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Title: Highland Legends
Author: Lauder, Thomas Dick
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.

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                            HIGHLAND LEGENDS

                                   BY
                     SIR THOMAS DICK LAUDER, Bart.

         Author of "The Moray Floods," "The Wolf of Badenoch,"
             "Lochandu," "Royal Progress in Scotland," &c.


                           TWO VOLUMES IN ONE

                     LONDON: HAMILTON, ADAMS, & CO.
                       GLASGOW: THOMAS D. MORISON
                                  1880



                                 TO THE

                     RIGHT HON. THE COUNTESS GREY.


Dear Lady Grey.

With your permission, I now dedicate these volumes to you. I should
do so with great diffidence, did I not know that everything connected
with Scotland is interesting to you.

By associating them with a name so universally revered I give them
value; whilst I afford to myself an opportunity of expressing my
admiration of those many virtues and amiable qualities which have
rendered it so much beloved in your person by all ranks who have the
good fortune to come within reach of their influence; and I have thus
also the satisfaction of expressing my warm sense of the kindness I
have received from you and Lord Grey ever since I have had the honour
of being known to you, as well as of assuring you that I am,

With every possible respect,

    Dear Lady Grey,
        Very sincerely and faithfully yours,
            THOS. DICK LAUDER.



EDITORIAL NOTE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.


In this volume the Publishers present to the reading public a new
edition of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's first collection of Highland
Legends. Originally published under the somewhat misleading title
of "Highland Rambles and Long Legends to Shorten the Way," it has
been thought desirable that the title be abbreviated, and made
more decidedly descriptive of the volume, as the "rambles" form no
important part of the work. In all other respects the present edition
is a verbatim reprint of the work as it came from the hands of the
distinguished Author.



CONTENTS.

                                                              PAGE

    SCOTTISH MOORLAND SCENERY,                                  11
    THE BURNING OF MACFARLANE'S FOREST OF BENLAOIDH,            15
    COMPARATIVELY RECENT DESTRUCTION OF THE FORESTS,            42
    MR. RUSSEL AND THE REAVER,                                  48
    SCENERY OF THE FINDHORN,                                    66
    THE CAIRN OF THE LOVERS,                                    68
    HILL OF THE AITNOCH,                                        73
    LEGEND OF JOHN MACKAY OF ROSS-SHIRE, CALLED IAN MORE
      ARRACH, OR BIG JOHN THE RENTER OF THE MILK OF THE COWS,   78
    MORNING SCENE,                                              99
    THE LEGEND OF JOHN MACPHERSON OF INVERESHIE,               104
    A STRANGER APPEARS,                                        126
    LEGEND OF THE FLOATING ISLET,                              136
    DOMINIE DELIGHTED,                                         157
    LEGEND OF ALLAN WITH THE RED JACKET,                       164
    FEUDAL HEROES,                                             199
    GLENGARRY'S REVENGE,                                       200
    LONG YARNS,                                                214
    THE LEGEND OF THE BUILDING OF BALLINDALLOCH,               215
    SOMNOSALMONIA,                                             227
    LEGEND OF THE LAST GRANT OF TULLOCHCARRON,                 229
    ANTIQUARIAN DISCUSSION,                                    255
    LEGEND OF CHIRSTY ROSS,                                    257
    FRESH LIGHT UPON THE SUBJECT,                              282
    LEGEND OF CHIRSTY ROSS CONTINUED,                          283
    COMPLIMENTARY CRITICISM,                                   313
    LEGEND OF GIBBON MORE CUMIN AND HIS DAUGHTER BIGLA,        315
    VELVET CUSHIONS,                                           346
    LEGEND OF THE RIVAL LAIRDS OF STRATHSPEY,                  359



HIGHLAND LEGENDS.

SCOTTISH MOORLAND SCENERY.


The scenery of the less cultivated parts of our native Scotland may,
generally speaking, be said to be checkered, as human life is with its
events; for as, during our pilgrimage here on earth, evil continually
succeeds good, and good evil, so are beauty and deformity seen to
alternate with each other on the simple face of Caledonia. A long
stretch of dreary and uninteresting hill country is often found to
extend between two rich or romantic valleys, so that the lover of
nature has to plod his weary way from the one to the other over many
a mile of sterile desert; and, if he be a pedestrian, through many
a burn, and many a slough too, with little to disturb him, save the
sudden whirr of the grouse, as he bounds off through the air with
the velocity of a cricket-ball,--or the sharp frisp of the snipe,
as he rises like the cork from a brisk bottle of champagne,--or the
wailing teeweet of the green plover, who, like some endless seccatore,
most perseveringly follows his track, unceasingly boring him with
his dull flapping and his tiresome cry.

When not broken in upon by any such incidents, these wildernesses
are sometimes rather valuable to a solitary traveller. They afford
him time for rumination whilst he is traversing them. They give him
leisure to chew the cud of reflection, and he is thus enabled to
digest the beauties of the valley which he has last devoured, before
he proceeds to feast upon the charms about to be presented to him by
that to which he is hastening. But whatever may be the advantages to
be derived from journeying in any such single state of blessedness,
I am disposed to think that the man who has a cheerful companion or
two associated with him in his pilgrimage, will not be much inclined
to wish them absent in such parts of the way; and as I do not think
that either his moral or his physical digestion will be in any degree
impaired by society, I am quite sure that his intellectual enjoyment
will be thereby much increased.

My own experience convinced me of the truth of this one fine autumnal
morning, when, in company with two friends, I left the romantic
valley of the Findhorn, to cross the moorlands towards Grantown, a
village which may be called the capital of Strathspey. The sun that
rose upon us, as we took our staves in hand to begin that day's walk,
had continued to display a brighter and merrier countenance than any,
perhaps, which I had ever seen showing face within the precincts of
this vapour-girt island of ours. Yet vain were his friendly efforts to
throw a glow of cheerfulness over the brown heaths and the black plashy
bogs almost entirely covering the tame unmeaning undulations of the
country before us. A scene apparently less calculated to furnish food
for remark or conversation, can hardly well be conceived. But when the
imagination is not altogether asleep, a very trifling hint will set it
a working; and so it was, that the innumerable grey, ghastly-looking
pine stocks of other years, that were everywhere seen pointing out
of the peat-mosses, from amidst tufts of the waving cotton grass,
and wiry rushes, and gaudy ranunculuses, quickly carried our minds
back to former ages by a natural chain of connection, filled them
with magnificent ideal pictures of those interminable forests which
completely covered Scotland during the earlier periods of its history,
and immediately furnished us with a subject for talk.

Author.--You see yonder hill, called the Aitnoch. Although it is,
as you may easily perceive, the highest in all this neighbourhood,
yet an extensive plain on its summit, almost entirely peat-moss, is
so thickly set with the stocks and roots of pine trees, such as these
you are now looking at, and all fixed, too, like these, in the growing
position, that, if the boles and branches were still standing on them,
it would absolutely be a difficult matter for a deer, or even for a
dog, to force a passage through among them.

Grant.--I should like much to mount the hill to examine the plain you
speak of. Well as I am acquainted with this north country, I never
heard of it before.

Author.--It will cost us little more than the additional fatigue
created by its rather rough and steep ascent to do so, for it is not
quite an hundred miles out of our way.

Clifford.--Phoo! we are not to be tied to ways of any kind. Let us
climb the hill, then, by all means. But, to return to what you were
talking about, can you tell us how, and for what purpose, these vast
forests were annihilated?

Author.--The charred surfaces which most of these stocks and roots
still exhibit sufficiently prove that fire must have been the grand
instrument of their destruction. The logs which originally grew upon
them, but which are now found lying horizontally under the present
surface, all bear testimony to the same fact in a greater or lesser
degree. Many of these, indeed, when dug up, present a very curious
appearance, the nether part being left almost entire, whilst the upper
side has been hollowed like a spout. This must have been effected by
the flames, which naturally continue to smoulder on the upper surfaces
of the fallen trunks, whilst the moisture of the ground where they
fell extinguished them below.

Clifford.--Come, that is all very well as to the how; now, let us
have your wherefore.

Author.--As to the causes of the devouring element being let loose
among these aboriginal forests we might speculate long enough, for
they were probably many and various. Accidental fires may have been
kindled by the rude inhabitants, which afterwards spread destruction
far and wide, as they often do now in the forests of America. Or
they may have been raised with the intention of driving away wild
beasts, or of aiding in their destruction, of annoying enemies,
or even for the more simple purpose of clearing spots of ground for
hunting or for pasture. The causes may have been trivial enough in
themselves. You, Grant, who have travelled so much in Switzerland,
must be aware of the practice which still prevails there, of burning
down large patches of gigantic pine timber on the sides of the Alps,
for no other reason than to allow the sun and the moisture to reach
the surface of the ground, so as thereby to increase the quantity
and value of the pasture growing beneath.

Grant.--Yes, I can vouch for what you say with regard to the practice
in Switzerland, and I am much inclined to think with you, that instead
of attributing the fall of these mighty Caledonian forests, as many
are disposed to do, to some one great and general catastrophe, we
ought rather to place their ruin to the account of a combination and
reiteration of fortuitous causes, by the increasing frequency of the
repetition of which they were rapidly extirpated in detail. Indeed, in
support of what I now say, I remember having heard a well authenticated
tradition of exactly such an accidental conflagration, which is said
to have taken place so late as the year 1640.

Author.--I should be glad to hear the particulars of it. Do you think
you can recall them?

Grant.--I think I can, but you will perhaps find the story rather a
long one.

Clifford.--Long or short, let us have it by all means. And let me tell
you for your comfort, my good fellow, none of Chaucer's pilgrims could
have begun a story under circumstances so favourable. A parliamentary
speech itself might have some chance of being listened to if uttered
to one whilst passing through so dull a country as this--that is to
say, without one's gun and pointers.



THE BURNING OF MACFARLANE'S FOREST OF BEN LAOIDH.


The sun had not yet disappeared behind the mountains on the western
side of Loch Lomond, and the unruffled surface of the lake was
gleaming with his parting rays, when the Laird of Macfarlane, as he was
returning from the chase, looked down from the ridge of a hill over
the glorious scene that lay extended beneath him. His eyes travelled
far along the calm expanse of the waters, till they lost themselves
in the distance, amid the tufted and clustering islands which lay
glittering in the fleeting light like gems on the bosom of Beauty. He
then recalled them along the romantic undulations and irregularities
of its shores, to dwell with peculiar pride and inward satisfaction
on the wide stretch of those rich and smiling pastures which he could
call his own, and on the numerous herds of cattle which his vassals
were then driving to their home-grazings for the night. All was still
and silent around, save when the quiet of the balmy evening air was
gently broken by those rural sounds which, when blended together
and softened by distance, as they then were to Macfarlane's ear,
never fail to produce a musical harmony that thrills to the very
heart of the true lover of nature. The lowing of the cattle--the
occasional prolonged shouts of the herdsmen--the watchful bark of
their attendant dogs, careful to permit no individual of their charge
to stray from the main body--the shrill and solitary scream of the
eagle, coming from the upper regions of the sky, as he soared to his
place of repose amid the towering crags of Ben Lomond--and, lastly,
the mingled cawing of the retreating army of rooks as they wheeled away
in black battalions, to seek for undisturbed roost among the branches
of that forest which then filled the whole country from Loch Lomond
to Glen Urchay with a dark and interminable sea of foliage,--such
were the sounds that came in mellow chorus on the delighted ear of
Macfarlane. He sat him down on a mossy stone to rest for a while,
that his eyes and his ears might have fuller enjoyment. His faithful
sleuth-hounds and braches, overcome with fatigue, quickly stretched
out their wearied bodies in ready slumber around him; and his numerous
followers no less gladly availed themselves of their lord's example
to ease their tired shoulders of the heavy loads which the success
of that day's woodcraft had imposed upon them.

Macfarlane was a stern chief of the olden time. Yet, what heart,
however stark or rude, but must have been subdued and softened beneath
the warm influence of those emotions which such a scene, and such
sounds, and such an evening combined to excite? As he sat apart from
his people he was melted into a mood of feeling which he had rarely
experienced during his life of feudal turmoil. His thoughts insensibly
stole upwards in secret musings, which gradually exhaled themselves in
grateful orisons to that Heaven whence he felt that all the blessings
he possessed had so liberally flowed; and although these prayers
were inwardly breathed in the formal and set terms prescribed by his
church, yet his soul more fully and effectually suffused itself into
them than it had ever done before. That mysterious and uncontrollable
desire which man often feels to hold converse with his Creator alone,
gradually stole upon him; and, having ordered his attendants to precede
him, he arose soon after their departure, to saunter homewards through
the twilight in that calm and dreamy state of religious reflection
which had rarely ever before visited his stormy mind.

As he slowly descended the mountain side that slopes down to the
Arroquhar, the course of the little rill, which he followed, led him
into a grove of natural birches, and his silent footstep betrayed him
into an involuntary intrusion on the privacy of two lovers. These were
his foster brother, Angus Macfarlane, and Ellen, a beautiful maiden,
who was about to become his wife. The wedding-day was fixed, as the
Laird of Macfarlane well knew; and as his heart was at this moment
brimful of kindly feeling, the sight of this betrothed pair made it
run over with benevolence.

"What ho! my fair Ellen," cried he, as, chased away by her modest
confusion, her sylph-like form was disappearing among the tender
foliage of the birchen bushes like some delicate thing of air,
"dost fear the face of thy chief? Knowest thou not that Macfarlane's
most earnest wish ever is to be held as the father of his meanest
clansman? and think ye that he would be less than a father to thee,
sad posthumous pledge of the worthiest warrior that ever followed the
banner of Loch Sloy, or for whom a gallant clan ever sung a wailing
lament? But ha!" exclaimed he, as he kindly took her hand to detain
her; "why dost thou look so sad? By this light, such as it is, it
would seem as if the tear-drop had been in that blue eye of thine. My
worthy Angus could never have caused this? He loves thee too well
ever to give pain to so soft and confiding a heart as thine."

"Angus never could wilfully give me pain," said the maiden earnestly,
and throwing down her eyes, and blushing deeply as she said so.

"Ha!" said Macfarlane, in a playful manner, "now I think on't, yours
may have been the tears of repentance, seeing that you most wickedly
have seduced my trusty master herdsman from his duty this evening,
and that he hath left his people and his beasts to take care of one
another, that he might come over the hill here to whisper soft things
into thine ear, under the clustering woodbine, that wreathes itself
through the holly there, and fills the air thus with its delicious
perfume."

"My good lord, I would humbly acknowledge my fault, and crave your
pardon," replied Angus; "I must confess that I did leave the lads
and the cattle to come to keep tryst here with Ellen. But albeit
that she had some small share of blame in this, her tears fell not
from compunction for any such fault. Say, shall I tell the cause,
Ellen?--They fell because of a strange vision which her old Aunt
Margery saw last night."

"A vision!" exclaimed Macfarlane seriously; "tell me, Ellen, what
did she see?"

"It was last night, my lord," replied Ellen, "that my Aunt Margery came
over to my mother's cottage to settle some matters regarding--a--a--I
mean, to speak with my mother of some little family affairs, which kept
her better than an hour after nightfall, when, as she was crossing the
hill again in her way home, she suddenly beheld a red glowing gleam
in the sky, and turning to look behind her, the whole of the forest
below seemed to be on fire. She rubbed her eyes in her astonishment,
and when she looked again the vision had disappeared."

"Strange!" said Macfarlane seriously.

"But this was not all," continued Ellen, with increased earnestness
of manner, and shuddering as she spoke, "for by the light that still
gleamed in the sky, she beheld a dark object at some distance from
her on the heath. It moved towards the spot where she was. Trembling
with fear, she stood aside to observe it, and on it continued to come,
gliding without sound. A single stream of faint light fell upon it
from a broken part of the sky, and showed the figure and the features
of--of--of you, Macfarlane."

"What, my figure! my features!" exclaimed the laird, in a disturbed
tone; and then, commanding himself, he quietly added, "Awell, and
saw she aught else?"

"She did, my lord," added Ellen, much agitated, "for, borne over
your right shoulder she beheld a human corse; the head was hanging
down, and the pale fixed features were those of--of--my betrothed
husband!" Overpowered by her feelings, Ellen sank down on a mossy bank,
and wept bitterly.

"Let not these gloomy fancies enter your head at a time like this,
Ellen," said Macfarlane, roused by her sobbing from the fit of gloomy
abstraction into which her narration had thrown him. "If not altogether
an unaccountable and unreal freak of imagination, it can be interpreted
no otherwise than felicitously for you. The burning forest is but a
type of the extent and the warmth of your mutual affection, and the
dead figure of Angus only shadows forth the fact that your love will
endure with life itself."

"There needed not such a vision to tell us these truths," said Angus
energetically.

"Yet do we often see matters as palpable as these, as wonderfully
vouched for by supernatural means," said the chief. "Get thee home
then, Ellen; and do thou see her safe, Angus, and let her not suffer
her young mind to brood on such dreary and distressing phantasies as
seem now to fill it. Be yours the joyous anticipations of the bride
and bridegroom three days before they are made one for ever. Ere
three days go round your indissoluble union shall be blessed by the
happiest influence of the warm sunshine of your chief's substantial
favour. Meanwhile, may good angels guard you both!--Good night."

With these words, Macfarlane sought his way home, musing as he went,
impressed, more than he even wished to own to himself, with the strange
tale he had heard, and when he could contrive to rid himself of it,
turning in his thoughts from time to time certain benevolent schemes
which suggested themselves to him for the liberal establishment of
Angus and his bride.

The next day's sun had hardly reddened the eastern sky, so as to
exhibit the huge dark mass of Ben Lomond with a sharp and well-defined
outline on its glowing surface, when the herdsmen of the Laird of
Macfarlane arose and left their huts, with the intention of driving
their cattle across the dewy pastures back to the slopes of the
mountains. The thick summer mist still hung over the lower grounds;
and the men wandered about hallooing to each other whilst employed in
actively looking for the animals of which they had the charge. They
had left them the previous evening feeding in numerous groups among
herbage of the most luxuriant description. They were well aware
that it was much too fragrant not to tie them, by the sweetest and
securest of all tethers, to the vicinity of those spots where they
had been collected in herds; and they were quite sure that the animals
never would have left them voluntarily. But all their shouting and all
their searching appeared to be unsuccessful, and the more unsuccessful
they were likely to be the more were their exertions increased. All
was clamour, confusion, and uncertainty, till sunrise had somewhat
dispelled the mist that had hitherto rolled its dense and silent
waves over the bottom of the valley; and then one herdsman more active
and intelligent than the rest, having climbed the mountain that sends
forth its root to form the boundary between the enchanting mazes of the
beautiful oak and birch-fringed lakes of Ballochan and the long stretch
of Loch Lomond's inland sea, and having looked up Glen Falloch, and
far and wide around him to the full extent that his eyes could reach,--

"We are harried!" shouted he in Gaelic to his anxiously inquiring
comrades below. "Not a horn of them is to be seen! I can perceive a
large herd of deer afar off yonder, clustered together in the open
forest glade, but not a horn or hide of cow, ox, quey, or stirk, do I
see within all the space that my eyes can light upon; and unless the
muckle stone, the Clach-nan-Tairbh, down below there has covered them,
as tradition tells us it covered the two wild bulls, when the fury of
their battle was said to have been so great as to shake it down from
the very craig upon them, our beasts are harried every cloot o' them!"

"My curses on the catterans that took them then!" exclaimed Angus
Macfarlane, the master of the herdsmen--"and my especial curses, too,
because they have thus harried them the very night when I chanced to
be wandering! But if they are above the surface of the earth we must
find them; so come, lads, look about ye sharply."

Like an eager pack of hounds newly uncoupled, who have been taught
by the huntsman's well-understood voice that a fresh scent is at
hand, the herdsmen now went dodging about, looking for the track of
those who had so adroitly driven off a creagh so very numerous and so
immensely valuable. Long experience and much practice in such matters
soon enabled Angus to discover the country towards which the freshest
hoof-prints pointed, and in a short time the whole band were in full
and hot pursuit of the reavers.

"They are Lochaber men, I'll warrant me!" said Angus, whose sagacity
and acuteness left him seldom mistaken; and guessing shrewdly at the
route they would probably take, he resolved to follow them cautiously
with his assistants, that he might dog their footsteps and spy out
their motions, whilst he sent one back as a messenger to the Laird
of Macfarlane, to report to him the daring robbery that had been
committed on him.

If you have been able to conceive the calm that settled upon
Macfarlane's mind when the placidity of the previous evening had
brought it so much into harmony with all the surrounding objects of
nature, that it might almost have been said to have reflected the
unruffled image of Loch Lomond itself, you may easily imagine that the
intelligence which he now received operated on him as some whirlwind
would have done on the peaceful bosom of the lake. The eyes of the
dark-browed chief kindled up into a blaze of rage, and shot forth red
lightnings, and his soul was lashed into a sudden and furious storm
ere the messenger had time to unfold half of his information.

"What! all harried, said you?--Bid the pipers play the gathering! Shout
our war-cry of Loch Sloy! We'll after them with what of our clansmen
may be mustered in haste. By the blessed rood, we'll follow them to
Lochaber itself, but we'll have back our bestial!"

But Macfarlane was not one who allowed his rage to render him
incapable of adopting the proper measures for the sure attainment of
his object. A numerous party of his clan was speedily assembled, all
boiling with the same indignation that excited their chief. Macfarlane
himself saw that each man was equipped in the most efficient manner
for celerity of movement; and when all were in order, he instantly
set forward at their head, taking that direction which was indicated
to him by the intelligence which the messenger had brought him.

In their rapid march through the great forest, they threaded its
intricacies, partly trusting to their local knowledge, partly to their
leader's judgment of the probable route of the reavers, partly guided
by the fresh tracks which they now and then fell in with, and partly
by certain signal marks which the wily Angus had from time to time left
behind him, by breaking the boughs down in a particular direction. Once
or twice they encountered some individual of the party of herdsmen
in advance, whom Angus had stationed in their way to give his chief
intelligence; and at last, as the sun was fast declining towards the
west, another man appeared, who came to meet them in breathless haste.

"Well! what tidings now?" demanded the laird.

"They are Lochaber men, sure enough," replied the man.

"Pshaw! I never doubted that," said Macfarlane impatiently; "but,
quick! tell me whither you have tracked them. We have no time to lose."

"I'm thinking you may take your own leisure, Macfarlane," replied
the man, "for I'm in the belief that they are lodged for the best
part of this night, tethered as they are with the tired legs of the
beasts." And so he went on to explain that they had been traced into
what was then one of the thickest parts of the forest, to a spot
lying between Loch Sloy and what is now the wide moss of the Caoran,
stretching south-east from Ben Laoidh.

"Then they cannot be far distant from the bothy of the lochan, where
I slept when we last hunted in that quarter?" said the chief.

"Sure enough, you have guessed it, Macfarlane," replied the man,
"sure enough they are there, and Angus and Parlane, and the rest,
are watching them. By all appearance there's a strong party of the
limmers, and I'll warrant me they keep a good guard."

"Let them guard as they may, our cattle are our own again," said the
chief, with a laugh of anticipated triumph; "Saint Mary! but we'll
make these gentlemen of Lochaber pay for their incivility, and for
the unwilling tramp they have given both to us and to our beasts! Not
a man of them shall escape to tell the tale!"

A general exclamation burst from his followers. "Not a man of
them!" was echoed around, and they besought Macfarlane to lead them
instantly to the slaughter.

"No!" replied he sternly, "I have said, and I now swear by the
roof-tree of my fathers, and by the graves where they rest, that not
a man of these vermin shall escape! and Macfarlane has never yet said,
for weal or for woe, what he did not make good to the very letter. But
no advantage must be lost by rashness. Every precaution must be taken
coolly and deliberately, so that not a man of them may ever return to
parent, to wife, or to child. Lochaber shall wail for them from one end
of it to the other, and the men of that country shall pause long before
they again attempt to lay hand even on a cat belonging to Macfarlane."

Having thus checked their impatience, he marched them slowly onwards,
without noise, till he discovered a thicket by the side of a brook,
where, sheltered and concealed by an overhanging bank, his men could
rest and refresh themselves without being observed, and there he
patiently halted to wait for the night, and for further intelligence.

Impenetrable darkness had settled over the forest, and the Macfarlanes
had sat long in silence, listening eagerly to catch the distant but
welcome sound of the lowing of the cattle, that came on their ears
faintly at intervals, and assured them that they were now within
a short march of their enemies, when the cracking of the withered
branches of the firs at some distance ahead of them made them stand
to their arms and look sharply out from their ambush. Human footsteps
were evidently heard approaching. Not a word was uttered by those in
the thicket, but every eye that peered from it was steadily fixed
on a natural break among the trees growing on a bank, that rose
with a gentle slope immediately in front of their position, where
the obscurity being less absolutely impervious, they might at least
be enabled to see something like the form of any object that came,
however imperfectly it might be defined. The sounds slowly advanced,
till at length one human figure only appeared on the knoll that crowned
the bank. It stood for some moments, as if scrutinising every bush
that grew in the hollow below. It moved--and then it seemed to stop,
as if in hesitation. Macfarlane's henchman raised his arquebuse,
and proceeded to light a match for its lock. The click of the flint
and steel made the figure start.

"It is a patrol of the Lochaber men," whispered the henchman, raising
the piece to his shoulder to take aim; "I'll warrant they have got hold
of Angus and the rest. But I'll make sure of that fellow at any rate."

"Not for your life!" replied Macfarlane in the same tone, whilst
he arrested his hand. "The whole forest would ring with the report,
and all would be lost."

Seizing a crossbow from one of his immediate attendants, he bent it,
and fitted a quarrel-bolt to it, and, having pointed it at the object
on the summit of the knoll, he challenged in such an under tone of
voice as might not spread alarm to any great distance, whilst, at the
same time, he was quite prepared to shoot with deadly certainty of
aim the moment he saw the figure make the smallest effort to retreat.

"Ho, there!" cried the chief.

"Ho, there!" replied the figure, starting at the sound, and turning
his head to look eagerly around him.

"Where grew your bow, and how is it drawn?" demanded Macfarlane,
in the same tone.

"It grew in the isles of Loch Lomond, and it is drawn for Loch Sloy,"
was the ready reply.

A long breath was inhaled and expired by the lungs of every anxious
Macfarlane, as he recognised the well-known voice of Angus, the
master herdsman.

"Advance, my trusty Angus," said the chief; "the brake is full of
friends."

Angus had never left his post of watch until he was satisfied that the
Lochaber men were in such a state of repose as to ensure to him time
enough to return to meet his chief. He then planted some of his people
to keep their eyes on the enemy, whilst he found his way back alone,
to make Macfarlane fully aware of their position. The plunderers
lay about a mile from the spot where the chief had halted. The
great body of them, consisting of some thirty or more in number, had
retired into the hunting-bothy, before the door of which a sentinel
was posted, to give alarm in case of assault. To prevent the cattle
from straying away, they had driven them together into a large open
hollow, immediately in front of the knoll on which the bothy stood;
and to take away all risk of their escape or abstraction, four men
were stationed at equal distances from each other, so as to surround
them. The poor animals were so jaded with their rapid journey,
that they drew themselves around the shallow little lochan or pool
in the bottom of the hollow, from which the bothy had its name, and
having lain down there, they showed so much unwillingness to rise
from their recumbent position, that the watchmen soon ceased to have
any apprehension of their running away. The men rolled themselves up
in their plaids, therefore, and each making a bed for himself among
the long heather, they indulged in that sort of half slumber to which
active-bodied and vacant-minded people must naturally yield the moment
they are brought into an attitude of rest.

Macfarlane had no sooner made himself perfectly master of all these
circumstances, than he at once conceived his murderous plans--took his
resolution--gave his orders; and, having cautioned every man of his
party to be hushed as the grave, they proceeded, under the guidance
of Angus, to steal like cats upon their prey--foot falling softly and
slowly after foot, so that if they produced any sound at all, it was
liker the rustle of some zephyr passing gently over the heather tops,
than the pressure of mortal tread.

Whilst they were proceeding in this cautious manner, Angus, who was at
the head of the men, was observed suddenly to raise his crossbow, and
to point it in the direction of Macfarlane, who was, at that moment,
some ten or fifteen paces before the party. Filled with horror, the men
who were nearest to him sprang upon him to prevent so great a treason
as the murder of their chief. Angus was felled to the ground--but
his bolt had already flown--and, with a sure aim too, for down fell
among the heath, weltering in his blood, and with an expiring groan,
not the chief of the Macfarlanes, but one of the Lochaber men. The
quick eye of Angus had detected him standing half concealed by the
huge trunk of a tree, exactly in the very path of the chief. Three
more steps would have brought Macfarlane within reach of the very
dirk of the assassin, which was already unsheathed, and ready to
have been plunged in his bosom. Amazement fell upon all of them for
some moments. Macfarlane could with difficulty comprehend what had
happened; but when he was at length made to understand the truth,
he ran towards Angus. He was already raised in the arms of those of
his friends who had so rashly judged and punished him, but who were
now sufficiently ashamed and repentant of their precipitation.

"Look up, my brave Angus," said Macfarlane to his clansman, as he
began to revive; "look up to thy chief, grateful as he is for that
life which thou hast preserved to him!--Heaven forbid that it were
at the expense of thine own life; and that, too, taken by the too
zealous hands of Macfarlanes."

"Fear not for me," replied Angus, somewhat faintly, "I was but stunned
by the blow; and he that gave it me would have been well excused if
he had given me a death-wound, if I could have been justly suspected
of traitorie to my chief; and well I wot the bare suspicion of such
villainy is wound enough to me."

"Nay, nay, Angus," said Macfarlane; "you must not think so deeply of
this accident. The judgment was necessarily as sudden as the action,
and no wonder that it was faulty. But, how came this stray man to be
patrolling about? Are we betrayed or discovered, think ye?"

"I would fain trust that we are not," replied Angus. "As we watched,
we saw one man leave the bothy to go out and spy around their post,
as we guessed; but, as we afterwards saw a man come in again, we took
him to be the same, when, I'll warrant me, he has been the fellow
whom the first man went out to relieve. But, if we were deceived, the
fault is luckily cured now, for this is doubtless the very man who"----

"Aye," said the chief interrupting him; "the very man, indeed, who
would have certainly taken my life, had it not been for thine alert
and timely aid. What do I not owe thee, my trusty Angus! But stay;
let him sit down and rest for a brief space, till he recovers his
strength, and then, if I mistake not, we shall bloodily revenge his
passing injury."

They now again moved forward, with much circumspection, until they at
length began to perceive a distant light, which occasionally twinkled
in advance of them. As they proceeded, the light became broader,
though it was still broken by the intervention of the thick-set stems
of the forest. But after groping their way onwards with redoubled care
for some hundred yards farther, it burst forth fully and steadily on
their eyes, as the trees ceased suddenly, and they found themselves
close to the very edge of the open hollow described by Angus, and in
the middle of the herdsmen who had been left by him as spies. After
using their eyes very earnestly and intently for a little time, they
could now perceive the surface of the shallow pool, which lay in the
still shadow, in the centre of the bottom below them, and they could
dimly descry the dusky mass of cattle lying crowded together around
it. As the Macfarlanes stood peering into the obscurity, a low and
melancholy voice of complaint would every now and then burst from some
individual beast, reminiscent of the rich Loch Lomond pasture from
which it had been driven, and bitterly sensible of the sad change of
fortunes which a few hours had brought to it. The figures of the four
watchmen were as yet invisible; but the whole face of the opposite
knoll being free from wood, the door of the hunting bothy was clearly
defined, by the bickering blaze of faggots that burned in the middle
of the floor within, distinctly displaying the sentinel as he walked to
and fro across the field of its light. The thick wooding of the forest
that encircled this natural opening came climbing up the rear of the
knoll until its tall pines clustered over the back of the bothy itself,
and the existence of high grounds rising with considerable abruptness
at no great distance, if not previously known, could only have been
guessed at by the greater density of the shade which prevailed over
everything that was beneath the lofty horizon, the limits of which
were easily distinguished by the partial gleam that proceeded from the
sky above it. There the clouds were now every moment growing thinner
and thinner, as the driving rack skimmed across the face of heaven
with a velocity that proclaimed an approaching hurricane.

In obedience to the orders already given to them by their chief,
the Macfarlanes retreated a few steps into the thick part of the
skirting forest, the dark foliage of which arose everywhere around
this naturally open space, and beneath its impenetrable concealment
they made a silent movement to right and left, during which they
posted single men at equal distances from each other, until they had
completely surrounded the hollow, the bothy, and the whole party of
Lochaber men, together with their booty. This manoeuvre was no sooner
silently and successfully executed, than four choice young herdsmen,
remarkable for their daring courage as well as for their strength and
agility, were selected by Angus. These had well and accurately noted
the respective spots where each of the Lochaber watchmen had lain
down, and after some consultation, each had one of them assigned to
him as his own peculiar object of attack. Having gone around the edge
of the wood till each man was opposite to his slumbering enemy, they
glided down the sloping edges of the hollow, armed with their dirks
alone, and they crept on their bellies towards the bottom, drawing
themselves like snakes silently and imperceptibly through the long
heather. Full time was to be allowed for each man to reach his prey;
and although the period was not in reality very long, yet you will
easily believe that it passed over the heads of the Macfarlanes with a
degree of anxiety that made it appear long enough. The moment the four
herdsmen began to descend into the deep shadow which filled the sides
of the hollow, their figures were entirely lost to the view of those
who were stationed within the skirt of the surrounding forest. Every
heart beat with agonising suspense. The smallest accident might ruin
all. An occasional prolonged moan was heard to come from some of the
cattle, and all felt persuaded, however contrary it might be to reason,
that each succeeding recurrence of it must awaken the slumberers. But
at length, whether from the operation of some peculiar instinct,
or from some remarkable sense of smell which these creatures have
occasionally proved that they possess, it happened that they really
did become sensible of the approach of some of those who were wont to
attend on them, I know not; but all of a sudden some ten or a dozen of
them sprang up to their legs, and changed their long low moan into that
sharp and piercing rout into which it is frequently known to graduate.

"Look out! look out there!" cried one of the Lochaber watchmen in
Gaelic, and half raising himself as he spoke.

"Look out!" cried one of the others laughing, "I'm thinking that I
would need the blazing eyes of the devil himself to be able to look
at anything here."

"What's the matter?" shouted the sentinel at the door of the bothy;
and as he said so, he halted in the midst of his walk, and bent his
body forward in all directions in his eagerness to descry the cause
of the alarm.

"Tut, nothing," replied another of the watchmen, "all's well, I
warrant me."

"Aye, aye," said another, "we're safe enough from all surprise this
night; for, as Archy says, it would need the fiery e'en of the red
de'il himself to grope a way through the forest in such darkness
as this."

"It's dark enough to confound an owl or a bat, indeed," said the
watchman who first spoke, "but mine are eyes that can note a buck
on Ben Nevis' side of an autumn morning a good hour before the sun
hath touched his storm-worn top; and, by St. Colm, I swear I saw some
dark-looking thing glide over the lip of the bank yonder."

"It must have been a dark-looking thing, indeed, to have been visible
there," replied his comrade; "but if it were not fancy, it must have
been a fox or a badger."

"Be it what it might," replied the man, "I swear I saw the back of
the creature as it came creeping over the round of the bank."

"What, think ye, makes the' cattle rout so strangely?" demanded
the sentinel.

"That which makes the pipes skirl so loudly," replied one of the men
below, "a stomach full of wind. I promise you the poor beasts got but
a scanty supper ere the sun went to. And here, unless they can eat
gravel or sand in this hole, or heather as hard as pike-heads, they
have little chance of filling their bellies with aught else but wind."

A noise of talking was now heard within the bothy, where all had
been so quiet previously, and immediately afterwards the doorway was
darkened by the figures of two or three men, who came crowding out to
gaze ineffectually around them. Some talking took place between them
and the sentinel; and Macfarlane and his people gave up all hope of
the success of the manoeuvres they had planned. But after some moments
of most painful suspense, the talk of the Lochaber men terminated in
a loud laugh, produced, no doubt, by some waggish remark made against
some individual of the little knot, after which the figures retired
into the hut. The sentinel resumed his silent walk, and the watchmen in
the hollow below seemed to relapse into their former state of slumber.

The silence that now prevailed was not less deep and intense than the
darkness that sat upon this wild forest scene, where the plunderers
lay unconsciously surrounded by their mortal foes. Macfarlane moved
cautiously round the circle of his men, to assure himself that
all were prepared, and sufficient time having now expired to have
allowed the slumber of security to have again crept over his victims,
he took a matchlock from his henchman, and stepping forth from under
the trees, he pointed it with a deliberate and unerring aim at the
sentinel, as he stood for a moment directly opposed to the full
light proceeding from the doorway. He gave fire. This was the fatal
signal--instantaneously fatal to him against whom the deadly tube was
levelled, who sprang into the air and fell without a groan, pierced
through the very heart. But it was not fatal to him alone; for ere the
report of the shot had re-echoed from the surrounding heights of the
forest, or its myriads of feathered inhabitants had been roused by it
on the startled wing, the dirks of the four Macfarlane herdsmen had
bathed themselves in the life's-blood of the four Lochaber watchmen;
so that their living slumbers were in one moment exchanged for those
of death. The wild war-shout of "Lochsloy! Lochsloy!" arose at once
from every part of the ring of the Macfarlanes, who environed the
place; and each man keeping his eyes on the light that issued from
the bothy, on they ran towards it as to a centre from all parts of
the circle. So sudden was the attack, that those within had hardly
time to start from their sleep, and to hurry in confusion to the
door, ere the Macfarlanes were upon them. The clash of arms was
terrific, and the slaughter fearful. At once driven back in a mass,
the remnant of the Lochaber men barricaded the doorway in despair,
and determining to die hard, they fired many shots from behind it,
as well as from a small window hole near it; but discharged as these
were from a crowded press of men, where no aim could be taken, no
very fatal effect could be produced by them. On the other hand, the
assailants could do nothing, till Macfarlane kindled a slow-match,
and prepared to thrust it into the dry heather that covered the roof.

"Macfarlane!" cried Angus, eagerly endeavouring to interpose; "for the
love of the Virgin fire not the thatch! Think of old Margery's vision!"

Macfarlane did think of it; but, alas! he thought of it too late;
for the slow match had been already applied--had already caught
fatally; and in one instant it had burst into a blaze, that, amidst
the pitchy darkness of that night, would have been a magnificent
spectacle, could any one have beheld it without those dreadful emotions
naturally excited by the cruel cause that created it, and the horrible
circumstances that attended it. In one moment more the whole of the
wooden structure was in flames, and inconceivably short was the period
in which the tragedy was consummated. Loud and piteous were the cries
for mercy; but they fell on ears which revenge had rendered deaf
to mercy's call. The half-burned Lochaber men, yelling like demons,
rushed in desperation forth from the blazing walls; but dazzled by
the glare, they only rushed to certain destruction on the spears of
the Macfarlanes, and were hewn down by their trenchant claymores,
or despatched with their ready dirks: so that ere a few brief moments
had fled away, all those who had been so recently reposing in fancied
security, with the full pulses of robust life beating vigorously
within their hardy frames, were heaped up in one reeking mass of
carnage before the burning bothy.

"Let us rid the earth of these carcases!" said Macfarlane after
a pause; for now that the keenness of revenge and the exciting
eagerness of enterprise had been fully satiated by success, he was
half horror-struck with the ghastly fruits of it, which he thus beheld
piled up before him. In obedience to his command, the whole of the
dead bodies were immediately gathered together, and thrown within
the burning bothy, where they were quickly covered with branches and
half-decayed pieces of wood, hastily dragged from the forest, till the
fire that was thus created shot up far above the trees in one spiral
pillar of flame, bearing on its capital a black smoke that poisoned
the air with the heavy and sickening taint with which it was loaded.

The Macfarlanes stood for a while grouped in front of it, in silent
contemplation of its fitful changes; but its light showed little
of the flush of triumph on their sullen brows. Each man held dark
communing with his own gloomy thoughts. Their chief, leaning on the
deadly instrument which had given the fatal signal, looked on the
scene with a cloud on his brow not less dark than that of the murky
smoke itself. Whatever his reflections were, there was a restless
and uneasy expression on his countenance. He started, for a dreadful
sound came crashing through the forest. It was like that which might
well have announced the coming of the demon of destruction or the
angel of vengeance; and before he could mutter the Ave-Maria which
mechanically came to his lips, that hurricane which the careering
rack of the clouds had been for some time unheededly announcing,
came rushing upon them with the swiftness of lightning and with
resistless force. In one moment the frail wooden walls of the bothy,
already yielding to the influence of the combustion, were levelled
with the ground; and some six or eight of the tallest pines which stood
nearest to them behind, were laid across them with all their branches
in one heap by the blast. Macfarlane and his men were driven down on
their faces, and compelled to cling to the knoll on hands and knees,
like flies to a mushroom top. So tremendous was the violence of the
tempest, that they could not rise from their crouching position,
nor even dare to lift up their heads without the certainty of being
whirled off their feet, and dashed to atoms against the boles of the
neighbouring trees. This furious fit of the elements endured not long;
but when a sudden lull of nature did allow them to assume the erect
position, how terrible! how appalling was the scene they beheld!

The funeral pile which they had themselves kindled for the massacred
men of Lochaber, now arose in one broad resistless tower of fire,
crowned, as it were, with many a pointed pinnacle of flame, that
appeared to pierce the very sky, lighting up every part of the
surrounding elevations, nay, every little crevice in the rocks,
and every tree, bush, or petty plant that grew upon their rugged
surface. If the spectacle was grand before, it was now sublime beyond
all imagination. But, alas! the Macfarlanes were occupied with
other contemplations; for the huge fallen pines which had so much
augmented the conflagration, had formed a train of communication
from the burning bothy to the thick forest immediately behind it;
and the flames had spread so rapidly far and wide on every side,
that already the whole of the surrounding circle of wood presented
nearly one dense and lofty wall of fire through which there was hardly
any door of escape left for them. For one instant, and for that one
instant only, something like dismay appeared in Macfarlane's eye,
as he first gazed around him, and then cast a glance full of anxious
expression towards his faithful clansmen.

"Perhaps I might have shown more mercy," half-muttered he to
himself. "But if it be the will of Heaven to punish me, oh! why should
these poor fellows suffer for the sin of their chief? My brave men,"
continued he aloud, "we cannot stand here. The air already grows hot
and scanty. Follow me, and let us try to burst through yonder point
where the flames seem to burn thinnest. Come on."

Followed by his people, Macfarlane rushed down the sloping face of
the knoll, with the intention of cutting across the open space by the
most direct line towards the spot he had indicated; but they had not
gone many steps ere the hurricane again came sweeping over the woods
with all its former fury,--the enormous pines bent and groaned as if
from the agony they were enduring,--the violence of the conflagration
was increased tenfold,--the wall of fire by which they were environed
was speedily closed in, so as to annihilate every lingering hope of
escape,--and the Macfarlanes were compelled to throw themselves again
flat on the ground, and to scramble down into the bottom of the hollow,
to avoid being scorched up like moths by the fire which the uncertain
whirlwind darted suddenly hither and thither in different directions,
and to escape the risk of being snatched up into the air and launched
amid the burning pines.

It had happened so far well for the sufferers, that the cattle,
terrified by the shouts of the conflict, and still more by the first
blaze of the bothy, had fled up the bank from the hollow, and,
forgetting their fatigue, they had charged full-tilt through the
forest, routing and bellowing in that direction which led to their
own Loch Lomond pastures, from which they had been so unwillingly
driven. The small space towards the bottom of the hollow, therefore,
was thus left entirely disencumbered of them; so that when the
Macfarlanes were forced down thither, they were enabled to gather
around the shallow pool of water in the centre of the place. There they
endeavoured to defend themselves against the flying embers, by rolling
up their bodies tight in their plaids. But although they were rid of
the cattle, they were not left as the only occupants of the spot; for
the place was soon covered with swarms of mice, weasels, adders, frogs,
toads, and all the minuter sorts of animals, like them driven into the
centre of the circle by the scorching heat of the devouring element
that surrounded them. For now the flames raged fiercer than ever, and
the dense canopy of smoke that covered the comparatively small space
where they lay, was so pressed down upon them by the fury of the blast,
that it appeared to shut out the very air; and they seemed to breathe
nothing but fire and burning dust and ashes. Their very lungs seemed
to be igniting, whilst at every temporary accession of the tempest,
the half-consumed tops of the blazing pines were whirled among them
like darts, inflicting grievous bruises and burns on many of them.

And now, as if to consummate their afflictions and their miserable
fate, the long, dry, and wiry heath that grew within the open space
where they lay, was laid hold of by the fire; and the flames, running
along the ground from all sides towards the centre, threatened
them with instant, awful, and inevitable death. But one resource
now remained; and to that they were not slow in resorting. They
rolled themselves into the shallow pool, and wallowed together in
a knot. They gasped like dying men, and their eyeballs glared and
started from their sockets with the agony they endured; and in their
utter despair they sucked the muddy water of the lochan in which they
lay, to cool their burning mouths and throats. Macfarlane felt as
if they had been already consigned to the purifying pains of that
purgatory through which, as his religion told him, their guilty
souls must pass. Their bewildered brains spun round, and strange
and terrific shapes seemed to pass before their eyes. Some short
ejaculations for mercy were breathed, but not a groan, nor a word,
nor a sound of complaint, was permitted to escape from any one of
their manly breasts, even although the pool, their last frail hope,
was now fast drying up from the intensity of the heat.

After a complication of indescribable torments, which made the
passing minutes seem like hours, the force of the hurricane suddenly
slackened for a short time, and the thick surface of heath around them
having been by this time burnt out, and the trees which grew upon the
immediate confines of the circle having had their boughs and foliage
consumed and their trunks prostrated, the open space within which
they were enclosed grew wider in its limits, and consequently the air
became more abundant and freer in its circulation; so that they began
gradually to revive. By degrees they were enabled to raise themselves
in a weak and half-suffocated state from what was now reduced to little
more than the mere mud of the pool. Then it was that their chief,
though himself much overcome by the conjunction of his own bodily
and mental sufferings, was roused to active exertion by that anxious
desire to preserve his people which now sprang up within him, to the
utter extinguishment of all consideration for his own person. He was
so faint, that it was with some difficulty he could ascend the knoll;
but he hastened to climb it, that he might endeavour to discover from
thence whether any hope was likely to arise for them. There he found
that the bothy, and the fuel and pine trees that had been heaped upon
it, had already sunk into a smoking hillock of red-hot ashes, from the
smouldering surface of which the ghastly half-consumed skulls of his
Lochaber foes were seen fearfully protruding themselves. The undaunted
heart of Macfarlane quailed before a spectacle so unlooked for and
so unwelcome at such a moment. He started back and shuddered as their
blackened visages met his eye, grinning, as it were, with a horrible
fiend-like expression of satisfaction at his present misery. He
turned from the sight with disgust, not unmingled with remorse, and
then sweeping his eyes around the now far-retreating circle of the
burning forest, and reflecting on the imminent destruction which he
and his clansmen had so recently escaped, and looking to the peril
by which they were yet environed, he crossed himself, threw his eyes
upwards, uttered an inward prayer of penitence and of thankfulness,
and then he bravely prepared himself to take every advantage of
whatever favourable circumstances might occur.

After scanning the blazing boundary all around with the most minute
attention, Macfarlane thought he could perceive one narrow blank in
the continuity of the fiery wall. His knowledge of the forest enabled
him to be immediately aware that the blank was occasioned by a ravine
which he knew was but partially covered with wood, through which a
stream found its way. He took his determination; and summoning his
people around him, and pointing out this distant hope of escape,
he called to them to follow him. With resolute countenances they
immediately began to make their difficult and hazardous way over the
torrid and smoking ground, among the red-hot trunks of the pine-trees
which stood half-consumed--smouldering fallen logs--tall branchless
masts, which still blazed like upright torches, and which were every
moment falling around them, or those which had already fallen, or
which had been broken over, hanging burning in an inclined position
across their way--whilst they were, every now and then, tripped and
thrown down by some unseen obstacle among the scorching embers; and
ever and anon each returning gust of the hurricane whirled up around
them an atmosphere of ignited dust and cinders, almost sufficient to
have deprived them of the breath of life. But still, with their heads
half-muffled in their plaids, they persevered, till the increasing
heat of the air they inhaled and of the ground they trod on, and the
multiplication of the difficulties they had to encounter, would have
been enough of themselves to have convinced them of their approach
to the more active theatre of the conflagration, even if its fiery
enclosure, and the groaning and crashing of the falling timber, had
not been but too manifestly before their eyes and loud in their ears.

The difficulties and dangers of their progress now became infinitely
multiplied. Hitherto their endeavours to keep together had been
tolerably successful; but now each individual could do no more than
take care of himself, and every cloud of burning cinders that blew
around them produced a greater separation among them, till finally
they became so dispersed, that when the chief reached the head of the
narrow ravine, through which he had hoped that he might have led them
in a body, he cleared the burning dust from his eyes, looked everywhere
around him eagerly for his people, and, to his bitter mortification,
he beheld no one but his trusty Angus, who, amidst all the obstacles
and hazards through which they had passed, had still contrived to
stick close to his master. Old Margery's vision came across his mind,
and, in the midst of the burning heats to which he was subjected,
the blood ran cold to his heart. He cast his eyes down the trough of
the ravine, over which clouds of flame and smoke were then rolling,
and there, indeed, he did, at transient intervals, behold a handful
of his clansmen toiling through the perilous passage. He shouted
aloud to bid them stay; but the overwhelming roar of the whirlwind,
combined with that of the combustion of the neighbouring trees,
rendered his voice altogether powerless. Distressing doubts arose
within him as to the fate of those who appeared to be amissing; but
the rapid growth of the conflagration around him compelled him to
shake off all such thoughts, and summoning up his sternest resolution,
he rushed down into the ravine, with Angus at his back, as if he had
been rushing to an assault under the spirit-stirring influence of the
war-cry of the Macfarlanes. And few assaults indeed could have been so
hazardous, for, ever and anon, huge burning pines were precipitated
from the steeps above, so that even the water-course itself was in
a great measure choked up by their hissing and smoking ruins. But
still Macfarlane fought his way onwards amidst burnings and bruises,
many of them occasioned by his frequently looking round with anxious
solicitude for the safety of his faithful follower; but, in spite of
all these difficulties and perils, he had already made considerable
progress down the ravine, when, in one instant, he was deprived of
all sense by the sudden descent of an enormous pine, which he could
neither avoid nor see.

When the chief recovered from his swoon, he found himself lying on
his back, in a shallow part of the little stream, which there crept
along between two great stony masses. He had been struck down by the
spray and smaller branches of the upper boughs of the tree, which,
fortunately for him, had rested across the great stones in such a
manner as to form an arch over his body, and as this arch naturally
produced a rush of air under it, he was thus saved alike from being
crushed to death and from suffocation. Raising himself on his hands
and knees, he made his way out from under the burning boughs, and got
up so stunned and battered, that some moments elapsed ere he quite
recovered his recollection. Recent events then crowded fast to his
mind, and with these his anxiety for the safety of Angus recurred
more strongly than ever. He called loudly and frequently on him by
name, but the well-known voice of his faithful follower came not in
return. A lurid light was thrown down into the depth of the ravine by
the conflagration which was spreading widely above. He moved anxiously
around the tree, looking earnestly everywhere underneath the smoking
branches, till at last the manly countenance of Angus Macfarlane met
his eye. The forehead exhibited a fearful ghastly-looking wound, and
his body was lying so crushed down beneath the boughs that pressed
upon it, as to take away all chance that a spark of life remained
within it. With desperate strength and anguish of mind the chief drew
his claymore, and hewed away the interposing branches, till he had
so far relieved the body as to be able to draw it forth. He eagerly
felt for the pulses of life, but they were for ever stilled.

"Alas, alas, my faithful Angus!" cried Macfarlane, "art thou gone for
ever! Alas, thy fate was indeed too truly read! But I cannot leave
thee to feed the devouring flames, or to be a banquet for the ravens
when this awful burning shall have passed away. Alas! I promised
to provide for thy bridal, and now, since it hath pleased Heaven to
dispose it otherwise, it shall not be said that thy chief permitted
thee to lack funereal rites!"

With these words Macfarlane stooped him down, and raised the body
of Angus upon his shoulders. The way down the water-course was
obstructed by the huge half-consumed trunks of the fallen pines,
which lay in every direction across, resting irregularly on the
large blocks of slippery stone, with their branches interwoven like
hurdles. But Macfarlane, weakened as he was by the accumulated fatigue
and suffering he had undergone, staggered on under his burden with
an unsubdued spirit, determined to bear it so long as his limbs were
able to sustain his own person. Inconceivable was the toil which he
underwent, and many were the hairbreadth 'scapes which he made from
instantaneous destruction. But still he persevered with undiminished
courage, until his heroic exertions were at length rewarded by his
reaching a spot of comparative safety, beyond the fiery barrier which
had so long environed him. But here he only stopped to breathe for
a moment, for, toil-spent, exhausted, and bruised, and faint as he
was, he was still compelled, by a regard for his own life, to urge
onwards over the smoother ground which he now trod, with longer and
less cautious strides. His way was illuminated for an immense distance
before him, by the triumphant conflagration that came roaring after
him, and it was still gaining fresh strength every succeeding moment
from the furious aid it was receiving from the increasing hurricane.

As he bore his burden resolutely onwards, his uncertain path led him
across a mossy patch of heath, where there were but few trees. There
the lurid light of the conflagration, reflected as it was from the
heavens, was sufficient to show him a white figure advancing hastily
towards him. It was a maiden's slender form--she came--she uttered
one wild and piercing shriek, and then she sank down amid the long
heath. Macfarlane laid the body of Angus upon a small hillock, and
ran to her aid. It was Ellen. He flew to a rill hard by, and brought
water in his bonnet. She still breathed, but, as he lifted her head
on his knee, each succeeding inspiration became fainter and fainter,
till her fair bosom ceased to heave, and her lovely features settled
into the marble stillness of death. Her frenzied efforts had been
greater than her delicate frame could bear, and the severe mental
shock which she received had suddenly expelled her pure spirit from
its earthly tenement.

Macfarlane leant over her for a time, altogether absorbed in the
intensity of those feelings to which human nature compelled him to
yield. But it was not long till the increasing roar of the advancing
conflagration, which was now fearfully extending the breadth of its
line of march, roused him from his stupor. What could he now do? Was
he to abandon both, or even one of the bodies of those, the memory of
whom he so much cherished, in order to consult his own safety? or was
he to peril his own life for the purpose of performing a pious but by
no means an imperatively necessary duty? He hesitated for a moment--a
transient and accidental gleam disclosed to him the honest countenance
of Angus--his heart filled with many an old recollection--his lip
quivered--his eyes became moist--he moved towards the hillock where
the body of Angus lay, and, stooping down hastily, he raised it again
to his right shoulder, and then, passing onwards, he put his left arm
around the slim form of Ellen, and lifting it up, he laboured on under
the weight of both, with the long hair of the maiden sweeping over
the tops of the purple heath as he went. Louder and louder came the
roar of the conflagration behind him. He quickened his steps, toiling
on every moment more and more breathlessly. But again the trees grew
thicker as he advanced, and his way became more and more encumbered
by their stems. The heat of the advancing flames now came more and
more sensibly upon him, yet still he struggled on, firmly resolved
not to relinquish either of his burdens till dire necessity should
compel him to do so. The moment when this alternative was to arrive
seemed to be fast approaching--nature was becoming exhausted--when his
ears caught a shout which he well knew must come from some of his own
clansmen. Faint as he was, the chief was not slow in replying to it;
and, to his great relief, he was soon joined by some of those from whom
he had been separated during the earlier part of their dreadful and
bewildering retreat. He was now speedily relieved of both his burdens,
and the flagging spirits of all of them being in some degree restored
by this meeting, they again pushed on with renewed exertions, and
without a halt, for some miles, during which they picked up several
stragglers, whose bruised and blackened figures gave sufficient
evidence of the dangers and difficulties they had passed through.

Worn out almost to death, this remnant of the Macfarlanes with
difficulty climbed the gentle slope of a considerable eminence that
lay in their way, and as they wound over the summit of it, where the
trees grew somewhat thinly, Macfarlane, as he looked behind him, had
at last the satisfaction to perceive that they had now gained so much
on their pursuing enemy as to render them secure of a safe and easy
retreat. Many, I trow, was the cross that was signed, and the broken
thanksgiving that was uttered ere the chief and this fragment of his
followers threw themselves down to rest awhile, and to contemplate the
awful scene of destruction from which they had so wonderfully escaped,
of which their present commanding position gave them a full view.

The flames had now spread for miles in every direction over the
thickest parts of the forest, rising over the crested ridges
and swelling elevations, and diving into the deepest valleys and
hollows. It seemed like one great billowy sea of fire, agitated as
it was from time to time by the hurricane, which, as it approached
its termination, came in gusts, violent in strength, but short in
duration. As each of these successively swept over the blazing woods,
its terrible roar was mingled with the fearful crash of thousands
of gigantic pines, which were levelled like reeds before it. These,
as they fell, tossed up myriads of mimic stars and meteors into
the firmament, which, being surrounded by a zone of dense and inky
clouds on its horizon, shone from within that circumference to its
very centre, like one vast concave plate of red-hot brass. The scene
was enough to humble the proudest heart. The very deer were terrified
into an unwonted degree of familiarity with man, for a herd of them
that came sweeping over the brow of the eminence, flying in terror
from the devouring flames, halted by them, and mingled with them, as
if to claim protection from them. The dauntless heart of Macfarlane
himself sank within him, as the whole desolating circumstances of
this terrible night came crowding to his mind. It was wrung by a deep
pang as he recalled the horrible spectacle of the massacred men of
Lochaber; he wept like a child when he again looked on the inanimate
bodies of those whose appointed bridal-day must now become that of
their funeral. He groaned deeply as he gathered from his people around
him the sad fate of many of those who were not now to be seen among
them; and when such thoughts as these could be so far subdued as to
permit him to gaze on the red and resistlessly devouring element,
which was so rapidly annihilating his forest, he pictured to himself
the melancholy devastation it would produce over his wide domains,
and the destruction it would occasion to his hunting grounds, and
already, in imagination, he beheld the sable livery of mourning that
must soon be spread over his hitherto magnificent territory. And
how well his anticipations were verified, we know from the fact,
that ere many days went round the whole of the forest covering that
country for above twenty-five miles in length, and of a breadth
corresponding to that extent, was completely burned down, and the
mosses which afterwards originated from it, and which still exist,
are full of the embalmed witnesses of this terrible calamity.



COMPARATIVELY RECENT DESTRUCTION OF THE FORESTS.


Author.--Your legend, my dear Grant, is extremely valuable as matter
of history. The preservation of the circumstances which fortuitously
caused the destruction of one vast extent of forest, enables us easily
to imagine those which may have contributed to the annihilation of
all the rest.

Grant.--Doubtless, it does.

Author.--It appears that many of those tracts of woodland must have
perished at periods much more recent than we should at first sight be
led to suppose; and it now occurs to me, that I lately heard enough
to convince me that this was the case with the forests covering the
bare country you are now looking at. Both of you know enough of it to
be aware that the upper part of Strathspey, far beyond those distant
hills, is somewhat about eight and twenty or thirty miles from Cawdor
Castle; and you know that bare heaths, such as we see before us,
now cover the whole of that stretch of country, with two exceptions;
I mean that of the picturesque forest of Dulnan, immediately to the
south of the Bridge of Carr, and that presented by the now almost
exhausted forest of Dulsie, the remnants of which you may see behind us
yonder to our right, running along the trough of the river Findhorn,
and covering part of the hills to the north of it. In the whole of
the space I have mentioned, these are the only fragments of woodland
left to interrupt the dull monotony of the moors.

Clifford.--I was over it all this very season. It is not very easy
for me to conceive that it could have ever been wooded at all. 'Tis
excellent grouse ground every bit of it. But, as to timber, if there
be any, it is all buried beneath the heathery sod.

Author.--True. Yet a respectable man, perfectly worthy of credit,
assured a friend of mine, that in his grandfather's younger days, the
state of this part of the country was very different. The old man he
alluded to lived near Aviemore. He sent his son, who was the father of
my friend's informant, on some errand to Fort George. He had himself
become blind from age, and as he had not travelled that way for many
years, he earnestly questioned his son after his return. "What sort of
a country is that you have been seeing?" said he; and when his son had
described it as having pretty much the same appearance as it now wears,
"Och, hey!" exclaimed the old man, "what a change! When I was a youth,
I used to go in underneath the shade of the forest on this side of
the woods of Dulnan, and I hardly ever saw the sun again till I got
out of it below Cawdor Castle!"

Grant.--That is a very curious fact. Why that would bring the
existence of the forests of this part of the country down to within
three generations; and, even allowing that your friend's informant
was advanced in life when he told the story, and that his father and
grandfather were rather patriarchal in the endurance of their lives,
yet I think the evidence you have brought forward would enable us
safely to say, that these moors we now look upon were still covered
with wood at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Author.--Such, certainly, ought to be our conclusion. Is it not
surprising, then, that I have never been able to pick up any account,
legendary or otherwise, of the circumstances which must have produced
the extirpation of these forests at a period comparatively so recent.

Clifford.--From the roots and trunks which are left, it would appear
that the trees were almost entirely pines.

Author.--The pine is certainly the prevailing tree, but it is by no
means the only one. Birches, alders, and hazels are common, and oaks
of immense size, some of them three or four feet in diameter for a
great way up the stem, are dug up in various parts of these moors,
and many of them in situations where it is now matter of astonishment
that such monarchs of the wood could have been produced; for they
are found high on the hills yonder above Dulsie, as well as in the
mosses far up the courses of the rivers Dorback and Divie.

Clifford, with enthusiasm,--With what a different scene should we now
be surrounded, if we could conjure up all these ancient tenants of the
soil, like the reanimated bodies of dead warriors from their graves,
as told in some fairy tale of my childhood, to live again, and to
wave their leafy banners triumphantly over these hills and hollows!

Grant.--It would be a very different scene indeed.

Author.--Aye, truly it would. Conceive the bleak face of these moors
so covered, and then carry your imagination back into remote ages,
and let us endeavour to people it in fancy with the animals which must
have roamed through its endless wildernesses, and couched within the
protection of its almost impervious thickets.

Clifford.--What a country for sport!

Author.--Let us picture to ourselves the myriads of birds of all kinds
which winged their flight over the boundless ocean of its foliage,
as it was blown into billowy motion by the breezes, or which nestled
among its branches as it quietly settled itself to repose, and we
shall not only have produced out of these wastes a gorgeous landscape,
most romantic in its character, but we shall have opened a wide field
for the speculations of the naturalist.

Clifford.--Yes; but, talking of the romantic character of your
landscape, what would all that be to the ancient figures to be found
in it? Fancy, only fancy the figures! Think of the dress, the arms,
the hunting-implements, and the houses of its human inhabitants! Would
we could have but one glimpse of them truly as they were!

Author.--If you were to go far enough back for them, you would fill
our forests with a race of men, rude as the scenes in which they
lived and roamed, and the whole sketch would be one for which we
could hardly now find any really existing resemblance, save in the
wilds of North America.

Grant.--Your view of the matter is probably correct enough.

Author.--I believe it to be very correct; and, now I think of it,
a discovery was made some eight or ten years ago, which would seem to
bear evidence to the former existence of this ideal picture in which
we have been indulging. Some labourers, who were employed in digging
in a moss on Lord Moray's estate of Brae-Moray, to our left there,
found a curious bundle, they took from under ten feet of a solid
peat stratum. The bundle was about two feet long by one foot thick,
and in form it very much resembled such a cloak-bag as you may have at
times seen strapped behind a horseman's saddle. A careless inspection
of it would have led one to believe that it was covered with leather
tanned with the hair on it, and it looked, for all the world, like
that of one of those strange old trunks which were frequently to be
seen bristling like bears among the uncouth baggage on the top of
our ancient Flies and Diligences. When I first saw it, a piece of it
had been torn up by the curious peasants who had found it, and the
aperture they had thus made enabled us to become instantly acquainted
with the nature of the mass within, which proved to be tallow.

Grant.--Tallow!--Adipocere, I suppose. That fatty substance into
which animal fibre is frequently converted by long immersion in water.

Author.--No such thing, I assure you. It was pure tallow; and the
whole appearances connected with it were very easily explained. It
was evident that the tallow, fresh taken from the recent carcase, had
been pressed into the raw hide the moment it had been stripped from
the newly slain animal, and the whole had been stitched or rather
laced up with thongs cut from the skin itself. The perfect state
of the leather into which the skin had been converted, exhibited a
beautiful proof of the extent to which the chemical principle tannin
exists in peat moss. No modern tan-pit could have performed the process
more effectually. Nor were the preservative properties of moss less
established by it; for the tallow was quite entire and uncorrupted,
and perfectly inodorous and tasteless. On first inspection it presented
a hard appearance, so much so indeed, that it might have been mistaken
for chalk; but the moment heat was applied, it melted as readily as
fresh tallow would have done.

Clifford.--By your account of this strange mass, it might have been
valuable for the candlemakers, if not for culinary purposes. Pray,
what became of it?

Author.--The noble proprietor of the estate where it was found gave it
me at my request; and with his permission I sent it to the Museum of
the Edinburgh University. But whilst it remained in my possession,
I never could look at it without its bringing to my mind what we
have so often read of in North American travels,--I mean the Indian
practice of killing an elk, or a deer, or a buffalo, bundling up the
tallow of the creature in its raw hide with all manner of expedition,
with the future purpose of making pemmican of it, and so marching
off with it on their shoulders, leaving the flesh to feed the wolves
and the bears. And really I cannot divest myself of the conviction
that the mass of tallow I have described belonged to a period of the
history of this country when the state of its inhabitants differed
but little from that of those nomade North American tribes.

Grant.--It certainly does appear to give no small degree of probability
to your fancy.

Clifford.--Nay, but might not some of your cattle-lifters of a
much later date have performed all that you suppose your savages to
have done?

Author.--The circumstance of the bundle being found beneath ten feet of
solid moss, which had formed over it since the time it was left there,
together with the various layers of trees found in the same bog,
lying one over the other, would seem to forbid any such apparently
modern explanation, and to throw back the period of its deposition
to a very remote era indeed.

Grant.--Undoubtedly; and the probability is, that the tallow was the
produce of no vulgar beast, but rather that of some of the bisons or
magnificent wild cattle of the ancient Caledonian forests.

Author.--Certainly. But I have since had another lump of tallow sent
me, which had all the evidences of a much more modern origin. It was
found on the farm of Drumlochan, on the south side of the Findhorn,
about a mile below Dulsie Bridge yonder; and it was covered by a
little more than two feet of moss. Its form was very peculiar; for it
was round one way and flat the other, like a North Wiltshire cheese,
which it very much resembled in shape and size. It had indeed every
appearance of having been pressed into a cheese shape until it had
become firm enough to be removed. It had no covering of any kind on
it; and although in hardness and consistence it was quite like the
matter of the other mass, yet it must strike every one that its form,
and the comparatively small depth at which it was found, render it
probable that its origin was much more recent. I sent it to the Museum
of the Northern Institution at Inverness.

Clifford.--Ah! I shall be right at last, I find. This surely may have
been the work of some of these freebooters of whom I have heard you
speak,--of some of those very limmers, for example, who, as you once
told me, stole Mr. Russel's cattle.

Author.--Oh no. That story is much too modern even for this last mass
of tallow.

Grant.--Bravo! Have you a tale of cattle-stealing to tell also? Allons,
let us have it. I have a fair right to demand it of you.

Author.--There is little in my tale; and I fear it will tell but tamely
after yours. Besides, I have already given an abridgment of it in an
early number of a well-known magazine. But as you may not have seen
it, and as we are now in the very scene where part of its events took
place, we may sit down under the lee of yonder large stone on the brow
of the hill, and I shall there give you the particulars of it, whilst
you are enjoying the prospect which that elevated position commands.

By the time we had reached the spot I had indicated, my friends were
not sorry to rest a while, and I began as follows:--



MR. RUSSEL AND THE REAVER.


The decided though cruel measures which followed the defeat of
Culloden, whilst they were sufficient to extinguish the hopes of the
Highlanders who had so enthusiastically espoused the cause of Charles,
were ill calculated to subdue their warlike spirits. They were driven,
it is true, to seek shelter in those rocky and inaccessible fastnesses
which their highest glens afforded them; but there, amidst the wildest
and most solitary scenes of nature, they permitted their minds to
brood in bitter reflection over all their wrongs--over all those
tragedies which history itself has blushed to record--their wives
and children massacred amidst the midnight conflagration of their
humble dwellings, or perishing in their flight through the snows of
winter. But heroism such as theirs was not to be crushed even by such
calamities as these,--calamities which were calculated to have bowed
down less lofty and indomitable spirits to the very dust. With them
the effect was like that which would result from some puerile attempt
to curb and arrest the mountain cataract. They were divided, as its
stream might be, into smaller and less important bodies, and their
power was no longer so forcible as when they were united together in
one stream, but each individual portion seemed to gain a particular
character and consequence of its own by its separation from the main
body, where it had hitherto flowed undistinguished and unobserved.

It was thus that, lurking in little parties, in retreats only
known to themselves, among craggy ravines and pine-clad precipices,
they now resumed that minor and predatory warfare which they had
been wont to wage against the inhabitants of the more civilised
parts of Scotland,--I mean that which consisted in plundering those
richer districts of their cattle. Perhaps no inconsiderable degree
of political animosity may have mingled itself in many instances
with the other motives that prompted these marauding expeditions
in the later times of which I am speaking. But, be this as it may,
we must not look upon those who were engaged in them as we do upon
the wretched cow-stealers of the present day. That which is now
considered as one of the most despicable of crimes was then, in the
eyes of the mountaineer, esteemed as an honourable and chivalrous
profession. In his untamed imagination no one was looked upon with
so much admiration and envy as that individual who might be chosen
as the leader of a daring band to harry the low country of its live
stock; for these proud sons of the Gael had ever held the inhabitants
of the plains in the most sovereign contempt, and they regarded them
and their more favoured pastures in no other light than as so many
nurses and nurseries, destined by Heaven to rear the cattle which
they were born to consume. I can instance one well authenticated
example which displays this opinion in its true light. The Laird of
Grant, the great chieftain of the glen of Urquhart, having had his
cattle driven off by a party of Camerons, and having sent a strong
remonstrance to Cameron of Lochiel himself by a special ambassador,
had his herds immediately restored to him, with a most courteous
letter of apology, which, I believe, still exists, assuring him that
his stupid fellows had entirely mistaken his orders, which were, that
they should not begin to plunder until they had reached "Moray-land,
where every gentleman was entitled to take his prey."

It was soon after the middle of the last century that Mr. Russel,
a gentleman of Morayshire, who resided at Earlsmill, near Tarnaway
Castle, to the north of the Findhorn, and about ten miles from hence,
was alarmed one morning by the unpleasant intelligence, that a strong
body of Highlanders had come before daybreak and carried off the whole
of his cattle from this very farm of the Aitnoch, which he had at
that time taken as a hill-grazing. Mr. Russel was an extremely active
and intelligent man; and although he did not make all the warlike
preparations which your friend the Laird of Macfarlane did, yet he
was not deficient either in promptitude of decision or in readiness
of action. After putting a few questions to the scared and breathless
messenger, he lost not a moment in summoning and arming his servants;
and, instead of taking this way--towards the Aitnoch, he struck at once
diagonally across the country in a westerly direction, and marched with
great expedition, in order, if possible, to reach a part of the deep
glen of the Findhorn, some miles above Dulsie yonder, in such time as
to enable him to intercept the plunderers. You may trace with your eye
the dark shadow of the glen, which sinks deep and abruptly into the
bosom of those purple mountains which you see retreating behind each
other in misty perspective. That is the grand pass into the Western
Highlands, and Mr. Russel was well aware that if he did not succeed in
arresting his cattle before the robbers had made their way through it,
the boundless wastes to which it led would render all further search
after them quite hopeless. Having reached the course of the river,
Mr. Russel and his party made their way down the steep hill-side,
forded the stream to its southern bank, and, carefully examining the
ground to ascertain whether any fresh footprints were to be observed,
they took their stand, satisfied that they had been so far successful.

The spot chosen by Mr. Russel for his ambuscade was in the midst of
that most beautiful range of retired and tranquil scenery known by
the name of The Streems. There the hollow glen is so profound and so
narrow in many places, that one of those little clusters of cottages
which are now found here and there sprinkled in the pastoral bottom
has the name of Tchirfogrein, a Gaelic appellation implying that it
never sees the sun. There were then no houses near the place they
had selected, but the party lay concealed behind some huge fragments
of rock, shivered by the wedging ice of the previous winter from the
summit of a lofty crag that hung half across the narrow holm where
they had taken up their position. A little farther down the river the
passage was contracted, and there was no approach from that point but
by a rude and scrambling footpath irregularly worn along the steep face
of the mountain, and behind them the glen was equally confined. Both
extremities of the small amphitheatre thus enclosed were then, though
they are not now, shaded by dense thickets of birch, hazel, and holly,
whilst a few wild pines found a scanty subsistence for their roots on
the face of the crags in midway air, and were twisted and writhed by
lack of nutriment into the most fantastic and picturesque forms. The
stillness of an unusually calm and breathless air hung over this
romantic scene, and it was lighted by the now declining sun of a
serene summer day, so that half the narrow haugh was in broad and
deep shadow, that was strongly contrasted with the brilliant golden
light falling on the tufted tops of the trees of a wooded bank on
the opposite side of the river.

Mr. Russel and his small party had not long occupied their post
when, as they listened in the silence of the evening, they heard the
distant lowing of the cattle and the wild shouts of the reavers as
they came faint and prolonged up the hollow trough of the glen. The
sounds gradually drew nearer and nearer, and increased in volume as
they were swelled and re-echoed from the rocks on either side. At
length the crashing of the boughs announced the appearance of the
more advanced part of the drove; and the tired animals began to issue
slowly from among the tangled wood, or to rush violently forth as
the shouts of their drivers were more or less impetuous, or their
blows chanced to light upon them. As they appeared individually,
they gathered themselves into a group on the level open sward, where
they stood bellowing, as if quite unwilling to proceed any farther.

In rear of the last stragglers of the herd Mr. Russel now beheld,
bursting singly from different parts of the brake, a party of fourteen
Highlanders, all in the full costume of the mountains, and wearing
the well-known tartan of a western clan. All of them were armed with
the dirk, pistol, and claymore, and the greater number of them carried
antique fowling-pieces. Mr. Russel's party consisted of not more than
ten or eleven persons; but they were well armed, and they were people
upon whom he could depend. Exhorting them to be firm, therefore,
he drew them suddenly forth from their ambush, and ranged them up in
array upon the green turf. The robbers appeared to be confounded for a
moment, and uttered some uncouth exclamations of surprise; but a shrill
whistle from their leader made them quickly recover their presence of
mind, and they rushed forward in a body, and formed themselves in order
of battle in front of their spoil. Mr. Russel and his party stood their
ground with determination, whilst the leader of the enemy seemed to be
holding counsel with himself as to what he should do. He was a little
spare athletic man, with long red hair curling over his shoulders,
and with a pale and thin, but acute visage. After leaning upon his
gun for a time, and surveying the party opposed to him with the eye
of a hawk, he shouldered his piece and advanced slowly a few paces
in front of his men, until he considered himself to be sufficiently
within earshot, and, raising his voice,--

"Mr. Russel," cried he, in very correct English, though with a Highland
accent, "are you for peace or war? If for war, look to yourself. But
if you are for peace and treaty, order your men to stand fast, and
let you and me advance and meet each other half way."

"I will treat," replied Mr. Russel; "but can I trust to your keeping
faith?"

"Trust!" exclaimed the other in an offended tone, and with an imperious
air; "methinks you may well enough trust to the word and honour of
a gentleman."

"I am content," said Mr. Russel.

The respective parties were now ordered to stand their ground, and the
two leaders advanced about seventy or eighty paces each towards the
middle of the open space, with their loaded guns cocked and presented
at each other; and having abridged the distance that divided them to
some ten or twelve paces, they halted, and the negotiation commenced. A
certain sum was demanded for the restitution of the cattle. Mr. Russel
had not so much money about him; but he offered to give all he had
in his pocket, which amounted to a sum not a great deal short of
what the robber had asked. After some little conversation this was
accepted. The bargain was concluded, the money was paid, the guns
were uncocked and shouldered, and the two hitherto hostile parties
advanced to meet each other and to mingle together in perfect harmony.

"And now, Mr. Russel," said the leader of the band, "you must look
at your beasts, to see that none of them are wanting."

"They are all here but one small dun quey," said Mr. Russel, after
a minute examination of the herd.

"Ha!" cried the Highland leader, darting an angry glance of inquiry
around his men, "how is this? Ewan, I would speak with you."

A tall handsome dark man, whom he had thus addressed, then moved a
little way apart with him, and a conversation ensued between them
in Gaelic, the sound of which could only be heard, whilst ever and
anon the leader's eyes glanced towards one or other of his people;
and his voice and gestures indicated anything but satisfaction. At
last he returned towards the group.

"Mr. Russel," said he, "you may make your mind easy about the dun
quey. On the word of a gentleman, she shall be on your pasture before
daylight to-morrow morning."

The treaty being thus happily concluded, and the cattle taken
possession of by those who were wont to have the charge of them,
Mr. Russel and the Highland leader shook hands and parted, and each
took his own way, attended by his followers.

Clifford, interrupting the narrative, Ah! I have a shrewd suspicion
that the cheese-shaped lump of tallow you spoke of will turn out,
after all, to have been the produce of poor Dunny.

Author.--Have patience, and you shall hear.

We shall leave Mr. Russel and his people to return down the glen with
the rescued herd, that we may inquire a little into the motions of
the reaver and his men. They had no sooner threaded the mazes of the
brake which shut in the upper end of the dell that was the scene of
the strange negotiation I have described, than the leader halted them,
in order to hold a conference.

"Ewan," said he to him who seemed to act as his second in command,
"this is an awkward affair, and you have been much to blame. You had
charge of the rear, and not a beast should have strayed. But your
carelessness has brought my honour into pledge; and, by all that is
good, you must redeem it. I have said that the dun quey shall be on
Mr. Russel's pasture in the morning; and, dead or alive, she must be
there, for a gentleman's word must be kept."

"I own I have not been so sharp as I should have been," said Ewan,
with a mortified air; "but I think I have enough of cleverness in me
to enable me to promise you, on the word of a gentleman, that your
word shall be made good."

"See that it be so, then," said the leader somewhat sternly, as he
walked slowly away up the glen. "Take what strength you please with
you, but see that you save both my honour and your own."

His comrades crowded around Ewan, proffering him their friendly aid
to enable him to search for and recover the quey. But he courteously
declined all their kind offers; and tightening his plaid over his body
with the utmost composure, he sprang up the almost perpendicular face
of the southern mountain with the agility of a deer, and disappeared
over the brow of it, without permitting his breath to come much quicker
there than it had done whilst he was in talk with his companions in
the deep glen below.

