all that
remains of him whom you call friend.” It seemed also to say, “Your
longer presence here can only be distressing to us all.”

“Forgive me, young lady,” I said, as well as tears would permit; “I am a
person deeply obliged to your uncle. My name is Croftangry.”

“Lord! and that I should not hae minded ye, Maister Croftangry,” said
the servant. “Ay, I mind my master had muckle fash about your job. I hae
heard him order in fresh candles as midnight chappit, and till’t again.
Indeed, ye had aye his gude word, Mr. Croftangry, for a’ that folks said
about you.”

“Hold your tongue, John,” said the lady, somewhat angrily; and then
continued, addressing herself to me, “I am sure, sir, you must be sorry
to see my uncle in this state. I know you are his friend. I have heard
him mention your name, and wonder he never heard from you.” A new cut
this, and it went to my heart. But she continued, “I really do not know
if it is right that any should--If my uncle should know you, which I
scarce think possible, he would be much affected, and the doctor says
that any agitation--But here comes Dr. -- to give his own opinion.”

Dr. -- entered. I had left him a middle-aged man. He was now an elderly
one; but still the same benevolent Samaritan, who went about doing
good, and thought the blessings of the poor as good a recompense of his
professional skill as the gold of the rich.

He looked at me with surprise, but the young lady said a word of
introduction, and I, who was known to the doctor formerly, hastened to
complete it. He recollected me perfectly, and intimated that he was well
acquainted with the reasons I had for being deeply interested in the
fate of his patient. He gave me a very melancholy account of my poor
friend, drawing me for that purpose a little apart from the lady. “The
light of life,” he said, “was trembling in the socket; he scarcely
expected it would ever leap up even into a momentary flash, but more
was impossible.” He then stepped towards his patient, and put some
questions, to which the poor invalid, though he seemed to recognize the
friendly and familiar voice, answered only in a faltering and uncertain
manner.

The young lady, in her turn, had drawn back when the doctor approached
his patient. “You see how it is with him,” said the doctor, addressing
me. “I have heard our poor friend, in one of the most eloquent of his
pleadings, give a description of this very disease, which he compared
to the tortures inflicted by Mezentius when he chained the dead to the
living. The soul, he said, is imprisoned in its dungeon of flesh, and
though retaining its natural and unalienable properties, can no more
exert them than the captive enclosed within a prison-house can act as
a free agent. Alas! to see HIM, who could so well describe what this
malady was in others, a prey himself to its infirmities! I shall
never forget the solemn tone of expression with which he summed up the
incapacities of the paralytic--the deafened ear, the dimmed eye, the
crippled limbs--in the noble words of Juvenal,--

                                    “‘Omni
     Membrorum damno major, dementia, quae nec
     Nomina servorum, nec vultum agnoscit amici.’”

As the physician repeated these lines, a flash of intelligence seemed to
revive in the invalid’s eye--sunk again--again struggled, and he spoke
more intelligibly than before, and in the tone of one eager to say
something which he felt would escape him unless said instantly. “A
question of death-bed, a question of death-bed, doctor--a reduction EX
CAPITE LECTI--Withering against Wilibus--about the MORBUS SONTICUS. I
pleaded the cause for the pursuer--I, and--and--why, I shall forget my
own name--I, and--he that was the wittiest and the best-humoured man
living--”

The description enabled the doctor to fill up the blank, and the
patient joyfully repeated the name suggested. “Ay, ay,” he said, “just
he--Harry--poor Harry--” The light in his eye died away, and he sunk
back in his easy-chair.

“You have now seen more of our poor friend, Mr. Croftangry,” said the
physician, “than I dared venture to promise you; and now I must take my
professional authority on me, and ask you to retire. Miss Sommerville
will, I am sure, let you know if a moment should by any chance occur
when her uncle can see you.”

What could I do? I gave my card to the young lady, and taking my
offering from my bosom--“if my poor friend,” I said, with accents as
broken almost as his own, “should ask where this came from, name me, and
say from the most obliged and most grateful man alive. Say, the gold of
which it is composed was saved by grains at a time, and was hoarded with
as much avarice as ever was a miser’s. To bring it here I have come a
thousand miles; and now, alas, I find him thus!”

I laid the box on the table, and was retiring with a lingering step. The
eye of the invalid was caught by it, as that of a child by a glittering
toy, and with infantine impatience he faltered out inquiries of his
niece. With gentle mildness she repeated again and again who I was,
and why I came, etc. I was about to turn, and hasten from a scene so
painful, when the physician laid his hand on my sleeve. “Stop,” he said,
“there is a change.”

There was, indeed, and a marked one. A faint glow spread over his pallid
features--they seemed to gain the look of intelligence which belongs
to vitality--his eye once more kindled--his lip coloured--and drawing
himself up out of the listless posture he had hitherto maintained, he
rose without assistance. The doctor and the servant ran to give him
their support. He waved them aside, and they were contented to place
themselves in such a position behind as might ensure against accident,
should his newly-acquired strength decay as suddenly as it had revived.

“My dear Croftangry,” he said, in the tone of kindness of other days, “I
am glad to see you returned. You find me but poorly; but my little niece
here and Dr. -- are very kind. God bless you, my dear friend! We shall
not meet again till we meet in a better world.”

I pressed his extended hand to my lips--I pressed it to my bosom--I
would fain have flung myself on my knees; but the doctor, leaving the
patient to the young lady and the servant, who wheeled forward his
chair, and were replacing him in it, hurried me out of the room. “My
dear sir,” he said, “you ought to be satisfied; you have seen our poor
invalid more like his former self than he has been for months, or than
he may be perhaps again until all is over. The whole Faculty could
not have assured such an interval. I must see whether anything can be
derived from it to improve the general health. Pray, begone.” The last
argument hurried me from the spot, agitated by a crowd of feelings, all
of them painful.

When I had overcome the shock of this great disappointment, I renewed
gradually my acquaintance with one or two old companions, who, though
of infinitely less interest to my feelings than my unfortunate friend,
served to relieve the pressure of actual solitude, and who were not
perhaps the less open to my advances that I was a bachelor somewhat
stricken in years, newly arrived from foreign parts, and certainly
independent, if not wealthy.

I was considered as a tolerable subject of speculation by some, and
I could not be burdensome to any. I was therefore, according to the
ordinary rule of Edinburgh hospitality, a welcome guest in several
respectable families. But I found no one who could replace the loss I
had sustained in my best friend and benefactor. I wanted something more
than mere companionship could give me, and where was I to look for it?
Among the scattered remnants of those that had been my gay friends of
yore? Alas!

  “Many a lad I loved was dead,
   And many a lass grown old.”

Besides, all community of ties between us had ceased to exist, and
such of former friends as were still in the world held their life in a
different tenor from what I did.

Some had become misers, and were as eager in saving sixpence as ever
they had been in spending a guinea. Some had turned agriculturists;
their talk was of oxen, and they were only fit companions for graziers.
Some stuck to cards, and though no longer deep gamblers, rather played
small game than sat out. This I particularly despised. The strong
impulse of gaming, alas! I had felt in my time. It is as intense as it
is criminal; but it produces excitation and interest, and I can conceive
how it should become a passion with strong and powerful minds. But to
dribble away life in exchanging bits of painted pasteboard round a green
table for the piddling concern of a few shillings, can only be excused
in folly or superannuation. It is like riding on a rocking-horse, where
your utmost exertion never carries you a foot forward; it is a kind of
mental treadmill, where you are perpetually climbing, but can never rise
an inch. From these hints, my readers will perceive I am incapacitated
for one of the pleasures of old age, which, though not mentioned by
Cicero, is not the least frequent resource in the present day--the
club-room, and the snug hand at whist.

To return to my old companions. Some frequented public assemblies, like
the ghost of Beau Nash, or any other beau of half a century back, thrust
aside by tittering youth, and pitied by those of their own age. In fine,
some went into devotion, as the French term it, and others, I fear, went
to the devil; a few found resources in science and letters; one or two
turned philosophers in a small way, peeped into microscopes, and became
familiar with the fashionable experiments of the day; some took to
reading, and I was one of them.

Some grains of repulsion towards the society around me--some painful
recollections of early faults and follies--some touch of displeasure
with living mankind--inclined me rather to a study of antiquities, and
particularly those of my own country. The reader, if I can prevail on
myself to continue the present work, will probably be able to judge in
the course of it whether I have made any useful progress in the study of
the olden times.

I owed this turn of study, in part, to the conversation of my kind man
of business, Mr. Fairscribe, whom I mentioned as having seconded the
efforts of my invaluable friend in bringing the cause on which my
liberty and the remnant of my property depended to a favourable
decision. He had given me a most kind reception on my return. He was
too much engaged in his profession for me to intrude on him often, and
perhaps his mind was too much trammelled with its details to permit his
being willingly withdrawn from them. In short, he was not a person of
my poor friend Sommerville’s expanded spirit, and rather a lawyer of the
ordinary class of formalists; but a most able and excellent man. When
my estate was sold! he retained some of the older title-deeds, arguing,
from his own feelings, that they would be of more consequence to the
heir of the old family than to the new purchaser. And when I returned
to Edinburgh, and found him still in the exercise of the profession to
which he was an honour, he sent to my lodgings the old family Bible,
which lay always on my father’s table, two or three other mouldy
volumes, and a couple of sheepskin bags full of parchments and papers,
whose appearance was by no means inviting.

The next time I shared Mr. Fairscribe’s hospitable dinner, I failed not
to return him due thanks for his kindness, which acknowledgment, indeed,
I proportioned rather to the idea which I knew he entertained of the
value of such things, than to the interest with which I myself
regarded them. But the conversation turning on my family, who were old
proprietors in the Upper Ward of Clydesdale, gradually excited some
interest in my mind and when I retired to my solitary parlour, the first
thing I did was to look for a pedigree or sort of history of the family
or House of Croftangry, once of that Ilk, latterly of Glentanner. The
discoveries which I made shall enrich the next chapter.



CHAPTER II. IN WHICH MR. CROFTANGRY CONTINUES HIS STORY.

  “What’s property, dear Swift?  I see it alter
   From you to me, from me to Peter Walter.”

“Croftangry--Croftandrew--Croftanridge--Croftandgrey for sa mony wise
hath the name been spellit--is weel known to be ane house of grit
antiquity; and it is said that King Milcolumb, or Malcolm, being the
first of our Scottish princes quha removit across the Firth of Forth,
did reside and occupy ane palace at Edinburgh, and had there ane
valziant man, who did him man-service by keeping the croft, or
corn-land, which was tilled for the convenience of the King’s household,
and was thence callit Croft-an-ri, that is to say, the King his croft;
quhilk place, though now coverit with biggings, is to this day called
Croftangry, and lyeth near to the royal palace. And whereas that some
of those who bear this auld and honourable name may take scorn that it
ariseth from the tilling of the ground, quhilk men account a slavish
occupation, yet we ought to honour the pleugh and spade, seeing we all
derive our being from our father Adam, whose lot it became to cultivate
the earth, in respect of his fall and transgression.

“Also we have witness, as weel in holy writt as in profane history, of
the honour in quhilk husbandrie was held of old, and how prophets have
been taken from the pleugh, and great captains raised up to defend their
ain countries, sic as Cincinnatus, and the like, who fought not the
common enemy with the less valiancy that their alms had been exercised
in halding the stilts of the pleugh, and their bellicose skill in
driving of yauds and owsen.

“Likewise there are sindry honorable families, quhilk are now of
our native Scottish nobility, and have clombe higher up the brae of
preferment than what this house of Croftangry hath done, quhilk shame
not to carry in their warlike shield and insignia of dignity the tools
and implements the quhilk their first forefathers exercised in labouring
the croft-rig, or, as the poet Virgilius calleth it eloquently, in
subduing the soil, and no doubt this ancient house of Croftangry, while
it continued to be called of that Ilk, produced many worshipful and
famous patriots, of quhom I now praetermit the names; it being my
purpose, if God shall spare me life for sic ane pious officium, or
duty, to resume the first part of my narrative touching the house of
Croftangry, when I can set down at length the evidents and historical
witness anent the facts which I shall allege, seeing that words, when
they are unsupported by proofs, are like seed sown on the naked rocks,
or like an house biggit on the flitting and faithless sands.”

Here I stopped to draw breath; for the style of my grandsire, the
inditer of this goodly matter, was rather lengthy, as our American
friends say. Indeed, I reserve the rest of the piece until I can obtain
admission to the Bannatine Club, [This Club, of which the Author of
Waverley has the honour to be President, was instituted in February
1823, for the purpose of printing and publishing works illustrative of
the history, literature, and antiquities of Scotland. It continues to
prosper, and has already rescued from oblivion many curious materials
of Scottish history.] when I propose to throw off an edition, limited
according to the rules of that erudite Society, with a facsimile of
the manuscript, emblazonry of the family arms surrounded by their
quartering, and a handsome disclamation of family pride, with HAEC NOS
NOVIMUS ESSE NIHIL, or VIX EA NOSTRA VOCO.

In the meantime, to speak truth, I cannot but suspect that, though my
worthy ancestor puffed vigorously to swell up the dignity of his family,
we had never, in fact, risen above the rank of middling proprietors. The
estate of Glentanner came to us by the intermarriage of my ancestor with
Tib Sommeril, termed by the southrons Sommerville, a daughter of that
noble house, but, I fear, on what my great-grandsire calls “the wrong
side of the blanket.” [The ancient Norman family of the Sommervilles
came into this island with William the Conqueror, and established one
branch in Gloucestershire, another in Scotland. After the lapse of seven
hundred years, the remaining possessions of these two branches were
united in the person of the late Lord Sommerville, on the death of his
English kinsman, the well-known author of “The Chase.”] Her husband,
Gilbert, was killed fighting, as the INQUISITIO POST MORTEM has it, “SUB
VEXILLO REGIS, APUD PRAELIUM JUXTA BRANXTON, LIE FLODDDEN-FIELD.”

We had our share in other national misfortunes--were forfeited, like
Sir John Colville of the Dale, for following our betters to the field
of Langside; and in the contentious times of the last Stewarts we were
severely fined for harbouring and resetting intercommuned ministers, and
narrowly escaped giving a martyr to the Calendar of the Covenant, in the
person of the father of our family historian. He “took the sheaf from
the mare,” however, as the MS. expresses it, and agreed to accept of the
terms of pardon offered by Government, and sign the bond in evidence he
would give no further ground of offence. My grandsire glosses over his
father’s backsliding as smoothly as he can, and comforts himself with
ascribing his want of resolution to his unwillingness to wreck the
ancient name and family, and to permit his lands and lineage to fall
under a doom of forfeiture.

“And indeed,” said the venerable compiler, “as, praised be God, we
seldom meet in Scotland with these belly-gods and voluptuaries, whilk
are unnatural enough to devour their patrimony bequeathed to them by
their forbears in chambering and wantonness, so that they come, with the
prodigal son, to the husks and the swine-trough; and as I have the less
to dreid the existence of such unnatural Neroes in mine own family to
devour the substance of their own house like brute beasts out of mere
gluttonie and Epicurishnesse, so I need only warn mine descendants
against over-hastily meddling with the mutations in state and in
religion, which have been near-hand to the bringing this poor house of
Croftangry to perdition, as we have shown more than once. And albeit
I would not that my successors sat still altogether when called on by
their duty to Kirk and King, yet I would have them wait till stronger
and walthier men than themselves were up, so that either they may have
the better chance of getting through the day, or, failing of that,
the conquering party having some fatter quarry to live upon, may, like
gorged hawks, spare the smaller game.”

There was something in this conclusion which at first reading piqued
me extremely, and I was so unnatural as to curse the whole concern, as
poor, bald, pitiful trash, in which a silly old man was saying a great
deal about nothing at all. Nay, my first impression was to thrust it
into the fire, the rather that it reminded me, in no very flattering
manner, of the loss of the family property, to which the compiler of the
history was so much attached, in the very manner which he most severely
reprobated. It even seemed to my aggrieved feelings that his unprescient
gaze on futurity, in which he could not anticipate the folly of one of
his descendants, who should throw away the whole inheritance in a few
years of idle expense and folly, was meant as a personal incivility to
myself, though written fifty or sixty years before I was born.

A little reflection made me ashamed or this feeling of impatience,
and as I looked at the even, concise, yet tremulous hand in which the
manuscript was written, I could not help thinking, according to an
opinion I have heard seriously maintained, that something of a man’s
character may be conjectured from his handwriting. That neat but
crowded and constrained small-hand argued a man of a good conscience,
well-regulated passions, and, to use his own phrase, an upright walk in
life; but it also indicated narrowness of spirit, inveterate prejudice,
and hinted at some degree of intolerance, which, though not natural to
the disposition, had arisen out of a limited education. The passages
from Scripture and the classics, rather profusely than happily
introduced, and written in a half-text character to mark their
importance, illustrated that peculiar sort of pedantry which always
considers the argument as gained if secured by a quotation. Then the
flourished capital letters, which ornamented the commencement of each
paragraph, and the names of his family and of his ancestors whenever
these occurred in the page, do they not express forcibly the pride and
sense of importance with which the author undertook and accomplished
his task? I persuaded myself the whole was so complete a portrait of the
man, that it would not have been a more undutiful act to have defaced
his picture, or even to have disturbed his bones in his coffin, than to
destroy his manuscript. I thought, for a moment, of presenting it to
Mr. Fairscribe; but that confounded passage about the prodigal and
swine-trough--I settled at last it was as well to lock it up in my own
bureau, with the intention to look at it no more.

But I do not know how it was, that the subject began to sit nearer my
heart than I was aware of, and I found myself repeatedly engaged in
reading descriptions of farms which were no longer mine, and boundaries
which marked the property of others. A love of the NATALE SOLUM, if
Swift be right in translating these words, “family estate,” began to
awaken in my bosom--the recollections of my own youth adding little to
it, save what was connected with field-sports. A career of pleasure is
unfavourable for acquiring a taste for natural beauty, and still more so
for forming associations of a sentimental kind, connecting us with the
inanimate objects around us.

I had thought little about my estate while I possessed and was wasting
it, unless as affording the rude materials out of which a certain
inferior race of creatures, called tenants, were bound to produce (in a
greater quantity than they actually did) a certain return called rent,
which was destined to supply my expenses. This was my general view of
the matter. Of particular places, I recollected that Garval Hill was
a famous piece of rough upland pasture for rearing young colts, and
teaching them to throw their feet; that Minion Burn had the finest
yellow trout in the country; that Seggy-cleugh was unequalled for
woodcocks; that Bengibbert Moors afforded excellent moorfowl-shooting;
and that the clear, bubbling fountain called the Harper’s Well was
the best recipe in the world on the morning after a HARD-GO with my
neighbour fox-hunters. Still, these ideas recalled, by degrees, pictures
of which I had since learned to appreciate the merit--scenes of silent
loneliness, where extensive moors, undulating into wild hills, were only
disturbed by the whistle of the plover or the crow of the heathcock;
wild ravines creeping up into mountains, filled with natural wood, and
which, when traced downwards along the path formed by shepherds and
nutters, were found gradually to enlarge and deepen, as each formed a
channel to its own brook, sometimes bordered by steep banks of earth,
often with the more romantic boundary of naked rocks or cliffs crested
with oak, mountain ash, and hazel--all gratifying the eye the more that
the scenery was, from the bare nature of the country around, totally
unexpected.

I had recollections, too, of fair and fertile holms, or level plains,
extending between the wooded banks and the bold stream of the Clyde,
which, coloured like pure amber, or rather having the hue of the
pebbles called Cairngorm, rushes over sheets of rock and beds of gravel,
inspiring a species of awe from the few and faithless fords which it
presents, and the frequency of fatal accidents, now diminished by the
number of bridges. These alluvial holms were frequently bordered by
triple and quadruple rows of large trees, which gracefully marked their
boundary, and dipped their long arms into the foaming stream of the
river. Other places I remembered, which had been described by the
old huntsman as the lodge of tremendous wild-cats, or the spot where
tradition stated the mighty stag to have been brought to bay, or where
heroes, whose might was now as much forgotten, were said to have been
slain by surprise, or in battle.

It is not to be supposed that these finished landscapes became visible
before the eyes of my imagination, as the scenery of the stage is
disclosed by the rising of the curtain. I have said that I had looked
upon the country around me, during the hurried and dissipated period
of my life, with the eyes, indeed, of my body, but without those of my
understanding. It was piece by piece, as a child picks out its lesson,
that I began to recollect the beauties of nature which had once
surrounded me in the home of my forefathers. A natural taste for them
must have lurked at the bottom of my heart, which awakened when I was
in foreign countries, and becoming by degrees a favourite passion,
gradually turned its eyes inwards, and ransacked the neglected stores
which my memory had involuntarily recorded, and, when excited, exerted
herself to collect and to complete.

I began now to regret more bitterly than ever the having fooled away
my family property, the care and improvement of which I saw might have
afforded an agreeable employment for my leisure, which only went to
brood on past misfortunes, and increase useless repining. “Had but
a single farm been reserved, however small,” said I one day to Mr.
Fairscribe, “I should have had a place I could call my home, and
something that I could call business.”

“It might have been managed,” answered Fairscribe; “and for my part, I
inclined to keep the mansion house, mains, and some of the old family
acres together; but both Mr. -- and you were of opinion that the money
would be more useful.”

“True, true, my good friend,” said I; “I was a fool then, and did not
think I could incline to be Glentanner with L200 or L300 a year, instead
of Glentanner with as many thousands. I was then a haughty, pettish,
ignorant, dissipated, broken-down Scottish laird; and thinking my
imaginary consequence altogether ruined, I cared not how soon, or how
absolutely, I was rid of everything that recalled it to my own memory,
or that of others.”

“And now it is like you have changed your mind?” said Fairscribe. “Well,
fortune is apt to circumduce the term upon us; but I think she may allow
you to revise your condescendence.”

“How do you mean, my good friend?”

“Nay,” said Fairscribe, “there is ill luck in averring till one is sure
of his facts. I will look back on a file of newspapers, and to-morrow
you shall hear from me. Come, help yourself--I have seen you fill your
glass higher.”

“And shall see it again,” said I, pouring out what remained of our
bottle of claret; “the wine is capital, and so shall our toast be--‘To
your fireside, my good friend.’ And now we shall go beg a Scots song
without foreign graces from my little siren, Miss Katie.”

The next day, accordingly, I received a parcel from Mr. Fairscribe with
a newspaper enclosed, among the advertisements of which one was marked
with a cross as requiring my attention. I read, to my surprise:--

  “DESIRABLE ESTATE FOR SALE.

“By order of the Lords of Council and Session, will be exposed to sale
in the New Sessions House of Edinburgh, on Wednesday, the 25th November,
18--, all and whole the lands and barony of Glentanner, now called
Castle Treddles, lying in the Middle Ward of Clydesdale, and shire of
Lanark, with the teinds, parsonage and vicarage, fishings in the Clyde,
woods, mosses, moors, and pasturages,” etc., etc.

The advertisement went on to set forth the advantages of the soil,
situation, natural beauties, and capabilities of improvement, not
forgetting its being a freehold estate, with the particular polypus
capacity of being sliced up into two, three, or, with a little
assistance, four freehold qualifications, and a hint that the county
was likely to be eagerly contested between two great families. The upset
price at which “the said lands and barony and others” were to be exposed
was thirty years’ purchase of the proven rental, which was about a
fourth more than the property had fetched at the last sale. This, which
was mentioned, I suppose, to show the improvable character of the land,
would have given another some pain. But let me speak truth of myself in
good as in evil--it pained not me. I was only angry that Fairscribe,
who knew something generally of the extent of my funds, should have
tantalized me by sending me information that my family property was in
the market, since he must have known that the price was far out of my
reach.

But a letter dropped from the parcel on the floor, which attracted my
eye, and explained the riddle. A client of Mr. Fairscribe’s, a moneyed
man, thought of buying Glentanner, merely as an investment of money--it
was even unlikely he would ever see it; and so the price of the whole
being some thousand pounds beyond what cash he had on hand, this
accommodating Dives would gladly take a partner in the sale for any
detached farm, and would make no objection to its including the most
desirable part of the estate in point of beauty, provided the price was
made adequate. Mr. Fairscribe would take care I was not imposed on in
the matter, and said in his card he believed, if I really wished to make
such a purchase, I had better go out and look at the premises, advising
me, at the same time, to keep a strict incognito--an advice somewhat
superfluous, since I am naturally of a retired and reserved disposition.



CHAPTER III. MR. CROFTANGRY, INTER ALIA, REVISITS GLENTANNER.

  Then sing of stage-coaches,
  And fear no reproaches
    For riding in one;
  But daily be jogging,
  Whilst, whistling and flogging,
  Whilst, whistling and flogging,
  The coachman drives on.          FARQUHAR.

Disguised in a grey surtout which had seen service, a white castor on
my head, and a stout Indian cane in my hand, the next week saw me on the
top of a mail-coach driving to the westward.

I like mail-coaches, and I hate them. I like them for my convenience;
but I detest them for setting the whole world a-gadding, instead of
sitting quietly still minding their own business, and preserving the
stamp of originality of character which nature or education may have
impressed on them. Off they go, jingling against each other in the
rattling vehicle till they have no more variety of stamp in them than so
many smooth shillings--the same even in their Welsh wigs and greatcoats,
each without more individuality than belongs to a partner of the
company, as the waiter calls them, of the North Coach.

Worthy Mr. Piper, best of contractors who ever furnished four frampal
jades for public use, I bless you when I set out on a journey myself;
the neat coaches under your contract render the intercourse, from
Johnnie Groat’s House to Ladykirk and Cornhill Bridge, safe, pleasant,
and cheap. But, Mr. Piper, you who are a shrewd arithmetician, did it
never occur to you to calculate how many fools’ heads, which might have
produced an idea or two in the year, if suffered to remain in quiet,
get effectually addled by jolting to and fro in these flying chariots
of yours; how many decent countrymen become conceited bumpkins after a
cattle-show dinner in the capital, which they could not have attended
save for your means; how many decent country parsons return critics and
spouters, by way of importing the newest taste from Edinburgh? And how
will your conscience answer one day for carrying so many bonny lasses to
barter modesty for conceit and levity at the metropolitan Vanity Fair?

Consider, too, the low rate to which you reduce human intellect. I do
not believe your habitual customers have their ideas more enlarged
than one of your coach-horses. They KNOWS the road, like the English
postilion, and they know nothing besides. They date, like the carriers
at Gadshill, from the death of Robin Ostler; [See Act II. Scene 1 of the
First Part of Shakespeare’s Henry IV.] the succession of guards forms
a dynasty in their eyes; coachmen are their ministers of state; and an
upset is to them a greater incident than a change of administration.
Their only point of interest on the road is to save the time, and see
whether the coach keeps the hour. This is surely a miserable degradation
of human intellect. Take my advice, my good sir, and disinterestedly
contrive that once or twice a quarter your most dexterous whip shall
overturn a coachful of these superfluous travellers, IN TERROREM
to those who, as Horace says, “delight in the dust raised by your
chariots.”

Your current and customary mail-coach passenger, too, gets abominably
selfish, schemes successfully for the best seat, the freshest egg, the
right cut of the sirloin. The mode of travelling is death to all the
courtesies and kindnesses of life, and goes a great way to demoralize
the character, and cause it to retrograde to barbarism. You allow us
excellent dinners, but only twenty minutes to eat them. And what is the
consequence? Bashful beauty sits on the one side of us, timid childhood
on the other; respectable, yet somewhat feeble, old age is placed on our
front; and all require those acts of politeness which ought to put every
degree upon a level at the convivial board. But have we time--we the
strong and active of the party--to perform the duties of the table to
the more retired and bashful, to whom these little attentions are due?
The lady should be pressed to her chicken, the old man helped to his
favourite and tender slice, the child to his tart. But not a fraction of
a minute have we to bestow on any other person than ourselves; and the
PRUT-PRUT--TUT-TUT of the guard’s discordant note summons us to the
coach, the weaker party having gone without their dinner, and the
able-bodied and active threatened with indigestion, from having
swallowed victuals like a Lei’stershire clown bolting bacon.

On the memorable occasion I am speaking of I lost my breakfast, sheerly
from obeying the commands of a respectable-looking old lady, who once
required me to ring the bell, and another time to help the tea-kettle.
I have some reason to think she was literally an OLD-STAGER, who laughed
in her sleeve at my complaisance; so that I have sworn in my secret soul
revenge upon her sex, and all such errant damsels of whatever age and
degree whom I may encounter in my travels. I mean all this without the
least ill-will to my friend the contractor, who, I think, has approached
as near as any one is like to do towards accomplishing the modest wish
cf the Amatus and Amata of the Peri Bathous,--

  “Ye gods, annihilate but time and space,
   And make two lovers happy.”

I intend to give Mr. P. his full revenge when I come to discuss the more
recent enormity of steamboats; meanwhile, I shall only say of both these
modes of conveyance, that--

  “There is no living with them or without them.”

I am, perhaps, more critical on the--mail-coach on this particular
occasion, that I did not meet all the respect from the worshipful
company in his Majesty’s carriage that I think I was entitled to. I must
say it for myself that I bear, in my own opinion at least, not a vulgar
point about me. My face has seen service, but there is still a good set
of teeth, an aquiline nose, and a quick, grey eye, set a little too deep
under the eyebrow; and a cue of the kind once called military may serve
to show that my civil occupations have been sometimes mixed with those
of war. Nevertheless, two idle young fellows in the vehicle, or rather
on the top of it, were so much amused with the deliberation which I used
in ascending to the same place of eminence, that I thought I should have
been obliged to pull them up a little. And I was in no good-humour at
an unsuppressed laugh following my descent when set down at the angle,
where a cross road, striking off from the main one, led me towards
Glentanner, from which I was still nearly five miles distant.

It was an old-fashioned road, which, preferring ascents to sloughs, was
led in a straight line over height and hollow, through moor and dale.
Every object around me; as I passed them in succession, reminded me of
old days, and at the same time formed the strongest contrast with them
possible. Unattended, on foot, with a small bundle in my hand, deemed
scarce sufficient good company for the two shabby-genteels with whom I
had been lately perched on the top of a mail-coach, I did not seem to be
the same person with the young prodigal, who lived with the noblest and
gayest in the land, and who, thirty years before, would, in the same
country, have, been on the back of a horse that had been victor for a
plate, or smoking aloof in his travelling chaise-and-four. My sentiments
were not less changed than my condition. I could quite well remember
that my ruling sensation in the days of heady youth was a mere
schoolboy’s eagerness to get farthest forward in the race in which I had
engaged; to drink as many bottles as --; to be thought as good a judge
of a horse as --; to have the knowing cut of --‘s jacket. These were thy
gods, O Israel!

Now I was a mere looker-on; seldom an unmoved, and sometimes an angry
spectator, but still a spectator only, of the pursuits of mankind.
I felt how little my opinion was valued by those engaged in the busy
turmoil, yet I exercised it with the profusion of an old lawyer retired
from his profession, who thrusts himself into his neighbour’s affairs,
and gives advice where it is not wanted, merely under pretence of loving
the crack of the whip.

I came amid these reflections to the brow of a hill, from which I
expected to see Glentanner, a modest-looking yet comfortable house, its
walls covered with the most productive fruit-trees in that part of the
country, and screened from the most stormy quarters of the horizon by a
deep and ancient wood, which overhung the neighbouring hill. The house
was gone; a great part of the wood was felled; and instead of the
gentlemanlike mansion, shrouded and embosomed among its old hereditary
trees, stood Castle Treddles, a huge lumping four-square pile of
freestone, as bare as my nail, except for a paltry edging of decayed and
lingering exotics, with an impoverished lawn stretched before it, which,
instead of boasting deep green tapestry, enamelled with daisies and with
crowsfoot and cowslips, showed an extent of nakedness, raked, indeed,
and levelled, but where the sown grasses had failed with drought, and
the earth, retaining its natural complexion, seemed nearly as brown and
bare as when it was newly dug up.

The house was a large fabric, which pretended to its name of Castle only
from the front windows being finished in acute Gothic arches (being,
by the way, the very reverse of the castellated style), and each angle
graced with a turret about the size of a pepper-box. In every other
respect it resembled a large town-house, which, like a fat burgess, had
taken a walk to the country on a holiday, and climbed to the top of all
eminence to look around it. The bright red colour of the freestone, the
size of the building, the formality of its shape, and awkwardness of its
position, harmonized as ill with the sweeping Clyde in front, and the
bubbling brook which danced down on the right, as the fat civic form,
with bushy wig, gold-headed cane, maroon-coloured coat, and mottled silk
stockings, would have accorded with the wild and magnificent scenery of
Corehouse Linn.

I went up to the house. It was in that state of desertion which is
perhaps the most unpleasant to look on, for the place was going to decay
without having been inhabited. There were about the mansion, though
deserted, none of the slow mouldering touches of time, which communicate
to buildings, as to the human frame, a sort of reverence, while
depriving them of beauty and of strength. The disconcerted schemes of
the Laird of Castle Treddles had resembled fruit that becomes decayed
without ever having ripened. Some windows broken, others patched, others
blocked up with deals, gave a disconsolate air to all around, and seemed
to say, “There Vanity had purposed to fix her seat, but was anticipated
by Poverty.”

To the inside, after many a vain summons, I was at length admitted by
an old labourer. The house contained every contrivance for luxury and
accommodation. The kitchens were a model; and there were hot closets on
the office staircase, that the dishes might not cool, as our Scottish
phrase goes, between the kitchen and the hall. But instead of the genial
smell of good cheer, these temples of Comus emitted the damp odour of
sepulchral vaults, and the large cabinets of cast-iron looked like the
cages of some feudal Bastille. The eating room and drawing-room, with an
interior boudoir, were magnificent apartments, the ceiling was fretted
and adorned with stucco-work, which already was broken in many places,
and looked in others damp and mouldering; the wood panelling was shrunk
and warped, and cracked; the doors, which had not been hung for more
than two years, were, nevertheless, already swinging loose from their
hinges. Desolation, in short, was where enjoyment had never been; and
the want of all the usual means to preserve was fast performing the work
of decay.

The story was a common one, and told in a few words. Mr. Treddles,
senior, who bought the estate, was a cautious, money-making person. His
son, still embarked in commercial speculations, desired at the same time
to enjoy his opulence and to increase it. He incurred great expenses,
amongst which this edifice was to benumbered. To support these he
speculated boldly, and unfortunately; and thus the whole history is
told, which may serve for more places than Glentanner.

Strange and various feelings ran through my bosom as I loitered in these
deserted apartments, scarce hearing what my guide said to me about the
size and destination of each room. The first sentiment, I am ashamed to
say, was one of gratified spite. My patrician pride was pleased that the
mechanic, who had not thought the house of the Croftangrys sufficiently
good for him, had now experienced a fall in his turn. My next thought
was as mean, though not so malicious. “I have had the better of this
fellow,” thought I. “If I lost the estate, I at least spent the price;
and Mr. Treddles has lost his among paltry commercial engagements.”

“Wretch!” said the secret voice within, “darest thou exult in thy shame?
Recollect how thy youth and fortune was wasted in those years, and
triumph not in the enjoyment of an existence which levelled thee with
the beasts that perish. Bethink thee how this poor man’s vanity gave
at least bread to the labourer, peasant, and citizen; and his profuse
expenditure, like water spilt on the ground, refreshed the lowly herbs
and plants where it fell. But thou! Whom hast thou enriched during
thy career of extravagance, save those brokers of the devil--vintners,
panders, gamblers, and horse-jockeys?” The anguish produced by this
self-reproof was so strong that I put my hand suddenly to my forehead,
and was obliged to allege a sudden megrim to my attendant, in apology
for the action, and a slight groan with which it was accompanied.

I then made an effort to turn my thoughts into a more philosophical
current, and muttered half aloud, as a charm to lull any more painful
thoughts to rest,--

  “NUNC AGER UMBRENI SUB NOMINE, NUPER OFELLI
   DICTUS ERIT NULLI PROPRIUS; SED CEDIT IN USUM
   NUNC MIHI, NUNC ALII.   QUOCIRCA VIVITE FORTES,
   FORTIAQUE ADVERSIS OPPONITE PECTORA REBUS.”

[Horace Sat.II Lib.2. The meaning will be best conveyed to the English
reader in Pope’s imitation:--

  “What’s property, dear Swift?  You see it alter
   From you to me, from me to Peter Walter;
   Or in a mortgage prove a lawyer’s share;
   Or in a jointure vanish from the heir.

  *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****

  “Shades, that to Bacon could retreat afford,
   Become the portion of a booby lord;
   And Helmsley, once proud Buckingham’s delight,
   Slides to a scrivener and city knight.
   Let lands and houses have what lords they will,
   Let us be fix’d, and our own masters still.”]

In my anxiety to fix the philosophical precept in my mind, I recited the
last line aloud, which, joined to my previous agitation, I afterwards
found became the cause of a report that a mad schoolmaster had come from
Edinburgh, with the idea in his head of buying Castle Treddles.

As I saw my companion was desirous of getting rid of me, I asked where
I was to find the person in whose hands were left the map of the estate,
and other particulars connected with the sale. The agent who had this in
possession, I was told, lived at the town of --, which I was informed,
and indeed knew well, was distant five miles and a bittock, which may
pass in a country where they are less lavish of their land for two or
three more. Being somewhat afraid of the fatigue of walking so far,
I inquired if a horse or any sort of carriage was to be had, and was
answered in the negative.

“But,” said my cicerone, “you may halt a blink till next morning at the
Treddles Arms, a very decent house, scarce a mile off.”

“A new house, I suppose?” replied I.

“No, it’s a new public, but it’s an auld house; it was aye the Leddy’s
jointure-house in the Croftangry folk’s time. But Mr. Treddles has
fitted it up for the convenience of the country, poor man, he was a
public-spirited man when he had the means.”

“Duntarkin a public-house!” I exclaimed.

“Ay!” said the fellow, surprised at my naming the place by its former
title; “ye’ll hae been in this country before, I’m thinking?”

“Long since,” I replied. “And there is good accommodation at the
what-d’ye-call-’em arms, and a civil landlord?” This I said by way of
saying something, for the man stared very hard at me.

“Very decent accommodation. Ye’ll no be for fashing wi’ wine, I’m
thinking; and there’s walth o’ porter, ale, and a drap gude whisky”
 (in an undertone)--“Fairntosh--if you call get on the lee-side of the
gudewife--for there is nae gudeman. They ca’ her Christie Steele.”

I almost started at the sound. Christie Steele! Christie Steele was
my mother’s body-servant, her very right hand, and, between ourselves,
something like a viceroy over her. I recollected her perfectly; and
though she had in former times been no favourite of mine, her name now
sounded in my ear like that of a friend, and was the first word I had
heard somewhat in unison with the associations around me. I sallied from
Castle Treddles, determined to make the best of my way to Duntarkin,
and my cicerone hung by me for a little way, giving loose to his love
of talking--an opportunity which, situated as he was, the seneschal of a
deserted castle, was not likely to occur frequently.

“Some folk think,” said my companion, “that Mr. Treddles might as weel
have put my wife as Christie Steele into the Treddles Arms; for Christie
had been aye in service, and never in the public line, and so it’s like
she is ganging back in the world, as I hear. Now, my wife had keepit a
victualling office.”

“That would have been an advantage, certainly,” I replied.

“But I am no sure that I wad ha’ looten Eppie take it, if they had put
it in her offer.”

“That’s a different consideration.”

“Ony way, I wadna ha’ liked to have offended Mr. Treddles. He was a wee
toustie when you rubbed him again the hair; but a kind, weel-meaning
man.”

I wanted to get rid of this species of chat, and finding myself near the
entrance of a footpath which made a short cut to Duntarkin, I put half a
crown into my guide’s hand, bade him good-evening, and plunged into the
woods.

“Hout, sir--fie, sir--no from the like of you. Stay, sir, ye wunna find
the way that gate.--Odd’s mercy, he maun ken the gate as weel as I do
mysel’. Weel, I wad like to ken wha the chield is.”

Such were the last words of my guide’s drowsy, uninteresting tone of
voice and glad to be rid of him, I strode out stoutly, in despite of
large stones, briers, and BAD STEPS, which abounded in the road I had
chosen. In the interim, I tried as much as I could, with verses from
Horace and Prior, and all who have lauded the mixture of literary with
rural life, to call back the visions of last night and this morning,
imagining myself settled in same detached farm of the estate of
Glentanner,--

  “Which sloping hills around enclose--
   Where many a birch and brown oak grows,”

when I should have a cottage with a small library, a small cellar, a
spare bed for a friend, and live more happy and more honoured than when
I had the whole barony. But the sight of Castle Treddles had disturbed
all my own castles in the air. The realities of the matter, like a stone
plashed into a limpid fountain, had destroyed the reflection of the
objects around, which, till this act of violence, lay slumbering on the
crystal surface, and I tried in vain to re-establish the picture which
had been so rudely broken. Well, then, I would try it another way. I
would try to get Christie Steele out of her PUBLIC, since she was not
striving in it, and she who had been my mother’s governante should be
mine. I knew all her faults, and I told her history over to myself.