Ewan wandered not over the moors and mosses which you see stretching
over the mountain far off yonder like one who was bewildered, or
like a hound at fault. Circumstances had arisen to his mind, which
had afforded him some clue to the search he had undertaken; and of
that clue he had at once laid hold, with a determined resolution to
unravel it as speedily as possible to the end. His course, therefore,
was taken at once; and it was a most direct one. You see that singular
opening in the country between us and Strathspey? Perhaps you may
remember that there is a narrow pass there, where a small lake fills
the bottom of the defile, and where the face of the mountain that
rises over it has all the appearance of having been shaven down by the
sword of some giant. The strange tradition of the country indeed is,
that it was done by the mighty Fingal, by way of trying the temper of
a claymore which he had not yet put to the proof. Well does the weapon
seem to have performed its office; and in honour of it the place has
ever since been called Beemachlai, or the cut of the sword. Ewan then
had no sooner breasted the mountain that hung over the Findhorn, than
he turned his face directly southward, and took his way in a straight
line for the pass; and despite of the ravines and burns, and peat-pots
and moss-hags, and all the other difficulties and obstructions that
lay in his road, and the darkness of the evening which settled down
upon that wild hill to make all these difficulties ten times greater
than they otherwise would have been, he, in a wonderfully short period
of time, found himself planted in the narrow path that ran between
the loch of Beemachlai, on the one hand, and the mountain that rises
from its western margin on the other.

But before taking up his post, the cautious Ewan stooped down, and
carefully passed his hand over the whole surface of a bare spot,
of some dozen or so of square yards in extent, which he knew must
necessarily have been crossed by every man or beast travelling that
way, to ascertain whether any fresh footprints had been made in the
soft black surface of the moss. His experience in such investigations
was so great as to enable him perfectly to satisfy himself that no
animal at least had recently trodden there; and with this assurance
he stationed himself in the very hollow of the pass, and, seated on
a bank, he turned his head towards the north, whence the path came
downwards along the base of the hill, and kept eager watch both with
eyes and ears. The moon was at this time but young, and the sky was
partially covered with thin fleecy clouds; so that when it did rise,
it gave but a scanty and uncertain light, though it was enough to
pourtray the bold profile of Fingal's hill on the calm bosom of the
lake, as well as to enable any one to distinguish a human figure at
some little distance.

Ewan had not remained long in this position, when he distinctly heard
the short sharp cry used by Highlanders for urging on a bullock. It
was occasionally repeated; and by and bye it was followed by the
faint sound of the footsteps of a beast and its driver, which grew
upon his ear. Ewan bent his head towards the ground, that he might
the better catch the figures of both against the sky; and ere they had
already come within fifty yards of him, he rubbed his hands together
with satisfaction to find that his judgment had not deceived him, and
starting up to his feet, he planted himself directly in the middle
of the path, so that his figure threw a broad shadow across it; and
leaning on his gun, he calmly waited the advance of him who came. He
was a tall--nay, almost a gigantic man, with an awkward shambling
gait; and he held the dun quey by a long halter with his left hand,
whilst he drove her on with a huge rough stick which he carried in
his right. He halted the moment that Ewan's dark figure appeared.

"What is it that stands there? Answer, in the name of God!" cried he
in Gaelic, and in a tone that manifested great alarm.

"Methinks a foul thief like you had little ado with any such name,
Gilliesh," replied Ewan resolutely. "What devil tempted you to steal
the dun quey from our herd?"

"What devil told you that I had stolen her?" demanded Gilliesh,
much relieved to find that he had to deal with nothing more than
mortal flesh.

"Did I not see thee lurking among the birches on the Doun of
Dulsie?" said Ewan; "and did I not know that thou couldst be there
for no good end; and when the quey was missed, did I not put that
and that together to help my guessing, and have I not guessed rightly?"

"What an you have?" replied Gilliesh; "'tis but a poor prize I have
gotten after all, and hardly worth your tramping so far for. You had
surely enough, without grudging me this bit dwining beast."

"Such base thievery cannot be suffered," said Ewan, "besides, I have
reasons of my own for what I do. Come away, then, and give me the
rope; and bless your stars that you escape, for this time at least,
being hanged by one. The beast must back with me, and you may take
your own way home to Dulnan side at your leisure, and thank your good
fortune that you get there in a whole skin."

"Well may you speak so bold indeed," said Gilliesh bitterly, "with
that big black gun in your hand, ready to bring me down in a moment
like a muir-cock off a hillock. But by the great oath, ye would crack
less crouse if ye stood there before me with nothing but your claymore
by your side."

"Ye lie, ye thieving vagabond," cried Ewan, "I'll stand at all times
before you or a better man with this good sword alone. See here,
my gun shall rest against this rock; and on the word and honour of
a gentleman, I'll never touch stock or lock of it till I shall have
chastised thee to thy heart's content, if thou wilt so have it."

"Be it so," said the crafty Gilliesh; "and I'll tether the quey to
this moss-fir stump here, and let her stand by to see the stour,
and to be the prize of him who may prove himself to be the better man."

It would have been a sight of some interest to have watched the
preparations for this very extraordinary single combat. On the part of
Ewan they consisted merely in his placing his gun against the rock with
great tranquillity and with great care, and then drawing his claymore
from its scabbard, and twisting the folds of his plaid tightly over his
left arm, ere he put himself into the proper position for action. As
for Gilliesh, he had no sooner tied the end of the quey's halter to the
moss-fir stump, than he drew a broadsword of a magnitude so tremendous,
as well corresponded with his almost Philistian height. The bare,
flat, mossy piece of ground already noticed was the arena on which
they were to contend; and if it was free from prints of any kind when
Ewan examined it a brief space before, it was now destined ere long
to have enow of them impressed upon it by the coming struggle. Aware
of the great advantage which Gilliesh had over him from his superior
height, and still more from the greater sweep of his arm and sword,
Ewan approached his adversary very cautiously at first. On the other
hand, numerous, and rash, and awkward, were the cuts and the thrusts
which Gilliesh attempted to make; but they were given with a force
and a fury that rendered it necessary for Ewan to use all the skill
of which he was master, to enable him to dodge and to parry them. Now
and then their blades came into fearful contact; and when they did so,
the shearing of them together produced a sheet of flame that gave a
temporary illumination to the deep shadow which a projecting bank threw
over that part of the lake immediately below. As their desperate play
went on, the clashing of the glowing steel struck terror into the timid
animal that had occasioned the fight; and the powerful efforts which
her fear impelled her to make having at last burst her tether from its
fastening, she fled away beyond hearing of the fray. Meanwhile, the
combat continued to rage, and as it went on the combatants gradually
shifted their ground until they had changed places. On the part of
Gilliesh this was not done without its intention; for no sooner did
he find himself within reach of Ewan's gun, than he seized it up, and
presented it without scruple at its owner, and without one shadow of
remorse drew the trigger. But the hammer fell harmless into the empty
pan. Ewan sprang upon him in a moment, and, ere he could recover the
use of his sword, he gave him one desperate cut across the temple
that brought him to the earth with his face bathed in blood.

"Villain!" cried Ewan, as he stood over his prostrate foe with the
point of his sword at his throat. "Traitor that thou art, wouldst
thou have been a murderer as well as a thief? Had not a stray stag
crossed me at a distance as I came over the hill, and tempted me to
take an idle chance shot in the twilight, when my haste would not
allow me to load again, I should have been at this moment stretched
out a corpse by thy treachery."

"Spare my life!" cried the wretch piteously.

"Spare thy life!" replied Ewan contemptuously, as he quietly picked up
his gun, and proceeded to load it; "I have no mind that thy worthless
and cowardly life should stain this good sword of mine with dishonour,
nor do I choose that it should be the means of cheating the gallows of
what so justly belongs to it. Gather thyself up, then, as thou mayest,
and take thy way to Dulnan side; for, by all that is good, if thou dost
show thine ugly visage again to me, like a grim ghost on the moor,
I'll not miss thy big body as I did that of the stray stag, but I'll
open a door in it wide enough to allow thy rascally soul to issue forth
and to join its kindred malignant spirits of the swamp and the fen."

With these words Ewan threw his gun over his shoulder, and set out
in search of the stray heifer. It was some time before he found her,
and a still longer time after he had found her before he caught her,
and after he had caught her it was but the commencement of a most
toilsome night with her, ere he could compel her, tired as she was,
to travel through bog and mire to the place of her destination. But be
this as it may, Ewan saw that the reaver's word was made good,--next
morning the dun quey was seen grazing with the rest of the herd on
the farm of the Aitnoch. Nobody could tell how she came there; but
the eagerness with which she plucked at the pasture, and her jaded
and draggled appearance, afforded sufficient evidence of the length
and nature of the night journey she had been compelled to perform.

It was not very long after this that Mr. Russel happened accidentally
to have ridden up to his farm here one morning, and, as he was
engaged in moving about looking at his stock, his attention was
attracted by a long drove of cattle, which he observed straggling
up yonder opposite bank of the Dorback branch of the river Divie,
to the eastward there, evidently with the intention of crossing at a
ford a little way above. At first sight there appeared to be little
remarkable in this, for he well knew that to be a common track,
travelled by all whose route lay through this country, stretching
up the south side of the Findhorn. But the drovers and their herd
had no sooner passed the Dorback, and gained its western bank, and
begun to advance in a direction pointing towards the course of the
Findhorn, than Mr. Russel recognised the same Highland party and
the same bold leader from whom he had so recently recovered his own
cattle. Some of the men who were about him were led, from certain
circumstances, to know that the drove of beasts which they now saw
had been carried off from Gordonston, the seat of Sir Robert Gordon,
about thirty miles distant in the Laigh of Moray. Mr. Russel was in
habits of friendship with Sir Robert, and he quickly came to the
resolution that he should allow no such hostile and predatory act
to be done to him if he could help it, and above all that he should
not facilitate it by permitting a passage for the robbers and their
booty through his territory. He was here not only in the midst of
his own people, but he was, moreover, in the very centre of Lord
Moray's estate of Brae-Moray, of which he had the entire management,
and accordingly he resolved to avail himself of these circumstances,
and he determined immediately to arrest them. With this intention he
hastily collected all the dependants who were within his reach, and,
before the robbers came up with their booty, he found himself at the
head of double their number of well-armed men.

When the party arrived within hearing, Mr. Russel hailed the leader,
and at once plainly told him that he could not stand by and suffer
the cattle of his friend Sir Robert Gordon to be thus harried,
far less could he tamely permit them to be thus driven through his
farm. He therefore called upon the robber to halt, assuring him that
if he offered to advance with his party, or to persist in driving the
cattle one step farther, it should be at his own peril, and he must
take the consequences; for that nothing but force should compel him
to give them way.

"Mr. Russel!" cried the leader, stepping before the rest with a
haughty air, "this is not what I expected from you after what has
already passed between us. You stopped and recovered your own beasts,
and nobody could blame you; but, sir, it is not like a gentleman to
offer to hinder me from taking cattle from anybody else."

"My principles are very different," said Mr. Russel, with great
coolness.

"I tell you again," cried the little man, "that you will be acting
unjustly if you persevere, and that you have no right to do so."

"I am determined to persevere notwithstanding," said Mr. Russel,
with great strength of emphasis and firmness of expression.

"Then, sir, I must caution you that you had better take care what
you do," said the Highlander.

"I am prepared for all consequences," said Mr. Russel.

"Well, well, sir," said the Highlander frowning, "we cannot help
it; you are in your own kingdom here, and you must have your own
way; but, I bid you take heed--you'll rue this yet,--look well to
yourself." So saying, he called to his followers in Gaelic, who,
with much apparent dissatisfaction, abandoned the cattle, and the
whole party took the road to the hills, muttering dark threats and
half-smothered imprecations against Mr. Russel.

These denunciations were little heeded, and were probably soon
forgotten by him against whom they were uttered, or if they were
remembered at all it was only to produce greater vigilance on the
part of those who had the charge of his stock. But it so happened
that, during the course of the ensuing winter, some express business,
connected with his charge of Lord Moray's affairs, carried Mr. Russel
to Edinburgh. When he was on his return homewards, he arrived late one
stormy and tempestuous night at the solitary inn of Dalnacaerdoch,
situated, as everybody knows, at the southern extremity of that
part of the great Highland road leading through the savage pass of
Drumouachter. Seeing that it was quite hopeless to think of prosecuting
his journey that night in such weather, he took a hasty supper and
went to bed, with the resolution of rising as early next day as the
lack of light at that season would permit.

He was accordingly up in the morning, and in the saddle before he
could well see his horse's ears, and he set out through the snow for
the inn of Dalwhinnie, situated at the northern end of the pass,
attended only by a single servant. He had not proceeded far into
the wild and savage part of that solitary scene, where high poles,
painted black, are erected along the edge of the road to serve as
beacons during winter, to prevent travellers from deviating from
the road and being engulphed in the snow-wreaths, when by the light
of the dawn, he descried a man, at some two or three hundred yards'
distance, who came riding towards him. As he came onwards, Mr. Russel
had time to remark that he exhibited a thin spare figure which was
enveloped in a long dark brown cloak or greatcoat. He rode one of the
loose made garrons of the country, of a dirty mouse colour, having
no saddle, and no other bridle than a halter made of small birchen
twigs, twisted into a sort of rope, called by the common people a
woodie. In spite of himself, the recollection of the Highland reaver
and his angry threats darted across Mr. Russel's mind; and he was
somewhat alarmed at first, when he observed that he who approached
carried in his hand, poised by the middle, a very long fowling-piece,
of that ancient character and description which gave our ancestors
excellent hope of killing a wild duck sitting in the water half-way
across a lake of half a mile broad. Mr. Russel instinctively pulled
out his pistols and examined their locks, and he made his servant do
the same by his; but the inequality of such weapons, compared with
that which I have this moment described, was only thereby rendered
the more woefully apparent to both of them. Mr. Russel rode slowly
but resolutely on however, with his eyes intently watching every
motion of him who came, and who was now drawing nearer and nearer
to them. The stranger himself seemed to advance cautiously; but no
sooner had he come close enough to enable him to recognise a human
countenance, than he pushed up his shying steed by the application
of ardent and repeated kicks; and, when he had at length succeeded
in compelling him forward, to Mr. Russel's no inconsiderable relief,
he recognised in him--the landlord of the inn of Dalwhinnie!

"Keep us a', I'm glad I ha'e forgathered wi' ye in time,
Mr. Russel!" he exclaimed in a south country tone and dialect, and
without waiting for the ordinary preliminary salutations.

"Why, what's the matter?" demanded Mr. Russel.

"Matter!" replied the man; "a matter o' murder, gif I'm no far
mistane."

"Mercy on me! Who has been murdered?" cried Mr. Russel.

"I didna say that ony body was murdered," answered the man; "but,
an ye persevere on your road through the pass, I'm thinkin' that
somebody will be murdered."

"What makes you fancy so?" asked Mr. Russel.

"Were ye no to hae been at my hoose last night?" demanded the
Dalwhinnie landlord.

"I did so intend," said Mr. Russel; "but the road turned out to be
so much heavier than I had anticipated, that all I could do was to
reach Dalnacaerdoch, and that at a late hour."

"It was the yespecial providence o' Heevin that you didna get forrit,"
said the landlord, throwing up his eyes as if in thanksgiving,
"for, if you had, you would have been assuredly a cauld corp at this
precious moment."

"A corpse!" exclaimed Mr. Russel, "what has put that into your head?"

"Troth, as sure as ye are noo sittin' on your horse," replied the
landlord, "ye wad hae been murdered, though you had had mair lives
nor a cat."

"Explain yourself, I entreat you!" said Mr. Russel.

"It's an awfu' story," said the landlord, shuddering at the mere
recollection of it. "It was at the dead hour o' the night, ye see,
whan we war a' sound sleepin' in our beds, we war a' alarumed wi'
a sudden noise and rissellin' in the yard, an' afore we kent whar we
wuz, the hoose was filled wi' better nor twa dizzen o' great muckle
armed hillan'men, wi' blackit faces. Aweel! they lighted great big
lunts o' moss-fir at the kitchen fire, and cam' straught to my bedside,
brandishin' their pistols and durks, and lookin' as if they wad eat me
up.--'Whar's Mr. Russel sleepin'?' cries they.--'Gentlemen,' says I,
'as sure as death, Mr. Russel's no in this hoose.'--'We ken better,'
says they, 'we ken he was to be here this night.'--'Some mistak,
gentlemen,' says I, 'I'm dootin' that ye maun hae made some mistak,
for Mr. Russel's not only no here, but, an' ye'll believe me, troth I
didna even expeck him.'--A' this only made them waur. They threatent
and swoore at me like very rampawgin deevils, and then they begud
to search ilka hole and bore and cranny and corner in the hoose; an'
no contented wi' the hoose, they rummaged a' the oothooses, lookin'
even into places whaur it was just simply impossible that a very cat
could ha'e concealed hersel', an' forcin' me alang wi' them a' the
time, half naked, an' near hale dead wi' fear. And syne, whan they
could find neither you nor your horses, preserve us a' what a furious
hillant yell they did set up!--they war just a'thegither mad wi' rage
and disappointment; an' some o' them war for burnin' the very hoose,
that they might mak' sure that ye warna lurkin' somewhere aboot it
after a'. At length, a stiff, stern wee body, wha seemed to be their
captain, seelenced them in a moment; and having spoken to them for some
time in Gaelic, their violence was moderated, or rather it seemed to be
converted into downright hunger and drouth, for they begud to look for
bread and cheese, and ither eatables, and whisky, for themsel's. Weel
I wot, I gied them what they wanted wi' gude heart and wull, houpin'
to get the sooner quite o' them; and little payment, I trow, did I
expeck for my cheer. But what think ye, sir? As I'm a sinner, they
honestly paid me every farden o' their shot afore they ga'ed awa."

"Have you any notion as to whither they went after they left your
house?" demanded Mr. Russel.

"Some o' our herds war sayin' that their tracks i' the snaw lay
towards Loch Ericht," replied the landlord; "and gif so be the case,
I'se warrant that they have darned themsel's in some o' the queer
hidy-holes aboot the craigs there awa'. And, I'll be bailed, they'll
be ready to come back again or e'er ye ken whaur ye are, to murder
you clean oot o' hand; for surely they maun contrive somehoo or ither
to ha'e gude information."

"It is certainly most strange how they could have known so well what
my plans were," said Mr. Russel.

"Troth, sir, they're just deevils incarnate," continued the landlord;
"but ye maun on no account think o' gaein' on, Mr. Russel, for, gif
ye do, ye gang to certain death. Gae ye yere ways back to Blair or
Dunkeld, for I'm dootin' ye'll no be safe nae gate else, and I'll
send ower into Morayshire for some o' your ain fouk, weel accoutred
and furnished, to convoy ye safe hame."

Mr. Russel was no coward, but he well knew the nature of the
Highlanders he had to deal with. And what could the pistols of two
men do against two dozen of well-armed assassins, springing on them
at unawares by the way, or attacking them in their beds? After some
little consideration, therefore, he deemed it most prudent to take the
landlord's advice; and, accordingly, after he had thanked the honest
fellow for the zeal he had manifested for his safety, and after the
landlord had looked suspiciously around him and scanned the faces
of the hills to their very tops with strong signs of apprehension,
earnestly praying to God that their interview might not have been
overlooked and watched by any of the robbers or their spies, they
parted; and Mr. Russel and his servant retraced their steps at a good
round pace.

After nearly a week's delay at Dunkeld, Mr. Russel was enabled
to renew his journey at the head of a well-armed party of between
thirty and forty of his own people, who came to escort him. They
travelled along with great caution, but they did not perceive the
smallest show of hostility till they got into the middle of the
Pass of Drumouachter. Then, indeed, they observed that they were
reconnoitred from the rough face of one of the hills overhanging the
road, by a body of more than twenty armed mountaineers. They seemed
to have issued from the recesses of one of those Corries, or ravines,
which there yawn over the valley like gashes on the lofty brow of a
warrior; and after some minutes apparently spent in consultation,
they began to move along the steep acclivity in a line parallel
to the road which Mr. Russel pursued. Their dark tartans waved in
the wind, and their figures were boldly relieved against the glazed
and brilliant surface of the snow they trod on. A certain degree of
hesitation seemed to mark all their movements, which appeared to have
a manifest reference to those of the party below. Mr. Russel marched
on with a steady and resolute pace, his men keeping a sharp lookout
in all directions, and being perfectly prepared to resist any sudden
attack. But the mountaineers, being conscious of an inferiority
of strength which rendered any open attempt on their part quite
hopeless, did not venture to assault so large and so well armed
a band. After skirting along the hill-sides for five or six miles,
they seemed gradually to slacken their pace, till the whole body came
to a halt on a prominent point of the mountain, where they remained,
following Mr. Russel and his people with their eyes, and probably with
their curses also, so long as they remained within sight. Mr. Russel
thought it prudent to halt but for a short time at Dalwhinnie; and
well was it for him that he did not tarry there all that night, for
the house was again surrounded and searched by an overwhelming force,
whilst Mr. Russel was urging his way homewards with an expedition
that enabled him to reach his residence in perfect safety.

Whether a natural or accidental death, or some other cause, put an
end to any further attempts on the part of the vindictive mountaineer,
I know not; but certain it is, that Mr. Russel was never more troubled
either by him or by his people.



SCENERY OF THE FINDHORN.


Clifford.--In justice to your story, I must say that it is much more
interesting than the scene where it was enacted, if we may judge from
the specimen at this moment before us.

Grant.--Nay, but take the trouble to carry your eyes entirely over the
foreground, and behold the sun gleaming afar off yonder on the broad
sheet of the Moray Firth, with those bold dark headlands called the
Sutors defending the entrance of the Bay of Cromarty beyond, backed
by the blue mountains of Ross-shire and Sutherland in the distance.

Clifford.--These are indeed features that would give dignity
to any scene; but you must admit that this unmeaning flat which
stretches everywhere from under our feet is sufficiently tiresome,
notwithstanding the laudable efforts that are making to cover it
with plantations.

Author.--It is monotonous enough, to be sure; but how often do we
find inestimable worth concealed under an unpretending exterior. The
apparently dull stretch of country before you is a pregnant example
of this; for the charms of the river Findhorn that bisects it from
west to east are so buried in its bosom as to be quite overlooked
from hence. Grant will tell you, that if you were to follow the
river upwards through all the mazes of its deep and shadowy glen,
you would find that it exhibits scenery of the wildest and most
magnificent character.

Grant.--Nay, it is hardly fair to refer him to me; for although I
have a full impression of its grandeur upon my mind which will not
easily be effaced, I can give him no very accurate account of its
pools or its streams, as regards their excellence for salmon angling.

Clifford.--Pho! none of your jokes, Mr. Grant. Although I like fishing
and shooting, you know very well that I enjoy wild nature as much as
either of you.

Grant.--Ha! ha! ha! I know you do, my dear fellow.

Clifford.--And, moreover, I have so much admired the scenery, as well
as the fishing-pools of the river lower down, that if what you now
speak of equals that with which I am already so familiar, it must be
magnificent indeed.

Author.--I think that it in many respects surpasses all that you have
hitherto seen. In truth, I know no river scenery in Great Britain
at all to be compared in sublimity to that of the Findhorn about
Ferness. Indeed, it rises more into that great scale of grandeur
exhibited by some of the Swiss gorges than anything I have ever met
with at home. But you must take the first opportunity of visiting it,
Clifford. And then, in addition to the treat that nature will yield
you during your ramble, and the good fishing which you will certainly
have, I think you will be much gratified by the inspection of that
interesting relic of antiquity, The Cairn and Pillar of the Lovers,
which you will find there.

Clifford.--What! ha! ha! ha! some Pyramus and Thisbe,--some Petrarch
and Laura,--among your heroes and heroines of the pemmican, I suppose!

Author.--No, no. The lonely obelisk, and the cairn from which it
rises, may indeed have stood on the green holm of Ferness, with the
rapid Findhorn sweeping around them, for ages. They may have been
there whilst the great forests still spread themselves thickly over
the country, but you would judge wrong if you supposed them to have
co-existed with my savages of the pemmican; for there must have been
some considerable approach to civilisation amongst a people who could
have cut and transported that great mass of rough-grained sandstone,
of which the obelisk is formed, from the nearest quarries of the
same rock, some fifteen or twenty miles off, to the spot where it
has ever since stood, not to mention the beautiful hieroglyphical
carvings with which it has been ornamented.

Clifford.--Is there no legend attached to the monument?

Grant.--There is; and our friend has woven it into a little poem,
which he once repeated to me.

Clifford.--Poem! come, let's have it! You need not fear to give it
to me now, you know; for there is no birch at hand to punish you for
your false quantities.

Author.--To tell you the truth, I am quite tired of repeating the story
in prose; so, lame though my stanzas may be, I shall prefer risking
your criticism. But you must remember, that it is one thing to climb
a rugged heathery hill like this, and another thing to mount Parnassus.



THE CAIRN OF THE LOVERS.


    The raven of Denmark stretched his broad wing,
      And shot his dark flight o'er Moray's fair fields;
    And Findhorn's wild echoes were heard to ring
      With ill-omened croak, and the clash of shields.
          And the yelling shouts of the conflict broil,
          As Dane and Scot met in mortal toil,--
          And cruel and fierce was the battle tide
          That raged on rocky Findhorn's side;
          And red was his wave, as it wailed away,
        By that plain where his slaughtered warriors lay.

    Yet stark stern in death was each hero's frown!
      Each fell not till crushed by an hundred foes!
    But, though hordes of Norsemen had borne them down,
      Dire vengeance had soothed their dying throes.
          For the bloody fight had not been won
          Till drooped to the west the slanting sun,
          And his golden beams a bright glory shed
          Around each dying hero's head,
          And lighted his soul with a cheering ray,
        E'er his dim eye closed on the parting day.

    But Findhorn's dark heights, and his wizzard wave,
      Were lighted anon by far fiercer rays,
    Calling bosoms abroad, that beat warm and brave,
      To muster around the tall beacon's blaze.
          And now, as afar o'er the plains they look,
          Where glistens with flame each winding brook,
          Red ruin enwraps both tower and town,
          And wild Norsemen's shouts reach the beacon Doun;
          And by shrieks of woe their hearts are wrung,
        Till each Scottish breast to revenge is strung.

    Whose steed-tramp resounds down the woody glen?
      Who bears, as he rides, his proud crest so high,
    His brow circled with gems, as chief of men,
      And gold shining bright on his panoply?
          'Tis Fergus the King! The broad signal fire,
          And the Norsemen's ravage, have roused his ire;
          And, see how his clustering horsemen sweep
          From the forest dark and the dingle deep!
          And, hark to the tread of the many feet
        That crowd to those heights where the waters meet!

    Full little does Sewyn, the Norse King, know,
      As his ruthless Danes rifle the peaceful plain,
    That the Pass of the Dhuie conceals a foe
      Of far other mould than the shepherd swain.
          And far other herds, and far other flocks
          Than shepherds may feed, lie hid by these rocks.
          He doubts not but all who a spear could wield
          Have fall'n in the strife of one bloody field.
          Onward he presses, and, blindly led,
        Go his Norsemen, with hopes of plunder fed.

    The current was rapid, the stream was deep,
      And the cumbered waters foamed high and flashed,
    As horsemen and foot, from the shore so steep,
      Through the Dhuie in thick confusion dashed.
          But scarce were they rid of the rushing tide,
          Nor yet had they formed on the meadow's side,
          When by bursting yells the skies were rent,
          With the gleam of arms glowed the firmament,
          And down, like the lightning's fiery shower,
        Came King Fergus' force on King Sewyn's power.

    And quailed the black raven of Denmark then,
      And he cowered his wing, and he croaked his fear;
    And wide with the eagle's scream rang the glen,
      As eager she snuffed up her feast so near;
          And each Norseman's heart, though ne'er so bold,
          With panic-dread grew sick and cold,
          Nor dared they abide the battle shock,
          But fled away like some startled flock,
          Or some scattered herd of timid deer,
        When the howl of the gaunt mountain wolves they hear.

    The slaughter was wide, and the vengeance deep,
      That the Moray-men took of their Danish foes;
    But yet deeper revenge did Findhorn reap
      As high, in his anger, his billows rose.
          For he had wailed that his wave before
          The dye of his children's life's-blood bore;
          But now, full glutted with hostile dead,
          He reared him aloft, shook his oak-crowned head,
          And, roaring with fearful revelry,
        He swept off his spoils to his kindred sea.

    Who sits her and sighs on the castled isle
      That on Loch-an-Dorbe's dark breast doth float?
    And why lights her eye with a radiant smile
      As the moonbeam falls soft on that little boat?
          A fairy thing it seems to be,
          It glides o'er the wave so silently;
          And like such sprites of witching power
          It vanished beneath a shadowy tower,
          As its slender side lost the moonbeam's ray,
        Nor left it one trace of its liquid way.

    That maiden who sat in the castled isle
      Scanned that little boat with no idle gaze;
    And I ween that her eyes with their radiant smile
      Had hope blent with love in their glowing rays.
          Malvina she was that maiden fair,
          King Fergus' daughter, who sat her there.
          She's gone!--and her pulse may hardly beat,
          As in silence move her trembling feet
          To the dungeon where lonely her lover lies,
          And wastes the night in despairing sighs,
          The son of King Sewyn in battle ta'en,
        The gallant Prince Harrold, the brave young Dane.

    She unlocked the bolts with a master key,
      And Prince Harrold sprang forth to his lady's side.
    "Love favours our flight!" softly whispered she,
      "At the postern stairs doth the boat abide."
          Then they stole away by the shadowy wall.
          Yet she sighed to quit her father's hall,
          And her bosom heaved, and she dropped a tear,
          Whilst her lover essayed to hush her fear,
          And she clung to his arm as the little boat
        Did o'er the wide lake in silence float.

    'Twas a right trusty page that gave them way,
      And he landed them 'neath the greenwood tree,
    Where tied to the oak was a courser grey;
      Prince Harrold to saddle sprang merrily.
          The fair Malvina behind him placed,
          With snow-white arms her lover embraced.
          The sun rose to welcome the bonny bride,
          As they fled them straight to the Findhorn's side;
          But its stream was swollen and barred their flight,
        And drove them for refuge to Dulsie's height.

    "Go, bring me Prince Harrold," King Fergus cried,
      His royal eyes sparkling with beams of joy,
    "My daughter Malvina shall be his bride,
      And Moray be freed from the Dane's annoy.
          Envoy to me hath King Sewyn sent,
          And peace shall their bridal knot cement."
          But Harrold was gone and Malvina fair!
          Yet a sharp-witted page could teach him where,
          And quick spoke the boy; for the King had told
        Such glad tidings, I ween, as made him bold.

    "To boat!" cried King Fergus, with eager haste,
      And--"To horse!" when he touched the farther shore,
    And furious he spurred through the forest waste,
      As to Findhorn's stream his swift course he bore.
          The lovers from Dulsie's wooded height
          Saw Moray's lord coming in kingly might.
          'Twas better to tempt the swollen tide,
          Than captive be torn from his bonny bride.
          Harrold lifted Malvina to saddle again,
        And down Dulsie's slope urged his steed amain.

    Oh, Findhorn shrieked loud to warn them away!
      But louder yet did the water-fiends yell,
    Rebellious they laughed at his empty sway,
      As vainly he strove their wild rage to quell.
          And the sire's despairing cry was vain,
          "Malvina! my child! oh, turn again!"
          But the lovers, twined on the courser grey,
          Were swept from his outstretchd eyes away,
          And he smote his bosom and tore his hair
        As adown the big stream he sought the pair.

    Why tarries the knight in his lonely way
      At yon cairn on flowery Ferness holm?
    Why scans he yon pillar, so rough and grey,
      That rises from out its rudely-heaped dome?
          'Twas there the love-twined youth and maid,
          Unsevered in death, were sadly laid;
          And there did King Fergus and Sewyn weep
          When they found them locked in death's cold sleep,
          And Findhorn still lingers around their grave,
        And sighs for their fate with repentant wave.



HILL OF THE AITNOCH.


Author.--See now how innumerable the stumps of the trees are here. They
are peeping up through the moss in every direction. Conceive what a
thick pine wood this must have once been.

Grant.--You were certainly guilty of no great exaggeration when
you said that a deer could hardly have penetrated it whilst it was
standing in all its gloomy grandeur.

Clifford.--It is well for our comfort that we can now pass so easily
over its fallen majesty; and methinks the sooner we escape from so
dreary a scene the better.

Author.--Let us keep more this way, then. A short walk will now bring
us to the southern brow of the hill, whence a new scene will open
on us.

Clifford, who first reaches the point.--Ha! what have we here? A dark
lake,--its waves rolling sluggishly eastward, and breaking gently on
a narrow stripe of yellow gravelly beach,--bare rocky hills without
a tree,--and an island covered with the ruins of a very extensive
castle. What do you call this wild and lonely scene?

Author.--That is Loch-an-Dorbe, with its ruined castle.

Grant.--The remains of the castle seem to be very extensive.

Author.--They are said to occupy a space of not less than an hundred
yards square.

Clifford.--This, then, is the very castle whence your Danish prince
escaped with his lady-love. Let me tell you, that if their grey steed
had not gone with a somewhat freer pace than your verses do, the old
king of the castle would have caught them ere they had covered half
the way to Dulsie.

Grant.--I'll warrant me those huge round towers and massive curtains
have many strange and eventful histories attached to them.

Clifford.--Come, Signore Cicerone, prelect to us about it, if you
please.

Author.--Loch-an-Dorbe was one of the few royal or national fortresses
which Scotland possessed. When Edward the First traversed this
country with his army in 1303, he came to Loch-an-Dorbe in the month
of September, and occupied it for some time; and Edward the Third
considered it as a place of so much importance, that he and Edward
Baliol marched all the way from Perth to its relief in August, 1336,
when Catherine de Beaumont, widow of David de Hastings, Earl of Athol,
and her son were besieged in it by the brave Sir Andrew Moray, then
Governor of Scotland. Sir Andrew would have been overwhelmed by the
superior force of the English monarch, had he not baffled pursuit
by crossing the river Findhorn at the celebrated pass, the Brig of
Randolph, so called, as you know, from Randolph, Earl of Moray, Regent
of Scotland. Another important historical fact is connected with this
castle. It was here that William Bullock was confined. After abandoning
the cause of Baliol, and after having risen to high honours under David
the Second, he was enviously and maliciously accused of treason; and
having been thrown into one of the dungeons within these massive walls,
he was cruelly allowed to perish of cold and hunger. We also know that
the famous Alexander Stewart, son of King Robert the Second, and who,
from his ferocious disposition, was surnamed the Wolf of Badenoch,
possessed and inhabited this castle. It was from hence he is supposed
to have issued when he made his famous descent into the low country
of Moray, and fired the Cathedral of Elgin, reducing that magnificent
structure, that speculum patriæ et decus regni, as it was called,
and many other religious edifices in the town, to a heap of ruins.

Clifford.--Oh, you have told us enough, in all conscience, about that
wild beast; "adesso parliamo d'altro."

Author.--I am at a stand, so far as the history of Loch-an-Dorbe
is concerned, excepting that I may add, that in more recent times
it was possessed by the Earls of Moray, and passed from their hands
into those of the Campbells of Cawdor, and thence to the Grants of
Grant. I have seen at Cawdor Castle a massive iron gate, believed
to have been that of the Castle of Loch-an-Dorbe, which tradition
says was carried off from thence by Sir Donald Campbell of Cawdor,
who bore it on his back all the way across the moors till he set it
down where it is now in use, the distance being not less than some
twelve or fifteen miles. But this is a story much too marvellous for
belief in these matter-of-fact days of ours.

Clifford.--It is incredible enough, to be sure. Yet I have a story,
a well authenticated story too, which I think will almost match it.

Grant.--Out with it then.

Clifford.--No, I promise you you don't get my stories at so very
easy a rate; and for this simple reason, that they are by no means
so plenty as yours. Besides, I have just been thinking that with
this warm breeze, that so gently ripples the surface of the lake,
I could kill a handsome dish of trouts this afternoon, if trouts
there be within its watery world. Why might we not loiter off the
remainder of the day about this lake?

Grant.--I like the idea much. I perceive a nice looking cottage on
the other side, where I dare to say we may find lodging for the night.

Author.--That cottage is a shooting-lodge belonging to the proprietor;
and were he there in person, we should not lack a kind and hospitable
reception. But at present its doors are locked, and its rooms void.

Clifford.--There is a house, then, here on the nearer shore,
immediately below us; why should we not go there?

Author.--'Tis but a smoky uncomfortable place; but it may do well
enough for a shelter for one night, and if you are content to abide
there, so am I.

Clifford.--Pho! as to comfort, I am a soldier, and can rough it. I
have lain out all night to kill the enemies of my country, and would
do no less at any time for a good day's shooting or fishing.

Author, addressing gilly, who was leading a pony with panniers,--Go
down thither, then, and see our quarters made as comfortable as may be.

Clifford.--Aye, that will do. Come along, let us to work without more
hesitation or talk. I am all impatience.

Having sent round to borrow the proprietor's boat, we embarked on the
lake, and were soon intensely occupied in all the exciting anxieties
of the angle. Our success was various and unequal, like that of man
in the great lottery of human life. It was not always when basking in
the sunshine that we were most successful. Sometimes a warm shadow
would cross the lake, and the trouts would rise and hook themselves
three at a time on our lines. The bottom of the boat became alive,
and shone and glittered with the growing numbers of our golden and
silver captives. Anon, every cast we made was in vain; and then, when
the foolish fish began again to bite, our eagerness was such, that we
forgot each other's lines; and the loss of hooks, the destruction of
the finer parts of our tackle, and the fracture of delicate top pieces,
became the result of our numerous and grievous entanglements. Poor
Clifford could not account for a sudden cessation of his luck at the
very time that ours appeared to be doubled, and he went on in no very
good humour, flogging the water unsuccessfully, whilst Grant and I
were catching two and three at each cast; till at last, to his great
chagrin, he found that he had been all the while fishing without flies,
which were uselessly and most provokingly sticking in the rough coat
and around the neck and head of my great Newfoundland dog Bronte, to
the poor brute's great inconvenience. He did not fail to make up very
quickly for this bad luck, however. Our evening was altogether most
delightfully spent; for when we grew tired of the angle, we landed on
the island, and wandered among the extensive ruins which cover it. We
then sat on the mouldering walls of the castle till we saw the sun
sink behind the western hill; after which we returned to the shore,
and sought our place of retreat.

It was a small old-fashioned house, once used as a sort of hunting
lodge. It consisted of two stories, with little else than one ruinous
room in each, the whole being filled with the great smoke that arose
from the kitchen fire. But the exercise we had had, added to our
hunger, prepared us for being pleased with any accommodation; and
after a supper well eked out by a fritto of the delicious trouts we
had taken, we drew our stools around the fire, to enjoy a temperate cup
of pure Highland whisky, diluted with water from a neighbouring spring.

Grant.--Now for your story, Clifford.

Clifford.--'Tis of a famous Highlander, called John Mackay, of
Ross-shire. I got the narrative, with all its nationalities, from an
old Scottish brother officer of mine, a certain major of the name of
Macmillan, who knew the hero of it well.

Grant.--I should have hardly looked for such a story from a Sassenach
like you.

Clifford.--Tut. You know very well that my mother was a Highlandwoman,
and that I have moreover always had a strong feeling for Scotland,
and especially for the Highlands, as well as for everything connected
with these romantic regions, where, let me tell you, I have had some
wanderings as well as you.

Author.--We admit your right to tell your story. So now, come away
with it without further preface.

Clifford.--If I tell you anything, I must very nearly tell you all
honest John's life. Have you patience for so long a narrative?

Grant.--We shall give you the full duration of the burning of these
moss-fir faggots. Will that serve you?

Clifford.--I think my story will have expired before them. And by
that time we shall all be nearly ready for our blankets and heather;
for such, I presume, will be our fate to-night.



LEGEND OF JOHN MACKAY OF ROSS-SHIRE, CALLED IAN MORE ARRACH,
OR BIG JOHN THE RENTER OF THE MILK OF THE COWS.


My old Highland major told me, what perhaps you know better than I do,
I mean, that some half century or more ago, before sheep were quite so
much in fashion in the Highlands as I believe they now are, and when
cattle were the only great staple of the country, the proprietors of
the glens had them always well filled with cows. In those times it
was the custom in Ross-shire to allow one calf only to be reared for
each two cows of the herd. Each calf with its pair of cows was called
a Cauret; and these caurets were let to renters, who, as they might
find it most advisable, took one or more of them in lease, as it were,
according as their circumstances might dictate; and the renter being
obliged to rear one calf for the landlord for each cauret he held,
he was allowed the remainder of the milk for his own share of the
profit. These milk-renters were called arrachs; and John Mackay,
the hero of my story, was called Ian More Arrach, from his lofty
stature, and from his being one of these milk-renters. According to
my informant the major, who personally knew him, Ian well merited
the addition of More; for he declared that he was the most powerful
man he had ever beheld.

It so happened that Ian went down on one occasion into Strath-Connan,
to attend a great market or fair that was held there, probably to
dispose of his cheese; and as he was wandering about after his business
was over, his eye was caught, exactly like those of some of our simple
trouts of the lake here, by the red and tinsel, and silk and wool,
and feather glories of a recruiting sergeant and his party. He had
never seen anything of the kind before, and he stood staring at them
in wonderment as they passed. Nor did his solid and substantial form
fail to fill the sergeant's eye in its turn; but if I am to give you
a simile illustrative of the manner in which it did so, I must say
that it was in the same way that the plump form of a well-fed trout
might fill the greedy eye of a gaunt pike. He resolved to have him as
a recruit. The party was accordingly halted immediately opposite to
the spot where Ian was standing; and after one or two shrill shrieks
of the fife, and a long roll of the drum, the martial orator began an
oration, which lasted a good half-hour, in which he largely expatiated
on the glories of a soldier's life, and the riches and honours it
was certain one day or other to shower on the heads of all those who
embraced it. The greater part of this harangue was lost upon Ian More
Arrach, partly because he but very imperfectly understood English,
and partly because his senses were too much lost in admiration. But
when the grand scarlet-coated gentleman approached him with a smiling
air, and gaily slapping him on the back, exclaimed,--

"Come along with us, my brave fellow, and taste the good beef and
mustard, and other provender, that King George so liberally provides
for us gentlemen of his army, and drink his Majesty's health with us
in his own liquor. Come, and see how jollily we soldiers live!"

His wits returned to him at once, and he quickly understood enough of
what was said to him, to make him grin from ear to ear, till every
tooth in his head was seen to manifest its own particular unmingled
satisfaction, and his morning's walk from his distant mountain
residence having wonderfully sharpened his appetite, he followed the
sergeant into a booth with all manner of alacrity, and quietly took
his seat at a table that groaned beneath an enormous round of beef,
flanked by other eatables, on which the hungry recruits fell pell-mell,
and in demolishing which Ian rendered them his best assistance. The
booth or tent was constructed, as such things usually are, of some
old blankets stitched together, and hung over a cross-stick, that
was tied horizontally to the tops of two poles fixed upright in the
ground. It was the ambulatory tavern of one of those travelling ale
and spirit sellers who journey from one fair or market to another,
for the charitable purpose of vending their victuals and drink to the
hungry and thirsty who can afford to pay for them. The space around the
interior of the worsted walls of this confined place was occupied with
boxes, vessels, and barrels of various kinds; and whilst the landlord,
a knock-kneed cheeseparing of a man, who had once been a tailor,
sat at his ease in one corner reckoning his gains, his wife, a fat,
bustling, red-nosed little woman, was continually running to and fro
to serve the table with liquor. Many were the loyal toasts given,
and they were readily drank by Ian, more, perhaps, from relish of
the good stuff that washed them down, than from any great perception
he had of their intrinsic merit. His head was by no means a weak
one. But the sergeant and his assistants were too well acquainted
with all the tricks of their trade not to take such measures as made
him unwittingly swallow three or four times as much liquor as they did.

"Now, my gallant Highlander," exclaimed the sergeant, when he thought
him sufficiently wound up for his purpose, "see how nobly his Majesty
uses us. Starve who may, we never want for plenty. But this is not
all. Hold out your hand, my brave fellow. See, here is a shilling
with King George's glorious countenance upon it. He sends you this
in his own name, as a mark of his especial favour and regard for you."

"Fod, but she wonders tat sae big an' braw a man as ta King wad be
thinkin' on Ian Arrach at a', at a'," said the Highlander, surveying
the shilling as it lay in the palm of his hand; "but troth, she wonders
a hantel mair, tat sin King Shorge was sendin' ony sing till her ava,
she didna send her a guinea fan her hand was in her sporran at ony
rate. But sic as it be, she taks it kind o' ta man," and saying so,
he quietly transferred into his own sporran that which he believed
to have come from the King's.

"That shilling is but an arnest of all the golden guineas he will by
and bye give you," said the sergeant; "not to mention all those bags of
gold, and jewels, and watches which he will give you his gracious leave
to take from his enemies, after you shall have cut their throats."

"Tut, tut, but she no be fond o' cuttin' trotts," replied Ian;
"she no be good at tat trade at a', at a'."

"Ha! no fears but you will learn that trade fast enough," said the
sergeant. "You mountaineers generally do. You are raw yet; but wait
till you have beheld my glorious example--wait till you have seen me
sheer off half a dozen heads or so, as I have often done, of a morning
before breakfast, and you will see that there is nothing more simple."

"Och, och," exclaimed Ian, with a shrug of his shoulders that spoke
volumes.

"Aye, aye," continued the sergeant, "'tis true you cannot expect that
at the very first offer you are to be able to take off your heads quite
so clean at a blow as I can do. Indeed, I am rather considered a rare
one at taking off heads. For example, I remember that I once happened
to take a French grenadier company in flank, when, with the very
first slash of my sword, I cut clean through the necks of the three
first file of men, front rank and rear rank, making no less than six
heads off at the first sweep. And it was well for the company that
they happened only to be formed two deep at the time, for if they
had been three deep, no less than nine heads must have gone."

"Keep us a'!" cried some of the wondering recruits.

"Nay," continued the sergeant; "had it not been for the unlucky
accident that by some mistake the fourth front rank man was a leetle
shorter than the other, so that the sword encountered his chin-bone,
the fourth file would have been beheaded like the rest."

"Och, och!" cried Ian again.

"But," continued the sergeant, "as I said before, though you cannot
expect to take up this matter by nattral instinck, as it were, yet I'll
be bail that a big stout souple fellow like you will not see a month's
sarvice before you will shave off a head as easily as I shave this here
piece of cheese, and----confound it, I have cut my thumb half through."

"Her nanesell wunna be meddlin' wi' ony siccan bluidy wark," said Ian,
shaking his head, and shrugging his shoulders. "She no be wantan'
to be a boutcher. But, noo," added he, lifting up a huge can of ale,
"she be biddin' ye a' gude evenin', shentilmans, and gude hells,
and King Shorge gude hells, an' mony sanks to ye a'; and tell King
Shorge she sall keep her bit shullin' on a string tied round her neck
for a bonny die." And so rising up, Ian put the ale can to his head,
and drained it slowly to the bottom.

"But, my good fellow," said the sergeant, who had been occupied,
whilst Ian's draught lasted, in tying up his thumb in a handkerchief
and giving private signals to his party, "you are joking about bidding
us good evening--we cannot part with you so soon."

"Troth she maun be goin' her ways home," said Ian, "she has a far
gate to traivil."

"Stuff!" cried the sergeant; "surely you cannot have forgotten that
you have taken King George's money, and that you have now the great
privilege of holding the honourable and lucrative situation of a
gentleman private in his Majesty's infantry, having been duly and
volunteerly enlisted before all these here witnesses."

"Ou, na," said Ian gravely and seriously; "she didna list--na, na,
she didna list; troth na. So wussin' ta gude company's gude hells
wanss more, an' King Shorge's hells, she maun just be goin' for she
has a lang gate o' hill afore her."

"Nay, master, we can't exactly part with you so easily," said the
sergeant, rising up. "You are my recruit, and you must go nowhere
without my leave."

"Hoot, toots," replied Ian, making one step towards the door of
the booth; "an' she has her nane leave, troth, she'll no be axan'
ony ither."

"I arrest you in the King's name!" said the sergeant, laying hold of
Ian by the breast.

"Troth, she wudna be wussin' to hort her," said Ian, lifting up the
sergeant like a child before he knew where he was; "but sit her doon
tere, oot o' ta way, till her nanesell redds hersell of ta lave,
and wuns awa'."

Making two strides with his burden towards a large cask of ale that
stood on end in one corner of the place, he set the gallant hero
down so forcibly on the top of it, that the crazy rotten boards
gave way, and he was crammed backwards, in a doubled up position,
into the yawning mouth of the profound, whilst surges of beer boiled
and frothed up around him. Ian would have charitably relieved the man
from so disagreeable a situation, which was by no means that which he
had intended him to occupy; but, ere he wist, he was assailed by the
whole party like a swarm of bees. The place of strife was sufficiently
narrow, a circumstance much in favour of the light troops who now made
a simultaneous movement on him, with the intention of prostrating him
on the ground, but he stood like a colossus, and nothing could budge
him; whilst, at the same time, he never dealt a single blow as if at
all in anger, but ever and anon, as his hands became so far liberated
as to enable him to seize on one of his assailants, he wrenched him
away from his own person, and tossed him from him, either forth of
the tent door, or as far at least as its bounds would allow, some
falling among the hampers and boxes--some falling like a shower upon
the poor owners of the booth--and some falling upon the unfortunate
sergeant. The red-nosed priestess of this fragile temple of Bacchus
shrieked in sweet harmony with the groans of the knock-kneed and
broken-down tailor, and in the midst of the melee, one unhappy recruit,
who was winging his way through the air from the powerful projectile
force of Ian More, came like a chain-shot against the upright poles
of the tent--the equilibrium of its whole system was destroyed--down
came the cross-beam--the covering blankets collapsed and sank,--and,
in a moment, nothing appeared to the eyes of those without but a mighty
heap, that heaved and groaned underneath like some volcanic mountain in
labour previous to an eruption. And an eruption to be sure there was;
for, to the great astonishment of the whole market people, Ian More
Arrach's head suddenly appeared through a rent that took place in the
rotten blanket, with his face in a red hot state of perspiration, and
his mouth gasping for breath. After panting like a porpoise for a few
seconds, he made a violent effort, reared himself upon his legs, and
thrusting his feet out at the aperture which had served as a door to
the tent, he fled away with all the effect of a fellucca under a press
of sail, buffeting his way through the multitude of people and cattle,
as a vessel would toss aside the opposing billows; and then shooting
like a meteor up the side of the mountain that flanked the strath, he
left his flowing drapery behind him in fragments and shreds adhering
to every bush he passed by, bounded like a stag over its sky line,
and disappeared from the astonished eyes of the beholders.

It were vain to attempt to describe the re-organisation of the
discomfited troops, who, when their strange covering was thus
miraculously removed, arose singly from the ground utterly confounded,
and began to move about limping and cursing amidst the bitter wailings
of the unhappy people whose frail dwelling had so marvellously fled
from them. The attention of the party was first called to their gallant
commander, who, with some difficulty, was extracted from the mouth
of the beer barrel, dripping like a toast from a tankard. His rage
may be conceived better than told. His honour had been tarnished, and
his interest put in jeopardy. He, whose stirring tales of desperate
deeds of arms and fearful carnage had so often extended the jaws of
the Highland rustics whom he had kidnapped, and raised their very
bonnets on the points of their bristling hair with wonder,--who
could devour fire as it issued from the mouth of a cannon,--and
who could contend single-handed against a dozen of foes, to be so
unceremoniously crammed, by the arm of one man, into a beer barrel,
in the presence of those very recruits, and to be afterwards basely
extracted from it before the eyes of the many who had listened to
his boastful harangues. And then, moreover, to be choused out of the
anticipated fruits of his wily hospitality, as well as of a silver
shilling, by the flight of the broad-shouldered Celt, whom he thought
he had secured, and of whom he expected to have made so handsome a
profit. All this was not to be borne, and, accordingly, wide as was
Ross-shire, he determined most indefatigably to search every inch of
it until he should again lay hands on him. From the inquiries made on
the spot, it was considered as certain that Ian More had gone directly
home to his lonely bothy, in a high and solitary valley some dozen
of miles or so from the place where they then were; and as one of
the recruits knew the mountain tracks well enough to act as guide,
he collected the whole of his forces, amounting to nearly double the
number of those who had been engaged in the battle of the booth, and
after having refreshed and fortified them and himself with all manner
of available stimuli, he put himself at their head, and set forward
on his expedition at such an hour of the night as might enable them
to reach the dwelling of Ian More Arrach before he was likely to
leave it in the morning in pursuit of his daily occupation.

Ian More was but little acquainted with the tricks of this world;
and no wonder, for the habitation in which he lived, and from which
he rarely migrated, was situated in one of those desert glens which
are to be found far up in the mountains, where they nurse and perhaps
give birth to the minuter branches of those streams, which, running
together in numbers, and accumulating as they roll onwards through
wider and larger valleys, go on expanding with the opening country
until they unite to water the extended and fertile plains in some
broad and important river. The ascent to the little territory of which
Ian More was the solitary sovereign was by a steep and narrow ravine
among rocks, down which the burn raged against the opposing angles,
like a wayward child that frets and fumes against every little obstacle
that occurs to the indulgence of its wishes. Higher up its course was
cheerful and placid, like the countenance of the same child, perhaps,
when in the best humour and in the full enjoyment for the time being
of all its desires, laughing as it went its way among water-lilies,
ranunculuses, and yellow marigolds, meandering quietly through a deep
and well-swarded soil that arose from either side of it in a gently
curving slope to the base of two precipitous walls of rock, within
the shelter of which the caurets of Ian More had ample pasture for a
stretch of about a quarter of a mile upwards to the spot where the
cliffs, rising in altitude, and apparently unscalable, shut in the
glen in a natural amphitheatre. There the burn issued from a small
circular lochan; and it was on the farther margin of this piece of
water, and immediately at the foot of the crags behind it, that the
small sod hovel of Ian More Arrach was placed, so insignificant a
speck amid the vastness of the surrounding features of nature as to be
hardly distinguished from the rock itself, especially when approached,
as it now was, in the grey light of the morning, until the sergeant
and his party had come very near to it.

The leader of the enterprise felt that no time was to be lost in a
survey, lest, whilst they were hesitating, Ian might perceive them,
and again make his escape. A simultaneous rush, therefore, was made
for the door; but, albeit that Ian generally left it unfastened,
he had somehow or other been led to secure it on this occasion, by
lifting a stone of no ordinary size, which usually served him as a
seat, and placing it as a barricade against it on the inside. Their
first attempt to force it being thus rendered altogether unavailing,--

"John Mackay, otherwise Ian More Arrach, open to us in the name of
King George," cried the sergeant, standing at the full length of his
pike from the door, and poking against it with the point of the weapon.

"Fat wud King Shorge hae wi' Ian More," demanded the Highlander.

"Come, open the door and surrender peaceably," cried the sergeant;
"you are the King's lawful recruit. You have been guilty of mutiny
and desartion; but if you will surrender at discretion, and come
quietly along with us, it is not unlikely that, in consideration of
your being as yet untaught, and still half a savage, you may not be
exactly shot this bout, though it is but little marcy you desarve,
considering how confoundedly my back aches with the rough treatment I
had from you. Keep close to the door, my lads," continued he, sinking
his voice, "and be ready to spring on him the moment he comes out."

Whilst the sergeant yet spoke, the whole hovel began to heave like some
vast animal agonised with internal throes. The men of the party stood
aghast for one moment, and in the next the back wall of the sod edifice
was hurled outwards, and the roof, losing its support, fell inwards,
raising a cloud of dust so dense as utterly to conceal for a time
the individual who was the cause and instrument of its destruction.

"Ha! look sharp, my lads!" cried the sergeant; "be on your mettle!"

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the herculean form
of Ian More arose before his eyes from amidst the debris and dust,
as did the figure of the Genii from the jar before those of the
fisherman in the Eastern fable.

"There he is, by Jupiter!" cried the sergeant, involuntarily retreating
a step or two. "On him--on him, and seize him, my brave boys!"

The nature of the spot seemed to forbid all hope of escape. The party
blocked up the space in front of the bothy, and the narrow stripe of
ground that stretched along between the lake on the one hand, and the
cliffs on the other, grew more and more confined as it ran backwards,
until it disappeared altogether at a point about an hundred yards
distant, where the crags rose sheer up out of the water. In this
direction Ian More moved slowly off, after throwing on the throng of
his assailants a grim smile, which, however, had more of pity than of
anger in it. Before he had taken a dozen steps the most forward of
the party were at his skirts. He turned smartly round, and suddenly
catching up the first man in his arms, he sent him spinning through
the air into the lake as if he had been a puppy dog. The next in
succession was seized with astonishment, but before he could shake
himself free of it, he was seized by something more formidable,
I mean by the iron hands of Ian More, who flung him also far amid
the waters after his fellow. A whole knot of those who followed them
sprang upon him at once, but he patted them off, one after another,
as if they had been so many flies, and that he had been afraid to
hurt them; but, as it was impossible for him to accommodate his hits
with mathematical precision to the gentleness of his intentions,
some of the individuals who received them bore the marks of them for
many a day afterwards. The ardour of the attack became infinitely
cooled down. But still there were certain fiery spirits who coveted
glory. These, as they came boldly up, successively shared the fate of
those who had gone before them. Some were stretched out, as chance
threw them, to measure their dimensions on the terra firma, whilst
others were hurled hissing hot into the lake, where they were left
at leisure to form some estimate of their own specific gravity in
a depth of water which was just shallow enough to save them from
drowning. Meanwhile, the object of their attack continued to stalk
slowly onwards at intervals, smiling on them from time to time, as he
turned to survey the shattered remains of the attacking army that now
followed him at a respectful distance, and halted every time he faced
them. The sergeant, like an able general, kept poking them on in the
rear with his pike, and upbraiding them for their cowardice. Meanwhile
Ian gradually gained ground on them, and having produced an interval
of some twenty or thirty yards between himself and them, just as
they thought that he had arrived at a point where farther retreat
was impossible, he suddenly disappeared into a crack in the face
of the cliff, hitherto unobserved, and on reaching the place they
found that the fearless mountaineer had made his slippery way up the
chimney-like cleft, amidst the white foam of a descending rill that
was one of the main feeders of the lochan, into which it poured.

"The feller has vanished into the clouds," said the sergeant,
shuddering with horror as he looked up the perilous rocky funnel,
and, at the same time, secretly congratulating himself that Ian had
not stood to bay. "He has vanished into the clouds, just out of our
very hands, as I may say. Who was to think of there being any such
ape's ladder as this here?"

The party returned, sullen and discomfited, to the strath, and their
leader now gave up all hopes of capturing Ian More Arrach either by
stratagem or force. But his thirst for the large sum which he expected
to realise by producing such a man at headquarters rendered him quite
restless and unremitting in his inquiries, the result of which was,
that he found out that Lord Seaforth, then, I believe, Lord Lieutenant
of the County, might do something towards apprehending the runaway. He
accordingly waited on his lordship to request his interference for
procuring the seizure of John Mackay, surnamed Ian More Arrach, a
deserter from His Majesty's service. Lord Seaforth inquired into the
case, and believing that the man had been fairly enlisted, he procured
his immediate appearance at Brahan Castle, by going the right way to
work with him. There, it so happened, that Lord Rae was at that time
a visitor, and Lord Seaforth called in his aid to work upon Ian More,
who bowed to the ground in submission to the wishes of his chief.

"This is an unlucky business, Ian More," said Lord Rae, "it seems that
you have deserted from the King's service, after having accepted his
money, and that, moreover, you have twice deforced the officer and
party. Your case, I fear, is a bad one. Depend upon it, they will have
you if it should cost them the sending of a whole regiment after you;
and then, if you give them so much trouble, no one can say what may
be the consequence. Take my advice and give yourself up quietly. I
shall write to your commanding officer in such terms as will save
you from any very bad consequences; and with the recommendations
which you shall have, there is no saying but you may be an officer
ere long. All the Mackays are brave fellows; and if all I have heard
be true, it appears that you are no disgrace to the name."

Ian was too proud of the interest taken in him by his noble chief, to
dispute his advice or wishes for one moment. He would have sacrificed
his life for him. And accordingly, abandoning his mountain-glen and
his caurets, he surrendered himself to the sergeant, who implicitly
obeyed the instructions he received from Lord Rae to treat him kindly,
particularly as they were backed up with a handsome douceur; and Ian
was soon afterwards embarked to join his regiment, then quartered
in Guernsey.

The regiment that Ian More was attached to was almost entirely
a new levy, and the recruits were speedily put on garrison duty,
frivolous perhaps in itself, but probably given to them more as a
lesson, in order that they might become familiar with it, than from
any absolute necessity for it. It so happened, that the first guard
that Ian mounted, he was planted as a night sentinel on the Queen's
Battery. The instructions given to his particular post were to take
especial care that no injury should happen to a certain six-pounder,
which there rested on its carriage; and when the corporal of the guard
marched Ian up as a relief, he laughed heartily to hear the earnest
assurances which he gave, in answer to the instructions he received
from the man he was relieving, "Tat not a bonn o' ta body o' ta wee
gunnie sould be hurt, at a', at a', while he had ta care o' her."

And Ian kept his word; for he watched over the beautiful little piece
of ordnance with the greatest solicitude. It so happened, however,
that whilst he was walking his lonely round, a heavy shower of rain
began to fall, and a bitter freezing blast soon converted every
particle of it into a separate cake of ice, which cut against his
nose and eyes, and nearly scarified his face, so that much as he had
been accustomed to the snarling climate of the higher regions of the
interior of Scotland, he felt as if he would lose his eyesight from
the inclemency of the weather; and then he began to reason that if
he should lose his eyesight, how could he take care of the gun? His
anxiety for the safety of his charge, united to a certain desire for
his own comfort, induced him gravely to consider what was best to be
done. He surveyed the gun, and as he did so, he began to think that
it was extremely absurd that he should be standing by its side for
two long hours, whilst he might so easily provide for its security in
some place of shelter; and accordingly he quickly removed it from its
carriage, and poising it very adroitly on his shoulder, he carried
it deliberately away.

Strong as Ian was, the position and the weight of the six-pounder,
considerably more than half a ton, compelled him to walk with a stiff
mien and a solemn, measured, and heavy tread. He had to pass by two or
three sentinels. These were all raw unformed recruits like himself,
and full of Highland superstitions. Each of them challenged him in
succession as his footstep approached; but Ian was too much intent on
keeping his burden properly balanced to be able to reply. He moved
on steadily and silently therefore, with his eyeballs protruded and
fixed, from the exertion he was making, and with his whole countenance
wearing a strange and portentous expression of anxiety, which was
heightened by a certain pale blue light that fell upon it from one
part of the stormy sky. Instead of attempting to oppose or to arrest
such a phantom, which came upon them in the midst of the tempest like
some unearthly being which had been busied in the very creation of it,
each sentry fled before it, and the whole rampart was speedily cleared.

It was not many minutes after this that the visiting sergeant went
his rounds. To his great surprise, he was not challenged by the
sentry upon Ian More's post; and to his still greater astonishment,
he was permitted to advance with impunity till he discovered that
Ian More was not there. But what was yet most wonderful of all the
gun of which he was the especial guardian was gone.

"Lord ha' mercy on us!" exclaimed the corporal, "I see'd the man
planted here myself alongside the piece of ordnance; what can have
become of them both?"

"Tis mortal strange," said the sergeant. "Do you stand fast here,
corporal, till we go down the rampart a bit, to see if we can see
anything."

"Nay, with your leave, sergeant," said the corporal, "I see no use
in leaving me here to face the devil. Had we not better go and report
this strange matter to the officer of the guard?"

"Nonsense,--obey my orders; and if you do see the devil, be sure you
make him give you the countersign," said the sergeant, who had had
all such fears rubbed off by a long life of hard service.

On walked the sergeant along the rampart. The other sentries were
gone also. One man only he at last found, and him he dragged forth
from under a gun-carriage.

"Why have you deserted your post, you trembling wretch?" demanded
the sergeant.

"Did you not see it, then?" said the man, with a terrified look.

"See what?" asked the sergeant.

"The devil, in the shape of Ian More Arrach, with his face like a
flaming furnace, shouldering a four-and-twenty pounder," replied the
man; "och, it was a terrible sight."

"By jingo, my boy, your back will be made a worse spectacle of before
long, if I don't mistake," said the sergeant.

By this time a buzz of voices was heard. The guard had been alarmed
by the fugitive sentries, whose fright had carried them with ghastly
looks to the guard-room. The guard had alarmed the garrison, and the
whole place was thrown into confusion. Soldiers, non-commissioned
officers, and officers, were seen running and heard vociferating
in all directions, lanterns and flambeaux were everywhere flitting
about like fire-flies, and soldiers' wives and children were heard
screaming and crying. The cause of the tumult was reported in a
thousand different ways. Some of the least rational of the women and
juveniles even believed and asserted that an enemy had landed on the
island; whilst those who really were aware that the true cause of
the uproar was Ian More's mysterious disappearance, were employed in
searching everywhere for him and the six-pounder; but he was nowhere
to be found, and wonder and astonishment multiplied at every step.

At length the tumult rose to such a height that the commanding
officer was roused, and hurrying on his clothes, he came running
to the Queen's Battery to know what all the hubbub was about. The
place was filled with a crowd of all ranks, each individual of which
was ready to hazard his own conjecture in explanation of this most
unaccountable event. All gave way at the colonel's approach. After
hearing what had happened, he inquired into the circumstances so
far as they were known; he listened calmly and attentively to the
various accounts of those who had been making ineffectual search,
and having heard all of them patiently to an end--

"This is very strange," said he; "but well as you have searched, it
appears to me that none of you seem to have ever thought of looking
for him in his barrack-room. Let us go there."

Off went the colonel accordingly to the barrack-room, followed by as
many curious officers and soldiers as could well crowd after him; and
there, to be sure, snug in bed, and sound asleep, lay Ian More Arrach,
with the piece of artillery in his arms, and his cheek close to the
muzzle of it, which was sticking out from under the blanket that
covered both of them. The spectacle was too ridiculous even for the
colonel's gravity. He and all around him gave way to uncontrollable
bursts of laughter, that speedily awaked Ian from the deep sleep in
which he was plunged. He stared around him with astonishment.

"What made you leave your post, you rascal?" demanded the sergeant
of the guard, so much provoked as to forget himself before his
commanding officer.

"Nay, nay," said the colonel, who already knew something of Ian,
from the letter which he had received from his chief, "you cannot say
that he has left his post; for you see he has taken his post along
with him."

"Is na ta wee bit gunnie as weil aside her nanesell here?" said Ian,
with an innocent smile. "Is she na mockell better here aside her
nanesell, nor wi' her nanesell stannin' cauld an' weet aside her
yonder on ta Pattry?"

"Well, well," said the colonel, after a hearty laugh. "But how did
you manage to bring the gun here?"

"Ou troth her nanesell carried her," replied Ian.

"Come, then," said the colonel, "if you will instantly carry it back
again to the place whence you took it, nothing more shall be said
about it."

"Toots! but she'll soon do tat," said Ian, starting out of bed,
and immediately raising the gun to his shoulder, he set out with it,
followed by the colonel and every one within reach; and, to the great
astonishment of all of them, he marched slowly and steadily towards
the battery with it, and replaced it on its carriage, amidst the loud
cheers of all who beheld him.

As Ian was naturally a quiet, sober, peaceable, and well-behaved
man, a thorough knowledge of his duty soon converted him into a most
invaluable soldier; and nature having made him a perfect model, both as
to mould and symmetry of form, the colonel, who took a peculiar fancy
to him, soon saw that he was altogether too tall and fine looking a
man to be kept in the ranks. Accordingly he had him struck off from
the ordinary routine of domestic duty, and drilled as a fugleman,
in which distinguished situation Ian continued to figure until his
services were terminated by an unlucky accident.

It happened one evening that the colonel of an English regiment dined
at the mess of the Highland corps. In the course of conversation
this gentleman offered a bet that he had a man who would beat any
individual who could be picked from among the Highlanders. One of the
Highland officers immediately took him up, and engaged to produce
a man to meet the English champion next morning. By break of day,
therefore, he sent for Ian More Arrach, and told him what had occurred,
and then added--"You are to be my man, Ian; and I think it will be
no hard thing for you who shouldered the six-pounder to pound this
boasting pock-pudding."

"Troth na," said Ian, shaking his head, "ta pock-pudden no done her nae
ill,--fat for wad she be fighten her? Troth her honour may e'en fight
ta man hersell, for her nanesell wull no be doin' nae siccan a thing."

"Tut! nonsense, man," said the officer, "you must fight him, aye and
lick him too; and you shall not only carry off the honour, but you
shall have a handsome purse of money for doing so."

"Na, na," said Ian, "ta man no dune her nae ill ava, an she'll no be
fighten for ony bodey's siller but King Shorge's."

"Surely you're not afraid of him," said the officer, trying to rouse
his pride.

"Hout na!" replied Ian More, with a calm good humoured smile; "she
no be feart for no man livin'."

"So you won't fight," said the officer.

"Troth na," said Ian, "she canna be fighten wissout nae raison."

"Surely your own honour, the honour of the regiment, the honour of
Scotland, the purse of gold, and my wishes thus earnestly expressed,
ought to be reasons enough with you. But since you refuse, I must go
to Alister Mackay; he will have no such scruples, I'll warrant me."

This last observation was a master-stroke of policy on the part of
the officer. Alister Mackay was a stout athletic young man; but he
was by no means a match for the English prize-fighter. Nor did the
officer mean that he should be opposed to him; for he only named him,
knowing that he was a cousin of Ian More's, and one for whom he had the
affection of a brother; and he was quite sure that his apprehension
for Alister's safety would be too great to allow him to be absent
from the field, if it did not induce him to take his place in the
combat. And it turned out as he had anticipated. Ian came, eagerly
pressing forward into the throng; and no sooner did he appear than
the officer pointed him out to the Englishman as the man that was to
be pitted against him; and as the Highlanders naturally took it for
granted that the big fugleman was to be their man, they quickly made
a ring for him amidst loud cheering.

"Come away, Goliah! come on!" cried the Englishman, tossing his hat
into the air, and his coat to one side. Ian minded him not. But the
growing and intolerable insolence of the bully did the rest; for,
presuming on Ian's apparent backwardness, he strode up to him with
his arms akimbo, and spat in his face.

"Fat is she do tat for?" asked Ian simply of those around him.

"He has done it to make people believe that you are a coward, and
afraid to fight him," said the Highland officer who backed him.

"Tell her no to do tat again," said Ian seriously.

"There!" said the boxer, repeating the insult.

Without showing the smallest loss of temper, Ian made an effort to lay
hold of his opponent, but the Englishman squared at him, and hit him
several smart blows in succession, not one of which the unpractised
Highlander had the least idea of guarding.

"Ha!" exclaimed the Highland officer, "I fear you will be beaten, Ian."

"Foo!" cried Ian coolly, "she be strikin' her to be sure, but she be
na hurtin' her. But an she disna gie ower an her nanesell gets one
stroak at her, she'll swarrants she'll no seek nae mair."

The Englishman gave him two or three more hard hits that went against
his breast as if they had gone against an oaken door; but at last
Ian raised his arm, and swept it round horizontally with a force that
broke through all his antagonist's guards; and the blow striking his
left cheek as if it had come from a sledge hammer, it actually drove
the bones of the jaw on that side quite through the opposite skin,
and, at the same time, smashed the whole skull to fragments. The man
fell like a log, dead on the spot, and horror and astonishment seized
the spectators.

"Och hone! och hone!" cried Ian More, running to lift him from the
ground, in an agony of distress, "She's dootin' she kilt ta poor man."

Ian was thrown into a fit of the deepest despair and sorrow by this
sad catastrophe, sufficiently proving to every one around him that his
heart was made of the most generous stuff; and, indeed, the effect
of the horrible spectacle they had witnessed was such as to throw a
gloom on all who were present, and especially on those who were more
immediately concerned with the wager. The case was decidedly considered
as one of justifiable homicide. It was hushed up by general consent,
and a pass was granted to Ian to return to Scotland.

As he was slowly journeying homeward, Ian happened to spend a night
at Stonehaven, and, as he was inquiring of his landlord as to the
way he was to take in the morning, the man told him that he might
save some distance by taking a short cut through the park of Ury,
the residence of Mr. Barclay of Ury, who, as you probably know,
was even more remarkable for feats of bodily strength than his son,
Captain Barclay, the celebrated pedestrian.

"Ye may try the fut-road through the park," said Ian's host; "but
oddsake, man, tak' care an' no meet the laird, for he's an awfu'
chiel, though he be a Quaker, and gif ye do meet him I rauken that
ye'll just hae to come yere ways back again."

"Fat for she do tat?" demanded Ian.

"Ou, he's a terrible man the laird," continued the landlord. "What
think ye? there was ae night that a poor tinker body had putten his
bit pauney into ane of the laird's inclosures, that it might get a
sly rug o' the grass. Aweel, the laird comes oot in the mornin', and
the moment he spied the beast, he ga'ed tilt like anither Samson, and
he lifted it up in his airms and flang it clean oot ower the dyke. As
sure as ought, gif he meets you, an' he disna throw you owre the dyke,
he'll gar ye gang ilka fit o' the road back again."

"Tuts! she'll try," replied Ian.

Soon after sunrise, Ian took the forbidden path, and he had pursued
it without molestation for a considerable way, when he heard some one
hallooing after him; and turning his head to look back, he beheld a
gentleman, whom he at once guessed to be the laird, hurrying up to him.

"Soldier!" cried Mr. Barclay, "I allow no one to go this way, so thou
must turn thee back."

"She be sorry tat she has anghered her honour," said Ian bowing
submissively, "but troth it be ower far a gate to gang back noo."

"Far gate or short gate, friend, back thou must go," said Mr. Barclay.

"Hoot na! she canna gang back," said Ian.

"But thou must go back, friend," said the laird.

"Troth, she wunna gang back," replied Ian.

"But thou must go back, I tell thee," said the laird, "and if thou
wilt not go back peaceably, I'll turn thee back whether with thy will
or not."

"Hoot, toot, she no be fit to turn her back," said Ian with one of
his broad good-humoured grins.

"I'll try," said the laird, laying his hands on Ian's shoulders to
carry his threat into immediate execution.

"An she be for tat," said Ian, "let her lay doon her wallet, an'
she'll see whuther she can gar her turn or no."

"By all means, good friend," said the laird, who enjoyed a thing of
the kind beyond all measure. "Off with thy wallet, then. Far be it
from me to take any unseemly advantage of thee."

The wallet being quietly deposited on the ground, to it they went;
but ere they had well buckled together, Ian put down the laird beside
the wallet with the same ease that he had put down the wallet itself.

"Ha!" cried the laird, as much overcome with surprise at a defeat which
he had never before experienced, as he had been by the strength that
had produced it. "Thou didst take me too much o' the sudden, friend,
but give me fair play. Let me up and I will essay to wrestle with
thee again."

"Weel, weel," said Ian coolly, "she may tak' her ain laizier to rise,
for her nanesell has plenty o' sun afore her or night."

"Come on then," said Mr. Barclay, grappling again with his antagonist
and putting forth all his strength, which Ian allowed him full time
to exert against him, whilst in defiance of it all he stood firm and
unshaken as a rock.

"Noo! doon she goes again!" said Ian, deliberately prostrating the
laird a second time, "an' gif tat be na eneugh, she'll put her toon
ta tird time, sae tat she'll no need nae mair puttens toon."

"No, no," said the laird panting, and, notwithstanding his defeat,
much delighted not only with the exercise he had had, but that he had
at last discovered so potent an antagonist. "No, no, friend! enough
for this bout. I own that thou art the better man. This is the first
time that my back was ever laid on the grass. Come away with me,
good fellow, thou shalt go home with me."

Ian's journey was not of so pressing a nature as to compel him to
refuse the laird's hospitable offer, and he spent no less than fourteen
days living on the fat of the land at Ury, and Mr. Barclay afterwards
sent a man and horses with him to forward him a few stages on his way.

On his return to Strath-Connan, Ian was welcomed by many an old friend,
and he speedily felt himself again rooted in his native soil. He soon
re-edified his bothy; but he did so after that much improved and much
more comfortable style of architecture which his large experience of
civilised life had now taught him to consider as essential. He again
took readily to his caurets, and to the simple occupations attendant
on the care and management of them, which he forthwith increased to
a considerable extent by increasing their numbers; and every day he
grew wealthier and wealthier by means of them. The taste which he
had now had of society, led him more frequently to visit the gayer
and livelier scenes of the more thickly inhabited straths; and it
was seldom that a market, a marriage, or a merry-making of any kind
occurred, where Ian's sinewy limb and well turned ankles were not
seen executing the Highland fling to a degree of perfection rarely
to be matched. These innocent practices he continued long after he
was a husband and a father, yea, until he was far advanced in life.

If Ian had a spark of pride at all, it was in the circumstance that
the calves of his legs were so well rounded, that however much his
limbs might be exercised, they always kept up his hose without the
aid of a garter, an appendage to his dress which he always scorned to
wear. One night a large party of friends were assembled in his house
to witness the baptism of a recently born grandson. After the ceremony
and the feast were both over, the young people got up to dance, and,
old as he was, Ian More Arrach was among the foremost of them. To
it he went, and danced the Highland fling with his usual spirit and
alacrity, snapping his fingers and shouting with the best of them. But
alas! when the dance was over, he suddenly discovered that his hose had
fallen three inches from their original position, betraying the sad
fact that his limbs had lost somewhat of their original muscle. This
was to him a sad sinking in the barometer of human life. He surveyed
his limbs for some time in silence with a melancholy expression;
and then, with something like a feeling of bitterness, which no one
had ever seen take possession of him before, he exclaimed,--

"Tamm her nanesell's teeths! She may weel gie ower ta fling, noo tat
her teeths wunna haud up her hose!"



MORNING SCENE.


The shrill and persevering crow of a cock, who roosted on the rafters
immediately over our heads, gradually succeeded in drawing up Grant
and myself from the deep Lethean lake of slumber into which both
had been plunged, and we arose yawning and most unwillingly from our
simple couches, ere yet the sun had peeped above the horizon. With one
consent we stole to the outer door in our dressing gowns and slippers,
to inhale a few draughts of pure air, and to inform ourselves as to
the state of the weather. A perfect calm prevailed, and the landscape
was lying under one general sombre shadow, which made it so difficult
to distinguish objects, that we could not even trace the exact line of
boundary of the still waters of Loch-an-Dorbe. One glow of an aurora
hue made the summit of the opposite hill to gleam faintly, but that
was enough to produce a corresponding fragment of bright reflection
on the bosom of the lake. In the middle of that warm spot rested a
little boat with two men in it, one of whom was seated at the oars
to keep it steady, whilst the other was standing in the stern eagerly
occupied in fishing.

Grant, rubbing his eyes,--Can that possibly be Clifford?

Author.--Let us ascertain whether he is in his bed or not.

Grant.--Aha! his gite is empty and cold! What an indefatigable
fisherman!

Author.--Depend upon it, we shall not see him here for some hours
to come.

Grant.--Then I shall employ the intervening time in repose.

Author.--And I shall follow your good example.

The very profound sleep into which we both of us sank, was at length
interrupted by the return of Clifford with a beautiful dish of
fresh trouts.

Clifford.--You lazy fellows! See what a glorious morning's work I have
had while you have been snoring away like a couple of tailors. Look
how large and how fine they are! There is one now, twice as big as
any that was killed last night.

Author.--We are certainly greatly obliged to you for quitting your
couch so early in order to procure us so luxurious a breakfast.

Clifford.--I don't think that either of you deserve to share in
it, though in truth you are already sufficiently punished for your
indolence by missing the fine sport I have had, and therefore I shall
act towards you with true Christian charity. Come then, my girl,
get your fire up and your frying-pan in order, and I'll stand cook.

Grant.--You must have had a delicious morning of it.

Clifford.--Charming! The effect of the sunrise on the lake was
enchanting, and the jumping of the trouts around me perfectly
miraculous.

Grant.--I am surprised that you could tear yourself away so soon.

Clifford.--I believe I should have been there for some hours to come,
had not my barefooted boatman told me that it was time to get on shore,
for that the clouds which we saw heaping themselves up to the westward,
threatened to discharge a storm upon us.

Grant.--I suspect that the fellow will turn out to be a true
prophet. What a dreadful blast that was! Let us hurry out to witness
the effects of it.

What a change had now taken place in the scene! The sun was already
high above the horizon; but dense clouds hid his face from our view,
and threw a deep inky hue over the whole face of nature, excepting
only where the western blast took its furious course athwart the
wide surface of the lake, lashing it up into white-crested billows,
the sharp and fleeting lights of which acquired a double share of
brilliancy amidst the general murky hue that prevailed everywhere
around. The spray dashed over the island and the grey towers of the
castle. The flocks of sea-mews, kittywakes, and other waterfowl that
frequented the ruined walls, were whirled about in confused mazes,
like fragments of foam carried into the air, and were utterly unable
to direct their flight by their own volition. Nothing could be more
sudden nor more sublime than this effect! It was so grand, and at
the same time so transient, that nothing but the ready eye and the
matchless mind of the Reverend John Thomson, of Duddingstone, our
great Scottish Salvator, could have seized and embodied it. It passed
away as speedily as it had come. A heavy shower of rain fell after
it was gone; and after that had ceased, all was stillness and sunshine.

When we again set out to pursue our way, which led by the margin of
the loch, its waters were rippling gently with every light zephyr
that fanned them, and sparkling and glowing under the untamed rays
of the broad sun, whilst the sea-birds were partly wheeling over the
deep with all their wonted variety and regularity of evolution, and
partly dipping into the water, and partly resting in buoyant repose
upon its swelling bosom.

Having waved our last adieu to Loch-an-Dorbe from the summit of a knoll
at some distance from the lower end of it, we took our course across
the moorland, where the views on all sides were peculiarly dull and
dreary. A black turf hut was now and then visible, proving that it
was at least possible for human beings to live in this bare district;
but all signs of cultivation were limited to a few wretched patches
of arable ground lying along some of the small burns that here and
there intersected the peat-mosses. Nothing could be more miserable
than the country, or than the humble dwellings of its natives; and yet
even here we fell in with a picture of human felicity that strongly
arrested our attention.

A group of ragged urchins were sporting on a little spot of greensward
before the door of one of these hovels, and shouting and laughing
loudly at their own fun. The youngest was mounted on a huge gaunt-sided
sow, with a back as sharp as that of a saw; whilst two elder imps,
one on either side, were holding him in his seat, and another was
urging on the animal, by gently agitating the creature's tail. All
this was done without cruelty, and in the best humour. The father and
mother had been in the act of building up their next year's stock of
peats into a stack, that rested against the weather gable of their
dwelling, so that it might do the double duty of sheltering them
from the prevailing blast, as well as furnishing them with food for
their kitchen fire. But the merry scene that was passing below had
become too touchingly attractive to the hearts of both the parents,
and their labour was arrested in the most whimsical manner; for the
man sat perched on all-fours on the top of the frail edifice he was
engaged in rearing, grinning with broad delight at the gambols of
his half-naked progeny; and his wife's attention having been arrested
whilst she was in the very act of tossing up an armful of the black
materials of her husband's architecture, she still stood fixed like a
statue, with her arm raised, quite unconscious of the inconvenience of
her attitude, and entirely absorbed in her enjoyment of the spectacle,
her whole countenance beaming with the maternal joy she felt, and
giving way to sympathetic roars of merriment.

Grant.--You see it is not in the power of poverty altogether to
extinguish human happiness.

Author.--Nay, no more than riches can ensure it.

Clifford.--How different the hard fortune of that poor creature from
the sunshiny lot of those women of quality and fashion whom we have
seen figuring in fancy dresses, and glittering like dancing Golcondas,
at Almacks; and yet how much more heart and honesty and true mirth
there is in that rustic laugh of hers than in all the hollow gaiety
of that professed temple of pleasure.

Author.--This merry Maggy of the moor here has indeed received but
a small share of the good things of this life, compared with that
which has been showered on the proud heads of those wealthy and
titled exclusives. But individual happiness must not by any means
be measured by the degree of wealth. And then, when we direct our
thoughts to our prospects of happiness in a future life, and reflect
how apt those favourites of fortune are to be led astray by that very
abundance which has been heaped upon them here below, we cannot but
congratulate Maggy there as having at least the safer, if not the
better, share of the treasures of this world.

Grant.--True; and we have the authority of almost every moral poet,
from Horace to our Scottish Allan Ramsay, for the great truth that even
happiness in this world is to be more readily found in a comfortable
middle state than in either of the extremes,--


   "He that hath just enough can soundly sleep,
    The o'ercome only fashes folk to keep."


Clifford.--Ha! ha! sermons and poetry for pilgrims in the desert! But
then arises the difficult question, what is it that constitutes
that "just enough" which the poet holds to be the talisman of human
happiness.

Grant.--Give economy fair play, and it will make that talisman out
of anything.

Author.--And so, on the other hand, extravagance could never possess
it, even if the subterranean treasures of Aladdin, or the diamond
valley of Sinbad, were to be placed at its disposal.

Clifford.--Your allusion to the Arabian tales puts me in mind of
our story-telling; and the subject we have now accidentally got upon
brings to my recollection a remarkable story which you once related
to me, Grant.

Grant.--You mean the legend of John Macpherson of Invereshie.

Clifford.--The same. Pray tell it to our friend here.

Grant.--If you, who have heard it before, have no objections to the
repetition of it, I can have none to the telling of it.



THE LEGEND OF JOHN MACPHERSON OF INVERESHIE.


The John Macpherson of whom I speak lived in the very beginning of
the seventeenth century. He was the same laird who is well known
as having got the Crown charter of the lands of Invereshie. He
was a tall handsome Highlander, with a somewhat melancholy cast
of countenance. His manners were simple and unassuming, and though
untaught by any instructor but nature, they were so much the reverse
of vulgar that they might have even been called elegant. He was
warm in his affections, kind in his intercourse with all around him,
extremely bold and determined in any difficult or desperate juncture,
and resolute and stern in his purpose when suddenly called on to deal
with a matter of deep or stirring moment, and further--though that
belonged to him less as anything peculiar than as a characteristic
of the time he lived in--he was superstitiously alive to all those
incidents or appearances that might chance to wear the semblance of
ominous or fatal portent; and such as these did not unfrequently
present themselves in days when the fables of Highland demonology
reigned over the strongest minds with an absolute despotism.

Living, as Macpherson did, almost entirely among his native mountains,
his time was very happily as well as prudently divided between the
chase of the red-deer, in which he particularly delighted, and those
attentions which he found it necessary to bestow on the concerns of
his landed territory; in looking to the well-being of his people,
and the health, prosperity, and multiplication of those large herds
of cattle which spread themselves over the broad sides of his hills,
and brushed through the ancient fir forests or the birchen groves
that shaded his glens. In this way his worldly means so increased,
that he became an object of no inconsiderable solicitude to such of the
neighbouring lairds and ladies as happened to have unmarried daughters;
and so many were the fair parties presented to his choice, that,
being attracted in all directions, he remained hanging, like a bunch
of ripe grapes, in the fluctuating breezes of doubt and indecision,
that threatened in time to dry and shrivel him up into an old bachelor.

Whilst Macpherson was still in this negative condition, he happened
to visit the castle of a certain chief. The company were assembling in
the great hall to wait for the banquet, and he stood ensconced within
the deep recess of one of its antique windows, where he had vainly
endeavoured to retreat from the assaults of some three or four most
agreeable spinsters, who, being of a certain age, less scrupulously
adopted measures which were much too bold for their younger rivals
to have ventured upon. Having brought him to bay in a place whence
he could not retreat without rudeness, each commenced the discharge
of her own independent fire against him, whilst, at the same time,
little spiteful shots of malice, both from their tongues and their
eyes, were every now and then interchanged from one fair competitor
to another. This scene was going on, much to the amusement of the
spectators, but very much to the annoyance of the victim of this
persecution, when a sudden buzz from the company directed Macpherson's
attention to the door of the hall, where entered a lady of surprising
beauty and grace of mien. By a natural impulse, which he could neither
explain nor command, Macpherson burst unceremoniously from among his
tormentors, and stepped forward to gaze upon her as she moved easily up
the hall. The intelligent eyes of the lovely stranger fell upon him,
and fixed themselves upon him with a species of fascination which
touched him to the soul. He was sensibly conscious of the resistless
power of this influence, but at the same time he felt that it was a
fascination of much too agreeable a nature for him to allow himself
to struggle against it. He at once abandoned his heart to all its
ecstasies, as a thirsty fly would yield itself up to the delicious
temptation of quaffing the nectar from the cup of some beauteous
and fragrant flower; and he gazed on her face with a rapture which
he had never before experienced. Nor was all this very surprising,
for she who thus attracted him had been born and educated in the
metropolis,--had even mixed in the gay and splendid scenes of a court,
and her dress and manners lent so dazzling an air to the lustre of her
natural charms, that, compared to her, the native beauties congregated
from all parts of the vast strath of the Spey, fresh and lovely,
graceful and intelligent, as fame has ever held its ladies to be,
appeared before her as so many dim and feeble fixed stars in the path
of some brilliant and glorious planet.

Invereshie's natural modesty made him shrink from asking for that
very introduction for which his whole heart burned. But the lady was
the niece of his host; she had recently arrived with the intention of
residing with him for some months, and the introduction came in the
ordinary course of etiquette. He was seated by her during the greater
part of that evening. Something more than mortal as she at first
appeared to be in his eyes, he soon found, on a nearer approach, that
she had nothing about her either overawing or repulsive. He listened
to her Syren tongue with an eagerness which until then had been quite
a stranger to him. The hours flew like minutes. He suddenly perceived
that every guest was gone but himself. He hurried away in confusion,
and rode home in a delirium of delight so perfectly novel to him,
that he two or three times seriously questioned himself by the way
whether reason was still really holding her dominion over his brain,
and the continual presence of the lady's image there almost convinced
him that she had usurped the throne of that judicious goddess.

Macpherson was soon drawn back to the castle of his friend by an
attraction which was quite irresistible. The impression made upon
him by a first acquaintance was powerfully strengthened by a second
meeting,--a third and a fourth visit soon succeeded,--and their
interviews became more and more frequent, as he began to perceive,
with a certain air of triumph, that his attentions, offered at
first with becoming deference, were much more graciously received
than those which came from any of his brother lairds. His hunting
expeditions became less numerous, and even his wonted prudential
daily superintendence of his rural concerns gave way to a new and
much more seductive occupation. He gradually became almost a constant
inmate in his friend's castle. But, in devoting so much of his time
to attendance on her who had thus gained so overwhelming a dominion
over his heart, he consoled himself for this unusual neglect of his
affairs, by reflecting that the prize he coveted was so rare as to be
universally considered beyond all price--a gem far richer than any
of those that adorned his brooch; and that besides all its glitter
and sparkle, it was not without considerable intrinsic value also,
seeing that, in addition to her other advantages, the lady's tocher
was such as might well satisfy a much more avaricious man than he
knew himself to be.

As for the lady, I have only to say of her, that she was a woman. There
are few of the fair sex whose bosoms have not been visited by a certain
spirit of romance at one period or other, and, indeed, it may be matter
of doubt whether those who have altogether escaped from this visitation
are much to be envied. It is that which makes many a town-bred girl
sigh for love and a cottage, until such fancies are extinguished
by maturer judgment. The soul of her of whom I speak had been deeply
embued with this poetry of life, and as yet she had seen no good reason
for ridding herself of it. She was all enthusiasm. Invereshie's gay
white tartan--his plumed bonnet and jewelled ornaments--his gallant,
though unobtrusive, bearing--his firm tread and independent gait--the
resolute and heroic character that sat upon his brow, and yielded a
calm illumination to his pensive eye--and, above all, the enchanting
scenery of his river--the sparkling Feshie--its wild glen, and the
prospective witchery of a Highland life, painted as it was with all the
glowing colours of her fervid fancy, and with a thousand adventitious
attractions which that fancy threw around it, had conspired to do as
much execution on her heart as her manifold charms had wrought upon
his. The visions of town gaiety and grandeur, which had hitherto
filled her young mind, speedily melted away. Rural circumstances
and rural imagery occupied it entirely. She suddenly became fond of
moonlight walks, of wandering on the banks of the magnificent river
that wound majestically through the wide vale where she then resided,
and of musing amid the checkered shadows which evening threw over the
ruins of an ancient chapel and burial-ground, embraced by one bold
and beautiful sweep of the stream at no great distance from the castle.

She was one night seated on a grey moss-covered stone, one of the
many frail memorials of the dead which were scattered through this
retired spot, her eyes now lifted in admiration of the glorious orb
that silently held its way through the skies above, and now thrown
downwards to its image trembling in the mimic heaven then floating
on the broad bosom of the stream below, when Invereshie, who had been
called away by some express affair, was returning at a late hour to the
castle. These were times, be it again remembered, when superstition
held all mankind under her thrall, and when the boldest Highlander,
who would have fearlessly rushed on death in the battlefield, would
have quailed before the idle phantoms of his own imagination.

Invereshie's nurse had early embued his mind with a firm faith in
all the wildest of these imaginings, and with him this belief, then
so common to all, had grown with his growth and strengthened with
his strength. The horse that he rode started aside and snorted with
affright when, on bursting from the deep shade of the grove that
partly embosomed the burial-ground, he first saw the white figure
of the lady before him; and it argued a more than common courage in
the horseman, therefore, that he should have checked the flight of
the terrified animal in order to ascertain the nature of the object
he beheld. The moonbeams shone fully and clearly on a face which he
could not for a moment mistake; yet their pale light shed so chilling
and unearthly a lustre over its well-known features, that, taken in
combination with the hour and the place, it made him hesitate for
a moment whether he really beheld the form of her whom he so much
loved, or whether that which presented itself to him was one of those
unsubstantial appearances which he believed evil spirits had power to
assume for the bewilderment and destruction of mortals. But the sound
of the trampling of his horse's hoof had fallen upon the lady's ear
while it was yet afar off; as it drew nearer, the fluttering of her
heart had whispered to her that it was Invereshie who came; and ere
he had recovered from his surprise, she arose and saluted him in that
voice which had now become as music to his ear. His blood, chilled
and arrested as it had for a moment been by superstitious dread, now
went dancing to his heart in a rushing tide of joy. He sprang from his
horse, and eagerly availing himself of so favourable an opportunity,
where all eyes but those of God were absent, he made a full and
animated confession of his passion; and that little solitary field
of the dead, which had been accustomed for so many ages to scenes
of woe and bereavement alone, was now once more doomed to witness
the pure effusions of two as happy hearts as had ever been united
together before its neighbouring altar, now so long dilapidated.

"Macpherson!" said the lady, with that enthusiasm which so strongly
characterised her, "never forget this solemn hour and place, and
let the image of that bright moon be ever in your memory; for it has
witnessed your vows, and beheld thee pledge thyself to me for ever!"

"Never! never can I forget it, lady!" replied Invereshie, with a
depth of feeling equal to her own.

"Tis well!" said the lady. "And now it were better to shun the
observation of prying eyes. This private converse of ours, at the
witching hour of night, when none but spirits of the moon are abroad,
might be misinterpreted. We must part here!" And ere he wist, she
had disappeared among the brushwood.

"The witching hour of night!" muttered Invereshie to himself,
as he stood rivetted to the spot, overpowered by the surprise in
which he was left by the strange and sudden manner in which she had
vanished from his sight. There was something, he thought, marvellous
and supernatural in it. His eyes wandered round the silent churchyard
where he had found her seated. A thousand superstitious tales connected
with that spot rushed upon his memory. It was there that in popular
belief the wicked spirit of the waters often appeared to bewilder
lated travellers, and to lure them to their destruction. He thought
of the power which evil beings were supposed to have in re-animating
the remains of the dead, or of thrusting forth human souls from their
earthly habitations, in order that they might themselves become the
tenants of the fairest and most angelic forms. His reason and his
judgment were in vain opposed to these terrific phantoms of the brain.

"The witching hour of night!" groaned he deeply.

The hand which he had but a moment before so warmly pressed, and
which had sent a fever of joy through every fibre of his frame, now
seemed to have conveyed to him an icy chillness that ran through every
vein till it froze his very heart; and as he hurriedly and almost
unconsciously mounted his horse to prosecute his way towards the
castle, his mind was perplexed and tortured by strange and mysterious
doubts and misgivings, which continued to haunt both his waking and
his sleeping dreams during the remainder of that eventful night.

But as the dawn of morning swept away the fogs which hung upon the
mountain-tops, so did it dissipate the gloomy visions which had
thus for a few hours shrouded the lofty soul of Invereshie. Reason
resumed her judgment-seat, and a little calm reflection brought a
blush of shame into his cheek, occasioned by what he was now disposed
to believe to have been his own weakness. Every manly feeling within
him was aroused. Arraying himself in his richest attire, he sought
for an audience of his friend the chief, and readily gained from him
an uncle's and a guardian's consent to his union with her to whom his
vows of love had been so recently plighted. Overjoyed at Invereshie's
disclosure, the chief led him to the great hall, at that time thronged
with guests, and having taken his seat to preside over the morning's
meal, he called for a grace cup, and, drinking to the health of the
happy pair, he publicly announced the alliance which had been that
morning agreed on.

All eyes were instantly turned on her to whom the flowing goblet
had been so joyfully drained. But whether it was from the sudden
swelling of those emotions naturally enough arising from this
public declaration, or whether it was owing to some fortuitous cause
altogether unconnected with what was then passing, no one could say;
but, whatever might be the cause, her brilliant eyes had become fixed
and glazed, the roses had fled from her cheeks, and she fell gently
back in her chair, her lovely features exhibiting the ghastly hue of
death. A chill shudder came over Invereshie's heart. Pushing back
the seat in which he sat, he gazed with horror upon the spectacle
before him. Again was his mind unmanned, and a vision of the unearthly
appearance which the lady had presented to him when he first beheld
her seated among the graves beneath the moonlight of the previous
night rushed upon his imagination. Overpowered by his feelings,
he remained as if unconscious of what was passing around him. Nor
was he at all observed amidst the general panic. The women shrieked,
the guests arose in confusion, they crowded around the lady, and she
was borne off to her apartment by the attendants.

For several hours the lady lay on her couch so perfectly exanimate,
that every individual in the castle believed that she was dead, and
mournful preparations were begun to be made for the funereal obsequies
of her in whose animating smiles they had so recently rejoiced, and in
whose bridal festivities they had anticipated that they were so soon
to participate. Eloquent was the silence of that grief which reigned
everywhere within the walls, unbroken save by the sobbing of those who
hung around the couch of her who had already lived long enough among
them to have gained the hearts of all who had approached her. But ere
long it happily gave way to unrestrained joy; for, to the amazement of
her attendants, the warm blush of life gradually began to revisit her
cheeks,--the heaving of her bosom gently returned,--her eyelids slowly
unsealed themselves,--the pulse resumed its former action,--the tide
of life speedily carried renewed vigour into every limb,--her eyes
regained their wonted brightness,--and, to the unspeakable surprise
and delight of every one, she returned to the hall with a light and
airy step, and with a sensible accession to her usual gaiety of heart,
apparently resulting from its temporary slumber.

But hers was a gaiety that touched no responsive chords in Macpherson's
bosom. He had stood as it were appalled, a motionless spectator of
the various wonderful changes which had been so strangely produced
upon her; and he remained for some time sunk in silent abstraction,
ill befitting an ardent lover who had thus had his soul's idol so
miraculously restored to him from the very jaws of the grave. Those who
were about him marvelled and whispered together. But his moody musings
were quickly overcome by the lady's enchanting voice of gladness. The
laughing sunshine that darted from her eyes soon dissipated those
sombre clouds that overshadowed his brow. He again became the willing
slave of every word and glance that fell from her. The fascination
under which he was held increased every moment; and not many days
went by ere the Laird of Invereshie, surrounded by a great gathering
of his clansmen and followers, and proudly riding by her bridle-rein,
led her home as his bride to the blithe sound of the bagpipe.

As he approached the mansion of his fathers, Invereshie was met by
crowds of women and children and old men, who thronged about the
cavalcade with eager curiosity to behold their future lady, whom they
greeted with shouts of gratulation that suffused her lovely cheek
with blushes of joy, and flushed her husband's brow with a pride
which he had never felt before. An event so interesting to all his
dependants had made even the most aged and infirm to leave their humble
dwellings. Some of those who had come from great distances were mounted
on the shaggy little horses common to the country. The creatures
were caparisoned in the rudest and most characteristic manner; and
they formed many picturesque groups, which every now and then called
forth expressions of surprise and delight from her who was the fair
cause of their assemblage. One of these was peculiarly striking.

Under an old twisted mountain ash stood a ragged red-headed boy,
holding the withy that served as a halter to a pony, whose bones,
exhibiting many an angle beneath his rough white skin, showed that
he had arrived at an age but rarely reached by any of his long-lived
race. From either side of the wooden saddle that filled his hollow
back hung a huge pannier of the coarsest kind of wicker-work, and from
each of these arose the plaided head and pale parchment features of
an old woman. So very withered were these ancient crones, that, worn
down and weak as was the animal that bore them, their wasted frames
seemed scarcely to add anything, in his estimation, to the weight of
the baskets that contained them. There was something, at first sight,
indescribably ludicrous in the picture they presented; and the bride,
who was by no means insensible to such emotions, could not resist
giving way for an instant to the laughter which it excited in her as
she drew near to them. It so happened that the line of march of the
procession brought her close past the tree under which these strange
figures were stationed. No sooner had she come opposite to it, than
one of them, remarkable for the length of her grey elf-like locks,
which streamed from beneath the uncouth mutch that covered her head,
reared herself up from amidst the heap of tartan stuff that enveloped
her person. Stretching out her bare and skeleton arm, her red and gummy
eyelids expanded themselves so as to bring fully into action a pair
of piercing black eyes that flashed with a fire which even extreme
age had been unable to tame, and which now lent a fearful animation
to her otherwise spectral features. She glared into the lady's face
with a fixed gaze and a wild expression that blenched her cheek, and
at once banished everything like mirth or joy from her bosom. In vain
did the lady try to avert her eyes from an object which was now to
her terrific,--they seemed as if enchained to it by a power like that
of the basilisk; and to add to her misery some accidental obstacle
created at that very moment a stop in their onward march. Anxiously
did she wish to have taken refuge in conversation with her husband,
but he was just then employed in replying to the warm compliments of
some humble well-wisher, who addressed him from the opposite side of
the way. Meanwhile the bony and toothless jaws of the old woman seemed
to be moved by a temporary palsy, created by her anxiety to utter
something which the lady dreaded to hear. But her very eagerness
apparently deprived her of the power of speech; for though her
skinny lips were seen to move, no sound proceeded from them except
an inarticulate muttering, the import of which was lost amidst the
din and bustle of the crowd. But although the lady gathered not the
sense, the lurid lightnings that shot from the eyes of this miserable
looking wretch told her that the words, if words they were, could
have conveyed no prayer of benediction. A sudden failure of nature
came over the lady, and she must have dropped from her saddle to the
ground, had not her husband's attention been recalled to her at that
moment by the renewal of the onward movement of the march. Altogether
unconscious of what had caused this apparent faintness, nor indeed
being quite aware of the full extent of it, his arm was ready to
uphold her. Her vital spirits rallied at his touch. She recovered
her seat, and then calling his attention to the object of her alarm,
who was by this time left some short way behind them,--

"Tell me," said she, "tell me, I entreat thee, who is that fearful
looking old woman under yonder tree?"

"That," replied he, "is my old nurse Elspeth Macpherson, one who is
believed by all to be gifted with more than mortal powers."

"Her eye is indeed terrible!" replied the lady shuddering.

"Why shouldst thou be afraid of her?" said Macpherson, in a graver
tone. "She can never be terrible to thee? Great as her wisdom and
great as her powers undoubtedly are, they can never come to me or
to mine but to succour and to bless. From my cradle upwards hath she
been as a guardian spirit to me, averting all misfortunes that might
have assailed me; and, twined as thy future fate now is with mine,
my love," continued he with a forced smile, "trust me, dearest,
that her searching eye will be continually over it and on it."

An involuntary tremor seized the lady at the very thought of her fate
being under the control of an eye the piercing and unfriendly influence
of which was still so strong upon her mind. She forebore to reply;
but she could not exclude a train of very unpleasant reflections, which
even the rapidly succeeding circumstances of the gay Highland pageant,
in which she performed so prominent a part, failed for a while in
removing. For some time, too, her husband rode by her side wrapped up
in silence and abstraction, till rousing himself from what appeared
to be a dreaming fit, he addressed to her some kind expressions,
which fell on her soul like balm, and by degrees regaining her wonted
cheerfulness, she at length rode onwards distributing sunshine and
sweetness on all sides, in return for the many warm welcomes that
were showered on her, till she was finally lifted from her saddle
at the door of her future home, by the nervous arm of the enraptured
Invereshie, amidst the deafening shouts of his friends and retainers.

Invereshie's hospitable board was spread with more than its usual
liberality on this joyful occasion; and, according to the custom
of the time, its feast and revelry endured for many days. As his
lady's previous nurture and education had accustomed her to much
nicety of domestic arrangement, and to many luxuries then altogether
unknown in the Highlands, he exerted himself to the utmost to lessen
the disagreeable effect of that change which he was conscious she
must experience on her first entrance into his family. He strove
to anticipate every wish; and when he had failed in anticipating
her wishes, he spared neither pains nor expense to gratify them the
moment she had breathed them. He procured comforts and rarities of
all sorts from great distances, and at a cost which he would have
considered most alarming, had he not trusted that it would cease
with the departure of the guests who thronged his house to welcome
his newly married wife. But time wore on, and the lady seemed to have
no inclination to get rid of either.

There is a prudent and useful old saying--"begin with a wife as you
mean to end with her." It would have been well for Macpherson that
he had acted upon this principle. Instead of boldly bringing down his
lady's ideas at once to that pitch which would have been in rational
harmony with his own habits, as well as with his circumstances, to
which her strong attachment to him would have most probably insured her
ready submission, he had himself done all in his power to give a false
colour to things, which he now felt it a very delicate and difficult
matter to attempt to remove. Meanwhile she went innocently enough on
in obedience to that bent which her education had given her, in the
full persuasion that she was only doing that which her duty, as his
wife, prescribed to her. Yielding to her resistless importunity and
attractions, the neighbouring gentry were drawn around her, as if by
some magic spell; and many of them became, in a manner, domesticated
at her husband's hearth. Then every succeeding day brought to the
old house some new friend from afar, whom she had been dying to
make acquainted with that man of whom she was so proud, and to whom
her whole heart was now devoted, that she might prove how much she
had gained by relinquishing the world for a prize so inestimable;
and for the entertainment of persons so cultivated as these were,
it naturally followed that more refined schemes of pleasure and
amusement were devised which, whilst they gratified Invereshie at
the time, by exciting universal admiration at the tasteful genius
of his lady who had conceived them, made him afterwards wince at
the large and repeated demands which were made on his treasury, for
purposes altogether foreign to the whole pursuits of his former life,
and which the whole tenour of it had led him to consider as vain and
unprofitable. He wondered that her ingenuity could be so enduring,
and still comforting himself with the hope that each particular
instance of it that occurred must necessarily be the last, he was
still doomed to be astonished every succeeding day by new and yet
more expensive projects. Amidst all this bustle and occupation,
her speech was ever of the delights of her Highland Solitude, as she
called their residence, whilst her thoughts seemed to be unceasingly
employed in endeavours to invent means of depriving it of all claim
to any such title, by filling it with as large a portion as she could
of the gay crowd and vanities of a city. Of all these vanities none
were so galling to the honest heart of Invereshie as the arrival of
a certain knot of gallant rufflers from the court--men of broad hats
jauntingly cocked to one side, and balanced by long feathers of various
hues--who flaunted it in silken cloaks, and strutted it in long-piked
shoes; all of which, in his eyes, seemed to sort but ill with the
manly Celtic garb worn by himself and his Highland friends. But much
as it irked him to be compelled to receive such popinjays as these,
and irritated as he frequently was by their unblushing impudence,
he submitted calmly to that which the rules of hospitality dictated,
and even repressed all outward appearance of his dissatisfaction; and
he was rendered the more ready to impose this restraint on himself,
by the reflection that most of these gay gallants were in some way
or other related to or connected with his wife; and he felt that,
as her kinsmen or friends, they claimed the full extent of a Highland
welcome. But these southern summerfly cousins were no sooner gone than
they were succeeded by clouds of fresh and yet more thirsty insects of
the same genus; and these tormentors not only contributed, in their
own persons, largely to augment the consumption of those luxuries
which had been so recently introduced into his house, and to the
promotion of those extravagancies which were conceived and executed
more especially for their amusement; but the more simple natives of
the glens also were soon taught by their infectious example to relish
them quite as much as they did.

Invereshie was long silent under all this; but he did not suffer the
less deeply in secret on that account. The ardent love with which
he adored his wife, and that certain mistaken chivalrous notion of
delicacy, which has been already noticed as operating so strongly
on his feelings, long prevented him from attempting to restrain the
expenses of so fascinating a woman, who had brought him money enough to
furnish at least some apology for the expenditure she occasioned. But
ample as her tocher had once appeared to him, he soon began to see
that it was melting rapidly away under those immense drains which she
was daily applying to it; and at length, with more of love than of
chiding in his tone, he ventured to speak to her on the painful subject
which had so long oppressed him. But alas! whilst he did speak to her,
her very eye unmanned him, and what he did bring himself to say was
couched in terms so gentle and so general, as neither to convey to
her any very useful or impressive lesson, nor even any very definite
idea of the extent to which she had erred. The lady flung her snowy
arms around his neck, bedewed his face with her tears, and made many
earnest and sincere protestations, all of which she sincerely intended
most sacredly to fulfil. Macpherson was enraptured. He blamed himself
for what he called his severity--kissed away the precious drops from
her eyes with a more than ordinary glow of affection. They were the
happiest pair in the universe, and in a few days her extravagance
was going on at its usual rapid pace, whilst she was all the while
in the most perfect belief that she was giving the fullest attention
to his wishes.

Many were the scenes of this description that afterwards, from time
to time, took place between Invereshie and his lady. The kind of
life into which he was now so unwittingly and unwillingly plunged,
allowed him few moments for sober reflection. But when such moments
did occur, they were bitter ones indeed. At such times gloomy and
harrowing recollections, and dreadful and appalling doubts would
steal over his soul, putting his very reason to flight before them,
and his flesh would creep, and his hair would bristle, whilst his
mind was thus yielding to its own speculative misgivings as to the
mysterious nature of that fascination which could thus drag him on
to certain ruin in despite of his own better judgment. But resolute
as was his natural character, and deep as were his determinations at
such times, they were all put to flight at once by the first bewitching
love-glance of his lady's eye.

Things had gone on in this way for months, growing worse and worse
every day, when Invereshie, oppressed by that gloom which now clung
more frequently and more closely to him, set out one morning very
early to join some of his neighbours in a distant chase of the deer. He
was that day more than usually successful; and his attendants having
been left behind to bring home the spoils, he was compelled to return
in the evening alone. The sun was getting low as he came down into
the upper part of his own deep and precipitous Glen Feshie, and the
shaggy faces of its eastern mountains were broadly lighted up by its
rays, thus rendering the crags on its western side, and the shadows
they threw across the wooded bottom, doubly obscured by the blazing
contrast. As the laird advanced, he came suddenly in view of a cottage
perched on the summit of a little knoll, and sheltered by one huge
twisted and scathed pine alone, the bared limbs of which permitted
the spot to be gladdened by a lingering sunbeam, to which the dense
forest that surrounded it forbade all entrance elsewhere. This was the
habitation of his nurse, whose strange appearance has been already
described. She and the old crone her sister, who was believed to
be scarcely less gifted than herself, were seated on settles at the
door, availing themselves of what yet remained of the glowing light
to twine a thrifty thread with distaff and spindle. The laird seldom
passed this way without visiting old Elspeth; and on this occasion he
turned from his direct path the more readily, because his conscience
accused him that he had somewhat neglected her of late. The continual
round of dissipation in which he had been for some time whirled, had
not permitted him once to see her since that accidental glance he had
had of her on the day she appeared at his marriage pageant. On that
occasion, too, he felt that she should have been a guest at that table
where his humbler friends were entertained; but he remembered that
although she had been invited, she did not appear. The recollection
of that joyous day shot across his mind like the gleaming lightning
of a summer night, only to be succeeded by a deeper gloom, arising
from the recurrence of all that had passed since. Unperceived by
the frail owners of the cottage, he wound his way towards it with a
sinking heart. In approaching it, he was compelled by the nature of
the ground to make a half circuit around the knoll, which thus brought
him up in rear of it; and he was about to discover himself to the two
old women, by turning the angle of the gable of the little building,
when his steps were almost unconsciously arrested by hearing his own
name pronounced, and he halted for a moment. It was his nurse who
was speaking to her sister emphatically and energetically in Gaelic;
and that which he heard might have been nearly interpreted thus:--

"Och hone, Invereshie!" exclaimed she in a shrill tone of lament,
as if she had been apostrophising him in his own presence. "Och
hone! what but the black art of hell itself could have so cast the
glamour o'er thee, my bonny bairn, that thou shouldst sit and see
thy newly-chartered hills and glens melt from thy grasp as calmly and
silently as yonder pine-clad rock beholds the sunshine creep away from
its bosom, and never once come to seek counsel, as thou wert wont,
from these lips which never lied to thine ear."

"Witchcraft!" muttered her sister; "wicked witchcraft is at work
with him."

"Witchcraft!" cried the nurse with an emotion so violent as fearfully
to agitate her whole frame; "witchcraft, said ye? The prince of
darkness is himself at work with him. The foul fiend, in a woman's
form, is linked to him. Bethink thee of her moonlight wanderings by the
waters,--her unhallowed midnight orgies among the graves of the dead,
where they say she is still seen to walk while he is sleeping,--her
sudden death, for death it was, on that ill-starred morning which
proclaimed their union,--the strange reanimation of the corpse by
the foul fiend that now possesses it,--the momentary sinking, and
terror, and confusion of that wicked spirit when he quailed before
the gaze of mine own gifted eye, shot from beneath the shade of the
spell-dispersing rowan-tree;--bethink thee of these things, sister
Marion, and wonder not that mine unwilling lips should have been
urged to mutter a curse where my heart would have fain poured forth
a blessing."

"I saw, I saw," replied the other crone, "thine eye was, indeed,
then most potently gifted, sister, and thy will was not thine own."

"Och hone, och hone!" wailed out the nurse again, "that I should
live to see my soul's darling thus rent away from the care of Heaven,
handed over to the powers of hell, and doomed to destruction both here
and hereafter! Och hone, willingly would I give my worthless life if
I could yet save him! Och hone, if I could but pour my burning words
into his ear, so that his eyes might be opened, and that he might
stent his heart-strings to the stern work of his own salvation."

The unhappy laird had already heard enough. He felt as if the deadly
juice of upas had found its way into his veins. His whole frame was,
as it were, paralysed. He leaned against the gable of the cottage for
some moments, during which he was almost unconscious of thought or of
existence; and then, with his limbs failing under him, he staggered,
giddy and confused, down the side of the knoll into the pathway below,
and sank exhausted upon a mossy bank, where he lay for a time in a
state nearly approaching to insensibility. Starting up at last with an
unnatural effort which he had no reason left to guide, and regardless
of all pathway, he hurried along by the brink of the stream with a fury
as wild as that which impelled its rushing waters. Slackening his pace
by degrees, as his bewildered recollection began to return to him, he
at length stopped, and resting against a rock, his scattered thoughts
returned thickly upon him. At first he resolved to go back to hold
converse with his nurse, but ere he had well conceived this idea, he
rejected it as an idle waste of time; for the fresh recurrence to his
recollection of all she had uttered flashed conviction too strongly
on his mind to render any further question necessary. Those dark and
mysterious doubts which had so long tortured him from time to time
during his moody musings, now reared themselves into one gigantic,
horrible, and overwhelming certainty, to dwell on which, even for an
instant, filled him with an agony that brought large drops of cold
perspiration to his brow. His jaws chattered against each other, and
a cold shudder ran through his whole system, like that which precedes
the last shiver of death. Again, a burning fever seized his brain,
and he struck his forehead with the palm of his hand, and he wept
and groaned aloud. Relieved by this sudden burst of affliction, he
started from his resting-place, and knocking violently on his breast,
as if to summon up all of man that was yet left within him,--

"Invereshie!" cried he, addressing himself in unconscious soliloquy,
"Invereshie! where is thy boasted resolution? Whither hath thy
courage fled? But it shall come to thee now!" said he, setting his
teeth together, and clenching his hands. "Hah! nor mortal nor demon
shall keep me in this unhallowed state of enchantment, if it be in
the power of fire or of water to break the spell. Let me think,"
said he again, striking his forehead, as if to rouse up his sharpest
intellect; and then after a pause, during which he strode for a few
turns backwards and forwards beneath the deep shadow of the rock,
"I have it!" he exclaimed, and he urged on his steps with reckless
haste towards his home.

The distant murmurs of its mirth and its revelry came on his ears
whilst he was yet above a bowshot off,--an arrow itself could not
have rent his heart more cruelly. He flew forward, and brushing
almost unnoticed through the crowd of serving-men in gay attire
that obstructed his entrance, he sought a lonely chamber, where,
in darkness and in silence, he sat brooding over his misery, and
nursing the terrible purpose that possessed him. Every now and
then his soul was stung to madness by the shouts of mirth, the
music, and the other sounds of jollity which, from time to time,
arose from the festal hall below, until, unable longer to bear the
torture he suffered, he rushed forth again into the woods. There he
wandered for some hours to and fro, torn by his contending passions;
for love was still powerful within him, and would, even yet, often
rise up for a time to wrestle hard with the wizard Superstition, who
had now so irrecoverably entangled and bemeshed his judgment. But
ever as the recurrence of the tender emotion was felt within him,
he summoned up his sterner nature to exorcise it forth as something
unholy. At length the broad moon arose, lighted up the bold front
of the lofty Craigmigavie, spread its beams over the far-stretched
surface of Loch Inch, shed a pale lustre on the distant Craigou,
the Macpherson's watch-hill, and fully illuminated the wild scenery
and the sparkling waters of the Feshie, and the noble birches that
wept over its roaring rapids, and its deep and pellucid pools.

It is not for me to say what were these mysterious associations
which came over the mind of Invereshie as he beheld the ample disc
of the glorious luminary arise over the mountain top, and launch
itself upward to hold its silent and undisturbed way through the
immensity of ethereal space. They seemed to bring an artificial calm
to his bosom. But it was the calm of a mind irrevocably wound up to
a determined purpose. And now, with his arms folded with convulsive
tightness over his breast, as if to prevent the possibility of that
purpose escaping thence, he stalked with a steady and resolute step
towards the house.

It was now midnight. The revelry which had raged within its walls was
silent, and the guests, wearied with the feast and the dance, and the
tired servants, were alike buried in sleep. John of Invereshie stole to
his lady's chamber. She, too, had retired to rest, and that deep and
quiet sleep which results from purity and innocence of soul had shed
its balm upon her pillow. Her lamp was extinguished, but the moonbeams
shone full through the casement directly on the bed where her beautiful
form was disposed, and touched her lovely features with the pale
polished glaze of marble. Had it not been for her long dark eyelashes,
and those raven ringlets that, escaping from their confinement,
had strayed over her snowy neck, she might, in very deed, have been
mistaken for some exquisitely sculptured monumental figure. For one
moment Invereshie's purpose was shaken. But it was for one moment only;
for as memory brought back to him the lonely churchyard, her appeal to
the moon, the mysterious events that followed their nocturnal meeting,
and all those after circumstances which had combined to produce that
awful and to him infallible judgment which accident had led him to
hear his old nurse pronounce, his dread purpose became firmly restored
to his mind. He stretched forth his hand and griped the wrist of the
delicately moulded arm that lay upon her bosom. The lady awoke in
alarm, but instantly recognising her husband, her fears were at once
tranquillised, and springing from her recumbent posture, she threw
herself on his neck. Surprised thus unexpectedly into her embrace,
Invereshie stood silent and motionless. Love thrilled through every
fibre with one last expiring effort. Aware of the potency of its
influence over his heart, he threw his eyes upwards, and--ignorant
and unhappy man!--blinded by the dark and bewildering mists of the
wild superstition that had dominion over him, he actually prayed to
Heaven to give him power to go through with his work; and then, with
a fixed composure, gained from that fancied aid which he imagined he
was thus experiencing, he calmly and quietly turned to the lady.

"Dost thou see yonder moon?" said he; "never was there sky so fair,
or scene so glorious. The night, too, is soft and balmy. Say, will
ye wander forth with me a little while to note how the eddies of the
Feshie are distilled into liquid silver by her beams?"

"Let me but wrap me in my robe and my velvet mantle, and I will forth
with you with good will," replied the lady, quite overjoyed to be thus
gratified by her husband in the indulgence of her romantic propensity
for such walks. "How kind in you, my love, to think thus of my fancies
when rest must be so needful for you." And having hastily protected her
person from the night air, she slipped her arm within her husband's,
and with a short light step, that but ill accorded with the solemn
and funereal stride of him on whom she leaned, she tripped with him
down stairs and across the dewy lawn.

"It is, indeed, a most glorious scene!" exclaimed the enraptured
lady. "But, in truth, thou saidst not well, Invereshie, in saying
that never was there sky so fair or scene so glorious." Then smiling
in his face, and sportively kissing his cheek, she innocently added,
"I trust thou art no traitor."

"Traitor!" exclaimed Invereshie, with a sudden start that might have
betrayed him to any one less unsuspicious.

"Aye, traitor in very deed!" replied the lady laughing. "Traitor
truly art thou if thou canst forget the lonely churchyard where you
bound yourself to me for ever, and that broad moon which then shed
over us her magic influence!"

"Magic influence!" groaned Invereshie in a deep and hollow tone
of anguish.

"Alas! are you unwell, my dearest?" earnestly exclaimed his anxious
and affectionate wife. "I fear you have already done too much to-day;
and your kindness to me would make thee thus expose thyself when
thou wouldst most need repose. See yonder dark cloud, too, pregnant
with storm. Look how it careers towards the moon; might not one fancy
that some demon of the air bestrode it? Had we not better return to
bed? Thou art not well, my love. Come, come, let us return."

"No!" replied Invereshie, in a tone calculated to disguise his feelings
as much as possible. "I shall get better in the air. A sickness, a
slight sickness only; a little farther walk will rid me of my malady."

The lady said no more; and Invereshie walked onwards with a slow,
firm, but somewhat convulsive step, treading through the checkered
wood by a path that wound among green knolls covered with birches
of stupendous growth, and that led them to the rocky banks of the
Feshie. There they reached a crag that projected over a deep and rapid
part of the stream. Its waves were dancing in all the glories of that
silver light which they borrowed from the bright luminary that still
rode sublimely within a pure haven in the lowering sky, its brilliancy
increased by contrast with the dense, and pitchy, and portentous cloud
that came sailing sublimely down upon it, like a huge winged continent.

"Invereshie!" cried the lady, her feelings strongly excited by the
grandeur and beauty of the scene; and bursting forth in rapturous
ecstacy, "do we not seem like the beings of another world as we stand
on this giddy point, with the moon thus pouring out upon us all its
potent enchantment?"

"Now God and Jesu be my guides but I will try thine enchantment!" cried
Invereshie.

Steeling up his heart to the deed, and nerving his muscular arms to
the utmost, he lifted the light and sylph-like form of his lady. One
piercing shriek burst from her as he poised her aloft,--a benighted
traveller heard it at a distance, crossed himself, and hurried onwards
with trembling limbs,--and ere the lady had uttered another scream,
Invereshie had thrown her, like a breeze-borne snow-wreath, far
amid the bosom of the waves. The wretched man bent forward from the
rock, his fingers clenched, his teeth set together, and his eyeballs
stretching after the object which his hands had but just parted with.

"Holy Virgin, she floats!" cried he as he beheld her, by the light
of the moonbeam playing on the ripple that followed her form as it
was hurried down the stream, supported by her widespread mantle.

"Help! oh help! my love! my lord!--'twas madness!--'twas accident!--but
oh! mercy and save me!--save or I am lost for ever!"

"She floats!" hoarsely muttered Invereshie, drawing his breath rapidly,
and with a croaking sound in his throat that spoke the agonising
torture he was enduring. "Ha! she floats! by Saint Mary then was the
old woman right! Ha! she struggles at yonder tree!" He sprang from
the rock to the margin of the stream, and scrambled towards the spot
whither the eddy had whirled the already sinking lady. She had caught
with a death-grasp by one frail twig of an alder sapling, though her
strength was fast failing. Invereshie's eyes glared over her face as
her head and her long dripping hair half emerged from the water.

"Help!--oh save!--oh help!" was now all she could faintly utter,
whilst her expiring looked fixed itself upon her husband.

"Help, saidst thou? thou canst well help thyself by thy foul
enchantments!" cried Invereshie. "Blessed Saint Michael be mine
aid! thou hadst well-nigh taken from me my all, fiend that thou art;
thou may'st e'en take that twig with thee, too!" and drawing from
his belt his skian dhu, he sternly divided the sapling at its very
root. As it parted from its hold, the lady disappeared amid the rough
surges of the rapid stream, and the blindness which superstition had
thrown over him fell at once from her distracted husband.

"Holy angels, she sank!" exclaimed Invereshie with a maddening yell
that overwhelmed for a moment the very roar of the flood. "My love! my
wife! O murderer! murderer!"

He rushed wildly among the waters to save her. But the impenetrable
cloud which had been all this time careering onwards, at that very
instant blotted out the moon from the firmament, and left his soul
to the midnight darkness of remorse and despair.



A STRANGER APPEARS.


Our friend Grant's sad story of John Macpherson of Invereshie and
his unhappy lady produced so powerful an effect on his auditors,
that we continued to walk on in silence for some time after he had
concluded, each of us musing after his own fashion. We had been
accidentally joined by a stranger, a stout made athletic little man,
in an old-fashioned rusty black coat and waistcoat, corduroy breeches,
and grey worsted stockings. In one hand he carried a good oaken
stick, and in the other a little bundle, tied up in a red cotton
handkerchief. This personage walked sturdily forth from a small
house of refreshment by the wayside a few minutes before our friend
had commenced his narrative; and we had been too much occupied with
our own conversation at the time of his appearance to notice him
further than by exchanging with him the customary "good day to you"
of salutation. But the stranger, having taken even this much as
a sufficient introduction among pedestrians travelling in the same
direction in so lonely a country as that we were then passing through,
ventured to continue to keep pace with us in such a way as to be
all the while within earshot of what was said. To the story of John
Macpherson he listened with most unremitting attention; and to our
no small surprise he was the first person to open his mouth to make a
comment upon it, now that it was ended. After taking a short trot of
several yards, to bring himself abreast of our friend the narrator, and
at the same time taking off a very well worn hat with an air of marked
respect towards him whom he was addressing, he spoke as follows:--

Stranger.--Might I be so bold, sir, as to offer a few remarks,
critical, historical, and explanatory on the fragment of Macpherson
history which you have just finished rehearsing?

Grant (somewhat surprised).--Certainly, sir; I shall be very glad to
hear them.

Stranger (with a grave and solemn air).--Why, then, courteous sir,
whilst I am altogether wishful to render unto your tale every such
praise as may be justly found to be due to it as the produce of
one remarkable for that sort of inventive genius which caused Homer
to contrive so pretty a story out of the bare facks of the Trojan
War, and which enabled Virgil to interest us so much with that long
tale which he tells, by exaggerating those few dry adventures which
befell the Pious Æneas as he fled from Troy to found a new kingdom
in Italy, yet must I honestly admit that I cannot compliment the
historical fragment which you have given furth to your friends for
being parteeklarly verawcious.

Clifford.--Bravo! Well done, old fellow. Ha! ha! ha! You beat
Touchstone all to sticks. Never heard the lie more ingeniously given
in my life.

Stranger (with great earnestness, and very much abashed).--Howt no,
sir. Upon my solemn credit, I meant no such-an-a-thing. I only meant to
convey to this gentleman, and that with all due respect and courtesy,
my humble opinion, that in a grave piece of history, having reference
to a brave and honourable Highland clan, the true yevents should
be closer stuck to than it may be necessar to do where the subject
matter is nothing better than such dubious and unimportant trash as
that which the auncient Greek and Latin poets had to deal with.

Grant (a little nettled).--And what reason have you to suppose that
this is not the true and authentic statement of the facts of John
Macpherson's history as they really occurred? I gave them as I got
them from another. You do not suppose that I altered or invented them?

Stranger (with an obsequious inclination of his body).--Howt away,
no, no. No such-an-a-thing. If you got them from another I have no
manner of doot but you have rehearsed them simply as ye had them,
without adding, or eiking, or paring, or changing one whit. But,
nevertheless, the real facks have been sorely and most grievously
tampered with by some one.

Grant.--Indeed. And how came you to know anything about this Macpherson
story? and what is your authority for saying that the facts have been
tampered with?

Stranger (with oracular gravity).--Firstly, or, in the first place,
I beg to premeese, that I am a schoolmaster; and therefore it is that
I am greatly given to accurate and parteeklar inquiry. Secondly, or,
in the second place, having daily practeesed myself into a habit of
correcting the errors of my scholars, it is not very easy for me to
pass silently by the blunders of other folk. And, thirdly, or, in
the third place, and to conclude, I am a Macpherson myself; and as
it is natural that I should on that account be all the more earnest
and punctilious in expiscating the facks connected with the history
of that great clan, so is it also to be presumed that I may have had
greater opportunity for conducking such an investigation. And so,
having premeesed this much, I may add, by way of an impruvment on
the subject, that I shall be just as well pleased to correct your
version of this history as I should be to correct the theme of any
of my own boys.

Grant (smiling).--I am truly obliged to you for this gratuitous offer
of your tuition.

Stranger (whom I shall now call Dominie Macpherson).--Not in the
very least obliged to me, sir. The greatest pleasure of my life is
to instruct the ignorant; and in yespecial I deem it a vurra high
honour and delight to me to have this opportunity of instructing such
a gentleman as you. Proud truly may I be of my scholar.

Clifford (with mock gravity).--The master and the scholar, methinks,
are quite worthy of each other.

Dominie (with a bow to the speaker).--I am greatly obligated to you for
the compliment, sir (then turning to Grant with a more confident and
self-satisfied air than he had hitherto ventured to assume).--Firstly,
or in the first place, then, sir, you must be pleased to know that
John Macpherson of Invereshie did not espoose a south country woman;
for his wife was a Shaw of Dalnabhert, on Spey-side there. Secondly,
or in the second place, the leddy never had any such extraordinar
fascination over him as you have described her to have; for she
was in reality so ill-natured a woman, that she and her goodman
were continually discording and squabbling together. In the third
place, or, as I should say, thirdly,--and it being one of the few
conditions in which your tale in some sort agrees with the true
history,--she was undoottedly so great a spendthrift, that many was
the bitter quarrel that arose 'twixt her goodman and her, because
of her extravagances. But, fourthly, or in the fourth place, the
worthy John Macpherson did not throw the lady into the Feshie; and
this is a fack which I would in yespecial crave you to correct in any
future edition, seeing that it brings an evil and scandalous report
upon the said John, and would seem to smell of murder, when the true
parteeklars of the history, known to me from the time I was a babe,
are as follows, to wit:--It happened one day that the dispute between
them ran to a higher pitch than common, and the lady left the house
with the intention of fleeing to her father at Dalnabhert. There was
neither bridge nor boat upon Feshie at that same time; but the woman
was so demented with rage that she plunged into the water with the
determination of wading through. Well, she had not gone three steps
into the ford when she was carried off her legs entirely; but her
body being buoyed up by reason of her petticoats, of which it is said
that she was used to wear not less than four (my grandmother, honest
woman, did the same), she floated down the stream into the deep water,
until being brought by the swirl of an eddy near to a jutting out rock,
she caught at a twig or branch that grew near the edge, and held by it
like grim death. And here I must admit that, fifthly, or in the fifth
place, Macpherson did of a surety apply the edge of his skian dhu to
the bit twiggy she had a grip of. But, then, most people charitably
believe that it was nothing else but pure courtesy that induced him
to do so to the lady; for, as appearances most naturally caused him
to believe that she had taken to the water with the full intent of
making away with herself by drowning, he thought that the least that
he as her husband could in common civility do, was to render to her
what small help he could towards the effecting of her purpose. And
then, as to his parting with her in these memorable words--which, to
the great edification of all the wives of Badenoch, have since become
a proverb in that country, to wit, "you have already taken much from
me, you may take that with you too," it must strike you as being most
evident, gentlemen, that if Macpherson was to part with his lady at
all, he could not have parted with her in terms more truly obliging,
or with words more generously liberal. But the most extraordinary
and most important deviation from fack, of which the author of your
romance has been guilty, yet remains to be noticed; for, in the sixth
place, or sixthly, Macpherson, who seems in the whole matter to have
had no other intention than that his lady should get a good dookie
(as we say, Scottice) in the Feshie, whereby to extinguish the fire
of her rage, did not only most gallantly jump into the water to try
to save her life, but he actually did save it, or at least the lady's
life was saved somehow or other, seeing that she was afterwards the
mother of Æneas Macpherson of Invereshie, the direct ancestor of the
present worthy Laird of Invereshie and Ballindalloch.

The modest yet dignified air of triumph which the schoolmaster
gradually assumed, as he thus went on unfolding fact after fact, and
which was considerably augmented as he approached the conclusion of
this his critical oration, very much amused us all.

Grant (with an assumed gravity).--I see that I have not only to do
with a gentleman of liberal classical acquirement, with one, too, who,
blessed with great acumen, has made the art of criticism an especial
study, but with a person who is also great as an authority touching
the particular historical point which is now in question. And yet,
daring as it may be in one of my inexperience to enter the arena with
an opponent so powerful, I may perhaps be permitted to observe, in
defence of that version of this piece of history of which I have been
possessed, that the apparent discrepancy between it and that which
you are disposed to consider as the true statement, is, in truth,
little or nothing in importance, and may, after all, be very easily
reconciled. For, if we attend to the circumstances, we shall find,
firstly, or in the first place, that there is nothing before us that
may render it impossible for us to believe that Miss Shaw of Dalnabhert
might not have received a boarding school education at Edinburgh, as
many young ladies of Badenoch unquestionably do, yea, and an education,
too, which might have well enough fitted her to have mingled in the
gaieties of a court. Secondly, or in the second place, as to the
discordings which you say took place between her and her husband, I
think you must do me the justice to recollect that these were alluded
to in my narrative, though they were delicately touched on, as you
will allow that all such family quarrels should be. But even if you
do not admit the propriety of this, you must at least grant that if
I fell into an error at all in this respect, it was less an error of
fact than of deeree. In the third place, or thirdly, the evidence of
both authorities is agreed as to the fact of the lady's extravagance,
as well as in the important circumstance that her extravagance was
the cause which ultimately led the parties to the brink of the river
Feshie. Fourthly, or in the fourth place, the conflicting statements
in the two several reports regarding the mode in which the lady first
got into the water will appear to be of little or no moment when we
give to them a due consideration. We are nowhere informed that any
one was present but Macpherson and his wife; and when we reflect
that these two individuals must have been at the time in a state of
excitement and agitation so very great as altogether to deprive them
of the power of judging distinctly of anything, it would be quite
vain for us to look to either of them for any accurate statement as
to how the matter occurred. All accounts, however, are agreed as to
the use made by Macpherson of the skian dhu. As to your sixthly, or
in the sixth place, I think you will be disposed candidly to admit,
that as my informant saw fit to carry his narrative only to a certain
point of time, so as to break off at the black cloud and the despair,
it is not only perfectly possible, but extremely probable, that he
meant to tell, in his second chapter, of the happy recovery of the
lady from the waters of the Feshie,--of the perfect reconcilement of
the pair,--of her reformation in all respects,--of the retrenchment
of her expenditure,--of the disappearance of all dandies with plumed
hats and piked shoes,--of the happy birth of the young Æneas,--and
of his merry christening, with many other matters which the historian
has now left us darkly to guess at.

The astonished critic was utterly confounded by our friend's reply, so
solemnly and seriously uttered as it was; and after one or two "hums"
and "has!" and a "very true!" or two, he fell back some footsteps in
rear of us; and notwithstanding divers malicious attempts made on the
part of Clifford to bring him once more into the fight, he relapsed
into an humble and attentive listener.

Author.--Your tale, Grant, brings to my recollection a circumstance
which, as tradition tells us, happened after the celebrated Raid
of Killychrist.

Grant.--I am not aware that I ever heard of the Raid of Killychrist,
celebrated though you call it.

Author.--I believe the outline of the story of that raid has been given
somewhere or other in print by a literary friend of mine, though, to
tell you the truth, I have never as yet had the good fortune to see
it. But I will cheerfully give you my edition of it, such as it is,
if you are willing to listen to it.

Clifford.--But stop for one moment; and, ere you begin your story,
tell me, if you can, what that strange scarecrow looking figure is,
which we see standing in yonder green marshy islet near the edge of
the small lake immediately before us?

Author.--That figure has excited much speculation. It for some time
greatly puzzled myself. I passed by this way more than once in the
belief, from the cursory view I had of it, that it was a solitary
heron. But my curiosity was excited at last, by observing that it
was invariably and immovably in the same spot in the islet, whilst
I discovered to my no small wonder, that the islet itself was never
found by me twice successively in the same part of the little lake,
being sometimes stationed in the middle of it and at other times
somewhere towards either end, or near to either of the sides.

Clifford.--Come, come! ha! ha! ha! you are coming magic over us
now. You don't expect that we are to believe any such crammer as this!

Author.--I assure you that what I state is strictly and literally true,
though I must admit that you have some reason for doubt until you have
a further explanation; and I am glad that I have it in my power to give
it to you as it was given to myself by an intelligent man who lives
in this neighbourhood. What you see is in reality a floating island.

Clifford.--A floating island! I know that you Scots are said to be
fond of migration; but I had no idea that any part of your soil was
in the habit of making voyages either for profit or pleasure.

Author.--Nay, nor does a Scot himself often move from any station
where he finds himself comfortable, except it may be for the purpose
of migrating into some other which may hold out yet greater advantages
than that which he possesses. But this whimsical islet shifts its
position without reason, exactly like an idle Englishman, who,
without any fixed object, moves from one spot of Europe to another,
he cannot himself tell why, and merely as the breezes of caprice may
blow him about.

Grant.--A Roland for your Oliver, Master Clifford! But (addressing
Author) tell us how you account for this strange phenomenon?

Author.--The mass, as you see, is not very large. Its extent is only
a few yards each way. It is composed of a light, fibrous, peaty soil,
which was probably originally torn from its connecting foundation
by the influx of some sudden flood, aided by a contemporaneous and
tempestuous wind. Being once fairly turned adrift in the lake,
we can easily conceive that its specific gravity must have been
every succeeding day lessened by the growth of the matted roots of
the numerous aquatic plants that grew on it, till it rose more and
more out of the water, and became at length so very buoyant as to be
transported about by every change of the wind.

Clifford.--Bravo! You have lectured to us like a geologist; and I must
confess, with as much show of reason in your theory as those of many
of these antediluvian philosophers can pretend to. But you have yet
to play the part of the zoologist, and to give us some account of that
strange animal, human being or beast, alive or stuffed, as it may be,
that so strangely stands sentry yonder in the midst of it. One might
almost fancy it to be one of Macbeth's weird sisters.

Grant.--It has indeed a most uncouth and ghostly appearance when seen
at this distance. It looks so much like some withered human figure,
where we cannot easily reconcile it to reason that any human figure
could possibly be.

Author.--Yes; and when we think what its effect must be when it is
seen by a stranger, sailing slowly over the surface of the little
lake, impelled by a whistling wind, at that hour when spirits of all
kinds are supposed to have power to burst their cerements, when the
moon may give sufficient light to display enough of its wasted and
wizard looking form to beget fearful conceptions, without affording
such an illumination as might be sufficient to explain its nature,
we may easily believe that many are the rustic hearts that sink
with dread, and many are the clodpate heads of hair that bristle up
"like quills upon the fretful porcupine," whilst whips and spurs are
employed with all manner of good will on the unfortunate hides of
such unlucky animals as may chance to be carrying lated travellers
past this enchanted lake towards their distant place of repose.

Clifford.--I can well enough conceive all this. But you have yet to
tell us what the figure really is.

Author.--Notwithstanding its imposing appearance, it is nothing more,
after all, than a figure made of rushes and rags carelessly tied
about a pole by some of the simple shepherds of these wilds. It is
comparatively of recent creation; but I understand that the islet is by
no means of modern origin, though I am led to believe that, like other
more extensive pieces of earth, it has undergone many changes since its
first creation. It must have been liable to be increased and diminished
by various natural causes at different periods of its history.

Dominie Macpherson (half advancing into the group, with a chastened
air, and more obsequious inclination of his body than he had ever
yet used.)--If I may make so bold as to put in my word--ha--hum. If
I might be permitted to make so bold as to speak, I can assure you,
gentlemen, that the bit island yonder has long existed. I have known
these parts for many a long year; and I can testify to the fack,
from my own observation, added to and eiked out by that of men who
were old when I was born. Superstitious people call it the witches'
island, and believe that the weird sisterhood hold it under their
yespecial control and governance.

Clifford.--Much better sailing in it than in a sieve. But have
you gathered none of the adventures of the Beldams to whom you say
it belongs?

Dominie.--God forbid, sir, that I should say it belongs to such uncanny
people! But truly there is a very strange story connected with it.

Clifford.--A story, Mr. Macpherson, pray let's have your story
without delay, if you please, that we may forthwith judge whether
you are to rank higher in the world of letters as an historian or as
a critic. "Perge Domine!"

Grant.--You will gratify us much, sir.

Dominie.--I shall willingly try my hand, sir; and if you find not
the sweetness of Homer or Maro in my narrative, at least you shall
be sure of that accuracy as to fack which so much distinguished the
elegant author of the Commentaries.

Clifford (with mock gravity).--Doth the narrative touch your own
adventures, my friend? Are you, like Cæsar, the historian of your
own deeds?

Dominie.--Not so, sir; but I had all the facks from my father,
who knew the hero and heroine, and all the persons whose names are
mentioned in it.

Clifford.--Ha! you have a hero, then, and a heroine too? Why that,
methinks, looks somewhat more like romance than history.

Grant (smiling).--Be quiet, Clifford! You forget that you are all this
while keeping us from our story. Pray, sir, have the goodness to begin.

The schoolmaster bowed; and taking a central place in the line of
march, he proceeded with his narrative in language so mingled with
quaint and original expressions, that I cannot hope, and therefore
do not always pretend, to render it with the same raciness with which
it was uttered.



LEGEND OF THE FLOATING ISLET.


I must honestly tell you, gentlemen, that my story hath much the
air of a romance, as well as much of love in it, and many of the
other ingredients of such like vain and frivolous compositions; but
you shall have the facks as told me by my much honoured father, who,
being a well-employed blacksmith, not many miles from the spot where
we now are, may be said to have been the chronicler of the passing
yevents of his day.

Awell, you see, it happened that a well-grown, handsome, proper looking
young shepherd lad, called Robin Stuart, had possessed himself of
the young affections of a bonny lassie, the daughter of Donald Rose,
one of the better sort of tenants of these parts. Their love for one
another had grown up with them, they could not well say how. Its
origin was lost in the innocent forgetfulness of their childhood,
as the origin of a nation is buried in the fabulous history of its
infancy; but, however born, this they both felt, that it had grown
in strength and vigour every day of their lives, until with Robin it
began to ripen into that honest and ardent attachment natural to a
manly young heart, which was responded to on the part of bonny Mary
Rose by all the delicacy and softness that ought to characterise the
modest young maiden's return of a first love. But however natural
it was for the tender heart of the daughter to beat in unison, or,
as I may say, to swing in equal arcs with that of her lover, just as
if they had been two pendulums of like proportions and construction,
it was equally selon les règles, as the modern men of Gaul would say,
that the churlish and sordid old tyke of a father, who had been
accustomed to estimate merit more by the rule of proportion than
anything else, exactly perhaps as he would have valued one of his own
muttons according to the number of its pounds, should have stormed
like a fury when he actually deteckit the callant Robin Stuart in
the very ack of making love to his daughter in his own house!

A desperate feud of some years' standing had made Donald the declared
enemy of Robin's father, old Harry the herd of the Limekilns, a
cognomen which he had from the circumstance of his cottage being
placed on the side of yonder hill of that name, so called from
a prevailing tradition that the lime used in the building of the
Castle of Loch-an-Dorbe was brought in the state of stone in creels
on horses' backs from the quarries near to Grantown, and burned
there. Old Harry was a poor man and a herd, whilst Donald Rose was
wealthy, and especially prided himself on being a Duniwassel, or small
gentleman, so that there thus existed three most active awgents, to
wit, enmity, avarice, and pride, which combined to compel him to put
an instantaneous stop to all such proceedings between Robin Stuart
and his daughter Mary. Without one moment's delay, he thrust the
young shepherd, head and shoulders, violently forth from his door,
and smacking the palm of his hand significantly and with great force
and birr on his dirk sheath, so as to cause the weepon to ring again--

"I'll tell ye what it is, my young birkie," said he, in a voice like
thunder, "gif I catch ye again within haulf a mile o' my dochter,
ye sall ha'e a taste o' sweetlips here! An' as for you, Mary, an' ye
daur to let siccan a beggarly chield as that come within a penny stane
cast o' ye, by my saul but I'll turn ye out ower my door hauld wi' as
leetle ceremony as I ha'e done the same thing to Rab himsell yonder!"

But, as one of the ancient heathen poets hath it, love is a fire which
no storm can extinguish; it feeds itself with hope, and only burns the
brighter the more it is blown against by adverse blasts. You know,
gentlemen, how Pyramus and Thisbe contrived to hold secret converse
together. Though Robin and Mary had no crack in a wall through which to
pour the stream of their mutual love,--nay, although their respective
dwellings were some mile or two separate from each other, yet many were
the private meetings which the youth and maiden contrived to obtain,
during which they employed their time in fostering their mutual hopes,
and in strengthening their belief that better and happier days were
yet in store for them. And happy indeed would have been those days
of their anticipation, if they could have proved happier than were
those stolen hours which they thus occasionally enjoyed together.

Now, it happened one beautiful day, in the beginning of summer,
that Donald Rose rode off from his door to go to a distant market,
whence there was no chance of his returning till late at night. The
old saying hath it, that when the cat is away the mice will play. This
was too favourable an opportunity to be lost by a pair of young lovers
so quick-sighted as Robin and Mary. It had been marked by both of them
for some weeks before it came; and the farmer's long-tailed rough grey
garron had no sooner borne his master's bulky body in safety along
the ticklish and treacherous path that went by a short cut through
the long moss, and over the distant rising ground, than Robin Stuart,
true to his tryst, appeared to escort his bonny lassie on a ramble of
love. No one was at home to spy out their intentions but old Mysie
Morrison, the good-natured hireling woman of all work; and she was
too much taken up with her household affairs to trouble her head
about watching the young lad and lass. Indeed, if she had thoughts
of them at all, she was too much attached to her young mistress,
and too well acquainted with her secret, and too shrewd to betray
her either by design or by accident.

As you may see, gentlemen, there was no great choice of pleasure walks
in this bleak destrick, but the two young creatures were so taken
up with each other, and so full of joy in each other's company, that
the dreariest spot of it was as a rich and blooming garden in their
delighted eyes. They tripped along merrily together, and bounded like
roe deer over the heathery knolls, scarcely knowing, and not in the
least caring, which way they went, until they found themselves by the
side of the little lochan which we have but just left behind us. It
was then the season when the wilderness of this upland country was
clad in a mantle of wild flowers, and thereabouts especially they
grew in so great variety and profusion that it seemed as if the
goddess Flora had resolved to hold her court in that place. There,
then, they resolved to rest a while; and Robin, producing the simple
contents of a little wallet which he carried under his plaid, they
sat down together and feasted luxuriously.

When they had finished their meal the lovers began to waste the
hours in idle but innocent sport. They roamed about here and there,
gathering the gaudy flowering plants that grew around them; and
after filling their arms with these wildling treasures, they again
seated themselves side by side, to employ their hands in arranging and
plaiting them into rustic ornaments. Whilst thus occupied they were too
happy and too much taken up with their own pleasing prattle to think
of the progress of the sun, who was all this time most industriously
urging his ceaseless journey over their heads, without exciting any
of their attention, except in so far as his beams might have lent a
livelier hue to the gay garlands they were weaving for each other,
or yielded a fresher glow to the cheeks, or a brighter sparkle to
the eyes, of those who were to wear them.

Whilst they were thus so happily and so harmlessly occupied, they went
on, with all the innocent simplicity of rustic life, repeating over
and over again to each other their solemn vows of eternal love and
fidelity, as if they could never have been tired of these their sweet
and sooth-fast asseverations, whilst, at the same time, they uttered
them with a copiousness of phraseology and a variety of dialogue
truly marvellous in such a muirland pair as they were. It would have
absolutely astonished all your writers of novelles to have overheard
them, and it would have puzzled any of these fiction-mongers to have
invented the like.

"Oh that your father was but as poor and as humble as mine,
Mary!" exclaimed the youth at last, "or, rich and proud as he is, that
you could leave him and content yoursel' wi' bein' a poor man's wife!"

"Na, Robin!" replied she, shaking her head gravely, and then laying
her hand upon his arm, and looking up wistfully into his eyes, "you
would never ask me, my father's ae bairn, to leave him noo that he
has grown auld, and that my dear mother has left us baith and gane to
heeven! Gif, indeed, he could be but brought to look wi' a kind ee on
you--then--then"--continued she, with a faultering tongue, whilst she
blushed deeply, and threw her eyes down amidst the heap of flowers
that lay at her feet,--"then, indeed, we might baith be his bairns."

"Oh! I wish again that he were but a poor man!" cried Robin
enthusiastically, "for then might thir twa arms o' mine mak' me as gude
a match in his een as a' the bit tocher he could gie might warrant him
to look for. Weel and stoutly wad I work for sic a prize as you, Mary!"

"An' weel wad I be pleased that ye should ha'e it, Robin, little
worth as it is!" said Mary, with an expression of undisguised
fondness. "Though I could na gie up my father, I could gie up a'
my father's gowd, gif it wad but bring you hame to help him. And
gif it warna for him," added she, with a tear trembling in her eye,
"I trow I could gang wi' you to the warld's end, an' I war never to
see anither human face!"

"O Mary!" exclaimed Robin, in a transport, "I could live wi' you in
a desert. I could live wi' you in some wee uninhabited spot in the
midds o' the muckle ocean, aye, though it war nae bigger than the
bit witches' island there afore ye, aye, and as fond o' flittin'
as it is too, and that we sould never leave its wee bit bouns."

There was something so absurdly extravagant in the very idea of two
people being confined together to a space of a few yards square,
to live the sport of every varying breeze that might blow over
the surface of the deep, that Mary's gravity was fairly overcome,
notwithstanding the high pitch of devoted feeling to which she had
been wound up at the moment. She could not control herself; and she
gave way to loud peals of laughter, in which her lover as heartily
joined her. "See!" cried she, the moment she could get her breath,
whilst she pointed sportively to the little floating islet which
was at that moment lying motionless, and almost in contact with the
shore near to the spot where they were sitting, "see, see, Robby,
how our wee bit fairy kingdom is waitin' yonder to bid us welcome!"

"Come, then, my queen, let us take possession o 't then in baith our
names!" cried Robin, in the same tone, and gaily and gallantly seizing
her hand at the same time, he, with great pretended pomp and ceremony,
led her, half laughing, and half afraid, towards the place where the
island rested.

At the time my story speaks of the borders of the loch were less
encroached upon by weeds and rushes than you have seen that they now
are, and the island lay, as if it had been moored, as mariners would
say, in deep water close to the shore. It was, therefore, but a short
step to reach it, and Robin easily handed the trembling Mary into it
with as much natural grace, I'll warrant me, as the pious Æneas himself
could have handed Queen Dido. The lassie's light foot hardly made its
grassy surface quiver as it reached it; but, full of his own frolic,
and altogether forgetful for that moment of the precarious and kittle
nature of the ground he had to deal with, he sprang in after her with
a degree of force which was far from being required to effect his
purpose, and so great was the impetus which he thus communicated to
the floating islet, that it was at once pushed several yards away from
the shore. With one joint exclamation of terror both stood appalled,
and they silently beheld the small fragment of ground that supported
them moving, almost insensibly, yet farther and farther towards the
middle of the loch, so long as any of the force which Robin had so
unfortunately applied to it remained, and then it settled on the
motionless bosom of the deep and black looking waters, at such a
distance even from the bank which they had just left as to forbid
all hope of escape to those who could not swim.

Fled indeed, gentlemen, was now all the mirth of this unlucky
pair. Poor Mary was at once possessed by a thousand fears; and even
the firmer mind of her companion, though sufficiently occupied with
its anxiety for her, was not without its full share of those individual
superstitious apprehensions naturally produced by the place where they
were, and which secretly affected both of them. Neither of them could
resist the belief that supernatural interference had had some share
in producing their present distress. But whatever Robin's private
thoughts may have been, he was too manly to allow them to become
apparent to Mary. Plucking up some long grass and sedges, therefore,
and making them into a large bundle, he took off his jacket, threw it
over it, and by this means made a dry seat for her in the very middle
of the quivering and spongy surface of the islet. Then casting his
red plaid over his shoulder, he stood beside her, now bending over
her to whisper words of comfort and encouragement into her ear, and by
and by stretching his neck erect, that his eyes might have the better
vantage to sweep around the whole circuit of the dull and monotonous
surface of the surrounding wastes. How mixed, yet how antagonist
to each other were the ideas which now passed rapidly through his
mind! At one moment he felt a strange and indescribable rapture as
the mere thought crossed him that this small floating spot of earth
did indeed contain no other human being but himself and her whom he
would wish to sever from all the world besides, that she might be the
more perfectly dependent on himself alone, and therefore the more
indissolubly bound to him; and then would he utter some endearing
words to Mary. Then, again, the shivering conviction would strike
him, that although there was no human being but themselves there,
there might yet be other unknown and unseen beings in their company
that neither of them wist of, and he looked fearfully around him,
scanning with suspicious eye, not only the whole surface of the lake,
but every little nook and crevice of the shore. And then bethinking
him of night, he lifted up his eyes with anxious solicitude from
time to time, to note the position of the sun, whose progress he and
his fair companion had previously so much disregarded; and great was
his internal vexation when he perceived how rapidly his car was now
rolling downwards, not, as the auncient poets would say, in his haste
to lay himself in the lap of Thetis, but as if he had been eager to
escape behind yon great lump of a muirland hill yonder to the westward.

But a yet more trying discovery soon began to force itself upon his
attention. The islet on which they stood seemed, as he narrowly
measured it with his eye, to have sunk some inches into the
water! Already in idea he felt its bubbling wavelets closing over
his own head and the dear head of her whom he so much loved! His
heart grew sick at the very thought. Summoning up courage, however,
he contrived to allow no outward sign to betray his feelings to Mary;
and taking certain marks with his eye, he set himself to watch them
with an anxiety so intense, and with a look so fixed, that he was
unable rationally to reply, either by word or sign, to anything that
the poor lassie said to him, so that she began at length to entertain
new apprehensions at the wild expression which his countenance
exhibited. By degrees, however, she became more assured, for, after
long and accurate observation had led him to believe that at least no
very rapid change was taking place, his features gradually relaxed,
and hers were for the time relieved by that very sympathy which had
so enchained them.

And now the sun was fast approaching the horizon, and Robin's eyes were
eagerly employed in endeavouring to penetrate even the most distant
shadows that were rapidly settling down upon the hills, behind which
he was about to disappear, whence they began to spread themselves
over the wide extent of brown moors and black mosses that stretched
everywhere around them. As the light passed away, his glances flew
more hastily in every direction, in the vain search for some human
being. Above all, he earnestly surveyed the road where he for some time
sanguinely hoped that he might discover some one returning from the
market, who might yet lend them an aid, though he felt that it quite
defied him to form any rational conception as to what the nature of
that aid could be. Again, he would most inconsistently shrink back,
and instinctively shut his eyes, as if that could have concealed his
person, from very dread that Donald Rose might come home that way
and discover them in this their distressing and dangerous situation,
for he was fully aware that he had but little chance of rising in the
old man's estimation by having thus had the misfortune to bring the
life of his only child into so great peril. As he thus ruminated,
he remembered that although this was not old Donald's shortest way
home, yet it was that which he was most likely to take towards night,
as being the best. And he moreover distinctly perceived, that if he
did come that way before it was dark, he could not fail to discover
them. For as the rugged and irregular muirland road wound round nearly
one-third of the whole margin of the little loch, by reason of its
having to cross the bit brook that issues from its western extremity,
it was self-evident that no one could travel that way without having
his eyes intently fixed, for a considerable time, in a direction that
must compel him to survey the whole surface of the sheet of water,
so that not a duck or a dab-chick could yescape them. And what if
the farmer did not come? Might they not be discovered by some other
hard-hearted person, who, instead of assisting them, might be so wicked
as to carry the news of their situation directly to old Rose, whose
rage, he felt persuaded, would be enough to burn up the waters of the
loch. Such a finis to the adventure was the least misfortune they could
look for from the malice of those evil spirits of the islet, by whom
he believed that he and Mary had been thus entrapped. Anxious as he
had at first been to descry some one, he now longed for night to fall
down on them and render them invisible. Then the utter hopelessness
of eventual concealment occurred to him, for he reflected that the
farmer must return home at some hour during the night; that when
he did so return, he must find his daughter absent, and that his
ungovernable fury would not be diminished by the tormenting suspense
in which he would be kept regarding her until next day, when they
should certainly be discovered. Robin's mind was tossed to and fro
among such unpleasant thoughts as these, till they were all put to
flight by the overwhelming force of that superstitious dread which
taught him to believe that night would soon give an uncontrolled
power to those evil beings who had thus so cruelly used them.

"Oh, for a breeze of wind!" cried poor Robin in his agony, as a
thousand formidable and ghastly shapes began to dance before his
disturbed fancy. And--

"Oh, for a breeze!" sighed the soft and tremulous voice of Mary
Rose, whose mind had all this while been silently following the same
irregular train of thought, and sympathetically participating in the
distressing emotions which had been agitating her lover.

And now the sun went down in a blaze of glory beyond the western hills,
and his last beams took leave of the surface of the water, after
having shed a radiance over it, as well as a cheerful glow over the
countenances of the two lovers, that but ill assorted with the misery
of soul which they were enduring. By degrees a soft summer exhalation
began to arise from the bosom of the loch, as well as from all the
neighbouring pools, peatpots, and marshes. But balmy, and cheering,
and invigorating as it was to all the parched offspring of nature
that grew in this desert, which opened their bosoms to receive it,
and gratefully exhaled their richest perfumes, it chilled the very
hearts of the lovers, as night fell darkly and dismally around them.

"Robin," said Mary in a voice that quivered from the effects of the
chilling damp, combined with those secret terrors which were every
instant taking more and more powerful possession of her, in spite
of all her reason and resolution to resist them. "Robin, put on your
jacket, you will starve."