She was grand-daughter, I believe--at least some relative--of the famous
Covenanter of the name, whom Dean Swift’s friend, Captain Creichton,
shot on his own staircase in the times of the persecutions; [See Note
2.--Steele a Covenanter, shot by Captain Creichton.] and had perhaps
derived from her native stock much both of its good and evil properties.
No one could say of her that she was the life and spirit of the family,
though in my mother’s time she directed all family affairs. Her look was
austere and gloomy, and when she was not displeased with you, you could
only find it out by her silence. If there was cause for complaint, real
or imaginary, Christie was loud enough. She loved my mother with the
devoted attachment of a younger sister; but she was as jealous of
her favour to any one else as if she had been the aged husband of a
coquettish wife, and as severe in her reprehensions as an abbess over
her nuns. The command which she exercised over her was that, I fear, of
a strong and determined over a feeble and more nervous disposition and
though it was used with rigour, yet, to the best of Christie Steele’s
belief, she was urging her mistress to her best and most becoming
course, and would have died rather than have recommended any other. The
attachment of this woman was limited to the family of Croftangry; for
she had few relations, and a dissolute cousin, whom late in life she had
taken as a husband, had long left her a widow.

To me she had ever a strong dislike. Even from my early childhood she
was jealous, strange as it may seem, of my interest in my mother’s
affections. She saw my foibles and vices with abhorrence, and without
a grain of allowance; nor did she pardon the weakness of maternal
affection even when, by the death of two brothers, I came to be the only
child of a widowed parent. At the time my disorderly conduct induced my
mother to leave Glentanner, and retreat to her jointure-house, I
always blamed Christie Steele for having influenced her resentment and
prevented her from listening to my vows of amendment, which at times
were real and serious, and might, perhaps, have accelerated that change
of disposition which has since, I trust, taken place. But Christie
regarded me as altogether a doomed and predestinated child of perdition,
who was sure to hold on my course, and drag downwards whosoever might
attempt to afford me support.

Still, though I knew such had been Christie’s prejudices against me
in other days, yet I thought enough of time had since passed away
to destroy all of them. I knew that when, through the disorder of my
affairs, my mother underwent some temporary inconvenience about money
matters, Christie, as a thing of course, stood in the gap, and having
sold a small inheritance which had descended to her, brought the
purchase money to her mistress, with a sense of devotion as deep as that
which inspired the Christians of the first age, when they sold all they
had, and followed the apostles of the church. I therefore thought that
we might, in old Scottish phrase, “let byganes be byganes,” and
begin upon a new account. Yet I resolved, like a skilful general,
to reconnoitre a little before laying down any precise scheme of
proceeding, and in the interim I determined to preserve my incognito.



CHAPTER IV. MR. CROFTANGRY BIDS ADIEU TO CLYDESDALE.

  Alas, how changed from what it once had been!
  ‘Twas now degraded to a common inn.    GAY.

An hour’s brisk walking, or thereabouts, placed me in front of
Duntarkin, which had also, I found, undergone considerable alterations,
though it had not been altogether demolished like the principal
mansion. An inn-yard extended before the door of the decent little
jointure-house, even amidst the remnants of the holly hedges which had
screened the lady’s garden. Then a broad, raw-looking, new-made road
intruded itself up the little glen, instead of the old horseway, so
seldom used that it was almost entirely covered with grass. It is
a great enormity, of which gentlemen trustees on the highways are
sometimes guilty, in adopting the breadth necessary for an avenue to the
metropolis, where all that is required is an access to some sequestered
and unpopulous district. I do not say anything of the expense--that
the trustees and their constituents may settle as they please. But the
destruction of silvan beauty is great when the breadth of the road is
more than proportioned to the vale through which it runs, and lowers, of
course, the consequence of any objects of wood or water, or broken and
varied ground, which might otherwise attract notice and give pleasure.
A bubbling runnel by the side of one of those modern Appian or Flaminian
highways is but like a kennel; the little hill is diminished to a
hillock--the romantic hillock to a molehill, almost too small for sight.

Such an enormity, however, had destroyed the quiet loneliness of
Duntarkin, and intruded its breadth of dust and gravel, and its
associations of pochays and mail-coaches, upon one of the most
sequestered spots in the Middle Ward of Clydesdale. The house was
old and dilapidated, and looked sorry for itself, as if sensible of
a derogation; but the sign was strong and new, and brightly painted,
displaying a heraldic shield (three shuttles in a field diapre), a web
partly unfolded for crest, and two stout giants for supporters, each one
holding a weaver’s beam proper. To have displayed this monstrous emblem
on the front of the house might have hazarded bringing down the wall,
but for certain would have blocked up one or two windows. It was
therefore established independent of the mansion, being displayed in an
iron framework, and suspended upon two posts, with as much wood and
iron about it as would have builded a brig; and there it hung, creaking,
groaning, and screaming in every blast of wind, and frightening for five
miles’ distance, for aught I know, the nests of thrushes and linnets,
the ancient denizens of the little glen.

When I entered the place I was received by Christie Steele herself, who
seemed uncertain whether to drop me in the kitchen, or usher me into
a separate apartment, as I called for tea, with something rather more
substantial than bread and butter, and spoke of supping and sleeping,
Christie at last inducted me into the room where she herself had been
sitting, probably the only one which had a fire, though the month was
October. This answered my plan; and as she was about to remove her
spinning-wheel, I begged she would have the goodness to remain and make
my tea, adding that I liked the sound of the wheel, and desired not to
disturb her housewife thrift in the least.

“I dinna ken, sir,” she replied, in a dry, REVECHE tone, which carried
me back twenty years, “I am nane of thae heartsome landleddies that can
tell country cracks, and make themsel’s agreeable, and I was ganging to
put on a fire for you in the Red Room; but if it is your will to stay
here, he that pays the lawing maun choose the lodging.”

I endeavoured to engage her in conversation; but though she answered,
with a kind of stiff civility, I could get her into no freedom of
discourse, and she began to look at her wheel and at the door more
than once, as if she meditated a retreat. I was obliged, therefore, to
proceed to some special questions; that might have interest for a person
whose ideas were probably of a very bounded description.

I looked round the apartment, being the same in which I had last seen my
poor mother. The author of the family history, formerly mentioned, had
taken great credit to himself for the improvements he had made in this
same jointure-house of Duntarkin, and how, upon his marriage, when his
mother took possession of the same as her jointure-house, “to his great
charges and expenses he caused box the walls of the great parlour”
 (in which I was now sitting), “empanel the same, and plaster the roof,
finishing the apartment with ane concave chimney, and decorating the
same with pictures, and a barometer and thermometer.” And in particular,
which his good mother used to say she prized above all the rest, he had
caused his own portraiture be limned over the mantlepiece by a skilful
hand. And, in good faith, there he remained still, having much the
visage which I was disposed to ascribe to him on the evidence of his
handwriting,--grim and austere, yet not without a cast of shrewdness and
determination; in armour, though he never wore it, I fancy; one hand on
an open book, and one resting on the hilt of his sword, though I dare
say his head never ached with reading, nor his limbs with fencing.

“That picture is painted on the wood, madam,” said I.

“Ay, sir, or it’s like it would not have been left there; they look a’
they could.”

“Mr. Treddles’s creditors, you mean?” said I.

“Na,” replied she dryly, “the creditors of another family, that sweepit
cleaner than this poor man’s, because I fancy there was less to gather.”

“An older family, perhaps, and probably more remembered and regretted
than later possessors?”

Christie here settled herself in her seat, and pulled her wheel towards
her. I had given her something interesting for her thoughts to dwell
upon, and her wheel was a mechanical accompaniment on such occasions,
the revolutions of which assisted her in the explanation of her ideas.

“Mair regretted--mair missed? I liked ane of the auld family very weel,
but I winna say that for them a’. How should they be mair missed than
the Treddleses? The cotton mill was such a thing for the country! The
mair bairns a cottar body had the better; they would make their awn keep
frae the time they were five years auld, and a widow wi’ three or four
bairns was a wealthy woman in the time of the Treddleses.”

“But the health of these poor children, my good friend--their education
and religious instruction--”

“For health,” said Christie, looking gloomily at me, “ye maun ken little
of the warld, sir, if ye dinna ken that the health of the poor man’s
body, as well as his youth and his strength, are all at the command of
the rich man’s purse. There never was a trade so unhealthy yet but men
would fight to get wark at it for twa pennies a day aboon the common
wage. But the bairns were reasonably weel cared for in the way of air
and exercise, and a very responsible youth heard them their Carritch,
and gied them lessons in Reediemadeasy [“Reading made Easy,” usually so
pronounced in Scotland.] Now, what did they ever get before? Maybe on a
winter day they wad be called out to beat the wood for cocks or siclike;
and then the starving weans would maybe get a bite of broken bread, and
maybe no, just as the butler was in humour--that was a’ they got.”

“They were not, then, a very kind family to the poor, these old
possessors?” said I, somewhat bitterly; for I had expected to hear
my ancestors’ praises recorded, though I certainly despaired of being
regaled with my own.

“They werena ill to them, sir, and that is aye something. They were
just decent bien bodies; ony poor creature that had face to beg got an
awmous, and welcome--they that were shamefaced gaed by, and twice
as welcome. But they keepit an honest walk before God and man, the
Croftangrys, and, as I said before, if they did little good, they did
as little ill. They lifted their rents, and spent them; called in their
kain and ate them; gaed to the kirk of a Sunday; bowed civilly if folk
took aff their bannets as they gaed by, and lookit as black as sin at
them that keepit them on.”

“These are their arms that you have on the sign?”

“What! on the painted board that is skirling and groaning at the door?
Na, these are Mr. Treddles’s arms though they look as like legs as arms.
Ill pleased I was at the fule thing, that cost as muckle as would hae
repaired the house from the wa’ stane to the rigging-tree. But if I am
to bide here, I’ll hae a decent board wi’ a punch bowl on it.”

“Is there a doubt of your staying here, Mrs. Steele?”

“Dinna Mistress me,” said the cross old woman, whose fingers were now
plying their thrift in a manner which indicated nervous irritation;
“there was nae luck in the land since Luckie turned Mistress, and
Mistress my Leddy. And as for staying here, if it concerns you to ken,
I may stay if I can pay a hundred pund sterling for the lease, and I may
flit if I canna, and so gude e’en to you, Christie,”--and round went the
wheel with much activity.

“And you like the trade of keeping a public-house?”

“I can scarce say that,” she replied. “But worthy Mr. Prendergast is
clear of its lawfulness; and I hae gotten used to it, and made a decent
living, though I never make out a fause reckoning, or give ony ane the
means to disorder reason in my house.”

“Indeed!” said I; “in that case, there is no wonder you have not made up
the hundred pounds to purchase the lease.”

“How do you ken,” said she sharply, “that I might not have had a hundred
punds of my ain fee? If I have it not, I am sure it is my ain faut. And
I wunna ca’ it faut neither, for it gaed to her wha was weel entitled to
a’ my service.” Again she pulled stoutly at the flax, and the wheel went
smartly round.

“This old gentleman,” said I, fixing my eye on the painted panel, “seems
to have had HIS arms painted as well as Mr. Treddles--that is, if that
painting in the corner be a scutcheon.”

“Ay, ay--cushion, just sae. They maun a’ hae their cushions--there’s
sma’ gentry without that--and so the arms, as they ca’ them, of the
house of Glentanner may be seen on an auld stane in the west end of the
house. But to do them justice; they didna propale sae muckle about them
as poor Mr. Treddles did--it’s like they were better used to them.”

“Very likely. Are there any of the old family in life, goodwife?”

“No,” she replied; then added; after a moment’s hesitation, “Not that I
know of”--and the wheel, which had intermitted, began again to revolve.

“Gone abroad, perhaps?” I suggested.

She now looked up, and faced me. “No, sir. There were three sons of the
last laird of Glentanner, as he was then called. John and William were
hopeful young gentlemen, but they died early--one of a decline brought
on by the mizzles, the other lost his life in a fever. It would hae been
lucky for mony ane that Chrystal had gane the same gate.”

“Oh, he must have been the young spendthrift that sold the property?
Well, but you should you have such an ill-will against him; remember
necessity has no law. And then, goodwife, he was not more culpable than
Mr. Treddles, whom you are so sorry for.”

“I wish I could think sae, sir, for his mother’s sake. But Mr. Treddles
was in trade, and though he had no preceese right to do so, yet there
was some warrant for a man being expensive that imagined he was making
a mint of money. But this unhappy lad devoured his patrimony, when
he kenned that he was living like a ratten in a Dunlap cheese, and
diminishing his means at a’ hands. I canna bide to think on’t.” With
this she broke out into a snatch of a ballad, but little of mirth was
there either in the tone or the expression:--

  “For he did spend, and 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.”

“Come, dame,” said I, “it is a long lane that has no turning. I will not
keep from you that I have heard something of this poor fellow, Chrystal
Croftangry. He has sown his wild oats, as they say, and has settled into
a steady, respectable man.”

“And wha tell’d ye that tidings?” said she, looking sharply at me.

“Not, perhaps, the best judge in the world of his character, for it was
himself, dame.”

“And if he tell’d you truth, it was a virtue he did not aye use to
practise,” said Christie.

“The devil!” said I, considerably nettled; “all the world held him to be
a man of honour.”

“Ay, ay! he would hae shot onybody wi’ his pistols and his guns that had
evened him to be a liar. But if he promised to pay an honest tradesman
the next term-day, did he keep his word then? And if he promised a puir,
silly lass to make gude her shame, did he speak truth then? And what is
that but being a liar, and a black-hearted, deceitful liar to boot?”

My indignation was rising, but I strove to suppress it; indeed, I should
only have afforded my tormentor a triumph by an angry reply. I partly
suspected she began to recognize me, yet she testified so little emotion
that I could not think my suspicion well founded. I went on, therefore,
to say, in a tone as indifferent as I could command, “Well, goodwife,
I see you will believe no good of this Chrystal of yours, till he comes
back and buys a good farm on the estate, and makes you his housekeeper.”

The old woman dropped her thread, folded her hands, as she looked up to
heaven with a face of apprehension. “The Lord,” she exclaimed, “forbid!
The Lord in His mercy forbid! O sir! if you really know this unlucky
man, persuade him to settle where folk ken the good that you say he has
come to, and dinna ken the evil of his former days. He used to be proud
enough--O dinna let him come here, even for his own sake. He used once
to have some pride.”

Here she once more drew the wheel close to her, and began to pull at the
flax with both hands. “Dinna let him come here, to be looked down upon
by ony that may be left of his auld reiving companions, and to see the
decent folk that he looked over his nose at look over their noses at
him, baith at kirk and market. Dinna let him come to his ain country, to
be made a tale about when ony neighbour points him out to another, and
tells what he is, and what he was, and how he wrecked a dainty estate,
and brought harlots to the door-cheek of his father’s house, till he
made it nae residence for his mother; and how it had been foretauld by
a servant of his ain house that he was a ne’er-do-weel and a child of
perdition, and how her words were made good, and--”

“Stop there, goodwife, if you please,” said I; “you have said as much as
I can well remember, and more than it may be safe to repeat. I can use a
great deal of freedom with the gentleman we speak of; but I think,
were any other person to carry him half of your message, I would scarce
ensure his personal safety. And now, as I see the night is settled to be
a fine one, I will walk on to --, where I must meet a coach to-morrow as
it passes to Edinburgh.”

So saying, I paid my moderate reckoning, and took my leave, without
being able to discover whether the prejudiced and hard-hearted old woman
did, or did not, suspect the identity of her guest with the Chrystal
Croftangry against whom she harboured so much dislike.

The night was fine and frosty, though, when I pretended to see what its
character was, it might have rained like the deluge. I only made the
excuse to escape from old Christie Steele. The horses which run races
in the Corso at Rome without any riders, in order to stimulate their
exertion, carry each his own spurs namely, small balls of steel, with
sharp, projecting spikes, which are attached to loose straps of leather,
and, flying about in the violence of the agitation, keep the horse to
his speed by pricking him as they strike against his flanks. The old
woman’s reproaches had the same effect on me, and urged me to a rapid
pace, as if it had been possible to escape from my own recollections. In
the best days of my life, when I won one or two hard walking matches,
I doubt if I ever walked so fast as I did betwixt the Treddles Arms and
the borough town for which I was bound. Though the night was cold, I was
warm enough by the time I got to my inn; and it required a refreshing
draught of porter, with half an hour’s repose, ere I could determine to
give no further thought to Christie and her opinions than those of any
other vulgar, prejudiced old woman. I resolved at last to treat the
thing EN BAGATELLE, and calling for writing materials, I folded up a
cheque for L100, with these lines on the envelope:--

  “Chrystal, the ne’er-do-weel,
   Child destined to the deil,
   Sends this to Christie Steele.”

And I was so much pleased with this new mode of viewing the subject,
that I regretted the lateness of the hour prevented my finding a person
to carry the letter express to its destination.

  “But with the morning cool reflection came.”

I considered that the money, and probably more, was actually due by me
on my mother’s account to Christie, who had lent it in a moment of great
necessity, and that the returning it in a light or ludicrous manner
was not unlikely to prevent so touchy and punctilious a person from
accepting a debt which was most justly her due, and which it became me
particularly to see satisfied. Sacrificing, then, my triad with little
regret (for it looked better by candlelight, and through the medium of a
pot of porter, than it did by daylight, and with bohea for a menstruum),
I determined to employ Mr. Fairscribe’s mediation in buying up the lease
of the little inn, and conferring it upon Christie in the way which
should make it most acceptable to her feelings. It is only necessary
to add that my plan succeeded, and that Widow Steele even yet keeps the
Treddles Arms. Do not say, therefore, that I have been disingenuous with
you, reader; since, if I have not told all the ill of myself I might
have done, I have indicated to you a person able and willing to supply
the blank, by relating all my delinquencies as well as my misfortunes.

In the meantime I totally abandoned the idea of redeeming any part of
my paternal property, and resolved to take Christie Steele’s advice, as
young Norval does Glenalvon’s, “although it sounded harshly.”



CHAPTER V. MR. CROFTANGRY SETTLES IN THE CANONGATE.

           If you will know my house,
  ‘Tis at the tuft of olives here hard by.    AS YOU LIKE IT.

By a revolution of humour which I am unable to account for, I changed my
mind entirely on my plans of life, in consequence of the disappointment,
the history of which fills the last chapter. I began to discover
that the country would not at all suit me; for I had relinquished
field-sports, and felt no inclination whatever to farming, the ordinary
vocation of country gentlemen. Besides that, I had no talent for
assisting either candidate in case of an expected election, and saw no
amusement in the duties of a road trustee, a commissioner of supply, or
even in the magisterial functions of the bench. I had begun to take some
taste for reading; and a domiciliation in the country must remove me
from the use of books, excepting the small subscription library, in
which the very book which you want is uniformly sure to be engaged.

I resolved, therefore, to make the Scottish metropolis my regular
resting-place, reserving to myself to take occasionally those excursions
which, spite of all I have said against mail-coaches, Mr. Piper has
rendered so easy. Friend of our life and of our leisure, he secures by
dispatch against loss of time, and by the best of coaches, cattle, and
steadiest of drivers, against hazard of limb, and wafts us, as well as
our letters, from Edinburgh to Cape Wrath in the penning of a paragraph.

When my mind was quite made up to make Auld Reekie my headquarters,
reserving the privilege of EXPLORING in all directions, I began to
explore in good earnest for the purpose of discovering a suitable
habitation. “And whare trew ye I gaed?” as Sir Pertinax says. Not to
George’s Square--nor to Charlotte Square--nor to the old New Town--nor
to the new New Town--nor to the Calton Hill. I went to the Canongate,
and to the very portion of the Canongate in which I had formerly been
immured, like the errant knight, prisoner in some enchanted castle,
where spells have made the ambient air impervious to the unhappy
captive, although the organs of sight encountered no obstacle to his
free passage.

Why I should have thought of pitching my tent here I cannot tell.
Perhaps it was to enjoy the pleasures of freedom where I had so long
endured the bitterness of restraint, on the principle of the officer
who, after he had retired from the army, ordered his servant to continue
to call him at the hour or parade, simply that he might have the
pleasure of saying, “D--n the parade!” and turning to the other side to
enjoy his slumbers. Or perhaps I expected to find in the vicinity some
little old-fashioned house, having somewhat of the RUS IN URBE which
I was ambitious of enjoying. Enough: I went, as aforesaid, to the
Canongate.

I stood by the kennel, of which I have formerly spoken, and, my mind
being at ease, my bodily organs were more delicate. I was more
sensible than heretofore, that, like the trade of Pompey in MEASURE FOR
MEASURE,--it did in some sort--pah an ounce of civet, good apothecary!
Turning from thence, my steps naturally directed themselves to my own
humble apartment, where my little Highland landlady, as dapper and
as tight as ever, (for old women wear a hundred times better than the
hard-wrought seniors of the masculine sex), stood at the door, TEEDLING
to herself a Highland song as she shook a table napkin over the
fore-stair, and then proceeded to fold it up neatly for future service.

“How do you, Janet?”

“Thank ye, good sir,” answered my old friend, without looking at
me; “but ye might as weel say Mrs. MacEvoy, for she is na a’body’s
Shanet--umph.”

“You must be MY Janet, though, for all that. Have you forgot me? Do you
not remember Chrystal Croftangry?”

The light, kind-hearted creature threw her napkin into the open door,
skipped down the stair like a fairy, three steps at once, seized me by
the hands--both hands--jumped up, and actually kissed me. I was a little
ashamed; but what swain, of somewhere inclining to sixty could resist
the advances of a fair contemporary? So we allowed the full degree
of kindness to the meeting--HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE--and then Janet
entered instantly upon business. “An ye’ll gae in, man, and see your
auld lodgings, nae doubt and Shanet will pay ye the fifteen shillings
of change that ye ran away without, and without bidding Shanet good day.
But never mind” (nodding good-humouredly), “Shanet saw you were carried
for the time.”

By this time we were in my old quarters, and Janet, with her bottle of
cordial in one hand and the glass in the other, had forced on me a
dram of usquebaugh, distilled with saffron and other herbs, after some
old-fashioned Highland receipt. Then was unfolded, out of many a little
scrap of paper, the reserved sum of fifteen shillings, which Janet had
treasured for twenty years and upwards.

“Here they are,” she said, in honest triumph, “just the same I was
holding out to ye when ye ran as if ye had been fey. Shanet has had
siller, and Shanet has wanted siller, mony a time since that. And the
gauger has come, and the factor has come, and the butcher and baker--Cot
bless us just like to tear poor auld Shanet to pieces; but she took good
care of Mr. Croftangry’s fifteen shillings.”

“But what if I had never come back, Janet?”

“Och, if Shanet had heard you were dead, she would hae gien it to the
poor of the chapel, to pray for Mr. Croftangry,” said Janet, crossing
herself, for she was a Catholic, “You maybe do not think it would do you
cood, but the blessing of the poor can never do no harm.”

I agreed heartily in Janet’s conclusion; and as to have desired her to
consider the hoard as her own property would have been an indelicate
return to her for the uprightness of her conduct, I requested her to
dispose of it as she had proposed to do in the event of my death--that
is, if she knew any poor people of merit to whom it might be useful.

“Ower mony of them,” raising the corner of her checked apron to her
eyes--“e’en ower mony of them, Mr. Croftangry. Och, ay. ‘There is the
puir Highland creatures frae Glenshee, that cam down for the harvest,
and are lying wi’ the fever--five shillings to them; and half a crown to
Bessie MacEvoy, whose coodman, puir creature, died of the frost, being
a shairman, for a’ the whisky he could drink to keep it out o’ his
stamoch; and--”

But she suddenly interrupted the bead-roll of her proposed charities,
and assuming a very sage look, and primming up her little chattering
mouth, she went on in a different tone--“But och, Mr. Croftangry,
bethink ye whether ye will not need a’ this siller yoursel’, and maybe
look back and think lang for ha’en kiven it away, whilk is a creat sin
to forthink a wark o’ charity, and also is unlucky, and moreover is not
the thought of a shentleman’s son like yoursel’, dear. And I say this,
that ye may think a bit, for your mother’s son kens that ye are no so
careful as you should be of the gear, and I hae tauld ye of it before,
jewel.”

I assured her I could easily spare the money, without risk of future
repentance; and she went on to infer that in such a case “Mr. Croftangry
had grown a rich man in foreign parts, and was free of his troubles
with messengers and sheriff-officers, and siclike scum of the earth, and
Shanet MacEvoy’s mother’s daughter be a blithe woman to hear it. But
if Mr. Croftangry was in trouble, there was his room, and his ped, and
Shanet to wait on him, and tak payment when it was quite convenient.”

I explained to Janet my situation, in which she expressed unqualified
delight. I then proceeded to inquire into her own circumstances, and
though she spoke cheerfully and contentedly, I could see they were
precarious. I had paid more than was due; other lodgers fell into
an opposite error, and forgot to pay Janet at all. Then, Janet being
ignorant of all indirect modes of screwing money out of her lodgers,
others in the same line of life, who were sharper than the poor,
simple Highland woman, were enabled to let their apartments cheaper in
appearance, though the inmates usually found them twice as dear in the
long run.

As I had already destined my old landlady to be my house-keeper
and governante, knowing her honesty, good-nature, and, although a
Scotchwoman, her cleanliness and excellent temper (saving the short
and hasty expressions of anger which Highlanders call a FUFF), I now
proposed the plan to her in such a way as was likely to make it most
acceptable. Very acceptable as the proposal was, as I could plainly
see, Janet, however, took a day to consider upon it; and her reflections
against our next meeting had suggested only one objection, which was
singular enough.

“My honour,” so she now termed me, “would pe for biding in some fine
street apout the town. Now Shanet wad ill like to live in a place where
polish, and sheriffs, and bailiffs, and sie thieves and trash of the
world, could tak puir shentlemen by the throat, just because they wanted
a wheen dollars in the sporran. She had lived in the bonny glen of
Tomanthoulick. Cot, an ony of the vermint had come there, her father
wad hae wared a shot on them, and he could hit a buck within as mony
measured yards as e’er a man of his clan, And the place here was so
quiet frae them, they durst na put their nose ower the gutter. Shanet
owed nobody a bodle, but she couldna pide to see honest folk and pretty
shentlemen forced away to prison whether they would or no; and then, if
Shanet was to lay her tangs ower ane of the ragamuffins’ heads, it would
be, maybe, that the law would gi’ed a hard name.”

One thing I have learned in life--never to speak sense when nonsense
will answer the purpose as well. I should have had great difficulty
to convince this practical and disinterested admirer and vindicator of
liberty, that arrests seldom or never were to be seen in the streets of
Edinburgh; and to satisfy her of their justice and necessity would have
been as difficult as to convert her to the Protestant faith. I therefore
assured her my intention, if I could get a suitable habitation, was to
remain in the quarter where she at present dwelt. Janet gave three skips
on the floor, and uttered as many short, shrill yells of joy. Yet doubt
almost instantly returned, and she insisted on knowing what possible
reason I could have for making my residence where few lived, save those
whose misfortunes drove them thither. It occurred to me to answer her by
recounting the legend of the rise of my family, and of our deriving our
name from a particular place near Holyrood Palace. This, which would
have appeared to most people a very absurd reason for choosing a
residence, was entirely satisfactory to Janet MacEvoy.

“Och, nae doubt! if it was the land of her fathers, there was nae mair
to be said. Put it was queer that her family estate should just lie at
the town tail, and covered with houses, where the King’s cows--Cot bless
them, hide and horn--used to craze upon. It was strange changes.”
 She mused a little, and then added: “Put it is something better wi’
Croftangry when the changes is frae the field to the habited place,
and not from the place of habitation to the desert; for Shanet, her
nainsell, kent a glen where there were men as weel as there may be in
Croftangry, and if there werena altogether sae mony of them, they were
as good men in their tartan as the others in their broadcloth. And there
were houses, too; and if they were not biggit with stane and lime, and
lofted like the houses at Croftangry, yet they served the purpose of
them that lived there, and mony a braw bonnet, and mony a silk snood
and comely white curch, would come out to gang to kirk or chapel on
the Lord’s day, and little bairns toddling after. And now--Och, Och,
Ohellany, Ohonari! the glen is desolate, and the braw snoods and bonnets
are gane, and the Saxon’s house stands dull and lonely, like the single
bare-breasted rock that the falcon builds on--the falcon that drives the
heath-bird frae the glen.”

Janet, like many Highlanders, was full of imagination, and, when
melancholy themes came upon her, expressed herself almost poetically,
owing to the genius of the Celtic language in which she thought, and in
which, doubtless, she would have spoken, had I understood Gaelic. In two
minutes the shade of gloom and regret had passed from her good-humoured
features, and she was again the little, busy, prating, important old
woman, undisputed owner of one flat of a small tenement in the Abbey
Yard, and about to be promoted to be housekeeper to an elderly bachelor
gentleman, Chrystal Croftangry, Esq.

It was not long before Janet’s local researches found out exactly the
sort of place I wanted, and there we settled. Janet was afraid I would
not be satisfied, because it is not exactly part of Croftangry; but I
stopped her doubts by assuring her it had been part and pendicle thereof
in my forefather’ time, which passed very well.

I do not intend to possess any one with an exact knowledge of my
lodging; though, as Bobadil says, “I care not who knows it, since the
cabin is convenient.” But I may state in general, that it is a house
“within itself,” or, according to a newer phraseology in advertisements,
SELF-CONTAINED, has a garden of near half an acre, and a patch of
ground with trees in front. It boasts five rooms and servants’
apartments--looks in front upon the palace, and from behind towards the
hill and crags of the King’s Park. Fortunately, the place had a name,
which, with a little improvement, served to countenance the legend which
I had imposed on Janet, and would not, perhaps have been sorry if I had
been able to impose on myself. It was called Littlecroft; we have dubbed
it Little Croftangry, and the men of letters belonging to the Post
Office have sanctioned the change, and deliver letters so addressed.
Thus I am to all intents and purposes Chrystal Croftangry of that Ilk.

My establishment consists of Janet, an under maid-servant, and a
Highland wench for Janet to exercise her Gaelic upon, with a handy lad
who can lay the cloth, and take care, besides, of a pony, on which I
find my way to Portobello sands, especially when the cavalry have a
drill; for, like an old fool as I am, I have not altogether become
indifferent to the tramp of horses and the flash of weapons, of which,
though no professional soldier, it has been my fate to see something in
my youth. For wet mornings I have my book; is it fine weather? I visit,
or I wander on the Crags, as the humour dictates. My dinner is indeed
solitary, yet not quite so neither; for though Andrew waits, Janet--or,
as she is to all the world but her master and certain old Highland
gossips, Mrs. MacEvoy--attends, bustles about, and desires to see
everything is in first-rate order, and to tell me, Cot pless us, the
wonderful news of the palace for the day. When the cloth is removed, and
I light my cigar, and begin to husband a pint of port, or a glass of old
whisky and water, it is the rule of the house that Janet takes a
chair at some distance, and nods or works her stocking, as she may be
disposed--ready to speak, if I am in the talking humour, and sitting
quiet as a mouse if I am rather inclined to study a book or the
newspaper. At six precisely she makes my tea, and leaves me to drink it;
and then occurs an interval of time which most old bachelors find heavy
on their hands. The theatre is a good occasional resource, especially if
Will Murray acts, or a bright star of eminence shines forth; but it
is distant, and so are one or two public societies to which I belong.
Besides, these evening walks are all incompatible with the elbow-chair
feeling, which desires some employment that may divert the mind without
fatiguing the body.

Under the influence of these impressions, I have sometimes thought of
this literary undertaking. I must have been the Bonassus himself to have
mistaken myself for a genius; yet I have leisure and reflections like
my neighbours. I am a borderer, also, between two generations, and can
point out more, perhaps, than others of those fading traces of antiquity
which are daily vanishing; and I know many a modern instance and many an
old tradition, and therefore I ask--

  “What ails me, I may not as well as they
   Rake up some threadbare tales, that mouldering lay
   In chimney corners, wont by Christmas fires
   To read and rock to sleep our ancient sires?
   No man his threshold better knows, than 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 is so easily set up as an antiquary’s. Like those of the
lowest order of pawnbrokers, a commodity of rusty iron, a bay or two of
hobnails, a few odd shoe-buckles, cashiered kail-pots, and fire-irons
declared incapable of service, are quite sufficient to set him up. If
he add a sheaf or two of penny ballads and broadsides, he is a great
man--an extensive trader. And then, like the pawnbrokers aforesaid, if
the author understands a little legerdemain, he may, by dint of a little
picking and stealing, make the inside of his shop a great deal richer
than the out, and be able to show you things which cause those who do
not understand the antiquarian trick of clean conveyance to wonder how
the devil he came by them.

It may be said that antiquarian articles interest but few customers, and
that we may bawl ourselves as rusty as the wares we deal in without any
one asking; the price of our merchandise. But I do not rest my hopes
upon this department of my labours only. I propose also to have a
corresponding shop for Sentiment, and Dialogues, and Disquisition, which
may captivate the fancy of those who have no relish, as the established
phrase goes, for pure antiquity--a sort of greengrocer’s stall erected
in front of my ironmongery wares, garlanding the rusty memorials of
ancient times with cresses, cabbages, leeks, and water purpy.

As I have some idea that I am writing too well to be understood, I
humble myself to ordinary language, and aver, with becoming modesty,
that I do think myself capable of sustaining a publication of a
miscellaneous nature, as like to the Spectator or the Guardian, the
Mirror or the Lounger, as my poor abilities may be able to accomplish.
Not that I have any purpose of imitating Johnson, whose general learning
and power of expression I do not deny, but many of whose Ramblers are
little better than a sort of pageant, where trite and obvious maxims are
made to swagger in lofty and mystic language, and get some credit only
because they are not easily understood. There are some of the
great moralist’s papers which I cannot peruse without thinking on
a second-rate masquerade, where the best-known and least-esteemed
characters in town march in as heroes, and sultans, and so forth, and,
by dint of tawdry dresses, get some consideration until they are found
out. It is not, however, prudent to commence with throwing stones, just
when I am striking out windows of my own.

I think even the local situation of Little Croftangry may be considered
as favourable to my undertaking. A nobler contrast there can hardly
exist than that of the huge city, dark with the smoke of ages, and
groaning with the various sounds of active industry or idle revel,
and the lofty and craggy hill, silent and solitary as the grave--one
exhibiting the full tide of existence, pressing and precipitating itself
forward with the force of an inundation; the other resembling some
time-worn anchorite, whose life passes as silent and unobserved as the
slender rill which escapes unheard, and scarce seen, from the fountain
of his patron saint. The city resembles the busy temple, where the
modern Comus and Mammon hold their court, and thousands sacrifice ease,
independence, and virtue itself at their shrine; the misty and lonely
mountain seems as a throne to the majestic but terrible Genius of feudal
times, when the same divinities dispensed coronets and domains to those
who had heads to devise and arms to execute bold enterprises.

I have, as it were, the two extremities of the moral world at my
threshold. From the front door a few minutes’ walk brings me into the
heart of a wealthy and populous city; as many paces from my opposite
entrance place me in a solitude as complete as Zimmerman could have
desired. Surely, with such aids to my imagination, I may write better
than if I were in a lodging in the New Town or a garret in the old. As
the Spaniard says, “VIAMOS--CARACCO!”

I have not chosen to publish periodically, my reason for which was
twofold. In the first place, I don’t like to be hurried, and have had
enough of duns in an early part of my life to make me reluctant to hear
of or see one, even in the less awful shape of a printer’s devil. But,
secondly, a periodical paper is not easily extended in circulation
beyond the quarter in which it is published. This work, if published in
fugitive numbers, would scarce, without a high pressure on the part
of the bookseller, be raised above the Netherbow, and never could be
expected to ascend to the level of Princes Street. Now, I am ambitious
that my compositions, though having their origin in this Valley of
Holyrood, should not only be extended into those exalted regions I have
mentioned, but also that they should cross the Forth, astonish the long
town of Kirkcaldy, enchant the skippers and colliers of the East of
Fife, venture even into the classic arcades of St. Andrews, and travel
as much farther to the north as the breath of applause will carry their
sails. As for a southward direction, it is not to be hoped for in my
fondest dreams. I am informed that Scottish literature, like Scottish
whisky, will be presently laid under a prohibitory duty. But enough
of this. If any reader is dull enough not to comprehend the advantages
which, in point of circulation, a compact book has over a collection of
fugitive numbers, let him try the range of a gun loaded with hail-shot
against that of the same piece charged with an equal weight of lead
consolidated in a single bullet.

Besides, it was of less consequence that I should have published
periodically, since I did not mean to solicit or accept of the
contributions of friends, or the criticisms of those who may be less
kindly disposed. Notwithstanding the excellent examples which might
be quoted, I will establish no begging-box, either under the name of a
lion’s head or an ass’s. What is good or ill shall be mine own, or the
contribution of friends to whom I may have private access. Many of my
voluntary assistants might be cleverer than myself, and then I should
have a brilliant article appear among my chiller effusions, like a patch
of lace on a Scottish cloak of Galashiels grey. Some might be worse, and
then I must reject them, to the injury of the feelings of the writer, or
else insert them, to make my own darkness yet more opaque and palpable.
“Let every herring,” says our old-fashioned proverb, “hang by his own
head.”

One person, however, I may distinguish, as she is now no more, who,
living to the utmost term of human life, honoured me with a great share
of her friendship--as, indeed, we were blood-relatives in the Scottish
sense--Heaven knows how many degrees removed--and friends in the sense
of Old England. I mean the late excellent and regretted Mrs. Bethune
Baliol. But as I design this admirable picture of the olden time for a
principal character in my work, I will only say here that she knew and
approved of my present purpose; and though she declined to contribute
to it while she lived, from a sense of dignified retirement, which she
thought became her age, sex, and condition in life, she left me some
materials for carrying on my proposed work which I coveted when I
heard her detail them in conversation, and which now, when I have their
substance in her own handwriting, I account far more valuable than
anything I have myself to offer. I hope the mentioning her name in
conjunction with my own will give no offence to any of her numerous
friends, as it was her own express pleasure that I should employ the
manuscripts which she did me the honour to bequeath me in the manner
in which I have now used them. It must be added, however, that in
most cases I have disguised names, and in some have added shading and
colouring to bring out the narrative.

Much of my materials, besides these, are derived from friends, living
or dead. The accuracy of some of these may be doubtful, in which case I
shall be happy to receive, from sufficient authority, the correction of
the errors which must creep into traditional documents. The object of
the whole publication is to throw some light on the manners of Scotland
as they were, and to contrast them occasionally with those of the
present day. My own opinions are in favour of our own times in many
respects, but not in so far as affords means for exercising the
imagination or exciting the interest which attaches to other times. I am
glad to be a writer or a reader in 1826, but I would be most interested
in reading or relating what happened from half a century to a century
before. We have the best of it. Scenes in which our ancestors thought
deeply, acted fiercely, and died desperately, are to us tales to divert
the tedium of a winter’s evening, when we are engaged to no party, or
beguile a summer’s morning, when it is too scorching to ride or walk.

Yet I do not mean that my essays and narratives should be limited to
Scotland. I pledge myself to no particular line of subjects, but, on the
contrary, say with Burns--

  “Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
   Perhaps turn out a sermon.”

I have only to add, by way of postscript to these preliminary chapters,
that I have had recourse to Moliere’s recipe, and read my manuscript
over to my old woman, Janet MacEvoy.

The dignity of being consulted delighted Janet; and Wilkie, or Allan,
would have made a capital sketch of her, as she sat upright in her
chair, instead of her ordinary lounging posture, knitting her
stocking systematically, as if she meant every twist of her thread and
inclination of the wires to bear burden to the cadence of my voice. I am
afraid, too, that I myself felt more delight than I ought to have done
in my own composition, and read a little more oratorically than I should
have ventured to do before an auditor of whose applause I was not so
secure. And the result did not entirely encourage my plan of censorship.
Janet did indeed seriously incline to the account of my previous life,
and bestowed some Highland maledictions, more emphatic than courteous,
on Christie Steele’s reception of a “shentlemans in distress,” and of
her own mistress’s house too. I omitted for certain reasons, or greatly
abridged, what related to her-self. But when I came to treat of my
general views in publication, I saw poor Janet was entirely thrown out,
though, like a jaded hunter, panting, puffing, and short of wind,
she endeavoured at least to keep up with the chase. Or, rather, her
perplexity made her look all the while like a deaf person ashamed of his
infirmity, who does not understand a word you are saying, yet desires
you to believe that he does understand you, and who is extremely jealous
that you suspect his incapacity. When she saw that some remark was
necessary, she resembled exactly in her criticism the devotee who
pitched on the “sweet word Mesopotamia” as the most edifying note
which she could bring away from a sermon. She indeed hastened to bestow
general praise on what she said was all “very fine;” but chiefly dwelt
on what I, had said about Mr. Timmerman, as she was pleased to call the
German philosopher, and supposed he must be of the same descent with the
Highland clan of M’Intyre, which signifies Son of the Carpenter. “And a
fery honourable name too--Shanet’s own mither was a M’Intyre.”