"Mair need for me, Mary, to gie ye this plaid o' mine," replied he
in a tender tone. "Here, tak' it about ye, my dearest lassie, and
keep up a gude heart."

"Na, I'll no tak' nae mair aff ye," said Mary gently, refusing to
allow him to throw the plaid over her.

"Let me--let me gie ye haulf o't then," said he, with a modest
hesitation.

After some little further discussion, the matter was at last arranged,
for Mary stood up by Robin's side, and the ample plaid having been
thrown over both of them, somewhat in the manner of a tent, the
edges of it were held together by her lover's nervous arm, so as in a
great measure to exclude the cold damp air. If it was not altogether
shut out, Robin at least for some time felt none of its influence,
for, finding himself thus the sole protector of his beloved Mary,
his heart burned within him with love and pride, and all thoughts of
evil spirits were banished for a time.

Things had not been long accommodated in this manner, when Mary
complained that her feet began to grow cold and wet, and the change in
Robin's thoughts may be conceived when he too became convinced that the
water was certainly somehow or other gaining upon them. The darkness
was now such as to render it impossible for him to make any such minute
observation as he had done before. He could only now guess vaguely,
and his whole frame shivered with horror as the suspicion crossed him,
that the unusual weight which the islet now bore having pressed it
downwards, the upper and more porous parts of it, which were formerly
comparatively dry, had imbibed a greater quantity of water than usual,
and the specific gravity of the whole being thus increased, it was
gradually sinking, and must soon be altogether submerged. I say not
that the poor lad reasoned thus upon pheelosophical principles, but,
nevertheless, he did come to the conclusion that this treacherous bit
of ground was sinking fast. How long or how short a time it might
possibly take before the awful catastrophe should arrive, was more
than he had any means of determining. He had nothing now left but to
nerve himself with resolution to enable him to conceal his fears and
his horrors from Mary, though, at the same time, he could not help
clinging to her with an earnestness and a wildness of manner that
did anything but allay her terrors. Dark as the night was, all those
superstitious fancies which had disturbed their minds were banished
by the overpowering conviction of speedily approaching dissolution
which individually possessed them in secret. The black gulf by which
they were environed seemed, in the mind's eye of each of them, to
be yawning to swallow them up; and the thought that they should die
in each other's arms, was the only consolation that visited their
afflicted souls in that awful moment.

"Let us pray to the Lord!" said Mary solemnly, "for our death-hour
is come!"

Robert, who would now have deemed it to be a sinful ack to speak to
her of hope, which he had himself so utterly abandoned, immediately
obeyed her command. You know, gentlemen, that it is the glorious
preevilege of our Scottish peasantry to receive education from the
pious and well conducked teachers of our parochial schools. Even the
youngest men are thereby exerceesed in prayer, so that it becomes
so much of a habit with them, that they are at all times prepared
to pour out their souls in extemporaneous offerings to the Deevine
Being. You can easily understand, therefore, that at such a moment when
convinced that he himself, and she whom he loved beyond all yearthly
things, were about to be summoned to the footstool of their Creator,
his prayer was solemn, yearnest, simple, and sublime. So certain did
the sealing of their doom now appear, that he put up few petitions
for present help in this world. The whole force of his supplication
was directed to their salvation through the merits of a Saviour,
in that on which they were so soon to enter, and Mary clung closer
to him as he spoke, and continued to follow all his expressions, now
internally and now audibly, with a fervour that sufficiently proved
the intensity of her faith and hope.

Whilst the poor creatures were thus employed a dim gleam of light from
the eastern horizon seemed as if struggling through the dense fog that
hung over the loch, and soon afterwards a gentle passing breath of
air was distinctly felt by both of them. It murmured around them, and
fanned them, as it were, for a moment, and found its way even within
the hollow of the plaid. Its voice was to them as the voice of their
guardian angel, and it refreshed their drooping souls, although they
knew not very well how it did so. In a very few minutes afterwards,
however, the mist being broken up by the influence of a full moon that
had just risen, began to collect itself into distinct spiral columns,
which dissipated themselves one after another, as if they had been
so many spirits melting into air. The long wished-for breeze then
at length came singing most musically as it skimmed over the surface
of the perfumed heath. And it had not long curled the hitherto still
surface of the loch, till Robin and Mary began to perceive that the
half-drowned island was sensibly increasing its distance from the
shore whence they had taken their departure. There was something very
fearful in this, and the poor lassie clung closer to her lover. But
with all their fears it now seemed as if Hope was sitting beckoning to
them on the opposite shore, towards which the breeze was so evidently,
though so slowly, propelling them.

The moon now shone forth in full radiance, and speedily dissipated
the broken fragments of the fog that yet remained. One mass only,
denser than the rest, still hung poised over their heads, naturally
maintained in that position by the attraction of the damp floating
earth they stood on. To their great joy they perceived that the breeze
was increasing, and that their motion was gradually accelerating.

"Mary, my dear," cried Robin, "keep a gude heart; I'm thinking that
we'll maybe mak out yet. Let's hoize up the plaid till it catches
mair o' the wund."

And, accordingly, they raised their arms and kept the plaid high over
their heads, till it was bellied out by the breeze like the lugsail
of a herring buss, and their velocity was tripled.

They were thus moving gallantly onwards, in anxious expectation that
a very few minutes more would moor them in safety to the shore, so
that there might yet be time for Mary to hurry home before her father
should arrive to question her absence, when they suddenly perceived
a horseman riding along the road which sweep't around the end of
the loch they were now nearing so fast. What think ye, gentlemen,
was the astonishment, dread, and mortification of the poor lassie
and her lad when they beheld the moonbeams reflecked from a face as
broad and as pale as the disc of the luminary from which they had been
last projected? It was Donald Rose himself! As their supporting bit
of earth drifted onwards with them, they stood together for a moment
petrified with surprise and fear, whilst they beheld him check his
horse, and turn his head towards the loch, as if to gaze at them;
and then, with one shriek from Mary and a deep groan from Robin,
which might have made a good treble and bass for the psalmody of the
martyrs, both the two of them, by one simultaneous movement, sank
down together among the rank grass and water-weeds in which they
were standing, and the folds of the plaid collapsing around them,
both were completely shrouded beneath it. There they lay, abandoning
themselves to their perverse fate, and fearing to move or speak, until,
in a very few seconds, they were drifted to the very spot where they
too well knew that the enraged farmer must be already standing like
a roaring lion ready to devour them; and they were thus prostrated,
as it were, at the very feet of him whose ungovernable rage they had
so much reason to wish to have avoided.

The floating island had touched the terra firma for some seconds, but
still the conscious pair dared not to peep from beneath the covering
that enveloped them. They lay, as I might say, as quiet as two mice
in a bag of meal. They uttered not a word. They hardly even dared
to breathe. But tremblingly in need of support under circumstances
so very trying, the poor lassie Mary clasped her Robin about the
waist with an energy equal to the terror she was moved by. It was
the feeling of this her utter dependence upon him for support and
defence that first subdued Robert's own fears, and awakened him to
a sense of his own dignity as a man.

"An' ye'll hae but a thoughty o' patience, Maister Rose, I'll tell
ye a' aboot it," said he, commencing his peroration from beneath the
plaid, somewhat sotto voce, as the degenerate modern Romans would
say. But gaining greater boldness as he heard the sound of his own
voice, and that his words remained as yet unanswered, he went on
to speak, gradually raising his tone as he did so, and at the same
time erecting his person by slow degrees from his abject attitude,
though without unveiling himself.

"Ye may think as ye like, Maister Rose, but I canna help lovin' Miss
Mary; I maun love her spite o' mysell, an' gin ye wad hae me no to
love her nae mair, ye maun just dirk me here at aince. But for the
sake o' a' that's good!" continued he, blubbering from very emotion,
"dinna offer to hurt ae hair o' her bonny head, for by my troth an'
ye do, Maister Rose!"----

These last words were uttered in so loud and impassioned a key,
that it sufficiently indicated the nature as well as the resolute
determination of the threat that was intended to follow, even if the
furious action of the uplifted arm and clenched fist had not left it
quite unequivocal. So violent was the effect, that the plaid which
had risen along with the speaker, and which had up to this point
continued to muffle his head and eyes, was suddenly thrown off.

"Gude keep hus a' he's gane!" cried Robin with a stare of horror. "As
I'm a leevin' man!--as I houp and believe I am"--continued he, pinching
his own arms and thighs as he said so, to convince himself of the fack
that he really was alive, "it was your father's wraith we saw, Mary!"

Half fainting from the effect of the complication of terrors which had
surrounded her, Mary Rose was hardly conscious of what Robin had said,
and he for his part having gained that self-command of which the sudden
nature of his alarm had for a moment deprived him, now bit his lip
and studiously avoided uttering one word that might convey to her the
least inkling of that conviction which had just then flashed upon him,
or that might distress her mind with any share of that superstitious
dread which at this moment so completely filled his own.

"He's gane indeed, dear Mary," said he as he gently assisted her
to rise; "let's be thankful that we're safe on dry land, and let me
help you hame to your ain house as fast as I can, and may the Lord
be aboot us!"

Adjusting his plaid over her, and placing his arm around her slender
waist to support her tottering steps, he guided her homewards by the
light of the moon through the rugged moor by a short path. Often as
they went did each of them secretly remember how auspiciously the
morning sun had shone upon them as they had danced lightly together
over the blooming heather! But they were both too much sunk by the
unfortunate issue of their day's adventures, believing as they,
poor things, foolishly did, that the powers of evil themselves had
combined to thwart them; they were too much sunk, I say, to be able
to utter much more than monosyllables to each other, or such words at
least as were expressive of gratitude to Heaven for having permitted
them to yescape with life, whilst an indefinite dread of the fate
that awaited them hung secretly lowering over each of their minds.

Lights blazed within the white-washed windows of Donald Rose's cottage
as it appeared on a knoll before Mary's dizzy eyes. Whether these
might indicate her father's presence or not, she could not daur to
guess. The poor lassie was so feared, that she hesitated to approach
the door herself; yet she felt that there was still greater danger
there for Robin, and, with a delicate pressure of the young lad's hand,
she bade him tenderly farewell.

"Robin, haste ye hame to the Limekilns," said she. "Ye maunna face
my father. Leave me to face him mysell."

"No!" said Robin boldly and with peculiar emphasis, "I ha'e noo faced
mair than your father, Mary; and sae I'm no ga'in' to flee your
father himsell, though he does wear a durk. Gif he be comed hame,
ye may the mair want my help to meet him."

Fearfully alarmed for the consequences, and still more apprehensive for
her father's wrath against him than against herself, she endeavoured
to argue with him on the folly of his rashness; and whilst they were
both engaged in an animated and somewhat imprudently loud discussion
on this subject, they were startled by the voice of Mysie Morrison,
who came suddenly upon them from the cottage.

"Bless ye, my bairns, is that you?" exclaimed this good domestic. "What
i' the warld has keepit ye sae lang oot daffin'? An' is that the end o'
a' your courtin' after a', that you're to come hame an' end it that
gate wi' a colly-shangy?"

"Has my father come back frae the market yet, Mysie?" tremblingly
demanded Mary.

"Na, he's no come hame yet," replied the old woman, "and I'm thinkin'
that he'll no be comin' hame the night noo. I 'se warrant he's been
weel set wi' some drouthy customer, an' he'll hae staid whar he
wuz. But come ye're ways in, my bairns, an' get some meat; I trow ye
maun be clean starvin'."

With Robin's recollection of the spectre which he had beheld riding
by the loch-side he had little heart, at that hour, to cross the wide
muir that lay between Donald Rose's house, where he then was, and his
father's cottage on the hill of the Limekilns. He much preferred the
risk of meeting Donald's substantial body of flesh and blood, dirk
and fury and all, within the four walls of a well lighted up room,
to having his moonlight path crossed upon the heath by the terrific
simulacrum or wraith which had already blasted his sight. In addition,
therefore, to the seducing attractions which Mary's society held out
to him, coupled with those urgent admonitions which he was receiving
at that moment from hunger and thirst, he had thus some vurra strong
and powerful secret reasons for preferring to remain, to which he did
not choose to give utterance. Mary, for her part, was sorely buffeted
between her wishes and her fears. She had every desire to do that
hospitality to her lover which her own faintness began to remind her
must now be so highly necessary to him. On the other hand, she had
the strongest apprehension that her father might suddenly return, in
spite of all that Mysie had said to the contrary, and she thus hung
for a moment in dootful equilibrio, as a body may say, between the two
opposing forces which were thus operating on her. But Mysie, who was
much less timorous, having done all she could to assure her that there
was no danger of a surprise, she at length hushed her fears and tacitly
yielded to her wishes. She and Robin, therefore, were soon seated
over some comfortable viands by a blazing hearth, whilst Mysie, with
a judgment and prudence that might have well befitted an attendant of
Queen Dido herself when she took refuge from the storm with the Trojan
king in the cave, retired to make security doubly sure, by setting
herself to watch at the window of the neighbouring apartment, where,
by the light of the moon, she might see her master return, so that she
might give timeous notice to Robin Stuart to yescape by the back-door,
whilst old Rose was occupied in putting his horse into the stable.

This was well enough arranged in the old woman, gentlemen. Caius
Julius Cæsar himself could not have made better dispositions to
have prevented a night surprise. But, as our immortal bard, William
Shakespeare, hath it, in the words which he hath put into the mouth
of the lively Rosalind, time goes at different paces with different
individuals. Upon this occasion it certainly went fast enough with
Robin Stuart and Mary Rose. For, though their minds were for a short
time crossed occasionally by very fearful visions of the past, of
some of which they dared hardly to speak to each other, yet these
were soon banished altogether by their mutual smiles, and by the
ardent and endearing expressions which they went on interchanging
together. Swift flew the minutes, and their conversation was still
waxing more and more interesting. They were seated close together;
and, as their tender dialogue became more intensely moving, Robin's
arm had unconsciously found its way around Mary's waist, whilst
hers had fallen carelessly over his shoulder, and had accidentally
carried with it the folds of his plaid, which she had not yet thrown
off. The cheerful gleam from the blazing moss-fir faggots threw a
strong effect of light from the ample chimney over their figures. They
indeed believed, from their inaccurate calculation, that this their
felicity had endured for some short half hour only, whilst, by the
drowsy account of old Mysie, who had sat nodding, and every now and
then catching her head up to save it, if she possibly could, from
dropping irrecoverably into the lap of Morpheus, the god of sleep,
four good hours had gone by. As the truth probably lay between, I
shall take the mean of these two extremes, and therefore I may say,
with some degree of confidence, that about two hours had yelapsed when
she at last yielded to the soporific influence, and fell into a sleep
so profound, that ere it had endured for ten minutes, ten cannons or
ten claps of thunder could hardly have awakened her; and whilst matters
were in this state the door of the apartment where Robin and Mary were
so comfortably seated as I have just described them to be,--the door
of the apartment was suddenly opened, and Donald Rose himself, covered
with mud from neck to heel, and with a countenance pale and haggard
as death, entered,--followed, gentlemen, still stranger to tell,
by--Harry Stuart, the herd of the Limekilns! The surprise by which
the lovers were thus taken was perfectly complete. Their presence of
mind was altogether gone. They started up together at once, without
even attempting to unfold or withdraw their arms from the different
positions which they had respectively assumed, whilst the drapery
of the plaid hung over both of them, mingled with the garlands which
they still wore. They stood as if they had been converted into statues.

"Gude keep us a' frae evil!" cried Donald Rose the moment he entered,
whilst, to their utter astonishment, he started back as he said so,
his eyes glaring at them with a ghastly look of fear and horror
that was much too natural not to be perfectly genuine. "Gude keep
us frae a' evil, are ye wraiths or are ye real? The same plaid! the
same garlands! and the same guise! Speak! speak! what are ye? But I
see," continued he, after a pause, during which he recovered himself
a little; "I see, Gude be thankit! that ye are baith flesh and bluid."

"Aye, flesh and bluid we are," said Robin Stuart, summoning up all
his resolution and speaking in a determined tone. "We are flesh and
bluid truly, and I trust that we shall soon be one flesh and one
bluid too! Our souls are already as one! sae let not ane auld man's
avarice rend asunder twa leal hearts already joined by Heeven!"

"Joined by Heeven, indeed, Rabby!" replied old Rose, with a solemn
and mysterious air; "and Heeven forbid that sic a miserable vratch
as I am sould daur to interfere. What Heeven hath joined let not man
put asunder! O bairns! bairns!" continued he, as he swopped himself
down into his great oaken elbow chair, as if quite overcome with
fatigue both of body and mind; "och, bairns! bairns! what ane awfu'
gliff I hae gotten this blessed night! As I was on my road hame frae
the market--an' at a decent hour, too,--for the drover an' me had
but three half mutchkins a-piece whan we pairted at Grantown--whan
I was on my road hame, as I was sayin', an' just as I was gaein' to
pass round this end o' the Witches' Loch, to cross at the bit fuirdy
yonder, what does I see, it gars my very flesh a' creep again to think
on't--what does I see, I say, but your twa figures, as plain as I see
ye baith at this precious moment, in thay very garments ye hae on, an'
wi' thay very garlands about your necks, an' shouthers, an' breasts,
an' baith claspit thegither, as ye war just yenoo whan I came in. I
say, I saw ye baith in that very guise, an' in that very pouster,
comin' skimmin' o'er the surface o' the deep water o' the loch, wi'
that very red plaid aboon ye baith for a sail. But, Gude proteck us
a'!--what think ye?--The full moon was just risen in the east, an'
her very light was shinin' through the twa spirits, an' aboot them
there was a kind o' a glory, just like unto the mony coloured brugh
that ye hae nae doot aften seen about the moon hersel'. Och me,
it wuz a grusome sight! I wish I may e'er won ower wi't!"

Robin and Mary exchanged intelligent glances with each other during
this part of old Rose's narrative; but he was too much overpowered
with what he had seen, and too full of his subject, to observe what
passed between them.

"Tak a wee drap o' this, father," said Mary, handing him a brimming
cuach; "you will be muckle the better o't."

"Thank ye, thank ye, my bonny bairn!" said the farmer, giving her back
the empty cuach, and kindly patting her head as he did so. "I'm sure,
my dauty, it was ill my pairt to cross ye as I did. But, stay!--whaur
was I?--Weel, ye see, just as the twa speerits war comin' whush athort
the loch upon me far faster than ony wild duke could flee,--the very
dumb brute that I was on started back wi' fear, whurled aboot in a
moment, an' whuppit me awa' back o'er the moss in spite o' mysel',
regairdless o' ony road; and I trow I never stoppit till I wuz on the
t'ither side o' Craig Bey, whar, by good luck, I forgathered wi' Harry
o' the Limekilns there--fear, like death, will pit oot the fire o'
the auldest feud; and whan Harry heard the cause o' my flight,--for
whan he met me I was fleein' like a muir-cock down the wund,--I
say, whan Harry heard o' what an a sight I had seen, an' he bein',
as it were, in some degree conneckit wi' it, as weel as mysel',
I trow he wuz as glad to hae me wi' him as I wuz to hae him wi me,
wi' the houp o' keepin' aff waur company. Harry had nae better wull
to gae by the Witches' Loch than I had, and sae we cam' ower by the
short cut through the lang moss thegither. A bonny road, truly, for
sic an afu' late hour of the night, for a' that we had the moon, as
ye may see well eneugh by the dabbled state o' my trews. I'm sure my
puir beast 'ill no be able to crawl the morn after a' the gliffin',
an' galloppin', aye, an' I may say soomin' too, that he has had,
for I hae some doots gif there be ae moss hole atween Craig Bey an'
this hoose that he has na' had to swatter through."

"Let me get dry stockin's for ye, father," said Mary.

"Na, my dauty, its no worth while for a' the time!" replied
Donald. "An' noo, Harry, man," continued he, turning to his companion,
who had been all this while standing near the door, "cum ben, man,
an' sit doon; what for dinna ye sit doon? An' noo, I say, although
ye are but a poor man, Harry, an' no just sae weel come by deschent
as I am, wha, as ye are maybe awaur, am come o' a cousin sax times
removed of the Laird of Kilravock himself, which a' the warld kens
to be ane o' the maist auncientest families in Scotland,--I say,
though ye are no just descended frae siccan honourable forebears,
yet ye are ane honest man."

"I trust that I am sae, neebour," said Harry modestly, but with his
head yereck, as ane honest man's always should be.

"Aweel, aweel!" cried old Rose impatiently, "as I was gaein' to say,
we's just owerlook a' thae things, an' souther up a' oonkindness that
may hae been atween us, an' sae we'll mak' the best o't, an' hae your
laddie an' my lassie buckled thegither as soon as the minister can mak'
them ane. Come, man, gie's your hand on't!"

"Wi' a' my heart!" replied Harry Stuart, with a good-natured chuckle;
"an' I'll tell ye what it is, Carl, maybe ye'll find after a' that
the son o' Harry the herd o' the Limekilns is no just sae bare a
bargain as ye wad hae yemagined. The herdin' trade gif it maks little
it spends less; an' I hae na been at it for better nor fifety years
without layin' by a wee bit pose o' my ain; an' gif a gude bien bit
hill farmie can be gotten for the twa, I'se no say but I may come doon
wi' as muckle as may buy the best end o' the plenishen an' stockin'."

"That's my hearty cock!" exclaimed old Rose, slapping Harry soundly
on the back. "Mary, my dauty! I was sae muckle the better o' the wee
drap ye gied me yon time, that I think neither Harry nor me wad be
the waur o' anither tasse."

It would be yequally vain and unnecessar, gentlemen, for me to attempt
to describe the happiness of the two lovers, or the general joy of
that night. If Homer or Maro were alive, and here present, they would
fail to do justice to such a theme. I may shortly conclude by simply
telling you, however, that Mysie's slumbers were rudely broken by the
stentorian voice of her master,--that she was speedily put to work
at her yespecial occupation in the kitchen,--that the rustic feast
was quickly spread,--that the bowl circulated, or, rather, to speak
with a due regard to fack, that it passed backwards and forwards
very frequently from lip to lip of the two thirsty seniors,--that
the young couple were in Elysium,--that the old men were garrulously
joyous,--that Mysie was frantic, and danced about like a daft woman,
and that the sun peeped in upon them from the distant eastern hills
ere they even began to think of terminating their revels.



DOMINIE DELIGHTED.


Grant.--Why, sir, you are quite as great as a story-teller as you
are as a critic.

Clifford.--Homer or Maro could never have held a candle to you! Why
your floating island would beat a steamer. But, joking apart, we are
really much obliged to you for the very interesting story you have
told us.

Dominie (bowing).--I am yespecially proud and happy that you are
pleased with it, sir.

Author.--We are all very much indebted to you indeed, for you have
helped us very agreeably over the most dreary part of our road.

The good man rose an inch or two higher than he had hitherto appeared,
and his cheek glowed with satisfaction.

We had now come to the Pass of Craig-Bey, where the Grantown country
opened to us. A rocky hill arose on our right, wildly wooded with
tall Scottish pines, whilst, on our left, the ground declined
into a hollow, through which the dark streamlet that drains the
extensive peat-bog, whence the villagers of Grantown are supplied
with fuel, throws itself into a deep rocky ravine, along which our
road skirted. At some distance to our left, and on the farther side
of the glen, a beautiful smiling portion of Highland country arose in
swelling grounds, simply cultivated, amidst natural birchen groves;
whilst every now and then we had a transient view directly downwards,
where the stream threw itself into a fairy little holm, surrounded by
tall castellated rocks, richly tinted with warm coloured mosses, and
rising picturesquely from among woods of golden-leaved aspen and birch.

Clifford.--Is there no story connected with that beautiful spot below?

Author.--The place is called Huntly's Cove. It has its name from some
cavity in the crag, which is said to have been the place of concealment
of George, second Marquis of Huntly, in the time of Charles I.

Clifford.--I forget his history at this moment.

Author.--He was married, if I remember rightly, in 1609, to the Lady
Anne Campbell, eldest daughter of Archibald, seventh Earl of Argyll;
and he was, therefore, brother-in-law to Archibald, the eighth Earl of
Argyll, who so strenuously exerted himself in the cause of the people
against King Charles I., and who, as you may recollect, was appointed
by the Convention of Estates, 16th April, 1644, commander-in-chief of
the forces raised to suppress the insurrection of his brother-in-law,
this very Marquis of Huntly of whom we are now talking. The Marquis,
you know, rose in arms for the King in the north; but Argyll marching
against him, dispersed the Royalists, and obliged Huntly to fly to
Strathnaver, in Sutherland. Huntly again appeared in arms in 1645,
and refused to lay them down even when commanded by the King, who
was then under the control of the Parliament of 1646. He was exempted
from the pardon granted on the 4th March, 1647, and he was that same
year taken prisoner. I remember the peerage account of him states
that his capture took place in Strathnaver--a blunder occasioned by
the circumstance of his having fled to that district of country upon
the first-mentioned occasion. It was in Strathaven that he was taken,
and the similarity of names assisted in producing the confusion. Before
his capture he lay concealed in Strathaven, or as it is very commonly
called Stradaun, and when more than ordinarily alarmed by an increased
activity in the search for him, he used to come over to hide himself
here for greater security. I think it was an ancestor of the present
Sir Neil Menzies of Castle Menzies who took him, but the legendary
circumstances have escaped me, if I ever knew them.

Grant.--Thus it is that some of our most curious and valuable
traditions are lost.

Clifford.--It is truly provoking that it should be so. As we have
Roxburghe, and Bannatyne, and Maitland Clubs for the preservation
and printing of old writings, would it not be a meritorious thing to
establish a Legend Club, the object of which should be to proceed
systematically throughout every part of the British dominions to
collect and write down all the legendary and traditionary matter
which may yet remain?

Grant.--There is no doubt that an immense mass of materials might
thus be gathered together for the use of the novelist and playwright.

Clifford.--Nay, nay, Grant; but joking apart, I do think that although
the great mass might be rubbishy enough, and, perhaps, much fitter
for the compounder of melodramas than for anything else, croyez moi
on doit cependant trouver des perles, ou plutot des diamants, dans ce
grand fumier. And then when you think that the numerous fitful beams
of light which might proceed from these recovered diamonds should be
concentrated into one focus, it is not very impossible that history
itself might receive some fresh illumination from the flame that
might be kindled.

Author.--Your scheme is amusing enough, and by no means undeserving
of attention; but I conceive that the utility of such a society as you
speak of would very much depend upon the efficiency of its secretary.

Clifford (with an arch look).--Why, no doubt, it would so. And
therefore I should propose to confer that important and distinguished
post upon our new acquaintance, Mr. Macpherson here, seeing that he
is so much given to searching out the truth of such things, and that
he has, moreover, proved himself to be so able a narrator of them
after he has found them out.

Dominie (his eyes glistening with pride and delight as he again
advanced to fill that place in the line of march which he had occupied
during the time we were listening to his tale).--What could be more to
my mind than such an occupation! And yet, sir, seeing that I am already
planted as a teacher of youth in a comfortable house in Caithness,
with a small garden and a cow's grass appended thereto; to all which
there falls to be added a salary, which, though small, yet sufficeth
for my mainteenance, who have no wife or "charge of children," as Lord
Chancellor Bacon hath it, save that of the children of other people,
whence there arises to me not expense but yemolument, it would be
well to know what sum of money by the year might be incoming to the
holder of that secretaryship of which you have spoken; seeing that
prudence bids us be sure that we move not our right foot until our
left be firmly set down.

Clifford.--As to the matter of revenue, I fear there would be more of
honorary dignity than of edible income attached to the situation. I
would, therefore, earnestly advise you, since I now learn that your
lot has already been so pleasantly cast, to hold your right foot
fast in Caithness, where, were the society to go on, you might be
appointed one of its honorary corresponding members.

Dominie.--Thank you, sir, your advice is good. I could by no means
afford to throw away my cow's grass and potato-yard to the dogs, to
say nothing of my salary, without something better. I shall therefore
e'en hold as I am.

Clifford.--What mountain is that which I see rising blue and grand
yonder in the eastern distance?

Grant.--I have now a right to step forward as your cicerone, Clifford,
for this is the country of the great clan to which I belong. Yet I must
confess that I have no great knowledge of its history. I can at least
tell you, however, that the mountain you are inquiring about is Ben
Rinnes, the hill which rises over the ancient house of Ballindalloch,
at the junction of the rivers Avon and Spey. Ballindalloch belongs
to an old family of the Grants.

Dominie.--I could tell you a curious legend about the building of the
Castle of Ballindalloch, were it not deemed presumption in me to tell
of the Grants in presence of so accomplished a member of the clan.

Grant.--Sir, I shall cheerfully trust to you to do justice to the
Grants, and especially to the Grants of Ballindalloch; for since the
Macphersons are now engrafted on the family of that house, I think
you will be disposed to say nothing that may be in anywise to their
disparagement.

Dominie.--God forbid that I should. They have always been kind friends
of mine.

Clifford.--I protest against any more stories till after dinner. I
presume we shall find an inn at Grantown, and I therefore beg leave
to move that all lengthened communications be adjourned until we are
fairly set in to be comfortable for the evening.

Grant.--Agreed. Now, then, follow me in at this gate that opens to our
left here, and through this plantation, and I, as your cicerone here,
shall show you something worth looking at.

We had no sooner burst from the confinement of the trees, than a wide
and extensive and grand prospect opened to us. From the immediate
foreground the eye ran gently down some sloping cultivated inclosures,
till, passing over the widespread woods by which these were surrounded,
it swept with eagle flight across the wide valley of the Spey and the
endless forests of Abernethy, and rested with joy and with a feeling
of freedom on the blue chain of the Cairngorum mountains, rising
huge and vast above these minor dependent hills that were congregated
about their bases. To the left our view was bounded by tall groves of
timber-trees, chiefly beeches, and after penetrating these, the lofty
bulk of Castle Grant presented itself within an hundred yards of us.

Clifford.--I think it will not be considered as any breach of the rule
we have just laid down, if you should give us an outline, in three
words, of the history of this the feudal residence of your chiefs.

Grant.--All I can tell you regarding it is, that it has been the
seat of the chief of our clan ever since the fourteenth century, when
the surrounding lands were taken from the Cumins and bestowed on the
Grants by the Crown. Another large cantle of the ancient possessions
of the Cumins came into the family by the marriage of Sir John Grant
with Matilda or Bigla, the heiress of Gilbert Cumin of Glenchearnich.

Dominie.--True, true, sir, I have a curious story about that. You see,
gentlemen, Gilbert Cumin, whose cognomen was Gibbon More----

Clifford.--You will forgive me for interrupting you, sir, but you
will recollect, that although we allowed Grant to tell us what he knew
about the castle, we have just laid it down as a rule, that we are to
have no more long stories upon empty stomachs. Let us hasten to see
the interior of this chateau, and then to Grantown and to dinner with
what appetite we may. You shall dine with us, and I shall book you
for there giving us Gibbon More, or any More you may be possessed of.

Dominie.--Your pun is most excellent, sir, ha! ha! ha!--your reproof
is most just, and your invitation most kind, and readily accepted. And
as I can be of little use to you here, gentlemen, perhaps I shall
be most benefeecially employed, both for your interest and my own,
by stepping my ways on to Grantown, and looking to the preparation
for your accommodation and entertainment at the inn.

Author.--No, no, sir, we have already secured all that by the gilly
who has preceded us with the pony. We cannot part with you so, your
information may be useful to us.

Clifford.--This huge pile seems to have been built at various periods,
and with no great taste. That tower is the only picturesque part
about it.

Grant.--That is called the Cumin's Tower, and it is perhaps the only
very old fragment of the building. The most modern part is the northern
front, the style of which is quite inappropriate.

Clifford.--Come, let us hasten to discuss the interior; my appetite at
present is sufficiently sharp, yet it is for something more digestible
than granite and mortar.

We hurried through the castle, admired the great hall, some fifty
feet by thirty in size, and were particularly delighted with some of
the old family portraits, which are extremely curious as to costume.

Clifford.--What a fierce old white-bearded fellow that is in the bonnet
and tartan plaid, drawing a pistol as if he was about to shoot us. I
should not like to meet in a wood with such an one as he appears to
have been, unless I met him as a friend.

Dominie.--That is old Robert Grant of Lurg. I can tell you many a story
about him. He was surnamed old Stachcan, or the Stubborn; and--a----

Clifford.--Unless you are determined to deserve that surname, as
well as ever the said Robert Grant did, you had better attempt no
more stories till after dinner, my good friend. And now, methinks,
we have seen enough of these bearded, belted, and bonneted heroes;
and if you have no objections, I think we may as well proceed to
march into quarters for the night.

A walk of little more than a mile brought us to the village of
Grantown, and a period of time something less than a couple of hours
found us all seated, after a very good dinner, round a cheerful fire,
each preparing to light his cigar, and moderately to sip the fluid
that was most agreeable to him.

Clifford (opening his tablets).--Let me see what my book
says. Ha!--Legend of the Raid of Killychrist--Building of
Ballindalloch--Gibbon More--Old Stachcan! The raid comes first--the
raid stops the way,--so drive on with the raid if you please.

Author.--Since you desire it, I shall do so, in order, as you say,
to get it out of the way. But I must tell you that the Raid of
Killychrist does in fact form so small a part of that which I have
to narrate to you, that I might rather call it the Legend of Allan
with the Red Jacket.

Clifford.--Pray call it what you please, but quocunque nomine gaudet,
let us have your legend, if you please, without further loss of time.



LEGEND OF ALLAN WITH THE RED JACKET.


As a prelude to the legend of the Raid of Killychrist, or Christ's
Church, I must condemn you to listen to a considerable portion of the
previous history of the great rival clans of MacDonell and MacKenzie,
which led to that event. A deep-rooted feud had existed for many years
between these two neighbouring Highland nations, as I may well enough
call them. So savage was their mutual hatred, that no opportunity was
lost, upon either side, of manifesting the bitterest hostility towards
each other. They were continually making sudden incursions with fire
and sword into each other's territory,--burning cottages--destroying
crops--driving away cattle--levying contributions on defenceless
tenants--carrying off hostages, and massacring such unfortunate
individuals or straggling parties as might happen to fall in their
way, without always showing much regard to age or sex. It was one
unvarying history of rapine and bloodshed, uninterrupted except at
such times and for such periods when both parties happened to be too
much exhausted to act on the offensive.

It was fortunate for the MacDonells, that about the beginning of the
seventeenth century Donald MacAngus MacDonell of Glengarry, chief
of the clan, had so harried the MacKenzie country in one dreadful
and destructive raid, and had so swept away its wealth and thinned
its people, as to have rendered them comparatively innocuous for a
number of years; for, during the lapse of these, he became so old
and infirm, as to be not only quite unable for any very active or
stirring enterprise, but he would have been unequal to the defence
of his own territories against the inroads of his neighbours. He had
two sons, but neither of them was old enough to relieve him of the
cares and fatigues incidental to the government of such a clan. Angus
the eldest, indeed, although only some fifteen or sixteen years of
age, was extremely bold and impetuous. Like the most forward and
best-grown eaglet of the aerie, he would have often rashly braved,
with unpractised wing, the storms which raged around the cliff where
he was bred, had it not been for the wholesome restraint which the
old man was with difficulty enabled to put upon him, and which he
could hardly enforce, even with the assistance of his nephew, Allan
MacRaonuill MacDonell of Lundy, who being then in the prime of life,
acted as captain or chief leader of the clan Conell.

Allan of Lundy, so called from the loch of that name near Invergarry,
was the pride and darling of the clan, and it was not wonderful that
he should have been so, for he possessed all those qualities which
were likely to endear him to Highlanders in those savage times. He was
remarkable for his great activity of body, for his wonderful agility
in leaping, and his extraordinary swiftness of foot, and endurance
in running. But these were not the qualities which the clansmen most
especially prized in him; for, whilst he was kind to every one who bore
the name of MacDonell, he was ever ready to visit those who were their
enemies with the most ruthless and remorseless vengeance. He delighted
in wearing a splendid jacket of scarlet plush richly embroidered with
gold, and when the day of battle came, the brave MacDonells always
looked to that jacket as to a rallying point, with as much devotion
and confidence as they looked to the banner of the chief himself,
for they were always certain to see it in the front of every charge,
and in the rear of every retreat. It was from this that he acquired
his most distinguished cognomen, that of Allan with the red jacket.

It was not surprising that a youth of a haughty and impetuous temper,
like that of Angus MacDonell, could ill brook the well intended
admonitions which he received from a cousin, upon whose interference
in the affairs of the clan he was taught, by the vile insinuations
of certain sycophantish adherents, to look with a jealousy which
was but an ill requital for all Allan of Lundy's affection towards
him. That affection, though it came from a bosom which was capable
of nursing that fierce and cruel spirit which animates the tiger,
was deep and sincere. It was an affection which had its basis in
gratitude, in love, and in veneration for the old chief, his uncle,
who had been to Allan as a father, and, therefore, it was born with
the birth of the boy Angus. It was an affection which had grown
stronger and stronger every day with the growth of its object, on
the development of whose character the future happiness and glory,
or misery and disgrace, of the clan, must depend. It was an affection,
in short, which nothing could shake, and which even the often unamiable
conduct of Angus towards him could never for one moment chill.

It happened one rainy and tempestuous night, that whilst a party of
clansmen, returning from some distant expedition, were approaching the
gate of Invergarry Castle, they suddenly encountered a tall man wrapped
up in an ample plaid. He started when the MacDonells came upon him.

"Friend or foe?" cried the leader of the party.

"A friend!" coolly replied the other, "unless you are prepared to tell
me that the days are past when a MacIntyre may claim hospitality from
a MacDonell."

"The day can never come when a MacIntyre shall not be welcome to a
MacDonell," replied the other. "Are they not but as a limb of the
goodly pine stock of clan Conell? say, what wouldst thou here?"

"I am a wayfaring man," answered the stranger, "and all I would ask
is shelter and hospitality for an hour or twain, till this tempest
blow by."

"Thou art come in the very nick of time, my friend," said the
MacDonell, "for, hark! the piper has gone to his walk, and he is
already filling his drone as a signal for us to fill our stomachs. The
banquet is serving in the hall, so in, I pray thee, without more delay;
trust me, we are as ready as thou canst be for a morsel of a buck's
haunch, or a flagon of ale."

The old chief of the MacDonells had already occupied his huge
high-backed chair on the dais, at the upper end of the hall, and his
eldest son Angus, and his cousin Allan of Lundy, the captain, and
the other chieftains of the clan, had taken their seats around him,
and the greater part of the places at the board had been filled,
as rank might dictate, down to the very lower end of it, when the
stranger was announced,--

"Give him entrance!" cried the hospitable old chief. "This is a
night when the very demons of the storm seem to have been let loose
to do their worst. No one would drive his enemy's dog to the door in
such a tempest. Were he a MacKenzie we could not see him refused a
shelter from so bitter a blast. A MacIntyre, then, may well claim a
hearty welcome."

The door of the hall was thrown open, and the stranger entered. He
doffed his bonnet, and bowed respectfully to the chief, and to
those assembled, yet his countenance remained partly shrouded by
the upper folds of his plaid, which had been drawn over his head
as a shelter from the fury of the elements, and it now hung down
thence so as entirely to conceal his person. There was enough of him
visible, however, to show that he was a tall, broad-shouldered, and
very athletic man, in the prime of life, with large fair features,
small sharp eyes, overhanging eyebrows, severe expression, and a
profusion of yellow hair and beard that very much assisted in veiling
his face. The retainers who were nearest to him eagerly scrutinised
his plaid, as such persons were naturally enough wont to do; but it
was so soiled with the mud-water of the mosses in which it seemed to
have been rolled, that knowing as some of them were in the tartans
of the different clans, they could not possibly make out the set of
that which he wore. They saw enough, however, to satisfy them that
it was green, and as they knew that to be the prevailing hue of the
tartan of the MacIntyres, they examined no further.

"Friend, thou art welcome!" said the chief; "a MacIntyre is always
welcome to a MacDonell. Take your seat among us as your rank may
warrant, and spare not the viands or liquor with which the board
abounds--Slainte!" and with this hospitable wish of health and welcome,
he emptied the wine cup which he held in his hand.

"Thanks!" said the stranger, bowing his head with an overstrained
politeness; and without more ado he seated himself in a retired
and rather darksome nook, near the lower end of the board, where he
immediately engaged himself deeply, and without any very great nicety
of selection, with such eatables and drinkables as came within his
reach, so that he speedily ceased to be any further interruption
to the conversation which had been begun at the head of the table,
to which everyone had been most attentively listening when he came in.

"What sort of hunting had you to-day, Angus?" said Allan of Lundy.

"I brought down a royal stag," replied Angus, with an air of sullen
dignity.

"That was well," replied Allan of Lundy; "it was as much as I did."

"And why should I not do as much as you, cousin?" demanded Angus
somewhat peevishly.

"When you come to your strength, Angus, you may perhaps do more,"
replied Allan.

"My body," said Angus haughtily, "aye, and my mind, too, are strong
enough for everything that a chief of Glengarry may be called upon to
perform. And now I think on't, father," continued he, turning towards
the chief, "I grow tired of this wretched mimicry of war which I
have so long waged against the deer of our hills. I would fain hunt
for bolder game. It is time for me to be hunting the Cabar Fiadh
[1] of the MacKenzies! Why should our ancient enmity against them
have slept so long? We seem to have forgotten the disgrace of that
ignominious day, never to be washed out but in rivers of MacKenzie
blood, when fifty galleys of our clan fled from before the Castle of
Eilean Donan, defended as it was by no other garrison than Gillichrist
MacCraw and his son Duncan alone, when a single arrow from the boy's
quiver pierced our chief, and dispersed his formidable armament. Let
us hasten to wipe away so foul a disgrace."

The speech of the young chief of Glengarry had been repeatedly cheered
during the time he was speaking; and he finished amidst vociferous
applause. The stranger in the green plaid halted in his meal to bend
an anxious attention to everything he uttered.

"Angus," said the old chief, "you have spoken unadvisedly, boy. These
are subjects fitter for the private chamber of council than for the
festive board. You, moreover, seem to have forgotten that the quiet
which the MacKenzies are forced to keep, is owing to some successful
enterprises of my own, from the humbling effects of which they have
not even yet recovered."

"If that be the case, father," cried Angus energetically, "let us
keep them down when we have them down! Let me finish what you so nobly
began. Promise me that you will grant me to lead a raid against these
stags-heads. Promise me, dear father!"

"A raid! a raid led by the young chief!" cried the vassals, starting
up from the table as one man with enthusiastic shouts.

"Aye," said Angus, "and the young chief shall not go unattended. Every
warrior of the name of MacDonell, nay, every marching man who can
trace one drop of his blood to the clan Conell, shall share in the
glory to be gathered in the first raid of Angus MacDonell against
the MacKenzies!"

"All shall go! all shall go!" cried the clansmen who were present.

"Aye, all shall go!" cried the young chief, warming more and more
with the applause he was receiving. "And here, as a good omen of our
success, here have we this night a MacIntyre among us. You, sir,"
continued he, addressing himself to the stranger in the green plaid,
"you shall bear a message from me to your chieftain. Tell him to whom
you owe service, that the tenth day of the new moon shall be the day
of our gathering. It is long since our war-cry of Craggan-an-Fhithick
has rung in a MacKenzie's ear!"

"Craggan-an-Fhithick!" shouted the clansmen.

"Tell him to whom you owe service, that Craggan-an-Fhithick shall
once more rend the air," said Angus; "and that the young chief of
Glengarry shall lead a raid against the MacKenzies, of the fame of
which senachies and bards shall have to speak for ages to come."

"I shall surely bear your message to him to whom I owe service,"
said the man in the green plaid, after rising slowly, and making a
dignified but respectful bow. And then putting on his bonnet, and
gathering his plaid tightly about him, he paced solemnly and silently
out of the hall, and departed.

"Methinks you have been somewhat rash and hasty in this matter,
Angus," said the chief, with a cloud on his brow. "I have as yet
given no consent. What think you of this affair, Allan of Lundy?"

"Much as I am wearying to wreak my vengeance on the MacKenzies,"
replied Allan of Lundy, "I do think that my young cousin has been
somewhat precipitate in this matter. A year or two more over his head
would have confirmed his strength, and made him fitter for enduring
the fatigue of such an enterprise. He is too young and unripe as yet
to be gathered by death in the bloody harvest of the battlefield. The
loss of one of so great promise would be a severe blow to our clan."

"The loss of me, indeed?" cried Angus, with a lip full of a contempt
which it had never before borne towards Allan of Lundy, and which
Allan of Lundy could not believe had any reference to him. "If you
did lose me you would only thereby be the nearer to my father's seat."

"Speak not so, Angus!" said Allan with a depth of feeling to which
he was but little accustomed. "Speak not so, even in jest."

"Come then, MacDonells," cried Angus again, "let our gathering be
for the tenth day of the new moon, and let the dastard MacKenzies
once more quail before our triumphant war-cry of Craggan-an-Fhithick!"

"Craggan-an-Fhithick!" re-echoed the clansmen, with a shout that
might have rent the rafters; and deep pledges instantly went round
to the success of the expedition.

At this moment Ronald MacDonald, the chief's younger son, a shrewd
boy of some eight or ten years of age, entered the hall,--

"What has become of the stranger in the green plaid?" cried he eagerly.

"He is gone," answered several voices at once.

"Then was he a foul and traitorous spy," said the boy. "When my brother
was speaking about the raid, I perceived that he was devouring every
word he was uttering. His grey eye showed no friendly sympathy. I
resolved to watch him, and the more I did so, the more were my
suspicions strengthened. I was struck with the dirty state of his
plaid. As it was green it might have been MacIntyre. But to make sure
of this I borrowed old nurse's shears, and whilst he was intent on
what Angus was saying, I contrived to get near to him unperceived;
and I clipped away this fragment, which nurse has since washed--and
see!" said he, holding it up to the light of a lamp that all might
have a view of it. "See! it has the alternate white and red sprainge
of a base and double-faced MacKenzie!"

"MacKenzie, indeed, by all that is good!" cried the old chief. "Out
after him, and take him alive or dead!"

"Fly!--after him!--out! out!--let us scour the country!--haste,
haste!--out, out!" were the impatient cries that burst from every one
in the hall, and in an instant there was a rushing, and a running, and
a mounting in haste, and a flying off in all directions. Shouts came
from different quarters without the castle walls; and by and by all
was silence, for those who had gone in various ways after the fugitive
were already out of hearing; and after a night of fruitless toil, they
returned in wet and draggled parties of two and three, each expecting
to hear those accounts of success from others which they themselves
had it not in their power to give, and all were equally disappointed.

It now suits my narrative best to leave the Castle of Invergarry for
a while, in order to notice what passed some little time afterwards
in that of Eilean Donan, where Kenneth MacKenzie, Lord Kintail,
was seated in his lady's apartment trifling away the hours. A page
entered in haste.

"My lord," said he, "Hector Mackenzie of Beauly is here, and would
fain have an audience."

"Hector of Beauly!" exclaimed Lord Kintail, "what, I wonder, can
he want? With your leave, my lady, let him be admitted. Hector,"
continued his lordship as his clansman entered, "where have you come
from, you look famished and jaded?"

"'Tis little wonder if I do, my lord," said Hector, "for the last
meal of meat that I ate, and though good enough of its kind, it was
but a short one, was in the Castle of Invergarry."

"The Castle of Invergarry!" cried his lordship in astonishment.

"Aye, in the Castle of Invergarry, my lord," continued Hector; "and
if my meal there was short, I have had a long enough walk after it
to help me to digest what I ate."

"Are you in your right mind, Hector?" demanded his lordship. "Quick,
explain yourself."

"I cannot say that I altogether intended to honour the Glengarry
chief's board with my presence," said Hector, drawing himself up; "but
having some trifling occasion of my own to pass through the Glengarry
country, I rolled my plaid in a moss-hole, and took the wildest way
over the hills; and thinking that I might pass unnoticed amidst the
darkness and howling of a most tempestuous night, I ventured so near
to the castle, that before I knew where I was, a band of MacDonells
were suddenly upon me. Seeing that there was nothing else for it but
to brave the danger, I had presence of mind enough to pass myself
for a MacIntyre, was invited into the castle, sat at the same table,
and feasted with the old raven and his vassals, and heard that young
half-fledged corby Angus MacDonell plan and arrange a raid of the
whole clan Conell and its dependent families against the MacKenzie
country. Taking me for a MacIntyre, he told me to bear his message to
him to whom I owed service. To give obedience to his will, therefore,
I have travelled without stop or stay, or meat or drink, save what I
took from the running brooks by the way, in order that I may now tell
you, my lord, to whom I owe service as my chief, that the MacDonells'
gathering is to be for the tenth day of the moon, when their fire
and sword will run remorseless through our land."

"Hector, you are a brave man," said Lord Kintail, "you shall be
rewarded for this. Meanwhile hasten to procure some refreshment and
repose; for assuredly you must sorely need both."

I presume that it is scarcely necessary for me to tell you that Lord
Kintail and his lady had a speedy and very anxious consultation
together. She was a woman of very superior talents, of quick
perception, and equally ready in devising expedients as prompt in
carrying them into execution. It was at once agreed between them,
that this was too serious and impending a danger to admit of delay in
preparing to resist it. Feeling, as they did, that the clan had not
yet altogether gathered its strength since the last sweeping raid which
old Donald MacAngus, chief of the clan Conell, had committed on their
territories, both saw the necessity of losing no time in procuring all
the foreign aid they could obtain. It was therefore agreed between them
as the best precaution that could be taken, that Lord Kintail should
forthwith set out for Mull to procure auxiliary troops from his friend
and kinsman MacLean. Preparations were instantly made accordingly in
perfect secrecy for his departure; and in the course of little more
than an hour after the communication of Hector's intelligence, his
lordship's galley stood out of Loch Duich and through the Kyles of
Skye, and left the straits with as fair a north-eastern breeze as if
he had bought it from some witch for the very purpose of wafting him
to Mull. But secrets are difficult to keep; for notwithstanding the
privacy of all these arrangements, not only Lord Kintail's destination,
but the cause and object of his voyage, was known. Had the discovery
been traced, perhaps it might have been found to have originated with
my lady's woman, from whom it gradually spread, until it was quickly
whispered, with every proper and prudential caution as to silence,
into every ear in the Castle of Eilean Donan, whence it spread like
wildfire over the whole district.

The MacDonells, too, could have their scouts as well as the
MacKenzies. When the hubbub occasioned by the hurried and hopeless
chase after the false MacIntyre had subsided, a patient, painstaking,
and most sagacious Highlander set off to try what he could make of it;
and having once found a trace of the track the MacKenzie had taken,
he never lost sight of it again, until he had followed him so far
into the enemy's territories, that he had to thank a most ingenious
disguise which he wore for saving his neck from being brought into
speedy acquaintance with the gallows-tree of Eilean Donan. This man
returned immediately to Invergarry with the intelligence that the
projected raid of the MacDonells was as well known in Kintail as it
was in Glengarry, and that Lord Kintail himself had gone to Mull to
procure the powerful aid of his cousin MacLean.

Young Angus of Glengarry was furious when he found that all his
schemes, so well laid as he thought they had been, for establishing
his own glory and that of the clan, had been thus baffled.

"If that yellow-bearded buck's-head shall ever chance to cross my
path again," said he, "young as my arm is, he shall have a trial of
my sword."

"Thy spirit is good, boy," said Allan of Lundy; "'tis like that of
your father and your grandfather before you. But it will be wise
in you to check its rashness until your sinews are better able to
back it up. That same Hector MacKenzie whom we saw here among us,
is moulded for some other sort of work than to give and take gentle
buffets with a boy."

"Thank thee, kind kinsman, for thy care of me," replied Angus, in
anything but an agreeable tone.

"'Tis true what Allan says," observed the old chief. "I rejoice in thy
spirit, boy; it recalls to me mine own early days. But for the sake
of the clan Conell, to whom your life is precious, and," added he,
with a voice that age, or perhaps some strong feeling operating upon
age, made falter, "and for the sake of your old father, who doats
upon you, for the sake of your sainted mother, let me not have to
mourn over the too early fate of her first-born!"

"I shall not be rash, I shall be prudent, father," replied Angus,
considerably touched by the old man's appeal. "But why should we
not hasten to strike some blow ere their succours shall have time
to arrive?"

"There is something in that," said Allan of Lundy. "And since my young
cousin so burns to flesh his maiden sword, there can be no safer
way of his doing so, or with the certainty of a more easy victory,
than by making a sudden attack on the shores of Loch Carron."

"Safety! easy victory!" muttered the young chief, with an expression
of offended dignity and ineffable contempt. "But 'tis well," added he,
too much filled with joy at having any enterprise at all in prospect,
to allow any other feeling to occupy his mind for a moment; "let us
not lose time in talk. If we are to move with the hope of a surprise,
it were fitting that not one moment be lost. Let all within reach be
speedily summoned. By to-morrow's dawn we must march to Loch Hourn,
where our galleys are lying. Said I not well now, father?"

"Let it be so then, my son," said the chief, with a sigh which he
could not check; "and oh! may all that is good attend and guard you!"

The sun rose with unclouded splendour over the mountains to the
eastward of Loch Carron, and poured out a stream of golden radiance
over the surface of its waters, which were gently lifted into tiny
waves by a western breeze. The whole of this Highland scene was glowing
and smiling. The early smoke was tinged with brighter tints of orange,
blue, and yellow, as it curled upwards from the humble chimneys of
the cottages which were scattered singly or in small groups among
irregular shreds of cultivation, that brightened the strip of land
bordering the shore. The whole happy population was astir, and little
boats were pushing forth from every creek amidst the sparkling waves,
their crews eagerly engaged in preparing their nets and lines for
fishing. Already had some of the old men taken their seats on their
accustomed bench, to inhale the fresh breath of life from the pure
morning air, and to look listlessly out to sea, that they might idly
speculate on the wind and the weather. It was hardly possible that
eye could have looked upon a more peaceful scene.

Suddenly some two or three boats, which had gone down the little
frith during the night, for the purpose of reaching a more distant
fishing ground by the early dawn, were seen returning with all sail,
and toiling with every oar. Curiosity first, and then alarm, brought
out the inhabitants from the interior of their lowly abodes. The
nearer fishing-boats drew their lines and half-spread nets hastily in,
and there was one general rush, each individual crew making towards
that point of the shore which was nearest, without any regard to the
consideration whether it was the point most adjacent to their home or
not. By this time all eyes were straining seaward, to discover what
it was that created all this panic, when, one after another, there
came sailing round the distant point, galley after galley, till a
considerable fleet of them had appeared, their white sails filled with
the favouring breeze, and shining with a borrowed lustre from the rich
stream of light that poured aslant upon them from the newly-risen sun.

What a scene of dismay and confusion now arose! Clamorous
discussions began among the timid spectators,--all action seemed
to be paralysed. None appeared to think of arming, where the force
of the armament that was advancing was manifestly so resistlessly
overwhelming. There were but few who had any doubts as to what clan
it might probably belong; and these doubts were speedily removed
as the fleet came on, by the appearance of the displayed red eagle,
with the black galley that formed the bearings on the broad banner
of Glengarry, together with the crest of the raven on the rock,
with the appalling motto of Craggan-an-Fhithick.

And now a bugle was heard to blow shrilly from the leading vessel,
and in an instant the several galleys darted off from one centre
towards different parts of the loch; and the defenceless inhabitants
of the hamlets and cottages might be seen abandoning their dwellings
and flying inland. And no sooner did the prow of each vessel touch
the bottom, than the armed men which it contained were seen rushing
breast-deep through the tide towards the shore, the broadswords
in their hands flashing in the morning light. One band was led by
the brave young chief of Glengarry, shouting his war-cry, with the
faithful and affectionate Allan of Lundy by his side, intent on little
else but to protect his precious charge from harm.

There were but few men of the MacKenzies there to make a stand,
and those who tried to do so were scattered, overpowered, and
cut down. Wild were the shrieks that arose, as the miserable and
comparatively defenceless people, leaving their wretched houses and
boats to destruction, and their effects and cattle to be plundered,
fled away towards the mountains. The impatient Angus no sooner
reached the dry land, than he rushed impetuously after the flying
MacKenzies,--and soon indeed did he overtake the rearward; but it
was composed of the women, the aged, and the young, and these he
passed by and left unharmed behind him to press on after those who
might be more worthy of his sword. On he hurried for miles after the
fugitives, calling on them from time to time to halt and yield to
him but one fighting man as an opponent. But his appeal was in vain;
and tired, and disappointed, and chagrined, he stopped to breathe,
and he gnashed his teeth in a disappointment which even the friendly
counsels of Allan of Lundy could not allay.

"I'll warrant I could soon catch those caitiffs who are disappearing
so swiftly over the hill-top yonder," said he; "but I care less to-day
about taking the life of a MacKenzie or two, than I do about keeping
the MacKenzies from taking thine."

"Thank ye, cousin," replied Angus, his mortification by no means
moderated by this well-meant speech. "I hope this arm will defend
the citadel of my life's blood from all harm without other aid."

As Angus returned slowly towards the shore, he was somewhat shocked
to discover that some of his followers had been less scrupulous in the
use of their swords than he had been; and he met with spectacles which
informed him of deeds of atrocity and of blood wantonly perpetrated. He
beheld those cottages in flames which were lately smoking in peace;
and his heart smote him that he was now too late to prevent that
carnage in which the grey hairs of the old were blended in one common
slaughter with the fair locks of the young and helpless.

There was no glorious triumph or splendid achievement to gild the
horrors of this day, or to stifle that disgust which they naturally
excited in a young man even of those times. Little pride or pleasure
had he in the miserable articles of plunder which he saw his ruthless
clansmen bearing off with blood-stained hands to their galleys; and
he sat him down with Allan of Lundy, in a faint and feverish state
of disquietude of mind, on one of those patriarchal benches which had
been so lately and so placidly occupied by some of those elders of the
hamlet whose lips were now cold, and whose hearts had now ceased to
beat. I need not tell how long the young chief was compelled to tarry
there, in the endurance of thoughts that bid defiance to all repose
of mind, until he beheld the various bands of skirmishers return
each to its own vessel, after having spread ravage and devastation,
and fire and sword and murder, far and wide around that which was
lately so happy a district.

It happened that the Lady Kintail had gone on the battlements of
her Castle of Eilean Donan, in order to enjoy the fresh air and the
beautiful scenery of those twin sea-lochs which branch off from one
another at the spot near to which that rocky island lies which gives
name to the building that stands upon it, when, as she cast her eyes
northward, she beheld a scattered crowd of people rushing down towards
the point which creates the narrow ferry of Loch Ling. Some boats were
moored there, and as she saw them hastily loose and put to sea to cross
over to the castle, her anxiety to know what news they bore became so
great, that she hurried down to the little cove where the landing-place
was, that she might the sooner gain the intelligence they brought.

"The MacDonells!" cried these scared and unhappy people. "The
MacDonells are upon us, lady! They have burnt and harried all Loch
Carron! and, och hone! we are ruined men!"

"Och aye, my lady! och hone! we're all harried, and murdered, and
burned!" cried some half a dozen of them at once.

"Answer me like rational men," said the Lady Kintail impatiently,
"and do not rout and roar like a parcel of stray beeves. How is
't say ye? the MacDonells!"

And then proceeding to question them, she, by degrees, gathered from
them that which had at least some resemblance to a true statement of
what had happened.

The lady was nothing daunted by all she heard. Her first step was
to despatch certain trustworthy scouts to reconnoitre, and to bring
her accurate information how matters stood; and then she retired
to hold counsel with some of those leaders among her clansmen in
whom she had most confidence. With their advice and assistance every
precaution was immediately taken to secure the safety of the castle,
as well as to receive into it such a garrison and stock of provisions
as might enable her to hold it out until her husband's return, against
whatever force might be brought to attack it; and her heroic heart beat
so high with the resolute determination of resistance, that she felt
something like a pang of disappointment when her scouts returned with
intelligence that taught her to believe she had no reason to expect any
assault. One of her people, who was no other than Hector of Beauly,
brought back the most perfect information regarding the motions of
the enemy. They were already glutted with slaughter, cumbered with
spoil, and, in a great measure, sickened of their enterprise; and,
from the top of a hill, he had seen their galleys weighing to stand
out of Loch Carron.

"They are tired of their raid for this time," said the lady with
bitterness. "It has been undertaken, I'll warrant, but as a first
fleshing for that young corby of an evil nest,--that Angus MacDonell;
and his young beak having been once blooded by this mighty exploit
done against women, old men, and children, he will be carried home
to croak his triumph to his dotard old sire, and then he will be
mewed up in safety till his wings grow long enough to admit of his
flying in earnest. Would I had a good man or two who would deliver
him a message from me, as he passes homewards through the Kyle Rhea
in his dastard flight to Loch Hourn."

Now, as we have no map here, I must remind you that there are three
sea-lochs on that part of the coast of Scotland, all of which debouche
into the western sea. Of these Loch Carron is the most northerly,
and Loch Hourn the most southerly, and that Loch Duich, which lies
between both, opens through the expansion at its mouth, which is
called Loch Alsh, into the narrow strait between the Isle of Skye
and the mainland, which is called the Kyle Rhea.

"Would I had a good man or two who would deliver a message from me to
that young chough Angus MacDonell as he passes through the Kyle Rhea,"
repeated the lady.

"That most willingly will I, most noble lady," cried Hector of
Beauly. "Have I not carried one message from the young Glengarry to
my lord, and shall I not claim the honour of carrying that which the
Lady Kintail has to send to the young Glengarry?"

"Thanks, gallant Hector!" replied the lady. "Then shalt thou speak
it from the mouth of a cannon! Trust me thou shalt make him hear on
the deafest side of his head."

Then calling him aside, she quickly explained to him the scheme she
had conceived; and desiring him to select the individuals whom he
should most wish to have in his party, and to choose the boat which
he considered best fitted for such an expedition, she ordered two
small cannon to be put on board, together with sufficient ammunition
for their use; and as no time was to be lost, he and his brave and
well-armed companions leaped immediately into the little craft, and
pushed off. They pulled with all their strength, and with the utmost
expedition, down through Loch Alsh to that isolated rock called the
Cailleach, which lies close off the eastern angle of the Isle of Skye,
and near to the northern entrance of the narrow strait of the Kyle
Rhea. There they secretly ensconced themselves to await the return
of the MacDonells.

The night fell cold and calm, and the moon arose clear and bright,
illuminating every part of these narrow seas, and every headland
and rock that projected into them from either shore. It was in the
latter part of the year, and by slow degrees some fleecy clouds
arose from the horizon, and, after spreading themselves like a film
of gauze over the expanse of heaven, they thickened in parts into
denser masses, whence, as they passed overhead, some small, thin,
and light particles of snow began to fall gently and rarely, such
as the sky usually sends down as its first wintry offering to the
earth. This was enough to complete the concealment of the party,
hid as they were beneath the shadowy side of the rock, without much
obscuring the surface of the sea elsewhere. There then they lay,
with everything prepared, waiting impatiently for their prey.

At length a distant sound of oars was heard, for there was not a
breath of air in these land-locked seas to render a sail available;
and the breaking of the billows on the shore, though hoarse, was
neither so loud nor so frequent as to disturb the listeners. All ears,
and all eyes, too, were on the stretch. The measured sound of the oars
grew stronger, keeping time to a low murmuring chant which proceeded
from those who pulled them, more for the purpose of preserving the
regularity of the stroke than for any music that they might have
made. By and by a galley appeared, dimly seen at some distance, and,
as it drew nearer, it was at once known to be that which contained
young Angus MacDonell from the broad banner that floated over it,
though there was not light enough to descry the bearings of Glengarry.

"Now, my gallant cannoniers," said Hector to those who had the
charge of the small pieces of artillery, "be prepared. Remember,
when I give the word, you go first, Ian, and then you are to follow,
Hamish, in about as much time as you might easily count ten without
hurrying yourself. But fail not to attend to my word. In the meanwhile,
see that you level well."

On came the young chief's galley. It approached the rock with a
course which pointed to pass it clear at some fathoms distance to
the eastward of it. But whilst it was yet in progress towards it,
Hector, with great expedition and adroitness, pointed his first piece,
and watched his time; and his fatal

"Now!" resounded over the surface of the deep.

Ere yet the lint-stock had been applied to the touch-hole, the galley
was seen to quiver. Every motion of it indicated the alarm that
had already been struck into its crew and helmsman by this ominous
word. But the boom! of the first gun followed with the quickness of
lightning; and the accuracy of the shot was told by the crashing of
the balls with which it had been crammed upon the timbers of the hull
and upper works, as well as by the cursing and confusion of the people
on board, the groans and plaints of the wounded, and the swerving of
the galley from its course.

"That has done some small work, I'll warrant," said Hector, as he
stooped to point the second piece. "Are you ready, Hamish? Now!"

And boom! went the second gun with yet more decided effects. In the
panic produced by this shot the helm was left to itself, the oars
were abandoned, the galley swung round with the tide, and in a few
seconds it was driven full upon the rock.

"Angus of Glengarry!" cried a voice like thunder. "I, Hector MacKenzie,
bore thy message to him to whom I owe service, and I have now brought
thee the answer!"

Singling out the young chief, and springing upon him like a tiger,
he stabbed him to the heart with a left-handed blow of his dirk, ere
the unhappy youth had recovered his footing from the shock which the
little vessel received on the rock. The next moment saw his corpse
floating on the waves.

But Hector's broadsword was instantly needed to defend his own
head. Desperate was the conflict which Allan of Lundy maintained with
this hero of the MacKenzies. There was something awful in the wild
yells of the combatants, the clashing of their claymores, the groans
of the dying, and the choking and gasping of the drowning. The very
sea-birds, which had been roused in clouds by the flash and roar of
the two cannon shots, and which had soared about for some moments,
screaming in affright at this rude and unwonted intrusion upon their
solitary slumbers, now winged themselves in terror away. The crew of
the galley were in a few seconds overpowered from the vantage ground
possessed by the assailants, as well as by the sudden nature of the
assault itself; and the slaughter was dreadful. The fearless Allan
of Lundy fought furiously hand to hand with Hector, backed as the
MacKenzie champion was by those who came to aid him after putting
their own opponents to death. Terrific were the blows he dealt around
him, and murderous were the wounds inflicted by the broad blade of
his sweeping sword. But the number of those who were thus opposed to
him individually went on increasing as his people fell around him,
until all were gone; and he saw that he must be overwhelmed and taken
if he should any longer attempt to continue his resistance. At once
he took his resolution, and bounding boldly into the air, he dived
into the bosom of the sea, leaving his astonished enemies filled with
doubt and suspense as to his fate.

"He's food for the fishes like the rest of them," said some of the
MacKenzies.

"The foul fiend catch him but yonder he goes!" cried one of them,
as he saw him rise to the surface at some distance from the rock.

"To your oars, men of Kintail!" cried Hector, "to your oars, I say,
and let him not escape!"

Meanwhile, stoutly did Allan of Lundy breast the tide, and so great
was the confusion that prevailed among the Kintail men, that ere they
could push off the boat, man the oars, and make her start ahead, the
powerful swimmer had made considerable way against the billows. Soon,
however, would they have diminished the distance he had gained, and
soon would he have been the prey of those who thirsted so eagerly
for his life, had not the other galleys at that moment appeared;
their prows bearing gallantly onwards with the favouring tide, making
the sea foam and hiss again with the sweep of their numerous oars,
and the rapid rush of their course. In an instant the Kintail boat
altered the direction of her head, and shot away off in an easterly
direction; her rowers bending to their work like men who were anxious
to escape from a pursuing danger. Allan with the red jacket was easily
recognised amid the waves; but ere they could get him into the galley
that first came up, the boat of the MacKenzies was already lost
to their eyes in the gloom that brooded over the more distant part
of the straits. Hopeless of overtaking her, the MacDonells, after
bewailing the calamity that had befallen them, and looking for some
time in vain for the remains of their young leader, pursued their
sad and darksome voyage, with the pipes playing a wailing lament,
until they reached Loch Hourn, whence most of them were to prosecute
their melancholy march back to Invergarry Castle.

The lady of Kintail was no sooner informed of the success of her
enterprise, than she despatched a quick-sailing boat to the island
of Mull to bear the news to her lord. This boat was observed to
pass southwards by the MacDonells, as they were lying by for a short
repose. The object of its voyage was quickly guessed at, but Allan
of Lundy judged it unwise to interrupt it.

"It is toiling to work out our revenge," said he to his people. "It
goes to invite the lord of Kintail homewards. See that ye who are to
tarry here keep a lively watch for him, and so shall his blood pay
for that of our lamented young chief. Would that I could have remained
to have wreaked my vengeance on his head! But I have other duties to
perform,--I must go to soothe a bereaved father's sorrow. Alas! how
shall I break the news of this sad affliction to the old man!"

I need hardly tell you that the old chief of the MacDonells remained
in a state of extreme mental anxiety after the departure of Angus with
the expedition. He felt that not only the honour of the clan, but the
honour and the life of his son, were at stake. He was restless and
unhappy; yea, he cursed himself and his feeble limbs because he had
not been able to go, as he was once wont to do, at the head of his
people. Twenty times in the course of every hour did he fancy that
he heard the triumphant clangour of the pipes played to his son's
homeward march, and as often was he disappointed. At last something
like their shrill music at a distance did strike upon his ear.

"Hah!" cried he with an excited countenance, "heard ye that?--my boy
comes at last. Heard ye not the sound? Though I be old, yet is mine
ear sharp when it watches for the coming of my gallant boy! Help
me to the barbican, that I may behold him! Well do I remember the
time when I first came back in triumph! It was on that memorable
occasion when----Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed he after a pause,
occasioned by the unexpected appearance at that moment of Allan of
Lundy, who had come on before the rest, and who now entered the hall
with downcast and sorrowful looks, and with his arms folded across
his bosom. "Merciful Heaven! Speak Allan! Tell me why look ye so
sad? Where is my Angus? Where is my boy?"

"Alas! alas!" said Allan of Lundy, "I cannot--cannot tell thee that
it is well with him."

"What!--wounded?" cried the old chief; "so was I in my first field. He
must look for such fate as fell to the lot of those who have lived
before him."

"Alas! alas!" cried Allan of Lundy, weeping at the old man's words,
"Alas! his fate has indeed come too soon!"

"Hush!" said the old chief, suddenly starting and stretching
his ear to listen. "What strains are these the bagpipes are
playing?--a coronach! Ah! then am I a bereft father! Oh! my
boy!--bereft!--bereft!--bereft!" and, springing convulsively from his
chair, he smote his breast violently, his head turned round to one
side, his neck suddenly stiffened, his eyes rolled fearfully, and then
protruding themselves from their sockets, they became horribly fixed
and glazed, his breath rattled in his throat, and sinking back into his
chair, he had died before Allan of Lundy could rush forward to his aid.

Now indeed did the coronach raise its wild lament on the pipes, the
women mixing with it their wailings, and the men their groans. It
was for their old chief--their ancient strength, Donald MacAngus
MacDonell, and for the young and promising flower of their hopes,
Angus, the eldest son and heir of Donald. The days of mourning,
though not long, were sad, and the funeral obsequies of the chief
were performed with all the solemnity, and pageantry, and ceremonial
that were due to them, whilst those of his son were denied to them
by the unhappy nature of his death.

The council of the clan had already determined that Allan of Lundy
should govern for the young Ronald, who being in boyhood was deemed
quite unfit for so weighty and important a charge. The experienced
warrior assumed the important trust with his usual boldness and
confidence, though altogether overpowered by that honest and unfeigned
grief which oppressed his heart for the loss of those relatives whom
he had so long held dear. But his warlike and revengeful spirit was not
long suffered to remain so clouded, for he had hardly been installed in
the situation, to which the universal suffrages of the clan had raised
him, when a breathless messenger from Loch Hourn entered the hall.

"What news?" cried Allan impatiently--"say, has the young blood of
our lamented Angus been avenged? Has the red tide from Kintail's
heart been mingled with the angry currents of the narrow seas?"

"Alas, no!" replied the messenger, "no such good fortune has attended
us!"

"How then?" demanded Allan, "methinks that if your leader had but
followed the simple guidance which I gave him ere we parted, our
grief might have been now somewhat assuaged by the thought that we
had made that woman a widow who hath caused our woe, and that clan
mourners who were rejoicing over the grief which they have wrought
to us. But speak quickly, what hath happened?"

"Your counsel was strictly followed," replied the messenger. "Our
fleet of boats were all ready to be launched, and our men were lying
prepared to embark at the first signal. Whilst all were on the watch,
a galley appeared in sight, and we began to hurry on board. Suddenly
we perceived that she was steering directly for the island where we
lay, and we all went on shore again in the belief that she was the
vessel with those friends we looked for from Ardnamurchan."

"Quick, quick! what then?" cried Allan of Lundy.

"On she came with her prow direct towards the port," replied the
messenger, "and she continued to keep it so till she came within hail
of the very entrance of it. Then the pipes played up Cabar Fiadh, and,
ere she tacked to bear away again with all her oars out and hoisting
her canvas to the uttermost, a hoarse voice came thundering from on
board,--'The Lord Kintail here sends you his greeting by the hands
of his captain, the captain of Cairnburgmore;' and in the same moment
they poured out so murderous a storm of bullets from their falconets
upon us who were then actively launching our boats to be after her,
that many of our men were killed and wounded. The confusion among
us was great, and she escaped to so great a distance before we were
ready to pursue, that all pursuit became vain."

"Curses be on her and on her crew!" cried Allan of Lundy, gnashing his
teeth in bitterness; "it seems as if some fiend helped them! Curses be
on Cairnburgmore! and curses be on the freight his galley carried! But
I will be revenged on these MacKenzies! Here I swear," continued he,
drawing his sword and striking it against the banner of the MacDonell
that was then floating at the upper end of the hall. "Here do I
solemnly swear to make so terrible a reprisal on the MacKenzies,
that men's flesh shall creep upon their bones as they listen to the
tale of it; and yet shall it be but as an earnest of what I shall
inflict on that accursed clan for the grief and sorrow they have so
lately wrought us!"

These then, gentlemen, were the circumstances that preceded and gave
birth to the celebrated Raid of Killychrist, and after so long a
preliminary history, I shall now hasten to give you the particulars
of that horrible piece of atrocity.

It was Saturday, and the most active preparations were instantly
ordered by Allan of Lundy to be made for a night-march. He had heard
that there was to be a numerous gathering of the MacKenzies next day
in the church of Killychrist, or Christ's Church, a short mile or
two above the little town and priory of Beauly. Putting himself at
the head of a determined band of followers therefore, he took his way
across the mountains with inconceivable expedition, so that he found
himself, early on the Sunday morning, in the heart of the MacKenzie
country, and crossing the river Beauly, he was soon at the church of
Killychrist, and he surrounded it with his MacDonells before any of
his miserable victims were in the least aware of his presence.

The church was filled with all ranks of the clan, but there was a
great proportion of the higher class among them. Psalms were singing,
and all within the sacred building were absorbed in that attention
or abstraction which attends real or pretended devotion.

Suddenly the doors were taken possession of by the armed MacDonells,
with the grim and unrelenting Allan of Lundy at their head. In an
instant the nasal chant of the psalmody was drowned by the screams
of the timid, who already saw nothing but death before them, and
by the exclamations of those who sought to make resistance, and to
fight their way through their foes. But utterly impervious were the
serried spear points that bristled through the low-arched doorways,
as well as through every narrow lancet window of the holy fane; and
stern and resolute, and utterly devoid of feeling, were the war-scarred
countenances of those whose ferocious eyes glared in upon them.

All was now panic and confusion among the MacKenzies, who filled the
area of the church, where individuals crowded and jostled so against
each other, that few could draw a dirk, much less a claymore from
its sheath. Meanwhile shouts were heard without, and immediately
afterwards those of the MacDonells who kept the doors and windows
gave way for one single instant; but it was only to admit of the
approach of a number of their comrades, who speedily threw in heaps
of blazing faggots together with stifling balls of rosin and sulphur,
and other combustibles. In an instant the ancient carved screens and
other woodwork of the interior were ignited, and the very clothes
of the unfortunate people caught fire; and still heaps upon heaps
of inflammable materials were hurled incessantly inwards, until all
within was in one universal blaze.

"They have light enow within I trow,--they lack not light from
without," cried the remorseless Allan of Lundy; "shut and fasten the
doors and windows, and block them up with sods."

His orders were speedily obeyed, and those within were now left to
their agonising fate; but well I ween that the fancy of no one can
imagine what were the horrors conveyed in those sounds that came half
stifled from within the walls of that church. Even to Allan of Lundy
they became utterly intolerable.

"Alister Dhu!" cried he to the piper, "play up, man!--up with your
hoarse melody, and drown these sounds of torture and death that fill
our ears, as if we had been suddenly transported to the regions of
hell. Play up, I tell you!"

The piper instantly obeyed his command, and blew up loud and
shrill; and, after having made his instrument give utterance to a
long succession of wild and unconnected notes, altogether without
any apparent meaning, he began his march around the walls of the
church, playing extemporaneously that pibroch which, under the name of
Killychrist, has ever since been used as the Pibroch of Glengarry. For
a brief space of time, the horrible sounds which came from within the
building continued to mingle themselves with the clangour of the pipes;
but by degrees these became fainter and fainter, and the piper had
not made many circles around the church till the shrieks, the groans,
and the wailings had ceased; their spirits had been released from
their tortured bodies, and all was silent within its walls.

Allan of Lundy had no desire to unbar this scene of horror, that he
might look upon his work ere he went. The preservation of his people,
moreover, required that he should retreat as expeditiously as he
possibly could. He was well aware that the whole MacKenzie country
must very speedily be alarmed; that all of the clan who were within
reach would be immediately in arms, and that the body of MacDonells
which he had with him would be as a mere handful compared to that
of his foes, if he should allow them time to assemble. He moved off
therefore with the utmost expedition; but, with all the haste he could
use, he could not shake off the MacKenzies, who collected in irregular
numbers and followed him, harassing his rear and his flanks, whilst,
like a lion retreating before the hunters, he marched on boldly,
endeavouring to beat away the assailing crowds by halting from time
to time as he went, and charging back upon them with resistless fury,
making many a brave MacKenzie bite the dust. But still they continued
to increase in force by fresh accessions.

At length he had recourse to a manoeuvre which he hoped might have
distracted the attention of his foes. He hastily divided his little
band into two parties, and having given secret orders to a trusty
leader to start off at the head of one band in the direction of
the Bridge of Inverness, and so to pursue his way homewards by the
south side of Loch Ness, he commanded the other to follow himself,
intending to hold directly onwards over the hills by the route which
they had come during the preceding night. This plan so far succeeded,
that the MacKenzies were for some time much baffled and perplexed. But
after some considerable delay, they recovered themselves so far as
to divide their men also in the same manner; and one large body,
under the command of Murdoch MacKenzie of Redcastle, followed hard
after the first party of the MacDonells, whilst MacKenzie of Coull
pressed onwards on the retreating steps of the captain of Glengarry.

Availing himself of the temporary check which his pursuers had thus
met with, Allan of Lundy and his party made extraordinary exertions,
by which they gained so much ground on their pursuers, that they fairly
left the MacKenzies out of sight. They were thus enabled to rest for
a little while, like a tired herd of chased deer, in the hills near
the burn of Altsay. But their repose was short. The pack of their
enemies, who were following on their track, soon opened in yells
like those of hounds when they came in view of them, and they were
compelled to stand to their arms. A very sanguinary skirmish was the
consequence, fought with great success on the part of the MacDonells,
who slew numbers of their enemies; but this availed them little, for
still the MacKenzies came crowding and gathering on in fresh numbers,
whilst the ranks of Glengarry were every moment growing thinner and
thinner. Retreat, therefore, became again expedient.