In short, it was plain the latter part of my introduction was altogether
lost on poor Janet; and so, to have acted up to Moliere’s system, I
should have cancelled the whole, and written it anew. But I do not
know how it is. I retained, I suppose, some tolerable opinion of my
own composition, though Janet did not comprehend it, and felt loath to
retrench those Delilahs of the imagination, as Dryden calls them, the
tropes and figures of which are caviar to the multitude. Besides, I hate
rewriting as much as Falstaff did paying back--it is a double labour.
So I determined with myself to consult Janet, in future, only on such
things as were within the limits of her comprehension, and hazard my
arguments and my rhetoric on the public without her imprimatur. I am
pretty sure she will “applaud it done.” and in such narratives as come
within her range of thought and feeling I shall, as I first intended,
take the benefit of her unsophisticated judgment, and attend to it
deferentially--that is, when it happens not to be in peculiar opposition
to my own; for, after all, I say with Almanzor,--

  “Know that I alone am king of me.”

The reader has now my who and my whereabout, the purpose of the work,
and the circumstances under which it is undertaken. He has also a
specimen of the author’s talents, and may judge for himself, and
proceed, or send back the volume to the bookseller, as his own taste
shall determine.



CHAPTER VI. MR. CROFTANGRY’S ACCOUNT OF MRS. BETHUNE BALIOL.

   The moon, were she earthly, no nobler.   CORIOLANUS.

When we set out on the jolly voyage of life, what a brave fleet there
is around us, as, stretching our finest canvas to the breeze, all
“shipshape and Bristol fashion,” pennons flying, music playing, cheering
each other as we pass, we are rather amused than alarmed when some
awkward comrade goes right ashore for want of pilotage! Alas! when the
voyage is well spent, and we look about us, toil-worn mariners, how few
of our ancient consorts still remain in sight; and they, how torn and
wasted, and, like ourselves, struggling to keep as long as possible off
the fatal shore, against which we are all finally drifting!

I felt this very trite but melancholy truth in all its force the other
day, when a packet with a black seal arrived, containing a letter
addressed to me by my late excellent friend Mrs. Martha Bethune Baliol,
and marked with the fatal indorsation, “To be delivered according
to address, after I shall be no more.” A letter from her executors
accompanied the packet, mentioning that they had found in her will a
bequest to me of a painting of some value, which she stated would just
fit the space above my cupboard, and fifty guineas to buy a ring. And
thus I separated, with all the kindness which we had maintained for many
years, from a friend, who, though old enough to have been the companion
of my mother, was yet, in gaiety of spirits and admirable sweetness
of temper, capable of being agreeable, and even animating society, for
those who write themselves in the vaward of youth, an advantage which I
have lost for these five-and-thirty years. The contents of the packet
I had no difficulty in guessing, and have partly hinted at them in the
last chapter. But to instruct the reader in the particulars, and at the
same time to indulge myself with recalling the virtues and agreeable
qualities of my late friend, I will give a short sketch of her manners
and habits.

Mrs. Martha Bethune Baliol was a person of quality and fortune, as these
are esteemed in Scotland. Her family was ancient, and her connections
honourable. She was not fond of specially indicating her exact age, but
her juvenile recollections stretched backwards till before the eventful
year 1745, and she remembered the Highland clans being in possession of
the Scottish capital, though probably only as an indistinct vision. Her
fortune, independent by her father’s bequest, was rendered opulent by
the death of more than one brave brother, who fell successively in the
service of their country, so that the family estates became vested in
the only surviving child of the ancient house of Bethune Baliol. My
intimacy was formed with the excellent lady after this event, and when
she was already something advanced in age.

She inhabited, when in Edinburgh, where she regularly spent the winter
season, one of those old hotels which, till of late, were to be found in
the neighbourhood of the Canongate and of the Palace of Holyrood House,
and which, separated from the street, now dirty and vulgar, by paved
courts and gardens of some extent, made amends for an indifferent
access, by showing something of aristocratic state and seclusion when
you were once admitted within their precincts. They have pulled her
house down; for, indeed, betwixt building and burning, every ancient
monument of the Scottish capital is now likely to be utterly demolished.
I pause on the recollections of the place, however; and since nature has
denied a pencil when she placed a pen in my hand, I will endeavour to
make words answer the purpose of delineation.

Baliol’s Lodging, so was the mansion named, reared its high stack of
chimneys, among which were seen a turret or two, and one of those
small projecting platforms called bartizans, above the mean and modern
buildings which line the south side of the Canongate, towards the lower
end of that street, and not distant from the Palace. A PORTE COCHERE,
having a wicket for foot passengers, was, upon due occasion, unfolded by
a lame old man, tall, grave, and thin, who tenanted a hovel beside the
gate, and acted as porter. To this office he had been promoted by my
friend’s charitable feelings for an old soldier, and partly by an idea
that his head, which was a very fine one, bore some resemblance to that
of Garrick in the character of Lusignan. He was a man saturnine, silent,
and slow in his proceedings, and would never open the PORTE COCHERE to
a hackney coach, indicating the wicket with his finger as the proper
passage for all who came in that obscure vehicle, which was not
permitted to degrade with its ticketed presence the dignity of Baliol’s
Lodging. I do not think this peculiarity would have met with his lady’s
approbation, any more than the occasional partiality of Lusignan, or, as
mortals called him, Archie Macready, to a dram. But Mrs. Martha Bethune
Baliol, conscious that, in case of conviction, she could never have
prevailed upon herself to dethrone the King of Palestine from the stone
bench on which he sat for hours knitting his stocking, refused, by
accrediting the intelligence, even to put him upon his trial, well
judging that he would observe more wholesome caution if he conceived his
character unsuspected, than if he were detected, and suffered to pass
unpunished. For after all, she said, it would be cruel to dismiss an
old Highland soldier for a peccadillo so appropriate to his country and
profession.

The stately gate for carriages, or the humble accommodation for
foot-passengers, admitted into a narrow and short passage running
between two rows of lime-trees, whose green foliage during the spring
contrasted strangely with the swart complexion of the two walls by the
side of which they grew. This access led to the front of the house,
which was formed by two gable ends, notched, and having their windows
adorned with heavy architectural ornaments. They joined each other at
right angles; and a half circular tower, which contained the entrance
and the staircase, occupied the point of junction, and rounded the acute
angle. One of other two sides of the little court, in which there
was just sufficient room to turn a carriage, was occupied by some low
buildings answering the purpose of offices; the other, by a parapet
surrounded by a highly-ornamented iron railing, twined round with
honeysuckle and other parasitical shrubs, which permitted the eye to
peep into a pretty suburban garden, extending down to the road called
the South Back of the Canongate, and boasting a number of old trees,
many flowers, and even some fruit. We must not forget to state that the
extreme cleanliness of the courtyard was such as intimated that mop
and pail had done their utmost in that favoured spot to atone for
the general dirt and dinginess of the quarter where the premises were
situated.

Over the doorway were the arms of Bethune and Baliol, with various other
devices, carved in stone. The door itself was studded with iron nails,
and formed of black oak; an iron rasp, as it was called, was placed on
it, instead of a knocker, for the purpose of summoning the attendants.
[See Note 3.--Iron Rasp.] He who usually appeared at the summons was a
smart lad, in a handsome livery, the son of Mrs. Martha’s gardener at
Mount Baliol. Now and then a servant girl, nicely but plainly dressed,
and fully accoutred with stockings and shoes, would perform this duty;
and twice or thrice I remember being admitted by Beauffet himself, whose
exterior looked as much like that of a clergyman of rank as the butler
of a gentleman’s family. He had been valet-de-chambre to the last Sir
Richard Bethune Baliol, and was, a person highly trusted by the present
lady. A full stand, as it is called in Scotland, of garments of a dark
colour, gold buckles in his shoes and at the knees of his breeches, with
his hair regularly dressed and powdered, announced him to be a domestic
of trust and importance. His mistress used to say of him,--

                     “He is sad and civil,
   And suits well for a servant with my fortunes.”

As no one can escape scandal, some said that Beauffet made a rather
better thing of the place than the modesty of his old-fashioned wages
would, unassisted, have amounted to. But the man was always very civil
to me. He had been long in the family, had enjoyed legacies, and lain by
a something of his own, upon which he now enjoys ease with dignity, in
as far as his newly-married wife, Tibbie Shortacres, will permit him.

The Lodging--dearest reader, if you are tired, pray pass over the
next four or five pages--was not by any means so large as its external
appearance led people to conjecture. The interior accommodation was much
cut up by cross walls and long passages, and that neglect of economizing
space which characterizes old Scottish architecture. But there was far
more room than my old friend required, even when she had, as was often
the case, four or five young cousins under her protection; and I believe
much of the house was unoccupied. Mrs. Bethune Baliol never, in my
presence, showed herself so much offended as once with a meddling person
who advised her to have the windows of these supernumerary apartments
built up to save the tax. She said in ire that, while she lived, the
light of God should visit the house of her fathers; and while she had
a penny, king and country should have their due. Indeed, she was
punctiliously loyal, even in that most staggering test of loyalty, the
payment of imposts. Mr. Beauffet told me he was ordered to offer a glass
of wine to the person who collected the income tax, and that the poor
man was so overcome by a reception so unwontedly generous, that he had
well-nigh fainted on the spot.

You entered by a matted anteroom into the eating-parlour, filled
with old-fashioned furniture, and hung with family portraits, which,
excepting one of Sir Bernard Bethune, in James the Sixth’s time, said to
be by Jameson, were exceedingly frightful. A saloon, as it was called,
a long, narrow chamber, led out of the dining-parlour, and served for
a drawing-room. It was a pleasant apartment, looking out upon the south
flank of Holyrood House, the gigantic slope of Arthur’s Seat, and the
girdle of lofty rocks called Salisbury Crags; objects so rudely wild,
that the mind can hardly conceive them to exist in the vicinage of a
populous metropolis. [The Rev. Mr. Bowles derives the name of these
crags, as of the Episcopal city in the west of England, from the same
root, both, in his opinion, which he very ably defends and illustrates,
having been the sites of Druidical temples.] The paintings of the saloon
came from abroad, and had some of them much merit. To see the best of
them, however, you must be admitted into the very PENETRALIA of the
temple, and allowed to draw the tapestry at the upper end of the saloon,
and enter Mrs. Martha’s own special dressing-room. This was a charming
apartment, of which it would be difficult to describe the form, it had
so many recesses which were filled up with shelves of ebony and cabinets
of japan and ormolu--some for holding books, of which Mrs. Martha had an
admirable collection, some for a display of ornamental china, others for
shells and similar curiosities. In a little niche, half screened by a
curtain of crimson silk, was disposed a suit of tilting armour of bright
steel inlaid with silver, which had been worn on some memorable occasion
by Sir Bernard Bethune, already mentioned; while over the canopy of the
niche hung the broadsword with which her father had attempted to change
the fortunes of Britain in 1715, and the spontoon which her elder
brother bore when he was leading on a company of the Black Watch at
Fontenoy. [The well-known original designation of the gallant 42nd
Regiment. Being the first corps raised for the royal service in the
Highlands, and allowed to retain their national garb, they were thus
named from the contrast which their dark tartans furnished to the
scarlet and white of the other regiments.]

There were some Italian and Flemish pictures of admitted authenticity, a
few genuine bronzes, and other objects of curiosity, which her brothers
or herself had picked up while abroad. In short, it was a place where
the idle were tempted to become studious, the studious to grow idle
where the grave might find matter to make them gay, and the gay subjects
for gravity.

That it might maintain some title to its name, I must not forget to
say that the lady’s dressing-room exhibited a superb mirror, framed in
silver filigree work; a beautiful toilette, the cover of which was of
Flanders lace; and a set of boxes corresponding in materials and work to
the frame of the mirror.

This dressing apparatus, however, was mere matter of parade. Mrs. Martha
Bethune Baliol always went through the actual duties of the toilette in
an inner apartment, which corresponded with her sleeping-room by a
small detached staircase. There were, I believe, more than one of those
TURNPIKE STAIRS, as they were called, about the house, by which the
public rooms, all of which entered through each other, were accommodated
with separate and independent modes of access. In the little boudoir we
have described, Mrs. Martha Baliol had her choicest meetings. She kept
early hours; and if you went in the morning, you must not reckon that
space of day as extending beyond three o’clock, or four at the utmost.
These vigilant habits were attended with some restraint on her visitors,
but they were indemnified by your always finding the best society and
the best information which were to be had for the day in the Scottish
capital. Without at all affecting the blue stocking, she liked books.
They amused her; and if the authors were persons of character, she
thought she owed them a debt of civility, which she loved to discharge
by personal kindness. When she gave a dinner to a small party, which she
did now and then, she had the good nature to look for, and the good luck
to discover, what sort of people suited each other best, and chose her
company as Duke Theseus did his hounds,--

  “Matched in mouth like bells,
   Each under each,”
          [Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act IV. Sc. I.]

so that every guest could take his part in the cry, instead of one
mighty Tom of a fellow, like Dr. Johnson, silencing all besides by the
tremendous depth of his diapason. On such occasions she afforded CHERE
EXQUISE; and every now and then there was some dish of French, or even
Scottish derivation, which, as well as the numerous assortment of VINS
EXTRAORDINAIRES produced by Mr. Beauffet, gave a sort of antique and
foreign air to the entertainment, which rendered it more interesting.

It was a great thing to be asked to such parties; and not less so to be
invited to the early CONVERSAZIONE, which, in spite of fashion, by dint
of the best coffee, the finest tea, and CHASSE CAFE that would have
called the dead to life, she contrived now and then to assemble in her
saloon already mentioned, at the unnatural hour of eight in the evening.
At such time the cheerful old lady seemed to enjoy herself so much in
the happiness of her guests that they exerted themselves in turn to
prolong her amusement and their own; and a certain charm was excited
around, seldom to be met with in parties of pleasure, and which was
founded on the general desire of every one present to contribute
something to the common amusement.

But although it was a great privilege to be admitted to wait on my
excellent friend in the morning, or be invited to her dinner or evening
parties, I prized still higher the right which I had acquired, by old
acquaintance, of visiting Baliol’s Lodging upon the chance of finding
its venerable inhabitant preparing for tea, just about six o’clock in
the evening. It was only to two or three old friends that she permitted
this freedom; nor was this sort of chance-party ever allowed to extend
itself beyond five in number. The answer to those who came later
announced that the company was filled up for the evening, which had the
double effect of making those who waited on Mrs. Bethune Baliol in this
unceremonious manner punctual in observing her hour, and of adding the
zest of a little difficulty to the enjoyment of the party.

It more frequently happened that only one or two persons partook of
this refreshment on the same evening; or, supposing the case of a single
gentleman, Mrs. Martha, though she did not hesitate to admit him to her
boudoir, after the privilege of the French and the old Scottish school,
took care, as she used to say, to prescribe all possible propriety, by
commanding the attendance of her principal female attendant, Mrs. Alice
Lambskin, who might, from the gravity and dignity of her appearance,
have sufficed to matronize a whole boarding-school, instead of one
maiden lady of eighty and upwards. As the weather permitted, Mrs. Alice
sat duly remote from the company in a FAUTEUIL behind the projecting
chimney-piece, or in the embrasure of a window, and prosecuted in
Carthusian silence, with indefatigable zeal, a piece of embroidery,
which seemed no bad emblem of eternity.

But I have neglected all this while to introduce my friend herself to
the reader--at least so far as words can convey the peculiarities by
which her appearance and conversation were distinguished.

A little woman, with ordinary features and an ordinary form, and hair
which in youth had no decided colour, we may believe Mrs. Martha when
she said of herself that she was never remarkable for personal charms; a
modest admission, which was readily confirmed by certain old ladies, her
contemporaries, who, whatever might have been the youthful advantages
which they more than hinted had been formerly their own share, were now
in personal appearance, as well as in everything else, far inferior to
my accomplished friend. Mrs. Martha’s features had been of a kind
which might be said to wear well; their irregularity was now of
little consequence, animated, as they were, by the vivacity of her
conversation. Her teeth were excellent, and her eyes, although inclining
to grey, were lively, laughing, and undimmed by time. A slight shade of
complexion, more brilliant than her years promised, subjected my friend
amongst strangers to the suspicion of having stretched her foreign
habits as far as the prudent touch of the rouge. But it was a calumny;
for when telling or listening to an interesting and affecting story,
I have seen her colour come and go as if it played on the cheek of
eighteen.

Her hair, whatever its former deficiencies was now the most beautiful
white that time could bleach, and was disposed with some degree of
pretension, though in the simplest manner possible, so as to appear
neatly smoothed under a cap of Flanders lace, of an old-fashioned but,
as I thought, of a very handsome form, which undoubtedly has a name,
and I would endeavour to recur to it, if I thought it would make my
description a bit more intelligible. I think I have heard her say these
favourite caps had been her mother’s, and had come in fashion with a
peculiar kind of wig used by the gentlemen about the time of the
battle of Ramillies. The rest of her dress was always rather costly and
distinguished, especially in the evening. A silk or satin gown of some
colour becoming her age, and of a form which, though complying to a
certain degree with the present fashion, had always a reference to some
more distant period, was garnished with triple ruffles. Her shoes had
diamond buckles, and were raised a little at heel, an advantage which,
possessed in her youth, she alleged her size would not permit her to
forego in her old age. She always wore rings, bracelets, and other
ornaments of value, either for the materials or the workmanship; nay,
perhaps she was a little profuse in this species of display. But
she wore them as subordinate matters, to which the habits of being
constantly in high life rendered her indifferent; she wore them because
her rank required it, and thought no more of them as articles of finery
than a gentleman dressed for dinner thinks of his clean linen and
well-brushed coat, the consciousness of which embarrasses the rustic
beau on a Sunday.

Now and then, however, if a gem or ornament chanced to be noticed for
its beauty or singularity, the observation usually led the way to an
entertaining account of the manner in which it had been acquired, or the
person from whom it had descended to its present possessor. On such and
similar occasions my old friend spoke willingly, which is not uncommon;
but she also, which is more rare, spoke remarkably well, and had in her
little narratives concerning foreign parts or former days, which formed
an interesting part of her conversation, the singular art of dismissing
all the usual protracted tautology respecting time, place, and
circumstances which is apt to settle like a mist upon the cold and
languid tales of age, and at the same time of bringing forward, dwelling
upon, and illustrating those incidents and characters which give point
and interest to the story.

She had, as we have hinted, travelled a good deal in foreign countries;
for a brother, to whom she was much attached, had been sent upon various
missions of national importance to the Continent, and she had more than
once embraced the opportunity of accompanying him. This furnished a
great addition to the information which she could supply, especially
during the last war, when the Continent was for so many years
hermetically sealed against the English nation. But, besides, Mrs.
Bethune Baliol visited different countries, not in the modern fashion,
when English travel in caravans together, and see in France and Italy
little besides the same society which they might have enjoyed at home.
On the contrary, she mingled when abroad with the natives of those
countries she visited, and enjoyed at once the advantage of their
society, and the pleasure of comparing it with that of Britain.

In the course of her becoming habituated with foreign manners, Mrs.
Bethune Baliol had, perhaps, acquired some slight tincture of them
herself. Yet I was always persuaded that the peculiar vivacity of
look and manner--the pointed and appropriate action with which she
accompanied what she said--the use of the gold and gemmed TABATIERE, or
rather, I should say, BONBONNIERE (for she took no snuff, and the
little box contained only a few pieces of candled angelica, or some such
ladylike sweetmeat), were of real old-fashioned Scottish growth,
and such as might have graced the tea-table of Susannah, Countess
of Eglinton, the patroness of Allan Ramsay [See Note 4.--Countess of
Eglinton.], or of the Hon. Mrs. Colonel Ogilvy, who was another mirror
by whom the Maidens of Auld Reekie were required to dress themselves.
Although well acquainted with the customs of other countries, her
manners had been chiefly formed in her own, at a time when great folk
lived within little space and when the distinguished names of the
highest society gave to Edinburgh the ECLAT which we now endeavour to
derive from the unbounded expense and extended circle of our pleasures.

I was more confirmed in this opinion by the peculiarity of the dialect
which Mrs. Baliol used. It was Scottish--decidedly Scottish--often
containing phrases and words little used in the present day. But then
her tone and mode of pronunciation were as different from the usual
accent of the ordinary Scotch PATOIS, as the accent of St. James’s is
from that of Billingsgate. The vowels were not pronounced much broader
than in the Italian language, and there was none of the disagreeable
drawl which is so offensive to southern ears. In short, it seemed to
be the Scottish as spoken by the ancient Court of Scotland, to which no
idea of vulgarity could be attached; and the lively manners and gestures
with which it was accompanied were so completely in accord with the
sound of the voice and the style of talking, that I cannot assign them a
different origin. In long derivation, perhaps the manner of the Scottish
court might have been originally formed on that of France, to which it
had certainly some affinity; but I will live and die in the belief that
those of Mrs. Baliol, as pleasing as they were peculiar, came to her
by direct descent from the high dames who anciently adorned with their
presence the royal halls of Holyrood.



CHAPTER VII. MRS. BALIOL ASSISTS MR. CROFTANGRY IN HIS LITERARY
SPECULATIONS.

Such as I have described Mrs. Bethune Baliol, the reader will easily
believe that, when I thought of the miscellaneous nature of my work,
I rested upon the information she possessed, and her communicative
disposition, as one of the principal supports of my enterprise.
Indeed, she by no means disapproved of my proposed publication, though
expressing herself very doubtful how far she could personally assist
it--a doubt which might be, perhaps, set down to a little ladylike
coquetry, which required to be sued for the boon she was not unwilling
to grant. Or, perhaps, the good old lady, conscious that her unusual
term of years must soon draw to a close, preferred bequeathing the
materials in the shape of a legacy, to subjecting them to the judgment
of a critical public during her lifetime.

Many a time I used, in our conversations of the Canongate, to resume my
request of assistance, from a sense that my friend was the most valuable
depository of Scottish traditions that was probably now to be found.
This was a subject on which my mind was so much made up that, when I
heard her carry her description of manners so far back beyond her
own time, and describe how Fletcher of Salton spoke, how Graham of
Claverhouse danced, what were the jewels worn by the famous Duchess of
Lauderdale, and how she came by them, I could not help telling her I
thought her some fairy, who cheated us by retaining the appearance of a
mortal of our own day, when, in fact, she had witnessed the revolutions
of centuries. She was much diverted when I required her to take some
solemn oath that she had not danced at the balls given by Mary of Este,
when her unhappy husband occupied Holyrood in a species of honourable
banishment; [The Duke of York afterwards James II., frequently resided
in Holyrood House when his religion rendered him an object of suspicion
to the English Parliament.] or asked whether she could not recollect
Charles the Second when he came to Scotland in 1650, and did not possess
some slight recollections of the bold usurper who drove him beyond the
Forth.

“BEAU COUSIN,” she said, laughing, “none of these do I remember
personally, but you must know there has been wonderfully little change
on my natural temper from youth to age. From which it follows, cousin,
that, being even now something too young in spirit for the years which
Time has marked me in his calendar, I was, when a girl, a little too
old for those of my own standing, and as much inclined at that period
to keep the society of elder persons, as I am now disposed to admit the
company of gay young fellows of fifty or sixty like yourself, rather
than collect about me all the octogenarians. Now, although I do not
actually come from Elfland, and therefore cannot boast any personal
knowledge of the great personages you enquire about, yet I have seen
and heard those who knew them well, and who have given me as distinct
an account of them as I could give you myself of the Empress Queen, or
Frederick of Prussia; and I will frankly add,” said she, laughing and
offering her BONBONNIERE, “that I HAVE heard so much of the years which
immediately succeeded the Revolution, that I sometimes am apt to confuse
the vivid descriptions fixed on my memory by the frequent and animated
recitation of others, for things which I myself have actually witnessed.
I caught myself but yesterday describing to Lord M--the riding of the
last Scottish Parliament, with as much minuteness as if I had seen it,
as my mother did, from the balcony in front of Lord Moray’s Lodging in
the Canongate.”

“I am sure you must have given Lord M-- a high treat.”

“I treated him to a hearty laugh, I believe,” she replied; “but it is
you, you vile seducer of youth, who lead me into such follies. But I
will be on my guard against my own weakness. I do not well know if the
Wandering Jew is supposed to have a wife, but I should be sorry a decent
middle-aged Scottish gentlewoman should be suspected of identity with
such a supernatural person.”

“For all that, I must torture you a little more, MA BELLE COUSINE,
with my interrogatories; for how shall I ever turn author unless on the
strength of the information which you have so often procured me on the
ancient state of manners?”

“Stay, I cannot allow you to give your points of enquiry a name so
very venerable, if I am expected to answer them. Ancient is a term for
antediluvians. You may catechise me about the battle of Flodden, or ask
particulars about Bruce and Wallace, under pretext of curiosity after
ancient manners; and that last subject would wake my Baliol blood, you
know.”

“Well, but, Mrs. Baliol, suppose we settle our era: you do not call the
accession of James the Sixth to the kingdom of Britain very ancient?”

“Umph! no, cousin; I think I could tell you more of that than folk
nowadays remember. For instance, that as James was trooping towards
England, bag and baggage, his journey was stopped near Cockenzie by
meeting the funeral of the Earl of Winton, the old and faithful servant
and follower of his ill-fated mother, poor Mary! It was an ill omen
for the INFARE, and so was seen of it, cousin.” [See Note 5.--Earl of
Winton.]

I did not choose to prosecute this subject, well knowing Mrs. Bethune
Baliol did not like to be much pressed on the subject of the Stewarts,
whose misfortunes she pitied, the rather that her father had espoused
their cause. And yet her attachment to the present dynasty being very
sincere, and even ardent, more especially as her family had served
his late Majesty both in peace and war, she experienced a little
embarrassment in reconciling her opinions respecting the exiled family
with those she entertained for the present. In fact, like many an old
Jacobite, she was contented to be somewhat inconsistent on the subject,
comforting herself that NOW everything stood as it ought to do, and that
there was no use in looking back narrowly on the right or wrong of the
matter half a century ago.

“The Highlands,” I suggested, “should furnish you with ample subjects
of recollection. You have witnessed the complete change of that primeval
country, and have seen a race not far removed from the earliest period
of society melted down into the great mass of civilization; and that
could not happen without incidents striking in themselves, and curious
as chapters in the history of the human race.”

“It is very true,” said Mrs. Baliol; “one would think it should have
struck the observers greatly, and yet it scarcely did so. For me, I
was no Highlander myself, and the Highland chiefs of old, of whom I
certainly knew several, had little in their manners to distinguish them
from the Lowland gentry, when they mixed in society in Edinburgh, and
assumed the Lowland dress. Their peculiar character was for the clansmen
at home; and you must not imagine that they swaggered about in plaids
and broadswords at the Cross, or came to the Assembly Rooms in bonnets
and kilts.”

“I remember,” said I, “that Swift, in his Journal, tells Stella he had
dined in the house of a Scots nobleman, with two Highland chiefs, whom
he had found as well-bred men as he had ever met with.” [Extract
of Journal to Stella.--“I dined to-day (12th March 1712) with Lord
Treasurer and two gentlemen of the Highlands of Scotland, yet very
polite men.” SWIFT’S WORKS, VOL. III. p.7. EDIN. 1824.]

“Very likely,” said my friend. “The extremes of society approach much
more closely to each other than perhaps the Dean of Saint Patrick’s
expected. The savage is always to a certain degree polite. Besides,
going always armed, and having a very punctilious idea of their own
gentility and consequence, they usually behaved to each other and to the
Lowlanders with a good deal of formal politeness, which sometimes even
procured them the character of insincerity.”

“Falsehood belongs to an early period of society, as well as the
deferential forms which we style politeness,” I replied. “A child does
not see the least moral beauty in truth until he has been flogged half a
dozen times. It is so easy, and apparently so natural, to deny what you
cannot be easily convicted of, that a savage as well as a child lies to
excuse himself almost as instinctively as he raises his hand to protect
his head. The old saying, ‘Confess and be hanged,’ carries much argument
in it. I observed a remark the other day in old Birrel. He mentions that
M’Gregor of Glenstrae and some of his people had surrendered themselves
to one of the Earls of Argyle, upon the express condition that they
should be conveyed safe into England. The Maccallum Mhor of the day
kept the word of promise, but it was only to the ear. He indeed sent his
captives to Berwick, where they had an airing on the other side of the
Tweed; but it was under the custody of a strong guard, by whom they
were brought back to Edinburgh, and delivered to the executioner. This,
Birrel calls keeping a Highlandman’s promise.” [See Note 6.--M’Gregor of
Glenstrae.]

“Well,” replied Mrs. Baliol, “I might add that many of the Highland
chiefs whom I knew in former days had been brought up in France, which
might improve their politeness, though perhaps it did not amend their
sincerity. But considering that, belonging to the depressed and
defeated faction in the state, they were compelled sometimes to use
dissimulation, you must set their uniform fidelity to their friends;
against their occasional falsehood to their enemies, and then you will
not judge poor John Highlandman too severely. They were in a state of
society where bright lights are strongly contrasted with deep shadows.”

“It is to that point I would bring you, MA BELLE COUSINE; and therefore
they are most proper subjects for composition.”

“And you want to turn composer, my good friend, and set my old tales to
some popular tune? But there have been too many composers, if that be
the word, in the field before. The Highlands WERE indeed a rich mine;
but they have, I think, been fairly wrought out, as a good tune is
grinded into vulgarity when it descends to the hurdy-gurdy and the
barrel-organ.”

“If it be really tune,” I replied, “it will recover its better qualities
when it gets into the hands of better artists.”

“Umph!” said Mrs. Baliol, tapping her box, “we are happy in our own good
opinion this evening, Mr. Croftangry. And so you think you can restore
the gloss to the tartan which it has lost by being dragged through so
many fingers?”

“With your assistance to procure materials, my dear lady, much, I think,
may be done.”

“Well, I must do my best, I suppose, though all I know about the Gael
is but of little consequence. Indeed, I gathered it chiefly from Donald
MacLeish.”

“And who might Donald MacLeish be?”

“Neither bard nor sennachie, I assure you, nor monk nor hermit, the
approved authorities for old traditions. Donald was as good a postilion
as ever drove a chaise and pair between Glencroe and Inverary. I assure
you, when I give you my Highland anecdotes, you will hear much of Donald
MacLeish. He was Alice Lambskin’s beau and mine through a long Highland
tour.”

“But when am I to possess these anecdotes? you answer me as Harley did
poor Prior--

  ‘Let that be done which Mat doth say--
   Yea, quoth the Earl, but not to-day.’”

“Well, MON BEAU COUSIN, if you begin to remind me of my cruelty, I must
remind you it has struck nine on the Abbey clock, and it is time you
were going home to Little Croftangry. For my promise to assist your
antiquarian researches, be assured I will one day keep it to the utmost
extent. It shall not be a Highlandman’s promise, as your old citizen
calls it.”

I by this time suspected the purpose of my friend’s procrastination; and
it saddened my heart to reflect that I was not to get the information
which I desired, excepting in the shape of a legacy. I found
accordingly, in the packet transmitted to me after the excellent lady’s
death, several anecdotes respecting the Highlands, from which I have
selected that which follows, chiefly on account of its possessing great
power over the feelings of my critical housekeeper, Janet M’Evoy, who
wept most bitterly when I read it to her.

It is, however, but a very simple tale, and may have no interest for
persons beyond Janet’s rank of life or understanding.


*****



THE HIGHLAND WIDOW



CHAPTER I.

  It wound as near as near could be,
  But what it is she cannot tell;
  On the other side it seemed to be
  Of the huge broad-breasted old oak-tree.    COLERIDGE.

Mrs. Bethune Baliol’s memorandum begins thus:--

It is five-and-thirty, or perhaps nearer forty years ago, since, to
relieve the dejection of spirits occasioned by a great family loss
sustained two or three months before, I undertook what was called the
short Highland tour. This had become in some degree fashionable; but
though the military roads were excellent, yet the accommodation was so
indifferent that it was reckoned a little adventure to accomplish it.
Besides, the Highlands, though now as peaceable as any part of King
George’s dominions, was a sound which still carried terror, while so
many survived who had witnessed the insurrection of 1745; and a vague
idea of fear was impressed on many as they looked from the towers of
Stirling northward to the huge chain of mountains, which rises like a
dusky rampart to conceal in its recesses a people whose dress, manners,
and language differed still very much from those of their Lowland
countrymen. For my part, I come of a race not greatly subject to
apprehensions arising from imagination only. I had some Highland
relatives; know several of their families of distinction; and though
only having the company of my bower-maiden, Mrs. Alice Lambskin, I went
on my journey fearless.

But then I had a guide and cicerone, almost equal to Greatheart in
the Pilgrim’s Progress, in no less a person than Donald MacLeish, the
postilion whom I hired at Stirling, with a pair of able-bodied horses,
as steady as Donald himself, to drag my carriage, my duenna, and myself,
wheresoever it was my pleasure to go.

Donald MacLeish was one of a race of post-boys whom, I suppose,
mail-coaches and steamboats have put out of fashion. They were to be
found chiefly at Perth, Stirling, or Glasgow, where they and their
horses were usually hired by travellers, or tourists, to accomplish such
journeys of business or pleasure as they might have to perform in the
land of the Gael. This class of persons approached to the character
of what is called abroad a CONDUCTEUR; or might be compared to the
sailing-master on board a British ship of war, who follows out after
his own manner the course which the captain commands him to observe. You
explained to your postilion the length of your tour, and the objects you
were desirous it should embrace; and you found him perfectly competent
to fix the places of rest or refreshment, with due attention that those
should be chosen with reference to your convenience, and to any points
of interest which you might desire to visit.

The qualifications of such a person were necessarily much superior to
those of the “first ready,” who gallops thrice-a-day over the same
ten miles. Donald MacLeish, besides being quite alert at repairing all
ordinary accidents to his horses and carriage, and in making shift to
support them, where forage was scarce, with such substitutes as bannocks
and cakes, was likewise a man of intellectual resources. He had acquired
a general knowledge of the traditional stories of the country which he
had traversed so often; and if encouraged (for Donald was a man of the
most decorous reserve), he would willingly point out to you the site of
the principal clan-battles, and recount the most remarkable legends by
which the road, and the objects which occurred in travelling it, had
been distinguished. There was some originality in the man’s habits of
thinking and expressing himself, his turn for legendary lore strangely
contrasting with a portion of the knowing shrewdness belonging to
his actual occupation, which made his conversation amuse the way well
enough.

Add to this, Donald knew all his peculiar duties in the country which
he traversed so frequently. He could tell, to a day, when they would “be
killing” lamb at Tyndrum or Glenuilt; so that the stranger would have
some chance of being fed like a Christian; and knew to a mile the last
village where it was possible to procure a wheaten loaf for the guidance
of those who were little familiar with the Land of Cakes. He was
acquainted with the road every mile, and could tell to an inch which
side of a Highland bridge was passable, which decidedly dangerous. [This
is, or was at least, a necessary accomplishment. In one of the most
beautiful districts of the Highlands was, not many years since, a bridge
bearing this startling caution, “Keep to the right side, the left
being dangerous.”] In short, Donald MacLeish was not only our faithful
attendant and steady servant, but our humble and obliging friend; and
though I have known the half-classical cicerone of Italy, the talkative
French valet-de-place, and even the muleteer of Spain, who piques
himself on being a maize-eater, and whose honour is not to be questioned
without danger, I do not think I have ever had so sensible and
intelligent a guide.

Our motions were of course under Donald’s direction; and it frequently
happened, when the weather was serene, that we preferred halting to rest
his horses even where there was no established stage, and taking our
refreshment under a crag, from which leaped a waterfall, or beside
the verge of a fountain, enamelled with verdant turf and wild-flowers.
Donald had an eye for such spots, and though he had, I dare say, never
read Gil Blas or Don Quixote, yet he chose such halting-places as Le
Sage or Cervantes would have described. Very often, as he observed the
pleasure I took in conversing with the country people, he would manage
to fix our place of rest near a cottage, where there was some old Gael
whose broadsword had blazed at Falkirk or Preston, and who seemed the
frail yet faithful record of times which had passed away. Or he
would contrive to quarter us, as far as a cup of tea went, upon the
hospitality of some parish minister of worth and intelligence, or some
country family of the better class, who mingled with the wild simplicity
of their original manners, and their ready and hospitable welcome,
a sort of courtesy belonging to a people, the lowest of whom are
accustomed to consider themselves as being, according to the Spanish
phrase, “as good gentlemen as the king, only not quite so rich.”

To all such persons Donald MacLeish was well known, and his introduction
passed as current as if we had brought letters from some high chief of
the country.

Sometimes it happened that the Highland hospitality, which welcomed us
with all the variety of mountain fare, preparations of milk and eggs,
and girdle-cakes of various kinds, as well as more substantial dainties,
according to the inhabitant’s means of regaling the passenger, descended
rather too exuberantly on Donald MacLeish in the shape of mountain dew.
Poor Donald! he was on such occasions like Gideon’s fleece--moist with
the noble element, which, of course, fell not on us. But it was his only
fault, and when pressed to drink DOCH-AN-DORROCH to my ladyship’s good
health, it would have been ill taken to have refused the pledge; nor was
he willing to do such discourtesy. It was, I repeat, his only fault. Nor
had we any great right to complain; for if it rendered him a little more
talkative, it augmented his ordinary share of punctilious civility, and
he only drove slower, and talked longer and more pompously, than when he
had not come by a drop of usquebaugh. It was, we remarked, only on such
occasions that Donald talked with an air of importance of the family of
MacLeish; and we had no title to be scrupulous in censuring a foible,
the consequences of which were confined within such innocent limits.

We became so much accustomed to Donald’s mode of managing us, that we
observed with some interest the art which he used to produce a little
agreeable surprise, by concealing from us the spot where he proposed our
halt to be made, when it was of an unusual and interesting character.
This was so much his wont that, when he made apologies at setting off
for being obliged to stop in some strange, solitary place till the
horses should eat the corn which he brought on with them for that
purpose, our imagination used to be on the stretch to guess what
romantic retreat he had secretly fixed upon for our noontide
baiting-place.

We had spent the greater part of the morning at the delightful village
of Dalmally, and had gone upon the lake under the guidance of the
excellent clergyman who was then incumbent at Glenorquhy, [This
venerable and hospitable gentleman’s name was MacIntyre.] and had heard
a hundred legends of the stern chiefs of Loch Awe, Duncan with the thrum
bonnet, and the other lords of the now mouldering towers of Kilchurn.
[See Note 7.--Loch Awe.] Thus it was later than usual when we set out
on our journey, after a hint or two from Donald concerning the length
of the way to the next stage, as there was no good halting-place between
Dalmally and Oban.

Having bid adieu to our venerable and kind cicerone, we proceeded on our
tour, winding round the tremendous mountain called Cruachan Ben, which
rushes down in all its majesty of rocks and wilderness on the lake,
leaving only a pass, in which, notwithstanding its extreme strength, the
warlike clan of MacDougal of Lorn were almost destroyed by the sagacious
Robert Bruce. That King, the Wellington of his day, had accomplished,
by a forced march, the unexpected manoeuvre of forcing a body of troops
round the other side of the mountain, and thus placed them in the flank
and in the rear of the men of Lorn, whom at the same time, he attacked
in front. The great number of cairns yet visible as you descend the
pass on the westward side shows the extent of the vengeance which Bruce
exhausted on his inveterate and personal enemies. I am, you know,
the sister of soldiers, and it has since struck me forcibly that the
manoeuvre which Donald described, resembled those of Wellington or of
Bonaparte. He was a great man Robert Bruce, even a Baliol must admit
that; although it begins now to be allowed that his title to the crown
was scarce so good as that of the unfortunate family with whom he
contended. But let that pass. The slaughter had been the greater, as the
deep and rapid river Awe is disgorged from the lake just in the rear
of the fugitives, and encircles the base of the tremendous mountain; so
that the retreat of the unfortunate fleers was intercepted on all
sides by the inaccessible character of the country, which had seemed to
promise them defence and protection. [See Note 8.--Battle betwixt the
armies of the Bruce and MacDougal of Lorn.]

Musing, like the Irish lady in the song, “upon things which are long
enough a-gone,” [This is a line from a very pathetic ballad which I
heard sung by one of the young ladies of Edgeworthstown in 1825. I do
not know that it has been printed.] we felt no impatience at the slow
and almost creeping pace with which our conductor proceeded along
General Wade’s military road, which never or rarely condescends to turn
aside from the steepest ascent, but proceeds right up and down hill,
with the indifference to height and hollow, steep or level, indicated by
the old Roman engineers. Still, however, the substantial excellence
of these great works--for such are the military highways in the
Highlands--deserved the compliment of the poet, who, whether he came
from our sister kingdom, and spoke in his own dialect, or whether he
supposed those whom he addressed might have some national pretension to
the second sight, produced the celebrated couplet,--

  “Had you but seen these roads BEFORE they were made,
   You would hold up your hands and bless General Wade.”