Allan of Lundy made one desperate charge that scattered his foes
over the hill-side, and then his bugle unwillingly gave the word
of command for his brave MacDonells to retire. They did so with the
utmost expedition, and at the same time with all the steadiness and
coolness which became them. But as they moved on, many among their
number were, from time to time, prostrated and sprinkled, man by man,
on the earth, by the distant shots fired at them by their pursuers;
and many a gallant clansman fell whilst endeavouring to cover from
harm the scarlet-clad body of his leader, that conspicuously attracted
the aim of his enemies. At length the number of the MacDonells became
so much reduced, and the pursuit waxed so hot, that even a show of
resistance was rendered utterly vain.

"Men of Glengarry!" cried Allan of Lundy, "nothing now remains for us
but flight. But ere we fly, let us make one more furious onset against
these cowardly Bodachs. Let us first scatter them to the four winds
of heaven, and then, when I give you a bugle blast, see that ye in
your turn flee off suddenly apart, and so let each try to find his own
way home. I shall shift well enough for myself. Now charge on them."

Unprepared for this instantaneous assault, the effect of it was
tremendous. Many of the MacKenzies were slain, and the whole of the
remainder were dispersed like a flock of sheep. The MacDonells had
hitherto kept together like a ball; but no sooner did they hear the
shrill blast of Allan of Lundy's bugle, than they burst asunder, and
each individual bounded off in that direction which seemed to offer him
the best chance of baffling his pursuers. As hounds are astonished and
divided by the sudden appearance of a trip of hares starting all at
once from some well-preserved patch of furze, so were the MacKenzies
confused by this new expedient of their enemies. For some time they
stood confounded, until at last they gathered into little irregular
bands, each of which followed that fugitive to whom the eyes of those
that composed it were accidentally directed. But the splendid scarlet
jacket of Allan of Lundy, which was as well known to the MacKenzies as
to the MacDonells, and which upon this occasion particularly struck
them as participating in the hue of that element which had recently
done so cruel work upon the miserable wretches at Killychrist, drew on
him the fixed attention of by far the greatest body. This was exactly
what he wished for, as he saw that in this way even his flight would
be the means of contributing to the safety of his men.

"After the firebrand!" cried a powerful and athletic champion of
the MacKenzies. "It is Allan with the red jacket himself. After
him! See where he flies along the slope! But I'm thinking that there
is something yonder afore him that will bring him to a check!--after
him! after him!"

Like greyhound freed from the slips, did this leader of the MacKenzies,
and a great mass of those who followed him, burst away after Allan of
Lundy, who seemed to devour the very ground by the rapidity of his
flight, and the crowd of those that were after him very soon showed
a long tail like that of a comet.

The MacKenzie champion who had cheered them on to the pursuit,
soon shot far-a-head of the great body of his party, some five or
six of whom only could keep at all near him. He was well aware that
the MacDonell had taken a course which must lead him to a fearful
ravine,--a yawning chasm, something not much less than twenty feet in
width, that seemed to sink black and fearful into that eternal night
which may be supposed to exist in the bowels of the earth. The very
stream that was heard to rush through it was there invisible. It was
this that the MacKenzie leader had counted on as certain to prove
a check to the flying Allan of Lundy. But little did he know that
the bold hero of the MacDonells, trusting in his wonderful powers,
had taken this very course with the hope of being thereby enabled to
rid himself entirely of his pursuers. As Allan flew with a velocity
that seemed to vie with that of the heathcock as he skims over
the heather tops on a hill-side, he looked now and then over his
shoulder to ascertain the state of the pursuit; and perceiving as he
came within a few yards of the ravine, that the MacKenzie leader was
considerably in advance of the handful of stragglers who toiled after
him, he halted, and planted himself firmly in a position to await
his assault. Nor was this halt of his altogether unseasonable; for
his breathing came somewhat hurriedly for a few moments; but before
his enemy came near to him, his lungs were again playing easily; and
if his erect bosom heaved at all, it did so more with indignation and
contemptuous defiance, than from over-exertion. The MacKenzie champion
came to a stop within ten paces of him whom he had been pursuing.

"Now!" cried he, whilst his words came thick and half-smothered by
the exhaustion under which he laboured. "Now! now, Allan of the red
jacket!--Now I have got ye!--The last time we met, you escaped from
this good claymore by diving like a duck. Do so now, if you can. Dive
now, if you dare, or stand like a man, and face Hector MacKenzie of
Beauly,--Hector MacKenzie who slew"----

"Villain!" cried Allan of Lundy, "you need say no more. I thank thee
for thus recalling to me thine accursed visage and name. The very
sight of thee gives a new edge to this reeking blade of mine."

Allan of Lundy rushed furiously at his foe, who advanced a step or two
to meet him. A terrible single combat ensued. But active and adroit
as the MacDonell leader had ever proved himself to be as a swordsman,
he found in Hector MacKenzie of Beauly a cool, an experienced, and
a powerful opponent. Conscious that his adversary had at that moment
the advantage of him as to wind, and being aware that some five or six
stark fellows of his own clan were fast nearing the scene of action,
he saw that his game lay in protracting the fight, till numbers on his
side might make his enemy an easy prey. He contented himself therefore
with guarding and parrying the furious and not always well-directed
cuts and thrusts of Allan of Lundy, until his aid should arrive to
render his victory sure. They did come up at last, panting like overrun
blood-hounds; and the brave MacDonell had just presence of mind enough
to see that if he meant to save his life from that certain destruction
that awaited it, from the fearful odds by which he was so speedily to
be surrounded, he had no time to lose. With one desperate cut, which,
though guarded, made his adversary reel beneath the very weight of it,
he turned suddenly from him, and ran three or four steps towards the
ravine--halted--threw back on his enemies a withering look of rage and
scorn, and then darting towards the yawning gulf, he sprang over its
fearful separation with the bound of a stag, and uttering a taunting
laugh, he quietly leant upon his sword on the opposite bank to await
the issue. The followers of Hector MacKenzie shuddered involuntarily as
he sprang, but impelled by the rage of disappointment, Hector himself
flew towards the chasm. He checked for a moment on the very brink,
with his plumed bonnet thrown back, and his arms and sword high in
air; and then casting one wild and searching look into the abyss
that yawned beneath his feet, he retreated a few steps, and nerving
himself with all his resolution, he flew at the desperate leap.

"He is over!" shouted one MacKenzie.

"God be here, he is down!" cried another.

Neither of them were accurately right. He had failed in clearing the
chasm by a single inch. His toes scratched away the loose earth and
moss, and down indeed went his feet. His naked claymore dropped from
his hand; but he caught at a young birchen sapling that grew from the
very verge of the rock. It bent like a rope with his weight, and he
hung over the black void into which his trusty weapon had disappeared,
and down which it was still heard faintly clanging as it was dashed
from side to side in its descent. Allan of Lundy looked remorselessly
downwards upon the wretched man whose eyes glared fearfully amidst his
convulsed features, as with extended jaws he uttered some incoherent
and guttural sounds, which even the horrors of his perilous situation
and impending fate could not compel his indomitable spirit to mould
into anything like a petition for mercy from a MacDonell.

"Hector of Beauly!" cried Allan of Lundy, "would that thou hadst but
reached this solid ground claymore in hand! Then, indeed, might my
revenge have been sweeter and more to my mind. But thy weird will
have it so, and vengeance may not longer tarry. You it was who reft
from us young Angus, the hope of our clan; and this day hast thou
taken many of my brave fellows from me, and many trophies too hast
thou taken. So thou mayest e'en take that too!"

With one sweep of his claymore he cut the sapling in twain; and the
agonised visage of his powerful foe dropped away and disappeared from
his eyes. No shriek was heard; but Allan of Lundy started involuntarily
backwards as a heavy muffled sound came upwards from the descending
body, as it grazed against the successive projections of the chasm;
and when the prolonged plunge that arose from an immeasurable depth
below, told him of the utter annihilation of what had so lately been
a man as full of life, of action, and of courage, as he still felt
himself to be possessed of.

Allan of Lundy stood for some moments as if transfixed to the
spot. Wheresoever he gazed around him, the glaring eyeballs
and the convulsed features of Hector of Beauly still haunted his
imagination. But at length a shot from an arquebuse, that passed very
near to him, and cut down a tall plant of bracken [2] immediately
behind him, brought him back to his recollection. He then saw that
a great mass of the pursuing MacKenzies had already joined those two
or three men who had so closely followed Hector of Beauly, and these
were now gathered on the opposite side of the ravine, raging with
fury for the loss of their champion. He felt that it was no time or
place for him to halt to be a butt for them to shoot at. He sprang
again like a deer to the hill. But as he climbed its steep face,
many were the bullets that were sent whizzing after him. By one of
these random shots he was wounded in the leg, not very severely, but
so as to produce a considerable effusion of blood. The MacKenzies
saw that he was hit, and like huntsmen marking the effect of their
discharge against a deer, they stood for some moments to observe him
as he made his way up the hill-side.

"He flags!" cried one.

"He faints!" cried another.

"He is mortally wounded!" cried a third.

"He moves on!" cried a fourth.

"Away! away!" cried another. "Away to the ford above the waterfall. He
cannot last long. We shall soon come up with him."

But the game was of a very superior description to what those who
hunted him supposed; and they soon found that he was not quite so
easily secured as they had calculated. Before they had made their
circuit in order to cross the stream that poured itself headlong
into the ravine which had been so fatal to their champion Hector of
Beauly, the red jacket of Allan of Lundy had disappeared over the
hill-top. But he had left his blood upon his track. A consultation
was held as to what was best to be done.

"Let us have Rory Bane's trusty sleuth-hound," said one of
them. "See! yonder is his cottage on the other side of the moss."

The advice was approved of, and with one consent they hastened to
procure the dog. The animal was no sooner put upon the trail of
the fugitive, than he was like to pull down the man who held his
leash. But the steady Highlander kept his hold of him, for he was
well aware that if once let slip the keenness of the animal would
lead him on hot foot till he overtook the MacDonell, in which case
the creature's death would be sealed long ere they could come up
to lend him their aid. In order to benefit by his sagacity, they
required to keep with him, and they found it hard enough work to do
so. With his leash stretched till its collar almost choked him, he
went bounding and yelling after the chase, whitening the very heath
as he passed along with the foam of his mouth, and keeping not only
the man who held him, but all those who were with him, going at a
desperate pace. But still the temporary breathing which the Glengarry
leader had enjoyed at the ravine, and the long start which he had
gained whilst his pursuers were making their circuit to avoid it,
and going out of their way to procure the dog, together with the time
which the hound took in picking up the scent in parts where Allan of
Lundy had forded the mountain streams, enabled that hero, who was so
swift and enduring of foot, to reach the great valley of Loch Ness,
even before the deep baying of the hound had first struck upon his ear.

Then it was that a shout rang from the echoing face of the mountain
that overhung the lake, for his red jacket had been descried by his
pursuers, and they redoubled their speed. But Allan of Lundy was
now incapable of increasing his. The blood that had continued to
drop from his wound as he ran had now left behind it that incipient
faintness, which the MacKenzies vainly thought had fallen on him at the
time when they saw that the shot had told on him. But many miles of
rough ground had he since fled over with little diminution of speed;
and now the blue waters of Loch Ness stretched as it were from his
feet far up between its retreating mountains. And only now it was
that he felt a growing weakness, that told him that the chase could
not endure a much longer time. Yet still he urged his flying steps,
and still the baying of the hound, and the shouts of his pursuers,
came nearer and nearer to his rear; and now and then a bullet would
whistle among the foliage of the bushes that grew to right or left of
him, or would tear up the turf in his very pathway, as circumstances
gave those who followed him a chance view of him, whilst the echoes
reverberated the sound of the discharge which had sent it.

Already had he fled for some miles along the rocky and wooded faces
of those mountains which arise from the northern side of Loch Ness,
stopping from time to time for a few seconds on some knoll-top, to
inhale the western zephyrs that blew on him with refreshing coolness
from the wilds of Invergarry. But his exertions were so great and so
long protracted, that even these his native breezes ceased to afford
sufficient renovation to his wearied lungs and beating temples. He
felt himself growing fainter and fainter, and this, too, when his
pursuers, many of whom had but recently joined in the chase, were
every minute gaining upon him more and more. Yet still he laboured
on until even the very mountains seemed to conspire with his enemies
against him. His path became reduced to a narrow and confined track,
by the crags which towered above him on one hand, and the precipices
that stooped sheer down into the loch on the other. All chance of
escape seemed now to have departed from him. In his despair he flung a
hasty glance over the waves that danced below him, and, as he did so,
he descried a little boat about half-way across the sheet of water,
with two or three individuals in it employed in fishing. The shouts
of the MacKenzies now pressed closer and closer upon him. Like a
stricken stag, he took his desperate resolve, and scrambling down to
a pointed cliff that jutted out into vacancy over a deep and still
part of the lake, he stood for a short time to breathe on its giddy
brink. The yells of his enemies rent the air as they rushed wildly
onwards to secure their prey, whilst the hound gave forth his deep
bass to complete their terrific music. They were almost upon him. He
cast his eyes once more downwards, then clasped his arms tightly over
his breast, drew in one full draught of breath; and as the MacKenzies
were clambering hurriedly along the dangerous path with their eyes
fixed eagerly and intently upon his figure, they were astonished
and confounded to perceive Allan of Lundy's well-known scarlet
jacket shooting like a falling star through some fifty or sixty feet
of air into the profound below! So perfectly had he preserved his
perpendicular position during his descent, that he entered the water
like an iron rod, so as scarcely to produce a ripple; and the simple
action of stretching out his arms having instantly brought him like a
cork to the surface, he was seen breasting his way towards the distant
boat, with a vigour only to be accounted for from the circumstance,
that the action he now used had brought a fresh set of muscles into
play. Several random shots were fired at him by the MacKenzies but
unsuccessfully; and he was soon beyond the reach of their bullets.

Grouped upon the point whence he had thus so miraculously sprung stood
his panting and toilworn pursuers, wondering at this extraordinary
effort of his desperation; whilst the disappointed sleuth-hound
continued to rouse the echoes with his prolonged howlings. And
now they eagerly watched the fate of him whom they not unnaturally
believed to have escaped from their weapons only to be drowned in
the unfathomable depths of the loch. For the little boat was still
far from him, much farther than any strong swimmer could well hope
to reach; and although he swam stoutly enough at first, they began
to perceive that he was striking out more and more heavily, as if
death was fast shackling his powerful sinews.

But now again, to their grievous disappointment, they saw that those
in the boat had perceived him, and were pulling lustily towards him.

It happened that the owner of the boat was no other than Fraser
of Foyers, who had come out from his own place near the celebrated
waterfall of that name, on the south side of the lake, to waste a few
idle hours in fishing. He was the staunch ally of the MacDonell; and
although he was at a considerable distance from the spot at the time,
the meteor descent of the red jacket had struck his eyes so forcibly,
that he immediately suspected that something had befallen Allan of
Lundy, whose garment he guessed it to be. Having ordered his men to
row in the proper direction, he soon began to recognise the red speck
forcing its way through the water, and leaving a long line of wake
behind it, while the hostile tartans that waved from the verge of
the cliff, and the echoes that were awakened by the baying of the
hound and the shouts of the men, told him enough of the story to
induce him and his rowers to strain every nerve to save the gallant
captain of Glengarry. And great as were their exertions, they were no
more than were necessary for effecting their object; for they reached
him as he was on the eve of sinking from very exhaustion. Fraser of
Foyers had no sooner saved his friend, than he stood up in his boat
and gave three hearty cheers, and then hoisting his tiny white sail,
he availed himself of a favourable breeze, and bore away for the upper
end of the lake, whilst the MacKenzies followed it with their eyes,
and continued to pour out maledictions upon it, till it was lost in
the yellow haze of the sunset in the western distance.

The captain of the MacDonells returned to Invergarry Castle, to
brood over the dire, though dear-bought revenge he had reaped in this
terrible raid. His heart was especially filled with savage joy whilst
ruminating on the dreadful death which he had bestowed on him who had
killed his cousin Angus MacDonell. But these triumphant thoughts soon
gave way before that ideal phantom of Hector of Beauly, which never
ceased to haunt his fevered imagination, and which exhibited the last
despairing, yet resolute look of that bold man, ere Allan of Lundy had
cut the only remaining hold he had of earth, and sent him, as it were,
into the very bowels of the infernal regions. Nor did the cries which
arose from the burning church of Killychrist ever leave his ears.

But few of the MacDonells who partook of this expedition survived with
their leader. Even those who went round by the Bridge of Inverness did
not escape; and it was somewhat remarkable that they died by a fate
worthy of those who had been engaged in so cruel an expedition. Having
been overcome with fatigue, they stopped to refresh themselves in a
house of public entertainment near Torbreck, where they supposed that
they were beyond all risk of further attack. But they were woefully
mistaken; for MacKenzie of Redcastle having followed them thither
with his party, suddenly surrounded them, and burned every one of
them to death.



FEUDAL HEROES.


Dominie.--That same Allan with the Red Jacket was surely a terrible
chield. I'm thinking that his moral and religious yeddication must
have been vurra much neglected.

Clifford (gravely).--I should strongly suspect so.

Dominie.--Something might surely have been made of him by subjeckin
him to proper early nuture and restraint.

Clifford.--Aye, there is no saying what might have been made of him
if you had had the flogging of him, Mr. Macpherson.

Dominie.--Preserve me, sir! no salary upon yearth could have tempted
me to undertake the flagellation of such a birky.

Clifford.--Why, to be sure he might have rebelled a little under
the lash; and if he had once run away from you, you would have been
somewhat troubled to have caught him again. He would have been a
grand fellow for a steeple-chase. He would have beaten the world on
foot across a country.

Dominie.--These MacKenzies and MacDonells were fearful chaps. I have
many a story about them.

Grant.--I have a few myself; and a legend which a friend gave me of
a MacDonell of Glengarry and a Lord Kintail has this moment occurred
to me, suggested by its similarity in certain circumstances to part
of that to which we have been listening.

Author.--Will you favour us with it?

Clifford.--If he does, it must be by my especial licence. Our friend,
Mr. Macpherson, is first in my book. But as I see he has lighted a
fresh cigar, and as Grant has smoked his to the stump, he may e'en
end it by throwing it into the fire, and commence his tale without
further loss of time.

Grant.--I bow to your supreme will.

Clifford.--Pray make it short, if you please, for I begin to be rather
sleepy, and I should be sorry to affront you by yawning. Besides,
I mean to be up betimes to-morrow to try for a salmon.



GLENGARRY'S REVENGE.


My legend has to do with that very Castle of Eilean Donan with
which yours has already made us so well acquainted. The time of
the action was about the early part of the seventeenth century, and
the great actor in it was a very celebrated MacDonell of Glengarry,
whose name I have forgotten, but who is said to have been remarkable
for his gigantic figure and Herculean strength. The Lord Kintail of
that period was a great favourite with the Court, so that he thereby
rose to great power and influence, which he very naturally employed,
according to the laudable custom of those days, in humbling his
enemies. Amongst these, none bore him a larger share of animosity
than his hereditary foes, the MacDonells of Glengarry. It was not
in their nature tamely to submit to the dominion which Kintail was
permitted to exercise, with comparative impunity, over some of the
other clans. On the contrary, they were frequently disposed not only
to resist themselves, but they also very often found means to stir
up others to resistance, and in this way they sometimes furnished
Kintail with specious grounds for accusing them, when all apology
for doing so might have been otherwise wanting.

It happened that the chief of Glengarry was on one occasion engaged
for some days in a hunting expedition in that range of his own country
which surrounds the sea lake of Loch Hourn, already so often mentioned
in the last legend. The sun was setting on a mild and beautiful
evening, and the breeze was blowing softly from the sea, when, as
Glengarry was returning from the chase, attended by a small party of
his followers, he espied a couple of galleys standing in towards the
very part of the shore where stood the little group of black bothies,
that at such times formed his temporary place of encampment. Doubtful
whether the approaching vessels might contain friends or foes, he
deemed it prudent to put himself and his people into ambush behind
some broken ground, where they might lie concealed until they could
patiently observe the progress and the motions of those who came,
and so judge as to the result.

"Knowest thou the rig of those craft, Alaister More?" demanded
Glengarry of his henchman, as they peered together over the black
edge of a moss bank, and scanned the approaching sails with earnest
eyes. "Whence may they come, thinkest thou?"

"I would not say but they may be Kintail's men," replied Alaister.

"Kintail's men!" exclaimed Glengarry, "what would bring Kintail's
men here at this time?"

"I'm not saying that I am just exactly right," replied Alaister,
"but I'm thinking it looks like them."

"Curses on them!" said Glengarry bitterly, "they are bold to venture
hither while I am here."

"They are so, I'm thinking," said Alaister; "but it may be that they
have no guess that Glengarry is here. But, troth, that Kintail holds
his head so high now-a-days, that I'm judging his men think themselves
free to thrust in their noses just where they like. He's king of the
north-west, as a man might say."

"Accursed be his dastard dominion!" said Glengarry, with bitterness of
expression; "and shame upon the slavish fools that yield their necks as
footstools to his pride. Is't not galling to see it? Is't not galling
to see men of wisdom and bravery, such a man as my staunch friend and
ally, MacLeod, for instance, yielding so ready an obedience to one whom
all should unite to oppose, overthrow, and crush as a common enemy."

"That's very true that you're saying, Glengarry!" observed Alaister;
"but I'm thinking that they are not all just blessed with your
spirit. If they had been so, I'm judging that the MacCraws could not
have been left as they were without help but what they got from you."

"By all that is good, it was our help alone that saved them," cried
Glengarry in an animated tone. "Half of them would have been hanged
on the gallows-tree but for our interference. The MacKenzies had no
reason to pride themselves on the event of that day, nor had we any
cause to boast of the zeal of those whom we have been wont to reckon
among our allies."

"Troth, you're not wrong there, Glengarry," said Alaister. "So I'm
judging that we must even go on to trust to our own MacDonell swords
in all time coming; and we have reason to be thankful that their
blades are not just made of cabbage stalks."

"Thank God, indeed, that they are made of better metal!" said
Glengarry, smiling proudly. "And small as this our party is, would,
with all my heart, that these were Kintail's men, with Kintail himself
at the head of them!"

"I should not be that sorry to see Kintail," said Alaister.

"We should give him a hotter welcome than this cold coast might lead
him to look for," said Glengarry.

"We'll not be slow in giving him that same, I'm thinking," said
Alaister.

"Stay! dost thou not make out a banner yonder?" demanded Glengarry.

"I'm thinking I do see something like a banner," replied Alaister.

"With this failing light we cannot hope even to guess at the bearing
with which it may be charged," said Glengarry, straining his eyes,
"but if that be a banner, as I believe it to be, then is there
certainly a chief there. Look to your arms, MacDonells, and let us
be prepared for what may happen!"

By degrees the galleys drew nearer and nearer; but as the night
was falling fast, their forms grew less and less distinct as their
bulk swelled in the eyes of the MacDonells, till at last they came
looming towards the shore like two dark opaque undefinable masses,
which were suddenly reduced, by the displacement of their sails,
to about one-fourth part of the size they had grown to. For a time
they were rocked to and fro until their keels became fixed in the
sand by the receding tide. The dusky figures they contained were
then seen pouring out from them, and passing like shadowy spectres
across a gleam of light that was reflected on the wet sand from the
upper part of the sky; and they showed so formidably in numbers, as
to render some short council of war necessary before assaulting them
with an inferior force, not from any fear of defeat on the part of
him who took this precaution, but dictated by his prudence to prevent
all risk of the escape of those whom they were about to attack.

Whilst Glengarry was thus concerting his measures, the strangers
were seen moving a body towards the cluster huts, which stood at
something less than an hundred yards from the water side, and speedily
disappeared within their walls, and lights soon afterwards began to
start up within them, as if they were preparing to make themselves
comfortable for the night. Glengarry observed this, and in order that
he might lull all apprehension of attack, he resolved to give them
full time to employ themselves in cookery, or in whatever occupation
they might find to be necessary.

The broken ground which concealed the MacDonells discharged a small
rill, that ran between the banks of mossy soil, in a diagonal line,
and opened on the sand at a point almost opposite to the spot where the
two galleys were lying. No sooner was the chief of Glengarry satisfied
that the time was come when the assault could be most opportunely made,
than he led his handful of men silently down between the hollow banks
of the brook, so as to get unperceived between the enemy and their
vessels. So far everything went well with them, but as they debouched
from the mouth of the water-course, the partial light that gleamed
from the upper part of the sky glanced unexpectedly on the blades of
their naked claymores, and instantly a loud bugle blast blew shrilly
from on board the nearer of the two galleys.

"Dunvegan! Dunvegan!" cried a loud voice from the bothies, after the
bugle had ceased.

In an instant their little black heaps gave forth their living
contents, some armed, and others with blazing torches of moss-fir,
plucked suddenly from the great fires they had kindled.

"'Tis MacLeod!" said Glengarry in a peevish tone, that sufficiently
betrayed the disappointment he felt that his well-concerted scheme of
attack was thus rendered useless. "'Tis but MacLeod, then, after all!"

"Hoo!" said Alaister, "sure enough it's MacLeod, and no one else. So
we'll be supping, I'm thinking, and drinking together like friends,
instead of fighting like wild cats."

"Would it had been otherwise!" said Glengarry, "much as I love MacLeod,
I would at this moment rather a thousand times have encountered the
Lord of Kintail. By the rood, but I was more i' the humour for dealing
in blows than pledging in beakers! But since it could not be Kintail,
I rejoice that it is MacLeod, for as I could desire no better foe
than the one, I can have no worthier friend than the other."

"Both good of their kind surely, I'm thinking," said Alaister.

Nothing could exceed the joy and cordiality of the friends at thus
meeting so unexpectedly. The fattest buck of the chase was dragged
towards a fire, kindled for culinary purposes in one of the huts,
steaks cut from its haunch were added to the fare which MacLeod's
people were preparing, and after a hasty and unceremonious meal,
the two chiefs retired with some of those in whom they reposed most
confidence, into a separate bothy, where they might have leisure for
full converse over a cup of wine.

"To what happy accident am I to attribute our meeting thus in
Knoidart?" demanded Glengarry.

"If I had not chanced thus to meet you here," said MacLeod, "I should
have gone on to Invergarry Castle, as I originally intended. But it
is well that I am saved so long a journey."

"Nay, by all that is friendly, that is not well said of you, MacLeod,"
said Glengarry. "But I shall not be baulked of your visit. We shall
break up hence, and set forward thither before to-morrow's dawn. If
there be deer on my hills, fish in my streams, steers in my pastures,
or wine in my castle-vaults, thou shalt be feasted like a prince as
thou art."

"That may not be," said MacLeod, "for this is no time for you to devote
to friendship and feasting. Thou knowest not that the object of this
voyage of mine was no other than to warn thee of certain wicked plots
that are about to be brought to bear against thee."

"What! some evil machinations of the accursed Kintail, I warrant me,"
said Glengarry.

"Thou hast guessed, and guessed rightly too," replied MacLeod.

"Cowardly villain that he is!" cried Glengarry, "what has he done?"

"Thou knowest that he is in high favour at Court," said MacLeod. "They
even talk now of his being made an earl. But be that as it may, he
hath somehow or other acquired the means of using the King's ear. And
foully doth he misuse it, by pouring poison into it to further his
own ambitious and avaricious views, to the injury of the innocent."

"'Tis like the cold-hearted knave," said Glengarry. "But what, I pray
thee, hath he said of me?"

"I know not what he may have said of thee," answered MacLeod, "but I
know that he must have sorely misreported thee, seeing that through
certain channels he hath persuaded his Majesty to arm him with letters
of fire and sword and outlawry against thee."

"What said'st thou?" cried Glengarry, choking with his rising anger;
"did I hear thee aright? Letters of outlawry, and of fire and sword,
put into the hands of MacKenzie of Kintail, to be executed against
me! Oh, impossible!"

"What I tell thee is too true," said MacLeod.

"The dastard dare not use them!" cried Glengarry, grinding his teeth
from the violence of his rage.

"Backed by the King, as he now is, he may dare do anything," said
MacLeod.

"I defy him though he be backed by the King," cried Glengarry in
a fury; "aye, and though both were backed by the black monarch of
hell? God forgive me for coupling the name of a sovereign whom I
would fain love and honour, if he would but let me, with those of
MacKenzie of Kintail, and that devil whom he delights to serve."

"Moderate your passion, Glengarry," said MacLeod, "and listen to
me quietly, until I put thee in possession of all that is brewing
against thee."

"I am calm," said Glengarry.

"It is my duty as a friend of thine to tell thee, then," said MacLeod,
"that a meeting is summoned for three days hence at the Castle of
Eilean Donan of all those whom Kintail chooses to call the King's
friends in these north-western parts, who are called together for
the ostensible purpose of giving him counsel how best to put in force
those letters against thee, which he affects to be deeply grieved to
have been charged with."

"Hypocritical villain!" cried Glengarry.

"I am one of those friends of the King who are thus summoned," said
MacLeod, "and my present object was to prove to thee, that although
I may be so ranked, I am not the less a friend of thine. I wished to
make thee fully aware of the whole state of matters before I go to
Eilean Donan to swell, as in regard to my own safety I must needs do,
that majority which he looks for to strengthen his hands against thee."

"Thou hast proved thyself a friend indeed," said Glengarry, after
ruminating a few seconds. "Thou hast proved thyself to be that old
and steady friend of mine which I always have believed, and ever will
believe thee to be. And now it is my turn to ask thee, whether thou
hast ever found me in one instance to fail thee?"

"Thou hast never failed me, Glengarry," said MacLeod, "and I trust
our clans shall be ever linked together like one bundle of rods."

"Aye!" said Glengarry, with a bitter laugh, "a bundle of rods which I
trust may one day be well employed in scourging this pitiful tyrant
of the north-west. I love thee too much to demand thine open aid
at present. But haply thou mayest well enough find some excuse for
not going to this meeting thou speakest of. An excuse, mark me,
to be sent after the day is past. Thou canst be grievously ill, or
anything may serve as an apology, if an apology should be required;
for I have friends at Court, too, and I may yet find the means so to
bring things into proper joint, as to render apologies more necessary
from Kintail than from us. All that I ask of thee then is, that you
may not appear at this nefarious assemblage at Eilean Donan."

"MacDonell," replied MacLeod, "I know the risk I run, but I am ready to
incur any risk for so old a friend as thou art, especially in a case
where the securing aid in arms rather than in council is so evidently
the object of Kintail in calling us together. Say no more then; we
shall weigh hence for Dunvegan by to-morrow's dawn, and be assured
nothing shall drag me thence to be marshalled against thee in any way."

"Thank thee--thank thee!" said Glengarry, cordially shaking MacLeod
by the hand. "This is no more than I expected of thy generosity and
good faith. Thy kind and friendly information shall not be thrown away
upon me. I shall start for Invergarry Castle by to-morrow morning's
sunrise. But thou shalt hear from me without fail. And if thy little
finger be but brought into jeopardy, thou shalt have my neck to answer
for it."

This important conversation between the two chiefs being now ended,
they gave themselves up to the enjoyment of that good fellowship and
revelry which arose between their two clans. Small was that portion
of the time subjected to the rule of night which was by them devoted
to slumber, and soon were they both astir each to pursue his separate
way; and as the rising sun was glancing on the arms of Glengarry and
his people as they wound inland over the muirland hills, they looked
back towards Loch Hourn, and beheld the galleys of MacLeod winging
their way for Skye, under a favouring land breeze, that seemed to
have been begotten by the genial beams of morning, which then poured
a flood of brilliant light after them as they flew over the trembling
surface of the waters.

The tide was fully up around the little island which gives name to the
Castle of Eilean Donan, and the ferry-boat was moored on the landward
side of the strait, when the shades of night began to descend upon it,
and upon the whole of the surrounding scenery, on the evening of that
day which was fixed for the gathering that Lord Kintail had summoned.

"A plague take this MacLeod," said the boatman in Gaelic to his
assistant, as they sat glued to their benches, listening with envy to
the sounds of mirth that came to their ears from within the castle
walls. "A plague upon this MacLeod, who keeps us waiting here in
the cold when we might be warming our toes at a blazing fire, and
cherishing our noses with a goodly flagon of ale!"

"A plague upon him, with all my heart," echoed the other man. "Is it
for him alone that we are condemned to tarry here?"

"Aye, Donald," said the master, "MacLeod is the only man awanting,
it seems; and, sure enough, I think there be plenty without him. Hast
thou ever before seen such an inpouring of eagles' wings into the
Castle of Eilean Donan? There is surely something a-brewing."

"Whatever may be brewing, Master Duncan, we seem to have but little
hope of drinking of it," said the man, laughing heartily at his
own joke.

"Faith, Master Donald, they may be brewing some browst which
neither you nor I would be very eager to drink," replied the master;
"I would rather be turning up a creaming cup of the castle ale than
have aught to do with any such liquor. But hold, heard ye not the
tread of men? Come, loose the rope, and to your oars. That will be
MacLeod at last. Who comes there?" cried he, as he dimly perceived
a small party of men approaching the spot where the boat lay.

"MacLeod!" cried a voice in reply, and immediately a tall and
bulky figure, completely enveloped in an ample plaid, advanced,
and after having given some secret directions to his followers, to
which the impatient boatmen neither cared nor tried to listen, he
stepped solemnly and silently alone into the boat, and was speedily
rowed across.

The hall of Eilean Donan was that night crowded beyond all former
precedent. The feast was already over, and Lord Kintail was then
presiding over the long board, where flowing goblets were circulating
among the numerous guests, who were all his friends or allies, or
who at least feared to declare themselves to be otherwise. But fully
aware of the uncertain materials of which this great assemblage was
composed, the chief of the MacKenzies had most prudently intermingled
the stoutest and bravest individuals of his own clan among these
strangers; and, as was customary in these rude times, each man sat
with his drawn dirk sticking upright in the board before him, ready
for immediate use, in case of its services being required; and this
precaution was the more naturally adopted upon the present occasion,
because every one at that table was jealous and doubtful of those
sitting to right and left of him.

On a sudden the door of the hall was thrown open, and a huge man
strode slowly and erectly into the middle of it. He was muffled up
in a large dark plaid, of some nameless tartan; and it was so folded
over the under part of his face as completely to conceal it; whilst
the upper part of his features was shrouded by the extreme breadth
of the bonnet he wore. His appearance produced a sudden lull in the
loud talk that was then arising from every mouth, the din of which
had been making the vaulted roof to ring again. The name of "MacLeod"
ran in whispers around, and Lord Kintail himself having for a moment
taken up the notion that had at first so generally seized the company,
he signed to his seneschal to usher the stranger towards the upper
end of the table where he himself sat, and where a vacant chair on
his right hand had been left for the chief of Dunvegan.

The stranger obeyed the invitation, indeed; but he sat not down. He
stood erect and motionless for a moment, with all eyes fixed upon him.

"MacLeod!" said the Lord Kintail, half rising to acknowledge his
presence by a bow, "thou art late. We tarried for thee till our
stomachs overmatched our courtesy. But stay, am I right? art thou
MacLeod or not? Come, if thou art MacLeod, why standest thou with thy
face concealed? Unfold thyself and be seated; for there are none but
friends here."

"I am not MacLeod!" said the stranger, speaking distinctly and
deliberately, but in a hollow tone from within the folds of his plaid.

"Who art thou, then, in God's name?" demanded Kintail, with some
degree of confusion of manner.

"I am an outlawed MacDonell," replied the stranger.

"A MacDonell!" cried Kintail, with manifest agitation. "What wouldst
thou under this roof?"

"I am come to throw myself on thy good faith, Lord Kintail, with the
hope that thou mayest be the means of procuring a reversal of the
hard sentence which hath been so unjustly passed upon me and my clan."

"I must first know more of thee," said Kintail. "I can give no promise
until I know who thou art."

"I said I was a MacDonell," replied the other.

"That is a wide name," said Kintail. "Heaven knows that for the peace
of the earth it holds too many that bear that name."

"That may be as men may think," said the stranger, with greater
quickness of articulation.

"What MacDonell art thou, then?" demanded Kintail. "Pray, unmuffle
thy face."

"One MacDonell is like another," said the stranger carelessly.

"That answer will not serve me," said Kintail. "I must see thy
face. And methinks it is a bad sign of thee, that thou shouldst be
ashamed to show it."

"Ashamed!" said the stranger, with emphasis--and then, as if commanding
himself,--"In times of feud like these," added he, after a pause,
"thou canst not ask me to uncover my face before so promiscuous
a company as this, where, for aught I know, I may have some sworn
and deadly personal enemies, who may seek to do me wrong. But give
me thy solemn pledge, Lord Kintail, that I shall suffer no skaith,
and then thou shalt see my face."

"I swear to thee before this goodly assemblage," said Kintail, "that
whoever thou mayest be, or whatever enemies of thine may be amongst
us, thou shalt be skaith-less. Nay, more; for thy brave bearing thou
shalt have free assoilzieing from outlawry and all other penalties,
be thou whom thou mayest, with one exception alone."

"Whom dost thou except?" demanded the stranger, eagerly advancing
his body, but without unveiling his face.

"Glengarry himself," said Lord Kintail.

"By all that is good, Glengarry may well be a proud man by being
so distinguished," said the stranger, with great energy both of
voice and of action. And then, after a short pause, he made one
bold step forward, and throwing wide his plaid, and standing openly
confessed before them all, he exclaimed in a voice like thunder,--"I
am Glengarry!"

There was one moment of fearful silence, during which all eyes were
turned upon the chief of the MacDonells with the fixed stare of
people who were utterly confounded. Then was every dirk plucked from
the board by the right hand of its owner, and the clash which was
thus made among the beakers and flagons was terrific; and the savage
looks which each man darted upon his neighbour, in his apprehension
of treachery, where each almost fancied that the saving of his own
life might depend on the quick dispatching of him who sat next to
him, presented a spectacle which might have frozen the blood of the
stoutest heart that witnessed it. But ere a stroke was struck, or a
single man could leave his place, Glengarry sprang on Kintail with the
swiftness of a falcon on its quarry; and ere he could arm himself,
he seized his victim with the vice-like gripe of his left hand, and
pinned him motionless into his chair, whilst the dirk which he had
concealed under his plaid now gleamed in his right hand, with its
point within an inch of the MacKenzie's throat.

"Strike away, gentlemen," said Glengarry calmly; "but if that be your
game, I have the first cock!"

The MacKenzies had all risen, it is true. Nay, some of them had even
moved a step forward in defence of their chief. But they marked the
gigantic figure of Glengarry; and seeing that the iron strength he
possessed gave him as much power over Lord Kintail as an ordinary
man has over a mere child, and that any movement on their part must
instantly seal his doom, each man of them stepped back and paused,
and an awful and motionless silence once more reigned for some moments
throughout the hall.

"Let any man but stir a finger!" said Glengarry in a calm, slow, yet
tremendous voice, "and the fountain of Lord Kintail's life's-blood
shall spout forth, till it replenish the goblet of him who sits in the
lowest seat at this board! Let not a finger be stirred, and Kintail
shall be skaithless."

"What wouldest thou with me, MacDonell?" demanded Kintail, with
half-choked utterance, that gave sufficient evidence of the rudeness
of that gripe by which his throat was held.

"Thou hast gotten letters of outlawry and of fire and sword against
me and against my clan," said Glengarry.

"I have," said Kintail. "They were sent me because of thy rescue of
certain men of the MacCraws, declared rebels to the King."

"I ask not how or whence thou hadst them," said Glengarry. "But I
would have them instantly produced."

"How shall I produce them, when thou wilt not suffer me nor any one
to move?" said Kintail.

"Let thy chaplain there--that unarmed man of peace--let him produce
them," said Glengarry.

"Go then, good Colin," said Kintail to the chaplain, "go to yonder
cabinet, thou knowest where they lie. Bring them hither."

"This is well!" said Glengarry, clutching the parchments with his armed
hand from the trembling ecclesiastic, and thrusting them hastily into
his bosom. "So far this is well. Now sit thee down, reverend sir,
and forthwith write out a letter from thy lord to the King, fully
clearing me and mine in the eyes of his Majesty from all blame, and
setting forth in true colours my own loyalty and that of my brave
clan. Most cruelly have we been belied, for before these gentlemen
I do here swear that, as God shall be my judge, he hath nowhere more
faithful subjects."

"Use thy pen as he dictates," said Kintail, "for if he speaks thus,
I will freely own he hath been wronged in the false rumours which
have been conveyed to me, and through me to his Majesty."

"'Tis honest at least in thee to say so much, Lord Kintail," said
Glengarry, "and since thou dost grant me this, thine amanuensis here
may as well write me out a short deed pledging thee to the restitution
of those lands of mine which were taken from me, by the King's order,
on former false statements of delinquency. And be expeditious,
dost thou hear, lest thy good lord here may suffer too long from
the inconvenience of this awkward posture in which thou art thyself
detaining him by thy slow and inexpert clerkship."

"Write as thou art bid, and as expeditiously as may be," said Kintail,
sincerely coinciding with Glengarry's last recommendation. Accordingly,
the papers were made out exactly as he desired, signed by Kintail,
and then placed in the capacious bosom of the MacDonell chief.

"All this is so far well," said Glengarry. "Now swear me solemnly
that I shall be permitted to return home without molestation, and
that thou wilt faithfully, and truly, and honestly observe all these
thine engagements."

"I swear!" said Kintail, "I solemnly swear that thou shalt pass hence
and return into thine own country, without a hair of thy head being
hurt; and I shall truly and faithfully observe everything I have
promised, whether in writing or otherwise."

"Then," said Glengarry, quietly relinquishing his grasp, sheathing
his dirk, and coolly seating himself at the board as if nothing had
happened; "then let us have one friendly cup ere we part,--I would
pledge to thy health and to thy rooftree, my Lord Kintail!" and,
saying so, he filled a large goblet of wine and drained it to the
bottom, turning it up when he had finished, to show that he had done
fair justice to the toast.

"Glengarry!" said Kintail, "thou shalt not find me behind thee in
courtesy. Thine to be sure hath been in certain respects somewhat
of the roughest to-night, and I must own," continued he, chafing his
throat, "that a cup of wine never could come to me more desirably than
at this moment, so I now drink to thee as a friend, for enemies though
we have ever been, thy gallant courage has won my full applause."

"And I repeat the pledge, and in the same friendly guise, Kintail,"
said Glengarry taking him by the hand, and squeezing it till this
demonstration of his new-born friendship became almost as inconvenient
to the chief of the MacKenzies, as the effects of his ancient enmity
had so lately been. "And now I must bid you all God-speed in a parting
draught,--Slainte!"

"One cup more, Glengarry, to Deoch-an-dorrus!" said Kintail.

"With all my heart," said Glengarry, and this last pledge was a deep
one. Again he squeezed Kintail's hand, till he made the tears come
into his eyes. "Be assured," said he, "thy letter to the King is in
safe hands, my Lord Kintail, for I shall see it delivered myself."

"Lights and an escort there for Glengarry!" cried Lord Kintail;
and the bold chief of the MacDonells, bowing courteously around him
to all that were assembled in the hall, left them full of wonder at
his hardihood, whilst he was marshalled with all due ceremonial and
honour to the boat, and ferried across to his impatient people. He
found that his little knot of MacDonells, with Alaister More at their
head, had been kept so long in a state of anxiety, and they had begun
to doubt and to fear so much for his safety, that they were on the
very eve of resolving to endeavour to break into the castle, that
they might ascertain what had befallen him, or to die in the attempt.

"My horse, Alaister!" cried Glengarry, as soon as his foot had touched
the shore; and throwing himself into the saddle, he let no grass
grow at his heels till he reached the capital, and was presented at
Court, where he speedily re-established himself in the good opinion
of his sovereign.



LONG YARNS.


Clifford (yawning).--Now, Mr. Macpherson, your story comes next,
and if it is but of brevity as reasonable as that which we have now
heard,--aw!--aw--I think,--aw-ah-ah-aw!--that in justice to you,
we are bound to hear it ere we go to bed--a--aw-aw.

Dominie.--I cannot positively say what my story might measure out to
in the hands of ane able story-teller. Some clever chield like Homer,
or Virgil, or Sir Walter Scott, for example, any one of whom could
spin you a thread as if they were working it off by the hundred ells,
with that machine once vurra much used by the Highland wives, called
the muckle wheel. But, plain man as I am, you can never expeck me to
tell anything but the bare facks. Yet I must not let you yemagine,
gentlemen, that there is any fack at all in the foolish fairy story
I am now going to tell you.

Clifford.--Why, Mr. Macpherson,--aw--aw--ha! if I have any of my
logic left in me at all, I think I can prove that de facto you have
no story to tell. As thus:--

You tell nothing but facks.

In your story there is no fack.

Therefore you have nothing to tell.

Quod erat demonstrandum. Ergo, as a corollary, I think we had
better--aw--aw--a--go to bed.

Grant.--Very ingeniously made out, Clifford. But we know from
experience, that logic and common sense are not always equal to the
same thing, and therefore they are not always equal to one another. So,
to cut the argument short, I now move that Mr. Macpherson do forthwith
begin his story.

Author.--I second the motion.

Clifford.--Well, I shall--aw, aw--light another cigar, and if he does
not finish in the smoking of it, I for one shall bowl off to bed.

Grant.--Come then, Mr. Macpherson, pray take the start of him.



THE LEGEND OF THE BUILDING OF BALLINDALLOCH.


As you go down the avenue leading from the bridge to the present house
of Ballindalloch, gentlemen, you cross a small rivulet that rushes
headlong with a cheerful sound from the wooded banks rising on your
right hand, the which, after finding its way under the road through
what is commonly called a cundy bridge, throws itself over the rocks
directly into the pellucid stream of the Aven, that accompanies you
on your left. If you should chance to go down that way, and if you
should be tempted to trace that little rill upwards through the wild
shrubbery, and among the tangled roots of the venerable oaks and other
trees which shoot up everywhere in fantastic shapes from its sides,
and by throwing their outstretched arms across its bed here and there,
produce a pleasing contrast of checkered light and shade, you will
find many a nook amid its mazes which a fanciful yemagination might
set apart as a haunt befitting those frisking creatures of the poet's
brain, Oberon and Titania, and where the sly tricks and pawky gambols
of Puck and the fairy folk might well be played. I think, indeed,
that I could almost venture to assert, that no one truly filled with
what may be termed the romance of poetry, could well pass a few hours'
vigil in the thick retirement of that lovely and sequestered grove,
with the full moon piercing through the openings in the canopy of
foliage, and shining directly down the little ravine where that musical
rill flows, its beams converting the rushing waters into silver, and
the dewdrops of every leaf, flower, or blade of grass, on its banks,
into diamonds, without looking to come pop upon some tiny fairy palace,
or to be charmed by some witching sight or sound, that, for the time
at least, may make him forget that he is a mortal. This opinion I
venture to pronounce on the mere internal yevidence afforded by the
spot itself, as well as by the recollections of my own feelings when I
chanced to wander up the place under similar circumstances, with this
simple addition, to be sure, that I had been at a wedding that night,
and had consequently a small drop of toddy in my head. But be that as
it may, the vulgar supposition that it is inhabited by supernatural
beings is borne out by the corroborative testimony of very ancient
tradition. From time immemorial it has been called the Castle Stripe,
and the origin of this name is linked with some old foundations which
are still to be seen on the summit of the bank above, the legendary
history of which I am now going to tell you.

It is believed that several centuries have passed away since the Laird
of Ballindalloch proposed to build himself a castle or peel-tower for
his more secure abode in times when the prevalence of private feuds
required strength of position and solidity of structure; and having,
doubtless, first and foremost sat down, like a sensible man, to count
the probable cost of his contemplated edifice, he next, with yespecial
prudence, set about considering where he should find the best site to
yerect it on; and after a careful examination of his domains, he at
last fixed on the vurra spot now occupied by those old foundations I
spake of. This place possessed many advantages in his eyes, for, whilst
it was itself overlooked by nothing, it not only commanded a pleasant
prospect over all the haughs and low grounds of his own property,
but it also enjoyed a view of the whole of the lands of Tullochcarron,
lying on the opposite side of the Aven; and between that river and the
Spey, above their point of junction, and this the good man considered
a thing of very great importance at a time when that property was in
the hands of another laird, with whom, if there was not then a quarrel,
yet nobody could say how soon a quarrel might arise.

This very weighty matter of consideration being thus settled in his
own mind, he began his operations with vigour. Numerous bodies of
masons and labourers were applied to the work. In a few days the
foundations were dug and laid, and several courses of the masonry
appeared above ground, and the undertaking seemed to be going on in
the most prosperous manner, and perfectly to the laird's satisfaction.

But what was the astonishment of the workmen one morning, when,
on returning by sunrise to their labour, they discovered that the
whole of the newly built walls had disappeared, aye, down to the
vurra level of the ground! The poor fellows, as you may guess, were
terrified beyond measure. Fain would they have altogether desisted
from a work over which, it was perfectly plain, that if some powerful
enemy had not the control, some strange and mysterious fatality must
certainly hang. But in those days lairds were not men to whom masons,
or simple delvers of the ground, could dare to say nay. He of whom I
am now telling you was determined to have his own way, and to proceed
in spite of what had occurred, and in defiance of what might occur;
and having sent round and summoned a great many more workmen in
addition to those already employed, he set them to the work with
redoubled vigilance, and ere the sun of another day went down, he
had raised the walls very nearly to the height which they had reached
the previous evening before their most unaccountable disappearance.

But no sooner had the light of a new morning dawned, than it was
discovered that the whole work had again disappeared down to the level
of the ground. The people were frightened out of their senses. They
hardly dared to go near the spot. But the terrors which the very name
of the laird carried with it, swallowed up all their other terrors,
as the serpent into which the rod of Moses was converted swallowed
up all those that sprang from the rods of the magicians of Egypt;
and as the laird only became so much the more obstinate from all
these mysterious thwartings which he met with, the poor people were
obliged to tremble in secret, and immediately to obey his will. The
whole country was scoured, and the number of workmen was again very
much increased, so that what by cuffing and what by coaxing (means
which I find it vurra beneficial to employ by turns to stimulate my
own scholars to their tasks), nearly double the usual quantum of work
was done before night. But, alas! the next morning's dawn proved that
the building of this peel-tower of Ballindalloch continued to be like
unto the endless weaving of the web of Penelope, for each succeeding
morning saw the work of the previous day annihilated by means which
no human being could possibly divine.

"What can be the meaning of all this?" said the laird to Ian Grant,
his faithful henchman, vexed out of all patience as he was at last
by this most provoking and perplexing affair. "Who can be the author
of all this mischief?"

"Troth I cannot say, sir," replied Ian. "The loons at the work think
that it is some spite taken up against us by the good people." [3]

"Good people!" cried the laird in a rage. "What mean you by good
people? More likely fiends, I wot."

"For the love of the Virgin use better terms, Ballindalloch," replied
Ian. "Who knows what ears may be listening to us unseen."

"If I did not know thee to be as brave a fellow as ever handled a
broadsword, I would say shame on thee, Ian, for a coward!" cried the
laird. "Hark, ye! I would not wilfully anger the good people more than
thou wouldst do. But I cannot help thinking that some bad people,
some of my unfriends, some secret enemies of mine, of mortal mould,
must have, somehow or other, contrived by devilish arts to do me all
these ill turns."

"It will be easy to find that out, sir," said Ian, "we have only to
plant a good guard all night on the works."

"That was exactly what I was thinking of, Ian," said the laird,
"and I was a fool not to have thought of it before. Set the masons to
their task again, then, without delay, and see that they be not idle,
and take care to have a night-watch ready to mount over the work the
moment the sun goes to bed. I'll warrant me we shall find out the
scoundrels, or if we do not, we shall at least have the satisfaction
of putting a stop to their devilish amusement."

None of Ballindalloch's people, however brave, were very much
enamoured of any such duty, however honourable it might have been
considered. But his orders were too imperative to be disobeyed,
and so some dozen or twain of stout handlers of the old broad-bladed
Scottish spear were planted as sentinels to patrol around the walls
during the night. These gallant fellows took care to carry with them
some cordials to keep their spirits up, and by a liberal use of them,
the first two or three dreary hours of darkness passed off with
tolerable tranquillity and comfort, and as time wore on, and their
courage waxed stronger and stronger, they began to be of the laird's
opinion, that however wonderful previous yevents had appeared to be,
there had in reality been nothing supernatural in them; and, moreover,
whatever might be the nature of the enemy, they were by no means
disposed to venture to molest the brave defenders of the new walls.

Full of these convictions, their contempt of all earthly foes
increased, as their dread of unearthly enemies subsided; and as
there was an ancient and wide-spreading oak-tree growing within about
forty or fifty paces of the walls, they thought that they might as
well retire beneath the shelter of its shade, as some protection from
the descending damps. This they were the more readily induced to do,
seeing that from thence they could quite easily observe the approach
of any suspicious people who might appear. Nay, they even judged that
the cowardly enemy who might otherwise have been scared by observing
so stout an armed band about the walls, might now be encouraged to
show themselves by their temporary concealment.

"Come away now, Duncan man," said one of these heroes to a comrade,
after they had drawn themselves together into a jovial knot, close
to the huge trunk of the oak. "Come away, man, with your flask. I'm
wondering much whether the juice that is in its body be of the same
mettlesome browst, as that which came with so heart-stirring a smack
out of the vitals of Tom's leathern bottle."

"Rest its departed spirit, Charley! it was real comfortable and
courage-giving stuff," said another.

"By Saint Peter, but that's no worse!" said Charley, tasting it and
smacking his lips, "Hah! it went to my very heart's core. Such liquor
as this would make a man face the devil."

"Fie! let us not talk of such a person," said Tom. "I hope it is
enow, if its potency amounteth even so high, as to make us do our
duty against men like ourselves."

"Men like ourselves!" cried Charley. "I trow such like as ourselves
are not to be furnished from the banks of either Aven or Spey, aye,
or from those of any other river or stream that I wot of. Give me
another tug of thy most virtuous flask there, Duncan. Hah! I say
again that the power of clergy and holy water is nothing to this. It
would stir a man up to lay the very devil himself. What sayest thou
and thy red nose, old Archy Dhu?"

"I say that I think thou art speaking somewhat unadvisedly," replied
Archy, stretching out his hand at the same time, and taking the flask
from Charley as he was about to apply it to his lips for the third
time in succession.

"Stay thy hand, man. Methinks it is my turn to drink."

"Silence!" said one who had command over them. "Can ye not moderate
your voices, and speak more under breath? Your gabbling will spoil
all."

"Master Donald Bane hath good reason with him, gentlemen," said
Archibald Dhu, in a subdued tone. "For my part, I shall be silent;"
and well might he say so, seeing that at that moment he turned aside
to hold long and sweet converse with the flask.

"I tell ye, we must be quiet as mice," said Master Donald. "Even our
half-whispers might be heard by any one stealing towards the walls,
amidst the unbroken stillness of this night."

The night was indeed still as the grave. Not a leaf was stirring. Even
the drowsy hum of the beetle was hushed, and no sound reached their
ears but the tinkling music of the tiny rill that ran through the
little runnel near them, in its way towards the ravine in the bank,
and the soft murmur of the stream of the Aven, coming muffled through
the foliage from below; when, on a sudden, a mighty rush of wind was
heard to arise from the distant top of Ben Rinnes, which terribly
grew in strength as it came rapidly sweeping directly towards them. So
awfully terrific was the howl of this whirlwind, that the very hairs
of the heads of even the boldest of these hardy spearmen stood stiff
and erect, as if they would have lifted up their iron skull-caps. Every
fibre of their bodies quivered, so that the very links of their shirts
of mail jingled together, and Aves and Paternosters came not only from
the mouths of such brave boasters as Charley, but they were uttered
right glibly by many a bold bearded lip to which, I warrant me,
they had been long strangers. On came the furious blast. The sturdy
oak under which they had taken shelter, beat every man of them to
the ground by the mere bending of its bole and the writhing of its
boughs and branches. Wild shrieks were heard in the air amid the
yelling of the tempest, and a quick discharge of repeated plunges in
the Aven below announced to them that some heavy materials had been
thrown into it. Again, the whirlwind swept instantaneously onwards;
and as it was dying away among the mountains to the north of the Spey,
an unearthly laugh, loud as thunder, was heard over their heads.

No sooner had this appalling peal of laughter ceased, than all
was again calm and still as death. The great oak under which the
discomfited men of the watch lay, heaped one on another, immediately
recovered its natural position. But fear had fallen so heavily on
these bruised and prostrate men-at-arms, that they dared not even
to lift their bodies to the upright position; but creeping together
around the root of the tree, they lay quivering and shaking with
dread, their teeth chattering together in their heads like handfuls
of chucky stones, till the sun arose to put some little courage
into them with his cheering rays. Then it was that they discovered,
to their horror and dismay, that the whole work done by the masons
during the preceding day at the new building had been as completely
razed and obliterated as it had ever been upon any of the previous
nights. You may believe, gentlemen, that it required some courage to
inform their stern master of the result of their night's watch; and
with one consent they resolved that Ian Grant, the laird's henchman,
should be first informed; and he was earnestly besought to be their
vehicle of communication.

"Psha!" cried the laird impatiently, when the news reached him. "I
cannot believe a word of this, Ian. The careless caitiffs have trumped
up this story as an apology for their own negligence in keeping a loose
watch. I'll have every mother's babe of them hanged. A howling tempest
and an elrich laugh, saidst thou? Ha! ha! ha! Well indeed might these
wicked unfriends of mine, who have so outwitted these lazy rascals,
laugh till their sides ached, at the continued success of their own
mischief. I'll warrant it has been some of Tullochcarron's people; and
if my fellows had been worth the salt that they devour at my expense,
assuredly we might have had the culprits swinging on the gallows-tree
by this time. So our men may e'en swing there in their stead."

"If Tullochcarron's people have done these pranks, they must be bolder
and cleverer men than I take them for," said Ian calmly. "But before
we set these poor fellows of ours a-dancing upon nothing, with the
gallows-tree for their partner, methinks we may as well take a peep
into the stream of the Aven, where the wonderful clearness of the
water will show a pebble at the depth of twenty feet. Certain it
is that there came a strange and furious blast over these valleys
last night; and there may be no harm in just looking into the Aven,
to see if any of the stones of the work be lying at the bottom."

"There can be no harm in that," said the laird, "so let us go there
directly."

They went accordingly; and to the great surprise of both master
and man, they saw distinctly that the bed of the river was covered
over with the new hammer-dressed stones; and yet, on examining the
high banks above, and the trees and bushes that grew on them, not a
trace appeared to indicate that human exertions had been employed to
transport them downwards thither from the site of the new building. The
laird and his attendant were filled with wonder. Yet still he was
not satisfied that his conjectures had been altogether wrong.

"If it has been Tullochcarron's people," said he doubtingly, "they
must have enlisted the devil himself as their ally. But let them have
whom they may to aid them, I am resolved I shall unravel this mystery,
cost what it will. I'll watch this night in person."

"I doubt it will be but a tempting of powers against which mortal
man can do but little," said Ian. "But come what come may, I'll watch
with thee, Ballindalloch."

"Then haste thee, Ian, and set the workmen to their labour again
with all their might," said the laird, "and let the masons raise the
building as high as they possibly can from the ground before night;
and thou and I shall see whether we shall not keep the stones from
flying off through the air like a flight of swallows."

The anxious laird remained all day at the work himself; and as you
know, gentlemen, that the master's eye maketh the horse fat, so hath
it also a strange power of giving double progress to all matters of
labour that it looketh upon. The result was, that when the masons
left off in the evening, the building was found to have risen higher
than it had ever done before. When night came, the same watch was
again set about the walls; for the laird wished for an opportunity of
personally convicting the men of culpable carelessness and neglect of
duty. To make all sure, he and his henchman took post on the embryo
peel-tower itself.

The air was still, and the sky clear and beautiful, as upon the
previous night, and, armed with their lances, Ballindalloch and his man
Ian walked their rounds with alert steps, throwing their eyes sharply
around them in all directions, anxiously bent on detecting anything
that might appear like the semblance of treachery. The earlier hours,
however, passed without disturbance; and the confidence of the laird
and Ian increased, just as that of the men of the guard diminished
when the hour began to approach at which the entertainments of the
previous night had commenced. As this hour drew near, their stolen
applications to their cordial flasks became more frequent; but sup
after sup went down, and so far from their courage being thereby
stirred up, they seemed to be just so much the more fear-stricken
every drop they swallowed. They moved about like a parcel of timid
hares, with their ears pricked up ready to drink in the first note
of intimation of the expected danger. A bull feeding in the broad
pastures stretching between them and the base of Ben Rinnes bellowed
at a distance.

"Holy Mother, there it comes!" cried Charley. In an instant that hero
and all the other heroes fled like roe-deer, utterly regardless of the
volley of threats and imprecations which the enraged laird discharged
after them like a hailstorm as they retreated, their ears being
rendered deaf to them by the terror which bewildered their brains,
and in the twinkling of an eye not a man of them was to be seen.

"Cowards!" exclaimed the laird, after they were all gone. "To run away
at the roaring of a bull! The braying of an ass would have done as
much. Of such stuff, I warrant me, was that whirlwind of last night
composed, of which they made out so terrible a story."

"What could make the fellows so feared?" said Ian. "I have seen them
stand firm in many a hard fought and bloody field. Strange that they
should run at the routing of a bull."

"And so the villains have left you and me alone, to meet whatever
number of arms of flesh may be pleased to come against us! Well,
be it so, Ian; I flinch not. I am resolved to find out this mystery,
come what may of it. Ian, you have stood by me singly ere now, and
I trust you will stand by me again; for I am determined that nothing
mortal shall move me hence till morning dawns."

"Whatever you do, Ballindalloch," replied his faithful henchman, "it
shall never be said that Ian Grant abandoned his master. I will"----

"Jesu Maria! what sound is that?" exclaimed the laird, suddenly
interrupting him, and starting into an attitude of awe and dread.

And no marvel that he did so; for the wail of the rising whirlwind
now came rushing upon them from the distant summit of Ben Rinnes. In
an instant its roar was as if a tempestuous ocean had been rolling
its gigantic billows over the mountain top; and on it swept so
rapidly as to give them no further time for colloquy. A lurid glare
of light shot across the sky from south to north. Shrieks,--fearful
shrieks,--shrieks such as the mountain itself might have uttered,
had it been an animated being, mingled with the blast. It was already
upon them, and in one moment both master and man were whirled off
through the air and over the bank, where they were tossed, one over
the other, confounded and bruised, into the thickest part of a large
and wide-spreading holly bush; and whilst they stuck there, jammed
in among the boughs, and altogether unable to extricate themselves,
they heard the huge granite stones, which had been that day employed
in the work, whizzing through the air over their heads, as if they had
been projected from one of those engines which that warlike people,
the ancient Romans, called a balista or catapult; and ever and anon
they heard them plunged into the river below, with a repetition
of deep hollow sounds, resembling the discharge of great guns. The
tempest swept off towards the north, as it had done on the previous
night; and a laugh, that was like the laugh of a voice of thunder,
seemed to them to re-echo from the distant hills, and made the very
blood freeze in their veins. But what still more appalled them, this
tremendous laugh was followed by a yet more tremendous voice, as if
the mountain had spoken. It filled the whole of the double valley
of the Aven and the Spey, and it repeated three times successively
this whimsical command, "Build in the Cow-haugh!--Build in the
Cow-haugh!--Build in the Cow-haugh!" and again all nature returned
to its former state of stillness and of silence.

"Saint Mary help me!" cried Ian from his position, high up in the
holly bush, where he hung doubled up over the fork of two boughs,
with his head and his heels hanging down together like an old worsted
stocking. "Saint Mary help me! where am I? and where is the laird?"

"Holy St. Peter!" cried the laird, from some few feet below him, "I
rejoice to hear thy voice, Ian. Verily, I thought that the hurricane
which these hellish--no--I mean these good people raised, had swept
all mortals but myself from the face of this earth."

"I praise the Virgin that thou art still to the fore, Ballindalloch,"
said Ian. "In what sort of plight art thou, I pray thee?"

"In very sorry plight, truly," said the laird, "sorely bruised and
tightly and painfully jammed into the cleft of the tree, with my nose
and my toes more closely associated together than they have ever
been before, since my first entrance into this weary world. Canst
thou not aid me, Ian?"

"Would that I could aid thee, Ballindalloch," said Ian mournfully;
"but thou must e'en take the will for the deed. I am hanging here
over a bough, like a piece of sheep's tripe, without an atom of fushon
[4] in me, and confined, moreover, by as many cross-branches as would
cage in a blackbird. I fear there is no hope for us till daylight."

And in good sooth there they stuck maundering in a maze of speculation
for the rest of the night.

When the morning sun had again restored sufficient courage to the men
of the watch, curiosity led them to return to ascertain how things
stood about the site of the building which they had so precipitately
abandoned. They were horrorstruck to observe, that in addition to
the utter obliteration of the whole of the previous day's work, the
laird himself, and his henchman Ian Grant, had disappeared. At first
they most naturally supposed that they had both been swept away at
once with the walls of the new building on which they stood, and that
they could never hope to see them again, more than they could expect
to see the stones of the walls that had been so miraculously whirled
away. But piteous groans were heard arising from the bank below them;
and on searching further, Ballindalloch and his man Ian were discovered
and released from their painful bastile. The poor men-at-arms who had
formed the watch were mightily pleased to observe that the laird's
temper was most surprisingly cooled by his night's repose in the
holly bush. I need not tell you that he spoke no more of hanging
them. You will naturally yemagine, too, that he no longer persevered
in pressing the erection of the ill-starred keep-tower on the proud
spot he had chosen for it, but that he implicitly followed the dread
and mysterious order he had received to "Build in the Cow-haugh!"

He did, in fact, soon afterwards commence building the present Castle
of Ballindalloch in that beautiful haugh which stretched between the
Aven and the Spey, below their junction, which then went by the name
of the Cow-haugh; and the building was allowed to proceed to its
conclusion without the smallest interruption.

Such is the legend I promised you, gentlemen, and however absurd it
may be, I look upon it as curious; for it no doubt covers some real
piece of more rational history regarding the cause of the abandonment
of those old foundations, which has now degenerated into this wild
but poetical fable.



SOMNOSALMONIA.


Clifford (asleep).--Ha! ha! ha! There he comes! What a noble
fish! Didn't I tell you I would do for him? Ha! there--there now--I
shall land him beautifully at last.

Author.--Why, he's asleep, Grant; give him a good shake, will you.

Clifford (half-awaking).--Oh! oh! oh! what are you at? Will
you throw me into the water, you scoundrels? Hah! what are you
at? Aw--a--a! what a magnificent salmon I had caught when you snapt
my line. Eh!--hah--aw--a--aw. I believe I have been dozing.

Grant.--Nay, not dozing only, but snoring; and, finally fishing in
your sleep.

Clifford.--Then am I a fool--aw--a--a--to stay here awake doing
nothing, when I might go to bed and there so happily continue the
sport which you so cruelly interrupted,--aw--a--aw, so good night to
you,--I'm off.

Taking up his candle, Clifford quickly disappeared, and following
his example, we broke up for the night; and having agreed to devote
the next day to our friend's favourite sport, we invited our new
acquaintance, the schoolmaster, to dine with us again.

Next day Grant and I spent five or six hours in thrashing the river
without being gratified even with a single rise, whilst Clifford killed
no less than three large salmon and one grilse. We expected that
he would have crowed mightily over us, and we accordingly exhibited
great humbleness of aspect in his presence. But he was magnanimous
beyond our hopes.

Clifford.--Don't be downcast, my dear friends, your fate had been
mine and mine yours, had we only exchanged our fly-boxes in the
morning. Your flies have been made by some Cockney for fishing in the
New River. These Limerick hooks are the things; they never fail. You
shall try them next time, and I'll warrant your success.

Clifford picked out the best fish for our dinner, and after a liberal
provision of those ingredients which are supposed to contribute to
the sociality of an evening,

Author (to Clifford).--Come along, Mr. Secretary, how stands your book?

Clifford.--Mr. Macpherson is down two or three times over. But,
for aught I know, he may have told all his tales last night while I
slept. By the by, I have to apologise to him for having done so.

Dominie.--Hout no, sir, I am sure I am well pleased if my tales can in
any manner of way contribute to your happiness, whether it may be by
exciting your interest or mirth, or by lulling you to sweet repose. I
am not the first story-teller whose tales have had a soporific yeffeck.

Clifford.--Can you favour us then; you will yourself recollect which
of your stories comes first in the list.

Dominie.--'Pon my word, sir, my memory does not serve me in that
respeck. But I have another story altogether, in which the Laird
of Ballindalloch was also concerned; and, as it has been brought to
my mind, nay, I may say, into my vurra mouth at this moment, by the
pleasing flavour of Mr. Clifford's excellent fish, on which we have
all dined so heartily, I may as well give you that.

Clifford.--You are a perfect mine of legendary lore, Mr. Macpherson.



LEGEND OF THE LAST GRANT OF TULLOCHCARRON.


In my legend of yesternight, gentlemen, I think I told you, that one
of Ballindalloch's yespecial reasons for selecking the site he did
for his peel tower was the commanding view which he thence enjoyed
all over the lands of Tullochcarron, lying above the fork of the Aven
and the Spey, and which then belonged to another family of Grants,
with whom he was liable to be frequently at daggers drawn. It is of
the last laird of Tullochcarron, that I am now going to tell you.

In the earlier part of his life, this laird of Tullochcarron lost a
younger brother, who was killed while fighting bravely by his side in a
feudal skirmish with a former laird of Ballindalloch. Tullochcarron had
a strong affection for this brother, and would have been inconsolable
for his death, had he not left an only son behind him, called Lachlan
Dhu. Tullochcarron was then unmarried, and he therefore instantly
transferred all that which had been his fraternal affection to his
orphan nephew. Accordingly, he set himself to nurture the boy with all
the care and solicitude he could bestow, and with the full intention
of making him his heir. But you are well enough aware, gentlemen,
that yeddication in those days must have been a mere farce. Indeed,
judging from the worthy Dame Julian Berner's Boke of St. Alban's,
the which, I take it for granted, was the gentleman's vade mecum in
its day, it was worse than a farce, nothing being taught there but
hawking and hunting, and the mysteries thereof; as, for example, how
to physic a sick falcon, and such like follies, with all the foolish
vanities of coat armour, and the frivolities of fishing. Eh! I beg
your pardon, Mr. Clifford! I see you are not just altogether pleased
with that observe of mine. But I meant no offence,--as sure as death I
did not. Where was I? Well, as the lad, Lachlan Dhu, grew up, certain
indications of ane evil disposition began to manifest themselves, and
these unpromising buds did so bourgeon through time, that after trying
to prune away the wicked shoots that sprang from them, and finding,
as is often the case, that they only sprouted forth the thicker and
the stronger for the lopping, like the poisonous heads of the hydra,
the good Tullochcarron found himself compelled to abandon his kind
intentions towards the young man, so far as regarded the heirship. But
he still continued to make his house his home, and likewise to show
him all such kindness as an uncle might be expected to use towards
a nephew.

Being thus disappointed in his views of a successor, the worthy
man set himself to the serious consideration of another plan, and
having cast his eyes about him, they fell upon a fair leddy, whom
he resolved, with her consent, to make his wife, and accordingly,
after a reasonable courtship, they were married. No couple could have
been happier than they were, and his joy was, in due time, rendered
complete by the birth of a son and heir, who was called Duncan. But,
alas! what is yearthly felicity? Fleeting as the wintry sunbeam on a
wall. His beloved wife died soon after the birth of her infant boy,
whom she left as the only remaining hope of his family.

Lachlan Dhu had nearly reached manhood before his uncle's marriage,
but Tullochcarron had taken especial care, from the very first,
never to allow his nephew to know that he ever had any intention
of leaving him the succession of his estate. There was therefore no
ostensible cause for disappointment or jealousy in Lachlan. But the
youth was sharp enough to have seen the position in which he had so
long stood, and to have drawn his own conclusions; and certain it was,
that jealousy and disappointment did follow his uncle's marriage and
the birth of his cousin Duncan. But young though he might be, he was
already so profound a master of the art of dissimulation, that he
not only most perfectly concealed them, but he actually contrived to
produce so great a seeming change for the better in his own character,
that he gradually succeeded in vurra much effacing the recollection
of his former errors and iniquities from the memory of his kind and
forgiving uncle.

Duncan Bane, as the young Tullochcarron was called from his fair
complexion, was, in every respect, a contrast to Lachlan Dhu, or Black
Lachlan. Tullochcarron had committed his infant boy to be nursed and
fostered by a respectable lady, a distant relation of the family, who,
though low in circumstances, was high in piety and virtue. To this lady
the infant Duncan opportunely came to supply the place of a child she
had just then lost, and as the little fellow drew his nourishment from
her bosom, all the strength of a mother's attachment fell in tender
sorrow upon him; and he who never knew any other mother, repaid it
with corresponding affection. Tullochcarron was too conscious of the
failure in his attempt at yeddication, in the instance of his nephew,
to risk a repetition of it in the still more interesting case of his
son. He therefore gladly left the tutoring of the boy to the care
of his excellent nurse, who appears to have been as intellectually
gifted as any woman of those barbarous times could have been. It is
true that she must, in all probability, have been tinctured with some
portion of the learning of Dame Julian. For, although nothing remains
to establish that the young man had studied hawking and hunting,
the legend certainly informs us, that he had a complete knowledge
of, and an ardent love for,--hum--ha--I would say for that art of
which it would ill become me to speak dispraisingly, seeing that
we have had this evening so much reason to thank Mr. Clifford for
having so ably and successfully exerceesed it. But--what was much
better--under her godly care the boy's heart was filled with all the
best feelings of religion and humanity. He was amiable, generous,
and kind-hearted, and ever ready on all occasions to sacrifice his
own little interests to those of others; and he was so utterly devoid
of guile himself, that he felt it almost impossible to imagine its
existence in others. It was not wonderful, therefore, that he grew up
with the warmest attachment to his cousin, Lachlan Dhu, who was the
very prince of deceivers, and who well knew how to put on the mask
of kindness. He allowed no opportunity of gaining his young cousin's
affections to pass unprofitably, and so unremitting was his attention
to the young Duncan, that he even succeeded in throwing sand into the
eyes of old Tullochcarron himself, who began to thank Heaven for the
happy change that had taken place on his nephew, and to trust that
he might yet look to him as the future protector of his son's youth
and inexperience, in the very probable event of his being called from
this world before his boy had grown to the years of manhood.

But the old man was still a hale and hearty carle when his boy's
seventeenth birthday came round. He had indeed been a marvellously
stout and healthy man all his life. The only disease, indeed, with
which he had ever been afflicted was an almost insatiable appetite
for food, which no endeavours of his own could restrain. It was a
never-ending ravenous hunger, for which the poor man was by no means
morally responsible, and from the gnawing effects of which he must
have died, if it had not been frequently and largely administered
to. Nor did he ask for dainties, although there certainly was one
species of food which he preferred to all others when he could get
it in its season, and that was--salmon. Tullochcarron's complaint,
as you may very naturally conceive, grew with his growth, which was
immense, and increased with every additional year that he lived. But,
old as he was, and enormous as he became in bulk, his great strength
remained unimpaired, and he was still able to move about with wonderful
activity in the superintendence of his concerns.

I have already told you, that although he and Ballindalloch were not
at absolute war, yet there did exist between them that ancient grudge
and jealousy, left by the ill-salved, though apparently bandaged up
wounds of a peace, patched together when both parties had suffered too
much to continue the war. And although the then existing Ballindalloch
was not the man in whose reign and under whose attack Tullochcarron's
much-loved brother had fallen, yet those were times in which the
son was made answerable for his father's sins. The then laird of
Ballindalloch, therefore, succeeded to all that secret animosity
which his father had so industriously laboured to earn. Thus, as one
might say, the military precaution, as well as the civil management of
Tullochcarron's little kingdom, required ane active superintendence and
administration. But although he now scrupled not to employ his nephew
in all duties where he thought his services might be useful to him,
and although he had even begun of late to give occasional occupation
to his son, yet, as they used to say in those days, he was aye upon
the head of his own affairs himself, watched everything with his own
eye, and gave every order of importance from his own mouth.

Lachlan Dhu, then, having but little else in which to employ himself,
spent most of his time in the chase, and the venison which he slew
was always sure to procure him a blessing from his hungry uncle. As
for Duncan Bane, his whole attention was directed to fishing, and the
salmon which he caught were always sure to be more highly prized than
the best buck that his cousin ever brought from the forest. In strict
attention to the fack, as well as in justice to the character of the
youth himself, I must tell you, that the desire of procuring savoury
dishes for his father, to whom his devoted attachment was excessive,
was one great reason, as well as in some measure an apology,--that
is, I mean, a-a to say, Mr. Clifford, if fishing ever required any
apology at all, which I must confess your excellent salmon of this
day hath led me vurra much to doot; I say it was a good reason for
his following out that quieter sort of sport, instead of that of the
chase, which some of your wild Nimrods would look upon as by much
the more active and manly. But I must likewise inform you, that there
was also a secondary cause that contributed to make him prefer this
occupation to all others. This cause, you will doubtless consider of
inferior strength to the other; but still it is a cause which is in
itself supposed by many to be very powerful in some of its effecks;
the cause I mean was--love.

Anna Gordon was the eldest of three orphans who were left to the
care of their aunt, who was the vurra lady whom I have already
introduced to you as the nurse and female preceptor of the youth
Duncan Bane. Anna was but a year younger than the young laird of
Tullochcarron. They had grown up together, and had loved one another
like companions, until their attachment insensibly assumed a warmer
character. The penury to which the Gordons and their aunt had been
reduced by circumstances, had hitherto induced Duncan to keep the
mutual passion that subsisted between him and Anna a secret from his
father, who never ceased to talk of some splendid alliance for his son
as one of his most favourite schemes. But as this love of the young
man for the lady waxed stronger, his fondness for fishing was most
strangely and marvellously augmented in a similar proportion. Were I
to attempt to guess at the cause of this whimsical combination of two
predilections apparently so inconsistent with one another, I should
say, that he began daily more and more to take to fishing, because it
furnished him with an apology for more frequently visiting his nurse's
cottage, that was situated on a beautifully wooded knoll rising on the
north bank of the river Aven. It was, moreover, an amusement which
he could pursue without losing the society of her he loved. For as
he loitered along the river's bank with his angle-rod in his hand,
Anna Gordon was ever at his side; and I am doubting much that they
wasted many a good hour in idle talk rather than in fishing. But I am
no more than the simple historian of their tale, therefore it is no
business of mine to defend either him or her from the charge which you
will of necessity bring against both of them for such a mis-spending
of their precious time. However, I'm thinking, gentlemen, that they
must have had some peculiar pleasure in one another's conversation,
or they never would have stolen secretly away thus by them two selves,
as they were continually wont to do, even escaping from Anna's little
sister and brother. The boy, poor little fellow, had been born deaf
and dumb, and could have understood no other language but that of the
eyes; and let me tell you, gentlemen, that learned as I am in tongues,
both ancient and modern, that is one of which I must confess myself to
have no knowledge, though they do say that there is much eloquence in
it when it is rightly comprehended. It was not always an easy matter
to jink these two children, for Duncan Bane had been so kind to both
of them, especially to the poor dumb boy, that wherever he went,
they ran after him like two penny doggies; and as he had too much
good feeling in his composition to allow him to treat them harshly,
he was often obliged to steal their sister Anna away from them when
he wished to have a private saunter with her.