Nothing, indeed, can be more wonderful than to see these wildernesses
penetrated and pervious in every quarter by broad accesses of the best
possible construction, and so superior to what the country could have
demanded for many centuries for any pacific purpose of commercial
intercourse. Thus the traces of war are sometimes happily accommodated
to the purposes of peace. The victories of Bonaparte have been without
results but his road over the Simplon will long be the communication
betwixt peaceful countries, who will apply to the ends of commerce
and friendly intercourse that gigantic work, which was formed for the
ambitious purpose of warlike invasion.

While we were thus stealing along, we gradually turned round the
shoulder of Ben Cruachan, and descending the course of the foaming and
rapid Awe, left behind us the expanse of the majestic lake which gives
birth to that impetuous river. The rocks and precipices which stooped
down perpendicularly on our path on the right hand exhibited a few
remains of the wood which once clothed them, but which had in later
times been felled to supply, Donald MacLeish informed us, the iron
foundries at the Bunawe. This made us fix our eyes with interest on one
large oak, which grew on the left hand towards the river. It seemed a
tree of extraordinary magnitude and picturesque beauty, and stood just
where there appeared to be a few roods of open ground lying among huge
stones, which had rolled down from the mountain. To add to the romance
of the situation, the spot of clear ground extended round the foot of a
proud-browed rock, from the summit of which leaped a mountain stream in
a fall of sixty feet, in which it was dissolved into foam and dew. At
the bottom of the fall the rivulet with difficulty collected, like a
routed general, its dispersed forces, and, as if tamed by its descent,
found a noiseless passage through the heath to join the Awe.

I was much struck with the tree and waterfall, and wished myself nearer
them; not that I thought of sketch-book or portfolio--for in my younger
days misses were not accustomed to black-lead pencils, unless they
could use them to some good purpose--but merely to indulge myself with a
closer view. Donald immediately opened the chaise door, but observed it
was rough walking down the brae, and that I would see the tree better by
keeping the road for a hundred yards farther, when it passed closer to
the spot, for which he seemed, however, to have no predilection. “He
knew,” he said, “a far bigger tree than that nearer Bunawe, and it was
a place where there was flat ground for the carriage to stand, which it
could jimply do on these braes; but just as my leddyship liked.”

My ladyship did choose rather to look at the fine tree before me than to
pass it by in hopes of a finer; so we walked beside the carriage till we
should come to a point, from which, Donald assured us, we might, without
scrambling, go as near the tree as we chose, “though he wadna advise us
to go nearer than the highroad.”

There was something grave and mysterious in Donald’s sun-browned
countenance when he gave us this intimation, and his manner was so
different from his usual frankness, that my female curiosity was set in
motion. We walked on the whilst, and I found the tree, of which we had
now lost sight by the intervention of some rising ground, was really
more distant than I had at first supposed. “I could have sworn now,”
 said I to my cicerone, “that yon tree and waterfall was the very place
where you intended to make a stop to-day.”

“The Lord forbid!” said Donald hastily.

“And for what, Donald? Why should you be willing to pass so pleasant a
spot?”

“It’s ower near Dalmally, my leddy, to corn the beasts; it would bring
their dinner ower near their breakfast, poor things. An’ besides, the
place is not canny.”

“Oh! then the mystery is out. There is a bogle or a brownie, a witch or
a gyre-carlin, a bodach or a fairy, in the case?”

“The ne’er a bit, my leddy--ye are clean aff the road, as I may say. But
if your leddyship will just hae patience, and wait till we are by the
place and out of the glen, I’ll tell ye all about it. There is no much
luck in speaking of such things in the place they chanced in.”

I was obliged to suspend my curiosity, observing, that if I persisted
in twisting the discourse one way while Donald was twining it another, I
should make his objection, like a hempen cord, just so much the tougher.
At length the promised turn of the road brought us within fifty paces of
the tree which I desired to admire, and I now saw to my surprise, that
there was a human habitation among the cliffs which surrounded it. It
was a hut of the least dimensions, and most miserable description that
I ever saw even in the Highlands. The walls of sod, or DIVOT, as the
Scotch call it, were not four feet high; the roof was of turf, repaired
with reeds and sedges; the chimney was composed of clay, bound round by
straw ropes; and the whole walls, roof, and chimney, were alike covered
with the vegetation of house-leek, rye-grass, and moss common to decayed
cottages formed of such materials. There was not the slightest vestige
of a kale-yard, the usual accompaniment of the very worst huts; and of
living things we saw nothing, save a kid which was browsing on the roof
of the hut, and a goat, its mother, at some distance, feeding betwixt
the oak and the river Awe.

“What man,” I could not help exclaiming, “can have committed sin deep
enough to deserve such a miserable dwelling!”

“Sin enough,” said Donald MacLeish, with a half-suppressed groan; “and
God he knoweth, misery enough too. And it is no man’s dwelling neither,
but a woman’s.”

“A woman’s!” I repeated, “and in so lonely a place! What sort of a woman
can she be?”

“Come this way, my leddy, and you may judge that for yourself,” said
Donald. And by advancing a few steps, and making a sharp turn to the
left, we gained a sight of the side of the great broad-breasted oak, in
the direction opposed to that in which we had hitherto seen it.

“If she keeps her old wont, she will be there at this hour of the day,”
 said Donald; but immediately became silent, and pointed with his finger,
as one afraid of being overheard. I looked, and beheld, not without some
sense of awe, a female form seated by the stem of the oak, with her head
drooping, her hands clasped, and a dark-coloured mantle drawn over her
head, exactly as Judah is represented in the Syrian medals as seated
under her palm-tree. I was infected with the fear and reverence which my
guide seemed to entertain towards this solitary being, nor did I think
of advancing towards her to obtain a nearer view until I had cast an
enquiring look on Donald; to which he replied in a half whisper, “She
has been a fearfu’ bad woman, my leddy.”

“Mad woman, said you,” replied I, hearing him imperfectly; “then she is
perhaps dangerous?”

“No--she is not mad,” replied Donald; “for then it may be she would be
happier than she is; though when she thinks on what she has done, and
caused to be done, rather than yield up a hair-breadth of her ain wicked
will, it is not likely she can be very well settled. But she neither
is mad nor mischievous; and yet, my leddy, I think you had best not go
nearer to her.” And then, in a few hurried words, he made me acquainted
with the story which I am now to tell more in detail. I heard the
narrative with a mixture of horror and sympathy, which at once impelled
me to approach the sufferer, and speak to her the words of comfort, or
rather of pity, and at the same time made me afraid to do so.

This indeed was the feeling with which she was regarded by the
Highlanders in the neighbourhood, who looked upon Elspat MacTavish,
or the Woman of the Tree, as they called her, as the Greeks considered
those who were pursued by the Furies, and endured the mental torment
consequent on great criminal actions. They regarded such unhappy beings
as Orestes and OEdipus, as being less the voluntary perpetrators of
their crimes than as the passive instruments by which the terrible
decrees of Destiny had been accomplished; and the fear with which they
beheld them was not unmingled with veneration.

I also learned further from Donald MacLeish, that there was some
apprehension of ill luck attending those who had the boldness to
approach too near, or disturb the awful solitude of a being so
unutterably miserable--that it was supposed that whosoever approached
her must experience in some respect the contagion of her wretchedness.

It was therefore with some reluctance that Donald saw me prepare to
obtain a nearer view of the sufferer, and that he himself followed to
assist me in the descent down a very rough path. I believe his regard
for me conquered some ominous feelings in his own breast, which
connected his duty on this occasion with the presaging fear of lame
horses, lost linch-pins, overturns, and other perilous chances of the
postilion’s life.

I am not sure if my own courage would have carried me so close to Elspat
had he not followed. There was in her countenance the stern abstraction
of hopeless and overpowering sorrow, mixed with the contending feelings
of remorse, and of the pride which struggled to conceal it. She guessed,
perhaps, that it was curiosity, arising out of her uncommon story, which
induced me to intrude on her solitude; and she could not be pleased that
a fate like hers had been the theme of a traveller’s amusement. Yet
the look with which she regarded me was one of scorn instead of
embarrassment. The opinion of the world and all its children could not
add or take an iota from her load of misery; and, save from the half
smile that seemed to intimate the contempt of a being rapt by the very
intensity of her affliction above the sphere of ordinary humanities, she
seemed as indifferent to my gaze, as if she had been a dead corpse or a
marble statue.

Elspat was above the middle stature. Her hair, now grizzled, was still
profuse, and it had been of the most decided black. So were her eyes,
in which, contradicting the stern and rigid features of her countenance,
there shone the wild and troubled light that indicates an unsettled
mind. Her hair was wrapt round a silver bodkin with some attention to
neatness, and her dark mantle was disposed around her with a degree of
taste, though the materials were of the most ordinary sort.

After gazing on this victim of guilt and calamity till I was ashamed to
remain silent, though uncertain how I ought to address her, I began
to express my surprise at her choosing such a desert and deplorable
dwelling. She cut short these expressions of sympathy, by answering in
a stern voice, without the least change of countenance or posture,
“Daughter of the stranger, he has told you my story.” I was silenced
at once, and felt how little all earthly accommodation must seem to
the mind which had such subjects as hers for rumination. Without again
attempting to open the conversation, I took a piece of gold from my
purse, (for Donald had intimated she lived on alms), expecting she would
at least stretch her hand to receive it. But she neither accepted nor
rejected the gift; she did not even seem to notice it, though twenty
times as valuable, probably, as was usually offered. I was obliged to
place it on her knee, saying involuntarily, as I did so, “May God pardon
you and relieve you!” I shall never forget the look which she cast up to
Heaven, nor the tone in which she exclaimed, in the very words of my old
friend John Home,--

  “My beautiful--my brave!”

It was the language of nature, and arose from the heart of the deprived
mother, as it did from that gifted imaginative poet while furnishing
with appropriate expressions the ideal grief of Lady Randolph.



CHAPTER II.

  Oh, I’m come to the Low Country,
    Och, och, ohonochie,
  Without a penny in my pouch
    To buy a meal for me.
  I was the proudest of my clan,
    Long, long may I repine;
  And Donald was the bravest man,
    And Donald he was mine.          OLD SONG.

Elspat had enjoyed happy days, though her age had sunk into hopeless and
inconsolable sorrow and distress. She was once the beautiful and happy
wife of Hamish MacTavish, for whom his strength and feats of prowess
had gained the title of MacTavish Mhor. His life was turbulent and
dangerous, his habits being of the old Highland stamp which esteemed it
shame to want anything that could be had for the taking. Those in the
Lowland line who lay near him, and desired to enjoy their lives and
property in quiet, were contented to pay him a small composition, in
name of protection money, and comforted themselves with the old proverb
that it was better to “fleech the deil than fight him.” Others, who
accounted such composition dishonourable, were often surprised by
MacTavish Mhor and his associates and followers, who usually inflicted
an adequate penalty, either in person or property, or both. The creagh
is yet remembered in which he swept one hundred and fifty cows from
Monteith in one drove; and how he placed the laird of Ballybught naked
in a slough, for having threatened to send for a party of the Highland
Watch to protect his property.

Whatever were occasionally the triumphs of this daring cateran, they
were often exchanged for reverses; and his narrow escapes, rapid
flights, and the ingenious stratagems with which he extricated himself
from imminent danger, were no less remembered and admired than the
exploits in which he had been successful. In weal or woe, through every
species of fatigue, difficulty, and danger, Elspat was his faithful
companion. She enjoyed with him the fits of occasional prosperity; and
when adversity pressed them hard, her strength of mind, readiness of
wit, and courageous endurance of danger and toil, are said often to have
stimulated the exertions of her husband.

Their morality was of the old Highland cast--faithful friends and
fierce enemies. The Lowland herds and harvests they accounted their own,
whenever they had the means of driving off the one or of seizing upon
the other; nor did the least scruple on the right of property interfere
on such occasions. Hamish Mhor argued like the old Cretan warrior:

  “My sword, my spear, my shaggy shield,
     They make me lord of all below;
   For he who dreads the lance to wield,
     Before my shaggy shield must bow.
   His lands, his vineyards, must resign,
     And all that cowards have is mine.”

But those days of perilous, though frequently successful depredation,
began to be abridged after the failure of the expedition of Prince
Charles Edward. MacTavish Mhor had not sat still on that occasion, and
he was outlawed, both as a traitor to the state and as a robber and
cateran. Garrisons were now settled in many places where a red-coat had
never before been seen, and the Saxon war-drum resounded among the most
hidden recesses of the Highland mountains. The fate of MacTavish became
every day more inevitable; and it was the more difficult for him to make
his exertions for defence or escape, that Elspat, amid his evil days,
had increased his family with an infant child, which was a considerable
encumbrance upon the necessary rapidity of their motions.

At length the fatal day arrived. In a strong pass on the skirts of Ben
Crunchan, the celebrated MacTavish Mhor was surprised by a detachment
of the Sidier Roy. [The Red Soldier.] His wife assisted him heroically,
charging his piece from time to time; and as they were in possession of
a post that was nearly unassailable, he might have perhaps escaped
if his ammunition had lasted. But at length his balls were expended,
although it was not until he had fired off most of the silver buttons
from his waistcoat; and the soldiers, no longer deterred by fear of the
unerring marksman, who had slain three and wounded more of their number,
approached his stronghold, and, unable to take him alive, slew him after
a most desperate resistance.

All this Elspat witnessed and survived; for she had, in the child which
relied on her for support, a motive for strength and exertion. In what
manner she maintained herself it is not easy to say. Her only ostensible
means of support were a flock of three or four goats, which she fed
wherever she pleased on the mountain pastures, no one challenging
the intrusion. In the general distress of the country, her ancient
acquaintances had little to bestow; but what they could part with from
their own necessities, they willingly devoted to the relief of others,
From Lowlanders she sometimes demanded tribute, rather than requested
alms. She had not forgotten she was the widow of MacTavish Mhor, or that
the child who trotted by her knee might, such were her imaginations,
emulate one day the fame of his father, and command the same influence
which he had once exerted without control. She associated so little with
others, went so seldom and so unwillingly from the wildest recesses
of the mountains, where she usually dwelt with her goats, that she
was quite unconscious of the great change which had taken place in
the country around her--the substitution of civil order for military
violence, and the strength gained by the law and its adherents over
those who were called in Gaelic song, “the stormy sons of the sword.”
 Her own diminished consequence and straitened circumstances she indeed
felt, but for this the death of MacTavish Mhor was, in her apprehension,
a sufficing reason; and she doubted not that she should rise to her
former state of importance when Hamish Bean (or fair-haired James)
should be able to wield the arms of his father. If, then, Elspat was
repelled, rudely when she demanded anything necessary for her wants, or
the accommodation of her little flock, by a churlish farmer, her threats
of vengeance, obscurely expressed, yet terrible in their tenor, used
frequently to extort, through fear of her maledictions, the relief which
was denied to her necessities; and the trembling goodwife, who gave meal
or money to the widow of MacTavish Mhor, wished in her heart that the
stern old carlin had been burnt on the day her husband had his due.

Years thus ran on, and Hamish Bean grew up--not, indeed, to be of his
father’s size or strength, but to become an active, high-spirited,
fair-haired youth, with a ruddy cheek, an eye like an eagle’s, and all
the agility, if not all the strength, of his formidable father, upon
whose history and achievements his mother dwelt, in order to form her
son’s mind to a similar course of adventures. But the young see the
present state of this changeful world more keenly than the old. Much
attached to his mother, and disposed to do all in his power for her
support, Hamish yet perceived, when he mixed with the world, that the
trade of the cateran was now alike dangerous and discreditable, and that
if he were to emulate his father’s progress, it must be in some other
line of warfare more consonant to the opinions of the present day.

As the faculties of mind and body began to expand, he became more
sensible of the precarious nature of his situation, of the erroneous
views of his mother, and her ignorance respecting the changes of the
society with which she mingled so little. In visiting friends and
neighbours, he became aware of the extremely reduced scale to which his
parent was limited, and learned that she possessed little or nothing
more than the absolute necessaries of life, and that these were
sometimes on the point of failing. At times his success in fishing and
the chase was able to add something to her subsistence; but he saw no
regular means of contributing to her support, unless by stooping to
servile labour, which, if he himself could have endured it, would, he
knew, have been like a death’s-wound to the pride of his mother.

Elspat, meanwhile, saw with surprise that Hamish Bean, although now tall
and fit for the field, showed no disposition to enter on his father’s
scene of action. There was something of the mother at her heart, which
prevented her from urging him in plain terms to take the field as a
cateran, for the fear occurred of the perils into which the trade must
conduct him; and when she would have spoken to him on the subject, it
seemed to her heated imagination as if the ghost of her husband arose
between them in his bloody tartans, and laying his finger on his lips,
appeared to prohibit the topic. Yet she wondered at what seemed his want
of spirit, sighed as she saw him from day to day lounging about in the
long-skirted Lowland coat which the legislature had imposed upon the
Gael instead of their own romantic garb, and thought how much nearer he
would have resembled her husband had he been clad in the belted plaid
and short hose, with his polished arms gleaming at his side.

Besides these subjects for anxiety, Elspat had others arising from the
engrossing impetuosity of her temper. Her love of MacTavish Mhor had
been qualified by respect and sometimes even by fear, for the cateran
was not the species of man who submits to female government; but over
his son she had exerted, at first during childhood, and afterwards in
early youth, an imperious authority, which gave her maternal love a
character of jealousy. She could not bear when Hamish, with advancing
life, made repeated steps towards independence, absented himself from
her cottage at such season and for such length of time as he chose,
and seemed to consider, although maintaining towards her every possible
degree of respect and kindness, that the control and responsibility
of his actions rested on himself alone. This would have been of little
consequence, could she have concealed her feelings within her own bosom;
but the ardour and impatience of her passions made her frequently show
her son that she conceived herself neglected and ill-used. When he was
absent for any length of time from her cottage without giving intimation
of his purpose, her resentment on his return used to be so unreasonable,
that it naturally suggested to a young man fond of independence, and
desirous to amend his situation in the world, to leave her, even for the
very purpose of enabling him to provide for the parent whose egotistical
demands on his filial attention tended to confine him to a desert, in
which both were starving in hopeless and helpless indigence.

Upon one occasion, the son having been guilty of some independent
excursion, by which the mother felt herself affronted and disobliged,
she had been more than usually violent on his return, and awakened in
Hamish a sense of displeasure, which clouded his brow and cheek. At
length, as she persevered in her unreasonable resentment, his patience
became exhausted, and taking his gun from the chimney corner, and
muttering to himself the reply which his respect for his mother
prevented him from speaking aloud, he was about to leave the hut which
he had but barely entered.

“Hamish,” said his mother, “are you again about to leave me?” But Hamish
only replied by looking at and rubbing the lock of his gun.

“Ay, rub the lock of your gun,” said his parent bitterly. “I am glad you
have courage enough to fire it? though it be but at a roe-deer.” Hamish
started at this undeserved taunt, and cast a look of anger at her in
reply. She saw that she had found the means of giving him pain.

“Yes,” she said, “look fierce as you will at an old woman, and your
mother; it would be long ere you bent your brow on the angry countenance
of a bearded man.”

“Be silent, mother, or speak of what you understand,” said Hamish, much
irritated, “and that is of the distaff and the spindle.”

“And was it of spindle and distaff that I was thinking when I bore you
away on my back through the fire of six of the Saxon soldiers, and you
a wailing child? I tell you, Hamish, I know a hundredfold more of swords
and guns than ever you will; and you will never learn so much of noble
war by yourself, as you have seen when you were wrapped up in my plaid.”

“You are determined, at least, to allow me no peace at home, mother;
but this shall have an end,” said Hamish, as, resuming his purpose of
leaving the hut, he rose and went towards the door.

“Stay, I command you,” said his mother--“stay! or may the gun you carry
be the means of your ruin! may the road you are going be the track of
your funeral!”

“What makes you use such words, mother?” said the young man, turning a
little back; “they are not good, and good cannot come of them. Farewell
just now! we are too angry to speak together--farewell! It will be long
ere you see me again.” And he departed, his mother, in the first burst
of her impatience, showering after him her maledictions, and in the next
invoking them on her own head, so that they might spare her son’s. She
passed that day and the next in all the vehemence of impotent and yet
unrestrained passion, now entreating Heaven, and such powers as were
familiar to her by rude tradition, to restore her dear son, “the calf
of her heart;” now in impatient resentment, meditating with what bitter
terms she should rebuke his filial disobedience upon his return, and now
studying the most tender language to attach him to the cottage,
which, when her boy was present, she would not, in the rapture of her
affection, have exchanged for the apartments of Taymouth Castle.

Two days passed, during which, neglecting even the slender means of
supporting nature which her situation afforded, nothing but the strength
of a frame accustomed to hardships and privations of every kind could
have kept her in existence, notwithstanding the anguish of her mind
prevented her being sensible of her personal weakness. Her dwelling at
this period was the same cottage near which I had found her, but then
more habitable by the exertions of Hamish, by whom it had been in a
great measure built and repaired.

It was on the third day after her son had disappeared, as she sat at
the door rocking herself, after the fashion of her countrywomen when in
distress, or in pain, that the then unwonted circumstance occurred of a
passenger being seen on the highroad above the cottage. She cast but one
glance at him. He was on horseback, so that it could not be Hamish; and
Elspat cared not enough for any other being on earth to make her turn
her eyes towards him a second time. The stranger, however, paused
opposite to her cottage, and dismounting from his pony, led it down the
steep and broken path which conducted to her door.

“God bless you, Elspat MacTavish!” She looked at the man as he addressed
her in her native language, with the displeased air of one whose reverie
is interrupted; but the traveller went on to say, “I bring you tidings
of your son Hamish.” At once, from being the most uninteresting object,
in respect to Elspat, that could exist, the form of the stranger
became awful in her eyes, as that of a messenger descended from heaven,
expressly to pronounce upon her death or life. She started from her
seat, and with hands convulsively clasped together, and held up to
Heaven, eyes fixed on the stranger’s countenance, and person stooping
forward to him, she looked those inquiries which her faltering tongue
could not articulate. “Your son sends you his dutiful remembrance, and
this,” said the messenger, putting into Elspat’s hand a small purse
containing four or five dollars.

“He is gone! he is gone!” exclaimed Elspat; “he has sold himself to be
the servant of the Saxons, and I shall never more behold him! Tell me,
Miles MacPhadraick--for now I know you--is it the price of the son’s
blood that you have put into the mother’s hand?”

“Now, God forbid!” answered MacPhadraick, who was a tacksman, and
had possession of a considerable tract of ground under his chief, a
proprietor who lived about twenty miles off--“God forbid I should do
wrong, or say wrong, to you, or to the son of MacTavish Mhor! I swear
to you by the hand of my chief that your son is well, and will soon see
you; and the rest he will tell you himself.” So saying, MacPhadraick
hastened back up the pathway, gained the road, mounted his pony, and
rode upon his way.



CHAPTER III.

Elspat MacTavish remained gazing on the money as if the impress of the
coin could have conveyed information how it was procured.

“I love not this MacPhadraick,” she said to herself. “It was his race
of whom the Bard hath spoken, saying, Fear them not when their words are
loud as the winter’s wind, but fear them when they fall on you like the
sound of the thrush’s song. And yet this riddle can be read but one way:
My son hath taken the sword to win that, with strength like a man, which
churls would keep him from with the words that frighten children.” This
idea, when once it occurred to her, seemed the more reasonable, that
MacPhadraick, as she well knew, himself a cautious man, had so far
encouraged her husband’s practices as occasionally to buy cattle of
MacTavish, although he must have well known how they were come by,
taking care, however, that the transaction was so made as to be
accompanied with great profit and absolute safety. Who so likely as
MacPhadraick to indicate to a young cateran the glen in which he could
commence his perilous trade with most prospect of success? Who so likely
to convert his booty into money? The feelings which another might have
experienced on believing that an only son had rushed forward on the same
path in which his father had perished, were scarce known to the Highland
mothers of that day. She thought of the death of MacTavish Mhor as that
of a hero who had fallen in his proper trade of war, and who had not
fallen unavenged. She feared less for her son’s life than for his
dishonour. She dreaded, on his account, the subjection to strangers, and
the death-sleep of the soul which is brought on by what she regarded as
slavery.

The moral principle which so naturally and so justly occurs to the mind
of those who have been educated under a settled government of laws that
protect the property of the weak against the incursions of the strong,
was to poor Elspat a book sealed and a fountain closed. She had been
taught to consider those whom they call Saxons as a race with whom the
Gael were constantly at war; and she regarded every settlement of theirs
within the reach of Highland incursion as affording a legitimate object
of attack and plunder. Her feelings on this point had been strengthened
and confirmed, not only by the desire of revenge for the death of
her husband, but by the sense of general indignation entertained, not
unjustly, through the Highlands of Scotland, on account of the barbarous
and violent conduct of the victors after the battle of Culloden. Other
Highland clans, too, she regarded as the fair objects of plunder, when
that was possible, upon the score of ancient enmities and deadly feuds.

The prudence that might have weighed the slender means which the times
afforded for resisting the efforts of a combined government, which had,
in its less compact and established authority, been unable to put down
the ravages of such lawless caterans as MacTavish Mhor, was unknown to
a solitary woman whose ideas still dwelt upon her own early times.
She imagined that her son had only to proclaim himself his father’s
successor in adventure and enterprise, and that a force of men, as
gallant as those who had followed his father’s banner, would crowd
around to support it when again displayed. To her Hamish was the eagle
who had only to soar aloft and resume his native place in the skies,
without her being able to comprehend how many additional eyes would have
watched his flight--how many additional bullets would have been directed
at his bosom. To be brief, Elspat was one who viewed the present state
of society with the same feelings with which she regarded the times that
had passed away. She had been indigent, neglected, oppressed since the
days that her husband had no longer been feared and powerful, and she
thought that the term of her ascendence would return when her son had
determined to play the part of his father. If she permitted her eye to
glance farther into futurity, it was but to anticipate that she must be
for many a day cold in the grave, with the coronach of her tribe cried
duly over her, before her fair-haired Hamish could, according to her
calculation, die with his hand on the basket-hilt of the red claymore.
His father’s hair was grey, ere, after a hundred dangers, he had fallen
with his arms in his hands. That she should have seen and survived the
sight was a natural consequence of the manners of that age. And better
it was--such was her proud thought--that she had seen him so die, than
to have witnessed his departure from life in a smoky hovel on a bed
of rotten straw like an over-worn hound, or a bullock which died of
disease. But the hour of her young, her brave Hamish, was yet far
distant. He must succeed--he must conquer--like his father. And when he
fell at length--for she anticipated for him no bloodless death--Elspat
would ere then have lain long in the grave, and could neither see his
death-struggle nor mourn over his grave-sod.

With such wild notions working in her brain, the spirit of Elspat rose
to its usual pitch, or, rather, to one which seemed higher. In the
emphatic language of Scripture, which in that idiom does not greatly
differ from her own, she arose, she washed and changed her apparel, and
ate bread, and was refreshed.

She longed eagerly for the return of her son, but she now longed not
with the bitter anxiety of doubt and apprehension. She said to herself
that much must be done ere he could in these times arise to be an
eminent and dreaded leader. Yet when she saw him again, she almost
expected him at the head of a daring band, with pipes playing and
banners flying, the noble tartans fluttering free in the wind, in
despite of the laws which had suppressed, under severe penalties, the
use of the national garb and all the appurtenances of Highland chivalry.
For all this, her eager imagination was content only to allow the
interval of some days.

From the moment this opinion had taken deep and serious possession of
her mind, her thoughts were bent upon receiving her son at the head of
his adherents in the manner in which she used to adorn her hut for the
return of his father.

The substantial means of subsistence she had not the power of providing,
nor did she consider that of importance. The successful caterans would
bring with them herds and flocks. But the interior of her hut was
arranged for their reception, the usquebaugh was brewed or distilled in
a larger quantity than it could have been supposed one lone woman could
have made ready. Her hut was put into such order as might, in some
degree, give it the appearance of a day of rejoicing. It was swept and
decorated, with boughs of various kinds, like the house of a Jewess upon
what is termed the Feast of the Tabernacles. The produce of the milk of
her little flock was prepared in as great variety of forms as her skill
admitted, to entertain her son and his associates whom she, expected to
receive along with him.

But the principal decoration, which she sought with the greatest toil,
was the cloud-berry, a scarlet fruit, which is only found on very high
hills; and these only in small quantities. Her husband, or perhaps one
of his forefathers, had chosen this as the emblem of his family, because
it seemed at once to imply, by its scarcity, the smallness of their
clan, and, by the places in which it was found, the ambitious height of
their pretensions.

For the time that these simple preparations of welcome endured, Elspat
was in a state of troubled happiness. In fact, her only anxiety was that
she might be able to complete all that she could do to welcome Hamish
and the friends who she supposed must have attached themselves to
his band, before they should arrive and find her unprovided for their
reception.

But when such efforts as she could make had been accomplished, she once
more had nothing left to engage her save the trifling care of her goats;
and when these had been attended to, she had only to review her little
preparations, renew such as were of a transitory nature, replace decayed
branches and fading boughs, and then to sit down at her cottage-door and
watch the road as it ascended on the one side from the banks of the Awe,
and on the other wound round the heights of the mountain, with such a
degree of accommodation to hill and level as the plan of the military
engineer permitted. While so occupied, her imagination, anticipating the
future from recollections of the past, formed out of the morning mist or
the evening cloud the wild forms of an advancing band, which were then
called “Sidier Dhu” (dark soldiers), dressed in their native tartan, and
so named to distinguish them from the scarlet ranks of the British army.
In this occupation she spent many hours of each morning and evening.



CHAPTER IV.

It was in vain that Elspat’s eyes surveyed the distant path by the
earliest light of the dawn and the latest glimmer of the twilight. No
rising dust awakened the expectation of nodding plumes or flashing arms.
The solitary traveller trudged listlessly along in his brown lowland
greatcoat, his tartans dyed black or purple, to comply with or evade
the law which prohibited their being worn in their variegated hues.
The spirit of the Gael, sunk and broken by the severe though perhaps
necessary laws, that proscribed the dress and arms which he considered
as his birthright, was intimated by his drooping head and dejected
appearance. Not in such depressed wanderers did Elspat recognise the
light and free step of her son, now, as she concluded, regenerated from
every sign of Saxon thraldom. Night by night, as darkness came, she
removed from her unclosed door, to throw herself on her restless pallet,
not to sleep, but to watch. The brave and the terrible, she said, walk
by night. Their steps are heard in darkness, when all is silent save the
whirlwind and the cataract. The timid deer comes only forth when the sun
is upon the mountain’s peak, but the bold wolf walks in the red light of
the harvest-moon. She reasoned in vain; her son’s expected summons
did not call her from the lowly couch where she lay dreaming of his
approach. Hamish came not.

“Hope deferred,” saith the royal sage, “maketh the heart sick;” and
strong as was Elspat’s constitution, she began to experience that it
was unequal to the toils to which her anxious and immoderate affection
subjected her, when early one morning the appearance of a traveller on
the lonely mountain-road, revived hopes which had begun to sink into
listless despair. There was no sign of Saxon subjugation about the
stranger. At a distance she could see the flutter of the belted-plaid
that drooped in graceful folds behind him, and the plume that, placed
in the bonnet, showed rank and gentle birth. He carried a gun over
his shoulder, the claymore was swinging by his side with its usual
appendages, the dirk, the pistol, and the SPORRAN MOLLACH. [The
goat-skin pouch, worn by the Highlanders round their waist.] Ere yet her
eye had scanned all these particulars, the light step of the traveller
was hastened, his arm was waved in token of recognition--a moment more,
and Elspat held in her arms her darling son, dressed in the garb of
his ancestors, and looking, in her maternal eyes, the fairest among ten
thousand!

The first outpouring of affection it would be impossible to describe.
Blessings mingled with the most endearing epithets which her energetic
language affords in striving to express the wild rapture of Elspat’s
joy. Her board was heaped hastily with all she had to offer, and the
mother watched the young soldier, as he partook of the refreshment, with
feelings how similar to, yet how different from, those with which she
had seen him draw his first sustenance from her bosom!

When the tumult of joy was appeased, Elspat became anxious to know her
son’s adventures since they parted, and could not help greatly censuring
his rashness for traversing the hills in the Highland dress in the broad
sunshine, when the penalty was so heavy, and so many red soldiers were
abroad in the country.

“Fear not for me, mother,” said Hamish, in a tone designed to relieve
her anxiety, and yet somewhat embarrassed; “I may wear the BREACAN [That
which is variegated--that is, the tartan.] at the gate of Fort-Augustus,
if I like it.”

“Oh, be not too daring, my beloved Hamish, though it be the fault which
best becomes thy father’s son--yet be not too daring! Alas! they fight
not now as in former days, with fair weapons and on equal terms, but
take odds of numbers and of arms, so that the feeble and the strong are
alike levelled by the shot of a boy. And do not think me unworthy to be
called your father’s widow and your mother because I speak thus; for
God knoweth, that, man to man, I would peril thee against the best in
Breadalbane, and broad Lorn besides.”

“I assure you, my dearest mother,” replied Hamish, “that I am in no
danger. But have you seen MacPhadraick, mother? and what has he said to
you on my account?”

“Silver he left me in plenty, Hamish; but the best of his comfort was
that you were well, and would see me soon. But beware of MacPhadraick,
my son; for when he called himself the friend of your father, he better
loved the most worthless stirk in his herd than he did the life-blood of
MacTavish Mhor. Use his services, therefore, and pay him for them, for
it is thus we should deal with the unworthy; but take my counsel, and
trust him not.”

Hamish could not suppress a sigh, which seemed to Elspat to intimate
that the caution came too late. “What have you done with him?” she
continued, eager and alarmed. “I had money of him, and he gives not that
without value; he is none of those who exchange barley for chaff. Oh, if
you repent you of your bargain, and if it be one which you may break off
without disgrace to your truth or your manhood, take back his silver,
and trust not to his fair words.”

“It may not be, mother,” said Hamish; “I do not repent my engagement,
unless that it must make me leave you soon.”

“Leave me! how leave me? Silly boy, think you I know not what duty
belongs to the wife or mother of a daring man? Thou art but a boy yet;
and when thy father had been the dread of the country for twenty years,
he did not despise my company and assistance, but often said my help was
worth that of two strong gillies.”

“It is not on that score, mother, but since I must leave the country--”

“Leave the country!” replied his mother, interrupting him. “And think
you that I am like a bush, that is rooted to the soil where it grows,
and must die if carried elsewhere? I have breathed other winds than
these of Ben Cruachan. I have followed your father to the wilds of Ross
and the impenetrable deserts of Y Mac Y Mhor. Tush, man! my limbs, old
as they are, will bear me as far as your young feet can trace the way.”

“Alas, mother,” said the young man, with a faltering accent, “but to
cross the sea--”

“The sea! who am I that I should fear the sea? Have I never been in
a birling in my life--never known the Sound of Mull, the Isles of
Treshornish, and the rough rocks of Harris?”

“Alas, mother, I go far--far from all of these. I am enlisted in one of
the new regiments, and we go against the French in America.”

“Enlisted!” uttered the astonished mother--“against MY will--without MY
consent! You could not! you would not!” Then rising up, and assuming a
posture of almost imperial command, “Hamish, you DARED not!”

“Despair, mother, dares everything,” answered Hamish, in a tone of
melancholy resolution. “What should I do here, where I can scarce get
bread for myself and you, and when the times are growing daily worse?
Would you but sit down and listen, I would convince you I have acted for
the best.”

With a bitter smile Elspat sat down, and the same severe ironical
expression was on her features, as, with her lips firmly closed, she
listened to his vindication.

Hamish went on, without being disconcerted by her expected displeasure.
“When I left you, dearest mother, it was to go to MacPhadraick’s house;
for although I knew he is crafty and worldly, after the fashion of the
Sassenach, yet he is wise, and I thought how he would teach me, as it
would cost him nothing, in which way I could mend our estate in the
world.”

“Our estate in the world!” said Elspat, losing patience at the word;
“and went you to a base fellow with a soul no better than that of a
cowherd, to ask counsel about your conduct? Your father asked none, save
of his courage and his sword.”

“Dearest mother,” answered Hamish, “how shall I convince you that you
live in this land of our fathers as if our fathers were yet living? You
walk as it were in a dream, surrounded by the phantoms of those who
have been long with the dead. When my father lived and fought, the great
respected the man of the strong right hand, and the rich feared him. He
had protection from Macallum Mhor, and from Caberfae, and tribute from
meaner men. [Caberfae--ANGLICE, the Stag’s-head, the Celtic designation
for the arms of the family of the high Chief of Seaforth.] That is
ended, and his son would only earn a disgraceful and unpitied death by
the practices which gave his father credit and power among those
who wear the breacan. The land is conquered; its lights are
quenched--Glengarry, Lochiel, Perth, Lord Lewis, all the high chiefs are
dead or in exile. We may mourn for it, but we cannot help it. Bonnet,
broadsword, and sporran--power, strength, and wealth, were all lost on
Drummossie Muir.”

“It is false!” said Elspat, fiercely; “you and such like dastardly
spirits are quelled by your own faint hearts, not by the strength of the
enemy; you are like the fearful waterfowl, to whom the least cloud in
the sky seems the shadow of the eagle.”

“Mother,” said Hamish proudly, “lay not faint heart to my charge. I go
where men are wanted who have strong arms and bold hearts too. I leave a
desert, for a land where I may gather fame.”

“And you leave your mother to perish in want, age, and solitude,” said
Elspat, essaying successively every means of moving a resolution which
she began to see was more deeply rooted than she had at first thought.

“Not so, neither,” he answered; “I leave you to comfort and certainty,
which you have yet never known. Barcaldine’s son is made a leader, and
with him I have enrolled myself. MacPhadraick acts for him, and raises
men, and finds his own in doing it.”

“That is the truest word of the tale, were all the rest as false as
hell,” said the old woman, bitterly.

“But we are to find our good in it also,” continued Hamish; “for
Barcaldine is to give you a shieling in his wood of Letter-findreight,
with grass for your goats, and a cow, when you please to have one, on
the common; and my own pay, dearest mother, though I am far away, will
do more than provide you with meal, and with all else you can want. Do
not fear for me. I enter a private gentleman; but I will return, if hard
fighting and regular duty can deserve it, an officer, and with half a
dollar a day.”

“Poor child!” replied Elspat, in a tone of pity mingled with contempt,
“and you trust MacPhadraick?”

“I might mother,” said Hamish, the dark red colour of his race crossing
his forehead and cheeks, “for MacPhadraick knows the blood which flows
in my veins, and is aware, that should he break trust with you, he might
count the days which could bring Hamish back to Breadalbane, and number
those of his life within three suns more. I would kill him at his own
hearth, did he break his word with me--I would, by the great Being who
made us both!”

The look and attitude of the young soldier for a moment overawed Elspat;
she was unused to see him express a deep and bitter mood, which reminded
her so strongly of his father. But she resumed her remonstrances in the
same taunting manner in which she had commenced them.

“Poor boy!” she said; “and you think that at the distance of half the
world your threats will be heard or thought of! But, go--go--place your
neck under him of Hanover’s yoke, against whom every true Gael fought to
the death. Go, disown the royal Stewart, for whom your father, and his
fathers, and your mother’s fathers, have crimsoned many a field with
their blood. Go, put your head under the belt of one of the race of
Dermid, whose children murdered--Yes,” she added, with a wild shriek,
“murdered your mother’s fathers in their peaceful dwellings in Glencoe!
Yes,” she again exclaimed, with a wilder and shriller scream, “I was
then unborn, but my mother has told me--and I attended to the voice
of MY mother--well I remember her words! They came in peace, and were
received in friendship--and blood and fire arose, and screams and
murder!” [See Note 9.--Massacre of Glencoe.]

“Mother,” answered Hamish, mournfully, but with a decided tone, “all
that I have thought over. There is not a drop of the blood of Glencoe
on the noble hand of Barcaldine; with the unhappy house of Glenlyon the
curse remains, and on them God hath avenged it.”

“You speak like the Saxon priest already,” replied his mother; “will you
not better stay, and ask a kirk from Macallum Mhor, that you may preach
forgiveness to the race of Dermid?”

“Yesterday was yesterday,” answered Hamish, “and to-day is to-day. When
the clans are crushed and confounded together, it is well and wise that
their hatreds and their feuds should not survive their independence and
their power. He that cannot execute vengeance like a man, should not
harbour useless enmity like a craven. Mother, young Barcaldine is true
and brave. I know that MacPhadraick counselled him that he should not
let me take leave of you, lest you dissuaded me from my purpose; but he
said, ‘Hamish MacTavish is the son of a brave man, and he will not break
his word.’ Mother, Barcaldine leads an hundred of the bravest of
the sons of the Gael in their native dress, and with their fathers’
arms--heart to heart--shoulder to shoulder. I have sworn to go with him.
He has trusted me, and I will trust him.”

At this reply, so firmly and resolvedly pronounced, Elspat remained
like one thunderstruck, and sunk in despair. The arguments which she had
considered so irresistibly conclusive, had recoiled like a wave from a
rock. After a long pause, she filled her son’s quaigh, and presented it
to him with an air of dejected deference and submission.

“Drink,” she said, “to thy father’s roof-tree, ere you leave it for
ever; and tell me--since the chains of a new King, and of a new chief,
whom your fathers knew not save as mortal enemies, are fastened upon the
limbs of your father’s son--tell me how many links you count upon them?”

Hamish took the cup, but looked at her as if uncertain of her meaning.
She proceeded in a raised voice. “Tell me,” she said, “for I have a
right to know, for how many days the will of those you have made your
masters permits me to look upon you? In other words, how many are the
days of my life? for when you leave me, the earth has nought besides
worth living for!”

“Mother,” replied Hamish MacTavish, “for six days I may remain with
you; and if you will set out with me on the fifth, I will conduct you in
safety to your new dwelling. But if you remain here, then I will depart
on the seventh by daybreak--then, as at the last moment, I MUST set out
for Dunbarton, for if I appear not on the eighth day, I am subject
to punishment as a deserter, and am dishonoured as a soldier and a
gentleman.”

“Your father’s foot,” she answered, “was free as the wind on the
heath--it were as vain to say to him, where goest thou? as to ask that
viewless driver of the clouds, wherefore blowest thou? Tell me under
what penalty thou must--since go thou must, and go thou wilt--return to
thy thraldom?”

“Call it not thraldom, mother; it is the service of an honourable
soldier--the only service which is now open to the son of MacTavish
Mhor.”

“Yet say what is the penalty if thou shouldst not return?” replied
Elspat.

“Military punishment as a deserter,” answered Hamish, writhing, however,
as his mother failed not to observe, under some internal feelings, which
she resolved to probe to the uttermost.

“And that,” she said, with assumed calmness, which her glancing eye
disowned, “is the punishment of a disobedient hound, is it not?”

“Ask me no more, mother,” said Hamish; “the punishment is nothing to one
who will never deserve it.”

“To me it is something,” replied Elspat, “since I know better than thou,
that where there is power to inflict, there is often the will to do so
without cause. I would pray for thee, Hamish, and I must know against
what evils I should beseech Him who leaves none unguarded, to protect
thy youth and simplicity.”

“Mother,” said Hamish, “it signifies little to what a criminal may be
exposed, if a man is determined not to be such. Our Highland chiefs used
also to punish their vassals, and, as I have heard, severely. Was it not
Lachlan MacIan, whom we remember of old, whose head was struck off by
order of his chieftain for shooting at the stag before him?”

“Ay,” said Elspat, “and right he had to lose it, since he dishonoured
the father of the people even in the face of the assembled clan. But the
chiefs were noble in their ire; they punished with the sharp blade, and
not with the baton. Their punishments drew blood, but they did not infer
dishonour. Canst thou say, the same for the laws under whose yoke thou
hast placed thy freeborn neck?”

“I cannot, mother--I cannot,” said Hamish mournfully. “I saw them
punish a Sassenach for deserting as they called it, his banner. He was
scourged--I own it--scourged like a hound who has offended an imperious
master. I was sick at the sight--I confess it. But the punishment of
dogs is only for those worse than dogs, who know not how to keep their
faith.”

“To this infamy, however, thou hast subjected thyself, Hamish,” replied
Elspat, “if thou shouldst give, or thy officers take, measure of offence
against thee. I speak no more to thee on thy purpose. Were the sixth
day from this morning’s sun my dying day, and thou wert to stay to close
mine eyes, thou wouldst run the risk of being lashed like a dog at a
post--yes! unless thou hadst the gallant heart to leave me to die alone,
and upon my desolate hearth, the last spark of thy father’s fire, and
of thy forsaken mother’s life, to be extinguished together!”--Hamish
traversed the hut with an impatient and angry pace.

“Mother,” he said at length, “concern not yourself about such things.
I cannot be subjected to such infamy, for never will I deserve it; and
were I threatened with it, I should know how to die before I was so far
dishonoured.”

“There spoke the son of the husband of my heart!” replied Elspat,
and she changed the discourse, and seemed to listen in melancholy
acquiescence, when her son reminded her how short the time was which
they were permitted to pass in each other’s society, and entreated
that it might be spent without useless and unpleasant recollections
respecting the circumstances under which they must soon be separated.

Elspat was now satisfied that her son, with some of his father’s other
properties, preserved the haughty masculine spirit which rendered it
impossible to divert him from a resolution which he had deliberately
adopted. She assumed, therefore, an exterior of apparent submission
to their inevitable separation; and if she now and then broke out into
complaints and murmurs, it was either that she could not altogether
suppress the natural impetuosity of her temper, or because she had the
wit to consider that a total and unreserved acquiescence might have
seemed to her son constrained and suspicious, and induced him to watch
and defeat the means by which she still hoped to prevent his leaving
her. Her ardent though selfish affection for her son, incapable of being
qualified by a regard for the true interests of the unfortunate object
of her attachment, resembled the instinctive fondness of the animal race
for their offspring; and diving little farther into futurity than one of
the inferior creatures, she only felt that to be separated from Hamish
was to die.

In the brief interval permitted them, Elspat exhausted every art which
affection could devise, to render agreeable to him the space which they
were apparently to spend with each other. Her memory carried her far
back into former days, and her stores of legendary history, which
furnish at all times a principal amusement of the Highlander in his
moments of repose, were augmented by an unusual acquaintance with the
songs of ancient bards, and traditions of the most approved
seannachies and tellers of tales. Her officious attentions to her son’s
accommodation, indeed, were so unremitted as almost to give him pain,
and he endeavoured quietly to prevent her from taking so much personal
toil in selecting the blooming heath for his bed, or preparing the meal
for his refreshment. “Let me alone, Hamish,” she would reply on such
occasions; “you follow your own will in departing from your mother,
let your mother have hers in doing what gives her pleasure while you
remain.”

So much she seemed to be reconciled to the arrangements which he had
made in her behalf, that she could hear him speak to her of her removing
to the lands of Green Colin, as the gentleman was called, on whose
estate he had provided her an asylum. In truth, however, nothing could
be farther from her thoughts. From what he had said during their first
violent dispute, Elspat had gathered that, if Hamish returned not by the
appointed time permitted by his furlough, he would incur the hazard
of corporal punishment. Were he placed within the risk of being thus
dishonoured, she was well aware that he would never submit to the
disgrace by a return to the regiment where it might be inflicted.
Whether she looked to any farther probable consequences of her unhappy
scheme cannot be known; but the partner of MacTavish Mhor, in all
his perils and wanderings, was familiar with an hundred instances of
resistance or escape, by which one brave man, amidst a land of rocks,
lakes, and mountains, dangerous passes, and dark forests, might baffle
the pursuit of hundreds. For the future, therefore, she feared nothing;
her sole engrossing object was to prevent her son from keeping his word
with his commanding officer.

With this secret purpose, she evaded the proposal which Hamish
repeatedly made, that they should set out together to take possession of
her new abode; and she resisted it upon grounds apparently so natural to
her character that her son was neither alarmed nor displeased. “Let me
not,” she said, “in the same short week, bid farewell to my only son,
and to the glen in which I have so long dwelt. Let my eye, when dimmed
with weeping for thee, still look around, for a while at least, upon
Loch Awe and on Ben Cruachan.”

Hamish yielded the more willingly to his mother’s humour in this
particular, that one or two persons who resided in a neighbouring glen,
and had given their sons to Barcaldine’s levy, were also to be provided
for on the estate of the chieftain, and it was apparently settled that
Elspat was to take her journey along with them when they should remove
to their new residence. Thus, Hamish believed that he had at once
indulged his mother’s humour, and ensured her safety and accommodation.
But she nourished in her mind very different thoughts and projects.

The period of Hamish’s leave of absence was fast approaching, and more
than once he proposed to depart, in such time as to ensure his gaining
easily and early Dunbarton, the town where were the head-quarters of his
regiment. But still his mother’s entreaties, his own natural disposition
to linger among scenes long dear to him, and, above all, his firm
reliance in his speed and activity, induced him to protract his
departure till the sixth day, being the very last which he could
possibly afford to spend with his mother, if indeed he meant to comply
with the conditions of his furlough.



CHAPTER V.

  But for your son, believe it--oh, believe it--
  Most dangerously you have with him prevailed,
  If not most mortal to him.              CORIOLANUS.

On the evening which preceded his proposed departure, Hamish walked down
to the river with his fishing-rod, to practise in the Awe, for the last
time, a sport in which he excelled, and to find, at the same time, the
means for making one social meal with his mother on something better
than their ordinary cheer. He was as successful as usual, and soon
killed a fine salmon. On his return homeward an incident befell him,
which he afterwards related as ominous, though probably his heated
imagination, joined to the universal turn of his countrymen for the
marvellous, exaggerated into superstitious importance some very ordinary
and accidental circumstance.

In the path which he pursued homeward, he was surprised to observe a
person, who, like himself, was dressed and armed after the old Highland
fashion. The first idea that struck him was, that the passenger belonged
to his own corps, who, levied by government, and bearing arms under
royal authority, were not amenable for breach of the statutes
against the use of the Highland garb or weapons. But he was struck on
perceiving, as he mended his pace to make up to his supposed comrade,
meaning to request his company for the next day’s journey, that the
stranger wore a white cockade, the fatal badge which was proscribed in
the Highlands. The stature of the man was tall, and there was something
shadowy in the outline, which added to his size; and his mode of motion,
which rather resembled gliding than walking, impressed Hamish with
superstitious fears concerning the character of the being which thus
passed before him in the twilight. He no longer strove to make up to
the stranger, but contented himself with keeping him in view, under
the superstition common to the Highlanders, that you ought neither to
intrude yourself on such supernatural apparitions as you may witness,
nor avoid their presence, but leave it to themselves to withhold or
extend their communication, as their power may permit, or the purpose of
their commission require.

Upon an elevated knoll by the side of the road, just where the pathway
turned down to Elspat’s hut, the stranger made a pause, and seemed to
await Hamish’s coming up. Hamish, on his part, seeing it was necessary
he should pass the object of his suspicion, mustered up his courage,
and approached the spot where the stranger had placed himself; who
first pointed to Elspat’s hut, and made, with arm and head, a gesture
prohibiting Hamish to approach it, then stretched his hand to the road
which led to the southward, with a motion which seemed to enjoin his
instant departure in that direction. In a moment afterwards the plaided
form was gone--Hamish did not exactly say vanished, because there were
rocks and stunted trees enough to have concealed him; but it was his own
opinion that he had seen the spirit of MacTavish Mhor, warning him to
commence his instant journey to Dunbarton, without waiting till morning,
or again visiting his mother’s hut.

In fact, so many accidents might arise to delay his journey, especially
where there were many ferries, that it became his settled purpose,
though he could not depart without bidding his mother adieu, that he
neither could nor would abide longer than for that object; and that
the first glimpse of next day’s sun should see him many miles advanced
towards Dunbarton. He descended the path, therefore, and entering the
cottage, he communicated, in a hasty and troubled voice, which indicated
mental agitation, his determination to take his instant departure.
Somewhat to his surprise, Elspat appeared not to combat his purpose, but
she urged him to take some refreshment ere he left her for ever. He did
so hastily, and in silence, thinking on the approaching separation, and
scarce yet believing it would take place without a final struggle with
his mother’s fondness. To his surprise, she filled the quaigh with
liquor for his parting cup.

“Go,” she said, “my son, since such is thy settled purpose; but first
stand once more on thy mother’s hearth, the flame on which will be
extinguished long ere thy foot shall again be placed there.”

“To your health, mother!” said Hamish; “and may we meet again in
happiness, in spite of your ominous words.”

“It were better not to part,” said his mother, watching him as he
quaffed the liquor, of which he would have held it ominous to have left
a drop.

“And now,” she said, muttering the words to herself, “go--if thou canst
go.”

“Mother,” said Hamish, as he replaced on the table the empty quaigh,
“thy drink is pleasant to the taste, but it takes away the strength
which it ought to give.”

“Such is its first effect, my son,” replied Elspat. “But lie down upon
that soft heather couch, shut your eyes but for a moment, and, in the
sleep of an hour, you shall have more refreshment than in the ordinary
repose of three whole nights, could they be blended into one.”

“Mother,” said Hamish, upon whose brain the potion was now taking rapid
effect, “give me my bonnet--I must kiss you and begone--yet it seems as
if my feet were nailed to the floor.”

“Indeed,” said his mother, “you will be instantly well, if you will sit
down for half an hour--but half an hour. It is eight hours to dawn, and
dawn were time enough for your father’s son to begin such a journey.”

“I must obey you, mother--I feel I must,” said Hamish inarticulately;
“but call me when the moon rises.”

He sat down on the bed, reclined back, and almost instantly was fast
asleep. With the throbbing glee of one who has brought to an end a
difficult and troublesome enterprise, Elspat proceeded tenderly to
arrange the plaid of the unconscious slumberer, to whom her extravagant
affection was doomed to be so fatal, expressing, while busied in her
office, her delight, in tones of mingled tenderness and triumph. “Yes,”
 she said, “calf of my heart, the moon shall arise and set to thee, and
so shall the sun; but not to light thee from the land of thy fathers, or
tempt thee to serve the foreign prince or the feudal enemy! To no son of
Dermid shall I be delivered, to be fed like a bondswoman; but he who is
my pleasure and my pride shall be my guard and my protector. They say
the Highlands are changed; but I see Ben Cruachan rear his crest as high
as ever into the evening sky; no one hath yet herded his kine on the
depths of Loch Awe; and yonder oak does not yet bend like a willow.
The children of the mountains will be such as their fathers, until the
mountains themselves shall be levelled with the strath. In these wild
forests, which used to support thousands of the brave, there is still
surely subsistence and refuge left for one aged woman, and one gallant
youth of the ancient race and the ancient manners.”

While the misjudging mother thus exulted in the success of her
stratagem, we may mention to the reader that it was founded on the
acquaintance with drugs and simples which Elspat, accomplished in all
things belonging to the wild life which she had led, possessed in an
uncommon degree, and which she exercised for various purposes. With the
herbs, which she knew how to select as well as how to distil, she
could relieve more diseases than a regular medical person could easily
believe. She applied some to dye the bright colours of the tartan;
from others she compounded draughts of various powers, and unhappily
possessed the secret of one which was strongly soporific. Upon
the effects of this last concoction, as the reader doubtless has
anticipated, she reckoned with security on delaying Hamish beyond the
period for which his return was appointed; and she trusted to his horror
for the apprehended punishment to which he was thus rendered liable, to
prevent him from returning at all.

Sound and deep, beyond natural rest, was the sleep of Hamish MacTavish
on that eventful evening, but not such the repose of his mother. Scarce
did she close her eyes from time to time, but she awakened again with
a start, in the terror that her son had arisen and departed; and it was
only on approaching his couch, and hearing his deep-drawn and regular
breathing, that she reassured herself of the security of the repose in
which he was plunged.

Still, dawning, she feared, might awaken him, notwithstanding the
unusual strength of the potion with which she had drugged his cup. If
there remained a hope of mortal man accomplishing the journey, she was
aware that Hamish would attempt it, though he were to die from fatigue
upon the road. Animated by this new fear, she studied to exclude the
light, by stopping all the crannies and crevices through which, rather
than through any regular entrance, the morning beams might find access
to her miserable dwelling; and this in order to detain amid its wants
and wretchedness the being on whom, if the world itself had been at her
disposal, she would have joyfully conferred it.

Her pains were bestowed unnecessarily. The sun rose high above the
heavens, and not the fleetest stag in Breadalbane, were the hounds at
his heels, could have sped, to save his life, so fast as would have
been necessary to keep Hamish’s appointment. Her purpose was fully
attained--her son’s return within the period assigned was impossible.
She deemed it equally impossible, that he would ever dream of returning,
standing, as he must now do, in the danger of an infamous punishment.
By degrees, and at different times, she had gained from him a full
acquaintance with the predicament in which he would be placed by
failing to appear on the day appointed, and the very small hope he could
entertain of being treated with lenity.

It is well known, that the great and wise Earl of Chatham prided himself
on the scheme, by which he drew together for the defence of the colonies
those hardy Highlanders, who, until his time, had been the objects
of doubt, fear, and suspicion, on the part of each successive
administration. But some obstacles occurred, from the peculiar habits
and temper of this people, to the execution of his patriotic project.
By nature and habit, every Highlander was accustomed to the use of arms,
but at the same time totally unaccustomed to, and impatient of, the
restraints imposed by discipline upon regular troops. They were a
species of militia, who had no conception of a camp as their only home.
If a battle was lost, they dispersed to save themselves, and look out
for the safety of their families; if won, they went back to their glens
to hoard up their booty, and attend to their cattle and their farms.
This privilege of going and coming at pleasure, they would not be
deprived of even by their chiefs, whose authority was in most other
respects so despotic. It followed as a matter of course, that the
new-levied Highland recruits could scarce be made to comprehend the
nature of a military engagement, which compelled a man to serve in the
army longer than he pleased; and perhaps, in many instances, sufficient
care was not taken at enlisting to explain to them the permanency of the
engagement which they came under, lest such a disclosure should induce
them to change their mind. Desertions were therefore become numerous
from the newly-raised regiment, and the veteran general who commanded
at Dunbarton saw no better way of checking them than by causing an
unusually severe example to be made of a deserter from an English corps.
The young Highland regiment was obliged to attend upon the punishment,
which struck a people, peculiarly jealous of personal honour, with equal
horror and disgust, and not unnaturally indisposed some of them to the
service. The old general, however, who had been regularly bred in the
German wars, stuck to his own opinion, and gave out in orders that
the first Highlander who might either desert, or fail to appear at the
expiry of his furlough, should be brought to the halberds, and punished
like the culprit whom they had seen in that condition. No man doubted
that General -- would keep his word rigorously whenever severity was
required, and Elspat, therefore, knew that her son, when he perceived
that due compliance with his orders was impossible, must at the same
time consider the degrading punishment denounced against his defection
as inevitable, should he place himself within the general’s power. [See
Note 10.--Fidelity of the Highlanders.]

When noon was well passed, new apprehensions came on the mind of the
lonely woman. Her son still slept under the influence of the draught;
but what if, being stronger than she had ever known it administered, his
health or his reason should be affected by its potency? For the first
time, likewise, notwithstanding her high ideas on the subject of
parental authority, she began to dread the resentment of her son, whom
her heart told her she had wronged. Of late, she had observed that his
temper was less docile, and his determinations, especially upon this
late occasion of his enlistment, independently formed, and then boldly
carried through. She remembered the stern wilfulness of his father when
he accounted himself ill-used, and began to dread that Hamish, upon
finding the deceit she had put upon him, might resent it even to the
extent of cutting her off, and pursuing his own course through the world
alone. Such were the alarming and yet the reasonable apprehensions which
began to crowd upon the unfortunate woman, after the apparent success of
her ill-advised stratagem.

It was near evening when Hamish first awoke, and then he was far from
being in the full possession either of his mental or bodily powers. From
his vague expressions and disordered pulse, Elspat at first experienced
much apprehension; but she used such expedients as her medical knowledge
suggested, and in the course of the night she had the satisfaction to
see him sink once more into a deep sleep, which probably carried off the
greater part of the effects of the drug, for about sunrising she heard
him arise, and call to her for his bonnet. This she had purposely
removed, from a fear that he might awaken and depart in the night-time,
without her knowledge.

“My bonnet--my bonnet,” cried Hamish; “it is time to take farewell.
Mother, your drink was too strong--the sun is up--but with the next
morning I will still see the double summit of the ancient Dun. My
bonnet--my bonnet, mother; I must be instant in my departure.” These
expressions made it plain that poor Hamish was unconscious that two
nights and a day had passed since he had drained the fatal quaigh, and
Elspat had now to venture on what she felt as the almost perilous, as
well as painful, task of explaining her machinations.

“Forgive me, my son,” she said, approaching Hamish, and taking him
by the hand with an air of deferential awe, which perhaps she had not
always used to his father, even when in his moody fits.

“Forgive you, mother!--for what?” said Hamish, laughing; “for giving me
a dram that was too strong, and which my head still feels this morning,
or for hiding my bonnet to keep me an instant longer? Nay, do YOU
forgive ME. Give me the bonnet, and let that be done which now must
be done. Give me my bonnet, or I go without it; surely I am not to be
delayed by so trifling a want as that--I, who have gone for years with
only a strap of deer’s hide to tie back my hair. Trifle not, but give it
me, or I must go bareheaded, since to stay is impossible.”

“My son,” said Elspat, keeping fast hold of his hand, “what is done
cannot be recalled. Could you borrow the wings of yonder eagle, you
would arrive at the Dun too late for what you purpose--too soon for what
awaits you there. You believe you see the sun rising for the first
time since you have seen him set; but yesterday beheld him climb Ben
Cruachan, though your eyes were closed to his light.”

Hamish cast upon his mother a wild glance of extreme terror, then
instantly recovering himself, said, “I am no child to be cheated out
of my purpose by such tricks as these. Farewell, mother! each moment is
worth a lifetime.”

“Stay,” she said, “my dear, my deceived son, run not on infamy and ruin.
Yonder I see the priest upon the high-road on his white horse. Ask him
the day of the month and week; let him decide between us.”

With the speed of an eagle, Hamish darted up the acclivity, and stood by
the minister of Glenorquhy, who was pacing out thus early to administer
consolation to a distressed family near Bunawe.

The good man was somewhat startled to behold an armed Highlander, then
so unusual a sight, and apparently much agitated, stop his horse by
the bridle, and ask him with a faltering voice the day of the week and
month. “Had you been where you should have been yesterday, young man,”
 replied the clergyman, “you would have known that it was God’s Sabbath;
and that this is Monday, the second day of the week, and twenty-first of
the month.”

“And this is true?” said Hamish.

“As true,” answered the surprised minister, “as that I yesterday
preached the word of God to this parish. What ails you, young man?--are
you sick?--are you in your right mind?”

Hamish made no answer, only repeated to himself the first expression of
the clergyman, “Had you been where you should have been yesterday;” and
so saying, he let go the bridle, turned from the road, and descended
the path towards the hut, with the look and pace of one who was going to
execution. The minister looked after him with surprise; but although
he knew the inhabitant of the hovel, the character of Elspat had
not invited him to open any communication with her, because she was
generally reputed a Papist, or rather one indifferent to all religion,
except some superstitious observances which had been handed down from
her parents. On Hamish the Reverend Mr. Tyrie had bestowed instructions
when he was occasionally thrown in his way; and if the seed fell among
the brambles and thorns of a wild and uncultivated disposition, it
had not yet been entirely checked or destroyed. There was something so
ghastly in the present expression of the youth’s features that the
good man was tempted to go down to the hovel, and inquire whether any
distress had befallen the inhabitants, in which his presence might be
consoling and his ministry useful. Unhappily he did not persevere in
this resolution, which might have saved a great misfortune, as he would
have probably become a mediator for the unfortunate young man; but a
recollection of the wild moods of such Highlanders as had been educated
after the old fashion of the country, prevented his interesting himself
in the widow and son of the far-dreaded robber, MacTavish Mhor, and
he thus missed an opportunity, which he afterwards sorely repented, of
doing much good.

When Hamish MacTavish entered his mother’s hut, it was only to throw
himself on the bed he had left, and exclaiming, “Undone, undone!” to
give vent, in cries of grief and anger, to his deep sense of the deceit
which had been practised on him, and of the cruel predicament to which
he was reduced.

Elspat was prepared for the first explosion of her son’s passion, and
said to herself, “It is but the mountain torrent, swelled by the thunder
shower. Let us sit and rest us by the bank; for all its present tumult,
the time will soon come when we may pass it dryshod.” She suffered his
complaints and his reproaches, which were, even in the midst of his
agony, respectful and affectionate, to die away without returning any
answer; and when, at length, having exhausted all the exclamations of
sorrow which his language, copious in expressing the feelings of the
heart, affords to the sufferer, he sunk into a gloomy silence, she
suffered the interval to continue near an hour ere she approached her
son’s couch.

“And now,” she said at length, with a voice in which the authority of
the mother was qualified by her tenderness, “have you exhausted your
idle sorrows, and are you able to place what you have gained against
what you have lost? Is the false son of Dermid your brother, or the
father of your tribe, that you weep because you cannot bind yourself
to his belt, and become one of those who must do his bidding? Could
you find in yonder distant country the lakes and the mountains that
you leave behind you here? Can you hunt the deer of Breadalbane in
the forests of America, or will the ocean afford you the silver-scaled
salmon of the Awe? Consider, then, what is your loss, and, like a wise
man, set it against what you have won.”

“I have lost all, mother,” replied Hamish, “since I have broken my word,
and lost my honour. I might tell my tale, but who, oh, who would believe
me?” The unfortunate young man again clasped his hands together, and,
pressing them to his forehead, hid his face upon the bed.

Elspat was now really alarmed, and perhaps wished the fatal deceit had
been left unattempted. She had no hope or refuge saving in the eloquence
of persuasion, of which she possessed no small share, though her total
ignorance of the world as it actually existed rendered its energy
unavailing. She urged her son, by every tender epithet which a parent
could bestow, to take care for his own safety.

“Leave me,” she said, “to baffle your pursuers. I will save your life--I
will save your honour. I will tell them that my fair-haired Hamish fell
from the Corrie Dhu (black precipice) into the gulf, of which human eye
never beheld the bottom. I will tell them this, and I will fling your
plaid on the thorns which grow on the brink of the precipice, that they
may believe my words. They will believe, and they will return to the Dun
of the double-crest; for though the Saxon drum can call the living to
die, it cannot recall the dead to their slavish standard. Then will we
travel together far northward to the salt lakes of Kintail, and place
glens and mountains betwixt us and the sons of Dermid. We will visit the
shores of the dark lake; and my kinsmen--for was not my mother of
the children of Kenneth, and will they not remember us with the old
love?--my kinsmen will receive us with the affection of the olden time,
which lives in those distant glens, where the Gael still dwell in their
nobleness, unmingled with the churl Saxons, or with the base brood that
are their tools and their slaves.”

The energy of the language, somewhat allied to hyperbole, even in its
most ordinary expressions, now seemed almost too weak to afford Elspat
the means of bringing out the splendid picture which she presented to
her son of the land in which she proposed to him to take refuge. Yet the
colours were few with which she could paint her Highland paradise.
“The hills,” she said, “were higher and more magnificent than those of
Breadalbane--Ben Cruachan was but a dwarf to Skooroora. The lakes
were broader and larger, and abounded not only with fish, but with the
enchanted and amphibious animal which gives oil to the lamp. [The seals
are considered by the Highlanders as enchanted princes.] The deer were
larger and more numerous; the white-tusked boar, the chase of which the
brave loved best, was yet to be roused in those western solitudes; the
men were nobler, wiser, and stronger than the degenerate brood who lived
under the Saxon banner. The daughters of the land were beautiful, with
blue eyes and fair hair, and bosoms of snow; and out of these she would
choose a wife for Hamish, of blameless descent, spotless fame, fixed
and true affection, who should be in their summer bothy as a beam of the
sun, and in their winter abode as the warmth of the needful fire.”

Such were the topics with which Elspat strove to soothe the despair of
her son, and to determine him, if possible, to leave the fatal spot,
on which he seemed resolved to linger. The style of her rhetoric was
poetical, but in other respects resembled that which, like other fond
mothers, she had lavished on Hamish, while a child or a boy, in order
to gain his consent to do something he had no mind to; and she spoke
louder, quicker, and more earnestly, in proportion as she began to
despair of her words carrying conviction.

On the mind of Hamish her eloquence made no impression. He knew far
better than she did the actual situation of the country, and was
sensible that, though it might be possible to hide himself as a fugitive
among more distant mountains, there was now no corner in the Highlands
in which his father’s profession could be practised, even if he had not
adopted, from the improved ideas of the time when he lived, the opinion
that the trade of the cateran was no longer the road to honour and
distinction. Her words were therefore poured into regardless ears, and
she exhausted herself in vain in the attempt to paint the regions of her
mother’s kinsmen in such terms as might tempt Hamish to accompany her
thither. She spoke for hours, but she spoke in vain. She could extort no
answer, save groans and sighs and ejaculations, expressing the extremity
of despair.

At length, starting on her feet, and changing the monotonous tone
in which she had chanted, as it were, the praises of the province of
refuge, into the short, stern language of eager passion--“I am a fool,”
 she said, “to spend my words upon an idle, poor-spirited, unintelligent
boy, who crouches like a hound to the lash. Wait here, and receive your
taskmasters, and abide your chastisement at their hands; but do not
think your mother’s eyes will behold it. I could not see it and live. My
eyes have looked often upon death, but never upon dishonour. Farewell,
Hamish! We never meet again.”

She dashed from the hut like a lapwing, and perhaps for the moment
actually entertained the purpose which she expressed, of parting with
her son for ever. A fearful sight she would have been that evening
to any who might have met her wandering through the wilderness like a
restless spirit, and speaking to herself in language which will endure
no translation. She rambled for hours, seeking rather than shunning the
most dangerous paths. The precarious track through the morass, the dizzy
path along the edge of the precipice or by the banks of the gulfing
river, were the roads which, far from avoiding, she sought with
eagerness, and traversed with reckless haste. But the courage arising
from despair was the means of saving the life which (though deliberate
suicide was rarely practised in the Highlands) she was perhaps desirous
of terminating. Her step on the verge of the precipice was firm as that
of the wild goat. Her eye, in that state of excitation, was so keen as
to discern, even amid darkness, the perils which noon would not have
enabled a stranger to avoid.

Elspat’s course was not directly forward, else she had soon been far
from the bothy in which she had left her son. It was circuitous, for
that hut was the centre to which her heartstrings were chained, and
though she wandered around it, she felt it impossible to leave the
vicinity. With the first beams of morning she returned to the hut.
Awhile she paused at the wattled door, as if ashamed that lingering
fondness should have brought her back to the spot which she had left
with the purpose of never returning; but there was yet more of fear
and anxiety in her hesitation--of anxiety, lest her fair-haired son had
suffered from the effects of her potion--of fear, lest his enemies had
come upon him in the night. She opened the door of the hut gently, and
entered with noiseless step. Exhausted with his sorrow and anxiety, and
not entirely relieved perhaps from the influence of the powerful opiate,
Hamish Bean again slept the stern, sound sleep by which the Indians are
said to be overcome during the interval of their torments. His mother
was scarcely sure that she actually discerned his form on the bed,
scarce certain that her ear caught the sound of his breathing. With a
throbbing heart, Elspat went to the fireplace in the centre of the hut,
where slumbered, covered with a piece of turf, the glimmering embers of
the fire, never extinguished on a Scottish hearth until the indwellers
leave the mansion for ever.

“Feeble greishogh,” [Greishogh, a glowing ember.] she said, as she
lighted, by the help of a match, a splinter of bog pine which was to
serve the place of a candle--“weak greishogh, soon shalt thou be put out
for ever, and may Heaven grant that the life of Elspat MacTavish have no
longer duration than thine!”

While she spoke she raised the blazing light towards the bed, on which
still lay the prostrate limbs of her son, in a posture that left it
doubtful whether he slept or swooned. As she advanced towards him, the
light flashed upon his eyes--he started up in an instant, made a stride
forward with his naked dirk in his hand, like a man armed to meet a
mortal enemy, and exclaimed, “Stand off!--on thy life, stand off!”

“It is the word and the action of my husband,” answered Elspat; “and I
know by his speech and his step the son of MacTavish Mhor.”

“Mother,” said Hamish, relapsing from his tone of desperate firmness
into one of melancholy expostulation--“oh, dearest mother, wherefore
have you returned hither?”

“Ask why the hind comes back to the fawn,” said Elspat, “why the cat of
the mountain returns to her lodge and her young. Know you, Hamish, that
the heart of the mother only lives in the bosom of the child.”

“Then will it soon cease to throb,” said Hamish, “unless it can beat
within a bosom that lies beneath the turf. Mother, do not blame me. If
I weep, it is not for myself but for you; for my sufferings will soon be
over, but yours--oh, who but Heaven shall set a boundary to them?”

Elspat shuddered and stepped backward, but almost instantly resumed her
firm and upright position and her dauntless bearing.

“I thought thou wert a man but even now,” she said, “and thou art again
a child. Hearken to me yet, and let us leave this place together. Have I
done thee wrong or injury? if so, yet do not avenge it so cruelly.
See, Elspat MacTavish, who never kneeled before even to a priest, falls
prostrate before her own son, and craves his forgiveness.” And at once
she threw herself on her knees before the young man, seized on his hand,
and kissing it an hundred times, repeated as often, in heart-breaking
accents, the most earnest entreaties for forgiveness. “Pardon,” she
exclaimed, “pardon, for the sake of your father’s ashes--pardon, for the
sake of the pain with which I bore thee, the care with which I nurtured
thee!--Hear it, Heaven, and behold it, Earth--the mother asks pardon of
her child, and she is refused!”

It was in vain that Hamish endeavoured to stem this tide of passion, by
assuring his mother, with the most solemn asseverations, that he forgave
entirely the fatal deceit which she had practised upon him.

“Empty words,” she said, “idle protestations, which are but used to hide
the obduracy of your resentment. Would you have me believe you, then
leave the hut this instant, and retire from a country which every hour
renders more dangerous. Do this, and I may think you have forgiven me;
refuse it, and again I call on moon and stars, heaven and earth, to
witness the unrelenting resentment with which you prosecute your mother
for a fault, which, if it be one, arose out of love to you.”

“Mother,” said Hamish, “on this subject you move me not. I will fly
before no man. If Barcaldine should send every Gael that is under his
banner, here, and in this place, will I abide them; and when you bid
me fly, you may as well command yonder mountain to be loosened from
its foundations. Had I been sure of the road by which they are coming
hither, I had spared them the pains of seeking me; but I might go by the
mountain, while they perchance came by the lake. Here I will abide my
fate; nor is there in Scotland a voice of power enough to bid me stir
from hence, and be obeyed.”

“Here, then, I also stay,” said Elspat, rising up and speaking with
assumed composure. “I have seen my husband’s death--my eyelids shall not
grieve to look on the fall of my son. But MacTavish Mhor died as became
the brave, with his good sword in his right hand; my son will perish
like the bullock that is driven to the shambles by the Saxon owner who
had bought him for a price.”

“Mother,” said the unhappy young man, “you have taken my life. To that
you have a right, for you gave it; but touch not my honour! It came to
me from a brave train of ancestors, and should be sullied neither by
man’s deed nor woman’s speech. What I shall do, perhaps I myself yet
know not; but tempt me no farther by reproachful words--you have already
made wounds more than you can ever heal.”

“It is well, my son,” said Elspat, in reply. “Expect neither farther
complaint nor remonstrance from me; but let us be silent, and wait the
chance which Heaven shall send us.”

The sun arose on the next morning, and found the bothy silent as the
grave. The mother and son had arisen, and were engaged each in their
separate task--Hamish in preparing and cleaning his arms with the
greatest accuracy, but with an air of deep dejection. Elspat, more
restless in her agony of spirit, employed herself in making ready the
food which the distress of yesterday had induced them both to dispense
with for an unusual number of hours. She placed it on the board before
her son so soon as it was prepared, with the words of a Gaelic poet,
“Without daily food, the husbandman’s ploughshare stands still in the
furrow; without daily food, the sword of the warrior is too heavy for
his hand. Our bodies are our slaves, yet they must be fed if we would
have their service. So spake in ancient days the Blind Bard to the
warriors of Fion.”

The young man made no reply, but he fed on what was placed before him,
as if to gather strength for the scene which he was to undergo. When
his mother saw that he had eaten what sufficed him, she again filled the
fatal quaigh, and proffered it as the conclusion of the repast. But he
started aside with a convulsive gesture, expressive at once of fear and
abhorrence.

“Nay, my son,” she said, “this time surely, thou hast no cause of fear.”

“Urge me not, mother,” answered Hamish--“or put the leprous toad into
a flagon, and I will drink; but from that accursed cup, and of that
mind-destroying potion, never will I taste more!”

“At your pleasure, my son,” said Elspat, haughtily, and began, with
much apparent assiduity, the various domestic tasks which had been
interrupted during the preceding day. Whatever was at her heart, all
anxiety seemed banished from her looks and demeanour. It was but from an
over-activity of bustling exertion that it might have been perceived, by
a close observer, that her actions were spurred by some internal cause
of painful excitement; and such a spectator, too, might also have
observed how often she broke off the snatches of songs or tunes which
she hummed, apparently without knowing what she was doing, in order to
cast a hasty glance from the door of the hut. Whatever might be in the
mind of Hamish, his demeanour was directly the reverse of that adopted
by his mother. Having finished the task of cleaning and preparing his
arms, which he arranged within the hut, he sat himself down before
the door of the bothy, and watched the opposite hill, like the fixed
sentinel who expects the approach of an enemy. Noon found him in the
same unchanged posture, and it was an hour after that period, when his
mother, standing beside him, laid her hand on his shoulder, and said, in
a tone indifferent, as if she had been talking of some friendly visit,
“When dost thou expect them?”

“They cannot be here till the shadows fall long to the eastward,”
 replied Hamish; “that is, even supposing the nearest party, commanded by
Sergeant Allan Breack Cameron, has been commanded hither by express from
Dunbarton, as it is most likely they will.”

“Then enter beneath your mother’s roof once more; partake the last time
of the food which she has prepared; after this, let them come, and thou
shalt see if thy mother is an useless encumbrance in the day of strife.
Thy hand, practised as it is, cannot fire these arms so fast as I can
load them; nay, if it is necessary, I do not myself fear the flash or
the report, and my aim has been held fatal.”

“In the name of Heaven, mother, meddle not with this matter!” said
Hamish. “Allan Breack is a wise man and a kind one, and comes of a good
stem. It may be, he can promise for our officers that they will touch
me with no infamous punishment; and if they offer me confinement in the
dungeon, or death by the musket, to that I may not object.”

“Alas, and wilt thou trust to their word, my foolish child? Remember the
race of Dermid were ever fair and false; and no sooner shall they have
gyves on thy hands, than they will strip thy shoulders for the scourge.”

“Save your advice, mother,” said Hamish, sternly; “for me, my mind is
made up.”

But though he spoke thus, to escape the almost persecuting urgency of
his mother, Hamish would have found it, at that moment, impossible to
say upon what course of conduct he had thus fixed. On one point alone he
was determined--namely, to abide his destiny, be what it might, and not
to add to the breach of his word, of which he had been involuntarily
rendered guilty, by attempting to escape from punishment. This act of
self-devotion he conceived to be due to his own honour and that of his
countrymen. Which of his comrades would in future be trusted, if
he should be considered as having broken his word, and betrayed the
confidence of his officers? and whom but Hamish Bean MacTavish would the
Gael accuse for having verified and confirmed the suspicions which the
Saxon General was well known to entertain against the good faith of
the Highlanders? He was, therefore, bent firmly to abide his fate. But
whether his intention was to yield himself peaceably into the bands of
the party who should come to apprehend him, or whether he purposed, by
a show of resistance, to provoke them to kill him on the spot, was a
question which he could not himself have answered. His desire to see
Barcaldine, and explain the cause of his absence at the appointed time,
urged him to the one course; his fear of the degrading punishment, and
of his mother’s bitter upbraidings, strongly instigated the latter and
the more dangerous purpose. He left it to chance to decide when the
crisis should arrive; nor did he tarry long in expectation of the
catastrophe.

Evening approached; the gigantic shadows of the mountains streamed in
darkness towards the east, while their western peaks were still glowing
with crimson and gold. The road which winds round Ben Cruachan was
fully visible from the door of the bothy, when a party of five Highland
soldiers, whose arms glanced in the sun, wheeled suddenly into sight
from the most distant extremity, where the highway is hidden behind the
mountain. One of the party walked a little before the other four, who
marched regularly and in files, according to the rules of military
discipline. There was no dispute, from the firelocks which they carried,
and the plaids and bonnets which they wore, that they were a party of
Hamish’s regiment, under a non-commissioned officer; and there could be
as little doubt of the purpose of their appearance on the banks of Loch
Awe.

“They come briskly forward”--said the widow of MacTavish Mhor;--“I
wonder how fast or how slow some of them will return again! But they
are five, and it is too much odds for a fair field. Step back within the
hut, my son, and shoot from the loophole beside the door. Two you may
bring down ere they quit the highroad for the footpath--there will
remain but three; and your father, with my aid, has often stood against
that number.”