The lovers had one day escaped from them and all the world in this
manner, for Duncan was anxiously desirous to be alone with Anna,
that he might learn from her why it was that her fair brow wore an
unwonted cloud upon it, and why her large blue eyes seemed to have
been dimmed by recent tears. He was impatient till they reached a
grove by the river's side, which was their ordinary place of retreat
when they wished to be free from all vulgar or prying eyes.

"Anna," said the youth, the moment they had got within its shade,
"something unpleasant has befallen thee; though thy face cannot be
robbed of its loveliness, yet it wants to-day that smile which is
wont to be the sunshine of my heart."

"I must try to call it up, then," said she, with an effort to be
playful that could not be mistaken. "I would not have thy heart chill
if I can help it."

"Nay, but I entreat thee to tell me what has vexed thee, my love!" said
he tenderly. "If I cannot relieve thy distress, let me at least share
it with thee!"

"I would fain tell thee, Duncan," replied she, "for I would fain shut
up no secrets from thee in that heart which is so entirely thine;
but"----

"But what, my dearest?" cried Duncan impatiently; "do not keep me
longer in suspense. There ought, indeed, to be no secrets with either
of us that are not shared between us."

"There never shall be any on my part," said Anna, throwing down her
eyes. "And yet--and yet I have much difficulty in uttering what I
would now tell thee."

"Keep me on the rack no longer, my love, I beseech thee!" said Duncan.

"I will take courage to tell thee, then," said she, "but thou must
first give me a solemn promise."

"What! of secrecy?" said Duncan. "Methinks thou mayest safely enough
trust to me in that respect."

"The promise I would exact of thee goes somewhat beyond that of mere
secrecy," said she gravely. "Thou must promise me that thou wilt not
act upon what I have to tell thee, but in such manner as prudence
may permit me to sanction."

"And dost thou think, my Anna," replied Duncan, "that I could ever do,
or desire to do, anything that thou couldst wish me not to do?"

"But promise me, solemnly promise me!" said Anna, persevering with
unwonted eagerness in her demand; "do promise me, I entreat thee!"

"Well, well, I do promise thee,--thus solemnly promise thee," replied
Duncan, kissing the hand which he held. "And now, come! relieve my
anxiety, what is this gloomy secret? This is the first time I have
seen traces of tears in thine eyes since the death of the poor thrush
I gave thee."

"The present matter is somewhat more serious," said Anna, with a
gravity and dignity of manner which he had never seen her assume
before. "Your cousin, Lachlan Dhu, dared this morning to address me in
odious terms, which he called love. I answered him with a scorn and
a reproof which I had hardly believed my young, weak, and untaught
tongue could have used to one of his manhood. But the Blessed Virgin
lent me language; and he stood so abashed before me, that I trust I
have reason to hope that he will not again dare to repeat his offence."

"My cousin Lachlan!" exclaimed Duncan, overwhelmed with
astonishment. "My cousin Lachlan, didst thou say? Did my ears hear
thee aright? Impossible!"

"I grieve to say it is too true," said Anna Gordon.

"O villain, villain!" cried Duncan. "Most deep and consummate
villain! Can so much apparent goodness be but the mask of deceit and
villainy? But--I must straightway question him! I will drag him from
the disguise which he wears, and--and then!"

"Remember that solemn promise which you have this moment made to
me," said Anna, calmly taking his hand. "You see how wise it was in
me to secure it. To be the innocent cause of awakening feud between
kinsmen of blood so near, would indeed be a heavy affliction to me;
and were any of that blood to be spilled--were thy blood to flow--but
thou must keep thy solemn engagement to me; and thou must now pledge
me thy word, that never till I give thee leave to do so wilt thou,
even by a look, discover to anyone what I have now told thee."

"Anna," said Duncan, after some little hesitation, "I will promise
you what you desire; but my promise is given on the faith of a
counter-pledge, which I now expect to have from thee. Promise me,
on thy part, that no such cause of offence shall be again offered to
thee that thou dost not instantly tell me of it."

"My present frankness should be my best pledge that I will do as thou
wouldst have me," said Anna. "But the promise thou hast given me must
then be held as consequently renewed."

"I am content," said Duncan. "I am content to trust that you will
not tie me down too rigidly."

Guileless as Duncan Bane naturally was, he felt it no easy task
to commence and to carry on a train of dissimulation with one with
whom he had been on terms of open and unreserved intercourse of mind
from his childhood, as I may say, save on the one subject of his love
alone. Duncan dreaded that the very next meeting he should have with
his cousin would throw him off his guard. He, therefore, proceeded
forthwith to school himself as to the face and manner he should wear,
and the words he should utter? and so successfully did he do so in
his own judgment, that, after the first interview with his cousin was
over, he congratulated himself that the deep dissatisfaction which
he secretly felt had been entirely shrouded from him who had excited
it. And certainly, whether it was so or not, the crafty Lachlan Dhu
gave him no reason to believe that it was discovered.

It was on the vurra night after this, however, that the Laird of
Ballindalloch was seated in the cap-house of the great round tower
of the castle he had so lately built, engaged in some confidential
talk with his faithful henchman, Ian Grant, when his favourite old
sleuth-hound, that lay beside his chair, raised up his long heavy
ears and growled; and soon afterwards a step was heard ascending the
narrow screw stair leading to the small apartment where they were.

"See who is there, Ian," said the laird, in answer to a gentle tap
at the door.

Ian obeyed, and on opening it one of the domestics appeared to announce
that a stranger, who refused to tell his name, had been brought, at
his own request, to the castle guard-room, having expressed a wish
to be admitted to a private conference with the laird.

"A stranger demands to have an interview with me after the
watch is set, and yet refuses to tell who or what he is!" cried
Ballindalloch. "By Saint Peter, but this smells of treachery,
methinks! Yet let him appear, we fear him not; let him appear, I say,"
repeated he, waving off the attendant. "Ian," continued he after the
man was gone, "look that your dirk be on your thigh."

"My dirk is here, sir, and sharp," readily replied the henchman, as he
moved towards the door, and planted himself beside it, to be prepared
to strike, if any sudden emergency should require him to do so.

Again steps were heard ascending the stair, the door opened, and the
doorway was filled by the bulky figure of a man, whose dark features
were almost entirely hid by a blue Kelso bonnet of more than ordinary
breadth, and the ample web of a large hill plaid, of the red Grant
tartan, put on as Highlanders know how to do when they would fain
conceal themselves, completely enveloped the whole of his figure,
as well as the lower part of his face, leaving little more visible
than the tip of his nose and his dark moustachios. For some moments
he stood silent before Ballindalloch.

"Speak!" said the laird at length. "Thy name and thine errand at this
untimeous hour!"

"Ballindalloch," replied the stranger, looking around him, and glancing
at Ian, "thou shalt have both incontinently, but it must be in thine
own particular ear alone."

"Leave us then, Ian," said Ballindalloch, waving him away, whilst
at the same time he stretched forth his hand to lift his claymore
within easier reach of the place where he sat. "Leave us, I say,
Ian! I would be private with this stranger."

"Uve! uve!" said Ian under his breath; then he moved, hesitated,
shrugged his shoulders, looked at the stranger as if he would have
penetrated him, plaid and all, to the very soul; then he shifted his
position--yet still he did not quit the chamber, but stood and threw
an imploring look of remonstrance towards the laird.

"Begone, Ian!" said Ballindalloch in a voice of impatience; and Ian
at last vanished at the word.

"Sir stranger!" said Ballindalloch, "I hope I may now ask thee to
rid me of all this mystery."

"I am most ready to do so, Ballindalloch," said the other, laying
aside his bonnet and plaid, and showing himself, to all appearance,
entirely unarmed.

"Lachlan Dhu Grant of Tullochcarron?" exclaimed the laird with
astonishment; "what stirring errand has moved thee hither at such
an hour?"

"I come to thee but on peaceful private conference," replied Lachlan
Dhu, with a respectful obeisance: "and I use this secrecy because
it is for the interest of both of us, that what I have to treat of
should reach no other ears but our own."

"Proceed," said Ballindalloch, "thou mayest speak safely here, for
in this place we are beyond all earshot."

"I need not tell thee, Ballindalloch," continued Lachlan Dhu, "I
need not tell thee, I say, that which is sufficiently notour to all,
that mine uncle, old Tullochcarron's patrimony, would have been mine
as a fair succession, had he not married on purpose to disappoint me."

"I know this much," said Ballindalloch, not altogether dissatisfied
to see something like discontent in what he naturally held to be
the enemy's camp. "Perhaps thou hast had but scrimp justice in this
matter."

"Justice!" exclaimed Lachlan Dhu, catching eagerly at his
words. "Justice! I have been deeply wronged. Bred up and cockered
by the old man for a time as his successor, as if it had been with
the very intent of throwing me the more cruelly off, and rendering
the blasting of my hopes the more bitter, from the very fairness of
those blossoms which his pretended warmth of affection had fostered!"

"'Twas not well done in the old man," said Ballindalloch; "but now,
methinks, 'tis past all cure."

"Nay," said Lachlan Dhu sternly, "I hope there is yet ample room
for remede."

"As how, I pr'ythee?" said Ballindalloch.

"Mark me, and thou shalt quickly learn," said Lachlan Dhu. "But first
of all I must tell thee, that I now come to offer myself to thee as
thy vassal on this simple condition, that thou wilt give me thine
aid and countenance against all questioners to help me to keep what
shall be mine own after I shall have fairly won it."

"And how dost thou propose to win it?" demanded Ballindalloch,
with a grave and serious air that seemed to argue a most attentive
consideration of a proposal in itself so inviting to him.

"By secretly ridding myself of mine uncle's sickly stripling boy,
whenever favouring fortune may yield me fitting opportunity,"
replied Lachlan Dhu, approaching his head nearer to Ballindalloch,
and sinking his voice to a low sepulchral tone, and with a coolness
that might have befitted a practised murderer.

"What!" exclaimed Ballindalloch, with an air of surprise. "What hath
the youth done to deserve so much of thy hatred?"

"Twice hath he crossed my path," continued Lachlan Dhu, his features
blackening, and his dark eyeballs rolling as he spoke. "He hath twice
crossed my path; first when he came into this world, and now a second
time by thwarting me in my love."

"And what have I to do with all this?" demanded Ballindalloch.

"Much," replied Lachlan Dhu earnestly. "I am now thy sworn vassal. The
feudal superiority of Tullochcarron will henceforth insure to thee
friendship and strength, where thou hast long had to deal with open
or secret foes, and"----

"Thou speakest as if thou wert already Laird of Tullochcarron,"
said Ballindalloch, interrupting him.

"That young foulmart once disposed of, I soon shall be," said
Lachlan Dhu, with fiend-like expression. "Mine uncle's time cannot
now be long, even were nature left to take its course; or,--it may
be shortened. Sudden death to a man of his gross form and purfled
habit could never seem strange; and then"----

"True," said Ballindalloch calmly; "but how can I aid thee in thy
scheme?"

"I lack no present aid while I have this arm," replied Lachlan Dhu;
"it is the support and defence of thy faithful vassal, Lachlan Dhu
Grant, Laird of Tullochcarron, that I require of thee, if unhappily
some unlucky circumstance should awaken idle suspicions against him."

"I trust I shall always know how to defend my vassals," said
Ballindalloch proudly.

"Then am I safe," said Lachlan Dhu; "but in the meanwhile secrecy is
essential to our purpose."

"I hope I have prudence enough to know how to conduct myself in all
cases of delicacy," replied Ballindalloch.

"'Tis well," said Lachlan Dhu, again folding his plaid around
him, and putting on his bonnet. "Now I must begone; for time
presses. Farewell! I shall trust to thee, and thou mayest trust to me."

"I shall not forget what is due to thee, when thou art my vassal,"
said the laird, "nor shall I ever forget what ought at all times to
be expected from Ballindalloch. Here, Ian Dhu, see this stranger safe
beyond the walls and outposts."

The night I speak of seemed to be quite pregnant with strange
visitations; for, at a still later hour, after old Tullochcarron
had himself seen that the guard at the barbican of his small place
of strength was on the alert, and had secured the iron doors of the
entrance of the peel-tower, and had finally retired to his apartment
to go to rest, he was surprised to see a packet lying on his table,
of which no one of his attendants could give him any account. It was
tied with a morsel of ribbon, the ends of which were secured with wax,
but without any impression. It was simply addressed:--

"To Tullochcarron."

And on cutting it open, he found that it contained the following
letter, with a broad seal at the end of it.

"Tullochcarron,--I write this private communication, to tell thee that
thou hast a traitor in thy house, that thou dost nourish a viper in
thy bosom that would sting thee. The life of thine only son is certain
to be taken, if thou dost not secure it by the instant seizure of
thy nephew, Lachlan Dhu. Thine own murder will speedily follow. The
cold-blooded villain came to me secretly under the cloud of this
night, and did unfold his devilish plans, offering to me the feudal
superiority of thy lands of Tullochcarron, provided I should protect
him as my vassal against all after question. I seemed to listen, and
yet I evited direct promise; and I now hasten to certiorate thee of
these facts through ane trusty messenger, who engages, by certain means
best known to himself, to have these placed upon thine own private
table before thou sleepest. This traitorie is as yet alone known to
thee, to me, to the foul faitour who planned, and to the devil who
prompted it. And that thou mayest have no doubt left in thee of the
truth of what I have here written, I do hereto affix my sign-manual,
as well as the seal, the which is attached to the last instrument of
pacification that passed between our houses.--Ballindalloch."

You may conceive, gentlemen, that this letter, read alone, at midnight
in his chamber, dreadfully alarmed old Tullochcarron. He started from
the large oaken chair in which he had seated himself to peruse it,
and snatching his lamp, he rushed to his son's apartment, where he
held up the light, and gazed with fear and trembling on his son's
couch, almost expecting to see his boy foully murdered, and weltering
in his blood. Stretched on his bed, he did indeed find him; but his
eyes were closed in the sweet slumbers that attend the pillow of pure
and spotless youth. He gazed on him in silent anxiety for some time,
till he was really certain that he breathed; and then the old man's
lip quivered, and his eyes were dimmed by the big drops that rapidly
distilled over his eyelids. Stooping gently down, he kissed Duncan's
cheek, and then quitting the room upon tiptoe, he called up an old
and tried domestic.

"Hamish," said he, "I had a strange and troubled dream, as I dozed
in mine arm-chair."

"Thou didst sup somewhat of the heaviest, Tullochcarron," replied
Hamish. "After so many pounds' weight of salmon, 'tis but little
wonder if the foul hag on her nightmare should have been riding over
and over thee."

"Psha!" said Tullochcarron in a vexed tone and manner that showed
he was too seriously affected to be trifled with. "My dream touched
the safety of thy young master. Hark ye! I bid thee watch his couch,
and let no one approach it with impunity."

"My young master!" said Hamish with energy. "These grey hairs shall
be trodden under foot ere the latch of his door shall be touched."

"I know thy fidelity," said Tullochcarron. "Be sure thou givest me
the alarm if aught extraordinary should occur."

Having taken this hasty precaution, the old Laird of Tullochcarron
again seated himself in his arm-chair to read over for the second
time the alarming communication he had received. Ballindalloch's
name and seal were the first things his eyes rested on after opening
it. Doubts and suspicions instantly flashed across his mind.

"What a silly fool am I after all," said he, "to let any information
from such a quarter so agitate me! What truth is to be expected from a
house so full of hereditary enmity against mine of Tullochcarron! And
is not Lachlan Dhu the son of that very brother of mine who worked
so much sore evil to the house of Ballindalloch? And is he not at
this moment the best, the stoutest, and the sharpest arrow I have in
my quiver? And are not these reasons enough to prompt such a secret
enemy to urge me to whet my knife against him? Dull old idiot that I
was! but now I see it all! I see it all! What a trap was I about to run
my head into! But stay, let me think what is best to be done. Prudent
precautions with regard to my son can do no harm. I shall put him
well on his guard; and that secured, the best thing I can do is to
bury the contents of this paper in mine own bosom."

With such determinations as these, Tullochcarron retired to rest;
but his repose was disturbed and put to flight by visions which were
not altogether to be laid to the account of the heavy meal he had
taken ere he retired to rest. He was early visited by his son Duncan.

"Father," said the young man, "how was it that old Hamish took post in
my chamber last night? I found him sitting by my bedside at daybreak
this morning, and all the explanation I could extract from him was
that he had the laird's orders for being there."

"He had my orders my dear boy," said Tullochcarron, pressing his son
to his bosom, and kissing his forehead. "A strange dream had come
over me, that alarmed my foolish old heart about thy safety."

"A dream about me!" said the young man smiling. "What harm couldst
thou dread for me, father?"

"I dreamed that thy life was threatened, boy," said his father;
"and therefore it was that I made Hamish watch thee."

"My life in danger, father!" exclaimed Duncan, "and from whose hand?"

"From the hand of thy cousin Lachlan Dhu," replied his father. "Hast
thou any cause to dread that my dream might have aught of reality
in it?"

"My cousin Lachlan Dhu!" exclaimed Duncan, with unfeigned
surprise. "Nay," continued he, after some little hesitation, during
which he remembered the promise he had given to Anna Gordon; "why
should I think that Lachlan should wish to injure me?"

"Why should we think it, indeed?" exclaimed the old man, with
considerable emotion. "Both I and mine should look for anything but
hostility from Lachlan Dhu, if there be any faith or gratitude left
in man. Let us then think no more about it."

"Trust me, I shall think no more of it," said Duncan.

"Aye!" said the old man again; "but yet I'd have thee to be cautious. I
would entreat thee to guard thyself as if there were danger. Thou
hast a dirk and a hand to use it, boy! Thou hast a claymore and an
arm that can wield it; and though thou art as yet but a stripling,
still thou art the son of old Tullochcarron! But let faithful Hamish
be thy constant henchman, and then my heart will be at ease."

"I will defend mine own head as a true Tullochcarron should do,
if dirk or steel can do it," said the youth energetically, and by
no means relishing the idea of his motions being watched, and his
person eternally haunted by an attendant. "But I have nothing to fear,
and Hamish might be better employed than in following me in all my
idle wanderings."

Duncan thought with himself that he had perhaps better grounds for
entertaining some suspicion of evil intentions against him on the
part of his kinsman, than any which a dream could have afforded to
his father; and yet we must not wonder, gentlemen, that, in such
superstitious times, old Tullochcarron's alleged vision had also
its own effect upon the young man, when taken in combination with
that strange new light that had recently opened on his cousin's
character. The gallant youth was above all fear, however; but he
had prudence enough to resolve to expose himself to no unnecessary
danger. As to old Hamish, Duncan thought it better to gratify his
father by allowing that faithful servant to be his companion at all
times, save and except only when he went to meet her, of his attachment
to whom he still thought it wise to keep Tullochcarron ignorant. Then,
indeed, the god of love inspired him with so much ingenuity in escaping
from his attendant, that he baffled every attempt at discovery.

It was upon one of these occasions, when he had an especial wish to
have an hour or two of private talk with Anna Gordon, that he, in the
first place, contrived to escape from old Hamish, and afterwards to
steal her from her dumb brother and little sister. Away tripped the
pair together laughing, and rejoicing in their own cleverness. Duncan
had his angle-rod in his hand, but he wandered with Anna through
the groves, by the margin of the Aven, without ever thinking of
casting a line into its waters. The subject of their conversation
was one of peculiar interest to both of them, for Duncan had sought
this interview for the purpose of informing her that, from certain
circumstances which had recently occurred, he was led to believe that
their secret attachment might now be safely divulged to the old laird
his father, in the hope that he might be brought to consent to the
speedy solemnisation of their marriage. The time they spent together
was by no means short, though to them it appeared as trifling. At
length they found out that it was time to part, and a more than usually
lingering parting took place between them on the top of that vurra
high and precipitous crag, where now rests the northern extremity of
the noble bridge that spans the river Aven above Ballindalloch. When
they did at last sever from each other, Anna took her way homeward
by a footpath leading up the river through the thick oak copsewood
that covered the ground behind it, and clustered to the very brink
of the precipice where she left Duncan.

The young man stood entranced with his own happy thoughts for a
moment after Anna had disappeared, and then bethinking him that
he must hasten to make the best use of the time that now remained,
if he would not return empty-handed to his father, he stood on the
verge of the cliff, eyeing the stream below, and thoroughly occupied
in preparing his tackle with all manner of expedition, previous to
descending by a circuitous way to the water's edge to commence his
sport. He was alone, as you may think, gentlemen; but there was an
evil eye that watched him with the tiger's lurid and unvarying gaze,
aye, with such a gaze as the tiger's fiery orbs assume when he has
slowly and silently tracked his unconscious prey through all the
mazes of the jungle, till he at last beholds it within his reach. As
the head of the traitor Lachlan Dhu appeared from the thicket within
three paces of the spot where young Tullochcarron stood, a fiendish
smile of eager triumph gave a hellish expression to its features. It
was but one desperate spring. One piercing shriek was uttered by
the unhappy Duncan Bane, and in one instant his lifeless corse was
floating, shattered and bleeding, on the crystal stream of the Aven.

That scream was heard by Anna Gordon, and from the moment it entered
into her ears, it never left her mind. As it reached her, she happened
to be passing round a turn of the river some little way above, whence
the fatal crag was still visible.

"Merciful saints!" she cried, as she turned quickly round, "that was
my Duncan's voice!"

She caught one instantaneous glimpse of the figure of Lachlan Dhu,
as he fled from the summit of the crag. A dreadful suspicion shot
across her mind. Winged by her agonising terrors, she flew back to
the spot where she had parted with Duncan. There she met the poor
dumb boy, her brother, pulling his little sister along by the arm. No
sooner did he behold Anna, than with a wild animation of countenance,
and with gesture so expressive, that no one but a creature deprived
of the power of language could have employed, he imitated the action
of one person pushing another over the face of the cliff, and then he
ran down the path that followed the course of the stream. Anna rushed
franticly after him; and when she had reached the margin of the Aven,
her eyes rested on the lifeless corse of her beloved, which had been
carried by the eddying current into a little quiet nook, where it
lay half-stranded on a grassy bank.

It happened that old Hamish, who as usual had been anxiously seeking
his young master, came a few moments afterwards accidentally to the
same spot; and what a spectacle did he behold! Seated on the bank by
the water's edge was the wretched Anna Gordon, with her lover's mangled
and bleeding head upon her knee. Her eyes were fixed upon its livid
and gory features, as if they had been gazing on vacancy. Not a tear
flowed, not a groan nor a sigh was uttered. A monumental group could
not have been more motionless or silent. Hamish was distracted. He
tried to make her speak; for altogether ignorant of the powerful
cause of interest which operated upon her, he viewed her but as an
idle spectator, an indifferent person, from whom he anxiously desired
to extract something that might enable him to guess as to how this
dreadful calamity had occurred. His questions were rapid, urgent,
and incessant; but still she minded him not, until he bent forward
as if to attempt to lift the body from her knee. Then it was, that
turning round with all the frenzied dignity of fixed insanity, she
fastened the severe gaze of her unsettled eyes upon him, and spoke
in a tone that froze his very heart.

"Begone, old man!" said she, "begone. What! wouldst thou rob me of my
love on our bridal day? He is mine! he is mine! But hush," said she,
suddenly lowering her voice and changing her expression, "hush! he
sleeps! He slumbers sweetly now. But he will awake anon with smiles,
and then our bridal revels will begin. Go, go, old man! go, bid the
guests! Bid all!--bid all, I tell thee!--bid all, but--but--the
murderer!" A shrill shriek, graduating into a violent hysterical
laugh, followed these wild wandering words; and a convulsion shook
her delicate frame till she fainted away, as if life itself had fled
from her.

I must leave this heart-rending scene, gentlemen, to tell you what
soon afterwards took place in the old peel-tower of Tullochcarron.

"What!" exclaimed the laird, as he was in the act of sitting down to
one of those many meals which the craving of his naturally enormous
appetite rendered so essentially necessary for him. "What!" said he,
"still no salmon? Hath Duncan not yet returned, then? Why, methinks
the boy must have tyned his luck altogether. But I trow that the fish
have lost the way into our waters, they are so rare to be seen. Ha! who
comes there with haste so impatient? Is it thou, Lachlan Dhu?"

"Alas, uncle!" cried the murderer, rushing in without his bonnet,
and with a frantic air, "alas, uncle! alas! alas! Duncan! Duncan!"

"What--what of Duncan?" exclaimed the anxious and alarmed father,
starting from the table.

"Duncan," cried the traitor, "my poor cousin Duncan is no more?"

"What! Duncan? Villain! accursed villain! you lie," cried the old
man half-distracted, and grappling his nephew by the throat with his
powerful gripe. "You lie, most accursed villain!"

"Alas! alas! I wish I did!" said Lachlan Dhu, with feigned sorrow. "But
I grieve to say that what I tell is, alas, too true. I was walking
accidentally by the banks of the Aven, about a bowshot above the high
craig, when, on looking towards it, I beheld him standing carelessly
on the very brink of the cliff; and whether it was that his foot
had tripped upon some of those roots that scramble for a sustenance
over the surface of the rock, or whether some sudden gust of wind
had caught him, I know not; but I saw him fall headlong thence; and
after being dashed horribly against the projecting points below,
I could perceive his inanimate body borne off by the stream. Wild
with despair, and scarcely knowing what I was doing, I ran directly
home hither to tell thee the doleful news; and"----

"Villain!" shouted the old man in a voice like thunder. "Villain! thou
art his murderer. Seize him, and drag him hence to the dungeon. He hath
reft me of my boy! my only hope on earth! the solace of my old age! O
fool! fool! Why did I not take the well-meant warning? Oh! I am now
indeed bereft! But his murderer must die ere the sun goes down. Where
is Hamish? He at least should have been at my poor Duncan's side!"

At that moment Hamish himself entered. He whose hypocritical acting I
have just described, had taken so long to prepare it for exhibition
that this old and faithful attendant had had full time to procure
help to carry his young master's remains, and had now come on before
the body, with the well-meant intention of breaking the afflicting
intelligence as easily as he could to the bereaved father. He had been
relieved of the task, as I have already told you; and the sad news
had spread so, that all the vassals and dependants within reach had
crowded to meet the body of their beloved Duncan Bane. The woeful
wail of the pipes was heard at a distance. The old laird became
dreadfully agitated. The sound drew nearer. Tullochcarron bit his
nether lip, clenched his hands, and wound himself up to go through
with the trying scene as he felt that Tullochcarron should do. He put
on his bonnet with energy, wrapped his plaid tight around him, and
descended with a resolute step into the court-yard. The clang of the
pipes became louder; and yet a louder crash of their rude music burst
forth, as they passed inwards from beneath the arched gateway. The
old man strode two or three steps forcibly forwards, with his eyes
fixed upon the spot where the rush of human figures came squeezing
in. At length his sight fell on the bloody corse of his murdered son,
his only earthly hope; and he became rooted to the ground he stood on.

And now a light airy figure appeared tripping fantastically beside the
bier with her hair fancifully wreathed up with worthless weeds. She
came dancing towards the old laird with gay smiles upon her face,
and threw herself upon her knee before him.

"Thy blessing, father! thy blessing!" said she, "we come to crave
thy blessing, father! and now," continued she, starting up, "let
the feast be prepared!--and the dance!--for Duncan, thine own dear
Duncan, has made me his bride, and I am the happiest maiden in all
Scotland! See, see! look here, how gaily my head is garlanded! Indeed,
indeed, as all the neighbours were wont to say, we were made for each
other. And now I am Duncan's bride! Aye, gentlefolks!" added she,
curtseying gracefully around, and then hiding her blushing face in
her hands for a moment, "and I shall soon be my Duncan's lady! So,
as the fair maid sings in the old ballad,--


   'Oh! I shall henceforth be, my love,
      As happy as a queen,
    For such a youth as thee, my love,
      Was never, never seen--never! no, never!'


Father! father! thou art my father now as well as Duncan's--hath not
Duncan told thee all, father? Methinks it was but to-day that we agreed
to break the secret of our love to thee; and Duncan, thine own Duncan
Bane, was to tell thee all! and thou wert to give us thy blessing;
and we were to be wedded--aye, wedded as man and wife, never again to
sunder--but my brain so burns with joy, and my foolish heart beats so,
that--but no matter--ha!--I forget--I must go bid the guests!--I must
away--I must go bid the bridal guests, they will take it all the kinder
that I bid them myself. Hush, then!" added she, sinking her voice, and
approaching the bier upon tiptoe, and gently stooping to kiss the cold
lips of the corse. "Hush, then, Duncan, my love, rest thee in sweet
slumber till I return. All good be with ye, good gentlefolks. Mark me,
I bid ye all to our bridal; but I have other guests to bid--I must
away!--I have many guests to bid--away, away!" and so she hurried
forth from the gateway, singing as she went,--


   "And when that we shall wedded be,
      All by the holy priest,
    Full many a knight and lady bright
      Shall grace our bridal feast."


The true interpretation of the cause of Anna's frenzy came palpably
to the mind of the old laird of Tullochcarron. Whatever he might have
thought of the attachment of the lovers under other circumstances,
he now felt that the discovery of it had only come like a gleam of
sunshine to enhance the brightness of those earthly prospects which
were henceforth darkened for ever. Yet still with iron nerve he strung
himself firmly up to bear it all. He gave one piteous glance of despair
towards the bier where lay the dead body of his son, his only child,
and then he suffered himself to be led passively up into the hall
of the peel-tower, whither the corpse was immediately carried and
laid out. Then it was that human courage could no longer support
him,--it yielded, and he gave way to all a father's grief. For
a time he indulged fully in this; and then, drying up his tears,
he summoned his vassals, ordered in the prisoner Lachlan Dhu, and
instantly proceeded to hold a court upon him.

The murderer would have fain denied his guilt, but little evidence
was necessary to convict in those days. In this case there was enough
to convince all present. An assize was set upon him--Ballindalloch's
letter was produced and read: at once his bold and resolute air of
innocence was shaken. The prisoner's own statement as to the point
where he stood when he had witnessed the alleged accident, was proved
to be false by old Hamish, who chanced to see him whilst running
along a path which led, not from that point, but directly from the
brow of the cliff whence Duncan Bane had met his death. The dumb boy
described and pointed out, with most intelligent action, how and by
whom the murder was perpetrated; and his little sister distinctly told,
that she and her brother had seen Lachlan Dhu push Duncan Bane over
the crag. Finally, the sheet was removed from the body of Duncan,
and then, they say, the wounds began to well forth afresh; and the
agitation of the murderer was so great, that he called for a priest,
confessed all, was shortly shriven; and as the sun of that day which
had witnessed his crime was preparing to disappear behind the western
mountains, its slanting rays were throwing a horrible splendour over
his powerful but now exanimate frame, as it swung to and fro in the
evening breeze from the fatal tree on the gallow hill.

The afflicted Anna Gordon wandered wildly about with maniac energy
during all that day, no one knew where. At last, her friends, who
went in search of her, found her on the mountain, and led her gently
homewards. It happened that the path they took passed by the gallow
hill. At some distance off she descried the figure of him who had so
recently paid the penalty of his crime.

"Yonder is a guest! I will bid yonder guest!" cried poor Anna,
with a frantic laugh, as she broke from her friends, and hurried
towards the spot where it hung, ere anyone could arrest her. She
stood for some moments with her eyes steadily fixed upon the
ghastly visage, and then bursting out in a sudden fit of frenzy,
"I heard my Duncan's cry!" she shrieked aloud, in a voice that
pierced the ears and the hearts of all who heard her. "'Twas his
last joyous cry to call me to our bridal! quick! quick!--let us
away!--hark!--hark!--again!--again!--again!"

She rushed rapidly forwards a few steps, as if she had been flying to
meet her lover. She tottered, and fell in a swoon, was borne home by
her friends in a state of stupor, and placed in bed. But it would seem
that some internal and vital failure had taken place, for the poor
thing ceased to breathe; and the gentle spirit of Anna Gordon fled
to unite itself with that of him she loved. Nor were their earthly
remains sundered, for the father of Duncan Bane saw them consigned
together to the same grave, and he wept over them both.

The old laird of Tullochcarron was but little seen beyond the
court-yard of his peel-tower for many weeks after his son's murder;
then, indeed, he did come abroad, as if to superintend his affairs as
he was wont to do, but it was more because he thought that it was right
for him so to do, than from any relish he had in the employment. It
was this conviction of what was expected of him, that likewise made him
force a false smile of cheerfulness over his good-humoured countenance,
which, alas! was with him but as the sunshine that gilded the sepulchre
of inextinguishable mourning within. One of the first visits that he
paid was to the castle of his ancient feudal enemy, Ballindalloch. He
was kindly received, for his severe recent affliction was sincerely
pitied by his generous neighbour.

"Ballindalloch," said he, "I am come to thank thee for the friendly
caution which thou gavest to a foolish old man, who, if he had taken
it as it was meant, would have had his roof-tree still fresh and
firm. But let that pass," continued he, with a sigh, and with the full
tear rising over his eyelid. "The obligation I owe to thee is not the
less, that I, blinded man, refused to give more heed to thy caution."

"Talk not of this, sir," said Ballindalloch. "I must e'en confess
to thee, Tullochcarron, that the advice came from so questionable
a quarter, that had I been in thy case I might have spurned it
myself. But say, sir, wilt thou not eat and drink with me?"

"Willingly," replied Tullochcarron.

"Wilt thou name aught that might, perchance, be most pleasing to thy
taste?" said Ballindalloch.

"I know I need not ask for salmon," said Tullochcarron, "for such
food is hardly now to be had."

"Though the fish have been somewhat rare with us of late," said
Ballindalloch, "I think I can promise thee that thou shalt have as
much of thy favourite dish as shall satisfy thee."

"Alas!" said Tullochcarron with a faltering voice, and with a tear
rolling down his cheek, "salmon have, indeed, been rare with me
since--since--but," added he, making a strong effort to overcome
the feelings excited by the recollection of his son, and perhaps
with the hope of hiding his agitation under a good-humoured jest,
"I hear that the salmon are so bewitched, that they hardly ever come
farther inland now than the Bog of Gight. In so great a scarcity,
then, I much doubt whether the stock of fresh fish within the Castle
of Ballindalloch will stand against my well-known voracity."

"Be assured that there is as much in the house, of mine own catching,
too, as will extinguish thine appetite, and leave something to spare,"
said Ballindalloch.

"Thou knowest not what a cormorant I am," said Tullochcarron.

"I have heard much of thy powers," said Ballindalloch.

"And I am as sharp set at this moment as ever I was in my life,"
said Tullochcarron.

"All that may be; yet I fear thee not," said Ballindalloch laughing.

"Art thou bold enough to lay a wager on the issue?" demanded
Tullochcarron.

"I am so bold," said Ballindalloch.

"Well, then," said Tullochcarron, "I will wager thee the succession
and heirship of my lands against thy grey gelding, that I shall not
leave thee a morsel to spare."

"Thou dost give me brave odds, indeed," said Ballindalloch; "thou
hadst best bethink thee again ere we strike thumbs on it."

"Nay, I require no more thought," said Tullochcarron; "and, moreover,
I grow hungrier every moment. Besides," said the old man with a sigh,
that showed that all this jocularity was only assumed to cover a
broken heart; "I am putting in peril that in which I can have no
interest, whilst, if I win thy gallant grey, I shall be sure of being
well mounted for the rest of my life. Art thou afraid of losing thy
steed? or wilt thou say done to the wager?"

"I do say done, then, since thou wilt have it so," said Ballindalloch,
and he accordingly gave the necessary orders for having the matter
put to the proof.

After a little time, a serving man entered with a covered trencher, in
which lay, smoking hot, one half of a small salmon. When Tullochcarron
lifted the cover, he eyed it with something like contempt, and
impelled as he was by his irresistible disease, he fell upon it, and
devoured it with an alacrity that astonished every beholder. A whole
salmon, but of moderate size, was then brought in, and was instantly
attacked by Tullochcarron with as much avidity as if he had not eaten
a morsel. Wonderfully and fearfully did he go on to clear his way
through it; but as he approached the conclusion of it, his jaws began
to go rather more languidly than before. Ballindalloch observed this.

"Ho there! bring more salmon!" cried he aloud.

"No," said Tullochcarron, shoving the trencher from him, and wiping
his knife and fork in his napkin, and sticking them into his dirk
sheath. "No, no; I have enough. Ballindalloch, my lands shall be
yours the moment the breath is out of my body."

"Nay, then," said Ballindalloch, "I must in truth and honesty confess
that I called for more salmon but as a bravado; for thou hast indeed
finished all the salmon that was in the house, and it is my grey
gelding that is thine, not thy lands that are mine."

"It matters not, Ballindalloch," replied the other. "The lands of
Tullochcarron are thine notwithstanding. See, there are the writings
which I had made out the week after my poor Duncan was so foully
murdered. Thou wilt find that thy name was then inserted therein. I
but seized on this of the wager as a whimsical means of breaking
the matter to thee; and now thou mayest make of Tullochcarron what
it may please thee. I shall not stand long in the way, poor decayed
sproutless stock as I am! and I have now known enough of thee to be
convinced that thou wilt not see me kicked over before my time; but
that thou wilt take care of me during the brief space that I may yet
cumber this earth, and see me laid decently beside Duncan when I die."

Such then, gentlemen, was the way in which the lands of Tullochcarron
came to be united to those of Ballindalloch,--ane union, the which
I am told, did vurra much impruv the value of both, and which still
subsists to the present day.



ANTIQUARIAN DISCUSSION.


Clifford.--Why, this is the best story I have heard for many a day,
for it has both salmon and salmon fishing in it.

Author.--The secret is out now about the fairies and the peel-tower,
and, for my own part, I shall never in future doubt the prévoyance
and judgment of these good people. Aware, as they must have been,
that fate had decreed the lands of Tullochcarron to be merged in
those of Ballindalloch, and seeing that this coming event would
render the commanding site of Ballindalloch's proposed peel-tower
utterly valueless, as he would no longer have any enemy's territory
to overlook, their regard for his interest induced them to drive him
out of his fancy, and to compel him to descend into the delightful
repose and shelter of the beautiful haugh below.

Dominie.--'Pon my word, sir, there is much reason in that observe of
yours. That is, always premeesing that the story I told had been a
tale of reasonable and probable fack.

Author.--But as you yourself remarked at the conclusion of it,
Mr. Macpherson, the wild faery tale connected with the ancient
foundations of the peel-tower may have some matter of truth wrapped up
in it; and why may we not suppose then, that Ballindalloch, having
commenced some small exploratory building there, had afterwards
discontinued it when the prospect of his succession to the lands of
Tullochcarron opened to him.

Dominie.--Troth, I'm thinking you have guessed it sir,--that wull
just be it.

Grant.--The conjecture is at least as good as those of most
antiquaries.

Clifford.--It would certainly seem to have some foundation in the
old site.

Author.--If that was meant as a pun, Mr. Secretary, I think you should
be immediately condemned to tell us a long story, in expiation of so
grave an offence.

Clifford.--The first time, certainly, that I ever heard a pun called a
grave offence; but, to bury all further controversy, I will tell you a
legend which I learned when I was on a visit to some of my relations
in Ross-shire; and since you think that my offence is so very heavy,
I shall impose on myself a long penance, of which I pray the gods
that you, my good auditors, may not suffer any share.



LEGEND OF CHIRSTY ROSS.


About the middle of last century, there resided in the burgh of Tain,
on the eastern coast of Ross-shire, a poor shopkeeper of the name of
Ross. The contents of that strange and multifarious emporium, which
he called his shop, might have been well advertised by a handbill,
like that which I once met with in Ireland, where, in the long
list of miscellaneous articles enumerated, I remember to have seen
"tar, butter, hog's-lard, brimstone, and other sweetmeats--brushes,
scythe-stones, mouse-traps, and other musical instruments." You may
easily imagine, that the profits arising from the sale of such trumpery
wares as these, were barely sufficient to provide the necessaries
of life for his numerous family, and to bestow on his children the
common education which Scotland, very much to her credit, so readily
and cheaply affords. Although Mr. Ross's enjoyments were not numerous,
yet, by endeavouring to have as few wants as possible, he managed to
live contentedly and happily enough, and he cheerfully struggled on
drudging at his daily occupation, thanking God for the mercies which
were bestowed on him, and looking forward with hope to the prospect
of better days yet in store.

A circumstance occurred one afternoon, which led him to imagine that
this prospect was nearer realisation than he could have believed it to
be. A stranger, of a spare form and extremely atrabilious complexion,
was seen to ride into the town at a gentle pace, and to go directly up
to the principal house of entertainment for travellers, as if the way
to it had been familiar to him. He had not been long housed there, when
a waiter came across the street to Mr. Ross, with compliments "from
the gentleman at the inn," who requested a few minutes' conversation
with him. The eager shopkeeper, anticipating some important sale of
his goods, waited not to doff his apron and sleeves, but hurried over
the way directly, and, what was his astonishment and delight, when,
after a few words of inquiry and explanation had passed between them,
he found himself weeping tears of joy in the arms of an affectionate
elder brother.

This man had left his father's house when very young, with little
else but hope for his portion, and after being so lost sight of
by his relations, that they had long believed him to be dead,
he now most unexpectedly returned to them from India with an ample
fortune. Wonderful were the visions of wealth which now arose in the
mind of the poor shopkeeper, and, on his warm invitation, his brother,
and his brother's saddle-bags, were quickly transferred from the inn
to his small and inconvenient house, and the Indian was speedily
subjected to the danger of being smothered in the embraces of his
sister-in-law and her numerous progeny.

Narrow as was his apartment, and small as was his bed, the nabob
felt himself in elysium in his brother's house. He had never before
experienced the genial effects of the warmth of kindred blood. He
was idolised by every one of the family, and imminent was the risk
he ran of being killed with kindness. Nor was he the great object
of attention to his immediate relations alone. He soon became the
oracle of a large circle of kind friends and neighbours, who were seen
crowding Mr. Ross's small back parlour, which many of them had never
before condescended to enter. And not only was the Indian feasted by
small and great, but his humble brother and his sister-in-law were also
invited to parties by people who had hardly before been aware of the
fact that such an individual as Mr. Ross, the grocer and hardwareman,
existed in the place. But now Mr. Ross was not only discovered,
as it were, but he was discovered to be a very sensible man, having
much of his brother, the nabob's sound intellect, though wanting the
advantages of cultivation. As to the nabob, he was a rara avis in
terris,--an absolute phoenix, a creature a specimen of which is not
to be met with in every age of the world. What the nabob uttered was
considered as law; and even when he was absent, "the nabob said this,"
and "the nabob said that," and "that's the way the nabob likes it,"
were expressions continually employed by the good people of the town
and neighbourhood to put an end to a debate; and they never failed
to be quite conclusive upon every question. All this had a certain
charm for the old Indian. It was extremely pleasant thus despotically
to rule over men's opinions, aye, and over women's too, even in such
a place as Tain. But the copper of the gilded crown and sceptre of
his dominion soon began to appear through its thin coating. His own
origin had indeed been humble, but as his wealth had grown by degrees,
so had he been gradually elevated above his original sphere, till
he had at last risen into familiar intercourse with people of rank
and consequence, from whose society his address, and still more, his
ideas had received a certain degree of polish. This did not prevent
him from greatly enjoying the plain, honest, warm, but very vulgar
manners of his brother and his townsmen, whilst they were as yet new
to him. They pleased him at first, precisely on the same principle of
novelty, combined with old association, which made him relish for a
certain time sheep's-head broth and haggis. But having unfortunately
expressed himself rather strongly in his admiration of these dishes,
the good folks thought themselves bound to give them to him upon all
occasions, so that they soon began to lose their charm; and just so it
was that the uninterrupted converse with the good, yet homely people
around him, to which he was daily subjected, very soon became dull,
tiresome, ennuyant, and, finally, disgusting, until it eventually grew
to be so very intolerable that he altogether abandoned the thought
he had entertained of purchasing an estate in that neighbourhood
which was then for sale, and he quickly came to the determination of
bringing this visit to his native town to a speedy conclusion, and of
returning to London to take up his abode there among people who like
himself had known what it was to live on curries and mulligatawny,
and who could talk with him of tiffins and tiger hunting.

How shall I describe that wet blanket of disappointment that fell upon
the shoulders of Mr. Ross, the grocer and hardwareman, and his family,
when the nabob communicated to them this change in his plans. All the
poor shopkeeper's splendid visions departed from him with the same
suddenness with which the figures from a magic lantern disappear from
a wall the moment its light is extinguished. He had already set it
down in his own mind as a thing absolutely certain, that his beloved
brother would live and die in his house; and he and his wife had been
calculating, that as every child they had would be as a child to its
bachelor uncle, every child of them would be better provided for than
another. Ten thousand cobwebby castles had been erected in the air
by this worthy couple, who had already made lairds of all the boys,
and lairds' ladies at least of all the girls. "Out of sight out of
mind" was a proverb that came with chilling truth to their hearts;
and although the nabob had already shown much affection to them,
and had behaved generously enough in giving liberal aid towards the
improvement of his brother's condition and that of his family, yet
they could not help considering his threatened separation from them as
the removal of the sunshine of fortune from the hemisphere of their
fate. Never was the anticipated departure of any one more deeply or
sincerely deplored. The nabob himself had no such feelings. He looked
forward to his escape from his relatives and friends as to a period
of happy relief. Yet to this there was one exception.

Chirsty Ross, as his niece Christina was provincially called, was
then a very beautiful and extremely engaging little girl of some
five or six years of age. From the first day that the old Indian
took up his residence in her father's house, she had innocently and
unconsciously commenced her approaches against the citadel of his
heart. Each succeeding hour saw her gain outpost after outpost, and
defence after defence, until she fairly entwined herself so firmly
around his affections, that he could not contemplate the approaching
loss of her smiles, of her kisses, and of her prattle, with anything
like philosophy. He had been naturally enough led to shower a double
portion of his favours upon her. She was already in the habit of
calling him "her own uncle," as if he had belonged exclusively and
entirely to herself, and to this she had been a good deal encouraged
by the nabob. It is not wonderful, therefore, that when his departure
was communicated to her, she was thrown into an inconsolable paroxysm
of grief, and clung to his knees, giving loud vent to her plaints,
and sobbing as if her little heart would have burst.

"Take me with you! take me with you, my own dear uncle! oh, take your
own Chirsty with you!" cried she.

"I shall take you with me, my little dear!" exclaimed the nabob,
snatching her up, and kissing her. "I shall take you with me, provided
your father and mother will but part with you."

A negotiation was speedily entered into. The parents were too sensible
of the great advantages which such a proposal opened for their child
to think for one moment of throwing any obstacle in the way of its
fulfilment. They, moreover, hoped that this arrangement might have
the desirable effect of keeping up a connecting tie between them and
their rich relative. However much they might have been disappointed
in this last respect, they certainly never had any reason to accuse
the nabob of any forgetfulness of those promises which he made to
them at parting.

He was no sooner established in his house in town than he set about
providing proper instructors for Chirsty, and a very few weeks
proved to him that his care was by no means thrown away. The child's
perception was quick, and her desire to learn was strong, so that
things which were difficult to others were, comparatively speaking,
easy to her. So rapid was her progress, that her uncle became every
day more and more interested in it; and as she advanced, he was from
time to time led to engage firstrate masters, in order to perfect her
in all manner of solid acquirements and elegant accomplishments. With
all this her person became every day more graceful as she grew in
stature; and everything she said and did was seasoned with so much
sweetness of manner, that she gained the hearts of all who had the
good fortune to meet with her.

Not a little proud of what he had so good a right to call his own
work, the nabob, on her fifteenth birthday, put the master-keys of his
house with great but affectionate ceremonial into her hands, and with
them he gave her the entire control and management of his household
affairs. But she did not long continue to enjoy the distinguished
situation in which he had thus placed her. Too close an application
to the numerous branches of education she occupied herself with soon
brought upon her that delicacy of health which is too often the produce
of the similar over-confinement of young growing girls in our own
days. A very alarming cough came on, her strength visibly declined
daily, and her spirits began to sink. She was compelled to give up
all her favourite pursuits. Books and music lost their charms for
her, and her hours were spent in list-less idleness, not unfrequently
broken in upon by nervous fits of crying, which she could by no means
account for. Then it was that in her moody dreamings her mind would
revert to the innocent pleasures of her childhood, to the simple,
the rustic, yet highly relished happiness she had enjoyed whilst
surrounded by her brothers and sisters, when they wandered about the
furzy hillocks in a joyous knot, inhaling the perfume of the rich
yellow blossoms,--when they dug little caves in the sandy banks,
or built their mimic houses, or planted their perishable gardens,
with careless hearts, noisy tongues, and laughing eyes. The thought
that she might never again behold them or her dear parents renewed
her tears, and she pined more and more.

Her affectionate uncle became alarmed at this rapid and melancholy
change. So far as gold could purchase the aid of the best medical skill
he commanded its attendance. But even the most learned of the London
physicians could discover no medicine to remove her malady. In their
own minds they despaired of her, but as usually happens in such cases,
to cover the deficiency of their art, they recommended her native air
as the dernier ressort. Chirsty eagerly caught at this last remaining
hope, so congenial to the current of her feelings at the time, and her
uncle was thus obliged to yield to necessity; and as certain matters
in which he had engaged rendered it quite impossible for him to take
charge of her himself, he was obliged to resign her to the care of
her maid.

The doctors were right for once. Every breeze that blew on her from
her native land as she proceeded on her journey seemed to be fraught
with health; her spirits rose, and long before she reached the place
of her birth, she was so far recovered as to remove all fears of
any serious termination of her complaint. How did her mind go on as
she travelled, sketching to itself ideal pictures of the charms of
home! But alas! how changed did every person and everything seem to
her when she at last reached it. How pitiful did the provincial town
appear to her London eyes! The streets seemed to have shrunk in, and
the very houses and gardens to have dwindled; and when she reached
her paternal mansion, she blushed to think how very grievously the
fondness of her ancient recollections had deceived her.

The full tide of unrestrained affection which burst forth the moment
she was within its walls was so gratifying to her heart, that for
some time every other feeling or thought was absorbed by it; but many
weeks did not pass over her head until the conversation and manners
of her parents and family, which had startled her even at the first
interview, began to obtrude themselves on her notice in spite of all
she could do to shut her eyes against them, until they finally became
intolerably disagreeable to her. She soon discovered,--and a certain
degree of sorrow and self-reproach accompanied the discovery,--that
the refined education which she had received had rendered it quite
impossible that she could long endure the mortifications to which she
was daily and hourly exposed by her vulgar though affectionate and
well-meaning relatives. Painful as the thought was for many reasons,
she became convinced of the necessity of an early separation; and,
accordingly, she made her uncle's wish for her speedy return to him an
apology for fixing an early day for her departure. Yet do not suppose
from this that the ties of affection were not strong within her. The
parting scene was not gone through without many tears and lingering
embraces, that sufficiently proved the triumph of nature in her mind
over the arbitrary dictates of fashion. And after she was gone, the
large richly bound folio bible, out of which her father ever afterwards
read on Sundays,--the gold-mounted spectacles which enabled him so well
to decipher its characters, and of which he was at all times so justly
vain,--the cashmere shawl that kept her good mother so warm, and the
caps, the bonnets, the gowns, the globes, and the books of prints,
with which her grown-up sisters and brothers were so much delighted,
and the dolls and humming-tops of which the junior members of the
family, down to the very youngest, were so proud as having been the
gifts of "the grand leddy from Lunnon," for sister they dared hardly
to call her, were not the only marks of her affection that she left
behind her. Besides these keepsakes there were other presents of a
more solid nature bestowed in secret, which, whilst they contributed
to enable her father to hold his head higher as he walked up the
causeway of the main street of Tain, compelled Chirsty herself to
exercise a very strict economy in providing for those wants which
her own style of life rendered essential to her, large as was the
sum which she had received from the bounty of her uncle.

Passing through Edinburgh on her way to London, she was visited
and kindly invited by a lady of fashion who had known her in
the metropolis, and she soon found herself deeply engaged in
gaiety. Perhaps she did not enter into it the less readily that she had
so recently returned from what might have been well enough called her
life of mortification at Tain. Having once got into the vortex, she
found it difficult to extricate herself from it, and this difficulty
was not lessened by the admiration which her beauty and accomplishments
so universally excited both in public and in private. She became
the chief object of interest, and she was so caressed and courted
by every one, that it was not very surprising if the adoration that
was paid to her did in some degree affect so young a head. However
this might be, three things were very certain,--in the first place,
that she had been extremely regular in writing to her uncle during
her stay at Tain; secondly, that before leaving that place she had
heard from her uncle, who had warmly expressed his anxiety for her
return to him; and thirdly, that whereas she had intended to stay
in Edinburgh for two or three days only, she was led on from day to
day by this ball and the other party to remain, till nearly a whole
winter had melted away like its own snows, during all which time she
had likewise procrastinated, and, consequently, had entirely omitted
the duty of writing to her uncle.

The day of thought and of self-disapproval came at length, and bitter
were her reflections. She resolved at least to do all in her power to
repair her fault. She sat down immediately and wrote a long letter to
her uncle, in which she scrupled not to blame herself to the fullest
extent for her want of thought and apparent negligence towards so
kind a friend and benefactor, and she declared her repentance and
her intention of returning to him immediately.

Having accordingly reached London very soon after her letter, she was
driven to her uncle's well-known door. Her impatience to behold him
was such, that she could hardly rest in the chaise till the postilion
dismounted to knock for her admittance. How intense were her emotions
during that brief space! How eagerly did her eyes run over every
window in the ample front of the house! How rapidly did the images
of her uncle, and of Alexander Tod, his old and faithful servant,
dance through her imagination whilst she gazed intently on the yet
unopened door, prepared to catch the first smile of surprise and of
welcome which she knew would illuminate the honest countenance of that
tried domestic, the moment he should discover who it was that summoned
him. As she looked she was surprised to perceive that the door itself
had strangely changed the modest and unpretending hue which it had
worn when she last saw it for a queer uncouth flaring colour, somewhat
between a pink and an orange. Before she had time to wonder at this
metamorphosis the door did open, and if its opening did produce any
surprise it was her own; for, instead of discovering the plain but
respectable figure of Alexander Tod, whom she had been long taught to
consider more as an old friend than as a menial, she beheld a saucy
fopling, bepowdered, underbred footman, in a gaudy vulgar looking
livery. The man stared when she asked for her uncle, and seemed but
half inclined to consent to the hall being encumbered with her baggage,
and, after having shown her with unconcealed petulance into a little
back parlour, she had the mortification, through the door which he
had carelessly left ajar behind him, to hear herself thus announced,--

"A young person in the back parlour who wishes to speak to you, sar."

And, chagrined as she was by this provoking delay, she could not help
laughing, as she threw herself into a sofa to wait for her uncle's
appearance. He came at last, and his joy at again beholding her was
great and unfeigned.

"Welcome again to my house, my dear Chirsty," said he, with tears of
joy, after his first warm and silent embraces were over; "Oh! why did
you cease to write to me? But I need say no more, for what is done
cannot be undone; yet, if you had but written to me, things might
have been otherwise."

"I ought indeed to have written to you, my dear uncle," replied
Chirsty; "but much as I have deserved your anger, things cannot be
but well with me, whilst I am thus affectionately and kindly received
by you."

Her uncle replied not; but, with his eyes thrown on the ground, and
with an air of solemnity which she had never seen him wear before,
he led her upstairs to the large drawing-room, where she found seated
a middle-aged and rather good-looking woman, with an expression of
countenance by no means very prepossessing, and whose person was tawdry
and very much overdressed. What was her astonishment, and what was
the shock she felt, when her uncle led her up to this lady, saying,--

"Mrs. Ross, this is my niece, of whom you have heard me speak so much;
and Chirsty, my dear, you will henceforth know and treat this lady
as my wife and your aunt."

However little sensible people may think of those newborn and baseless
dreams which have been recently blown up into something falsely
resembling a science by the folly and vanity of man, and which I for
one yet hope, for the honour of human intellect, to see burst and
collapse ere I die, it must be admitted, that all are more or less
Lavaterists; and that even the youngest of us will involuntarily
exercise some such scrutiny on the features of a countenance, when
we happen to be placed in such circumstances as Chirsty Ross now
found herself thrown into. She, poor girl, failed not to bring all
the little knowledge of this sort which she possessed into immediate
requisition. The result of her investigations were most unfavourable
to the subject of them, nor were these disagreeable impressions at all
diminished by the profusion of protestations of kindness and affection
which the lady lavished upon her with a vulgar volubility, whilst at
the same time she seemed to eye the young intruder in a manner that
augured but little for her future happiness. But although Chirsty
perceived all this, she inwardly determined to doubt the correctness
of her own observation,--at all events, sorrowfully as she retired
to rest, or rather to moisten her pillow with her tears, she failed
not to arm herself with the virtuous resolution, that as this woman,
be she what she might, was the wife of her uncle, who had acted as a
father to her, she would use her best endeavours to gain her affection,
seeing that she was now bound to regard her as a parent. But yet she
did not close her eyes, without having almost unconsciously exclaimed,

"What could have induced my uncle, with such tastes as he has, to
marry such a person as this? Ah! if I had not fooled away my time in
Edinburgh! or if I had only but written!"

Next morning she met her uncle alone in the library, and a single
sentence of his explained the whole.

"What could have induced you to forget to write to me, Chirsty?" said
the good man, kissing her tenderly, whilst his eyes betrayed a
sensation which he vainly tried to hide. "We were so happy here alone
together! But I have been a fool, Chirsty! Blinded by momentary pique,
I saw not the slough of despond into which I was plunging until too
late! But she is not a bad woman, though not quite what I was at first
led to believe her to be; and so, all we can now say is, that she is
your aunt and my wife, and we are both bound to make the best of it."

Chirsty assured her uncle that nothing should be wanting on her part
towards her aunt; and she kept her word, for, neglecting all other
things, she devoted herself entirely to the task of pleasing her. For
some little while her pious endeavours seemed to have succeeded;
but it happened that Chirsty, unambitious as she was to shine, so
far eclipsed her aunt in every attraction that makes woman charming,
that without intending it, or rather whilst intending the very
reverse, she monopolised all the attention of those with whom they
associated either at home or abroad. Compared to her Mrs. Ross was
treated like a piece of furniture,--any table or cabinet in the room
had more attention paid to it. She could not shut her eyes to her
own inferiority, and envy, hatred, and malice took full possession
of her. Chirsty's efforts to please, though they had ceased to be
successful, were still unremitting; but her uninterrupted gentleness
was met by perpetual peevishness and ill humour, always excepting such
times as her uncle chanced to be present, when the lady's words and
manner were ever bland, kind, and false. With such devilish tempers it
often happens that the more they torture the more they hate, and so it
was that the dislike of this woman towards her niece rapidly grew to
so great a height, that she resolved to get her removed from the house.

Fondly believing that she had a stronger hold over her husband's
affections than she really possessed, she first of all attempted to
undermine her in her uncle's good opinion by sly insinuations against
her truth, her temper, and what she called the girl's pretended
love for him, which she declared was in reality no greater than her
attention to her own self-interest required. But finding that this
line of attack only excited his anger, she with great art gradually
withdrew from it, and by slow degrees she began to confess that she
now believed she had been altogether mistaken in her estimation of
Chirsty, and every succeeding day heard her bestow more and more
praise on her temper and disposition. This was a language that was
much more congenial to the nabob, but he was not altogether the dupe
of it. He however listened with seeming attention to his wife when
she prosed on about the zeal she felt for her niece's interest, as
well as when, after a long prologue, she finally proposed the grand
scheme of sending Chirsty out to India to the care of a particular
friend of the nabob's at Calcutta, that she might there make some
wealthy match, so as to secure her a magnificent independence for
life. Plainly as Mr. Ross saw through the motives that dictated all
this apparent solicitude, he took care to appear to think it quite
genuine. Nor did he refuse to entertain the project; for as he began
shrewdly to suspect that his niece could now have but little happiness
under the same roof with his wife, he resolved at least to put it in
Chirsty's power to accept or reject this proposal. He accordingly
sought for a private interview with her, and then it was that her
tears, and her half confessions with difficulty extracted, satisfied
him of the correctness of his suspicions, and the readiness with which
she acceded to the plan which he laid before her at once determined
him as to the propriety of going immediately into it. He therefore
lost not a moment in securing everything that might contribute to her
comfort and happiness during the voyage, and he presented her with a
letter of credit for a sum of money amply sufficient to put her above
all anxiety as to that matter on reaching the shores of the Ganges.

These substantial marks of her uncle's affection towards her,
supported as they were by a thousand little nameless kindnesses, did
not tend to allay the grief which she felt at parting with him. The
reflection that she went because she felt convinced that her uncle's
future domestic comfort required her absence, was all that she had
to give her courage to bear it, and she was so much absorbed in this
conviction, that she hardly gave much thought to the consideration
of what her own future fate might be.

The gallant ship had gone merrily on its voyage for several days
before Chirsty began to mix at all with her fellow-passengers. But
when she first came upon deck, it was like the appearance of the
morning sun over the eastern horizon of some country where he is
worshipped. All eyes were instantly bent upon her; and ere the people
had been familiarised to her beauty, the elegance of her manners,
and the charms of her conversation, soon made her the great centre of
attraction to all who walked the quarter-deck. Above all others, she
seemed to have made a deep and powerful impression on the commander,
whom I shall call Captain Mordaunt, a very elegant and agreeable
man, of superior intellect and information. He soon showed himself
indefatigable in his attentions to her. His command of the ship
gave him a thousand opportunities of manifesting a marked degree of
politeness towards her, by doing her many little courteous services
which no one else had the power to perform. He easily invented means
of keeping all other aspirants to her favour at a sufficient distance
from her. Her heart was as yet her own; and as Mordaunt never lost
any opportunity of engaging her in conversation, and as his talk
was always well worth listening to, it was no wonder that so many
unequivocal proofs of an attachment on the part of so handsome a man,
in the prime of life, and of address so superior, should have soon
prepared the way for her favourable reception of his declared passion;
and this having once been made, and mutually acknowledged, it seemed
to grow in warmth as the days fled merrily away, and as the progress
of the prosperous bark carried them nearer and nearer to that sun
which gives life and heat to all animated nature. Often did Mordaunt
gladden the artless mind of Chirsty Ross as they sat apart together
on the poop of the vessel, towards the conclusion of their voyage,
in the full enjoyment of the fanning sea-breeze, by the enchanting
pictures which he painted of the happiness of their future wedded life.

"I have already realised a tolerable fortune," said he, one evening
carelessly, "so that by the time I return to Calcutta from my trip to
China, whither you know the vessel is bound, I may safely claim your
hand, in order that we may sail home together as man and wife. You can
have no dread of spending our honeymoon on the wide waters, my love,
since they have yielded us so happy a courtship, especially when you
think that we shall be on our way to some sweet rural residence in
England, where we shall be insured the enjoyment of tranquillity and
happiness for the rest of our days. And there, with what I have saved,
added to the liberal allowance which your rich uncle will give you
during his life, and with the certainty which you have of succeeding to
his immense fortune at his death, we shall be able to live in a style
altogether worthy of that exquisite beauty, and that angelic soul,
with which Heaven has blessed you, and of those fascinating manners
and brilliant accomplishments, which are calculated to make you the
queen of any society you may be pleased to grace with your presence."

"Stay, stay, Mordaunt!" replied Chirsty, smiling playfully. "You are
running too fast before the wind. I need not tell you what you have
so often told me, that I am prepared to be thine on the wide ocean, in
the populous city, or in the lonely desert, in sickness or in health,
in wealth or in poverty! And well is it, indeed, that you have so
often vowed all this much to me, for I must needs disabuse your mind
of some part of its visions of riches, so far at least as that share
may have reached which your fancy has ascribed to me. I have neither
claims nor expectations from my uncle, who has already done more for
me than any niece in my circumstances had a right to expect."

"Haul taut that weather main-brace!" cried the captain, suddenly
starting from her side; and although there appeared to be little change
in the wind or the weather to warrant such activity, he became from
that moment too much occupied in the care of the ship for any further
conversation with Chirsty that evening.

In the morning the lovers met as usual, and then, as well as during the
few remaining days of the voyage, Mordaunt was as full of affection and
endearment to her as ever. Their last private interview took place ere
she left the ship to go into the small craft that was to take her up
the river, and then all their mutual vows were solemnly repeated. An
understanding took place between them, that their engagement should
be kept private, unless circumstances should arise which might render
a disclosure necessary. Poor Chirsty gave way to all the poignancy of
that grief which she felt at being thus obliged to part, even for a
few months, from him to whom, in the then orphan state of her soul, she
had given up the whole strength of her undivided affections. But hard
as she found the effort to be, she was obliged to dry up her tears,
and even to throw a faint and fleeting smile over her countenance as
she left the ship, that she might not betray her own secret before
indifferent persons; and it was only that warm and cherishing hope
that lay nearest to her heart that kept the pulses of her life
playing, and that enabled her to go through the trying scene of
parting coolly with her lover, after he had deposited her under the
roof of her uncle's friend, where they bid each other such a polite
adieu as might have befitted two well-bred people who were separating
with mutual esteem for one another, and who were, at the same time,
very little solicitous as to whether there did or did not exist any
future chance of their ever meeting again.

Mr. Gardner, as I shall call the gentleman to whose protection the
nabob had consigned Chirsty, well deserved the confidence which had
been placed in him. He spoke warmly of the many obligations under
which he lay to Mr. Ross, and he declared himself to be delighted in
having the opportunity which had thus been afforded him of proving his
gratitude for those obligations. His lady entered deeply into all her
husband's feelings, and both of them zealously occupied themselves
in doing all in their power to promote the young lady's comfort and
happiness. Numerous and brilliant were the parties which they made for
the purpose of introducing their lovely protegé with sufficient eclat
to the society of Calcutta. But not even the novelty and grandeur of
Eastern magnificence, though produced for her with all its splendour,
had any effect in removing that pensive air which their young friend
wore when she landed, and which she continued to wear notwithstanding
all the smiling new faces to which she was every moment introduced. One
very natural result, however, was soon produced by these numerous
public appearances which the kindness of her friends obliged her
to make. She was immediately encircled by crowds of admirers; and
before she had been many months in the country she had been put to the
unpleasant necessity of declining proposals of marriage from numerous
military men and civilians of rank so high as to make those with whom
she lived wonder at the indifference she displayed. The more she was
courted the more retiring she appeared to become.

Among the few who were admitted to a somewhat more familiar intercourse
with Chirsty, was a Scottish gentleman of good family, whom I shall
call Charles Græme. Though young, he had risen to a high civil
situation, and he had already realised a very handsome fortune. He
was a gentleman of enlarged mind and extremely liberal education;
and as he was of manners much more retiring than most of those with
whom she had become acquainted, she the more readily yielded to that
intimacy which his greater friendship with her host and hostess
gave him very frequent opportunities of forming with her. Like
herself he was full of accomplishments; yet such was his modesty,
that she had known him for a considerable time before accident led
her to discover them. His mind was richly stored with the treasures
of European literature; yet it was only on particular occasions that
he allowed himself to give forth the sweets he had hoarded up, or to
indulge in those critical remarks to which every one was prepared to
listen with delight. As he became better known to her, and more at
his ease with her, she discovered that his tastes, his acquirements,
his sentiments, nay, his very soul, were all so much in harmony with
her own, that she soon began to prefer his society to that of any
other gentleman who approached her. Had her heart been unengaged,
she might perhaps have had some degree of palpitation in its pulses,
as she sensibly felt their friendship becoming every day more and more
familiar; but, as the partridge believes that when its head is in the
bush the whole of its body is secure, so she, knowing her own safety,
owing to that secret cause which bound her to another, never dreamed
that the accomplished Scotchman could be in any danger of feeling
for her any sentiment one degree warmer than that of esteem. Thus
it was, that with perfect unconsciousness on her part of the havoc
she was working in his heart, she read with him, criticised with him,
played with him, sang with him, or sketched with him, as the fancy of
the moment might dictate, her heart being all the while filled with
gratitude to him for so good-naturedly enabling her to pass, with at
least some degree of rational enjoyment, some of those tedious hours
that must yet elapse ere the return of him to whom she had pledged
her virgin affections.

As for Charles Græme, he soon began to find that he existed only when
his soul was animated by her bright eyes and her seraphic voice. When
absent from their influence he felt like a walking mass of frozen
clay. Her society became more necessary to him than food or air. He
almost lived at the house of the Gardners, who, on their part, gave him
every encouragement, being secretly pleased at what they believed to
be the mutual attachment that was so rapidly growing, as they thought,
between two individuals whom they had reason to love so much, and whom
they knew to be so worthy of each other, and so well calculated to
make each other happy for life. Day after day the infatuated young man
drank deeper and deeper draughts of the sweet intoxication of love. At
last the hour of wretchedness came. Seizing what he fondly believed
to be a favourable moment, and with a bosom full of bounding hopes,
he laid open the state of his heart to the idol of his soul. The
scales fell, as if by magic, from her mental vision.

"What have I done, Mr. Græme," she cried, whilst her cheeks were
suffused with blushes, and her whole frame trembled. "I have been
blind! I have been thoughtless, most culpably thoughtless. Forgive
me! oh, forgive me! but I cannot, I dare not, love you! I am already
the pledged bride of another."

It would be vain for me to attempt to describe the kind of temporary
death that fell upon her unfortunate lover as she uttered these
terrible words, which, like the simoom of the desert, left no atom of
hope behind them. Sinking into a chair, he uttered no sound, and he
sat for some time quite unconscious even of those attentions which her
compassion for him at the moment led her unscrupulously to administer
to him. The friendship and the high respect which she entertained for
him, as well as a regard for her own justification in his eyes, forbade
her to allow him to leave her without a full explanation. It was given
to him under the seal of secrecy, and the interview terminated with
an agony of feeling and floods of tears upon his part, in which her
compassion for that affliction which she had so innocently occasioned
him compelled her, in spite of herself, to participate.

The young Scotchman tried for some time after this, to frequent
the house where she lived as he had done previously. But her smiles
fell upon him like sunshine upon a spectre. Reason and prudence at
last came to his aid; and seeing that his heart could never hope
for ease whilst he remained within reach of her attractions, he,
to the great astonishment and disappointment of his friends, made
use of the powerful interest which he possessed to procure another
situation in a distant station, and he tore himself away from Calcutta.

And now came the time of misery to poor Chirsty herself, the season
of hope deferred, of nervous impatience, and of sad forebodings. The
period for which her fond heart panted in secret arrived--it passed
away. Days, nay, weeks and months beyond it elapsed; and yet no tidings
came of the gallant vessel that bore her betrothed husband. Delicately
alive to the apprehension of betraying her secret by inquiry, she did
not dare to ask questions. Fears, agonising fears, began to possess
her, that some fatal calamity had befallen the ship, till, happening
accidentally one day to cast her eyes over an old shipping list,
she read, and her sight grew dim as she read, of its arrival from
China, and its subsequent departure for England! How indestructible
is hope! Even then she imagined it possible that all this might have
been the result of accident, or might have arisen from the orders
of superiors. But still her anxiety preyed terribly upon her mind,
whilst she now looked forward to the new period of the ship's return
from England. In vain did she try to occupy herself in her former
pursuits. In vain did her friends endeavour to interest her with the
amusements they provided for her. All were equally fruitless in their
efforts; and the only explanation which the Gardners could find for
her mysterious abstraction, was in the belief that the remembrance
of Charles Græme was not altogether indifferent to her; and thence
they cherished the hope that the matter between that young man and
her might yet one day end as they wished it to do.

Months rolled on as if the days of which they were composed had been
years, till Chirsty was one evening, with some difficulty, induced
by her friends to go to a great public entertainment. She entered
the room, leaning on Mrs. Gardner's arm; and they were on their way
to find a seat at the upper end of it, when her eyes suddenly beheld
him for whose return she had been so long vainly sighing. Her heart
beat as if it would have burst from its seat in her bosom. She clung
unconsciously with a firmer hold to the arm of her friend, and her
limbs tottered under her with nervous joy as she moved forward. He
was advancing slowly with a lady; and as he drew near, she held out
her hand to him with a smile of happy and welcome recognition. He
started at sight of her; and then, after scanning every feature
of her countenance with calm indifference, he bowed coldly, turned
aside, and moved away. Chirsty uttered a faint cry, swooned away,
and was carried home by her friends in a state of insensibility,
leaving the whole room in confusion.

Sufficient natural and ordinary reasons were very easily found by a
company in such a climate as that of India for such an accident. But
Mrs. Gardner had seen enough to convince her that some deeper and
more powerful cause had operated upon Chirsty, than the mere heat of
weather or the crowded state of a room; and after she had successfully
used the necessary means for recovering her from her fainting fit,
she insisted on being allowed to share confidentially in the secret
of her afflictions. Chirsty felt some slight relief in telling her
all; and strange it was that she still clung most unaccountably
to hope. He might not have recognised her at first. He would yet
appear. But Mrs. Gardner's common sense told her there was no hope;
and she judged that it would be far better that Chirsty should receive
conviction, however cruel that conviction might be, rather than
remain in an anxiety which was so agonising and destructive. A very
little time enabled Mrs. Gardner to collect all the particulars of
his treachery. To sum up all in one word, he had arrived at Calcutta
from England with a rich wife, with whom he had already sailed on
his last voyage home.

This overwhelming intelligence was too much for the shattered frame of
poor Chirsty Ross. She was attacked by a most alarming fever, which
finally produced delirium; and even after the physicians had been
able to master the bodily disease, the mental derangement continued
so long, unabated, that her friends the Gardners considered it proper
to write home to inform her uncle of her unhappy state.

It pleased God, however, to restore her at length to her right mind;
and then it was that she was seized with an unconquerable desire of
returning to England. The most that the Gardners could prevail upon
her to agree to, was to delay her voyage to a period so far distant
as might insure that fresh letters should reach her uncle, to inform
him of her perfect mental recovery, and to teach him to look for her
arrival by a certain ship they named; and after impatiently waiting
till the time destined for her departure arrived, she bade her kind
friends the Gardners an affectionate farewell, and sailed with a fair
wind for Britain.

Who was it that arrived a week afterwards at the house of Mr. and
Mrs. Gardner in the middle of the night, having come by Dawk from a
far distant province? It was the shadow of Charles Græme!

"Thank God! thank God!" cried he energetically, after being told of
her recovery, and at the same time bursting into a flood of tears,
which weakness and fatigue left him no power to restrain. "Thank God
for her restoration! But oh! that I had reached Calcutta but eight
days sooner!"

He took his determination, applied for leave, to which the state of
his health might of itself well enough have entitled him, and went
for England by the very first fleet that sailed.

Chirsty Ross had a prosperous, but not a happy voyage. Her bodily
health improved every day that she was at sea; but her thoughts having
full time to brood over her miseries, her spirits became more and more
sunk. She rallied a little when she beheld the English shore; and when
she arrived in the river, her heart began to beat with affectionate
joy at the prospect of again embracing her dear uncle. Even the image
of her aunt had had its asperities softened down by length of time
and absence; and she almost felt something resembling pleasure at the
prospect of seeing her again. As the vessel arrived in the evening at
her moorings, a boat came alongside, and a voice was heard to demand
if there was a Miss Ross on board? Readily did Chirsty answer to the
inquiry; and being told that it was her uncle's servant come to take
her home, she lost not a moment in desiring her black maid to hand
up a small box, containing a few things to be put into the boat;
and leaving the girl to follow next day with her heavy baggage, she
quickly descended the ladder. She was immediately accosted by a stout,
vulgar-looking man out of livery, who announced himself to her as
Mr. Ross's servant, and informed her that a carriage waited for her
near the landing-place. She did accordingly find a post-chaise there;
but when the door of it was opened, and the steps were let down,
she started back on perceiving that there was a man seated at the
farther side of it.

"Only a friend of Mr. Ross, ma'am, whom he has sent to attend you
home," said the fellow who held the handle of the carriage-door.

Surprised as she was at the vulgarity of the dress and appearance of
the gentleman who was inside, and still more at his want of politeness
in not coming out of the carriage to hand her into it, her heart
was too full of home at the moment to admit of her inquiring very
particularly into circumstances, and accordingly, without more ado, she
entered the vehicle. But whilst she was yet only in the act of seating
herself, the fellow who had passed himself as her uncle's servant,
sprang in after her, pulled up the steps, shut the door, the side
blinds were drawn up, and the post-chaise was instantly flying at the
rate of twelve or fourteen miles an hour. She screamed aloud, but the
ruffian hands of both the villains were immediately on her mouth and
silence was inculcated with the most horrible and blasphemous menaces.

"We must have none of your Indian fury here, mistress," said one of
the fellows. "Behave peaceably and quietly, and you shall be treated
gently enough, but if you offer to rave and riot, the whip, the gag,
and the strait-waistcoat shall be your portion."

"Merciful Providence!" said Chirsty Ross, "why am I thus treated,
and whither would you carry me?"

"As to your treatment, young lady," said the man, "methinks you have
no right to complain of that as yet; and as to the why, I should
be as mad as yourself were I to hold any talk with you about that;
and, then, as to the whither, you have been already told that you
are going to your uncle's residence."

"Mad!" exclaimed Chirsty, with a shudder that ran through her whole
frame. "But, ah! I see how it is. Mr. Gardner's letters have been
received by my uncle, and not those which I wrote to him sometime
afterwards. And yet how did he know to expect me in England, and by
this particular ship, too, if my letters have not yet reached him? It
is very puzzling--very perplexing--very distressing; but since I am
going to him, I may thank God that all will soon be put to rights."

"Aye, aye," said both the men at once, whilst they laughed rudely to
one another, "all will soon be put to rights, I'll warrant me."

Chirsty sat silently dreaming over this strange and most vexatious
occurrence, yet hoping that her misery would be but of short duration,
till the chaise suddenly stopped, when one of the men let down the
window, and called to the postilion to ring the great bell at a gate,
which he had no sooner done than the peal was answered by the fierce
barking of a watch-dog.

"What place is this?" cried Chirsty, with new-born alarm. "This is
not the house of my Uncle Ross."

"You will see that all in good time, ma'am," replied one of the
men. "Postboy, ring again. What are they all about, I wonder?"

At this second summons the huge nail-studded leaves of the ponderous
oak and iron-bound gate were slowly rolled back, and the chaise was
admitted into a large paved court, where the lights that were borne
by one or two men of similar appearance to those who accompanied her,
showed the plain front of a pretty considerable brick building, the
narrow windows of which were strongly barred with iron. The door,
too, was of the most massive strength, and the whole character of
the edifice would of itself have conveyed to her the heart-sinking
conviction that she was within the precincts of a mad-house,
even if those strange sounds of uncouth laughter, wild rage, and
wailing despair that came from various parts of the interior, had
been altogether unheard by her. Rapidly did her thoughts traverse
her mind. The first natural impulse that possessed her was a desire
to scream out for help. But Chirsty was not destitute of resolution
and self-command; and as she immediately reflected that nothing
but the calmest behaviour could afford her any chance of convincing
the people of such an establishment that she in reality was sane,
she at once resolved to restrain herself from everything that might
look like excitement.

"Where is Sarah?" cried one of the men as he assisted Chirsty out of
the vehicle. "Aye, aye, here she comes. Here is your charge, Sall."

"A tall, handsome young woman," said Sarah, surveying Chirsty from
head to foot, whilst she herself exhibited a person in every respect
the reverse of that which she was admiring, being almost a dwarf,
though with a body thickly and strongly built. Her head was large,
with harsh prominent features, and her legs were bowed, and her
arms long and uncouth looking. Round her waist, if waist that might
be called where waist there was none, there was fastened a leathern
belt, to which was appended a large bunch of great keys. In the eyes
of Chirsty she was altogether a most formidable looking object.