Hamish Bean took the gun which his mother offered, but did not stir from
the door of the hut. He was soon visible to the party on the highroad,
as was evident from their increasing their pace to a run--the files,
however, still keeping together like coupled greyhounds, and advancing
with great rapidity. In far less time than would have been accomplished
by men less accustomed to the mountains, they had left the highroad,
traversed the narrow path, and approached within pistol-shot of the
bothy, at the door of which stood Hamish, fixed like a statue of stone,
with his firelock in his band, while his mother, placed behind him, and
almost driven to frenzy by the violence of her passions, reproached
him in the strongest terms which despair could invent, for his want of
resolution and faintness of heart. Her words increased the bitter gall
which was arising in the young man’s own spirit, as he observed the
unfriendly speed with which his late comrades were eagerly making
towards him, like hounds towards the stag when he is at bay. The untamed
and angry passions which he inherited from father and mother, were
awakened by the supposed hostility of those who pursued him; and the
restraint under which these passions had been hitherto held by his sober
judgment began gradually to give way. The sergeant now called to him,
“Hamish Bean MacTavish, lay down your arms and surrender.”

“Do YOU stand, Allan Breack Cameron, and command your men to stand, or
it will be the worse for us all.”

“Halt, men,” said the sergeant, but continuing himself to advance.
“Hamish, think what you do, and give up your gun; you may spill blood,
but you cannot escape punishment.”

“The scourge--the scourge--my son, beware the scourge!” whispered his
mother.

“Take heed, Allan Breack,” said Hamish. “I would not hurt you willingly,
but I will not be taken unless you can assure me against the Saxon
lash.”

“Fool!” answered Cameron, “you know I cannot. Yet I will do all I can. I
will say I met you on your return, and the punishment will be light; but
give up your musket--Come on, men.”

Instantly he rushed forward, extending his arm as if to push aside the
young man’s levelled firelock. Elspat exclaimed, “Now, spare not your
father’s blood to defend your father’s hearth!” Hamish fired his piece,
and Cameron dropped dead. All these things happened, it might be said,
in the same moment of time. The soldiers rushed forward and seized
Hamish, who, seeming petrified with what he had done, offered not the
least resistance. Not so his mother, who, seeing the men about to put
handcuffs on her son, threw herself on the soldiers with such fury,
that it required two of them to hold her, while the rest secured the
prisoner.

“Are you not an accursed creature,” said one of the men to Hamish, “to
have slain your best friend, who was contriving, during the whole march,
how he could find some way of getting you off without punishment for
your desertion?”

“Do you hear THAT, mother?” said Hamish, turning himself as much towards
her as his bonds would permit; but the mother heard nothing, and saw
nothing. She had fainted on the floor of her hut. Without waiting for
her recovery, the party almost immediately began their homeward march
towards Dunbarton, leading along with them their prisoner. They thought
it necessary, however, to stay for a little space at the village of
Dalmally, from which they despatched a party of the inhabitants to
bring away the body of their unfortunate leader, while they themselves
repaired to a magistrate, to state what had happened, and require his
instructions as to the farther course to be pursued. The crime being
of a military character, they were instructed to march the prisoner to
Dunbarton without delay.

The swoon of the mother of Hamish lasted for a length of time--the
longer perhaps that her constitution, strong as it was, must have been
much exhausted by her previous agitation of three days’ endurance. She
was roused from her stupor at length by female voices, which cried
the coronach, or lament for the dead, with clapping of hands and loud
exclamations; while the melancholy note of a lament, appropriate to the
clan Cameron, played on the bagpipe, was heard from time to time.

Elspat started up like one awakened from the dead, and without any
accurate recollection of the scene which had passed before her eyes.
There were females in the hut who were swathing the corpse in its
bloody plaid before carrying it from the fatal spot. “Women,” she said,
starting up and interrupting their chant at once and their labour--“Tell
me, women, why sing you the dirge of MacDhonuil Dhu in the house of
MacTavish Mhor?”

“She-wolf, be silent with thine ill-omened yell,” answered one of the
females, a relation of the deceased, “and let us do our duty to our
beloved kinsman. There shall never be coronach cried, or dirge played,
for thee or thy bloody wolf-burd. [Wolf-brood--that is, wolf-cub.] The
ravens shall eat him from the gibbet, and the foxes and wild-cats shall
tear thy corpse upon the hill. Cursed be he that would sain [Bless.]
your bones, or add a stone to your cairn!”

“Daughter of a foolish mother,” answered the widow of MacTavish Mhor,
“know that the gibbet with which you threaten us is no portion of our
inheritance. For thirty years the Black Tree of the Law, whose apples
are dead men’s bodies, hungered after the beloved husband of my heart;
but he died like a brave man, with the sword in his hand, and defrauded
it of its hopes and its fruit.”

“So shall it not be with thy child, bloody sorceress,” replied the
female mourner, whose passions were as violent as those of Elspat
herself. “The ravens shall tear his fair hair to line their nests,
before the sun sinks beneath the Treshornish islands.”

These words recalled to Elspat’s mind the whole history of the last
three dreadful days. At first she stood fixed, as if the extremity of
distress had converted her into stone; but in a minute, the pride and
violence of her temper, outbraved as she thought herself on her own
threshold, enabled her to reply, “Yes, insulting hag, my fair-haired boy
may die, but it will not be with a white hand. It has been dyed in the
blood of his enemy, in the best blood of a Cameron--remember that; and
when you lay your dead in his grave, let it be his best epitaph that
he was killed by Hamish Bean for essaying to lay hands on the son of
MacTavish Mhor on his own threshold. Farewell--the shame of defeat,
loss, and slaughter remain with the clan that has endured it!”

The relative of the slaughtered Cameron raised her voice in reply; but
Elspat, disdaining to continue the objurgation, or perhaps feeling her
grief likely to overmaster her power of expressing her resentment, had
left the hut, and was walking forth in the bright moonshine.

The females who were arranging the corpse of the slaughtered man hurried
from their melancholy labour to look after her tall figure as it glided
away among the cliffs. “I am glad she is gone,” said one of the younger
persons who assisted. “I would as soon dress a corpse when the great
fiend himself--God sain us!--stood visibly before us, as when Elspat of
the Tree is amongst us. Ay, ay, even overmuch intercourse hath she had
with the enemy in her day.”

“Silly woman,” answered the female who had maintained the dialogue
with the departed Elspat, “thinkest thou that there is a worse fiend on
earth, or beneath it, than the pride and fury of an offended woman, like
yonder bloody-minded hag? Know that blood has been as familiar to her as
the dew to the mountain daisy. Many and many a brave man has she caused
to breathe their last for little wrong they had done to her or theirs.
But her hough-sinews are cut, now that her wolf-burd must, like a
murderer as he is, make a murderer’s end.”

Whilst the women thus discoursed together, as they watched the corpse of
Allan Breack Cameron, the unhappy cause of his death pursued her lonely
way across the mountain. While she remained within sight of the bothy,
she put a strong constraint on herself, that by no alteration of pace or
gesture she might afford to her enemies the triumph of calculating the
excess of her mental agitation, nay, despair. She stalked, therefore,
with a slow rather than a swift step, and, holding herself upright,
seemed at once to endure with firmness that woe which was passed, and
bid defiance to that which was about to come. But when she was beyond
the sight of those who remained in the hut, she could no longer suppress
the extremity of her agitation. Drawing her mantle wildly round her,
she stopped at the first knoll, and climbing to its summit, extended
her arms up to the bright moon, as if accusing heaven and earth for her
misfortunes, and uttered scream on scream, like those of an eagle whose
nest has been plundered of her brood. Awhile she vented her grief
in these inarticulate cries, then rushed on her way with a hasty
and unequal step, in the vain hope of overtaking the party which was
conveying her son a prisoner to Dunbarton. But her strength, superhuman
as it seemed, failed her in the trial; nor was it possible for her, with
her utmost efforts, to accomplish her purpose.

Yet she pressed onward, with all the speed which her exhausted frame
could exert. When food became indispensable, she entered the first
cottage. “Give me to eat,” she said. “I am the widow of MacTavish
Mhor--I am the mother of Hamish MacTavish Bean,--give me to eat, that
I may once more see my fair-haired son.” Her demand was never refused,
though granted in many cases with a kind of struggle between compassion
and aversion in some of those to whom she applied, which was in others
qualified by fear. The share she had had in occasioning the death of
Allan Breack Cameron, which must probably involve that of her own son,
was not accurately known; but, from a knowledge of her violent passions
and former habits of life, no one doubted that in one way or other she
had been the cause of the catastrophe, and Hamish Bean was considered,
in the slaughter which he had committed, rather as the instrument than
as the accomplice of his mother.

This general opinion of his countrymen was of little service to the
unfortunate Hamish. As his captain, Green Colin, understood the manners
and habits of his country, he had no difficulty in collecting from
Hamish the particulars accompanying his supposed desertion, and the
subsequent death of the non-commissioned officer. He felt the utmost
compassion for a youth, who had thus fallen a victim to the extravagant
and fatal fondness of a parent. But he had no excuse to plead which
could rescue his unhappy recruit from the doom which military discipline
and the award of a court-martial denounced against him for the crime he
had committed.

No time had been lost in their proceedings, and as little was interposed
betwixt sentence and execution. General -- had determined to make a
severe example of the first deserter who should fall into his power, and
here was one who had defended himself by main force, and slain in the
affray the officer sent to take him into custody. A fitter subject
for punishment could not have occurred, and Hamish was sentenced to
immediate execution. All which the interference of his captain in his
favour could procure was that he should die a soldier’s death; for there
had been a purpose of executing him upon the gibbet.

The worthy clergyman of Glenorquhy chanced to be at Dunbarton, in
attendance upon some church courts, at the time of this catastrophe. He
visited his unfortunate parishioner in his dungeon, found him ignorant
indeed, but not obstinate, and the answers which he received from him,
when conversing on religious topics, were such as induced him doubly
to regret that a mind naturally pure and noble should have remained
unhappily so wild and uncultivated.

When he ascertained the real character and disposition of the young man,
the worthy pastor made deep and painful reflections on his own shyness
and timidity, which, arising out of the evil fame that attached to the
lineage of Hamish, had restrained him from charitably endeavouring to
bring this strayed sheep within the great fold. While the good minister
blamed his cowardice in times past, which had deterred him from risking
his person, to save, perhaps, an immortal soul, he resolved no longer to
be governed by such timid counsels, but to endeavour, by application to
his officers, to obtain a reprieve, at least, if not a pardon, for the
criminal, in whom he felt so unusually interested, at once from his
docility of temper and his generosity of disposition.

Accordingly the divine sought out Captain Campbell at the barracks
within the garrison. There was a gloomy melancholy on the brow of Green
Colin, which was not lessened, but increased, when the clergyman stated
his name, quality, and errand. “You cannot tell me better of the young
man than I am disposed to believe,” answered the Highland officer; “you
cannot ask me to do more in his behalf than I am of myself inclined,
and have already endeavoured to do. But it is all in vain. General --
is half a Lowlander, half an Englishman. He has no idea of the high and
enthusiastic character which in these mountains often brings exalted
virtues in contact with great crimes, which, however, are less offences
of the heart than errors of the understanding. I have gone so far as to
tell him, that in this young man he was putting to death the best and
the bravest of my company, where all, or almost all, are good and brave.
I explained to him by what strange delusion the culprit’s apparent
desertion was occasioned, and how little his heart was accessory to the
crime which his hand unhappily committed. His answer was, ‘These are
Highland visions, Captain Campbell, as unsatisfactory and vain as those
of the second sight. An act of gross desertion may, in any case, be
palliated under the plea of intoxication; the murder of an officer may
be as easily coloured over with that of temporary insanity. The example
must be made, and if it has fallen on a man otherwise a good recruit,
it will have the greater effect.’ Such being the general’s unalterable
purpose,” continued Captain Campbell, with a sigh, “be it your care,
reverend sir, that your penitent prepare by break of day tomorrow for
that great change which we shall all one day be subjected to.”

“And for which,” said the clergyman, “may God prepare us all, as I in my
duty will not be wanting to this poor youth!”

Next morning, as the very earliest beams of sunrise saluted the grey
towers which crown the summit of that singular and tremendous rock, the
soldiers of the new Highland regiment appeared on the parade, within
the Castle of Dunbarton, and having fallen into order, began to move
downward by steep staircases, and narrow passages towards the external
barrier-gate, which is at the very bottom of the rock. The wild wailings
of the pibroch were heard at times, interchanged with the drums and
fifes, which beat the Dead March.

The unhappy criminal’s fate did not, at first, excite that general
sympathy in the regiment which would probably have arisen had he been
executed for desertion alone. The slaughter of the unfortunate Allan
Breack had given a different colour to Hamish’s offence; for the
deceased was much beloved, and besides belonged to a numerous and
powerful clan, of whom there were many in the ranks. The unfortunate
criminal, on the contrary, was little known to, and scarcely connected
with, any of his regimental companions. His father had been, indeed,
distinguished for his strength and manhood; but he was of a broken clan,
as those names were called who had no chief to lead them to battle.

It would have been almost impossible in another case to have turned out
of the ranks of the regiment the party necessary for execution of
the sentence; but the six individuals selected for that purpose,
were friends of the deceased, descended, like him, from the race of
MacDhonuil Dhu; and while they prepared for the dismal task which their
duty imposed, it was not without a stern feeling of gratified revenge.
The leading company of the regiment began now to defile from the
barrier-gate, and was followed by the others, each successively moving
and halting according to the orders of the adjutant, so as to form three
sides of an oblong square, with the ranks faced inwards. The fourth, or
blank side of the square, was closed up by the huge and lofty precipice
on which the Castle rises. About the centre of the procession,
bare-headed, disarmed, and with his hands bound, came the unfortunate
victim of military law. He was deadly pale, but his step was firm and
his eye as bright as ever. The clergyman walked by his side; the coffin,
which was to receive his mortal remains, was borne before him. The looks
of his comrades were still, composed, and solemn. They felt for the
youth, whose handsome form and manly yet submissive deportment had, as
soon as he was distinctly visible to them, softened the hearts of many,
even of some who had been actuated by vindictive feelings.

The coffin destined for the yet living body of Hamish Bean was placed at
the bottom of the hollow square, about two yards distant from the foot
of the precipice, which rises in that place as steep as a stone wall to
the height of three or four hundred feet. Thither the prisoner was
also led, the clergyman still continuing by his side, pouring forth
exhortations of courage and consolation, to which the youth appeared
to listen with respectful devotion. With slow, and, it seemed, almost
unwilling steps, the firing party entered the square, and were drawn
up facing the prisoner, about ten yards distant. The clergyman was now
about to retire. “Think, my son,” he said, “on what I have told you, and
let your hope be rested on the anchor which I have given. You will then
exchange a short and miserable existence here for a life in which you
will experience neither sorrow nor pain. Is there aught else which you
can entrust to me to execute for you?”

The youth looked at his sleeve buttons. They were of gold, booty perhaps
which his father had taken from some English officer during the civil
wars. The clergyman disengaged them from his sleeves.

“My mother!” he said with some effort--“give them to my poor mother! See
her, good father, and teach her what she should think of all this. Tell
her Hamish Bean is more glad to die than ever he was to rest after the
longest day’s hunting. Farewell, sir--farewell!”

The good man could scarce retire from the fatal spot. An officer
afforded him the support of his arm. At his last look towards Hamish,
he beheld him alive and kneeling on the coffin; the few that were around
him had all withdrawn. The fatal word was given, the rock rung sharp to
the sound of the discharge, and Hamish, falling forward with a groan,
died, it may be supposed, without almost a sense of the passing agony.

Ten or twelve of his own company then came forward, and laid with solemn
reverence the remains of their comrade in the coffin, while the Dead
March was again struck up, and the several companies, marching in single
files, passed the coffin one by one, in order that all might receive
from the awful spectacle the warning which it was peculiarly intended to
afford. The regiment was then marched off the ground, and reascended the
ancient cliff, their music, as usual on such occasions, striking lively
strains, as if sorrow, or even deep thought, should as short a while as
possible be the tenant of the soldier’s bosom.

At the same time the small party, which we before mentioned, bore the
bier of the ill-fated Hamish to his humble grave, in a corner of the
churchyard of Dunbarton, usually assigned to criminals. Here, among the
dust of the guilty, lies a youth, whose name, had he survived the ruin
of the fatal events by which he was hurried into crime, might have
adorned the annals of the brave.

The minister of Glenorquhy left Dunbarton immediately after he had
witnessed the last scene of this melancholy catastrophe. His reason
acquiesced in the justice of the sentence, which required blood
for blood, and he acknowledged that the vindictive character of his
countrymen required to be powerfully restrained by the strong curb of
social law. But still he mourned over the individual victim. Who may
arraign the bolt of Heaven when it bursts among the sons of the forest?
yet who can refrain from mourning when it selects for the object of
its blighting aim the fair stem of a young oak, that promised to be the
pride of the dell in which it flourished? Musing on these melancholy
events, noon found him engaged in the mountain passes, by which he was
to return to his still distant home.

Confident in his knowledge of the country, the clergyman had left the
main road, to seek one of those shorter paths, which are only used by
pedestrians, or by men, like the minister, mounted on the small, but
sure-footed, hardy, and sagacious horses of the country. The place which
he now traversed was in itself gloomy and desolate, and tradition had
added to it the terror of superstition, by affirming it was haunted
by an evil spirit, termed CLOGHT-DEARG--that is, Redmantle--who at all
times, but especially at noon and at midnight, traversed the glen, in
enmity both to man and the inferior creation, did such evil as her power
was permitted to extend to, and afflicted with ghastly terrors those
whom she had not license otherwise to hurt.

The minister of Glenorquhy had set his face in opposition to many of
these superstitions, which he justly thought were derived from the dark
ages of Popery, perhaps even from those of paganism, and unfit to be
entertained or believed by the Christians of an enlightened age. Some
of his more attached parishioners considered him as too rash in opposing
the ancient faith of their fathers; and though they honoured the moral
intrepidity of their pastor, they could not avoid entertaining and
expressing fears that he would one day fall a victim to his temerity,
and be torn to pieces in the glen of the Cloght-dearg, or some of
those other haunted wilds, which he appeared rather to have a pride
and pleasure in traversing alone, on the days and hours when the wicked
spirits were supposed to have especial power over man and beast.

These legends came across the mind of the clergyman, and, solitary as
he was, a melancholy smile shaded his cheek, as he thought of the
inconsistency of human nature, and reflected how many brave men, whom
the yell of the pibroch would have sent headlong against fixed bayonets,
as the wild bull rushes on his enemy, might have yet feared to encounter
those visionary terrors, which he himself, a man of peace, and in
ordinary perils no way remarkable for the firmness of his nerves, was
now risking without hesitation.

As he looked around the scene of desolation, he could not but
acknowledge, in his own mind, that it was not ill chosen for the haunt
of those spirits, which are said to delight in solitude and desolation.
The glen was so steep and narrow that there was but just room for the
meridian sun to dart a few scattered rays upon the gloomy and precarious
stream which stole through its recesses, for the most part in silence,
but occasionally murmuring sullenly against the rocks and large stones
which seemed determined to bar its further progress. In winter, or in
the rainy season, this small stream was a foaming torrent of the most
formidable magnitude, and it was at such periods that it had torn open
and laid bare the broad-faced and huge fragments of rock which, at
the season of which we speak, hid its course from the eye, and seemed
disposed totally to interrupt its course. “Undoubtedly,” thought the
clergyman, “this mountain rivulet, suddenly swelled by a waterspout
or thunderstorm, has often been the cause of those accidents which,
happening in the glen called by her name, have been ascribed to the
agency of the Cloght-dearg.”

Just as this idea crossed his mind, he heard a female voice exclaim, in
a wild and thrilling accent, “Michael Tyrie! Michael Tyrie!” He looked
round in astonishment, and not without some fear. It seemed for an
instant, as if the evil being, whose existence he had disowned, was
about to appear for the punishment of his incredulity. This alarm did
not hold him more than an instant, nor did it prevent his replying in a
firm voice, “Who calls? and where are you?”

“One who journeys in wretchedness, between life and death,” answered the
voice; and the speaker, a tall female, appeared from among the fragments
of rocks which had concealed her from view.

As she approached more closely, her mantle of bright tartan, in which
the red colour much predominated, her stature, the long stride with
which she advanced, and the writhen features and wild eyes which
were visible from under her curch, would have made her no inadequate
representative of the spirit which gave name to the valley. But
Mr. Tyrie instantly knew her as the Woman of the Tree, the widow of
MacTavish Mhor, the now childless mother of Hamish Bean. I am not
sure whether the minister would not have endured the visitation of
the Cloght-dearg herself, rather than the shock of Elspat’s
presence, considering her crime and her misery. He drew up his horse
instinctively, and stood endeavouring to collect his ideas, while a few
paces brought her up to his horse’s head.

“Michael Tyrie,” said she, “the foolish women of the Clachan [The
village; literally, the stones.] hold thee as a god--be one to me, and
say that my son lives. Say this, and I too will be of thy worship; I
will bend my knees on the seventh day in thy house of worship, and thy
God shall be my God.”

“Unhappy woman,” replied the clergyman, “man forms not pactions with his
Maker as with a creature of clay like himself. Thinkest thou to chaffer
with Him, who formed the earth, and spread out the heavens, or that thou
canst offer aught of homage or devotion that can be worth acceptance
in his eyes? He hath asked obedience, not sacrifice; patience under the
trials with which He afflicts us, instead of vain bribes, such as man
offers to his changeful brother of clay, that he may be moved from his
purpose.”

“Be silent, priest!” answered the desperate woman; “speak not to me
the words of thy white book. Elspat’s kindred were of those who crossed
themselves and knelt when the sacring bell was rung, and she knows that
atonement can be made on the altar for deeds done in the field. Elspat
had once flocks and herds, goats upon the cliffs, and cattle in the
strath. She wore gold around her neck and on her hair--thick twists, as
those worn by the heroes of old. All these would she have resigned to
the priest--all these; and if he wished for the ornaments of a gentle
lady, or the sporran of a high chief, though they had been great as
Macallum Mhor himself, MacTavish Mhor would have procured them, if
Elspat had promised them. Elspat is now poor, and has nothing to give.
But the Black Abbot of Inchaffray would have bidden her scourge her
shoulders, and macerate her feet by pilgrimage; and he would have
granted his pardon to her when he saw that her blood had flowed, and
that her flesh had been torn. These were the priests who had indeed
power even with the most powerful; they threatened the great men of
the earth with the word of their mouth, the sentence of their book, the
blaze of their torch, the sound of their sacring bell. The mighty bent
to their will, and unloosed at the word of the priests those whom they
had bound in their wrath, and set at liberty, unharmed, him whom they
had sentenced to death, and for whose blood they had thirsted. These
were a powerful race, and might well ask the poor to kneel, since their
power could humble the proud. But you!--against whom are ye strong,
but against women who have been guilty of folly, and men who never wore
sword? The priests of old were like the winter torrent which fills
this hollow valley, and rolls these massive rocks against each other
as easily as the boy plays with the ball which he casts before him. But
you!--you do but resemble the summer-stricken stream, which is turned
aside by the rushes, and stemmed by a bush of sedges. Woe worth you, for
there is no help in you!”

The clergyman was at no loss to conceive that Elspat had lost the Roman
Catholic faith without gaining any other, and that she still retained
a vague and confused idea of the composition with the priesthood, by
confession, alms, and penance, and of their extensive power, which,
according to her notion, was adequate, if duly propitiated, even to
effecting her son’s safety. Compassionating her situation, and allowing
for her errors and ignorance, he answered her with mildness.

“Alas, unhappy woman! Would to God I could convince thee as easily
where thou oughtest to seek, and art sure to find, consolation, as I
can assure you with a single word, that were Rome and all her priesthood
once more in the plenitude of their power, they could not, for largesse
or penance, afford to thy misery an atom of aid or comfort--Elspat
MacTavish, I grieve to tell you the news.”

“I know them without thy speech,” said the unhappy woman. “My son is
doomed to die.”

“Elspat,” resumed the clergyman, “he WAS doomed, and the sentence has
been executed.”

The hapless mother threw her eyes up to heaven, and uttered a shriek so
unlike the voice of a human being, that the eagle which soared in middle
air answered it as she would have done the call of her mate.

“It is impossible!” she exclaimed--“it is impossible! Men do not condemn
and kill on the same day! Thou art deceiving me. The people call thee
holy--hast thou the heart to tell a mother she has murdered her only
child?”

“God knows,” said the priest, the tears falling fast from his eyes,
“that were it in my power, I would gladly tell better tidings. But these
which I bear are as certain as they are fatal. My own ears heard the
death-shot, my own eyes beheld thy son’s death--thy son’s funeral. My
tongue bears witness to what my ears heard and my eyes saw.”

The wretched female clasped her bands close together, and held them up
towards heaven like a sibyl announcing war and desolation, while, in
impotent yet frightful rage, she poured forth a tide of the deepest
imprecations. “Base Saxon churl!” she exclaimed--“vile hypocritical
juggler! May the eyes that looked tamely on the death of my fair-haired
boy be melted in their sockets with ceaseless tears, shed for those
that are nearest and most dear to thee! May the ears that heard his
death-knell be dead hereafter to all other sounds save the screech of
the raven, and the hissing of the adder! May the tongue that tells me of
his death and of my own crime, be withered in thy mouth--or better, when
thou wouldst pray with thy people, may the Evil One guide it, and give
voice to blasphemies instead of blessings, until men shall fly in terror
from thy presence, and the thunder of heaven be launched against thy
head, and stop for ever thy cursing and accursed voice! Begone, with
this malison! Elspat will never, never again bestow so many words upon
living man.”

She kept her word. From that day the world was to her a wilderness, in
which she remained without thought, care, or interest, absorbed in her
own grief, indifferent to every thing else.

With her mode of life, or rather of existence, the reader is already as
far acquainted as I have the power of making him. Of her death, I can
tell him nothing. It is supposed to have happened several years after
she had attracted the attention of my excellent friend Mrs. Bethune
Baliol. Her benevolence, which was never satisfied with dropping a
sentimental tear, when there was room for the operation of effective
charity, induced her to make various attempts to alleviate the condition
of this most wretched woman. But all her exertions could only render
Elspat’s means of subsistence less precarious--a circumstance which,
though generally interesting even to the most wretched outcasts, seemed
to her a matter of total indifference. Every attempt to place any
person in her hut to take charge of her miscarried, through the extreme
resentment with which she regarded all intrusion on her solitude, or by
the timidity of those who had been pitched upon to be inmates with the
terrible Woman of the Tree. At length, when Elspat became totally unable
(in appearance at least) to turn herself on the wretched settle which
served her for a couch, the humanity of Mr. Tyrie’s successor sent two
women to attend upon the last moments of the solitary, which could not,
it was judged, be far distant, and to avert the possibility that she
might perish for want of assistance or food, before she sunk under the
effects of extreme age or mortal malady.

It was on a November evening, that the two women appointed for this
melancholy purpose arrived at the miserable cottage which we have
already described. Its wretched inmate lay stretched upon the bed, and
seemed almost already a lifeless corpse, save for the wandering of the
fierce dark eyes, which rolled in their sockets in a manner terrible to
look upon, and seemed to watch with surprise and indignation the motions
of the strangers, as persons whose presence was alike unexpected and
unwelcome. They were frightened at her looks; but, assured in each
other’s company, they kindled a fire, lighted a candle, prepared food,
and made other arrangements for the discharge of the duty assigned them.

The assistants agreed they should watch the bedside of the sick person
by turns; but, about midnight, overcome by fatigue, (for they had walked
far that morning), both of them fell fast asleep. When they awoke, which
was not till after the interval of some hours, the hut was empty, and
the patient gone. They rose in terror, and went to the door of the
cottage, which was latched as it had been at night. They looked out into
the darkness, and called upon their charge by her name. The night-raven
screamed from the old oak-tree, the fox howled on the hill, the hoarse
waterfall replied with its echoes; but there was no human answer. The
terrified women did not dare to make further search till morning should
appear; for the sudden disappearance of a creature so frail as Elspat,
together with the wild tenor of her history, intimidated them from
stirring from the hut. They remained, therefore, in dreadful terror,
sometimes thinking they heard her voice without, and at other times,
that sounds of a different description were mingled with the mournful
sigh of the night-breeze, or the dashing of the cascade. Sometimes,
too, the latch rattled, as if some frail and impotent hand were in vain
attempting to lift it, and ever and anon they expected the entrance of
their terrible patient, animated by supernatural strength, and in the
company, perhaps, of some being more dreadful than herself. Morning came
at length. They sought brake, rock, and thicket in vain. Two hours
after daylight, the minister himself appeared, and, on the report of
the watchers, caused the country to be alarmed, and a general and exact
search to be made through the whole neighbourhood of the cottage and
the oak-tree. But it was all in vain. Elspat MacTavish was never found,
whether dead or alive; nor could there ever be traced the slightest
circumstance to indicate her fate.

The neighbourhood was divided concerning the cause of her disappearance.
The credulous thought that the evil spirit, under whose influence she
seemed to have acted, had carried her away in the body; and there are
many who are still unwilling, at untimely hours, to pass the oak-tree,
beneath which, as they allege, she may still be seen seated according to
her wont. Others less superstitious supposed, that had it been possible
to search the gulf of the Corri Dhu, the profound deeps of the lake, or
the whelming eddies of the river, the remains of Elspat MacTavish might
have been discovered--as nothing was more natural, considering her state
of body and mind, than that she should have fallen in by accident, or
precipitated herself intentionally, into one or other of those places
of sure destruction. The clergyman entertained an opinion of his own.
He thought that, impatient of the watch which was placed over her, this
unhappy woman’s instinct had taught her, as it directs various domestic
animals, to withdraw herself from the sight of her own race, that
the death-struggle might take place in some secret den, where, in all
probability, her mortal relics would never meet the eyes of mortals.
This species of instinctive feeling seemed to him of a tenor with the
whole course of her unhappy life, and most likely to influence her when
it drew to a conclusion.

End of THE HIGHLAND WIDOW.


*****


MR. CROFTANGRY INTRODUCES ANOTHER TALE.

 Together both on the high lawns appeared.
 Under the opening eyelids of the morn
 They drove afield.             ELEGY ON LYCIDAS.

I have sometimes wondered why all the favourite occupations and pastimes
of mankind go to the disturbance of that happy state of tranquillity,
that OTIUM, as Horace terms it, which he says is the object of all men’s
prayers, whether preferred from sea or land; and that the undisturbed
repose, of which we are so tenacious, when duty or necessity compels
us to abandon it, is precisely what we long to exchange for a state of
excitation, as soon as we may prolong it at our own pleasure. Briefly,
you have only to say to a man, “Remain at rest,” and you instantly
inspire the love of labour. The sportsman toils like his gamekeeper,
the master of the pack takes as severe exercise as his whipper-in, the
statesman or politician drudges more than the professional lawyer; and,
to come to my own case, the volunteer author subjects himself to the
risk of painful criticism, and the assured certainty of mental
and manual labour, just as completely as his needy brother, whose
necessities compel him to assume the pen.

These reflections have been suggested by an annunciation on the part
of Janet, “that the little Gillie-whitefoot was come from the
printing-office.”

“Gillie-blackfoot you should call him, Janet,” was my response, “for he
is neither more nor less than an imp of the devil, come to torment
me for COPY, for so the printers call a supply of manuscript for the
press.”

“Now, Cot forgie your honour,” said Janet; “for it is no like your
ainsell to give such names to a faitherless bairn.”

“I have got nothing else to give him, Janet; he must wait a little.”

“Then I have got some breakfast to give the bit gillie,” said Janet;
“and he can wait by the fireside in the kitchen, till your honour’s
ready; and cood enough for the like of him, if he was to wait your
honour’s pleasure all day.”

“But, Janet,” said I to my little active superintendent, on her return
to the parlour, after having made her hospitable arrangements, “I begin
to find this writing our Chronicles is rather more tiresome than I
expected, for here comes this little fellow to ask for manuscript--that
is, for something to print--and I have got none to give him.”

“Your honour can be at nae loss. I have seen you write fast and fast
enough; and for subjects, you have the whole Highlands to write about,
and I am sure you know a hundred tales better than that about Hamish
MacTavish, for it was but about a young cateran and an auld carlin, when
all’s done; and if they had burned the rudas quean for a witch, I am
thinking, may be they would not have tyned their coals--and her to gar
her ne’er-do-weel son shoot a gentleman Cameron! I am third cousin to
the Camerons mysel’--my blood warms to them. And if you want to write
about deserters, I am sure there were deserters enough on the top of
Arthur’s Seat, when the MacRaas broke out, and on that woeful day beside
Leith Pier--ohonari!”--

Here Janet began to weep, and to wipe her eyes with her apron. For my
part, the idea I wanted was supplied, but I hesitated to make use of it.
Topics, like times, are apt to become common by frequent use. It is
only an ass like Justice Shallow, who would pitch upon the over-scutched
tunes, which the carmen whistled, and try to pass them off as his
FANCIES and his GOOD-NIGHTS. Now, the Highlands, though formerly a rich
mine for original matter, are, as my friend Mrs. Bethune Baliol warned
me, in some degree worn out by the incessant labour of modern romancers
and novelists, who, finding in those remote regions primitive habits and
manners, have vainly imagined that the public can never tire of them;
and so kilted Highlanders are to be found as frequently, and nearly of
as genuine descent, on the shelves of a circulating library, as at a
Caledonian ball. Much might have been made at an earlier time out of
the history of a Highland regiment, and the singular revolution of ideas
which must have taken place in the minds of those who composed it, when
exchanging their native hills for the battle-fields of the Continent,
and their simple, and sometimes indolent domestic habits for the regular
exertions demanded by modern discipline. But the market is forestalled.
There is Mrs. Grant of Laggan, has drawn the manners, customs, and
superstitions of the mountains in their natural unsophisticated state;
[Letters from the Mountains, 3 vols.--Essays on the Superstitions of
the Highlanders--The Highlanders, and other Poems, etc.] and my friend,
General Stewart of Garth, [The gallant and amiable author of the History
of the Highland Regiments, in whose glorious services his own share
had been great, went out Governor of St Lucia in 1828, and died in that
island on the 18th of December 1829,--no man more regretted, or perhaps
by a wider circle of friends and acquaintance.] in giving the real
history of the Highland regiments, has rendered any attempt to fill up
the sketch with fancy-colouring extremely rash and precarious. Yet
I, too, have still a lingering fancy to add a stone to the cairn;
and without calling in imagination to aid the impressions of
juvenile recollection, I may just attempt to embody one or two scenes
illustrative of the Highland character, and which belong peculiarly to
the Chronicles of the Canongate, to the grey-headed eld of whom they
are as familiar as to Chrystal Croftangry. Yet I will not go back to the
days of clanship and claymores. Have at you, gentle reader, with a
tale of Two Drovers. An oyster may be crossed in love, says the gentle
Tilburina--and a drover may be touched on a point of honour, says the
Chronicler of the Canongate.


*****



THE TWO DROVERS.



CHAPTER I.

It was the day after Doune Fair when my story commences. It had been a
brisk market. Several dealers had attended from the northern and midland
counties in England, and English money had flown so merrily about as to
gladden the hearts of the Highland farmers. Many large droves were about
to set off for England, under the protection of their owners, or of the
topsmen whom they employed in the tedious, laborious, and responsible
office of driving the cattle for many hundred miles, from the market
where they had been purchased, to the fields or farmyards where they
were to be fattened for the shambles.

The Highlanders in particular are masters of this difficult trade
of driving, which seems to suit them as well as the trade of war. It
affords exercise for all their habits of patient endurance and active
exertion. They are required to know perfectly the drove-roads, which lie
over the wildest tracts of the country, and to avoid as much as
possible the highways, which distress the feet of the bullocks, and the
turnpikes, which annoy the spirit of the drover; whereas on the broad
green or grey track which leads across the pathless moor, the herd
not only move at ease and without taxation, but, if they mind their
business, may pick up a mouthful of food by the way. At night the
drovers usually sleep along with their cattle, let the weather be what
it will; and many of these hardy men do not once rest under a roof
during a journey on foot from Lochaber to Lincolnshire. They are paid
very highly, for the trust reposed is of the last importance, as it
depends on their prudence, vigilance, and honesty whether the cattle
reach the final market in good order, and afford a profit to the
grazier. But as they maintain themselves at their own expense, they are
especially economical in that particular. At the period we speak of, a
Highland drover was victualled for his long and toilsome journey with a
few handfulls of oatmeal and two or three onions, renewed from time to
time, and a ram’s horn filled with whisky, which he used regularly, but
sparingly, every night and morning. His dirk, or SKENE-DHU, (that is,
black-knife), so worn as to be concealed beneath the arm, or by the
folds of the plaid, was his only weapon, excepting the cudgel with which
he directed the movements of the cattle. A Highlander was never so happy
as on these occasions. There was a variety in the whole journey, which
exercised the Celt’s natural curiosity and love of motion. There were
the constant change of place and scene, the petty adventures incidental
to the traffic, and the intercourse with the various farmers, graziers,
and traders, intermingled with occasional merry-makings, not the less
acceptable to Donald that they were void of expense. And there was the
consciousness of superior skill; for the Highlander, a child amongst
flocks, is a prince amongst herds, and his natural habits induce him to
disdain the shepherd’s slothful life, so that he feels himself nowhere
more at home than when following a gallant drove of his country cattle
in the character of their guardian.

Of the number who left Doune in the morning, and with the purpose
we have described, not a GLUNAMIE of them all cocked his bonnet more
briskly, or gartered his tartan hose under knee over a pair of
more promising SPIOGS, (legs), than did Robin Oig M’Combich, called
familiarly Robin Oig, that is young, or the Lesser, Robin. Though small
of stature, as the epithet Oig implies, and not very strongly limbed,
he was as light and alert as one of the deer of his mountains. He had
an elasticity of step which, in the course of a long march, made many a
stout fellow envy him; and the manner in which he busked his plaid
and adjusted his bonnet argued a consciousness that so smart a John
Highlandman as himself would not pass unnoticed among the Lowland
lasses. The ruddy cheek, red lips, and white teeth set off a countenance
which had gained by exposure to the weather a healthful and hardy
rather than a rugged hue. If Robin Oig did not laugh, or even smile
frequently--as, indeed, is not the practice among his countrymen--his
bright eyes usually gleamed from under his bonnet with an expression of
cheerfulness ready to be turned into mirth.

The departure of Robin Oig was an incident in the little town, in and
near which he had many friends, male and female. He was a topping person
in his way, transacted considerable business on his own behalf, and was
entrusted by the best farmers in the Highlands, in preference to any
other drover in that district. He might have increased his business to
any extent had he condescended to manage it by deputy; but except a lad
or two, sister’s sons of his own, Robin rejected the idea of assistance,
conscious, perhaps, how much his reputation depended upon his attending
in person to the practical discharge of his duty in every instance. He
remained, therefore, contented with the highest premium given to persons
of his description, and comforted himself with the hopes that a few
journeys to England might enable him to conduct business on his own
account, in a manner becoming his birth. For Robin Oig’s father, Lachlan
M’Combich (or SON OF MY FRIEND, his actual clan surname being M’Gregor),
had been so called by the celebrated Rob Roy, because of the particular
friendship which had subsisted between the grandsire of Robin and that
renowned cateran. Some people even said that Robin Oig derived his
Christian name from one as renowned in the wilds of Loch Lomond as ever
was his namesake Robin Hood in the precincts of merry Sherwood. “Of such
ancestry,” as James Boswell says, “who would not be proud?” Robin Oig
was proud accordingly; but his frequent visits to England and to the
Lowlands had given him tact enough to know that pretensions which still
gave him a little right to distinction in his own lonely glen, might
be both obnoxious and ridiculous if preferred elsewhere. The pride of
birth, therefore, was like the miser’s treasure--the secret subject
of his contemplation, but never exhibited to strangers as a subject of
boasting.

Many were the words of gratulation and good-luck which were bestowed
on Robin Oig. The judges commended his drove, especially Robin’s own
property, which were the best of them. Some thrust out their snuff-mulls
for the parting pinch, others tendered the DOCH-AN-DORRACH, or parting
cup. All cried, “Good-luck travel out with you and come home with you.
Give you luck in the Saxon market--brave notes in the LEABHAR-DHU,”
 (black pocket-book), “and plenty of English gold in the SPORRAN” (pouch
of goat-skin).

The bonny lasses made their adieus more modestly, and more than one,
it was said, would have given her best brooch to be certain that it was
upon her that his eye last rested as he turned towards the road.

Robin Oig had just given the preliminary “HOO-HOO!” to urge forward the
loiterers of the drove, when there was a cry behind him:--

“Stay, Robin--bide a blink. Here is Janet of Tomahourich--auld Janet,
your father’s sister.”

“Plague on her, for an auld Highland witch and spaewife,” said a farmer
from the Carse of Stirling; “she’ll cast some of her cantrips on the
cattle.”

“She canna do that,” said another sapient of the same profession. “Robin
Oig is no the lad to leave any of them without tying Saint Mungo’s knot
on their tails, and that will put to her speed the best witch that ever
flew over Dimayet upon a broomstick.”

It may not be indifferent to the reader to know that the Highland
cattle are peculiarly liable to be TAKEN, or infected, by spells and
witchcraft, which judicious people guard against by knitting knots of
peculiar complexity on the tuft of hair which terminates the animal’s
tail.

But the old woman who was the object of the farmer’s suspicion seemed
only busied about the drover, without paying any attention to the drove.
Robin, on the contrary, appeared rather impatient of her presence.

“What auld-world fancy,” he said, “has brought you so early from the
ingle-side this morning, Muhme? I am sure I bid you good-even, and had
your God-speed, last night.”

“And left me more siller than the useless old woman will use till you
come back again, bird of my bosom,” said the sibyl. “But it is little I
would care for the food that nourishes me, or the fire that warms me,
or for God’s blessed sun itself, if aught but weel should happen to the
grandson of my father. So let me walk the DEASIL round you, that you may
go safe out into the far foreign land, and come safe home.”

Robin Oig stopped, half embarrassed, half laughing, and signing to those
around that he only complied with the old woman to soothe her humour.
In the meantime, she traced around him, with wavering steps, the
propitiation, which some have thought has been derived from the
Druidical mythology. It consists, as is well known, in the person who
makes the DEASIL walking three times round the person who is the object
of the ceremony, taking care to move according to the course of the sun.
At once, however, she stopped short, and exclaimed, in a voice of alarm
and horror, “Grandson of my father, there is blood on your hand.”

“Hush, for God’s sake, aunt!” said Robin Oig. “You will bring more
trouble on yourself with this TAISHATARAGH” (second sight) “than you
will be able to get out of for many a day.”

The old woman only repeated, with a ghastly look, “There is blood on
your hand, and it is English blood. The blood of the Gael is richer and
redder. Let us see--let us--”

Ere Robin Oig could prevent her, which, indeed, could only have been by
positive violence, so hasty and peremptory were her proceedings, she had
drawn from his side the dirk which lodged in the folds of his plaid, and
held it up, exclaiming, although the weapon gleamed clear and bright in
the sun, “Blood, blood--Saxon blood again. Robin Oig M’Combich, go not
this day to England!”

“Prutt, trutt,” answered Robin Oig, “that will never do neither--it
would be next thing to running the country. For shame, Muhme--give me
the dirk. You cannot tell by the colour the difference betwixt the blood
of a black bullock and a white one, and you speak of knowing Saxon from
Gaelic blood. All men have their blood from Adam, Muhme. Give me my
skene-dhu, and let me go on my road. I should have been half way to
Stirling brig by this time. Give me my dirk, and let me go.”

“Never will I give it to you,” said the old woman--“Never will I quit
my hold on your plaid--unless you promise me not to wear that unhappy
weapon.”

The women around him urged him also, saying few of his aunt’s words fell
to the ground; and as the Lowland farmers continued to look moodily on
the scene, Robin Oig determined to close it at any sacrifice.

“Well, then,” said the young drover, giving the scabbard of the weapon
to Hugh Morrison, “you Lowlanders care nothing for these freats. Keep my
dirk for me. I cannot give it you, because it was my father’s; but your
drove follows ours, and I am content it should be in your keeping, not
in mine.--Will this do, Muhme?”

“It must,” said the old woman--“that is, if the Lowlander is mad enough
to carry the knife.”

The strong Westlandman laughed aloud.

“Goodwife,” said he, “I am Hugh Morrison from Glenae, come of the Manly
Morrisons of auld lang syne, that never took short weapon against a man
in their lives. And neither needed they. They had their broadswords, and
I have this bit supple”--showing a formidable cudgel; “for dirking ower
the board, I leave that to John Highlandman.--Ye needna snort, none of
you Highlanders, and you in especial, Robin. I’ll keep the bit knife,
if you are feared for the auld spaewife’s tale, and give it back to you
whenever you want it.”

Robin was not particularly pleased with some part of Hugh Morrison’s
speech; but he had learned in his travels more patience than belonged to
his Highland constitution originally, and he accepted the service of the
descendant of the Manly Morrisons without finding fault with the rather
depreciating manner in which it was offered.

“If he had not had his morning in his head, and been but a Dumfriesshire
hog into the boot, he would have spoken more like a gentleman. But you
cannot have more of a sow than a grumph. It’s shame my father’s knife
should ever slash a haggis for the like of him.”

Thus saying, (but saying it in Gaelic), Robin drove on his cattle, and
waved farewell to all behind him. He was in the greater haste, because
he expected to join at Falkirk a comrade and brother in profession, with
whom he proposed to travel in company.

Robin Oig’s chosen friend was a young Englishman, Harry Wakefield by
name, well known at every northern market, and in his way as much famed
and honoured as our Highland driver of bullocks. He was nearly six feet
high, gallantly formed to keep the rounds at Smithfield, or maintain the
ring at a wrestling match; and although he might have been overmatched,
perhaps, among the regular professors of the Fancy, yet, as a yokel
or rustic, or a chance customer, he was able to give a bellyful to any
amateur of the pugilistic art. Doncaster races saw him in his glory,
betting his guinea, and generally successfully; nor was there a main
fought in Yorkshire, the feeders being persons of celebrity, at which he
was not to be seen if business permitted. But though a SPRACK lad, and
fond of pleasure and its haunts, Harry Wakefield was steady, and not
the cautious Robin Oig M’Combich himself was more attentive to the main
chance. His holidays were holidays indeed; but his days of work were
dedicated to steady and persevering labour. In countenance and temper,
Wakefield was the model of Old England’s merry yeomen, whose clothyard
shafts, in so many hundred battles, asserted her superiority over the
nations, and whose good sabres, in our own time, are her cheapest and
most assured defence. His mirth was readily excited; for, strong in limb
and constitution, and fortunate in circumstances, he was disposed to be
pleased with every thing about him, and such difficulties as he might
occasionally encounter were, to a man of his energy, rather matter of
amusement than serious annoyance. With all the merits of a sanguine
temper, our young English drover was not without his defects. He was
irascible, sometimes to the verge of being quarrelsome; and perhaps
not the less inclined to bring his disputes to a pugilistic decision,
because he found few antagonists able to stand up to him in the boxing
ring.

It is difficult to say how Harry Wakefield and Robin Oig first became
intimates, but it is certain a close acquaintance had taken place
betwixt them, although they had apparently few common subjects of
conversation or of interest, so soon as their talk ceased to be
of bullocks. Robin Oig, indeed, spoke the English language rather
imperfectly upon any other topics but stots and kyloes, and Harry
Wakefield could never bring his broad Yorkshire tongue to utter a single
word of Gaelic. It was in vain Robin spent a whole morning, during a
walk over Minch Moor, in attempting to teach his companion to utter,
with true precision, the shibboleth LLHU, which is the Gaelic for a
calf. From Traquair to Murder Cairn, the hill rung with the discordant
attempts of the Saxon upon the unmanageable monosyllable, and the
heartfelt laugh which followed every failure. They had, however, better
modes of awakening the echoes; for Wakefield could sing many a ditty to
the praise of Moll, Susan, and Cicely, and Robin Oig had a particular
gift at whistling interminable pibrochs through all their involutions,
and what was more agreeable to his companion’s southern ear, knew many
of the northern airs, both lively and pathetic, to which Wakefield
learned to pipe a bass. Thus, though Robin could hardly have
comprehended his companion’s stories about horse-racing, and
cock-fighting, or fox-hunting, and although his own legends of
clan-fights and CREAGHS, varied with talk of Highland goblins and
fairy folk, would have been caviare to his companion, they contrived,
nevertheless to find a degree of pleasure in each other’s company,
which had for three years back induced them to join company and travel
together, when the direction of their journey permitted. Each,
indeed, found his advantage in this companionship; for where could the
Englishman have found a guide through the Western Highlands like Robin
Oig M’Combich? and when they were on what Harry called the RIGHT side of
the Border, his patronage, which was extensive, and his purse, which was
heavy, were at all times at the service of his Highland friend, and on
many occasions his liberality did him genuine yeoman’s service.



CHAPTER II.

  Were ever two such loving friends!--
    How could they disagree?
  Oh, thus it was, he loved him dear,
    And thought how to requite him,
  And having no friend left but he,
   He did resolve to fight him.        DUKE UPON DUKE.

The pair of friends had traversed with their usual cordiality the
grassy wilds of Liddesdale, and crossed the opposite part of Cumberland,
emphatically called The Waste. In these solitary regions the cattle
under the charge of our drovers derived their subsistence chiefly by
picking their food as they went along the drove-road, or sometimes by
the tempting opportunity of a START AND OWERLOUP, or invasion of the
neighbouring pasture, where an occasion presented itself. But now the
scene changed before them. They were descending towards a fertile and
enclosed country, where no such liberties could be taken with impunity,
or without a previous arrangement and bargain with the possessors of the
ground. This was more especially the case, as a great northern fair was
upon the eve of taking place, where both the Scotch and English drover
expected to dispose of a part of their cattle, which it was desirable
to produce in the market rested and in good order. Fields were therefore
difficult to be obtained, and only upon high terms. This necessity
occasioned a temporary separation betwixt the two friends, who went to
bargain, each as he could, for the separate accommodation of his herd.
Unhappily it chanced that both of them, unknown to each other, thought
of bargaining for the ground they wanted on the property of a country
gentleman of some fortune, whose estate lay in the neighbourhood. The
English drover applied to the bailiff on the property, who was known
to him. It chanced that the Cumbrian Squire, who had entertained some
suspicions of his manager’s honesty, was taking occasional measures
to ascertain how far they were well founded, and had desired that
any enquiries about his enclosures, with a view to occupy them for a
temporary purpose, should be referred to himself. As however, Mr. Ireby
had gone the day before upon a journey of some miles distance to the
northward, the bailiff chose to consider the check upon his full powers
as for the time removed, and concluded that he should best consult his
master’s interest, and perhaps his own, in making an agreement with
Harry Wakefield. Meanwhile, ignorant of what his comrade was doing,
Robin Oig, on his side, chanced to be overtaken by a good-looking smart
little man upon a pony, most knowingly hogged and cropped, as was then
the fashion, the rider wearing tight leather breeches, and long-necked
bright spurs. This cavalier asked one or two pertinent questions about
markets and the price of stock. So Robin, seeing him a well-judging
civil gentleman, took the freedom to ask him whether he could let him
know if there was any grass-land to be let in that neighbourhood, for
the temporary accommodation of his drove. He could not have put the
question to more willing ears. The gentleman of the buckskins was the
proprietor, with whose bailiff Harry Wakefield had dealt, or was in the
act of dealing.

“Thou art in good luck, my canny Scot,” said Mr. Ireby, “to have spoken
to me, for I see thy cattle have done their day’s work, and I have at
my disposal the only field within three miles that is to be let in these
parts.”

“The drove can pe gang two, three, four miles very pratty weel
indeed”--said the cautious Highlander; “put what would his honour pe
axing for the peasts pe the head, if she was to tak the park for twa or
three days?”

“We won’t differ, Sawney, if you let me have six stots for winterers, in
the way of reason.”

“And which peasts wad your honour pe for having?”

“Why--let me see--the two black--the dun one--yon doddy--him with the
twisted horn--the brockit--How much by the head?”

“Ah,” said Robin, “your honour is a shudge--a real shudge. I couldna
have set off the pest six peasts petter mysel’--me that ken them as if
they were my pairns, puir things.”

“Well, how much per head, Sawney?” continued Mr. Ireby.

“It was high markets at Doune and Falkirk,” answered Robin.

And thus the conversation proceeded, until they had agreed on the
PRIX JUSTE for the bullocks, the Squire throwing in the temporary
accommodation of the enclosure for the cattle into the boot, and Robin
making, as he thought, a very good bargain, provided the grass was but
tolerable. The Squire walked his pony alongside of the drove, partly
to show him the way, and see him put into possession of the field, and
partly to learn the latest news of the northern markets.

They arrived at the field, and the pasture seemed excellent. But what
was their surprise when they saw the bailiff quietly inducting the
cattle of Harry Wakefield into the grassy Goshen which had just been
assigned to those of Robin Oig M’Combich by the proprietor himself!
Squire Ireby set spurs to his horse, dashed up to his servant, and
learning what had passed between the parties, briefly informed
the English drover that his bailiff had let the ground without his
authority, and that he might seek grass for his cattle wherever he
would, since he was to get none there. At the same time he rebuked his
servant severely for having transgressed his commands, and ordered him
instantly to assist in ejecting the hungry and weary cattle of Harry
Wakefield, which were just beginning to enjoy a meal of unusual plenty,
and to introduce those of his comrade, whom the English drover now began
to consider as a rival.

The feelings which arose in Wakefield’s mind would have induced him
to resist Mr. Ireby’s decision; but every Englishman has a tolerably
accurate sense of law and justice, and John Fleecebumpkin, the bailiff,
having acknowledged that he had exceeded his commission, Wakefield saw
nothing else for it than to collect his hungry and disappointed charge,
and drive them on to seek quarters elsewhere. Robin Oig saw what had
happened with regret, and hastened to offer to his English friend
to share with him the disputed possession. But Wakefield’s pride was
severely hurt, and he answered disdainfully, “Take it all, man--take it
all; never make two bites of a cherry. Thou canst talk over the gentry,
and blear a plain man’s eye. Out upon you, man. I would not kiss any
man’s dirty latchets for leave to bake in his oven.”

Robin Oig, sorry but not surprised at his comrade’s displeasure,
hastened to entreat his friend to wait but an hour till he had gone to
the Squire’s house to receive payment for the cattle he had sold, and
he would come back and help him to drive the cattle into some convenient
place of rest, and explain to him the whole mistake they had both of
them fallen into. But the Englishman continued indignant: “Thou hast
been selling, hast thou? Ay, ay; thou is a cunning lad for kenning the
hours of bargaining. Go to the devil with thyself, for I will ne’er see
thy fause loon’s visage again--thou should be ashamed to look me in the
face.”

“I am ashamed to look no man in the face,” said Robin Oig, something
moved; “and, moreover, I will look you in the face this blessed day, if
you will bide at the Clachan down yonder.”

“Mayhap you had as well keep away,” said his comrade; and turning
his back on his former friend, he collected his unwilling associates,
assisted by the bailiff, who took some real and some affected interest
in seeing Wakefield accommodated.

After spending some time in negotiating with more than one of
the neighbouring farmers, who could not, or would not, afford the
accommodation desired, Henry Wakefield at last, and in his necessity,
accomplished his point by means of the landlord of the alehouse at which
Robin Oig and he had agreed to pass the night, when they first separated
from each other. Mine host was content to let him turn his cattle on a
piece of barren moor, at a price little less than the bailiff had asked
for the disputed enclosure; and the wretchedness of the pasture, as well
as the price paid for it, were set down as exaggerations of the breach
of faith and friendship of his Scottish crony. This turn of Wakefield’s
passions was encouraged by the bailiff, (who had his own reasons for
being offended against poor Robin, as having been the unwitting cause of
his falling into disgrace with his master), as well as by the innkeeper,
and two or three chance guests, who stimulated the drover in his
resentment against his quondam associate--some from the ancient grudge
against the Scots, which, when it exists anywhere, is to be found
lurking in the Border counties, and some from the general love of
mischief, which characterises mankind in all ranks of life, to the
honour of Adam’s children be it spoken. Good John Barleycorn also, who
always heightens and exaggerates the prevailing passions, be they
angry or kindly, was not wanting in his offices on this occasion, and
confusion to false friends and hard masters was pledged in more than one
tankard.

In the meanwhile Mr. Ireby found some amusement in detaining the
northern drover at his ancient hall. He caused a cold round of beef
to be placed before the Scot in the butler’s pantry, together with a
foaming tankard of home-brewed, and took pleasure in seeing the hearty
appetite with which these unwonted edibles were discussed by Robin Oig
M’Combich. The Squire himself lighting his pipe, compounded between his
patrician dignity and his love of agricultural gossip, by walking up and
down while he conversed with his guest.

“I passed another drove,” said the Squire, “with one of your countrymen
behind them. They were something less beasts than your drove--doddies
most of them. A big man was with them. None of your kilts, though, but a
decent pair of breeches. D’ye know who he may be?”

“Hout aye; that might, could, and would be Hughie Morrison. I didna
think he could hae peen sae weel up. He has made a day on us; but his
Argyleshires will have wearied shanks. How far was he pehind?”

“I think about six or seven miles,” answered the Squire, “for I passed
them at the Christenbury Crag, and I overtook you at the Hollan Bush. If
his beasts be leg-weary, he will be maybe selling bargains.”

“Na, na, Hughie Morrison is no the man for pargains--ye maun come to
some Highland body like Robin Oig hersel’ for the like of these. Put I
maun pe wishing you goot night, and twenty of them, let alane ane, and I
maun down to the Clachan to see if the lad Harry Waakfelt is out of his
humdudgeons yet.”

The party at the alehouse were still in full talk, and the treachery
of Robin Oig still the theme of conversation, when the supposed culprit
entered the apartment. His arrival, as usually happens in such a case,
put an instant stop to the discussion of which he had furnished the
subject, and he was received by the company assembled with that chilling
silence which, more than a thousand exclamations, tells an intruder
that he is unwelcome. Surprised and offended, but not appalled by the
reception which he experienced, Robin entered with an undaunted and even
a haughty air, attempted no greeting, as he saw he was received with
none, and placed himself by the side of the fire, a little apart from
a table at which Harry Wakefield, the bailiff, and two or three other
persons, were seated. The ample Cumbrian kitchen would have afforded
plenty of room, even for a larger separation.

Robin thus seated, proceeded to light his pipe, and call for a pint of
twopenny.

“We have no twopence ale,” answered Ralph Heskett the landlord; “but as
thou find’st thy own tobacco, it’s like thou mayst find thy own liquor
too--it’s the wont of thy country, I wot.”

“Shame, goodman,” said the landlady, a blithe, bustling housewife,
hastening herself to supply the guest with liquor. “Thou knowest well
enow what the strange man wants, and it’s thy trade to be civil, man.
Thou shouldst know, that if the Scot likes a small pot, he pays a sure
penny.”

Without taking any notice of this nuptial dialogue, the Highlander took
the flagon in his hand, and addressing the company generally, drank the
interesting toast of “Good markets” to the party assembled.

“The better that the wind blew fewer dealers from the north,” said
one of the farmers, “and fewer Highland runts to eat up the English
meadows.”

“Saul of my pody, put you are wrang there, my friend,” answered Robin,
with composure; “it is your fat Englishmen that eat up our Scots cattle,
puir things.”

“I wish there was a summat to eat up their drovers,” said another; “a
plain Englishman canna make bread within a kenning of them.”

“Or an honest servant keep his master’s favour but they will come
sliding in between him and the sunshine,” said the bailiff.

“If these pe jokes,” said Robin Oig, with the same composure, “there is
ower mony jokes upon one man.”

“It is no joke, but downright earnest,” said the bailiff. “Harkye, Mr.
Robin Ogg, or whatever is your name, it’s right we should tell you that
we are all of one opinion, and that is, that you, Mr. Robin Ogg, have
behaved to our friend Mr. Harry Wakefield here, like a raff and a
blackguard.”

“Nae doubt, nae doubt,” answered Robin, with great composure; “and you
are a set of very pretty judges, for whose prains or pehaviour I wad
not gie a pinch of sneeshing. If Mr. Harry Waakfelt kens where he is
wranged, he kens where he may be righted.”

“He speaks truth,” said Wakefield, who had listened to what passed,
divided between the offence which he had taken at Robin’s late
behaviour, and the revival of his habitual feelings of regard.

He now rose, and went towards Robin, who got up from his seat as he
approached, and held out his hand.

“That’s right, Harry--go it--serve him out,” resounded on all
sides--“tip him the nailer--show him the mill.”

“Hold your peace all of you, and be--,” said Wakefield; and then
addressing his comrade, he took him by the extended hand, with something
alike of respect and defiance. “Robin,” he said, “thou hast used me ill
enough this day; but if you mean, like a frank fellow, to shake hands,
and take a tussle for love on the sod, why I’ll forgie thee, man, and we
shall be better friends than ever.”

“And would it not pe petter to pe cood friends without more of the
matter?” said Robin; “we will be much petter friendships with our panes
hale than proken.”

Harry Wakefield dropped the hand of his friend, or rather threw it from
him.

“I did not think I had been keeping company for three years with a
coward.”

“Coward pelongs to none of my name,” said Robin, whose eyes began to
kindle, but keeping the command of his temper. “It was no coward’s legs
or hands, Harry Waakfelt, that drew you out of the fords of Frew,
when you was drifting ower the plack rock, and every eel in the river
expected his share of you.”

“And that is true enough, too,” said the Englishman, struck by the
appeal.

“Adzooks!” exclaimed the bailiff--“sure Harry Wakefield, the nattiest
lad at Whitson Tryste, Wooler Fair, Carlisle Sands, or Stagshaw Bank, is
not going to show white feather? Ah, this comes of living so long with
kilts and bonnets--men forget the use of their daddles.”

“I may teach you, Master Fleecebumpkin, that I have not lost the use of
mine,” said Wakefield and then went on. “This will never do, Robin. We
must have a turn-up, or we shall be the talk of the country-side. I’ll
be d--d if I hurt thee--I’ll put on the gloves gin thou like. Come,
stand forward like a man.”

“To be peaten like a dog,” said Robin; “is there any reason in that? If
you think I have done you wrong, I’ll go before your shudge, though I
neither know his law nor his language.”

A general cry of “No, no--no law, no lawyer! a bellyful and be friends,”
 was echoed by the bystanders.

“But,” continued Robin, “if I am to fight, I have no skill to fight like
a jackanapes, with hands and nails.”

“How would you fight then?” said his antagonist; “though I am thinking
it would be hard to bring you to the scratch anyhow.”

“I would fight with proadswords, and sink point on the first plood
drawn--like a gentlemans.”

A loud shout of laughter followed the proposal, which indeed had rather
escaped from poor Robin’s swelling heart, than been the dictate of his
sober judgment.

“Gentleman, quotha!” was echoed on all sides, with a shout of
unextinguishable laughter; “a very pretty gentleman, God wot.--Canst get
two swords for the gentleman to fight with, Ralph Heskett?”

“No, but I can send to the armoury at Carlisle, and lend them two forks,
to be making shift with in the meantime.”

“Tush, man,” said another, “the bonny Scots come into the world with the
blue bonnet on their heads, and dirk and pistol at their belt.”

“Best send post,” said Mr. Fleecebumpkin, “to the Squire of Corby
Castle, to come and stand second to the GENTLEMAN.”

In the midst of this torrent of general ridicule, the Highlander
instinctively griped beneath the folds of his plaid,

“But it’s better not,” he said in his own language. “A hundred curses on
the swine-eaters, who know neither decency nor civility!”

“Make room, the pack of you,” he said, advancing to the door.

But his former friend interposed his sturdy bulk, and opposed his
leaving the house; and when Robin Oig attempted to make his way by
force, he hit him down on the floor, with as much ease as a boy bowls
down a nine-pin.

“A ring, a ring!” was now shouted, until the dark rafters, and the hams
that hung on them, trembled again, and the very platters on the BINK
clattered against each other. “Well done, Harry”--“Give it him home,
Harry”--“Take care of him now--he sees his own blood!”

Such were the exclamations, while the Highlander, starting from the
ground, all his coldness and caution lost in frantic rage, sprung at his
antagonist with the fury, the activity, and the vindictive purpose of
an incensed tiger-cat. But when could rage encounter science and temper?
Robin Oig again went down in the unequal contest; and as the blow was
necessarily a severe one, he lay motionless on the floor of the kitchen.
The landlady ran to offer some aid, but Mr. Fleecebumpkin would not
permit her to approach.

“Let him alone,” he said, “he will come to within time, and come up to
the scratch again. He has not got half his broth yet.”

“He has got all I mean to give him, though,” said his antagonist, whose
heart began to relent towards his old associate; “and I would rather by
half give the rest to yourself, Mr. Fleecebumpkin, for you pretend to
know a thing or two, and Robin had not art enough even to peel before
setting to, but fought with his plaid dangling about him.--Stand up,
Robin, my man! All friends now; and let me hear the man that will speak
a word against you, or your country, for your sake.”

Robin Oig was still under the dominion of his passion, and eager to
renew the onset; but being withheld on the one side by the peacemaking
Dame Heskett, and on the other, aware that Wakefield no longer meant to
renew the combat, his fury sunk into gloomy sullenness.

“Come, come, never grudge so much at it, man,” said the brave-spirited
Englishman, with the placability of his country; “shake hands, and we
will be better friends than ever.”

“Friends!” exclaimed Robin Oig with strong emphasis--“friends! Never.
Look to yourself, Harry Waakfelt.”

“Then the curse of Cromwell on your proud Scots stomach, as the man says
in the play, and you may do your worst, and be d--d; for one man can say
nothing more to another after a tussle, than that he is sorry for it.”

On these terms the friends parted. Robin Oig drew out, in silence, a
piece of money, threw it on the table, and then left the alehouse. But
turning at the door, he shook his hand at Wakefield, pointing with his
forefinger upwards, in a manner which might imply either a threat or a
caution. He then disappeared in the moonlight.

Some words passed after his departure, between the bailiff, who piqued
himself on being a little of a bully, and Harry Wakefield, who, with
generous inconsistency, was now not indisposed to begin a new combat
in defence of Robin Oig’s reputation, “although he could not use his
daddles like an Englishman, as it did not come natural to him.” But
Dame Heskett prevented this second quarrel from coming to a head by
her peremptory interference. “There should be no more fighting in
her house,” she said; “there had been too much already.--And you, Mr.
Wakefield, may live to learn,” she added, “what it is to make a deadly
enemy out of a good friend.”

“Pshaw, dame! Robin Oig is an honest fellow, and will never keep
malice.”

“Do not trust to that; you do not know the dour temper of the Scots,
though you have dealt with them so often. I have a right to know them,
my mother being a Scot.”

“And so is well seen on her daughter,” said Ralph Heskett.

This nuptial sarcasm gave the discourse another turn. Fresh customers
entered the tap-room or kitchen, and others left it. The conversation
turned on the expected markets, and the report of prices from different
parts both of Scotland and England. Treaties were commenced, and Harry
Wakefield was lucky enough to find a chap for a part of his drove,
and at a very considerable profit--an event of consequence more than
sufficient to blot out all remembrances of the unpleasant scuffle in the
earlier part of the day. But there remained one party from whose mind
that recollection could not have been wiped away by the possession of
every head of cattle betwixt Esk and Eden.

This was Robin Oig M’Combich. “That I should have had no weapon,” he
said, “and for the first time in my life! Blighted be the tongue that
bids the Highlander part with the dirk. The dirk--ha! the English blood!
My Muhme’s word! When did her word fall to the ground?”

The recollection of the fatal prophecy confirmed the deadly intention
which instantly sprang up in his mind.

“Ha! Morrison cannot be many miles behind; and if it were an hundred,
what then?”

His impetuous spirit had now a fixed purpose and motive of action, and
he turned the light foot of his country towards the wilds, through which
he knew, by Mr. Ireby’s report, that Morrison was advancing. His mind
was wholly engrossed by the sense of injury--injury sustained from a
friend; and by the desire of vengeance on one whom he now accounted
his most bitter enemy. The treasured ideas of self-importance and
self-opinion--of ideal birth and quality, had become more precious to
him, (like the hoard to the miser) because he could only enjoy them in
secret. But that hoard was pillaged--the idols which he had secretly
worshipped had been desecrated and profaned. Insulted, abused, and
beaten, he was no longer worthy, in his own opinion, of the name
he bore, or the lineage which he belonged to. Nothing was left to
him--nothing but revenge; and as the reflection added a galling spur
to every step, he determined it should be as sudden and signal as the
offence.

When Robin Oig left the door of the alehouse, seven or eight English
miles at least lay betwixt Morrison and him. The advance of the former
was slow, limited by the sluggish pace of his cattle; the latter
left behind him stubble-field and hedgerow, crag and dark heath, all
glittering with frost-rime in the broad November moonlight, at the rate
of six miles an hour. And now the distant lowing of Morrison’s cattle is
heard; and now they are seen creeping like moles in size and slowness
of motion on the broad face of the moor; and now he meets them--passes
them, and stops their conductor.

“May good betide us,” said the Westlander. “Is this you, Robin
M’Combich, or your wraith?”

“It is Robin Oig M’Combich,” answered the Highlander, “and it is not.
But never mind that, put pe giving me the skene-dhu.”

“What! you are for back to the Highlands! The devil! Have you selt all
off before the fair? This beats all for quick markets!”

“I have not sold--I am not going north--maype I will never go north
again. Give me pack my dirk, Hugh Morrison, or there will pe words
petween us.”

“Indeed, Robin, I’ll be better advised before I gie it back to you; it
is a wanchancy weapon in a Highlandman’s hand, and I am thinking you
will be about some harns-breaking.”

“Prutt, trutt! let me have my weapon,” said Robin Oig impatiently.

“Hooly and fairly,” said his well-meaning friend. “I’ll tell you
what will do better than these dirking doings. Ye ken Highlander, and
Lowlander, and Border-men are a’ ae man’s bairns when you are over
the Scots dyke. See, the Eskdale callants, and fighting Charlie of
Liddesdale, and the Lockerby lads, and the four Dandies of Lustruther,
and a wheen mair grey plaids, are coming up behind; and if you are
wranged, there is the hand of a Manly Morrison, we’ll see you righted,
if Carlisle and Stanwix baith took up the feud.”

“To tell you the truth,” said Robin Oig, desirous of eluding the
suspicions of his friend, “I have enlisted with a party of the Black
Watch, and must march off to-morrow morning.”

“Enlisted! Were you mad or drunk? You must buy yourself off. I can lend
you twenty notes, and twenty to that, if the drove sell.”

“I thank you--thank ye, Hughie; but I go with good-will the gate that I
am going. So the dirk, the dirk!”

“There it is for you then, since less wunna serve. But think on what
I was saying. Waes me, it will be sair news in the braes of Balquidder
that Robin Oig M’Combich should have run an ill gate, and ta’en on.”

“Ill news in Balquidder, indeed!” echoed poor Robin. “But Cot speed you,
Hughie, and send you good marcats. Ye winna meet with Robin Oig again,
either at tryste or fair.”

So saying, he shook hastily the hand of his acquaintance, and set out in
the direction from which he had advanced, with the spirit of his former
pace.

“There is something wrang with the lad,” muttered the Morrison to
himself; “but we will maybe see better into it the morn’s morning.”

But long ere the morning dawned, the catastrophe of our tale had taken
place. It was two hours after the affray had happened, and it was
totally forgotten by almost every one, when Robin Oig returned to
Heskett’s inn. The place was filled at once by various sorts of men, and
with noises corresponding to their character. There were the grave low
sounds of men engaged in busy traffic, with the laugh, the song, and
the riotous jest of those who had nothing to do but to enjoy themselves.
Among the last was Harry Wakefield, who, amidst a grinning group of
smock-frocks, hobnailed shoes, and jolly English physiognomies, was
trolling forth the old ditty,--

  “What though my name be Roger,
   Who drives the plough and cart--”

when he was interrupted by a well-known voice saying in a high and stern
voice, marked by the sharp Highland accent, “Harry Waakfelt--if you be a
man stand up!”

“What is the matter?--what is it?” the guests demanded of each other.

“It is only a d--d Scotsman,” said Fleecebumpkin, who was by this time
very drunk, “whom Harry Wakefield helped to his broth to-day, who is now
come to have HIS CAULD KAIL het again.”

“Harry Waakfelt,” repeated the same ominous summons, “stand up, if you
be a man!”

There is something in the tone of deep and concentrated passion, which
attracts attention and imposes awe, even by the very sound. The guests
shrunk back on every side, and gazed at the Highlander as he stood
in the middle of them, his brows bent, and his features rigid with
resolution.

“I will stand up with all my heart, Robin, my boy, but it shall be to
shake hands with you, and drink down all unkindness. It is not the fault
of your heart, man, that you don’t know how to clench your hands.”

By this time he stood opposite to his antagonist, his open and
unsuspecting look strangely contrasted with the stern purpose, which
gleamed wild, dark, and vindictive in the eyes of the Highlander.

“‘Tis not thy fault, man, that, not having the luck to be an Englishman,
thou canst not fight more than a school-girl.”

“I can fight,” answered Robin Oig sternly, but calmly, “and you shall
know it. You, Harry Waakfelt, showed me to-day how the Saxon churls
fight; I show you now how the Highland Dunnie-wassel fights.”

He seconded the word with the action, and plunged the dagger, which he
suddenly displayed, into the broad breast of the English yeoman, with
such fatal certainty and force that the hilt made a hollow sound against
the breast-bone, and the double-edged point split the very heart of
his victim. Harry Wakefield fell and expired with a single groan. His
assassin next seized the bailiff by the collar, and offered the bloody
poniard to his throat, whilst dread and surprise rendered the man
incapable of defence.

“It were very just to lay you peside him,” he said, “but the blood of a
pase pickthank shall never mix on my father’s dirk, with that of a brave
man.”

As he spoke, he cast the man from him with so much force that he fell on
the floor, while Robin, with his other hand, threw the fatal weapon into
the blazing turf-fire.

“There,” he said, “take me who likes--and let fire cleanse blood if it
can.”

The pause of astonishment still continuing, Robin Oig asked for a
peace-officer, and a constable having stepped out, he surrendered
himself to his custody.

“A bloody night’s work you have made of it,” said the constable.

“Your own fault,” said the Highlander. “Had you kept his hands off me
twa hours since, he would have been now as well and merry as he was twa
minutes since.”

“It must be sorely answered,” said the peace-officer.

“Never you mind that--death pays all debts; it will pay that too.”

The horror of the bystanders began now to give way to indignation, and
the sight of a favourite companion murdered in the midst of them, the
provocation being, in their opinion, so utterly inadequate to the excess
of vengeance, might have induced them to kill the perpetrator of the
deed even upon the very spot. The constable, however, did his duty on
this occasion, and with the assistance of some of the more reasonable
persons present, procured horses to guard the prisoner to Carlisle, to
abide his doom at the next assizes. While the escort was preparing,
the prisoner neither expressed the least interest, nor attempted the
slightest reply. Only, before he was carried from the fatal apartment,
he desired to look at the dead body, which, raised from the floor,
had been deposited upon the large table (at the head of which Harry
Wakefield had presided but a few minutes before, full of life, vigour,
and animation), until the surgeons should examine the mortal wound. The
face of the corpse was decently covered with a napkin. To the surprise
and horror of the bystanders, which displayed itself in a general AH!
drawn through clenched teeth and half-shut lips, Robin Oig removed the
cloth, and gazed with a mournful but steady eye on the lifeless visage,
which had been so lately animated that the smile of good-humoured
confidence in his own strength, of conciliation at once and contempt
towards his enemy, still curled his lip. While those present expected
that the wound, which had so lately flooded the apartment with gore,
would send forth fresh streams at the touch of the homicide, Robin Oig
replaced the covering with the brief exclamation, “He was a pretty man!”

My story is nearly ended. The unfortunate Highlander stood his trial
at Carlisle. I was myself present, and as a young Scottish lawyer, or
barrister at least, and reputed a man of some quality, the politeness of
the Sheriff of Cumberland offered me a place on the bench. The facts
of the case were proved in the manner I have related them; and whatever
might be at first the prejudice of the audience against a crime so
un-English as that of assassination from revenge, yet when the rooted
national prejudices of the prisoner had been explained, which made him
consider himself as stained with indelible dishonour, when subjected to
personal violence--when his previous patience, moderation, and endurance
were considered--the generosity of the English audience was inclined
to regard his crime as the wayward aberration of a false idea of honour
rather than as flowing from a heart naturally savage, or perverted by
habitual vice. I shall never forget the charge of the venerable judge to
the jury, although not at that time liable to be much affected either by
that which was eloquent or pathetic.

“We have had,” he said, “in the previous part of our duty” (alluding
to some former trials), “to discuss crimes which infer disgust and
abhorrence, while they call down the well-merited vengeance of the law.
It is now our still more melancholy task to apply its salutary though
severe enactments to a case of a very singular character, in which
the crime (for a crime it is, and a deep one) arose less out of the
malevolence of the heart, than the error of the understanding--less from
any idea of committing wrong, than from an unhappily perverted notion of
that which is right. Here we have two men, highly esteemed, it has been
stated, in their rank of life, and attached, it seems, to each other as
friends, one of whose lives has been already sacrificed to a punctilio,
and the other is about to prove the vengeance of the offended laws;
and yet both may claim our commiseration at least, as men acting in
ignorance of each other’s national prejudices, and unhappily misguided
rather than voluntarily erring from the path of right conduct.

“In the original cause of the misunderstanding, we must in justice give
the right to the prisoner at the bar. He had acquired possession of the
enclosure, which was the object of competition, by a legal contract
with the proprietor, Mr. Ireby; and yet, when accosted with reproaches
undeserved in themselves, and galling, doubtless, to a temper at least
sufficiently susceptible of passion, he offered notwithstanding,
to yield up half his acquisition, for the sake of peace and good
neighbourhood, and his amicable proposal was rejected with scorn. Then
follows the scene at Mr. Heskett the publican’s, and you will observe
how the stranger was treated by the deceased, and, I am sorry to
observe, by those around, who seem to have urged him in a manner which
was aggravating in the highest degree. While he asked for peace and
for composition, and offered submission to a magistrate, or to a mutual
arbiter, the prisoner was insulted by a whole company, who seem on this
occasion to have forgotten the national maxim of ‘fair play;’ and while
attempting to escape from the place in peace, he was intercepted, struck
down, and beaten to the effusion of his blood.

“Gentlemen of the jury, it was with some impatience that I heard my
learned brother who opened the case for the crown give an unfavourable
turn to the prisoner’s conduct on this occasion. He said the prisoner
was afraid to encounter his antagonist in fair fight, or to submit to
the laws of the ring; and that therefore, like a cowardly Italian, he
had recourse to his fatal stiletto, to murder the man whom he dared not
meet in manly encounter. I observed the prisoner shrink from this part
of the accusation with the abhorrence natural to a brave man; and as I
would wish to make my words impressive when I point his real crime, I
must secure his opinion of my impartiality by rebutting everything that
seems to me a false accusation. There can be no doubt that the prisoner
is a man of resolution--too much resolution. I wish to Heaven that he
had less--or, rather that he had had a better education to regulate it.

“Gentlemen, as to the laws my brother talks of, they may be known in the
bull-ring, or the bear-garden, or the cock-pit, but they are not known
here. Or, if they should be so far admitted as furnishing a species of
proof that no malice was intended in this sort of combat, from which
fatal accidents do sometimes arise, it can only be so admitted when both
parties are IN PARI CASU, equally acquainted with, and equally willing
to refer themselves to, that species of arbitrament. But will it be
contended that a man of superior rank and education is to be subjected,
or is obliged to subject himself, to this coarse and brutal strife,
perhaps in opposition to a younger, stronger, or more skilful opponent?
Certainly even the pugilistic code, if founded upon the fair play of
Merry Old England, as my brother alleges it to be, can contain nothing
so preposterous. And, gentlemen of the jury, if the laws would support
an English gentleman, wearing, we will suppose, his sword, in defending
himself by force against a violent personal aggression of the nature
offered to this prisoner, they will not less protect a foreigner and a
stranger, involved in the same unpleasing circumstances. If, therefore,
gentlemen of the jury, when thus pressed by a VIS MAJOR, the object of
obloquy to a whole company, and of direct violence from one at least,
and, as he might reasonably apprehend, from more, the panel had produced
the weapon which his countrymen, as we are informed, generally carry
about their persons, and the same unhappy circumstance had ensued which
you have heard detailed in evidence, I could not in my conscience have
asked from you a verdict of murder. The prisoner’s personal defence
might indeed, even in that case, have gone more or less beyond the
MODERAMEN INCULPATAE TUTELAE, spoken of by lawyers; but the punishment
incurred would have been that of manslaughter, not of murder. I beg
leave to add that I should have thought this milder species of charge
was demanded in the case supposed, notwithstanding the statute of James
I. cap. 8, which takes the case of slaughter by stabbing with a short
weapon, even without MALICE PREPENSE, out of the benefit of clergy.
For this statute of stabbing, as it is termed, arose out of a temporary
cause; and as the real guilt is the same, whether the slaughter be
committed by the dagger, or by sword or pistol, the benignity of the
modern law places them all on the same, or nearly the same, footing.

“But, gentlemen of the jury, the pinch of the case lies in the interval
of two hours interposed betwixt the reception of the injury and
the fatal retaliation. In the heat of affray and CHAUDE MELEE, law,
compassionating the infirmities of humanity, makes allowance for the
passions which rule such a stormy moment--for the sense of present
pain, for the apprehension of further injury, for the difficulty of
ascertaining with due accuracy the precise degree of violence which is
necessary to protect the person of the individual, without annoying or
injuring the assailant more than is absolutely necessary. But the time
necessary to walk twelve miles, however speedily performed, was an
interval sufficient for the prisoner to have recollected himself; and
the violence with which he carried his purpose into effect, with so many
circumstances of deliberate determination, could neither be induced by
the passion of anger, nor that of fear. It was the purpose and the act
of predetermined revenge, for which law neither can, will, nor ought to
have sympathy or allowance.