"A tall handsome young woman," said she. "In what sort of temper is
she, I wonder?"

"She was a little bit riotous at first," said one of the men, "but
she has been quiet enough ever since."

"Come this way, young lady," said Sarah to Chirsty, in a rough tone
and sharp voice, and at the same time she stretched out her long arm,
and grasped her wrist with her bony fingers, whilst with the other
hand she held up an iron lamp, the light of which she threw before her.

"Treat me not harshly," said Chirsty gently. "I am ready to obey you. I
am quite aware that, from the strange mistake that has occurred,
it would be vain for me to attempt to convince you at present of my
sanity. I must patiently submit, therefore, to whatever restraint
you may impose on me, until my uncle comes to see me, and convince
himself. But do not, I pray you, exercise any unnecessary severity."

"No, no, poor thing," replied Sarah. "No, no; no severity, that is
not quite necessary, I promise you. As to your uncle--ha! ha! ha!--no
doubt you may chance to see un ere you leave this. Come this way."

Whilst this dialogue was passing, Chirsty was led by her strange
conductress through some long passages, in which were several
rectangular turnings, past many strongly secured doors, from within
which issued strange discordant sounds of human misery, mingled
with the clanking of chains; and up one or two flights of stairs,
which induced her to believe that the apartment to which she was
about to be introduced was in the upper story, and in a wing of the
building. The door was like those she had seen in her way thither,
of immense strength, and it was secured by a powerful lock, a couple
of heavy bolts, and a huge chain and padlock. It was the last door
of the narrow passage, which terminated about a yard beyond it in a
dead wall. The little woman pushed Chirsty past it into the cul-de-sac
which the passage thus formed, and then quitting her arm, she planted
the fixed gaze of her formidable eye upon her, and placing the lamp on
the ground, she selected the necessary keys, and using both hands she
exerted her strength to undo the lock and padlock, and then drawing
the bolts and removing the chain, she opened the den within. Beckoning
to her charge with an air of command not to be misunderstood, she
pushed Chirsty into the place, and then standing in the aperture of
the half-closed door for a minute or more, with her right hand on the
key, she threw in the light of the lamp so as fully to show the whole
interior. It was indeed a wretched place. A low narrow bedstead,
with bedclothes of the coarsest and meanest description, was the
whole of its furniture, and that occupied more than a fourth part of
the space contained within its four brick and stone walls. The floor
was of flags,--it had no fireplace, and one small narrow iron-grated
window was all the visible perforation that could admit light or air.

"May I not be allowed to have the few things which came in my
travelling-box?" said Chirsty mildly, after having seated herself on
the side of the bed.

"We shall consider of that, young lady," said Sarah sternly. "But in
the meanwhile, to satisfy my mind that you may be safely left for a
little time, you must suffer me to put those lily-white hands of yours
into this glove," and setting the lamp on the floor, she drew from her
ample pocket a leathern bag, into which Chirsty patiently submitted
to have both her hands thrust together, after which they were secured
by a strap in such a manner as to leave them entirely useless.

"Let me see now that you have got nothing dangerous about you,"
said Sarah; and after searching her all over, and removing from her a
pocket-book containing such small instruments as women generally use,
together with one or two other articles, and not forgetting her purse,
which she secreted carefully in her own bosom, she added, "I shall be
back with you in the twinkling of an eye, for you must have food ere
you go to rest; meanwhile, the quieter you are the better it will be
for you," and with these words she lifted the lamp and retired with
it, locking and bolting the door with the utmost care.

It is needless for me to speculate as to what were Chirsty's
thoughts, left as she was in the dark, as she listened to the
retreating steps of her keeper until a stillness reigned around
her that was only interrupted at times by the distant baying of
the watch-dog in the court-yard, or by some of those melancholy
demonstrations of madness that came every now and then upon her ear,
of different degrees of intensity, as they chanced to be modified
by circumstances. Notwithstanding all the resolution which she had
summoned to her support, she shuddered to think of the vexatious
confinement to which she might be exposed ere her fond uncle might be
able to gather courage enough to come to visit her in the melancholy
state of mind in which he probably believed her to be. Whilst she was
ruminating on such matters, she heard the returning footsteps of Sarah.

"Here is some food for you," said her keeper, after opening the
door and entering cautiously, "and, see, I have brought your
night-clothes. I promised to use no needless severity; and if you
continue to behave, you shall have no reason to complain of me. Let
me help you to eat your supper, for this night you must be contented
with simple bread and milk." And the first meal that poor Chirsty
eat after returning to her native Britain, was doled out to her by
spoonfuls from a porringer by the long fingers of her dwarfish keeper,
who after making down her bed, assisted her into it, and then left
her for the night.

And a strange night it was to her. Fatigue brought sleep upon her it
is true, but there was no refreshment in it, for it was full of wild
visions, and she started from time to time, and awaked to have her
mind brought back to the full conviction of her distressing situation
by the maniac laughter or howlings that broke at intervals upon
the stillness around her. The only support she had in circumstances
so trying was derived from religious meditations and aspirations,
together with the hope which never forsook her, that her affectionate
uncle might next day visit and relieve her.



FRESH LIGHT UPON THE SUBJECT.


Grant.--Stop for one moment, Clifford, till we ring for fresh candles,
or we shall be in darkness before you have uttered five sentences more.

Dominie.--Stay, sir, I'll run to the kitchen for them myself. Preserve
me! the less time we keep Mr. Clifford's poor lassie in such misery
the better.

Mr. Macpherson soon returned with the new lights, set them down on
the table, and drawing in his chair, put his elbows upon his knees,
placed his cheeks firmly in the palms of his hands, and sat with
his eyes eagerly fixed upon Clifford's countenance, with the most
ludicrous expression of earnestness. Clifford resumed as follows.



LEGEND OF CHIRSTY ROSS--Continued.


The morning's dawn brought back the returning footstep of Sarah. She
brought with her Chirsty's travelling-box with most of the things
it contained.

"See," said she, as she set down the box, "I have kept my word. So
long as you behave, you shall find me disposed to treat you well. I
know that you have been quiet all night, and, therefore, we shall try
you for to-day with your hands unmuffled. But mind!" added the old
woman with a fearful expression of eye, "if you should change for the
worse, there are worse punishments for you than this leathern glove."

"I thank you," said Chirsty meekly; "I think you will have no occasion
to resort to any such. I hope my uncle will be here to-day, and that
a few moments of conversation with him will satisfy him that you may
be released from any further trouble with me."

"Your uncle!" cried Sarah, with an uncouth laugh. "But we shall
see. Meanwhile, here comes water for you, and, by and by, you shall
have breakfast."

A little black-looking sharp-eyed girl now entered with a pitcher,
basins, and towels. Sarah stood by to watch how her charge conducted
herself, and, when the toilet was completed, the bed was made up,
and the things removed, and soon afterwards breakfast was brought her,
together with a common fir chair and a small table, and when she had
finished her meal, she was again left to her own solitary meditations.

No sooner was all quiet, than Chirsty arose for the purpose of looking
out of the window, that she might try at least to gain some knowledge
of her position. She discovered that the walls of the building were
extremely thick, that the window was powerfully barred with iron,
and that a wooden shade projected over it from above, so as entirely
to shut out any direct view outwards. By placing the chair near the
window, however, and standing upon it, she commanded a limited view
downwards between the sole and the lower edge of the wooden projection,
and from this she was enabled to satisfy herself that her chamber was
on one side of a narrow square court, for she saw the lower part of the
buildings that inclosed the three other sides of it. Guessing from the
windows that came within her view below, the court was surrounded with
cells similar to her own. The startling fact now arose in her mind,
that she had thus in one minute made herself as much acquainted with
all the objects on which she could bring her eyes to bear from this
her place of confinement, as she could do were she to occupy it for
half a century. There was something chilling in the reflection, and
her soul naturally began to pant in a tenfold degree for liberty. But
that day passed away, and the next, and the next, and no kind uncle
came to relieve her.

"Is there no message from my uncle?" said she at last, as Sarah came
to her one morning.

"None!" said the old woman, somewhat more gruffly than usual.

"I would fain write a letter to him," said Chirsty.

"I see no use in that," said Sarah quitting the cell hastily, as if
to avoid further question.

She did not see the old woman again for several days. Nancy, the little
girl already mentioned, attended on her at the usual hours. In vain she
tried to prevail on her to procure her writing materials. Her answer
was, that she had no means of doing so. She asked for books or work,
but the girl's answer was the same. At length old Sarah appeared again.

"Any intelligence from my uncle, good Sarah?" said Chirsty.

"None!" replied her keeper, in the same tone she had used before.

"Then, I beseech you, give me the means of communicating with him by
letter," said she earnestly.

"Tush, I tell you it would be of no use," replied Sarah.

"Nay, give me but pen, ink, and paper, and let me try," said
Chirsty. "I am sure he would never allow me to be one moment here,
if he could only see and converse with me. Oh! if I could but see
him for five minutes, this harassing captivity would be at an end."

"Well, then!" said Sarah, after a silence of some moments, during
which she appeared to be weighing circumstances in her mind. "Well,
then, you shall see un. But see how you behave! Follow me, then,
and I shall bring you to your uncle."

"Oh, thank you, thank you! a thousand and a thousand times!" cried
Chirsty, almost embracing the old woman in the height of her
joy. "Depend upon it, I shall satisfy you as to my behaviour."

Sarah now opened the door of the cell, and Chirsty followed her. Even
the small additional motion of her limbs which she now enjoyed,
was luxury to her after the narrow bounds to which she had been
confined. The old woman led her along the passage for a considerable
way, down one flight of steps, along another passage, to the very end
of it, and there she stopped opposite a door, secured by little more
than the ordinary fastenings used to any private chamber. Sarah opened
it and desired Chirsty to enter. The light of heaven was permitted
to pass fully in at the window, and she rushed forward to meet her
uncle's embrace. But ere she had gone two steps into the room, her
eyes caught a spectacle that effectually arrested her.

"Merciful Providence, my poor uncle!" she faintly cried; and, tottering
towards a pallet-bed that was near to her, she sank down on the side
of it, and gazed with grief and with horror on the miserable object
before her.

Seated in a wooden elbow chair, she did indeed behold her uncle; but he
was there as a mere piece of animated clay. His hair, which always used
to be so nicely trimmed and powdered, now hung in long white untamed
locks over a countenance so yellow and emaciated as to be absolutely
fearful to look upon. Part of it fell over the eyes, which were seen
within it like two bits of yellow glass, motionless and void of all
speculation. The under jaw hung forward, and the tongue lolled out,
as if all muscular power was lost. An old Indian dressing-gown, which
Chirsty remembered to have been his pride, as having been presented
to him by a great rajah, and as being made of the most valuable stuff
that Cashmere could produce, but now begrimed by every species of
filth, covered his person. A broad band of girth was passed around
his breast under his arms, and attached to the back of his chair, to
prevent his weakness or his involuntary motions from precipitating him
on the floor. His feet were both occupied in drumming upon the ground,
and his hands were extended before him, with the fingers continually
crawling like reptiles on his knees, whilst he was ceaselessly emitting
a low muttering whine, that never moulded itself into words. The very
first glance she had of him convinced Chirsty that her poor uncle
was in the last stage of confirmed and hopeless idiocy.

"What would a letter have done, think ye, to such a clod as that
'ere?" demanded the unfeeling wretch Sarah, "or what will you make
of un, now you have seen un?"

"My poor unhappy uncle!" said Chirsty, starting from her seat and
going fondly towards him, and weeping over him; "how sadly indeed
hast thou been changed! When, alas! did this awful affliction fall
upon him? But why has he been removed from his own comfortable home
to such a place as this?"

"Such a place as this, quotha!" cried Sarah. "Why, what sort of a
place would ye have un in? There is not a more comfortabler room in the
whole house. And see, if I didn't bring down that 'ere old wardrobe,
that we might have summat to hold un's things in; though I must say,"
added she in an undertone, "that he hasn't much left now that's worth
the caring for."

"But why has he been removed to such an establishment as this?" said
Chirsty. "Surely, surely, his malady, helpless and unoffending as it
has rendered him, could have given no disturbance in his own house,
why then has he been torn from it? and how could his wife have agreed
to treatment so cruel and so unnecessary?"

"His wife!" exclaimed Sarah with a laugh. "It was his wife who sent
un here; and surely his wife has the most natral right to judge what's
best for un."

"Horrible!" exclaimed Chirsty, "his wife! There must be some horrible
villainy under all this."

"What!" exclaimed Sarah. "What is there horrible in a gay woman
like her ridding her house of such a filthy slavering mummy as
this? He would be a pretty ornament, truly, to grace some of the
rich Mrs. Ross's splendid routes, as I now and then see the papers
call them. Besides, she pays well for his board here, and it is our
interest not to let un die."

"Rich!" exclaimed Chirsty indignantly. "Her riches are my uncle's
riches; and if one spark of Christian feeling yet remained in her
bosom, she ought to have employed them in relieving, so far as
they could relieve, this most heavy affliction of a just and wise
Providence."

"It's not for me to stand argufying with you here, Miss," said
Sarah, in a tone of displeasure that led Chirsty to fear a coming
storm. "Come, you see you have gotten all the good out of un you can;
so you may as well leave un, and go quietly back to your cell."

"For the love of your Redeemer, and as you hope for mercy!" cried
Chirsty, throwing herself on her knees before her keeper, "force me
not to quit my uncle! To him I owe more than the duty of a child to
a parent. Yield but to me the charitable boon of allowing me to watch
by him, and to attend to him day and night, and you will render me so
happy that I shall cheerfully and voluntarily submit to my present
cruel confinement, without once inquiring by whose order it comes,
or ever seeking to establish how unnecessarily it has been inflicted
upon me. Oh! grant me but this, and may blessings be showered down
upon you."

"I must think about it," gruffly replied Sarah. "In the meantime,
you must back to your cell for this day at least. So bid un good-by
for this bout. We shall see how you behave, and we shall talk more
of the matter to-morrow."

Chirsty rose from her knees; and seeing that it was only through
submissive obedience that she could hope to obtain what she so ardently
wished, she went to her uncle, and taking up his unconscious hand,
she kissed it, watered it with her tears, and then slowly left the
apartment, and returned to her cell, where she was locked up as before.

She was no sooner left to herself, than so many circumstances and
reflections occurred to her mind, that it had enough of occupation. She
now remembered that after having had regular letters from her uncle
for a considerable time, they had all at once ceased. But as the
irregularity of Indian correspondence was even more common in those
days than it is now, she had regretted this as arising from unfortunate
accident, without being very much surprised at it. But much as she had
had reason to believe that her aunt was a heartless selfish woman,
she never could have imagined that she could have been guilty of
conduct so unfeeling towards the unhappy man from whose affection
she now derived all that wealth which it appeared she was spending
so gaily. As to herself, a moment's thought was enough to convince
her that she owed her present confinement more to the malice than
to the care of her aunt. She remembered that the only communication
from India that contained the intimation that she was about to return
to Britain, as well as the name of the ship in which she was to sail,
also conveyed the full assurance of the perfect restoration of her mind
from its temporary malady. The person who knew to what ship to send for
her on her arrival, therefore, must necessarily have known that she
required no such treatment as that to which she had been so wickedly
subjected. Villainy of the darkest dye, therefore, had been at work
against her; and where or how it might end she trembled to think. But
the thought of her poor uncle's melancholy situation banished every
other consideration from her mind; and all her thoughts and wishes
were now concentrated in the desire she felt to stay by him, and to
watch over him to the last--the very idea of such a self-devotion being
balm to her lacerated heart, as affording her the luxury of indulging
that deep gratitude with which his unvarying kindness towards her
had always filled her, and which she never hoped to have had any
opportunity of repaying. She failed not, therefore, to employ all
her meekness and all her eloquence to persuade Sarah to grant her
request; and as the gentle drop by frequent repetition will at last
wear through the hardest flint, so by repeated appeals to the best of
the few feelings which that callous-hearted creature possessed, she at
last succeeded in obtaining a limited permission to visit her uncle,
which was extended by degrees so far, that she ultimately came to be
allowed to go to his chamber in the morning, and to remain with him
till he was laid to rest at night, when she was removed for the purpose
of being locked up in her own cell. In this employment Chirsty forgot
her confinement altogether, and weeks, months, nay even years rolled
away with no other occupation but that and her devotions. There were
times when she even flattered herself that the unremitting attention
which she paid to him was not without some material advantage to his
general state. She even thought she saw some amendment in a seeming
approach to a certain degree of consciousness. Words, though altogether
incoherent and unconnected, would now and then break from him, as
if he was following out and giving utterance to some musing dream;
and on such occasions she would hang over him with anxious fondness
and intense interest, with the hope of catching their meaning. Then
she could distinctly perceive that at such times his glassy eyes,
which were usually directed upon vacancy, would fix themselves upon
her, assume a strange and unwonted animation, as if the dormant spirit
had arisen for a moment and come to the windows of its earthly house,
to look out upon her,--but alas! when she turned slowly away to try
its powers, there was no corresponding motion of the head to maintain
the proper direction and level of the eyes towards their object,
and she would weep at the cruel failure of her hopes that followed.

It did happen, however, that one day whilst she was sitting by her
uncle, earnestly engaged in trying such experiments as these, with
the sunshine strong upon her face, his lack-lustre eyes being fixed
in her direction, they seemed slowly to gather a spark of the fire
of intelligence, which went on gradually increasing like the light
of dawn, till suddenly they received such an animating illumination
as this earth does when the blessed orb of day bursts from behind
a cloud; and as all nature then rejoices under the warm influence
of his rays, so was the fond heart of his niece gladdened when,
as she moved her face slowly from its position, and to this side
and to that, the eyes of the nabob followed all her motions with a
growing expression, that speedily began to spread itself with a faint
glow over his hitherto frozen features. The lolling tongue retreated
within the orifice of the mouth, the under jaw was drawn up, and the
teeth were pressed together as if with the increasing earnestness
of the gaze. His niece, with more than that degree of intensity of
absorption of attention with which an alchemist might be supposed to
have watched for the projection of the golden harvest of his hopes,
seized a hand of her uncle in each of hers, and sat poring into his
eyes, and over every feature of his face in breathless expectation.

"Chirsty Ross," said he at length, slowly and distinctly, and in a
manner that left no doubt that the words were not accidental.

"My dear, dear uncle, you know me then at last!" cried the happy girl,
warmly embracing him, and sobbing upon his bosom. "Thank God! thank
God that you know me!"

"Chirsty," said the nabob again, "why did you not write to me
sooner? Why was you silent for a whole winter? I have been rash,
perhaps. But what is done cannot be undone, and we must e'en make
the best of it now. Yet, if you had only but written to me, Chirsty,
my love, things might have been different."

"Oh, this is too heart-rending!" cried his niece, yielding to an
ungovernable paroxysm of grief.

"How could you forget to write to me, Chirsty?" continued her
uncle. "The woman, to be sure, is not so bad a woman after all; but
you and I were so happy here alone together. But I have been a fool,
Chirsty; yet she is your aunt, and my wife, so we must e'en submit,
and make the best of it."

"Gracious Providence, support me in this trying hour!" cried Chirsty
fervently.

"What!" cried the nabob, in a voice louder than she could have supposed
his exhausted state could have admitted of. "What! is the ship to sail
for Calcutta so soon? May the God of all goodness be with you then,
Chirsty, my love! Keep up your spirits, my sweet girl, you will come
home to me soon with a husband and pagodas in plenty. But forget not
to write often to me. Your failing in that has already worked evil
enough to us both."

"Oh, my dear, dear uncle!" cried Chirsty, quite overpowered by her
feelings, and sobbing audibly.

"Nay, cry not so bitterly, my dear child," said the nabob. "Trust
me, we shall, meet again. And if we should not meet again here--if
it should please God to remove me from this world ere you return,
our sound Christian hope assures us, that we shall meet in another
and a better. But, hold!" cried he with a more than natural energy,
that seemed to be produced by some sudden and great organic change
in his system. "The anchor is up--quick, aboard, aboard! God for
ever bless and guard you, my love! my Chirsty!--farewell! Ha! the
gallant ship, see how her sails swell with the breeze!--she goes
merrily. But--but--how comes this sudden darkness over me? She is
gone!--all is gone!--gone!--go--o--oh!" and his words terminated in
a long deep groan.

Chirsty hastily dried up her tears, and anxiously scanned her uncle's
face. His spirit had once more retreated from his glassy eyes--his
face had again become deadly pale--his hands were cold, and their
pulses had ceased. She shrieked aloud until help came, but it was
too late--her uncle was dead.

Chirsty was no sooner made certain that all was over with her poor
uncle than her nervous feelings, which had been screwed up to the
racking pitch by this trying scene, gave way, and she fell in a swoon,
that terminated in a repetition of that feverish attack which she had
had in India, upon which delirium supervened; and when, after a period
of nearly three weeks, she was again sensible of the return of reason,
she found herself lying in bed with her hands muffled, as they had been
the first night she had slept in the asylum. She awaked from a long,
tranquil, and refreshing sleep; and little Nancy, who was seated by
her bedside, immediately ran off for Sarah, who came directly.

"Aye," said that hideous creature, after surveying her countenance
attentively, "she seems quiet enough now. The fit has gone off for
this bout."

"I have been very ill," said Chirsty faintly, "but now, thank God,
I am better."

"You have given me trouble enough i'facks," said Sarah. "But here is
something that the doctor ordered you to drink; take this, and try
to sleep again."

Chirsty readily swallowed what was given to her, fell asleep, and was
soon well enough to quit her bed, and to be restored to that degree
of freedom of person within her cell that she had enjoyed before the
discovery that her uncle was under the same roof with herself. She
was even allowed to go down once a day, for an hour, attended by
Sarah, to breathe the open air, and to walk backwards and forwards
in the narrow well of a court that was formed by that wing of the
building which contained her cell. But this indulgence did little
to relieve the insufferable tedium that seized upon her, now that
the only object capable of interesting her had been removed. Her
mind now recurred with augmented force to all the horrors of her
iniquitous confinement. She resolved to try whether she could not
move the compassion of her female Cerberus.

"Now that my uncle is gone," said she one day calmly to Sarah, "my
confinement becomes so much more cruel and unnecessary, that I am sure
you must feel for me. You have now known enough of me during the long
period I have been under your care to be sufficiently aware that there
never were any grounds for placing me in an asylum of this kind. If,
then, I am shut up here for no other cause than that I may not give
offence to Mrs. Ross by crossing her path, I am quite willing to give
any security that may be asked of me that I will go down directly to
live with my friends in Ross-shire, and that she shall never see or
be troubled with me more."

"What!" exclaimed the wretch who listened to her; "what! and lose
the good board which that worthy woman, your aunt, pays for you? No,
no! Enough that we have already lost that which she paid for that
mummy of a husband of hers. Yet, after all, he lived longer than one
might have thought un like to have done. But you--an we but take care
of you--you may long be a sure annual rent to us!"

"Can nothing move you?" said Chirsty, with a despairing look.

"No," said the wretch, with an iron grin. "I am not to be flattered
from my trust. But what said you? No grounds for placing you here,
quotha! Was it not but the other day that, strong as I am, it took
all my power to hold ye down. Ha! ha! ha! The surest sign of madness
is the belief that you are not mad."

"Then must my hope be in the Lord alone," said Chirsty, in a desponding
tone. "But oh! if you would have me live, let me have books or work,
or writing or drawing materials, or this painfully irksome confinement
must soon kill me."

"No, no," said Sarah, shaking her head, "no, no. Writing or drawing
materials might be used to send tales out beyond these walls,
and books might be used as paper--aye, and work might answer the
same end. Therefore content yourself, content yourself, child. I'll
do all for you that such a feeling heart as mine can do for a poor
fellow-creetur robbed of reason, as you have been. But I must fulfil
the duty I am paid for."

It happened that the very next day after this, as Chirsty sat with her
eyes cast down on the floor of her cell, some small glittering body
attracted her notice, and on stooping to pick it up, to her great joy
she discovered that it was a needle, which had probably dropped from
the sleeve of little Nancy, who usually waited on her. She secured the
treasure about her person, as of infinite value, and the possession of
it gave rise to a train of reflection that ended in the formation of
a scheme for ultimately producing her liberation, which henceforward
engrossed all her attention. Provided as she had thus so fortunately
been with a needle, she was yet destitute of thread. But her necessity
instantly made her think of using her long black hair, with which she
resolved immediately to undertake the laborious task of embroidering
the outline of her melancholy story on a cambric handkerchief, with
the hope that some means might occur to her of thereby communicating
the place of her confinement to her friends in Scotland. Eagerly did
she sit down to begin the task, but she wept when she discovered, what
she had not hitherto been aware of, that the first two or three hairs
which she pulled were of a white as pure as that of the handkerchief
which was to be the field of her work. Her miseries, however, had not
as yet done all the work of age upon her raven tresses; for enough
still remained of a silken and glossy jet to have embroidered a whole
volume. Such were her feelings at the time, however, that, dreading
the change that might yet take place she knew not how quickly, she
rent forth such a quantity of the precious material as might, at least,
secure the completion of her purpose, and having carefully secreted it,
she went to work with an eagerness that seemed to promise to lend her
a new existence; and, indeed, the occupation and the hope it yielded
her kept her up under all her afflictions for the months and months
that elapsed ere she stealthily brought her work to a conclusion.

And after it was finished her heart sank within her, for occupation was
at an end, and now her dread arose that the work would be fruitless;
for where was the hope, in her circumstances, that she might ever
find a messenger fit to be entrusted with such a charge. Whilst
employed in the work her mind was tranquillised. But now it was
thrown into a state of continued nervous excitement, which could
not but have a tendency to wear it out. It did happen that, in her
way down by the various passages and stairs that led to the little
court whither she was daily summoned for exercise, she sometimes,
though very rarely, met with strangers passing upwards to visit some
unfortunate friend or relative. With none of these dared she to have
communicated verbally; and if she had so dared, a word from her stern
keeper to strangers in such a place would have turned the most sober
expression of perfect sanity into the semblance of the mere utterance
of hopeless madness. But if she could in any way manage to put her
embroidered history into feeling and charitable hands, she trusted
that the curiosity at least of the individual might save it from being
either exposed or destroyed, and if so, hope might be interwoven with
its living threads. Each time that her cell was opened, therefore,
to allow her to descend to the little court her heart beat high. But,
alas! day after day, and week after week, passed away, and no one
came at the fortunate minute.

At length, as she was one day descending one of the flights of stairs,
with Sarah close behind her, she met with an old gentleman having a
particular lameness in one leg, who was limping up with a crutch. He
stood aside to allow her to pass, and the pity, not unmingled with
admiration, that seemed to animate his face as he earnestly looked
upon her, made her almost accuse herself of folly for not having
boldly risked the venture of putting the handkerchief into his
hands. But a little thought told her that, if she had done so, all
her labour and all her hopes would have been utterly wrecked, for she
remembered that the keen eyes of Sarah had been close at her elbow,
and detection would have been certain. Several other individuals passed
her at different times, but the countenance of none of them gave her
sufficient confidence to trust them, even if an opportunity had been
afforded her, and every day her nervous excitement and irritability
grew more and more distressing.

It happened one day, however, that as she was moving along a passage,
she heard and recognised the particular stump of the lame gentleman
whom she had formerly met. She could not be mistaken, and it was then
entering on the lowest step of a flight, down which she was about to
turn. She was then a pace or two ahead of Sarah, and contriving to
lengthen her stride as she approached the turn at the stairs, she
passed a keeper who was hurrying on to open the various locks of a
cell which the stranger he was conducting was about to visit. Thus it
was that, by fortunate accident, she was brought alone and unseen into
contact with the gentleman for a few brief but precious moments. Nerved
up by the importance of the act, she expanded her handkerchief before
him, to show what it contained, put it into his hand, and with an
imploring look that spoke volumes, she signed to him to conceal it,
and as she passed him by she quickly whispered him,--

"Hide it now?--read it at home--and, oh! for mercy's sake, act
upon it."

Taken thus by surprise, the stranger held it for a moment in his
hand, and turned to look after her who gave it him. Sarah appeared
whilst he was still standing thus. Chirsty stood on the lowest step,
and looked up to him in breathless and motionless dread.

"What stand ye there for?" cried Sarah roughly to her, as she was
descending.

The stranger seemed to recover his self-possession. He quietly
returned the salutation which Sarah gave him, and wiping his face
with the handkerchief, as if it had been his own pulled forth for
that purpose, he thrust it deep into his bosom, and began again to
climb the steps. Chirsty, overpowered by her feelings, leaned for a
moment against the wall.

"What's the matter with ye?" cried Sarah impatiently.

"Nothing, nothing, good Sarah!" said Chirsty, "only a sudden qualm
of sickness, but it has gone off now;" and so saying, she pursued
her way with tottering steps.

If Chirsty was subjected to anxious excitement before she had thus
disposed of her broidered history, how much greater were her nervous
agitations, her eternal tossings between hope and fear, from the moment
she had thus committed it to the stranger? Had he betrayed her? nay,
if he had, she must have heard of it from Sarah, or gathered it from
the harsher treatment with which she must have been visited. He must
have been so far her friend. But, admitting all this, whether he
would have charity enough to act upon his knowledge of the facts it
contained, or whether he would treat it as the mere pseudo-rational
statement of a maniac, were matters of doubt that agonised her by
night as well as by day. She slept not,--she ate not, and her brain
grew lighter and lighter every day. She became sensible of this. A
most unconquerable dread came upon her, that even admitting that the
stranger was doing all he could to inform her friends of her unhappy
situation, her senses would be undermined before they could come to
her relief, and, as time wore on, and hope grew fainter and duller,
she began to yield herself up to despair, which gradually threw its
damp and suffocating clouds over her soul.

Whilst she was in this gloomy state, she happened one day to think
of the needle, which she had now so much reason to fear had been
but uselessly employed; and the horrible idea crossed her mind,
that even such a small instrument as it might readily enough produce
death, and that thus there was yet another and a more certain way in
which it might be made to effect her deliverance from her present
imprisonment. She immediately drew it forth from the skirt of her
gown, where she had concealed it. She looked at it for some moments
with a steady but agitated gaze; and then, earnestly imploring Heaven
for aid in the fearful struggle she was undergoing, she started up,
with a resolution acquired from above, and threw it from the window of
her cell, that such wicked thoughts of self-destruction might never
again be produced by it; and then, on her knees, she poured out her
humble and submissive aspirations of thanks.

And now despondency gave way to resolution, and she at length
determined to take the first opportunity of making a desperate attempt
to effect her escape. But to produce even a hope of success, she saw
that it would be necessary to use much preliminary artifice.

It was the more easy for her to employ this effectually, that hope
had hitherto made her behaviour so mild and so submissive, that all
suspicion on the part of her Argus-eyed keeper had been for a long
time put to rest. Recollecting what Sarah had said to her as to the
important source of revenue which hung on the preservation of her
life, she began by complaining of that for which she had, indeed,
no inconsiderable grounds of truth, that her health was suffering
deeply from want of pure air and exercise. This was touching Sarah in
the very point where she was most assailable. She of herself proposed
to extend Chirsty's walk to a garden belonging to the place, to the
existence of which she had more than once heard her refer. Next day,
accordingly, she was taken from her cell, and conducted by Sarah
and Nancy down through the same passages, and by the same flights of
stairs with which she was already so familiar; but instead of being
led into the small court which had hitherto been the utmost extent
to which freedom had been permitted her, she was ushered into a large
and high-walled orchard or garden, quite umbrageous with fruit-trees,
and thickly intermixed with shrubs. Who can fancy, with any approach
to the reality, the delight which Chirsty felt whilst wandering
among the blossoming shades of this, to her absolutely, celestial
spot, after the years of confinement which she had undergone? She
leaped--she skipped--she threw her arms about, and laughed as if she
had really been the poor unsettled maniac who might have required the
restraint she had been so long kept under. She poured out her thanks
to Sarah with strange volubility; and as she was guilty of no excess
that could alarm her keeper, she was not only readily permitted to
remain there for a considerable time under her watchful eye, but she
was returned to her cell with a promise that she should be permitted
to revisit the garden daily.

The effect of this leniency and indulgence was a renovated state
of health, perfectly wonderful in itself, and highly gratifying to
Sarah. But although the spirits of the patient rose from the blessed
influence of a more frequent intercourse with the sun and the sky,
her anxious mind was still deeply possessed with the sad conviction
that every day made the hope of help from her friends in Scotland less
and less probable. Her determination to attempt an escape, therefore,
strengthened with the improvement and increase of her physical
energies. She never made the round of the garden without scanning
every part of its inclosure with scrupulous care. In the course of
this daily examination, she one day discovered that a half-witted lad,
employed in nailing up the fruit trees, had carelessly left his light
hand-ladder leaning against the wall in a corner, where it was in a
certain degree hid by a buttress, and as she saw it in the same spot
the next day, she became satisfied that it was for the present unwanted
and forgotten. The very thought of this as a means for getting over the
wall, brought her ingenuity into play; and as she at once saw that any
attempt at escape in broad daylight must necessarily be unsuccessful,
she began to work upon her keeper to procure a change of the mid-day
hour of airing to that of evening. As the garden was used at all times
of the day as a place of exercise for the less violent patients,
she occasionally encountered them during her walks. She therefore
pretended to be seized with an unconquerable alarm at their uncouth
appearance, and she declared that it was impossible for her longer
to avail herself of the privilege which she enjoyed.

"I feel all your kindness to me, unfortunate creature that I am,"
said she, in a tone of despondency, to Sarah one day, when she came as
usual to take her out. "But I cannot bear to have my path crossed by
those melancholy objects; and, since it is Heaven's will that I am so
condemned to misery in this world, the sooner I am relieved by death,
and dismissed to a happier the better."

"No, no," said Sarah, who was fully alive to the important improvement
of Chirsty's health from the change of system already pursued with
her. "We must not let ye die,--we can't afford that,--so walk out
you shall. And, since you are frightened by the sight of them 'ere
creeturs, we shall walk in the cool of the evening, when they are
all locked up."

"Thank you, thank you, Sarah," said Chirsty, overjoyed at the success
of this first part of her scheme.

Anxiously did Chirsty look every evening as she returned to the
garden to ascertain whether the ladder was still in its place, for
she was obliged to allow one or two nights to pass that she might use
certain management with Sarah to ensure something like a probability
of success. Under pretence of giving greater exercise to her limbs,
she began to jump and dance with Nancy. Some time afterwards she
proposed to play a game of hide and seek with her. These sports were
renewed for several evenings, so that Sarah was not only lulled into
perfect security, but, hard as she was by nature, she was even so
much amused by the merriment of the little girl, who was her niece,
that Chirsty easily contrived that each successive evening should
prolong their sports, until she one night succeeded in remaining in
the garden till twilight had almost become darkness. Then it was that
she wound up all her energies to make her attempt.

"Well, well," said she carelessly, "I am almost tired now, Nancy;
but come, I will give you one chance more;" and off she went by way
of hiding again among the bushes.

But no sooner was she out of sight, than, forcing her way through
the thicket, she darted down a long alley with the speed of a hare,
mounted the ladder to the top of the wall, drew it up after her, and
letting it down on the other side, she was beyond the hated precincts
of the asylum before Sarah or the little Nancy had begun to suspect
that she was gone. Already did her hopes bound over all intermediate
obstacles, and transport her in imagination to her father's humble
dwelling at Tain. Finding herself in a lane, with the garden wall
on one hand, and another equally high on the opposite side, she
sprang forward without knowing whither she went. Loud screams and
shouts came from within the garden. On she ran wildly until she was
terror-struck for a moment, and arrested by hearing cries of alarm,
and beholding the flaring of lights in the very direction in which
she was running. The loud baying of the great dog also reached her
ears from the same quarter. Winged by fear, she was thus forced to
double back, and bethinking her of the ladder, she rapidly retraced her
steps to the spot where she had left it. Taking it hastily down from
the garden wall, she dragged it across the lane with the intention
of applying it to that on the other side. Whilst her trembling hands
were in the act of doing this, the harsh iron screams of Sarah came
all of a sudden loudly up the lane from the opposite direction to
that in which Chirsty had first attempted to fly. A postern-door
of the garden had given the old woman egress at about fifty yards
below. Dreadful was now the nervous agitation of poor Chirsty. Her
utmost strength was necessary to rear the ladder, light as it was,
against the wall. She did succeed, however. Her enraged and baffled
keeper was toiling up to her, with her wide mouth uttering shrieks
and imprecations that might have well been called infernal. Chirsty
climbed the ladder with a palsy in all her joints. She was already on
the top of the wall,--one moment more would have enabled her to pull
the ladder up beyond the reach of the infuriated dwarf, and she had
succeeded in raising it a considerable way from the ground, when the
uncouth monster reached the spot, and clutching at the lower end of it
with her long hands, she with one powerful jerk, not only dragged it
down, but she so destroyed the equilibrium of the unfortunate fugitive,
that she fell from the top of the wall into the lane, where the hideous
countenance and demoniac eyes of Sarah frowned and glared over her,
and the horrible laugh of triumph, and the blasphemous denunciations
of vengeance and punishment which the monster uttered, rang in her
ears ere she was borne off senseless to the asylum.

You are doubtless desirous to know something of the history of poor
Charles Græme, who, as you may remember, left India for the purpose of
following Chirsty Ross to England? I shall shortly tell you, that on
reaching Britain, he made ineffectual inquiries for her at her uncle's
residence. Mrs. Ross denied having ever seen or heard of her. He did
find out her Indian maid; but from the little that she told him, he
could make out no clue to lead to the discovery of her mistress. And
after many ineffectual attempts, repeatedly made for months, he at
length yielded to the advice of his friends, and returned to India,
where he vainly endeavoured to eradicate the sorrow of his heart by
fresh and intense occupation.

After the lapse of a good many years, accident led a gentleman to
visit a noble friend of his, who was proprietor of a fine estate and
residence in Ross-shire. The roads thereabouts were then so bad for
wheeled carriages, that, tired of the slowness of his progress and
of the jolting of his vehicle, he left it at an inn to come after
him at its own rate by a somewhat circuitous route, and mounting his
servant's horse, he set off unattended. Following the directions
he received from the people of the house, he took what was called
the shortest way, hoping that he might yet save his distance so far
as to reach his friend's house to a late dinner. Many was the long
Scottish mile of ground which he travelled over, however; and still
as he interrogated the peasants whom he met with, he found that the
way before him seemed rather to be lengthening than diminishing. His
horse began to manifest great symptoms of fatigue, and as the night
was settling down very fast, he was glad to meet with a man who pointed
out to him a track leading by the sea-shore, which, as he assured him,
would save him several miles of distance. At the same time he told him,
that he would require to push on smartly, so as to reach a certain
ford at the mouth of a river, before the flowing tide should render
it quite impracticable. Stimulated by this information, and being,
moreover, impatient to get to his journey's end, he put spurs to his
horse and galloped on as fast as the tired animal could go.

He had not proceeded very far, when a vivid flash of forked lightning
blazed amid the obscurity that brooded over the sea, and a tremendous
peal of thunder rent the air. The waves, which were gradually rising
upon tho beach, seemed every moment to swell more proudly, and to toss
their snowy crests higher, and suddenly a deluge of rain began to be
poured from the gathered clouds. The somewhat delicate traveller wished
himself again within his old box of a carriage in defiance of its
jolting; but now, both in mercy to himself and to the animal he rode,
he was compelled to force the poor creature on to an accelerated pace,
that they might the sooner reach some place of shelter. As if fully
aware of the necessity of exertion, his horse bore him with tolerable
rapidity for two or three miles amidst the lightning and rain and the
thunder that at times deafened the sound of the advancing waves, till,
as the darkness was just about to become complete, he dimly descried
the huge mass of an ancient building rising before him from a low
peninsula; and, on further investigation, he discovered that he had
reached the river of which the peasant had spoken. A very cursory
examination only was necessary to assure him that the stream was
already so swollen by the rain and the tide as to take away all hope
of his being able to ford. The river was a raging torrent, and the
roar of its conflict with the swelling tide, was a terrific addition
to the horrors of the storm. The gentleman had no alternative left,
therefore, but to look for hospitality in the adjoining building.

Having dismounted then, he led his horse in at a gateway, and,
having discovered a dilapidated outhouse, with a half entire roof, he
contrived to fasten the animal by the bridle to a rusty iron hook that
projected out of the wall. He then made his way across a court-yard
so covered with tall docks and nettles as very much to discourage any
hope which he might have previously entertained of finding inhabitants
within the edifice; but, as he groped his way towards the great door
of the huge pile, he was cheered by beholding a light that glimmered
through the unglazed and broken casements of what appeared to be a
large apartment about two stories up, whence he distinctly heard the
singing of a woman's voice. Somewhat encouraged by this circumstance,
and guided by the faint gleam, he tried the ponderous old oaken door,
but he found that it was firmly secured within. He was about to
apply his hand to a large rusty iron knocker that hung upon it, when
his attention was arrested by a wild laugh which echoed through the
apartments above, died away, and was again more than once repeated
with strange, sudden, and incomprehensible changes. Some of those
superstitious feelings of which his infancy had largely partaken for
a moment seized upon him, and he doubted whether the building was not
tenanted by beings with whom those of this world could not dare to
have intercourse. But a little thought, and a little more attention
to the voice, soon reassured him against anything supernatural, and
he then began to question himself whether he might not be about to
rouse some body of lawless banditti or smugglers who might have taken
possession of that which was evidently a ruined castle, as a place
for their retreat or rendezvous. Was it prudent to proceed? But he
was a man who never feared danger in youth; and, now that youth was
long past with him, certain bitter disappointments he had met with in
early life, and the consequent sorrow which his heart had ever since
endured, rendered him now much too careless about mere existence ever
to allow any anxiety regarding that to influence his conduct, even
if the deluge of rain which was then falling had not been enough to
stimulate the faintest heart to the bold determination of making good
an entrance at all hazards. Raising the knocker, therefore, he made
a furious appeal to those within. But whether it was that the roar
of the thunder, the rumbling of the river, the booming of the waves,
and the continued plash of the rain, combined to drown his efforts,
or to render the inmates deaf to his summons, he found it necessary
to repeat his loud larum several times ere his ear caught the sound
of a step descending the stair from above.

The stair was included in one of those curious thin round towers
which are so frequently seen rising from the side of the doorway of
these old Scottish castles, and a small window about half a story
up seemed to have been placed there to enable the appearance of all
applicants for entrance to be well reconnoitred before admission should
be granted to them, whilst a small round arrow or musket hole on a
level with their heads, enabled them to be easily and successfully
assailed from below, if they were likely to be at all troublesome. A
flaring light streamed suddenly out from the small window above, and
threw a partial and fitful gleam over a part of the dripping weeds
of the wet court-yard. It proceeded from a lighted torch of bog-fir,
and the stranger's attention was instantly arrested by the apparition
that brandished it aloft with a bare extended arm. It was a woman,
whose countenance, though wasted, and tarnished, and rendered wiry,
as it were, by exposure to weather, yet exhibited features of the
noblest character, so that even a momentary glance at them and
the dark eyes that flashed from them with a wild expression, as the
torch which she held forth threw back its flickering light upon them,
convinced the stranger that they must have been once beautiful.

"Who comes at this unseasonable hour to these my castle
gates?" demanded the woman, in a haughty tone.

"A single traveller overtaken by night and by this pelting rain,"
replied the stranger, "from which, with your kind permission, he
would fain find a temporary shelter."

"Aha!" exclaimed the woman again, with a curious expression of extreme
and cunning caution, "dost think that these gates of mine ever turn
upon their hinges to admit any guests but those who come in their
gilt coaches,--aye, and with their running footmen and out-riders too?"

"I doubt not what you say," replied the stranger; "but I am at this
moment acting the part of my own out-rider; I left my carriage to go
by another road, whilst I came on this way on horseback. Pray, good
madam, send down one of your people, and his inspection of my horse,
which I have used the freedom to tie up in your stable, will no doubt
satisfy you."

"My people! ha! ha! ha!" exclaimed she laughing wildly, "you look to
be a gentleman, though, Heaven knows, looks are never to be trusted
in this deceitful world. But I will see you nearer," and having
disappeared from the window, he heard her step descending the lower
flight of the stair. After a few moments of a pause, the heavy bolts
were withdrawn, and the door was slowly opened to about one-third of
its extent. Although prepared to behold something rather extraordinary,
the gentleman was absolutely startled by the appearance of the woman
who now stood before him. He had already seen her countenance, but
now he could perceive that her hair was exceedingly long and untamed,
and whilst the greater part of it was white or grizzled, as if from
premature failure, it still contained what, if properly dressed, might
have been called tresses of the most beautiful glossy black, and the
strange effect of this unnatural intermixture of the livery of youth
and of age, was heightened by the wild combination of such fantastical
wreaths of heather and sea-weed, mingled with, sea-birds' feathers,
as insanity is usually so fond of adopting by way of finery. Her arms
were bare to the shoulders, and her bust was but imperfectly covered by
a coarse canvas shirt. A red flannel petticoat that descended to her
knees, and which was confined at the waist by a broad leathern belt,
was the only other piece of drapery that she wore. She stood before
the stranger exhibiting the wrecks of a form of the most exquisite
mould, and her whole appearance betraying the fact, that whatever
the soul that animated it might have once been, its reason was now
obscured by the darkness arising from confirmed derangement.

"Enter my castle, sweet sir!" said the maniac in a gentle and
subdued voice, and at the same time courtseying with a grace which
might have better befitted the attire of a court than that which
she wore. "Enter my castle, and I will speedily usher you up to the
grand banqueting-room. But stay," added she, with a sudden and wild
change of manner, after he had obeyed her invitation, "I must make
my gates secure against the wretches, they might find me out even
here. Bolt! bolt! bolt! there my brave bolts," she continued, changing
her speech into a chant, as if addressing them in incantation,--


           "Keep your wards,
            Be faithful guards,--
          And you, master-key,
          Great warden shall be;
    To defend me from force and from traitorie."


"Come along, sir," continued she, again changing to a wild mood;
"this way--I have a pride and a pleasure in personally attending
on so distinguished a guest, as your whole appearance and manners
declare you to be."

The gentleman followed his conductress up the half-ruined screw stair,
which here and there exhibited fearful chasms, from the entire absence
of two or three successive steps, over which she skipped without
the least hesitation, whilst he was obliged to thrust his nails into
the crevices of the wall to hoist himself over the difficulty. But
after he had ascended two flights, he came to a landing-place where
there was a doorway entering into that large hall, from which he had
first heard the voice of the maniac. Into this she led the way, and
as he was about to follow her, you may imagine his astonishment when
I tell you he discovered that the whole flooring was gone except the
bare oaken beams, and the apartments below being in the same state,
his eyes stretched uninterruptedly downwards till vision was lost in
the impenetrable darkness of the dungeons below. But his conductress
hesitated not a moment, and went onwards from beam to beam, with
as much indifference as she would have walked across a paved court,
until she gained the great hearth, which, with a small portion of the
planking in its vicinity, was still entire, and where a fire of wood
was burning under the huge projecting chimney.

"Come, sir," said the maniac, smiling courteously, "never mind your
wet boots; don't stand upon ceremony, I pray you, your long ride and
the state of the weather are sufficient apologies. Here is a seat by
the fire for you."

She then busied herself in placing an old rotten-looking chair, which
appeared to have once had a back, and which seemed to have belonged
to the castle in its better days, whilst she seated herself on an
opposite stool, and began to arrange her head-gear, to run her taper
fingers, with, nails on them like eagle's talons, through her long
hair, and to twist it round into certain curls that had now probably
become natural from the art and care which had once been bestowed
upon them. Meanwhile, the stranger, after bracing up his nerves and
steadying his head, and balancing his person, with some difficulty
and hazard accomplished the perilous passage.

"You must be hungry, sir, after your ride," said the maniac, in the
same mild tone. "I was about to sup when you came in. Perhaps you
will have no objections to join me." And then suddenly changing in
her tone, and bursting into an uncouth laugh, as she looked into a
pot that hung simmering over the fire--"Ha!--ha!--ha!--hah!--see!--the
water has boiled well. The lightning has helped to do that for me. I
am the favoured one! The very elements are my cooks! Hah! did you see
where it came again? flash--zigzag--zigzag. Now 'tis time to mix the
pudding," and, thrusting her hand into a large square hole in the wall,
she dragged out, first a bag of oatmeal, and then a small wooden vessel
full of salt, and with an earnestness which for the time absorbed her
attention from everything else, she proceeded to put the ingredients
into the pot, and to stir them about with a large wooden spoon.

"Now for my silver dish!" said she again, as she pulled forth a pewter
basin from the same recess in the wall. "Well is it for me that my
gates are watched and warded, else would robbers soon carry off this
rare treasure of my castle. See here now--ha! ha! ha! let us begin the
feast." And as she said so, she filled the pewter basin from the pot,
by means of the wooden spoon, and set it between them on an old box
turned upside down, and drawing forth a couple of pewter spoons from
her curious cupboard, she handed one to the stranger.

"Hah!" said she sternly, as she broke into a more violent state of
excitement than she had hitherto exhibited, "do you see that mark?" And
as she said this, she drew with her forefinger a line of division
across the surface of the mess that stood between them--"That's your
half and this is mine: so take care what you do, for I'll have no
foul play--men can cheat!--but I'm hungry, and I must have my food;
so see to it that you eat no more than what is your own."

The mind of the traveller was too much filled with this strange and
distressing scene to admit of his appetite leading him to infringe on
the rule thus prescribed to him, even if the food itself had been much
more inviting than it really was; on the contrary, he had hardly eat
a third part of his way up to the boundary line, when he found that
his hostess had scrupulously given it a straight edge upon her side.

"Come!" said she, in an angry tone of voice, quite different from
any she had hitherto used; "eat up your share! do you think I want
it? Come, there is no poison in it. Come! come!"

"I do, I do," said the gentleman, pretending to eat; and every now
and then contriving to throw unobserved a large spoonful down between
the beams; until, partly by eating, and partly by this occasional
manoeuvre, he at last succeeded in emptying the dish.

"Now, sir!" said the maniac, resuming all the quiet and decorous
demeanour of a well-bred woman, "a little gentle exercise after supper
conduces to good repose. I shall be happy to give you my hand for
a minuet."

Pushing back the seats they had occupied, she seized the stranger's
hand, and took her position beside him on the hearth. He offered no
opposition to her proposal; and she immediately began to sing with
great brilliancy and effect that minuet so well known to our grandsires
and grandmothers under the name of the Minuet de la Cour. Following
the example of his entertainer, the gentleman was obliged to make his
preliminary bows corresponding to her preliminary courtesies; and had
any eye looked upon the couple as they were thus employed, it might
have been naturally enough supposed that he danced with some handsome
lady of quality disguised in a fancy dress, so perfectly did the grace
of her attitudes assimilate themselves to the various movements of the
minuet. But the gentleman had not altogether calculated the nature of
his present undertaking. The spot of terra firma on which the dance
commenced was by no means large enough for the extent of one-tenth
part of the figure of the minuet; and a less bold man than he would
have felt anything but tranquillity of mind, when his insane partner,
giving him her hand, glided with him over the beams, amidst the half
light that proceeded from the decaying embers, like some spirit from
the other world. But if this was alarming, what were his feelings,
when, after the slow part of the minuet was over, she began to carol
the sprightly gavot which follows it, with a clear voice, that made
the lofty vaulted roof ring again, whilst she darted off and called
to him to follow. So, indeed, he found himself compelled to do; but
whilst he, at the risk of his life, contented himself with keeping
up something like a semblance of the figure, he was astonished and
appalled to see his partner go through the whole dance with all that
activity which might have been exhibited on a common floor by the
ablest professional dancer. Though he felt not for himself, his hair
actually stood on end as he looked with trembling on her, whom he
expected every moment to see disappear from his eyes into that abyss
of darkness that lay below; and great was his relief from anxiety when
the dance was at last terminated on the hearthstone where it began.

"And now, gentle sir," said the maniac, "you are doubtless well
prepared for your night's repose after this healthful exercise. Let
me see that your sleeping apartment is ready."

Had the roaring elements without permitted the stranger to have again
ventured abroad, he saw that he could not have possessed himself of
the keys of the outer door without the employment of force, which
his feeling heart never could have allowed him to have attempted. He
therefore sat patiently waiting until his hostess crossed the beams,
and went into a small stone closet opening in the wall, whence she
speedily returned, and lifting a lighted brand of bog-fir from the
fire, she presented it to him with the same air as if she had been
putting a silver candlestick, with a wax candle in it, into his hand;
and taking up another for herself, she, with all the delicacy of
the most refined lady, wished him a good night, and retired into
a room on the other side of the hall similar to that which she had
indicated to him. Before retreating to his dormitory, the gentleman
took the precaution to rake the fire together, and to add to it one
or two pieces of wood, which were piled up in the chimney near it,
so as to keep up a certain degree of light in the place. He then
moved across the beams to the stone closet, where he found a heap
of ferns nicely spread over heather, and putting his cloak on, which
had by this time become tolerably dry, he lay quietly down to try to
procure a little repose.

He had not lain long until he was awakened by several rats running over
him, and on looking out at the open door which gave him a view into
the large apartment, he beheld swarms of these creatures gambolling
about on the beams. Whilst he was lying watching their motions,
he was surprised to perceive his hostess crawling silently forth
on hands and knees from the small place she had occupied. Suddenly
she sprang upon the rats with all the agility of a cat, flew after
them hither and thither, with wild and frantic yells, leaping at the
walls in such a manner that she absolutely seemed to scramble up a
portion of their height in the eagerness of her pursuit. The chase
lasted until all the rats had disappeared, but ere it terminated,
several of them had fallen victims to her wonderful expertness in
capturing them. Proceeding then to the hearth, she seated herself on
the stool by the fire, in a state of great excitement, and inserting
her long nails into them, she stripped off their skins one after the
other with inconceivable expedition, and as she did so, she rose up
from time to time and suspended the bleeding reptiles on tenter-hooks
on one side of the chimney among many others which the stranger had
not till then observed, whilst she attached their skins to a similar
set of hooks on the other side of the fire, amongst a corresponding
number of trophies of the same kind.

"This is for my winter beef," said she in a wild soliloquy, "and this
is for my winter cloak!" This she repeated as every new occasion
required, till all were stowed away. After which the furious fit
seemed to subside; and soon afterwards she retired to her bed, where
she lay so quiet as to give no more disturbance to her stranger guest,
till both were roused by the early dawn.

The morning was a smiling one, and as if she had partaken of its
peaceful nature, she was again in one of her gentle lady-like humours.

"Will you walk, sweet sir?" said she to her guest, with a profound
courtesy. "Will you walk forth to see the morning sun kissing the
opening flowers and drinking up the dewdrops from their lips? This
way," continued she, as she ushered him down the broken stair, and
silently opened the locks and bolts of the outer door.

"I thank you most sincerely for your hospitality, Madam," said the
traveller to her whilst she was carefully locking the door behind
her. "I must now bid you farewell. I see my horse has had the good
sense to break out from his stable during the night to feed on yonder
rich bank of grass, so that he must be well enough refreshed by this
time to be able to finish my journey."

"What," exclaimed the maniac with a sudden transition to her highest
pitch of excitement, and with great rapidity of utterance, "are you
going to leave me too? Did you not come to this my castle to woo me for
your bride? And are you going to leave me too? But I forget, I forget,"
continued she, sinking into a low thoughtful tone of feeling, whilst
tears came rushing to her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "I must
not forget that I am pledged in my own mind. There was but one that
ever truly loved me, and him I lost by being true to a base deceiver."

"What said you?" exclaimed the stranger with intense interest.

"I say that men are deceivers!" cried she with her wildest tone and
gesture; and then becoming gradually calm, she went on singing with
great pathos,--


   "Sigh no more ladies,
    Ladies sigh no more,
    Men were deceivers ever,
    Men were deceivers ever,
    One foot on sea and one on shore----


Yes! yes! on sea!--how many vows did that false man of the sea
utter! and how cruelly did he break them on shore!"

"What do I hear?" exclaimed the gentleman. "The very song! the very
song we so often sang in duet together at Calcutta!"

"Calcutta!" cried the maniac, earnestly seizing his wrist, and in a
tone of deep feeling; "yes, I sang that song often at Calcutta with
one who tenderly loved me. How often do I think on that!"

"Merciful powers!" cried the stranger, as he suddenly observed a
small Indian wrought ring on the little finger of that hand by which
she had for a moment held his; "by all that is wonderful, it is the
ring! the very ring! Let me see that ring!"

"No!" said the maniac, in a high, haughty, and determined manner;
"it shall never be touched by you nor any one else. He gave it to
me--I have worn it--I have preserved it through all my miserable
sufferings, and it shall go with me," added she, fervently kissing it;
"it shall go with me to my cold cold grave."

"Stop, stop!" cried the gentleman, as she was turning away from him;
"avoid me not! I am he who gave it you!"

"You!" cried she, stopping suddenly in her retreat, drawing herself
up to her full height, and looking back upon him with an air of the
most sovereign contempt; "you Charles Græme!--Ha! ha! ha! ha!--you
Charles Græme!--His face was fair, and with the expression of an angel;
yours is sallow, withered, and wrinkled, like that of a baboon--his
hair was lovely as the beams of the morning sun; yours is white, as
the eternal snow of the Himala--his form was like that of the Grecian
Apollo; yours is like that of winter. Go, traitorous man! I have had
enough of falsehood! Come not near me! Chirsty Ross will wed no one
now but Charles Græme or the grave!"

In an instant she darted from his sight, before he was aware of
her intention, and she disappeared among the ruins. In the wildest
state of agitation he rushed after her. He thought he heard a faint
shriek, but he vainly sought her with unremitting solicitude for some
hours. Believing at length that she must have got into the interior
of the building by some secret passage known only to herself, he
unwillingly gave up his search, and the sea having now ebbed, and the
flood in the river having somewhat subsided, he mounted his horse,
with some difficulty crossed the ford, and, oppressed with sorrowful
thoughts, he slowly made his way to the castle of his noble friend,
to whom he confided his sad tale. From him he learned much that was
new to him. A cambric handkerchief, embroidered with Chirsty's story,
had found its way to her friends, who, after many difficulties,
succeeded in rescuing her from her confinement. But alas! they found
her not till her sufferings had rendered her a confirmed maniac. For
a time she felt soothed by the kindness shown her by her afflicted
parents; and during the short time they lived, she amused herself by
wandering harmlessly about the scenes of her childhood. But when her
father and mother were both dead, and all her other relatives being
likewise gone or removed, she abandoned her home and took up her abode
in the ruinous building, of which she was for the most part left in
undisturbed possession. Such was the melancholy outline of her history.

But Charles Græme was too feelingly alive to her unhappy situation to
delay one moment in attempting to find her, that he might spend the
remainder of his life in watching over and protecting her. Next day,
therefore, assisted by his friend's people, he made his way into the
ruins, and sought every part of them. But he sought in vain. Everything
remained as when he had left them on the previous morning, and although
the door was locked, the bolts on the inside were not fastened,
showing that the wretched inhabitant had not returned.

But the mystery was cleared up towards mid-day by a fisherman, who,
as he was landing from his boat, found her lifeless body on the sands,
where it had been left by the receding tide. The supposition was
that she had been drowned in attempting to ford the swollen river,
immediately after the scene of her parting with Charles Græme.



COMPLIMENTARY CRITICISM.


Dominie.--'Pon my word, Mr. Clifford, you have given us good measure
indeed; and of ane excellent faybric, too. As I shall answer, we are
well on with the small hours.

Grant (pulling out his watch)--Is it possible? I declare I thought
that it had been only about ten o'clock. Why, it is a good hour and
a half after midnight.

Clifford.--I was resolved to reel you out a good long line while I was
about it. I thought that it was but fair to give Mr. Macpherson an
opportunity of being even with me, by enjoying as good a slumber as
I had last night, but his politeness was proof against the soporific
influence of my tale.

Dominie.--Your tale would have been as good as an umberella against
all the drowsy drops that ever were shaken from the bough of Morpheus
himself.

Author.--Perhaps it might; but now that the umbrella is taken down, the
dewy balm of the god begins to descend very heavily upon my eyelids.

Grant.--Come, then, let us to bed.

The next morning's sun found us all later in bed than usual. After
breakfast we left the village, and winding down through the forest
of tall pines that lies between it and the river, and crossing the
ancient bridge, we left the Spey behind us, and climbed the old
military mountain road that leads towards Tomantoul.

Clifford (stopping and looking back over the valley)--What a grand
Highland prospect!

Grant.--How proudly the grim old castle domineers over the extended
forests, and the country of which it is the lord paramount! Let us sit
down on this green bank of velvet grass, and enjoy the view. See how
happily that single touch of bright light falls on the Cumin's tower.

Clifford.--Well thought off. Talking of the Cumins, we must not
allow you to leave us, Mr. Macpherson, without telling us the story
of Gibbon More, to which you alluded at Castle Grant.

Dominie.--I must tell it to you now then, gentlemen; for I grieve
to say that I must part from you at the top of the hill a little
way farther on. So, if you have a mind to sit down and enjoy this
refreshing breeze for a little time, I shall give you the legend in
as few words as I can.



LEGEND OF GIBBON MORE CUMIN AND HIS DAUGHTER BIGLA.


If you will be pleased to remember, gentlemen, I already told you,
that previous to the fourteenth century the whole of Strathspey
was subjeck to that great clan or nation the Cumins. It was about
that period, as I informed you, that the Grants, from Glen Urquhart,
were, by royal favour, enabled to possess themselves of Freuchie,--a
place of strength, so called from a certain heathery hillock near to
which it stood. The Cumin's tower was probably part of that original
building which, in the course of generations, has grown up into that
great baronial pile which we now behold yonder. It is natural to
imagine that the Cumins could not possibly regard this alienation of
the property of their clan without its begetting their hatred against
those who benefited by it, though they dared not always to show it
by open deeds of violence. Their submission, however, was by no means
owing to their weakness, for, notwithstanding that the Grants thus got
a footing in this country, so powerful did the Cumins continue for
a while, that many were the strangers that came from other clans to
reside among them for protection, as was not uncommon in that olden
time of trouble; these fugitives changed their own names for that of
the people among whom they had thus found a safe retreat. But they
were never admitted to a full participation in all the rights of the
clan Cuminich, without submitting to undergo a very odd sort of an
irreverential baptism, altogether worthy of the iron age in which it
was practeesed.

Gilbert Cumin, Lord of Glenchearnich, as that country, watered by the
river Dulnan, was denominated, was usually called Gibbon More, from
his enormous size and strength. His chief residence was at Kincherdie,
on the north-western bank of the Spey, on the brink of the river,
just where there is now a ferry across to Gartenmore, the vurra place,
sir, where, as you have recorded in your book of "The Floods," the
worthy Mrs. Cameron made her miraculous voyage upon a brander. The old
chronicler tells us, that the house stood on a green moat, fenced by a
ditch, the vestiges of which are yet to be seen. A current tradition
beareth, that at night a salmon net was cast into the pool below the
wall of the house, and a small rope tied to the net, and brought in
at the window, had a bell hung at it, which rung when a salmon came
in and shook the net, so that the beast was quickly transferred from
the river to the pot. What think ye of that, Mr. Clifford?

Clifford.--Very ingenious! but foul poaching.

Well, whilst Gibbon More Cumin flourished, the ceremony of Cumin-making
was always performed by his own hands. At the door of his castle there
stood a huge stone, which I have often myself seen when I was a boy,
and which, for ought I know, may be still in existence. It was hollowed
out in the middle like an ancient baptismal font, and, indeed, it is
by no means unlikely that it had been originally formed as such. Be
this as it may, however, Gibbon More had it always filled with water
for the refreshment of his fowls. But, besides its uniform devotion
to the truly ignoble purposes of his poultry, it was also employed
by him in the unseemly rites to which I have referred. When any of
the strangers of whom I have spoken had a desire to be metamorphosed
into a Cumin, he was brought incontinently to Kincherdie. There the
gigantic Lord of Glenchearnich, with the observance of very great
and decorous form, lifted him up, and having slowly and solemnly
reversed the natural perpendicular position of the poor sinner,
he held him up by the heels, as Thetis did her infant boy Achilles,
and having dipped his head three times amid the pollutory potation,
as I may call the hen's water that filled the hollow stone, he set
him, gasping and gaunting, upright on his legs again, telling him,
in a stately tone, henceforward to live and do like a Cumin as
he now was. But, notwithstanding this cantrip of Gibbon More's,
there was a marked distinction still preserved between those who
were Cumins by blood and those who were thus manufactured by him by
virtue of the chuckies' water, for these children of adoption and
their descendants had always the degrading addition given to them of
Cuminich clach-nan-cearc, or Cumins of the hen-trough.

It happened, about the time I am speaking of, that young Sir John
Grant, son and heir of Sir Patrick Grant of Stratherrock, now the
Laird of Freuchie, did one evening thus hold converse with a curious
misformed waggish boy, who had no father, and who went by the familiar
name of Archy Abhach, or Archy the Dwarf. Kicked and cuffed as the
youth had been about the castle, Sir John had taken compassion on him,
and had made him his page; and the boy's gratitude and attachment
were consequently great.

"Why look ye so sad, sir?" demanded the boy, gently approaching his
master, as he sat one evening on the battlement of the bartizan,
looking towards the setting sun, with his head resting on the
basket-hilt of his claymore, and his legs swinging about, as if he
cared not whether he should swing himself over the wall or not. "Can
poor Archy do nothing to rid thee of thy melancholy mood?"

"Nay, boy," said the knight, kindly taking his hand, "I doubt thy
powers can scarcely reach my malady."

"As yet thou knowest not the extent of my powers," said the boy
gravely, "nor can I show thee my remedy till thou makest me to know thy
disease. Yet, methinks, my skill is such that I might dare shrewdly
to guess at it. Hast thou not ta'en a heart-wound from a pair of
bright eyes?"

"So far I must needs say, that, judging from this first effort of
thine, thy skill in divining is not to be questioned," said the knight.

"I will adventure further then, and say, that the slanting beams of
yonder declining sun are now gilding the casement of thy lady-love,"
said the boy Archy.

"O Archy, Archy!" cried the knight, giving full way to his feelings, "I
have never enjoyed a moment's peace since I beheld her at Whitsuntide
at the church of Inverallan. She is an angel."

"Granting that she be so," said the boy, "for such they tell me must,
reason or none, be yielded to all lovers--yea though the fair cause
of their madness should be little less than a devil--granting, I say,
that she be an angel, surely that should be no reason why thou shouldst
thus mope and pine, Sir Knight."

"Thou forgettest, boy, that the hatred naturally born between a Cumin
and a Grant forbids all hope on my part," said Sir John despondingly.

"Methinks I could bring thee an instance where this hatred hath been
exchanged for love," said the boy.

"Where? when? with whom?" cried the knight eagerly.

"Here--now--and with Sir John Grant towards Matilda or Bigla Cumin,
as she is called in the country here, daughter and heiress of the
big Lord of Glenchearnich," replied the boy laughing.

"Pshaw!" cried the knight, with a disappointed air.

"Nay, dear master," said the boy; "and if thou hast been able to get
over this natural-born antipathy, why may not Bigla Cumin have been
equally blessed by Heaven?"

"Ah!" cried the knight again, "would it might be so!"

"Wilt thou but give me leave to go to try what may be done?" demanded
the boy. "Be assured I shall be better than most mediciners, for if
I do no good, I shall take especial care to do no harm."

"Kind boy, thou mayest e'en do thy best," said the knight. "I well know
thy zeal for thy master's good; but were thy powers somewhat more equal
to thy zeal, I should count more on the success of thine efforts."

"Such as my poor powers may be, they shall be used to the utmost in
thy service, Sir Knight," said the boy. "Good night, then, so please
thee; and farewell, it may be for some time, for I go on mine errand
by to-morrow's dawn, and the better I prosper, the longer, perchance,
may be mine absence."

"Go, and may the Blessed Virgin guide thee and give thee luck," said
the knight. "But see, boy, that thou bringest thine own person into
no peril."

"Trust me for that," said Archy, as he disappeared from the bartizan.

The sun of next morning had scarcely well risen, and Gibbon More
had just issued from his door to take a look at its face, that he
might judge of the coming weather, when he descried an ill-formed
dwarfish youth approaching, whose countenance, though ill-favoured,
had a certain prepossessing expression in it.

"Whence comest thou, little man?" demanded the Lord of Glenchearnich.

"I come from the east," said the boy readily; "my name is Archy--other
name have I none--and I would fain be a Cumin."

"Ha! ha! ha!--a Cumin, wouldst thou?" said Gibbon laughing. "By
St. Mary, but our clan will be invincible when it shall be strengthened
by such a powerful graff as thou! Tell me, what wouldst thou be good
for, boy?"

"I could draw a bow at a pinch," said the boy. "But I must needs
confess that I were better for the service of some gentle lady's
bower. I'd willingly be thy fair daughter the Lady Matilda's page;
and I'd serve her right faithfully."

"If Bigla should fancy thy ugly face, I care not if she should have
thee," said Gibbon More, "for though thy countenance be homely,
it would seem to be honest."

"Make me a Cumin, and the lady shall have no cause to complain of me,"
replied the boy.

"Thou shalt have thy wish then, boy, without further delay," said
Gibbon More; and he straightway lifted up the youth, and, with more
than ordinary gentleness, he performed the ceremony of the threefold
ablution on him.

Archy Abhach, now converted into Archy Cumin, was speedily installed
in his new office as page to the Lady Bigla, and, in his very first
interview, he contrived to establish himself very firmly in the good
graces of his fair mistress. But what might have been considered
more wonderful, he made a no less favourable impression upon her
handmaiden, a matter which jealousy might have rendered more difficult
with any attendant of a less amiable disposition than the attached
Agnes possessed.

"There is something more than usually interesting about that poor
friendless boy," said the lady to Agnes, after her new page had been
dismissed from her presence for a short time.

"A most interesting youth, notwithstanding the niggardly way in
which dame Nature seems to have treated him," said Agnes archly;
"but as to his being friendless, I shrewdly suspect that he is a
rogue for making that pretence."

"What mean you, Agnes?" demanded Bigla.

"I mean that the varlet had no need to have come to Kincherdie to
look for protection, seeing that he hath long been the favourite of
one of the bravest young knights in all the country round," said Agnes.

"Of whom do you speak?" demanded Bigla.

"Of a certain Sir John Grant, son and heir of old Sir Patrick Grant of
Freuchie," replied Agnes, with an air of mock gravity; "but, perhaps,
you have never seen nor heard of the man."

"O Agnes!" cried Bigla, energetically clasping her hands, and throwing
down her eyes and blushing deeply.

"You have heard of him, then, lady?" said Agnes.

"A truce to your raillery," said Bigla seriously, "and tell me quickly
all you know or guess of this matter."

"Why, all I know of the matter is simply this," said Agnes, in the
same tone, "last Whitsuntide the Lady Bigla Cumin saw, for the first
time, the handsome young knight, Sir John Grant of Freuchie, at the
church of Inverallan. The knight, with becoming gallantry, stepped
gracefully forward and lifted the lady to her saddle, sighing deeply
as he resigned the precious load to her prancing palfrey. The lady's
bower damsel, the quick-sighted Agnes Cumin, soon perceived that the
said knight and lady had made a mutual impression on each other. With
her wonted acuteness and ingenuity, the said damsel soon extracted the
truth from the said lady; and seeing that a misformed imp of a page,
then in attendance on the said knight, hath now, without any apparent
cause, left so good a master in order to undergo the ceremony of being
baptized as a Cumin in the nauseous hen-trough, the said acute damsel
ventures readily to pronounce that the flame burns as brightly and
warmly at Freuchie as it does in my lady's bower at Kincherdie--that
is all."

"But what can Sir John Grant mean by all this?" demanded Bigla,
blushing more deeply than ever.

"To seek and secure an interview to be sure," replied Agnes; "but I
shall soon know what he would be at," continued she. "I shall soon
be at the bottom of it all."

Without giving the Lady Bigla time to reply, the prompt and decided
Agnes hurried away to hold converse with the page. Meeting, as they
did, like two sharp flints, they were not long in striking fire
enough to throw light upon the matter. Having mutually made one
another fully aware of the position of affairs on both sides, they,
without further hesitation, proceeded, like two able plenipotentiaries,
to arrange plans for the future; and it was finally agreed between
them, without further ceremony, that the high contracting parties
should meet in person, on the ensuing evening, in the bourtree bower,
at the lower end of the garden, beyond the rampart, and the page was
forthwith despatched on a secret mission to the knight to inform him
immediately of this so happy an arrangement.

"Blessed Virgin, what hast thou done, Agnes!" cried Bigla Cumin,
ere she had well heard her maid to an end; and hiding her crimsoned
face with both her hands, "What will Sir John Grant think of me?"

"He will call you an angel, as Archy tells me he has already done,"
said Agnes coolly.

"Nay, nay, but this must not be!" said Bigla, starting from her
chair. "Run, Agnes, and stop the boy from going on this most foolish
and imprudent errand."

"Stop him," said Agnes. "You might as well ask me to stop Black
Peter's arrow after it has left his bowstring. The boy is half way
to Freuchie by this time. He knows too well how warmly his news will
be received to allow the grass to grow at his heels."

"What will my father say to this strange arrangement, if it should
come to his knowledge?" cried Bigla, "to meet as a lover the son of the
head of the very house with which we have ever held so great enmity."

"In the first place, your father, good man, must know nothing about
this meeting," said Agnes. "It concerns him not; secondly, if there
hath been ill blood for so long between the two clans, the sooner
peace and friendship is re-established the better, especially after
two of the principal persons have met together in a Christian church,
as you and Sir John have done."

"Agnes, Agnes!" cried the lady, with emotions of vexation not
altogether unmingled, it must be confessed, with certain tinglings
of a more agreeable nature, "Agnes, Agnes! thy precipitation in this
matter hath brought me into a most distressing state of perplexity. I
know not what to do."

But before the morning's sun had well risen, the page appeared in the
lady's presence, with a perfumed billet, sealed with a flame-coloured
silk ribbon, and filled with such professions of love on the part of
Sir John Grant, as brought tenfold blushes into the lovely face of
Bigla; and so touched her young heart as to leave her without a chance
of withstanding the powerful arguments of her handmaiden Agnes, backed
up as they were by the warm descriptions of his master's sufferings,
and the earnest solicitations for her compassion on him, which were so
eloquently urged by the clever page. The result was, that, attended by
Agnes, she did go tremblingly to the trysting place at the appointed
hour--listened with a pleasure she had never felt before to all the
knight's fervent vows; and both were made so happy by their mutual
confessions, that the prudential suggestions of Agnes and Archy were
repeatedly required ere the tender separation could be effected. So
well, however, was that and several other interviews of a similar
nature planned and brought about by the two able auxiliaries, that
for a long time the easy Gibbon More had no suspicion that anything
of the sort was going on. But at length it did happen, that as Sir
John Grant was returning from one of these meeting, he was rather
unluckily encountered, not far from the house of Kincherdie, by Hector,
the confidential servant of Gibbon More. The man's suspicions were
so awakened by the circumstance of the knight being on foot, that
he scrupled not to follow him at a distance, until he saw him join
an attendant who held a couple of horses in a grove about a mile
off. Full of his discovery, Hector went directly to Gibbon More;
and there is no saying what the consequences might have been had
not the Lord of Glenchearnich been a person of a temperament almost
miraculously apathetical. So wonderful was his disposition in this
respect, indeed, that it was only after his patience had been assailed
and battered, as it were, by repeated and most provoking attacks,
that he ever could be excited at all. But then, indeed, when he was
once roused, he became on the sudden like a raging lion, and his
enormous strength and fearless courage being brought tremendously
into action by his fury, the effects were quite terrific.

"So you think, Hector, that the young Stratherrock stripling has been
here to look after Bigla," said Gibbon, after hearing his man's story
to an end. "Hum,--ha! I did perceive that the maiden caught his eye
at the church of Inverallan on Whitsuntide. Ha, ha, ha!--to think of
a Grant being mated with her is too ridiculous. But, for all that,
I cannot blame the boy for bowing before the shrine of my daughter's
beauty. I'll warrant the young goose came over here to try to get
another peep, were it only of her robe as it might chance to sweep by
her casement. Wiser folks than he have done as foolish things; I've
done as much myself in my youth. But Bigla can know nought of this,
so there is no harm done."

Whether Hector's renewed cautions did or did not succeed in making
his master think something more of this matter than he was thus at
first disposed to do, I cannot say; but certain it is, that the Lord
of Glenchearnich was somewhat suddenly seized with the resolution of
going some weeks earlier than he was wont, to spend the summer months
on his hill-grazing property of Delnahaitnich, near the source of
the river Dulnan. This was a most untoward event for the lovers, not
only because the distance between them was thus immensely increased,
but because Gibbon More's residence there was a small cottage,
which might be called little better than a mere shealing, [5] in or
about which it would be next to impossible for them to meet without
observation. And accordingly after this move was made, some weeks
were vainly expended in fruitless attempts on the part of Archy Abhach
to procure for his master Sir John, even the gratification of such a
distant view of the Lady Bigla's robe as her father described in his
conversation with Hector. Yet Sir John often hovered about the place,
and lay for many a night wrapped up in his plaid among the heather
of the neighbouring forest with no other shelter but a projecting
rock and the thick foliage of the firs that grew over it. Archy
Abhach was almost as much disappointed as Sir John himself at being
so baulked. His ingenuity was put to the very rack, but all without
effect; because it somehow or other happened that Gibbon More never
went from home, and so his daughter was never left for one moment
out of his sight. The knight had thus no comfort but in the frequent
letters and messages which Archy contrived to carry between the lovers,
and which they were fain to employ for want of those more interesting
interviews, of which they were now altogether deprived.

It happened that Archy Abhach was one night sent with one of those
letters towards the place where his master Sir John Grant was lying
hid in the upper part of the forest of Dulnan, which then spread much
higher over the hills than it now does. The moon was not yet risen,
and the dense foliage overhead very much increased the darkness and
the difficulty of his way. As he was scrambling along past the narrow
mouth of a small ravine that opened on the course of the stream he
was following, he came suddenly upon two men who were seated beside
the dying embers of a fire which they seemed to have used for some
purpose of rude and hasty cookery. Curiosity led him involuntarily
to stop for a moment to observe them; but becoming instantly aware of
his imprudence in doing so, he moved quickly away, and began to run as
hard as he could. But the consequences which he dreaded were already
incurred, and he had not gone many paces when he heard footsteps
hurrying after him. He fled as fast as his legs could carry him,
but the darkness was such that he tripped and fell, and his neck was
instantly in the grasp of a powerful hand.

"I have him fast," said a rough voice in Gaelic; "it is but a very
small boy after all. Shall I whittle his craig with my skian-dhu?"

"Not for thy life," replied another voice in the same language. "Bring
him along with thee, that we may see what he is. Why wouldst thou
hurt the creature till we know something more about him?"

The man who had seized Archy now threw him over his shoulder as he
would have done a dead hare, and groped his way back with him to the
ravine, where a blaze being produced by a dry bush of heather, the boy
was set down between them for examination. Archy on his part was not
slow in using his eyes also, and in a much less time than I can tell
it to you, he ran them over the bulky rough figure of the individual
who had seized him, and then as hastily surveyed the compact well
put-together active-looking person, and intelligent countenance of the
other, who seemed in every respect to be the superior. This last was
by no means strange to him, and, to the surprise of the man himself,
he immediately addressed him by his name.