“It is true, we may repeat to ourselves, in alleviation of this poor
man’s unhappy action, that his case is a very peculiar one. The country
which he inhabits was, in the days of many now alive, inaccessible
to the laws, not only of England, which have not even yet penetrated
thither, but to those to which our neighbours of Scotland are subjected,
and which must be supposed to be, and no doubt actually are, founded
upon the general principles of justice and equity which pervade every
civilized country. Amongst their mountains, as among the North American
Indians, the various tribes were wont to make war upon each other, so
that each man was obliged to go armed for his own protection. These men,
from the ideas which they entertained of their own descent and of
their own consequence, regarded themselves as so many cavaliers or
men-at-arms, rather than as the peasantry of a peaceful country. Those
laws of the ring, as my brother terms them, were unknown to the race of
warlike mountaineers; that decision of quarrels by no other weapons
than those which nature has given every man must to them have seemed as
vulgar and as preposterous as to the NOBLESSE of France. Revenge, on the
other hand, must have been as familiar to their habits of society as to
those of the Cherokees or Mohawks. It is indeed, as described by Bacon,
at bottom a kind of wild untutored justice; for the fear of retaliation
must withhold the hands of the oppressor where there is no regular law
to check daring violence. But though all this may be granted, and though
we may allow that, such having been the case of the Highlands in the
days of the prisoner’s fathers, many of the opinions and sentiments must
still continue to influence the present generation, it cannot, and ought
not, even in this most painful case, to alter the administration of the
law, either in your hands, gentlemen of the jury, or in mine. The first
object of civilisation is to place the general protection of the law,
equally administered, in the room of that wild justice which every man
cut and carved for himself, according to the length of his sword and
the strength of his arm. The law says to the subjects, with a voice only
inferior to that of the Deity, ‘Vengeance is mine.’ The instant that
there is time for passion to cool, and reason to interpose, an injured
party must become aware that the law assumes the exclusive cognisance
of the right and wrong betwixt the parties, and opposes her inviolable
buckler to every attempt of the private party to right himself. I repeat
that this unhappy man ought personally to be the object rather of our
pity than our abhorrence, for he failed in his ignorance, and from
mistaken notions of honour. But his crime is not the less that of
murder, gentlemen, and, in your high and important office, it is your
duty so to find. Englishmen have their angry passions as well as Scots;
and should this man’s action remain unpunished, you may unsheath, under
various pretences, a thousand daggers betwixt the Land’s-End and the
Orkneys.”

The venerable Judge thus ended what, to judge by his apparent emotion,
and by the tears which filled his eyes, was really a painful task. The
jury, according to his instructions, brought in a verdict of Guilty; and
Robin Oig M’Combich, ALIAS McGregor, was sentenced to death, and left
for execution, which took place accordingly. He met his fate with great
firmness, and acknowledged the justice of his sentence. But he repelled
indignantly the observations of those who accused him of attacking an
unarmed man. “I give a life for the life I took,” he said, “and what can
I do more?” [See Note 11.--Robert Donn’s Poems.]


*****


NOTES.


NOTES TO CHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE.

Note 1.--HOLYROOD.

The reader may be gratified with Hector Boece’s narrative of the
original foundation of the famous abbey of Holyrood, or the Holy Cross,
as given in Bellenden’s translation:--

“Eftir death of Alexander the first, his brothir David come out of
Ingland, and wes crownit at Scone, the yeir of God MCXXIV yeiris, and
did gret justice, eftir his coronation, in all partis of his realme. He
had na weris during the time of King Hary; and wes so pietuous, that he
sat daylie in judgement, to caus his pure commonis to have justice; and
causit the actionis of his noblis to be decidit be his othir jugis. He
gart ilk juge redres the skaithis that come to the party be his wrang
sentence; throw quhilk, he decorit his realm with mony nobil actis, and
ejeckit the vennomus custome of riotus cheir, quhilk wes inducit afore
be Inglismen, quhen thay com with Quene Margaret; for the samin wes
noisum to al gud maneris, makand his pepil tender and effeminat.

“In the fourt yeir of his regne, this nobill prince come to visie the
madin Castell of Edinburgh. At this time, all the boundis of Scotland
were ful of woddis, lesouris, and medois; for the countre wes more gevin
to store of bestiall, than ony productioun of cornis; and about this
castell was ane gret forest, full of haris, hindis, toddis, and siclike
maner of beistis. Now was the Rude Day cumin, called the Exaltation of
the Croce; and, becaus the samin wes ane hie solempne day, the king past
to his contemplation. Eftir the messis wer done with maist solempnitie
and reverence, comperit afore him mony young and insolent baronis of
Scotland, richt desirus to haif sum plesur and solace, be chace of
hundis in the said forest. At this time wes with the king ane man of
singulare and devoit life, namit Alkwine, channon eftir the ordour of
Sanct Augustine, quhilk well lang time confessoure, afore, to King David
in Ingland, the time that he wes Erle of Huntingtoun and Northumbirland.
This religious man dissuadit the king, be mony reasonis, to pas to this
huntis; and allegit the day wes so solempne, be reverence of the haly
croce, that he suld gif him erar, for that day, to contemplation, than
ony othir exersition. Nochtheles, his dissuasion is litill avalit; for
the king wes finallie so provokit, be inoportune solicitatioun of his
baronis, that he past, nochtwithstanding the solempnite of this day, to
his hountis. At last, quhen he wes cumin throw the vail that lyis to the
gret eist fra the said castell, quhare now lyis the Canongait, the staik
past throw the wod with sic noyis and din of rachis and bugillis, that
all the bestis were rasit fra thair dennis. Now wes the king cumin to
the fute of the crag, and all his nobilis severit, heir and thair, fra
him, at thair game and solace; quhen suddenlie apperit to his sicht the
fairist hart that evir wes sene afore with levand creature. The noyis
and din of this hart rinnand, as apperit, with awful and braid tindis,
maid the kingis hors so effrayit, that na renzeis micht hald him, bot
ran, perforce, ouir mire and mossis, away with the king. Nochtheles, the
hart followit so fast, that he dang baith the king and his hors to the
ground. Than the king kest abak his handis betwix the tindis of this
hart, to haif savit him fra the strak thairof; and the haly croce slaid,
incontinent, in his handis. The hart fled away with gret violence, and
evanist in the same place quhare now springis the Rude Well. The pepil
richt affrayitly, returnit to him out of all partis of the wod, to
comfort him efter his trubill; and fell on kneis, devotly adoring the
haly croce; for it was not cumin but sum hevinly providence, as weill
apperis; for thair is na man can schaw of quhat mater it is of, metal
or tre. Sone eftir, the king returnit to his castell; and in the nicht
following, he was admonist, be ane vision in his sleip, to big ane abbay
of channonis regular in the same place quhare he gat the croce. Als sone
as he was awalkinnit, he schew his visione to Alkwine, his confessoure;
and he na thing suspended his gud mind, bot erar inflammit him with
maist fervent devotion thairto. The king, incontinent, send his traist
servandis in France and Flanderis, and brocht richt crafty masonis to
big this abbay; syne dedicat it in the honour of this haly croce. The
croce remanit continewally in the said abbay, to the time of King David
Bruce; quhilk was unhappily tane with it at Durame, quhare it is haldin
yit in gret veneration.”--BOECE, BOOK 12, CH. 16.

It is by no means clear what Scottish prince first built a palace,
properly so called, in the precincts of this renowned seat of sanctity.
The abbey, endowed by successive sovereigns and many powerful nobles
with munificent gifts of lands and tithes, came, in process of time,
to be one of the most important of the ecclesiastical corporations of
Scotland; and as early as the days of Robert Bruce, parliaments were
held occasionally within its buildings. We have evidence that James
IV. had a royal lodging adjoining to the cloister; but it is generally
agreed that the first considerable edifice for the accommodation of the
royal family erected here was that of James V., anno 1525, great part
of which still remains, and forms the north-western side of the existing
palace. The more modern buildings which complete the quadrangle were
erected by King Charles II. The name of the old conventual church
was used as the parish church of the Canongate from the period of the
Reformation, until James II. claimed it for his chapel royal, and had it
fitted up accordingly in a style of splendour which grievously outraged
the feelings of his Presbyterian subjects. The roof of this fragment of
a once magnificent church fell in in the year 1768, and it has remained
ever since in a state of desolation. For fuller particulars, see the
PROVINCIAL ANTIQUITIES OF SCOTLAND, or the HISTORY OF HOLYROOD, BY MR.
CHARLES MACKIE.

The greater part of this ancient palace is now again occupied by his
Majesty Charles the Tenth of France, and the rest of that illustrious
family, which, in former ages so closely connected by marriage and
alliance with the house of Stewart, seems to have been destined to run a
similar career of misfortune. REQUIESCANT IN PACE!


Note 2.--STEELE, A COVENANTER, SHOT BY CAPTAIN CREICHTON.

The following extract from Swift’s Life of Creichton gives the
particulars of the bloody scene alluded to in the text:--

“Having drank hard one night, I (Creichton) dreamed that I had found
Captain David Steele, a notorious rebel, in one of the five farmers’
houses on a mountain in the shire of Clydesdale, and parish of
Lismahago, within eight miles of Hamilton, a place that I was well
acquainted with. This man was head of the rebels since the affair of
Airs-Moss, having succeeded to Hackston, who had been there taken, and
afterward hanged, as the reader has already heard; for, as to Robert
Hamilton, who was then Commander-in-chief at Bothwell Bridge, he
appeared no more among them, but fled, as it was believed, to Holland.

“Steele, and his father before him, held a farm in the estate of
Hamilton, within two or three miles of that town. When he betook himself
to arms, the farm lay waste, and the Duke could find no other person who
would venture to take it; whereupon his Grace sent several messages to
Steele, to know the reason why he kept the farm waste. The Duke received
no other answer than that he would keep it waste, in spite of him and
the king too; whereupon his Grace, at whose table I had always the
honour to be a welcome guest, desired I would use my endeavours to
destroy that rogue, and I would oblige him for ever.”

*****

“I return to my story. When I awaked out of my dream, as I had done
before in the affair of Wilson (and I desire the same apology I made in
the introduction to these Memoirs may serve for both), I presently rose,
and ordered thirty-six dragoons to be at the place appointed by break
of day. When we arrived thither, I sent a party to each of the five
farmers’ houses. This villain Steele had murdered above forty of the
king’s subjects in cold blood, and, as I was informed, had often laid
snares to entrap me; but it happened that, although he usually kept a
gang to attend him, yet at this time he had none, when he stood in the
greatest need. One of the party found him in one of the farmers’ houses,
just as I happened to dream. The dragoons first searched all the rooms
below without success, till two of them hearing somebody stirring over
their heads, went up a pair of turnpike stairs. Steele had put on his
clothes while the search was making below; the chamber where he lay was
called the Chamber of Deese, [Or chamber of state; so called from the
DAIS, or canopy and elevation of floor, which distinguished the part of
old halls which was occupied by those of high rank. Hence the phrase was
obliquely used to signify state in general.] which is the name given to
a room where the laird lies when he comes to a tenant’s house. Steele
suddenly opening the door, fired a blunderbuss down at the two dragoons,
as they were coming up the stairs; but the bullets grazing against the
side of the turnpike, only wounded, and did not kill them. Then Steele
violently threw himself down the stairs among them, and made towards the
door to save his life, but lost it upon the spot; for the dragoons who
guarded the house dispatched him with their broadswords. I was not with
the party when he was killed, being at that time employed in searching
one of the other houses, but I soon found what had happened, by hearing
the noise of the shot made with the blunderbuss; from whence I returned
straight to Lanark, and immediately sent one of the dragoons express
to General Drummond at Edinburgh.”--SWIFT’S WORKS, VOL.XII. (MEMOIRS OF
CAPTAIN JOHN CREICHTON), pages 57-59, Edit. Edinb. 1824.

Woodrow gives a different account of this exploit:--“In December this
year, (1686), David Steil, in the parish of Lismahagow, was surprised in
the fields by Lieutenant Creichton, and after his surrender of himself
on quarters, he was in a very little time most barbarously shot, and
lies buried in the churchyard there.”


Note 3.--IRON RASP.

The ingenious Mr. R. CHAMBERS’S Traditions of Edinburgh give the
following account of the forgotten rasp or risp:--

“This house had a PIN or RISP at the door, instead of the more modern
convenience--a knocker. The pin, rendered interesting by the figure
which it makes in Scottish song, was formed of a small rod of iron,
twisted or notched, which was placed perpendicularly, starting out a
little from the door, and bore a small ring of the same metal, which an
applicant for admittance drew rapidly up and down the NICKS, so as to
produce a grating sound. Sometimes the rod was simply stretched across
the VIZZYING hole, a convenient aperture through which the porter could
take cognisance of the person applying; in which case it acted also as
a stanchion. These were almost all disused about sixty years ago, when
knockers were generally substituted as more genteel. But knockers at
that time did not long remain in repute, though they have never been
altogether superseded, even by bells, in the Old Town. The comparative
merit of knockers and pins was for a long time a subject of doubt,
and many knockers got their heads twisted off in the course of the
dispute.”--CHAMBERS’S TRADITIONS OF EDINBURGH.


Note 4.--COUNTESS OF EGLINTON.

Susannah Kennedy, daughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy of Cullean, Bart.,
by Elizabeth Lesly, daughter of David Lord Newark, third wife of
Alexander 9th Earl of Eglinton, and mother of the 10th and 11th Earls.
She survived her husband, who died 1729, no less than fifty-seven years,
and died March 1780, in her ninety-first year. Allan Ramsay’s Gentle
Shepherd, published 1726, is dedicated to her, in verse, by Hamilton of
Bangour.

The following account of this distinguished lady is taken from Boswell’s
Life of Johnson by Mr. Croker:--

“Lady Margaret Dalrymple, only daughter of John, Earl of Stair, married
in 1700, to Hugh, third Earl of Loudoun. She died in 1777, aged ONE
HUNDRED. Of this venerable lady, and of the Countess of Eglintoune, whom
Johnson visited next day, he thus speaks in his JOURNEY:--‘Length of
life is distributed impartially to very different modes of life, in very
different climates; and the mountains have no greater examples of age
than the Lowlands, where I was introduced to two ladies of high quality,
one of whom (Lady Loudoun) in her ninety-fourth year, presided at her
table with the full exercise of all her powers, and the other (Lady
Eglintoun) had attained her eighty-fourth year, without any diminution
of her vivacity, and little reason to accuse time of depredations on her
beauty.’”

*****

“Lady Eglintoune, though she was now in her eighty-fifth year, and had
lived in the retirement of the country for almost half a century, was
still a very agreeable woman. She was of the noble house of Kennedy, and
had all the elevation which the consciousness of such birth inspires.
Her figure was majestic, her manners high-bred, her reading extensive,
and her conversation elegant. She had been the admiration of the gay
circles of life, and the patroness of poets. Dr. Johnson was delighted
with his reception here. Her principles in church and state were
congenial with his. She knew all his merit, and had heard much of him
from her son, Earl Alexander, who loved to cultivate the acquaintance of
men of talents in every department.”

*****

“In the course of our conversation this day, it came out that Lady
Eglintoune was married the year before Dr. Johnson was born; upon which
she graciously said to him, that she might have been his mother, and
that she now adopted him, and when we were going away, she embraced him,
saying, ‘My dear son, farewell!’ My friend was much pleased with this
day’s entertainment, and owned that I had done well to force him out.”

*****

“At Sir Alexander Dick’s, from that absence of mind to which every man
is at times subject, I told, in a blundering manner, Lady Eglintoune’s
complimentary adoption of Dr. Johnson as her son; for I unfortunately
stated that her ladyship adopted him as her son, in consequence of her
having been married the year AFTER he was born. Dr. Johnson instantly
corrected me. ‘Sir, don’t you perceive that you are defaming the
Countess? For, supposing me to be her son, and that she was not married
till the year after my birth, I must have been her NATURAL son.’ A young
lady of quality who was present very handsomely said, ‘Might not the
son have justified the fault?’ My friend was much flattered by this
compliment, which he never forgot. When in more than ordinary spirits,
and talking of his journey in Scotland, he has called to me, ‘Boswell,
what was it that the young lady of quality said of me at Sir Alexander
Dick’s?’ Nobody will doubt that I was happy in repeating it.”


Note 5.--EARL OF WINTON.

The incident here alluded to is thus narrated in Nichols’ Progresses of
James I., Vol.III. p.306:--

“The family” (of Winton) “owed its first elevation to the union of Sir
Christopher Seton with a sister of King Robert Bruce. With King James
VI. they acquired great favour, who, having created his brother Earl of
Dunfermline in 1599, made Robert, seventh Lord Seton, Earl of Winton in
1600. Before the King’s accession to the English throne, his Majesty
and the Queen were frequently at Seton, where the Earl kept a very
hospitable table, at which all foreigners of quality were entertained on
their visits to Scotland. His Lordship died in 1603, and was buried on
the 5th of April, on the very day the King left Edinburgh for England.
His Majesty, we are told, was pleased to rest himself at the south-west
round of the orchard of Seton, on the highway, till the funeral was
over, that he might not withdraw the noble company; and he said that he
had lost a good, faithful, and loyal subject.”--NICHOLS’ PROGRESSES OF
K. JAMES I., VOL.III. p.306.


Note 6.--MACGREGOR OF GLENSTRAE.

“The 2 of Octr: (1603) Allaster MacGregor of Glenstrae tane be the laird
Arkynles, bot escapit againe; bot after taken be the Earle of Argyll the
4 of Januarii, and brought to Edr: the 9 of Januar: 1604, wt: 18 mae
of hes friendes MacGregors. He wes convoyit to Berwick be the gaird,
conform to the Earle’s promes; for he promesit to put him out of Scottis
grund: Sua, he keipit an Hielandman’s promes, in respect he sent the
gaird to convoy him out of Scottis grund; bot yai wer not directit to
pairt wt: him, bot to fetche him bak againe. The 18 of Januar, he came
at evin againe to Edinburghe; and upone the 20 day, he was hangit at the
crosse, and ij of his freindes and name, upon ane gallows: himself
being chieff, he was hangit his awin hight above the rest of hes
freindis.”--BIRRELL’S DIARY, (IN DALZELL’S FRAGMENTS OF SCOTTISH
HISTORY),pp.60,61.



NOTES TO THE HIGHLAND WIDOW.

Note 7.--LOCH AWE.

“Loch Awe, upon the banks of which the scene of action took place, is
thirty-four miles in length. The north side is bounded by wide muirs and
inconsiderable hills, which occupy an extent of country from twelve to
twenty miles in breadth, and the whole of this space is enclosed as
by circumvallation. Upon the north it is barred by Loch Eitive, on the
south by Loch Awe, and on the east by the dreadful pass of Brandir,
through which an arm of the latter lake opens, at about four miles from
its eastern extremity, and discharges the river Awe into the former.
The pass is about three miles in length; its east side is bounded by the
almost inaccessible steeps which form the base of the vast and
rugged mountain of Cruachan. The crags rise in some places almost
perpendicularly from the water, and for their chief extent show no space
nor level at their feet, but a rough and narrow edge of stony beach.
Upon the whole of these cliffs grows a thick and interwoven wood of
all kinds of trees, both timber, dwarf, and coppice; no track existed
through the wilderness, but a winding path, which sometimes crept along
the precipitous height, and sometimes descended in a straight pass along
the margin of the water. Near the extremity of the defile, a narrow
level opened between the water and the crag; but a great part of this,
as well as of the preceding steeps, was formerly enveloped in a thicket,
which showed little facility to the feet of any but the martens and wild
cats. Along the west side of the pass lies a wall of sheer and barren
crags. From behind they rise in rough, uneven, and heathy declivities,
out of the wide muir before mentioned, between Loch Eitive and Loch Awe;
but in front they terminate abruptly in the most frightful precipices,
which form the whole side of the pass, and descend at one fall into the
water which fills its trough. At the north end of the barrier, and at
the termination of the pass, lies that part of the cliff which is called
Craiganuni; at its foot the arm of the lake gradually contracts its
water to a very narrow space, and at length terminates at two rocks
(called the Rocks of Brandir), which form a strait channel, something
resembling the lock of a canal. From this outlet there is a continual
descent towards Loch Eitive, and from hence the river Awe pours out its
current in a furious stream, foaming over a bed broken with holes, and
cumbered with masses of granite and whinstone.

“If ever there was a bridge near Craiganuni in ancient times, it must
have been at the Rocks of Brandir. From the days of Wallace to those of
General Wade, there were never passages of this kind but in places of
great necessity, too narrow for a boat, and too wide for a leap; even
then they were but an unsafe footway formed of the trunks of trees
placed transversely from rock to rock, unstripped of their bark, and
destitute of either plank or rail. For such a structure there is
no place in the neighbourhood of Craiganuni but at the rocks above
mentioned. In the lake and on the river the water is far too wide; but
at the strait the space is not greater than might be crossed by a tall
mountain pine, and the rocks on either side are formed by nature like a
pier. That this point was always a place of passage is rendered probable
by its facility and the use of recent times. It is not long since it was
the common gate of the country on either side the river and the pass:
the mode of crossing is yet in the memory of people living, and was
performed by a little currach moored on either side the water, and a
stout cable fixed across the stream from bank to bank, by which the
passengers drew themselves across in the manner still practised in
places of the same nature. It is no argument against the existence of
a bridge in former times that the above method only existed in ours,
rather than a passage of that kind, which would seem the more improved
expedient. The contradiction is sufficiently accounted for by the decay
of timber in the neighbourhood. Of old, both oaks and firs of an immense
size abounded within a very inconsiderable distance; but it is now many
years since the destruction of the forests of Glen Eitive and Glen Urcha
has deprived the country of all the trees of sufficient size to cross
the strait of Brandir; and it is probable that the currach was not
introduced till the want of timber had disenabled the inhabitants of the
country from maintaining a bridge. It only further remains to be noticed
that at some distance below the Rocks of Brandir there was formerly a
ford, which was used for cattle in the memory of people living; from the
narrowness of the passage, the force of the stream, and the broken
bed of the river, it was, however, a dangerous pass, and could only
be attempted with safety at leisure and by experience.”--NOTES TO THE
BRIDAL OF CAOLCHAIRN.


Note 8.--BATTLE BETWIXT THE ARMIES OF THE BRUCE AND MACDOUGAL OF LORN.

“But the King, whose dear-bought experience in war had taught him
extreme caution, remained in the Braes of Balquhidder till he had
acquired by his spies and outskirries a perfect knowledge of the
disposition of the army of Lorn, and the intention of its leader. He
then divided his force into two columns, entrusting the command of the
first, in which he placed his archers and lightest armed troops, to Sir
James Douglas, whilst he himself took the leading of the other, which
consisted principally of his knights and barons. On approaching the
defile, Bruce dispatched Sir James Douglas by a pathway which the enemy
had neglected to occupy, with directions to advance silently, and gain
the heights above and in front of the hilly ground where the men of
Lorn were concealed; and having ascertained that this movement had been
executed with success, he put himself at the head of his own division,
and fearlessly led his men into the defile. Here, prepared as he was for
what was to take place, it was difficult to prevent a temporary panic
when the yell which, to this day, invariably precedes the assault of the
mountaineer, burst from the rugged bosom of Ben Cruachan; and the woods
which, the moment before, had waved in silence and solitude, gave forth
their birth of steel-clad warriors, and, in an instant, became instinct
with the dreadful vitality of war. But although appalled and checked for
a brief space by the suddenness of the assault, and the masses of rock
which the enemy rolled down from the precipices, Bruce, at the head of
his division, pressed up the side of the mountain. Whilst this party
assaulted the men of Lorn with the utmost fury, Sir James Douglas and
his party shouted suddenly upon the heights in their front, showering
down their arrows upon them; and, when these missiles were exhausted,
attacking them with their swords and battle-axes. The consequence of
such an attack, both in front and rear, was the total discomfiture
of the army of Lorn; and the circumstances to which this chief had so
confidently looked forward, as rendering the destruction of Bruce almost
inevitable, were now turned with fatal effect against himself. His great
superiority of numbers cumbered and impeded his movements. Thrust by
the double assault, and by the peculiar nature of the ground, into
such narrow room as the pass afforded, and driven to fury by finding
themselves cut to pieces in detail, without power of resistance, the men
of Lorn fled towards Loch Eitive, where a bridge thrown over the Awe,
and supported upon two immense rocks, known by the name of the Rocks of
Brandir, formed the solitary communication between the side of the river
where the battle took place and the country of Lorn. Their object was to
gain the bridge, which was composed entirely of wood, and having availed
themselves of it in their retreat, to destroy it, and thus throw the
impassable torrent of the Awe between them and their enemies. But their
intention was instantly detected by Douglas, who, rushing down from
the high grounds at the head of his archers and light-armed foresters,
attacked the body of the mountaineers, which had occupied the bridge,
and drove them from it with great slaughter, so that Bruce and his
division, on coming up, passed it without molestation; and this last
resource being taken from them, the army of Lorn were, in a few hours,
literally cut to pieces, whilst their chief, who occupied Loch Eitive
with his fleet, saw, from his ships, the discomfiture of his men, and
found it impossible to give them the least assistance.”--TYTLER’S LIFE
OF BRUCE.


Note 9.--MASSACRE OF GLENCOE.

The following succinct account of this too celebrated event, may be
sufficient for this place:--

“In the beginning of the year 1692 an action of unexampled barbarity
disgraced the government of King William III. in Scotland. In the August
preceding, a proclamation had been issued, offering an indemnity to such
insurgents as should take the oaths to the King and Queen, on or before
the last day of December; and the chiefs of such tribes, as had been
in arms for James, soon after took advantage of the proclamation. But
Macdonald of Glencoe was prevented by accident, rather than design, from
tendering his submission within the limited time. In the end of December
he went to Colonel Hill, who commanded the garrison in Fort William, to
take the oaths of allegiance to the government; and the latter having
furnished him with a letter to Sir Colin Campbell, Sheriff of the county
of Argyll, directed him to repair immediately to Inverary, to make his
submission in a legal manner before that magistrate. But the way
to Inverary lay through almost impassable mountains, the season was
extremely rigorous, and the whole country was covered with a deep snow.
So eager, however, was Macdonald to take the oaths before the limited
time should expire, that, though the road lay within half a mile of
his own house, he stopped not to visit his family, and, after various
obstructions, arrived at Inverary. The time had elapsed, and the sheriff
hesitated to receive his submission; but Macdonald prevailed by
his importunities, and even tears, in inducing that functionary to
administer to him the oath of allegiance, and to certify the cause of
his delay. At this time Sir John Dalrymple, afterwards Earl of Stair,
being in attendance upon William as Secretary of State for Scotland,
took advantage of Macdonald’s neglecting to take the oath within the
time prescribed, and procured from the King a warrant of military
execution against that chief and his whole clan. This was done at the
instigation of the Earl of Breadalbane, whose lands the Glencoe men had
plundered, and whose treachery to government in negotiating with the
Highland clans Macdonald himself had exposed. The King was accordingly
persuaded that Glencoe was the main obstacle to the pacification of the
Highlands; and the fact of the unfortunate chief’s submission having
been concealed, the sanguinary orders for proceeding to military
execution against his clan were in consequence obtained. The warrant was
both signed and countersigned by the King’s own hand, and the Secretary
urged the officers who commanded in the Highlands to execute their
orders with the utmost rigour. Campbell of Glenlyon, a captain in
Argyll’s regiment, and two subalterns, were ordered to repair to Glencoe
on the first of February with a hundred and twenty men. Campbell being
uncle to young Macdonald’s wife, was received by the father with all
manner of friendship and hospitality. The men were lodged at free
quarters in the houses of his tenants, and received the kindest
entertainment. Till the 13th of the month the troops lived in the utmost
harmony and familiarity with the people, and on the very night of the
massacre the officers passed the evening at cards in Macdonald’s house.
In the night Lieutenant Lindsay, with a party of soldiers, called in
a friendly manner at his door, and was instantly admitted. Macdonald,
while in the act of rising to receive his guest, was shot dead through
the back with two bullets. His wife had already dressed; but she was
stripped naked by the soldiers, who tore the rings off her fingers
with their teeth. The slaughter now became general, and neither age
nor infirmity was spared. Some women, in defending their children, were
killed; boys, imploring mercy, were shot dead by officers on whose knees
they hung. In one place nine persons, as they sat enjoying themselves
at table, were butchered by the soldiers. In Inverriggon, Campbell’s own
quarters, nine men were first bound by the soldiers, and then shot
at intervals, one by one. Nearly forty persons were massacred by the
troops, and several who fled to the mountains perished by famine and
the inclemency of the season. Those who escaped owed their lives to a
tempestuous night. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, who had received the
charge of the execution from Dalrymple, was on his march with four
hundred men, to guard all the passes from the valley of Glencoe; but
he was obliged to stop by the severity of the weather, which proved the
safety of the unfortunate clan. Next day he entered the valley, laid
the houses in ashes, and carried away the cattle and spoil, which were
divided among the officers and soldiers.”--ARTICLE “BRITAIN;” ENCYC.
BRITANNICA--NEW EDITION.


Note 10.--FIDELITY OF THE HIGHLANDERS.

Of the strong, undeviating attachment of the Highlanders to the
person, and their deference to the will or commands of their chiefs
and superiors--their rigid adherence to duty and principle--and their
chivalrous acts of self-devotion to these in the face of danger and
death, there are many instances recorded in General Stewart of Garth’s
interesting Sketches of the Highlanders and Highland Regiments,
which might not inaptly supply parallels to the deeds of the Romans
themselves, at the era when Rome was in her glory. The following
instances of such are worthy of being here quoted:--

“In the year 1795 a serious disturbance broke out in Glasgow among the
Breadalbane Fencibles. Several men having been confined and threatened
with corporal punishment, considerable discontent and irritation were
excited among their comrades, which increased to such violence, that,
when some men were confined in the guard-house, a great proportion
of the regiment rushed out and forcibly released the prisoners.
This violation of military discipline was not to be passed over, and
accordingly measures were immediately taken to secure the ringleaders.
But so many were equally concerned, that it was difficult, if not
impossible, to fix the crime on any, as being more prominently guilty.
And here was shown a trait of character worthy of a better cause, and
which originated from a feeling alive to the disgrace of a degrading
punishment. The soldiers being made sensible of the nature of their
misconduct, and the consequent necessity of public example, SEVERAL MEN
VOLUNTARILY OFFERED THEMSELVES TO STAND TRIAL, and suffer the sentence
of the law as an atonement for the whole. These men were accordingly
marched to Edinburgh Castle, tried, and four condemned to be shot. Three
of them were afterwards reprieved, and the fourth, Alexander Sutherland,
was shot on Musselburgh Sands.

“The following semi-official account of this unfortunate
misunderstanding was published at the time:--

“‘During the afternoon of Monday, when a private of the light company of
the Breadalbane Fencibles, who had been confined for a MILITARY
offence, was released by that company, and some other companies, who
had assembled in a tumultuous manner before the guard-house, no person
whatever was hurt, and no violence offered; and however unjustifiable
the proceedings, it originated not from any disrespect or ill-will to
their officers, but from a mistaken point of honour, in a particular
set of men in the battalion, who thought themselves disgraced by the
impending punishment of one of their number. The men have, in every
respect, since that period conducted themselves with the greatest
regularity, and strict subordination. The whole of the battalion seemed
extremely sensible of the improper conduct of such as were concerned,
whatever regret they might feel for the fate of the few individuals who
had so readily given themselves up as prisoners, to be tried for their
own and others’ misconduct.’

“On the march to Edinburgh a circumstance occurred, the more worthy of
notice, as it shows a strong principle of honour and fidelity to his
word and to his officer in a common Highland soldier. One of the men
stated to the officer commanding the party, that he knew what his fate
would be, but that he had left business of the utmost importance to a
friend in Glasgow, which he wished to transact before his death; that,
as to himself, he was fully prepared to meet his fate; but with regard
to his friend, he could not die in peace unless the business was
settled, and that, if the officer would suffer him to return to Glasgow,
a few hours there would be sufficient, and he would join him before he
reached Edinburgh, and march as a prisoner with the party. The soldier
added, ‘You have known me since I was a child; you know my country and
kindred; and you may believe I shall never bring you to any blame by
a breach of the promise I now make, to be with you in full time to
be delivered up in the Castle.’ This was a startling proposal to the
officer, who was a judicious, humane man, and knew perfectly his risk
and responsibility in yielding to such an extraordinary application.
However, his confidence was such, that he complied with the request of
the prisoner, who returned to Glasgow at night, settled his business,
and left the town before daylight to redeem his pledge. He took a long
circuit to avoid being seen, apprehended as a deserter, and sent back to
Glasgow, as probably his account of his officer’s indulgence would not
have been credited. In consequence of this caution, and the lengthened
march through woods and over hills by an unfrequented route, there
was no appearance of him at the hour appointed. The perplexity of the
officer when he reached the neighbourhood of Edinburgh may be easily
imagined. He moved forward slowly indeed, but no soldier appeared; and
unable to delay any longer, he marched up to the Castle, and as he
was delivering over the prisoners, but before any report was given in,
Macmartin, the absent soldier, rushed in among his fellow prisoners, all
pale with anxiety and fatigue, and breathless with apprehension of the
consequences in which his delay might have involved his benefactor.

“In whatever light the conduct of the officer (my respectable friend,
Major Colin Campbell) may be considered, either by military men
or others, in this memorable exemplification of the characteristic
principle of his countrymen, fidelity to their word, it cannot but be
wished that the soldier’s magnanimous self-devotion had been taken as
an atonement for his own misconduct and that of the whole, who also had
made a high sacrifice, in the voluntary offer of their lives for the
conduct of their brother soldiers. Are these a people to be treated as
malefactors, without regard to their feelings and principles? and might
not a discipline, somewhat different from the usual mode, be, with
advantage, applied to them?”--Vol.II. pp.413-15. 3rd Edit.


“A soldier of this regiment, (The Argyllshire Highlanders) deserted,
and emigrated to America, where he settled. Several years after his
desertion, a letter was received from him, with a sum of money, for the
purpose of procuring one or two men to supply his place in the regiment,
as the only recompense he could make for ‘breaking his oath to his God
and his allegiance to his King, which preyed on his conscience in such a
manner, that he had no rest night nor day.’

“This man had had good principles early instilled into his mind, and the
disgrace which he had been originally taught to believe would attach
to a breach of faith now operated with full effect. The soldier who
deserted from the 42nd Regiment at Gibraltar, in 1797, exhibited the
same remorse of conscience after he had violated his allegiance. In
countries where such principles prevail, and regulate the character of
a people, the mass of the population may, on occasions of trial, be
reckoned on as sound and trustworthy.”--Vol.II., p.218. 3rd Edit.


“The late James Menzies of Culdares, having engaged in the rebellion of
1715, and been taken at Preston, in Lancashire, was carried to London,
where he was tried and condemned, but afterwards reprieved. Grateful
for this clemency, he remained at home in 1745, but, retaining a
predilection for the old cause, he sent a handsome charger as a present
to Prince Charles, when advancing through England. The servant who led
and delivered the horse was taken prisoner, and carried to Carlisle,
where he was tried and condemned. To extort a discovery of the person
who sent the horse, threats of immediate execution in case of
refusal, and offers of pardon on his giving information, were held out
ineffectually to the faithful messenger. He knew, he said, what the
consequence of a disclosure would be to his master, and his own life was
nothing in the comparison. When brought out for execution, he was
again pressed to inform on his master. He asked if they were serious in
supposing him such a villain. If he did what they desired, and forgot
his master and his trust, he could not return to his native country, for
Glenlyon would be no home or country for him, as he would be despised
and hunted out of the glen. Accordingly he kept steady to his trust,
and was executed. This trusty servant’s name was John Macnaughton, from
Glenlyon, in Perthshire. He deserves to be mentioned, both on account
of his incorruptible fidelity, and of his testimony to the honourable
principles of the people, and to their detestation of a breach of trust
to a kind and honourable master, however great might be the risk, or
however fatal the consequences, to the individual himself.”--Vol.1., pp.
52,53, 3rd Edit.



NOTE TO THE TWO DROVERS.

Note 11.--ROBERT DONN’S POEMS.

I cannot dismiss this story without resting attention for a moment on
the light which has been thrown on the character of the Highland Drover
since the time of its first appearance, by the account of a drover poet,
by name Robert Mackay, or, as he was commonly called, Rob Donn--that
is, Brown Robert--and certain specimens of his talents, published in the
ninetieth number of the Quarterly Review. The picture which that paper
gives of the habits and feelings of a class of persons with which the
general reader would be apt to associate no ideas but those of wild
superstition and rude manners, is in the highest degree interesting,
and I cannot resist the temptation of quoting two of the songs of this
hitherto unheard-of poet of humble life. They are thus introduced by the
reviewer:--

“Upon one occasion, it seems, Rob’s attendance upon his master’s cattle
business detained him a whole year from home, and at his return he found
that a fair maiden to whom his troth had been plighted of yore had lost
sight of her vows, and was on the eve of being married to a rival (a
carpenter by trade), who had profited by the young drover’s absence.
The following song was composed during a sleepless night, in the
neighbourhood of Creiff, in Perthshire, and the home sickness which it
expresses appears to be almost as much that of the deer-hunter as of the
loving swain.

  ‘EASY IS MY BED, IT IS EASY,
     BUT IT IS NOT TO SLEEP THAT I INCLINE;
   THE WIND WHISTLES NORTHWARDS, NORTHWARDS,
     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 BED, ETC.

  ‘Great is my esteem of the maiden
     Towards whose dwelling the north wind blows;
   She is ever cheerful, sportive, kindly,
     Without folly, without vanity, without pride.
   True is her heart--were I under hiding,
     And fifty men in pursuit of my footsteps,
   I should find protection, when they surrounded me most
            closely,
     In the secret recess of that shieling.
                       EASY IS MY BED, ETC.

  ‘Oh for 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 BED, ETC.

  ‘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 BED, ETC.

  ‘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!
                        EASY IS MY BED, ETC.’

“The following describes Rob’s feelings on the first discovery of his
damsel’s infidelity. The airs of both these pieces are his own, and, the
Highland ladies say, very beautiful.

  ‘Heavy to me is the shieling, and the hum that is in it,
   Since the ear that was wont to listen is now no more on the
        watch.
   Where is Isabel, the courteous, the conversable, a sister in
        kindness?
   Where is Anne, the slender-browed, the turret-breasted, whose
        glossy hair pleased me when yet a boy?
   HEICH!  WHAT AN HOUR WAS MY RETURNING!
   PAIN SUCH AS THAT SUNSET BROUGHT, WHAT AVAILETH ME TO TELL IT?

  ‘I traversed the fold, and upward among the trees--
   Each place, far and near, wherein I was wont to salute my
        love.
   When I looked down from the crag, and 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 RID, WHAT AVAILETH ME TO TELL
        IT?

  ‘Since it has been heard that the carpenter had persuaded thee,
   My sleep is disturbed--busy is foolishness within me at
        midnight.
   The kindness that has been between us, I cannot shake off that
        memory in visions;
   Thou callest me not to thy side; but love is to me for a
        messenger.
   THERE IS STRIFE WITHIN ME, AND I TOSS TO BE AT LIBERTY;
   AND EVER THE CLOSER IT CLINGS, AND THE DELUSION IS GROWING TO
        ME AS A TREE.

  ‘Anne, yellow-haired daughter of Donald, surely thou knowest
        not how it is with me--
   That it is old love, unrepaid, which has worn down from me my
        strength;
   That when far from thee, beyond many mountains, the wound in
        my heart was throbbing,
   Stirring, and searching for ever, as when I sat beside thee on
        the turf.
   NOW, THEN, HEAR ME THIS ONCE, IF FOR EVER I AM TO BE WITHOUT
        THEE,
   MY SPIRIT IS BROKEN--GIVE 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
        my curls.
   Thou hast been absent a twelvemonth, and six were seeking me
        diligently;
   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 thee, even though towards me thou hast
        become cold?
   When my discourse is most angry concerning thy name in thine
        absence,
   Of sudden thine image, with its old dearness, comes visibly
        into my mind,
   And a secret voice whispers that love will yet prevail!
   AND I BECOME SURETY FOR IT ANEW, DARLING,
   AND IT SPRINGS UP AT THAT HOUR LOFTY AS A TOWER.’

“Rude and bald as these things appear in a verbal translation, and rough
as they might possibly appear, even were the originals intelligible, we
confess we are disposed to think they would of themselves justify Dr.
Mackay (their Editor) in placing this herdsman-lover among the true sons
of song.”--QUARTERLY REVIEW, NO. XC., JULY 1831.





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