"Corrie MacDonald!" said he, "sure I am that thou wilt never hurt
any man belonging to Sir Patrick Grant of Stratherrock."

But I must now tell you that this same Corrie MacDonald was a certain
hero who flourished in those days in Lochaber, and who made himself
dreaded all through Moray-land and its neighbouring districts by the
periodical visits of plunder which he paid to them. Amongst other
tracts of country, Strathspey and its tributary valleys were wont
to be a prominent object of his attention. He had always a large
band of followers at his command, who were equally expert in driving
away herds of cattle, and brave in beating off the owners when they
pursued with the hope of recovering them. Corrie was a reaver of
no ordinary character; for, robber though he was, he had a natural
fund of liberality and generosity about him; and he had so great
a stock of native humour in him, that he was ever ready to indulge
his waggish disposition at any expense; and no predatory expedition
had ever half so great a relish for him, as that in which he could
contrive to mix up a bit of a frolic. Many a cow and ox had Corrie
MacDonald carried away from the extensive possessions of the Lord of
Glenchearnich. But these trifling depredations never disturbed the
good temper or overcame the patience of that most extraordinary man,
the effect of whose unparalleled forbearance was to awaken in the
inquiring mind of Corrie MacDonald a certain philosophic curiosity
to ascertain by experiment to what extent it was capable of being
stretched; and he had long panted for a favourable opportunity of
bringing this investigation to a fair trial.

"Corrie MacDonald," cried Archy Abhach, in a whining tone, "sure I
am that thou who hast never had quarrel with Sir Patrick Grant of
Stratherrock wilt never hurt any man belonging to him."

"Thou art right," replied Corrie. "Not only shall I respect the
safety of every man belonging to Sir Patrick Grant, but I will even
respect thee, who art but a mannikin, if thou canst prove thyself to
be his. I have had peaceable passage to and fro through his grounds
on Loch Ness side for too many years to do otherwise."

"Then look ye here," said Archy, plucking from his bosom the letter
of which he was the bearer, and straightway showing the address,
which was--To the honourable and gallant knight. Sir John Grant of
Freuchie, these, with speed.

"That is all well," said Corrie. "But methinks, mannikin, that
this is anything but the road to Freuchie, if I know aught of this
country side."

"My master is up in the forest, a little bit above this, waiting for
my tidings," said Archy.

"Aha!" cried Corrie, relaxing his features into a smile, "some love
adventure, I warrant me. Awell! I am the last man to put hindrance
in the way of any such matter, especially where Sir John Grant is
concerned. Nay, I would willingly go a good way out of my road to
help him on."

"Sayest thou so, Corrie MacDonald!" cried the urchin. "Then could I
tell thee how thou mightest lend my master thy most effectual aid,
and yet keep thine own road still, and that to thine own most abundant
profit."

"How may that be, my small man?" demanded Corrie. "If thou canst make
thy plans clear to my conviction, thou shalt find me ready, zealous,
prompt, and decisive."

"Thou knowest Gibbon More Cumin, lord of these broad lands of
Glenchearnich," said Archy.

"Know him?" said Corrie with a grin. "Well do I that."

"He is living here hard by at Delnahaitnich," continued the page. "He
keeps home so close, that no one can even have a sight of his daughter,
far less have speech of her. Couldst thou not carry away his cattle
from the forest here, so as to furnish him with a reasonably rational
object for travelling for a season?"

"By Saint Comb, but thou hast a wit larger than the tiny proportions
of thy body might teach one to look for!" said Corrie. "The notion
is excellent. I have long wished to work that lump of dough into a
ferment. And, by Saint Mary, as the creach will be carried off from
under his very nose, I shall stir up his temper now, if it is to be
stirred up at all by mortal man. So speed to thy master, and keep
him advised to watch his time; and if I don't by and by clear the
way for him, by giving Gibbon More and his people a chase of a day
or two through the hills after me and my men, I shall wonder of it."

"Master, master," cried Gibbon More's man Hector, as he came running
in to him next morning quite out of breath, "Corrie MacDonald has
been in the forest last night, and he has carried away every stot he
could find on this part of your lands."

"Has the rascal taken the cows too?" demanded Gibbon coolly.

"No--sure enough--he has not taken a single cow," replied Hector,
"I counted the cow-beasts myself, and they are all safe."

"There was some civility in that, however," said Gibbon laughing. "The
fellow is a thief of some consideration; for if he hath left us the
cows, thou knowest, Hector, that we shall have plenty of stot beasts
by and by."

"Ou aye, surely, sir," said Hector as he retired, very much
disappointed by the manner in which his intelligence had been received.

Corrie was not without his spies; and the oxen were hardly well so far
over the hill, on their way to Lochaber, as to be fairly considered
beyond all reach of recovery, when he returned with some of his people
to prowl about Delnahaitnich. There he soon learned from Archy Abhach
the manner and speech with which Gibbon More had received the news
of his loss.

"I'll try him again," said Corrie. "The fellow must be the dullest
stirk that ever was calved."

"The cows are all gone now, master!" cried the same ill-omened
messenger, as he entered Gibbon More's apartment next morning before
he was out of bed.

"A plague upon the plundering thief," cried Gibbon More, "has he
taken the young beasts too?"

"No!" said the man, who was much disappointed to find that this,
his second piece of bad news, was just as unsuccessful in rousing
his master's ire as his first had been. "He has not ta'en a single
young beast, but, on my conscience, I'm thinking he has ta'en enough."

"The villain robs by rule, I see," said Gibbon; "but since the young
beasts are safe, Hector, we shall have plenty of both cows and stots
again, anon, you know."

Corrie MacDonald, who was curious to find out how this second loss was
to affect Gibbon, was absolutely piqued beyond endurance when he heard
of the quiet manner in which he had taken it. Withdrawing a handful
of his people from the large body of them who were then in charge of
the second prey he had taken, he lay in ambush for a third night.

"We're altogether harried now then!" cried Hector, as he appeared
the third morning with a face like a ghost. "Every young beast upon
the place is gone."

"What!" cried Gibbon More, starting up to hurry on his clothes in
a state of the fiercest excitement, "does the caitiff make a butt
of me? I can bear to lose my bestial, but to be played on thus by a
thieving scoundrel is more than man's patience can suffer. I'll teach
these ruffians to crack their jokes upon me! Where is my two-handed
sword?"

"Father, father! dear father, where are ye running to?" cried his
daughter Bigla, as she met him raging out at the door like a roaring
lion. "Where are you running without your bonnet?"

"I have no time to speak now," replied the infuriated Gibbon. "I'll
tell you all about it when I come back."

"I fear he has gone on some rash and dangerous enterprise," said Bigla,
"run, run, Hector, and gather the people, and be after him with help
as fast as you may."

Hector was not slow; but he must have been active indeed, if he could
have caught Gibbon More at the pace he was going. He rushed up the
steep hill in front of his dwelling, and was soon out of sight.

Gibbon had no sooner reached the summit, than, throwing his eyes
abroad, he espied his young cattle feeding on the south side of the
hill called the Geal-charn, or the Hoary Hill; and from the smoke which
he observed curling up from a ravine at a short distance from the spot
where the animals were scattered about, he at once conjectured that
the robbers had chosen that concealment as a fit place for cooking
their morning meal. He was right in this supposition; for, judging
from his former apathy, Corrie MacDonald had not quite calculated
that this third act of depredation would lead to so speedy a pursuit.

"What a pity it is that Gibbon More Cumin has no more beasts left in
Delnahaitnich," said Corrie MacDonald to his people, with an ironical
laugh, as they sat in a circle round the fire, devouring one of the
young beasts they had killed.

"We need not come back here for a while, till he sends up some more
stock from Kincherdie," said one of his men.

"We have done not that much amiss in these three turns," said
another. "I'm thinking we may be content to free him of blackmail
for a season."

"By the beard of St. Barnabas, but we'll come back again and again,
until we drive away every beast the cowardly loon has between this
and Spey," said Corrie. "What should we do with such a lump of butter,
but keep melting at it as long as it will run."

"Surely, surely," replied several of them.

"It will make our broth all the fatter," said Corrie, laughing again.

"Villains, do ye dare to laugh at me at the very moment when you
are feeding at my cost?" cried Gibbon More, rushing suddenly and
unexpectedly among them, like a raging wolf into a flock of penned
sheep. "I'll teach you to make a fool of me."

The immense blade of his two-handed sword gleamed like a meteor in
the air, flashed in the sun, and shed lightnings into their terrified
eyes. Each of them tried to scramble to his feet as he best could;
and one or two were shorn of their heads ere they could rise from the
ground. Bonnets with heads in them fell to right and left, as I have
seen ripe apples scattered from their parent bough by a violent gust
of wind, or by the inroad of some thieving schoolboy. No one thought
of anything else but flight; and the actions of all were as quick
as their thoughts. But Gibbon More's enormous double-edged weapon
was quicker in the repetition of its sweeping cuts than even thought
itself. On he went, slashing right and left after them as they fled,
till he had strewed the ravine and the hill-side with about a dozen of
their carcases, and then, breathless and overcome with rage, haste,
and toil, he sat himself down to rest on the heather. The remainder
of the robbers were thus allowed to escape; and as he did not know
the boasting Corrie MacDonald personally, that hero contrived to get
safe away among the rest, and went home to Lochaber, somewhat less
disposed to try experiments on the temper of Gibbon More Cumin, than
he had declared himself to be before this his terrible and unlooked
for onslaught.

Gibbon More's people, with Hector at their head, arrived too late to
share with him in the glory of his victory. But they were useful in
burying the slain. A few tumuli, which are still to be seen raising
their green heads among the heather on the southern declivity of the
Geal-charn, were thrown up by them over the dead bodies; and they then
had the satisfaction of driving home their master's young cattle in
safety to their native pasture, where the animals afterwards grew to
be cows and oxen, entirely free from any further alarm from Corrie
MacDonald.

I need not say that the sharp-witted page took good care that his
master should profit by the temporary absence of Gibbon More. Sir John
Grant was at the cottage immediately after the Lord of Glenchearnich
had left it. But the knight had little advantage after all from an
adventure which had cost Corrie MacDonald so dear. He had indeed
the satisfaction of again beholding and conversing with Bigla;
but, filled as she was at the time with alarm and anxiety about
her father's safety, she could talk about or listen to no other
subject. The time of the Lord of Glenchearnich's absence fled like
a short dream. His anticipated travel of a few days had, by his own
extraordinary activity and courage, been reduced to a few short hours,
and the wary and watchful page had barely time to warn his master away,
ere Gibbon More's voice was heard calling to his people, as he returned
to the house begrimed with the blood and soil of his recent conflict.

But Sir John's more frequent opportunities of meeting with Bigla were
soon afterwards again happily renewed by the return of Gibbon More to
Kincherdie; and, by the ingenuity of the page, these stolen interviews
passed over undiscovered even by the lynx-eyed Hector, whose energies
were by this time somewhat diverted from their wonted watchfulness,
by a certain newborn affection which had recently possessed his bosom
for the fair maid Agnes.

It happened on one occasion that Gibbon More chanced to go to a fair
or market at Inverness. The streets were crowded with people, as well
as with horses, cows, and oxen of all sorts. There might have been
observed the eagle-winged bonnet of the chief, followed by his tail of
clansmen and dependants; and chieftains were seen promiscuously mingled
with cattle-boys, gillies, and serfs of every degree and denomination,
thronging the public way. Many were the friendly salutations, and
many the flashes of hostile defiance that passed among the various
personages who, coming from distant parts of the country, chanced on
that day to meet each other. Often was the authority of the provost,
the bailies, the sheriff, and other officials called into operation
to quell embryo quarrels, and sometimes it was all that the united
forces of these public functionaries could do to keep the restless
and bloodthirsty dirks and claymores in their sheaths. Rarely
did the mantled and well-wimpled damsels venture forth amidst the
complication of dangers that were to be encountered at every step
from the prevalence of those quarrels, as well as from the horns of
the cattle and the heels of the horses. They contented themselves
with saluting their friends from their open lattices; and many were
the warm though distant acknowledgments that took place between the
young and the fair ladies, who, whilst they were ostensibly occupied
in gazing at the marvels in the street,--at the jesters and mummers
who jingled their bells, or grinned with their painted faces, and
trolled their rude and threadbare rhymes to ditties as unpolished, the
pretty creatures were in reality altogether overlooking these vulgar
absurdities, and were holding interesting conversations by signals,
only known to themselves, with their handsome Highland lovers in
the street.

Bigla Cumin was an heiress of consequence, but she was moreover very
beautiful, so that many were the eyes that sought her as she sat at
a lofty balcony in the house of a burgher friend of her father's,
and not a few were those who endeavoured, and endeavoured in vain,
to obtain one glance of recognition from her. I do not mean to say,
however, that the lass was haughty, but she bore herself with the
modesty befitting her years and her sex. There was but one on whom she
did vouchsafe to look with an eye of yespecial favour, and that was
Sir John Grant. Her heart beat in double time when he and his father,
Sir Patrick the Lord of Stratherrock, passed by in their gay red and
green tartan, which, except in its broad blue lysts and in its want
of those pure white sprainges which enliven that of the Cumin, had so
general a resemblance to it, that at a little distance they might have
been easily mistaken for each other. When the rays from her bright
eyes shot across the street in a condescending smile in return for
the more than merely courteous reverence which he made to her, their
sunshine was concentrated, if I may so express myself, as if it had
been met by the burning glasses of that most wonderful man Archimedes,
and it was returned to her in one melting focus of adoration.

"Angel that she is!" said Sir John to his father.

"She is an angel, indeed, boy!" replied the elder knight; "and,
moreover, there be angels enow in her father's coffers, not to mention
those broad acres of his which would give to the Grants so pretty
a little principality in Strathspey. Stick to her, boy! She is well
worth the winning."

"Would I could but have an interview with her, freed from all chance of
interruption from her old father!" said Sir John in a tone of vexation.

"Trust to me, dear master," said Archy Abhach in a whisper, as at
that moment he plucked the knight's sleeve. "Watch well thy time! I
have seen some one in the town here to-day who will be right willing
to lend thee a helping hand."

Gibbon More was not wont to go without the following of a chieftain
on such occasions as this; and he generally bore his portly person
over the crown of the causeway with a dignity which, when at home, he
laid aside with his best bonnet, doublet, and plaid. The recognition
between him and his new neighbour, as he called him, was remarkably
warm and friendly on the part of Sir Patrick Grant, and very stately
and condescending on his own side. His eyes were offended at the sight
of the two Grants and their followers, and he sought relief from them
in looking at a beautiful black palfrey which a West Highland gilly
was leading down the street. The prancing, the caracoling, and the
menage of the animal showed that it had been bred of the gentlest
Arabian blood in some far away English pasture.

"Ho!" cried Gibbon, stopping the man. "Who is the owner of that
beautiful creature?"

"I am the owner, sir," replied a sharp-eyed little man, right well
accoutred both as to his arms and garb, but having no remarkable
signs of any great rank about him.

"Are you for parting with the pretty creature?" inquired Gibbon More.

"I should not care much to part with him to a good customer," replied
the other.

"Is he young, gentle, sound, and sure-footed?" demanded Gibbon.

"I'll answer all your questions by and by," replied the West
Highlander, "if you will only do me the favour to satisfy me as to
one point."

"What is that?" asked Gibbon More.

"Will you tell me what part of the country you come from?"

"From Strathspey, to be sure," replied Gibbon.

"I guessed as much," said the other. "I see, moreover, from the set
of your tartan that you are a Cumin, and by your attire, bearing,
and following, I can guess that you are a gentleman of some note. Do
you happen to know Gibbon More Cumin of your country?"

"Know Gibbon More Cumin!" cried he, laughing good humouredly; "if
I know anyone, I should know him, seeing that he always lives in
the house with me, and that we never eat a meal asunder. I love him
better than a brother. But not to keep you any longer in doubt--I am
Gibbon More Cumin!"

"I am truly glad to see you," said the West Highlander, seizing his
hand and shaking it heartily. "You are the man, of all others alive,
to whom I am most obliged."

"Ha, friend!" replied Gibbon, looking hard and seriously at him,
"I cannot say that I recollect having ever seen you before; how then
have I happened so to have obliged you?"

"Well!" said the other, "if you cannot remember that you ever saw me
before, the greater was your kindness to me--unsight unseen, as we
say. It is not every man that keeps such an easy reckoning as you do
of the benefits for which his friends are indebted to him."

"But what benefit have you had from me?" demanded Gibbon.

"I'll tell you that," said the West Highlander. "I'll tell you that
in a moment. You see, I have no less than three strapping lasses of
daughters. I have married all the three, and to each one of them I
gave a tocher which you provided."

"Tut!" cried Gibbon laughing, "the man is demented. When did I ever
give a tocher to daughter of yours? By St. Mungo, I have a strapping
lass of a daughter of my own to portion. I have little ado therefore
to portion those of other people."

"What I say is nevertheless true," replied the other. "And so sensible
am I of the obligations I owe to you, that by way of a small return,
and to show my gratitude, I must ask of you, as a favour, to accept
of this horse of mine as a present for your daughter; and if you will
go to the inn with me, I shall be happy to give you a pint of French
Claret, if such be to be had in the town, to drink good luck to the
young lady and her new palfrey."

"As I am a Cumin you are an honest fellow!" cried Gibbon More,
shaking him again heartily by the hand. "But I prythee explain--I
cannot accept either your present or your wine till you tell me who
you are, and until you expound your riddle to me."

"I am not sure how far I am safe to do that," said the other archly,
"especially here, on the High Street of Inverness; and you standing
there with so many pretty men at your back."

"If I have done you kindnesses heretofore," said Gibbon, "what fear can
you have of me now, stand where I will, or let me be backed as I may?"

"Why, then, you see," said the other, with a certain degree of
comical hesitation, "I must confess that I did, on one occasion,
presume somewhat too far on your liberality, and in your anger you
gave me such a fright, that I am not sure that I have just altogether
got the better of it yet."

"Ha! ha! ha! why, you give me more riddles every time you open your
mouth," replied Gibbon. "When did I ever give you a fright?"

"Ou! troth sudden and terrible was the fright you gave me!" said the
man, "and surely after tochering of three daughters, each of them
with twelve beautiful milch cows and a bull, all of which came from
your pastures, I should have been contented. But I'm thinking that if
I was a small thing over greedy, the fright I got from Gibbon More's
two-handed sword, as it flashed behind me on the Geal Charn, was enough
to put all greed out of my head, so far at least as he was concerned."

"Hoo!" exclaimed Gibbon with a long whistle, "ha! ha! ha! Corrie
MacDonald! as I am a Cumin, you are a most merry conditioned rogue
as ever I met with! Your hand again! I accept your handsome present,
and I will go drink your pot of wine with you, with all my heart,
to my daughter's health, and to a better acquaintance between you and
me. Ha! ha! ha! By St. Mary, but I am sorry now that I killed your men
and so grievously frightened yourself. But, though the poor fellows
are past all hope of recovery now, I am resolved that your dread of
me shall be drowned in your own flagon. Lead on then, my brave fellow,
to your hostel."

Gibbon More had too much enjoyment in this unexpected meeting and
merry-making to allow it to terminate very soon; but Bigla Cumin was
in some degree recompensed for the tedious time she had to tarry for
her father by the long interview which she enjoyed with Sir John
Grant, as well as by the sight of the beautiful prancing palfrey,
which was led out for her to ride home upon.

It was not very long after this occurrence that poor Gibbon More Cumin
was seized with a sudden malady, of which he died after a few days'
illness, and he was carried by his friends and dependants to be laid
to sleep in the tomb of his fathers. Jealous of the Grants even in
his dying moments, he left Bigla, his orphan daughter and heiress,
under the guardianship of some of the chieftains of his own clan,
with earnest injunctions above all things to "keep her out of the
fremyt [6] hands of Freuchie."

There was no one more anxious to fulfil this dying order of Gibbon's
than one of the Cumins, who at that time possessed Logie, which, in
later times, became the patrimonial property of that more recent branch
whence proceeded the worthy family which is now so designated. This
gentleman had been for some time one of Bigla's suitors; and his
pretensions had been always favourably looked upon by her father. The
days of mourning for the old man were not yet expired, when Logie came
to Kincherdie, gaily apparelled, and well appointed and attended,
and urging the authority of a father's dying wish, he signified to
Bigla his desire of taking her with him on the ensuing day to his
residence on the banks of the river Findhorn, where, as his guest,
and under the protection of his aged mother, she should find a safe
and comfortable asylum. Though satisfied that there was more of the
warmth of the lover in the language in which this invitation was
conveyed, than altogether befitted the character of a guardian, yet
the young maiden, in her present lonely state, could not well find
any reasonable excuse for refusal, and accordingly she was compelled,
however unwillingly, to accept his offer, and she issued orders to
her people to prepare for the journey.

The prospect of so soon leaving that home where she had spent her whole
life under the fostering care of her doting father, filled her heart
with a double portion of sorrow; and after artlessly communicating her
feelings to Logie and his friends, she craved their pardon, entreated
them to entertain one another, and to make themselves at home, and
then she sought the retirement of her chamber, where she spent the
remainder of the day, and the greater part of the evening, in giving
way to that affliction which had more than one exciting cause.

"My dear mistress," said her faithful maid Agnes Cumin, breaking
in upon her as she sat in silent abstraction, with her moist cheek
resting upon her hand, "why should you cry your eyes out thus? The
night is soft and balmy, a little fresh air would do you good. Do let
me throw this plaid over you, and be persuaded to step out a little,
were it only as far beyond the walls as the bourtree bower at the
lower end of the garden."

"I cannot, my good Aggy," replied Bigla, with a fresh flood of tears;
"in sooth I have no heart."

"Come! be persuaded to try the air," said Agnes. "Who knows what sighs
and tears may be at this moment idly fanning the leaves and watering
the rosebuds of your own bonny bower."

"What say you?" cried Bigla, starting up with a suddenly acquired
energy. "What say you, Aggy? is he in the arbour?"

"Hush, my lady!" said the cautious girl, "he is there; and from his
tears and sighs I should judge that his heart is well attuned to
thine at this moment."

"Let me fly to him!" exclaimed Bigla, "the moments are most precious;"
and throwing her plaid hastily around her, she stole out beyond the
barbican; and, having reached the garden, she ran on tiptoe to the
simple elder-bush bower at the farther end of it, leaving Archy Abhach
to keep watch against intrusion.

The scene between Bigla and her lover was tender and melting. For a
time they did little else than weep and sigh together.

"Aggy tells me that you go with Logie to-morrow," said Sir John at
last. "How could you suffer yourself to be persuaded to agree to any
such arrangement?"

"It was with no good will that I did so," replied Bigla; "but as
Logie was armed with my dear departed father's delegated authority,
and as his proposal was backed by a parent's dying wish, I could not
withstand his request."

"Holy Mother, then art thou lost to me for ever!" cried Sir John
passionately. "Canst thou thus coolly resolve, even for such a cause,
to throw thyself into the very jaws of those from whom I can never
hope to reclaim thee but by force of arms!"

"Force of arms!" said Bigla. "I question much whether any force
of arms from the Grants could prevail against the men of my clan,
who will have the keeping of me. But fear not, for the time is not
far distant when the law will give me guidance of mine own affairs;
then mayest thou reclaim me from myself with full assurance of a
ready compliance on my part."

"But what if these clansmen of thine should basely coerce thee to
a hated union with one of themselves?--with Logie, for instance,
who is old enough to be thy father!"

"I have no such fears," replied Bigla.

"By the rood, but I have!" cried Sir John hurriedly. "You forget the
old saying,--Whilst there are leaves in the forest there--a--a--a"----

"Nay," said Bigla playfully, "do finish your proverb, Sir
Knight. Whilst there are leaves in the forest there will be guile in
a Cumin. Did your worship mean that as a compliment to me, or do you
forget that I, too, am a Cumin?"

"Nay, nay, nay! my dearest Bigla, you are truth itself," replied Sir
John eagerly. "Pardon me, my love, for quoting this old saw; but,
seriously, you are too valuable, too tempting a prize to be risked
in any hands but--but--but"----

"But yours, as I presume thou wouldst say, good Sir Knight," replied
Bigla, interrupting him in the same playful tone.

"Thou hast said it, angel of my life!" exclaimed Sir John, rapturously
kissing her hand. "I can and will resign thee to no one! Thou art my
pledged, mine affianced bride!"

"I am, I am, indeed I am," said Bigla tenderly.

"Then why shouldst thou put our mutual happiness to peril?" cried
Sir John. "Why not secure it by flying with me this moment? My horses
and people are within a whistle of where we now are, and in half an
hour's riding or so we shall be safe within the walls of Castle Grant."

"No, no, no!" replied she, "a stolen marriage would neither be for
the credit of Sir John Grant nor for that of Bigla Cumin. Besides,
I should be but a poor offering at Castle Grant were my broad lands
not well buckled to my back."

"I care not for thy lands," said Sir John, "'tis thyself I would
wed, and not thine estates. And if that be all, let us to horse
forthwith. Better for me to secure thy precious self, though with
the chance of losing thy lands, than lose thee in trying to save
thy lands."

"'Tis gallantly resolved of thee, Sir John," said Bigla; "but I cannot
allow thy chivalrous ardour to do us both so serious an injury. All
I ask of thee, then, is to trust everything to my discretion and
resolution, and, depend upon it, thou hast nothing to fear."

The parting between the two lovers was tender and prolonged, and it
was only at length finally effected by the interference of Agnes
and the page, who came running to tell them that the revellers in
the hall were breaking up. And what he told them was true, for Bigla
found that she required the exertion of some degree of ingenuity to
effect her retreat to her chamber unnoticed.

An early hour of the next day beheld the cavalcade, formed by the
united trains of Bigla Cumin and her kinsman the Laird of Logie,
winding away from her paternal mansion, amidst the mingled lamentations
and benedictions of her people. Bigla was mounted on her favourite
palfrey, the beautiful and fleet courser of Arabian blood which was
presented to her by Corrie MacDonald. Her maid Agnes rode by her
side on an animal of mettle little short of that which carried her
mistress. Logie and his friends, all well armed, surrounded both in
a sort of irregular phalanx, which Bigla could not help thinking had
more the appearance of a guard to prevent the escape of a prisoner,
than that which might do her honour or give her protection. Her own
followers were but few, and they were mixed up with those of the
Laird of Logie. In the midst of them was the faithful page Archy, to
whose care was committed the charge of a small iron-bound oaken chest,
which contained her family charters and other important documents. This
Logie had especially insisted that she should carry with her, in order
to secure its safety. The strange misformed urchin sat like an ape,
mounted on a very remarkable milk-white steed, of noble courage and
beautiful proportions, and whose action was in no degree inferior to
his beauty. As this fine animal had been accustomed to carry Gibbon
More himself for some years before his death, it was not wonderful
that Bigla should have ridden up to caress him ere the march began,
and whilst she did so she contrived to give some secret orders to
the rider, which did not appear to have been poured into a deaf ear.

The sun was nearly in the meridian before the party reached that
point on the edge of the high plain, immediately over the double
valley of the rivers Findhorn and Divie. There, as you know, a grand
and extensive view of these romantic twin glens is to be enjoyed,
together with the broad, rich, and beautiful vale that is formed by
their union, with the majestic combined stream winding away through it,
between its rocky, irregular, and wooded banks, till it is lost amidst
the vast extent of forest stretching widely along both sides of it,
as it proceeds on its course towards the fertile plains of the low
country of Moray, and its distant firth, the whole being bounded
by the blue mountains of the north. Bigla had seen this glorious
prospect more than once before, but she was an enthusiastic lover
of nature, and, consequently, she was not sorry when she heard the
Laird of Logie propose that they should alight for a few moments to
rest themselves, and that they might enjoy it, at greater leisure,
and with more ease to themselves. Logie did not make this proposal
without private reasons of his own. Having contrived to seat himself
apart with Bigla, he began to urge his passion with an energy which he
had never ventured to employ before, and after using every argument
that he thought might be most likely to prevail on her to yield to
his suit, he seated her again on her palfrey, and as he rode down
the wooded steeps by her side, he continued to press her eagerly
on the same subject, without taking the trouble to use the delicacy
of speaking in a tone which might have rendered their conversation
private from those with whom they travelled.

"If you will only consent to be mine, fair Bigla," said he, "I will
make you mistress of as much of the bonny land of Moray as your bright
eyes can reach over."

"I knew not that thy patrimony had been so ample," said Bigla coldly.

"Put your fate and mine upon the peril of this condition then,"
said Logie eagerly.

"I trow I might safely do so, were I to bar all trick," replied Bigla.

"Nay, then, thou art pledged to stand to the bargain," said Logie.

"I am pledged to nothing," replied Bigla haughtily.

"Ha, look there now, gentlemen!" cried Logie. "My fair ward and
kinswoman Bigla Cumin here hath pledged her own pretty person to me, on
condition that I shall make her mistress of as much of bonny Moray-land
as her beauteous eyes can reach over. Now, how say you? Let her
cast her eyes forward, and you will all bear me witness, my friends,
that she can now see nothing of which I am not the undoubted owner."

By this time, you must know the cavalcade had descended from the
high grounds through the winding hollows of the steep wooded braes,
till all the distant and more extended part of the landscape was
lost by the rise of the opposite high grounds, and certainly from
the umbrageous recess where they now stood, nothing was to be seen
before them but the lands of Logie.

"The joke is very well," said Bigla, not a little piqued, and reddening
considerably at the liberty which had been thus taken with her before
the men-at-arms who followed them; "but though Moray-land was all
thine own from Ness to Spey, I would not have thee if thou wouldst
lay it all at my feet."

"Talk not so proudly, mistress!" said Logie, very much nettled. "There
are many maidens more than thy marrows, who would be happy to mate
with me, though I had nothing but this good claymore for my portion."

"I doubt it not," replied Bigla; "but as I am not one of these,
it may be as well perhaps that we talk not again on any such subject."

"A little less haughtiness would have better become thee," said
Logie. "You forget that you are not now on Dulnan side; and, moreover,
you forget that I am your guardian."

"Nay, it is you who forget that you are my guardian," replied
Bigla. "I do feel, indeed, that I can never forget that thou art so;
and, moreover, that there is a cruel difference between an unfeeling
guardian and a fond father."

"I am armed with thy father's authority," said Logie hastily; "and
I will exert it."

"By basely taking advantage of it to proffer thine own vile suit,"
said Bigla.

"To see, at least, that Freuchie's son proffers no more suit to
thee," replied Logie. "If he took leave of thee last night beyond
the barbican, I trow it shall be his last leave-taking of thee."

"Last night!" said Bigla with surprise.

"Aye, last night," said Logie bitterly. "Dost think I have not found
out your secret meeting? Had I caught the caitiff his blood should
have paid for his impudence."

"'Tis well to boast now, fair sir!" said Bigla, "now that thou hast no
chance of any such encounter. Oh, would I were on my bonny Dulnan side
again! but I trust that my foot shall soon be on its flowery turf."

"That shall be when thou hast my permission," said Logie, allowing
his passion to get the better of him.

"What! am I so in restraint then?" said Bigla taking a scarf from her
neck, and waving it behind her head in such a way, that it was hardly
perceived to be a signal by any one but Archy Abhach. He no sooner
observed it, however, than he began to rein his steed backwards,
until he fell behind the line of march.

"Aye, bold girl, thou shalt obey me ere long as thy husband as well
as thy guardian!" continued Logie.

"Sayest thou so?" said Bigla, putting on her Arabian to a gentle
canter over the meadow towards the ford of the Divie, whither they
were then going, so as to rid herself in some degree of the throng
by which she had been surrounded. Then turning in her saddle, she
shouted aloud--"Ride, Archy, for thy life, man! Ride! ride! Men of
Glenchearnich, follow your mistress. Come, Aggy, spur with me, and
may Saint Mary be our guide!"

And with these words she and her maid boldly dashed their steeds,
breast deep, into the ford, and quickly stemmed the stream of the
Divie, whilst the well-tutored Archy Abhach wheeled his horse suddenly
round at her word, and, drawing his dirk, he pricked his milk-white
sides till the red blood spurted from them, and the noble animal
darted off, with his flea-bite of a burden, towards those wooded
braes, down which they had so recently come. The Laird of Logie and
his followers stood for some moments astounded on the mead, before they
could determine what to do. On the one hand fled the lady; and on the
other hand the charters of her lands, her bonds, and her wadsets were
already winging their way upwards through the woods; and the question
was, which of the two objects of pursuit was the most important. Even
after he had gathered his scattered recollection, Logie stood in doubt
for a time. At length, seeing that Bigla Cumin had taken the direction
of the house of Logie, so that he was still left, as he reckoned,
between her and her own country, he quickly made his selection.

"After that miscreated devil on the white horse!" cried he. "Take
the caitiff and the kist he carries!--take him dead or alive!--but,
at all hazards take the kist!"

Off went the laird and his people helter-skelter after Archy Abhach,
whilst the followers of Bigla Cumin were left at liberty to become her
followers indeed. The waters of the Divie frothed and foamed again
as they dashed through after her. I need not tell you, gentlemen,
who know the carte de pays so well, that although Bigla rode off at
first in the very direction in which the laird had wished her to go,
I mean towards his own house, she had no sooner forced her way up
the steep narrow path leading from the ford, than she found herself
in a position where she had it in her power to choose between two
ways--one stretching straight onwards towards the house of Logie,
and the other leading directly back over the hills to the eastward of
the Divie towards her own country, by a route different from that which
she had travelled in the morning. There she stood for some moments on a
conspicuous point overlooking the valley. But you may easily guess that
she stopped not from any doubt that possessed her as to which of the
two ways she should take--she only waited till her panting followers
had clustered around her; for they had no sooner gathered than she
waved her scarf again, and, amidst the shouts of her men-at-arms,
she turned her horse's head to the hill, and began to breast it most
vigorously. Logie beheld her manoeuvre, and it shook his purpose for
an instant. He gave hurried and contradictory orders, which only had
the effect of slackening the pursuit after the urchin page, and Bigla
had the satisfaction of seeing that faithful creature shooting far up
among the bowery braes ere any final decision had been taken by the
laird. At length, a small plump of horsemen were sent off towards the
ford to pursue Bigla, whilst the remainder, with Logie at their head,
renewed their chase after Archy Abhach and his precious casket.

"Who is he, think you, that rides hither with so much haste from the
pass of Craig-Bey?" demanded Sir John Grant of the man-at-arms on
watch, as he stalked along the bartizan of his castle to take a look
over the country, about the time that the sun was hastening downwards
to hide himself below the western horizon.

"If mortal man it be who looks so like a speck on the saddle, he either
rides with hot news to spur him on, or he has some enemy after him,"
replied the man.

"By'r lady, but you have guessed right well," said Sir John; "for
see! there comes a straggling line of some dozen of horsemen rattling
like thunder through the pass."

"Methinks that the elf who flies bears some strange burden behind him,"
said the man-at-arms.

"He doth so, indeed," said Sir John.

"Some common thief, I'll warrant me, who hath carried away a booty
from some usurious burgher of Forres," said the man-at-arms.

"Be he what he may, his white horse is no carrion," said Sir John. "How
the noble animal devours the ground!"

"He is as like old Gibbon More's favourite horse as one egg is to
another," said the man-at-arms as he drew nearer.

"Gibbon More's, saidst thou?" exclaimed Sir John; "and, by all that
is good, he that rides is like my faithful page; but see, he turns
this way. Let's to the barbican," and, taking three steps down the
narrow stair at each stride, he was at the barbican in a few moments.

"What, ho!" cried Sir John, as the horse came galloping up to the
gate. "What, ho! Archy Abhach, is it you? What news of thy mistress?"

"I have neither time nor breath to speak of her at present," cried
Archy, leaping from his horse, and hastily unbuckling the little
charter-chest from behind the saddle of his reeking horse; "but
here--catch!--there you have her charters and titles, being that
which I reckon some of the people who are after me would think the
best part of herself. There, catch, I say!" and with that, he threw
the precious box clean over the top of the wall.

"Soh!" continued Archy, taking a long breath--"I have done my lady's
bidding like a true Cumin, and now I must draw to defend mine own head,
like a true Grant, for the knaves will be upon me."

"Thou shalt not long lack help, my brave little fellow!" cried Sir
John, and in a moment, a party of armed Grants came crowding out
from the gate at the heels of their young chief. And, as Archy's
pursuers came up one by one, they collected into a knot on the top
of the heathery hillock, and then filed off without ever daring to
come within bowshot of the walls.

"Now, tell me what has befallen the Lady Bigla?" cried Sir John Grant,
impatiently addressing the page.

The faithful Archy Abhach gave him a brief outline of all he knew.

"To horse! to horse!" cried Sir John, hardly waiting till he had
finished. "Holy St. Mary! she may be lost if we tarry."

A very few minutes only were expended ere Sir John and his troop were
mounted and away. They galloped after the retiring Cumins, but they
could see nothing of them anywhere. He had got to the side of the
hill of Craig-Bey, and was stretching his eyes in all directions,
when the distant clash of conflict came up through the woods that
sloped away into the glen to the right. Sir John gave the spur to
his horse, and dashed down through the thicket, calling to his men
to follow him. In a grassy holm, by the side of a small stream,
he found Bigla Cumin surrounded by her faithful but small band of
followers, who were bravely defending her against a superior body of
assailants. His sudden appearance immediately dispersed her enemies,
and, overpowered by the fatigue occasioned by her long wearisome
and rapid flight, as well as by the alarm which she had endured, she
slipped from her palfrey, and sank exhausted on the ground. Sir John
Grant was soon on his knees beside her, to support her weakness, and
to calm her agitation. She had owed her escape, in the first place,
to the swiftness and endurance of her favourite Arabian blooded
palfrey, together with her own wonderful hardihood as a horsewoman,
which, much surpassing that of the Lady Juliana Berners herself,
had carried her over mountain and moss, through bog and stream, in
a manner altogether inconceivable; and, secondly, to the appearance
of Sir John Grant, just as she had been attacked by a quickly formed
ambush of the retreating Cumins, whose onset had given time to those
who pursued her to come up, by which means she and her people being
hemmed in on all sides would have been speedily overcome.

Ere the evening closed in, Bigla Cumin found herself safely housed
within the walls of Castle Grant; and the very next day the priest's
blessing gave to Sir John Grant her fair hand, and with it her fair
lands too.



VELVET CUSHIONS.


Clifford.--Well done, Bigla Cumin! If ever I marry, I am resolved
to have a fearless wife who can gallop across a country. But
hey!--(stretching himself as we arose to proceed)--I protest I am quite
stiff. Confound your green velvety grass! commend me rather to your
velvet cushion of Genoa. Your story was too long, Mr. Macpherson,
and by far too interesting for a breezy hill-side and a dewy bank
like this.

Dominie.--It will grieve me sore, Mr. Clifford, if you should in any
way suffer from my prolixity.

Clifford.--Tut, man, I'd sit in a snow-wreath, or on a glacier, to
listen to you. But, hark ye! what was that you muttered, before you
began your story, about leaving us?

Dominie.--Really I cannot speak it without vurra great pain,
Mr. Clifford; but my path disparts from your road a little way
on here. I have to wend my way through the whole extent of these
wild forests, which you see below us there, stretching across the
intermediate country between us and the misty Cairngorums yonder. I
am journeying to visit a brother of mine, who, as the elegant author
of Douglas hath it,


          "Feeds his flocks,
    A frugal swain,"


on the slopes of the mountains beyond.

Clifford.--Nay, nay, we cannot part with you so. Had it been a lady,
indeed, that you were going to visit, I should not have said a
word. But for a brother merely.

Dominie (with the tear swelling in his eye).--Pardon me, Mr. Clifford,
pardon me; but I have an affection for my brother which few can
estimate. We were twin bairns. Ewan and I alone remain of all our
family. I make a yearly journey to visit him.

Clifford.--I venerate you for your feelings, and I sympathise with
them from the bottom of my heart. But if I may make a guess at the
geography of the country before us, I should conceive that if we could
persuade you to go with us to Tomantoul to-day, your walk from thence
to your brother's to-morrow would be but short.

Dominie (hesitating).--Hu--um!--that may be, sir. I am sure I am vurra
happy in your company; but, may I ask gentlemen, what your plans are?

Clifford.--We tie ourselves to no plans. For aught we know we may
be in Switzerland or Sweden before this day month. But, at present,
we propose to proceed up the Glen of the Aven to-morrow, on our way
to Loch Aven.

Dominie.--It is a wild place, and the way is not easy to find.

Author.--Wild enough, indeed. I once wandered all round it; but I
never approached it by its own glen.

Dominie.--I would have fain gone with you as your guide, for well do
I know every mountain, moss, rock, and well by the way. But I cannot
mistrust my brother, who is expeckin' me about this time. Albeit,
as I cannot go all the way myself with you, I would fain, before I
quit you, put you into the hands of one who is well acquainted with
all the mountain tracks and passes, that there may be no risk of your
losing yourselves amidst those savage Alpine solitudes.

Clifford.--Ah! that would be kind of you indeed.

Grant.--Had you not better consent to spend this night with us at
Tomantoul, then, Mr. Macpherson.

Dominie.--I was just thinking in my own mind that I behooved so to
do. I can then see you as far up Strathdaun to-morrow as Gaulrig,
where old Willox the Wizard lives, and there----

Clifford.--What! a wizard, said you? You don't mean to put us under the
guidance of Satan, I hope. That would indeed be sending us to the----

Dominie.--No, no, Mr. Clifford; but there is a friend of mine, who
lives near to old Willox, one Archy Stewart, a retired sergeant,
who will be just the man for your purpose, if we can find him at
home. He knows every inch of the mountains, and, moreover, he is as
full of old stories as an egg is full of meat.

Clifford.--The very man for us. But what can you tell us of old Willox
the Wizard? I hope we shall see him.

Author.--I have often heard of him. His name is MacGregor, is it
not? I should like much to see him.

Dominie.--You will be sure to see him if you call at Gaulrig, for,
as he is now above ninety, he is too old to leave home. He is worth
the seeing too; for although, as I need not tell you, gentlemen,
he never possessed any supernatural power, yet his cleverness must
have been great to have enabled him to make the whole country, far and
near, believe, even in these more enlightened days, that he can divine
secrets and work wonders by means of his two charmed instruments--the
mermaid's stone and the enchanted bridal of the water-kelpie.

Clifford.--How the deuce did he get hold of such articles? and what
sort of things are they?

Dominie.--You will easily persuade him to show them to you; and it will
be better for me to leave him to tell his own story about them. But, as
I have now made up my mind to go on with you to Tomantoul, gentlemen,
I can tell you a short anecdote or two of him as we journey on our way,
which will show you that all his fame as a warlock really rested on
his own natural acuteness.

Clifford.--I could have guessed as much, methinks, without being any
great conjuror myself. But let us have your anecdotes, if you please.

Dominie.--I had much information about Willox from the Rev. John
Grant, late Minister of Duthel, who was acquainted with him for
many years. For, notwithstanding the warlock's reputation for
the possession of uncanny qualities, he was uniformly consorted
with and treated as a gentleman by all the gentry of this Highland
country. My old and worthy, and kind and benevolent friend, Mr. Grant,
was a man of too much wisdom as well as learning to believe in the
supernatural powers of Willox, or any such pretender. Mr. Grant,
indeed, was a man of vurra enlarged mind and sound judgment, a deep
divine, a classical scholar, such as is seldom to be met with in our
poor country of Scotland, an admirable critic, and an elegant poet;
and although what I may be stating regarding him has little to do
with what I am going to tell you about Willox, yet, as you may have
a chance to hear more of Mr. Grant from my friend Sergeant Archy
Stewart when you come to make his acquaintance, I may be allowed to
complete my sketch of this remarkable man by saying that, whilst he
was pious and regular in his duties, as became a clergyman, he was,
nevertheless, cheerful and convivial, and extremely fond of a bit of
humour; and, moreover, as he was often called upon to give his opinion
pretty strongly in argument, he was equally ready to back it up at
any time by his courage and bodily vigour against the brute force
or the insults of his opponents, in days, now happily gone by, when
even the sacred character of a minister of the gospel did not always
proteck his person from injury. To enable him to defend himself the
more effectually in such chance encounters, nature had given to him
a stout and athletic frame and a nervous arm, in addition to which
he did himself furnish the hand of that arm with a great hazel stick,
which he facetiously called his Ruling Elder, and so armed, no man nor
set of men in the whole country side could make him show his back. He
was a capital preacher; but many doubted whether his sermons or his
cudgel wrought the most reformation in his neighbourhood.

It was observed that Mr. Grant was always peculiarly unfortunate
in losing his cattle. Not a year passed that some of them did not
die of a strange and unaccountable disease which quite baffled the
skill of all the farriers and cow-leeches in the district. But on one
occasion the mortality was so great as seriously to threaten the utter
extermination of his stock. As this calamity seemed to affect none of
his neighbours, and to fall upon him alone, it was not unnatural for
his superstitious servants to say that his cattle were bewitched. In
their opinion nobody but Willox could cure such an evil.

"If you don't send for Willox, sir, you'll lose every nout beast in
your aught," said the minister's hind.

"Saunders," replied the minister, "although I have no faith in any such
wicked and abominable superstitions as would gift Mr. MacGregor with
superhuman powers, I am willing enough to give him credit for more than
ordinary shrewdness and sagacity as a mere man. You may, therefore,
send for him with my compliments, as I believe that he is more likely
than any one to discover the natural cause of these my losses."

Willox came accordingly; and after the usual salutations he took the
parson aside.

"Between you and me, Mr. Grant," said he, "there is no use in my
making any pretence of witchcraft. But you know we may find out the
cause of the death of your cattle for all that. Your losses, I think,
always happen at or about this particular season of the year?"

"They do," replied the parson.

"Come, then, let you and me take a quiet walk together over your farm."

Mr. Grant and Willox patiently perambulated the farm, and especially
the cattle-pastures for some hours together, Willox all the while
throwing his sharp eyes around him in every direction, until they
came to a hollow place where the warlock suddenly stopped.

"Here is the cause of the evil," said Willox, at once pointing
to a certain plant which grew there, and nowhere else in the
neighbourhood. "If you will only take care that your man Saunders
never allows your cattle to get into this hollow until the flower of
that plant is withered and gone, you will find that you will never
again lose a single beast in the same way."

I need not tell you, gentlemen, that Mr. Grant took care that the
warlock's advice was strictly followed; and the result was perfectly
satisfactory.

Clifford.--A most invaluable wizard! I wonder whether one might hold
a consultation with him on the mysteries of fly-fishing.

Grant.--I have no doubt he could advise you well.

Clifford.--Nay, it was not for myself that I was asking. I manage to
do well enough by means of mine own conjuring rod; but to you and
my friend there some little aid of magic might be useful, seeing
you can make so little of it by your own simple skill. But come,
Mr. Macpherson, what more of old Willox?

Dominie.--A great alarm was created at Castle Grant, in consequence of
a strange madness that frequently seized upon the cattle at pasture
in the grounds. At such times they were observed furiously running
in all directions, with the tips of their noses and tails in the
air, and bursting over all the fences. The easiest solution of this
phenomenon was to say that they were bewitched; and all the servants
about the castle, especially those who had the broken fences to mend,
believed that it was the true one. Even Sir James Grant, worthy man,
when brought out to judge for himself, could not deny the grounds
at least of this general opinion. To satisfy those who held it,
he allowed the aid of Willox to be called in.

"Some trick has been played here," said the warlock, after inquiring
into all the particulars, and minutely examining those parts of
the pastures where the animals were in the habit of lying most
frequently. "Some wicked person has thrown some disagreeable odour
among the beasts."

The probability of this was doubted by every one present. Nay, every
one declared that such a thing was impossible.

"Well," said Willox, "I know that what I say is true; and I'll soon
convince you all that it is possible. Drive the cattle into the fold."

The cattle were folded accordingly, and Willox walked into the very
midst of them. There he took certain ingredients from his pocket,
and putting them on a small bundle of tow, he prepared to strike fire
with a flint and steel.

"Now, gentlemen," said he, "I advise all of you who have any regard
for your own safety to look sharp to it."

The fire was struck, the tow was kindled, a most offensive stench
arose, and no sooner had the cattle winded the fumes of it, than they
darted off in twenty different directions, as if the burning tow had
been the fuse that discharged them from some vast bomb-shell. The
poles and other barriers of the fold were shivered and levelled in
a moment as if such an inclosure had never existed. Down went the
astonished spectators one by one in detail, as they chanced to come
into the diverging lines of flight of the scattering herd. Smack,
crash, and rumble went the nearer fences, as the several flying
animals went through or over them, like cannon-shot; and by the time
the poor wounded, maimed, and crippled people had gathered themselves
to their legs, such of them, I mean, as had legs left to stand upon,
they beheld, to their utter dismay, the cattle scouring the distant
country in all directions.

I need hardly add, that a little further investigation enabled Willox,
without the aid of witchcraft, not only to satisfy every one that
his first suspicions had been well founded, but also to prove that
they had been so by discovering the offender.

Grant.--Depend upon it, this warlock must be no ordinary man.

Dominie.--I have another anecdote of him. A certain farmhouse in
Strathspey was said to be haunted. Stones and dust and rubbish were
thrown into the middle of the family apartment, and no one could
discover whence or from what hand they came. Mr. John Grant, the
minister of the parish, was sent for to lay the ghost; and to the
great comfort of those to whom the house belonged, he came accompanied
by Willox.

"While I am engaged in going through the evening family worship,"
said the parson to Willox, "do you keep your eyes on the alert,
and try to ascertain whence the missiles appear to come."

The minister began the duties of the evening. A psalm was sung. During
the time the people present were singing it, the volleys were
discontinued; but the moment the psalm was ended, the discharges
again commenced.

"We had better sing another psalm," whispered Willox to the
parson. Mr. Grant immediately gave out some verses accordingly. The
disturbance ceased as before; but they were no sooner concluded,
than it began again with redoubled fury. The sharp eyes of Willox shot
like lightning into every part of the chamber. In an instant they were
arrested by one of those great clumsy wooden partitions so common in
our Highland farmers' humble dwellings, which, being boarded on both
sides, rise up a certain height only towards the bare rafters above,
leaving the vast vacuity below the roof undivided from end to end of
the building. Willox gave a preconcerted sign to the parson.

"My friends," said Mr. Grant, "I insist that the boxing of that
partition be immediately opened up."

His orders were obeyed, and no sooner were the boards removed than
the ghost was discovered. A little black Highland herd lassie sat
cowering within, her face filled with dread of the punishment that
awaited her. The creature had managed from time to time to creep in
there by lifting up a loose plank, and from that concealment she had
contrived to throw her missiles over the open top of the partition
into the apartment, all which she had done to revenge herself against
the family for having been whipped for some piece of negligence of
which she had been guilty. The parson had no sooner learned these
particulars, than he pounced upon the trembling culprit, like a great
mastiff on a mouse, and dragging her forth, he, without the least
delay or ceremony, gave her, to use his own phrase, a good skegging.

Clifford.--Had Mr. Grant and Willox been sent for, the celebrated
ghost of Cock Lane would have had but a short reign of it.

Dominie.--I have but one story more of Willox to plague you
with. William Stuart, a farmer in Brae Moray, was led, by his
father's persuasion, and very much against his own inclination,
to marry a woman whom he could not like, all because she possessed
a certain tocher. He went to his marriage like a condemned thief
to the gallows, and from the very first moment he treated his wife
as an alien. A certain worthy lady in the neighbourhood, who felt
interested in Mrs. Stuart, firmly believed that her husband's dislike
to her was occasioned by witchcraft. She accordingly sent for Willox,
and entreated him to exercise his skill in the poor woman's behalf,
and the warlock undertook to do all in his power for her.

Having contrived to pay a visit at Stuart's house, when he knew that
he should find him at home, he accepted his invitation to stay to
dine with him, and after they had had a cheerful glass together,
Willox ventured to begin his attempt by drinking Mrs. Stuart's health.

"You are the only man, Stuart, that does not admire your wife,"
said Willox, in a half jocular tone.

"May be so," said Stuart dryly.

"If you were not bewitched, as my skill tells me that you are,
you would find more happiness at your own fireside than you do,"
continued Willox.

"Maybe I am bewitched," said Stuart, from the mere desire of being
civil.

"I tell you I know you are," said Willox, "and if you will allow me
I shall soon show you the people who have bewitched you."

"Ha! ha! I should like to see them," said Stuart with a forced laugh;
"but if you do show them to me, you are even a greater conjuror than
I take you to be."

Willox, with great solemnity, now took forth the mermaid's stone from
his pocket. It was semi-transparent, circular, and convex, like an
ordinary lens, and it filled the palm of his hand. Placing the back
of his hand on the table, and keeping the stone in the hollow of it,
he solemnly addressed Stuart.

"If you would know those who bewitch you," said he, "look downwards
through the mermaid's stone."

"I see nothing," said Stuart, following his direction.

"Do you see nothing now?" demanded Willox.

"Yes," replied Stuart, "I see something like a red spot."

"Look again, do you see nothing more now?" demanded Willox.

"Yes," said Stuart again, "I see something like a black spot, a little
way from the red spot."

"Listen, then!" said Willox. "These are the heads of a red-haired
lass and a black-haired lass, and it is they who bewitch you from
your lawful wife."

"If you are not a great warlock, you are at least a great rascal,"
cried Stuart, losing all temper; "but by the great oath, I'll soon
know which you are." And saying so, he suddenly seized on the wizard's
hand before he was aware, and turning it up, he extracted two pins
from between the fingers, the head of one of which had been dipped
in red wax, and the head of the other in black wax.

"You scoundrel," said Stuart, preparing to assault him, "you have
been unjustifiably prying into my secrets, but I'll teach you to use
greater discretion in future."

"Approach me at your peril!" cried Willox, stepping back towards
the door, and brandishing a dagger which he drew from his bosom. "I
have done or said nothing but what is friendly to you, and if you
have the folly to attempt anything of a different nature towards me,
you must take the consequences," and so saying he immediately took
himself off. So ended the Dominie.

Our walk to-day had little beauty in it, except in its distant
prospects, which, when we looked over the vast extent of fir forests
towards the Cairngorum group of mountains, were always grand. The
scenery of the Aven indeed, and especially at the spot where we crossed
it, delighted us all. The fragment of the ruined bridge of Campdale
still stood, a sad monument of the ravages of the fearful flood of
August, 1829; but the stream now sparkled away along its customary
channel like liquid crystal.

Clifford (stopping mechanically to put his fishing-rod together).--It
is certainly the clearest stream I ever beheld. Yet shall I try my
skill to extract some trouts from it for dinner.

Grant (as we ascended the path that led us up from the deep glen
of the Aven where we left Clifford fishing).--Anything to be seen
at Tomantoul?

Author.--Nothing that I have ever been able to discover. The sight is
one of the dreariest I know,--a high, wide, bare, and uninteresting
moor, quite raised, as you see, above all the beauties of the river,
which are buried from it in the profound of the neighbouring valley;
nor has the village itself any very great redeeming charm about it.

Grant.--How comes it that all the cottages and walls are built of
sandstone in the very heart of this primitive country?

Author.--You may well be surprised, but you will perhaps be still more
astonished to learn that the place stands on a great detached isolated
field of the floetz strata, four miles in length by one in breadth,
which has been raised up on the very bosom of the primitive granite.

Grant.--A curious geological fact.

Author.--It is a fact which I learned when I was here formerly from
a very intelligent gentleman who is the clergyman here, to whom I
was also indebted for much valuable information during my inquiries
about the great flood. I shall be happy to introduce you to him.

Grant.--I believe similar instances occur elsewhere in this part
of Scotland.

Author.--Yes, at Kildrummie Castle, in the Glen of Dollas, and also
near the borders of the primitive in the vale of Pluscardine.

Dominie.--To what strange changes has this earth of ours been
subjeckit!

Grant.--Tell me, I pray you, what nice looking house is this?

Author.--It is the residence of the clergyman; perhaps you would
like to call on him now, while our friend here goes on to the inn
with our man to secure beds and entertainment for us all.

Grant assented, and, entering the manse accordingly, we remained
talking very agreeably there, until the whistling of Clifford, as he
marched up the street with his rod in his hand, and his fishing pannier
on his back, made us suddenly terminate our interesting colloquy,
in order to run after him. As we got into the inn we found him in
the act of admiring his trouts, which filled a large trencher.

Clifford.--See what noble fellows! There is one of three pounds and
a half if he is an ounce. I hooked him in the pool above the broken
bridge, and I called to you as you were going up the hill to come
back and witness the sport he yielded; but you were too intent on
your own conversation to hear me, and so you lost it all. What were
you talking about?

Grant.--Geology.

Clifford.--Geology!--fiddlesticks. By all that is good, you deserve
to dine upon fossil fishes.

Author (to the landlady).--Well, ma'am, I hope you can give us
something good for dinner.

Landlady.--We shall see, sir; we'll do the best we can.

Author.--You will at least be able to give us an omelet, after the
instructions I gave you when I was last in your house.

Landlady.--That I can; I made one for the Duke when he was up here
at the fowling, and he said that it was just famous.

Clifford.--Can you give us any soup?

Landlady.--Na, sir; I'm dootin' that I hae na time for that.

Clifford.--Pooh! If you will give me a large smooth white pebble,
such as is called by my geological friends here quartz, but which you
know better, I believe, by the name of a chucky-stane, I'll make some
capital soup out of it in a very few minutes.

Landlady.--Odd, sir, I'm thinkin' ye'll be clever an ye can do that.

Clifford.--Be quick, then, and fetch me such a stone as I have
described. Remember it must be quite clean, and large enough to make
soup for four gentlemen,--and recollect that we are very hungry.

Landlady (entering with a stone in one hand).--There it is. It's
quite clean, for I washed it wi' my ain hands.

Clifford.--So, that is all right. Now, fetch me a pan with clean
water in it. Oh, you have it there, I see. Well, put in the stone,
and put the pan on the fire. Now, you see, my good woman, I am a pupil
of old Willox the Warlock, therefore you need not be astonished at
anything I do. Go get me a spoon to taste the soup with. (Whilst her
back is turned, slyly dropping a cake or two of portable soup into
the pot.) Aye, now, let me see; taste it yourself. It already begins
to have some flavour.

Landlady (astonished).--Have a care o' huz a', so it has!

Clifford (stirring it).--But, stay a moment; taste it now!

Landlady (taking a spoonful of it).--Keep me, that is just awthegither
maygics indeed!

Clifford (tasting it).--Oh, it will do now. Bring me an iron spoon
to take out the stone with. Now, here take it away, dry it well,
and lock it carefully up in your larder; for, you perceive, that
it is but very little wasted, and, consequently, it will make some
good tureens of soup yet; and though such stones are plenty enough,
yet you know it is always good housewifery to be economical.

Landlady (taking away the stone).--That's true, indeed, sir.

Grant (after we had dined).--Well, thanks to Clifford's chucky-stone
soup, his delicious fritto of trout, our landlady's excellent
mutton-chops, and your omelet, we have dined like princes.

Clifford.--I am now hungry for nothing but a narrative. Come,
Mr. Macpherson, as we are to lose you to-morrow, I must remind you
that you are still in my book for some story about Old Stachcan,
the man with the pistol, I mean, whose portrait we saw at Castle
Grant. Pray do not hesitate to clear off your score.

Dominie.--I need not say, Mr. Clifford, that since you and your
friends here are so good as to accept of such poor coin as my bit
stories, in return for all the kindness and condescension which I have
received from you, it is well my part to pay it readily, and without
a grudge. But what I had to tell you about Old Stachcan was more an
account of the man than any very parteeklar story about him. Now,
as you will pass by the very bit where he lay concealed, I would
rather leave it to my friend Sergeant Archy Stewart, who knows more
about him than I do, to give you his history on the spot.

Grant.--Well, since that is the case, Mr. Macpherson, I shall undertake
to tell a story for you. And instead of that which you were to tell
us about one Grant, I shall give you a legend which I have heard of
two lairds of that name.

Clifford.--Provided you do not on that account make your story twice
as long as Mr. Macpherson's would have been, I for one am contented.

Grant.--If I should do so, you have your resource, Clifford, you
may go to sleep, you know; and if you do, I shall perhaps have the
pleasure of singing, in the words of Scott's Water Sprite,--


    "Good luck to your fishing."


Clifford.--No more of that, an thou lovest me, Hal.



LEGEND OF THE RIVAL LAIRDS OF STRATHSPEY.


Some time previous to the Reformation a venerable priest, of the name
of Innes, lived at Easter Duthel, in Strathspey, and superintended
the spiritual concerns of the people of the surrounding district. He
was a benevolent old man, whose heart was devoted to the duties of
his sacred office, and to those deeds of Christian benevolence which
he inculcated upon his flock by example as well as by precept.

The only other occupation which the good man had was the watching
over the nurture and education of his orphan niece, Helen Dunbar, who
had been early left to his care by the death of her mother, his only
and much beloved sister. Helen was a beautiful young creature. Her
features were of the most perfect regularity of form and arrangement,
her complexion was the fairest imaginable, the lustre of her dark
eyes was softened by their long eyelashes, and her jet-black hair
fell in rich abundance over her person, which was in every respect
most exquisitely and symmetrically moulded. But what was better
than all this, she was as good as she was beautiful. Her whole time
and thoughts were occupied in finding out objects for her uncle's
benevolence, and, like his ministering angel, she was ever ready to
fly to the cottage of the poor, or the bedside of the sick, to bear
thither such comfort or consolation as he had to impart, when the
infirmities incidental to his declining years rendered it impossible
for him to bestow them in person. When he was able to go upon his own
errands of charity he never failed to do so; and on such occasions it
was a pleasing sight,--a sight that might have furnished a fine subject
for a painter--to have beheld her acting as the crutch of his old age,
and the ready auxiliary of all his beneficent actions. You may easily
believe that so amiable a pair as Priest Innes and his niece could
not fail to secure the love and admiration of every one who knew them.

When they appeared in church, the grey hairs, and the thin, pale,
spiritual countenance of the old priest, were looked up to by his
flock with reverential awe, as if he had been some being who was only
lent to them for a brief season from another and a better world, and
who might every moment be called on to return thither. But whilst
there was enough of heaven in the young and healthful face and
form of Helen Dunbar, she was regarded by all with an affectionate
attachment which savoured more of the kind and kindred feelings of
humanity, and the good folks were thus satisfied through the niece
that the uncle was allied to the earth. Fathers and mothers regarded
her and loved her as a daughter, young maidens looked upon her with
the warmest sisterly affection, and the youths of the district, with
whom modesty naturally made her less familiar, beheld her with that
respectful adoration which was due to so angelic a creature. I speak,
of course, of those of humbler rank; for there were many among the
young knights and lairds of the neighbourhood who would have willingly
robbed the old man of his treasure by carrying her home as a bride.

Of this latter class there were two, who, as they were the most
remarked of the admirers of Helen Dunbar, were also believed to be the
most formidable rivals to each other. These were Lewis Grant, the young
laird of Auchernach, and John Dhu Grant of Knockando. The first of
these was a tall, handsome, fair-faced young man, universally believed
to be open, brave, generous, and warm-hearted. He had the art of making
himself beloved by all who knew him, and people thought that he had
no fault in life but a certain degree of hastiness of temper, which,
as folks said, might flash out violently upon particular occasions,
and yet would pass away as harmlessly as a blaze of summer lightning,
leaving everything peaceful behind it after it was gone. The other
was a dark swart man, properly conducted, and calm and cold looking,
whom it somehow happened that nobody knew sufficiently either to
like or to dislike. Both of these gentlemen were observed to be very
assiduous in their attentions to Helen Dunbar upon all occasions where
they were seen in her company. But the talk of the country was, that
if either of them met with encouragement at all, Lewis of Auchernach
was rather the happier man. As the fact, if it was a fact, could have
been known to himself and the lady alone, this suspicion probably arose
partly from the circumstance that Auchernach was the general favourite,
and partly because his place of residence was nearer to the parsonage
of Easter Duthel by some fifteen or twenty miles or so than that of
his rival. But I, who as a narrator of their story am entitled to
arrogate to myself a perfect knowledge of all their secrets, and in
virtue of such my office, to be present at, and to describe scenes
witnessed by no eyes but those of the actors themselves, I will
venture to assure you, upon my own authority, that public opinion,
however rarely it may be correct, was in this instance the true one,
and that Lewis Grant of Auchernach had really for some time been
the favoured lover of the fair Helen Dunbar; that they had already
plighted troth to each other, and, moreover, that their mutual love
was neither unknown nor disapproved of by the lady's venerable uncle.

You will easily guess, from what I have already told you of the good
priest of Easter Duthel, that he was not one of those sour sons of
the church who think that it is their duty to keep as much aloof
from their flocks as they possibly can, and who would consider it
as quite unclerical to appear capable of participating in their
harmless amusements, who think it better to allow rustic enjoyment
to run into what riot and excess it may, than to hallow and temper
it by the sacredness of their presence. Priest Innes and his niece
were always invited and expected to be present at all merry-makings;
and the consequence was, that he kept many such scenes within the
bounds of innocence and propriety, which might have otherwise gone
very much beyond their limits. A word from their pastor indeed was
at any time sufficient to bring the liveliest and most exciting revel
to a decent close.

It happened that a joyous meeting of this sort occurred one night
at the mill of Duthel, occasioned by the marriage of the miller's
daughter. As the miller was a wealthy man and well known by all ranks,
and the bridegroom was highly respectable, the assemblage was graced
by many of the lairds and better sort of people along the banks of
the Spey; and, amongst others, both Auchernach and Knockando were
there. The matrimonial rite was performed by the good Priest Innes
with all due ceremonial. But when the company adjourned to the long
granary, where the sports of the evening were to be held, and when
the harps and the bagpipes began alternately to give animation and
joy to the scene, he did not consider that the jocund dance or the
merriment that ensued brought with it any just or reasonable argument
for his departure. On the contrary, seated in the chair of honour,
his venerable and benignant countenance was lighted up with smiles
of pleasure from the inward gratification he felt in beholding the
chastened happiness of all around him.

His niece, Helen Dunbar, sat in a chair by the old man's side, that is
to say, she sat there during such intervals as she was allowed to rest
from the joyous exercise in which all were participating. These indeed
were few and short, because she was of all others the partner most
sought after. She danced often with Auchernach, and not unfrequently
with Knockando; and from that desire, natural enough to maidens, to
veil the true object of her affections from prying eyes around her,
she was, if possible, even more gracious that night in her manner and
conversation to the latter than she was to the former. The cold dark
countenance of John Dhu Grant was flushed and animated more than it
had ever been before, by the seeming preference which was thus shown
to him. Presuming upon that which his passion magnified, he persecuted
Helen with attentions which she now began to see the necessity of
repressing. She could not well do this without throwing more of her
favour into the scale of him whom Knockando so well knew to be his
rival. This alteration on her part inwardly galled and irritated the
disappointed man beyond what his habitual self-command allowed his
countenance to express. Lewis Grant of Auchernach, on the other hand,
satisfied with his own secret convictions, went on joyfully through
the mazes of the dance, perfectly heedless of all those minor changes
on the face or manner of Helen which had so touched John Dhu, whose
equanimity was not the better preserved because he perceived how
little that of his rival was affected.

"These weddings are mighty merry things, Auchernach," observed
Knockando with seeming coolness, as they accidentally stepped aside
together at the same moment to take a cup of refreshment.

"When or where can we expect mirth, Knockando, if we find it not on
a wedding-night?" said Auchernach, after courteously pledging to his
health. "The happy union of two devoted young hearts, as yet unscathed
by the blasts of adversity, smiling hope dancing before them, gilding
with sunshine all the brighter prospects of life, whilst her friendly
hand throws a roseate veil over all its drearier and darker changes."

"Thou speakest so warmly that methinks thou wouldst fain be a
bridegroom thyself, Auchernach," said Knockando.

"So very fain would I so be, Knockando, that I care not if this were
my wedding-night," replied Auchernach with great animation.

"Ha! ha! ha! art thou indeed so desirous to barter thy sweet
liberty?" said Knockando. "Well, then, I suppose that I may look
for a spice of thine envy now, should I perchance submit to my fate,
and yield to those blandishments which have been so skilfully used
to catch me."

"I envy no one," said Auchernach carelessly, "and sooth to say,
very far indeed should I be from envying thee, Knockando; trust me,
no one would dance more heartily at thy wedding than I should."

"Since thou art so fond of dancing at weddings, depend on't thou shalt
not lack an invitation to mine.," said Knockando; "nay, out of my great
friendship for thee, I have half a mind to sacrifice myself and to
hasten my fate, were it only to indulge thy frolicsome propensities."

"Kindly said of thee, truly," replied Auchernach, laughing good
humouredly, "then sudden and sweet be thy fate, say I."

"If I mistake not greatly, my fate is in mine own hand," continued
Knockando, throwing a significant glance across the room towards the
place where Helen Dunbar was then sitting beside her uncle.

"What!" exclaimed Auchernach in amazement, hardly daring to trust
himself with the understanding of what seemed thus to be hinted at
by his rival.

"Thou see'st how her eyes do continually rest upon me as if I were
her loadstar," continued Knockando. "Her solicitation could not be
more eloquently expressed by a thousand words."

"Whose eyes? whose solicitation?" cried the astonished Auchernach,
his countenance kindling up with an ire which it was impossible for
him to conceal.

"Whose eyes? whose solicitation?" repeated Knockando. "Those
love-encumbered and pity-seeking eyes yonder, which are now darting
glances of entreaty towards me from beneath the dark-arched eyebrows of
the beauteous Helen Dunbar. The girl loves me to distraction; and if no
other motive could move me, feelings of compassion would of themselves
urge me to show some mercy towards her, and to make her my wife."

"Villain!" cried Auchernach, at once losing all command of himself,
"thou art a base traducer, and a lying knave to boot!"

The previous part of this dialogue had been overheard by no one;
but these last words were thundered forth by Auchernach in a voice
so loud that they shook the whole room, stopped music, dance and all,
and attracted every eye towards the speaker, just in time to see him
fell Knockando to the ground by a single blow.

The confusion that ensued was great. Knockando was raised from the
floor by some of his dependants who chanced to be present. Dirks might
have been drawn and blood might have flowed, had not the good priest
immediately hastened, with what speed his tottering steps enabled
him to exert, to interpose his sacred person, and to use his pious
influence to allay the growing storm. By his authority he now put
an abrupt termination to the festivities of the evening. Ashamed
of his violence, Auchernach came forward to entreat a hearing
from the priest, and at the same time to offer that support to his
feeble frame in his homeward walk which, in conjunction with his
niece, he was not unfrequently allowed to yield him, and of which
the agitated and trembling Helen Dunbar had hardly strength at that
moment to contribute her share. But he was shocked and mortified to
find himself rebuffed, and his proffered services refused in a manner
at once resolute and dignified.

"No!" said the priest, waving him away, "until thou shalt humble
thyself, and make thy peace with Knockando, thou canst have no converse
with me; and to prevent the chance of his suffering further insult or
injury from thine intemperance, he shall be my guest for to-night. Give
me thine arm, Knockando."

"Old man! look that thou dost not pay dear for thy favour to that
new guest of thine!" cried Auchernach aloud, and gnashing his teeth
in the vexation and bitterness of his heart.

"What! dost thou threaten?" said Knockando coldly, as he left the
place. "This way, reverend sir, lean on me, I pray thee."

"Villain! villain!" muttered Auchernach, striking his breast with
a fury which now knew no bounds, and, rushing out like a madman,
he hurried homewards to spend a sleepless and agitated night.

The miller's guests departed to their several abodes, wondering at
Auchernach's strange and unaccountable conduct, talking much of it,
and no one blaming him the less that his furious and apparently
uncalled for violence had so rudely and so provokingly put an end to
their evening's merriment.

John Dhu Grant was hospitably entertained and lodged by the priest;
but Helen Dunbar allowed him to mount his horse next day, to ride
home to Knockando, without ever permitting him to be once gladdened
by the sunshine of her countenance. As she had wept all that night,
so she sat all the ensuing morning in her chamber, brooding over the
distressing scene of the previous evening, and anxiously listening
for the footsteps of Auchernach, in the hope that he might come to
give her some explanation of the cause of the strange ungovernable
fury to which he had given way. But he came not.

"I had hoped to have seen our friend Auchernach here in tears and
repentance," said Priest Innes mildly to his niece, when they at last
met: "I fear he hath hardly yet come to a due sense of his error."

Helen was silent and sorrowful. She still trusted, however, that he
might yet come. Her ears were continually fancying that she heard his
well-known step and voice, and they were as perpetually deceived. The
whole day and the whole evening passed away, and still he came
not. With a sad heart she accompanied her uncle to his chamber, to go
through those religious duties with him in which they never failed to
join before they separated for the night. Her voice trembled as she
uttered her responses to the prayers of the priest, and the old man,
participating in her feelings, and fully sympathising with her, was
little less affected. But her self-command altogether forsook her,
when, after the prescribed formula of service was at an end, her
uncle again kneeled down reverently on the cushion by his bed-side,
and prayed fervently for her and for her future happiness, and that
the Almighty protection might be extended over her when it should
please Heaven to remove him from this earthly scene. And when, as
connected with this dearest object of his heart, he put up earnest
petitions for him who was already destined to be her husband and
protector, she hid her face on the bed, and sobbed aloud. He besought
his Creator so to deal graciously with the erring youth, as to make
him deeply sensible of the wickedness of so readily yielding, as he
had recently done, to the violence of passion; and he implored the
Divine Being to render his repentance sincere and enduring, so that
he might never again be led to sin in the same way.

"I forgive him already!" said the good man, as he gave his niece
his parting embrace; "I forgive him, and so will you, Helen. And if
I have been too hasty in judging him, as in mine erring nature I may
have been, may God forgive me! Bless thee, my child! and may the holy
Virgin and her angels hover over thy pillow! Good night!"

Helen's tears prevented her from speaking, and after partially
composing herself, she arranged the simple uncanopied and uncurtained
couch which her uncle used, in obedience to his rigid rule, smoothed
his pillow, placed a carved ebony crucifix, with an ivory figure of
the Redeemer attached to it, on the little oaken table that stood by
his bed-side, and after trimming his night-lamp, she set it before
the little image, and having laid his breviary and his beads beside
it, she placed the cushion so that he might the more easily perform
those religious rites which his duty prescribed to him, and which he
regularly and strictly attended to at certain watches of the night,
and having done these little offices, she again tenderly embraced him,
and retired to her own chamber.

The good priest's mind was so filled with distress about Auchernach,
that he could not close an eye. For several hours he lay turning over
and over in his thoughts those prospects which his niece had before
her from such a marriage--a marriage the contemplation of which
had so recently laid every anxiety of his heart regarding her most
satisfactorily to rest, all of which were now again awakened afresh
by the unfavourable view which last night's experience had given him
of her future husband. In vain he tried to court slumber. At last
when nearly worn out with watching, he arose and kneeled before the
emblems of his faith, to perform his midnight orisons. When these were
concluded, he took up the crucifix with veneration, reverently kissed
the image of our suffering Saviour, and, laying himself again down in
bed, he covered himself with the clothes, and, placing the crucifix
lengthwise upon his bosom, he committed himself in thought to the
protection of his patron-saint, and composed himself confidently to
rest, under the conviction that he should now be certain of enjoying
sweet slumber.

And the good man was not mistaken. Sleep immediately weighed down his
eyelids, and his senses were soon, steeped in the deepest and most
perfect oblivion. If you will only fancy to yourselves his venerable
and placid countenance, pale as the sheet which partially shrouded
his chin, and rendered yet paler by its contrast with the black cap
which he wore, his motionless form disposed underneath the bed-clothes,
with the crucifix lying along over it, you will be ready to admit that
his whole appearance might have well suggested the idea of a saint.

But the devil was that night abroad. The priest's habitation was
humble, and, though partly consisting of two low stories, the roof was
composed of a simple wattle, covered with heather thatch. His chamber
was above, and away from those of the other inmates, at one end,
where a lower shed was attached to the back of the building. Suppose
yourselves, for a moment, invisible spectators of a scene which was
alone looked down upon by that eye which sees all things. Listen to
that strange deafened sound above, as if some one was crawling over the
outside of the roof. What noise is that as of a cutting and plucking
up of the heather? Ha! did you see that dirk-blade glisten through
the frail work of the wattle?--again, and again, it comes! It rapidly
cuts its way in a large circle through the half rotten material of
which the roof is composed. The fingers of a hand now appear under it,
as if to prevent the piece which is about to be detached from falling
downwards, and alarming the sleeper. He hears not the noise, for he
sweetly dreams that as he prays on his knees, the clouds are opened,
and the beautified countenance of his patron-saint smiles upon him from
the skies, and beckons to him to throw off his mortality, and to join
him in the heavens. He awakes with the effort which he makes to obey
him; and, immediately over his bed he indistinctly beholds, by the
feeble light of his night lamp, the stern and remorseless features
of a man,--the eyes glaring fearfully upon him. He is paralysed by
the sight: and, ere he can move, nay, ere he can utter one shriek of
alarm, the murderer drops upon his bed, and, crouched across him,
he, with his left hand, lays bare the emaciated throat of the old
priest, and with his right he strikes his dirk blade through it,
till it pierces the very pillow underneath. No sigh escapes from the
murdered man. If groan there be at all, it comes growling from the
ferocious heart of the fiend who does the atrocious deed; who, as he
sits for a moment to satisfy himself that his victim is really dead,
shudders to look upon his own bloody work. To shut it out from his
eyes, even for the instant, he replaces the bed-clothes over the chin,
and, adjusting the crucifix as he found it, he makes a precipitate
retreat through the orifice in the roof by which he entered.

If you have well pictured to yourselves the particulars of this most
revolting murder, you will be the better able to imagine the scene
that took place next morning when, at the hour at which she usually
went to awake her uncle, to receive his kiss and his blessing, to
inquire how he had passed the night, and to administer to his little
wants, his affectionate niece softly entered the apartment of the good
Priest Innes. Her eyes were naturally directed at once to the bed,
so that the hole in the roof above escaped her notice.

"How tranquilly he sleeps!" whispered she; "I almost grudge to awaken
him to the recollection of that distressing event of the evening
before last, which so disturbed him, and which hath ever since so
tortured me. I see, from the crucifix being laid on his bosom, that
the earlier part of his night hath not been passed with the same
composure as he now enjoys. But it is late, and he may chide me if
I allow him longer to slumber. Uncle! dear uncle! it is time for you
to be up. Ha! still he answereth not! can he be unwell?"

Snatching up the crucifix with one hand, and gently removing the
bed-clothes from her uncle's chin with the other, the harrowing
spectacle that presented itself told her the fatal truth. She stood
for one moment petrified by the sight, uttered one piercing shriek
that penetrated into every part of the humble dwelling, and then she
fell backwards on the floor in a swoon, where the old woman, Janet,
who waited on her, and James, the priest's man, both of whom came
running to her aid at the same moment, found her lying, with the
crucifix firmly and spasmodically embraced over her bosom.

You all know how fast ill tidings travel. The particulars of this
horrible transaction, multiplied and magnified, quickly spread far
and wide, and the whole neighbourhood was instantly in a ferment. The
lamentations for their priest; their father and their friend, were
loud and heartfelt, and the execrations which were poured out on
his murderer were deep, and were mingled with unceasing cries of
vengeance. But, on whom were they to be avenged? Who was the person
most likely to have committed so foul a deed?--a murder in every
respect so unprovoked, and so perfectly without any apparent object,
committed on an innocent and pious man, who could never have been
supposed to have had an enemy! It could have been the work of no common
robber, for the few small articles of value which the priest's chamber
contained were left untouched. The outrageous conduct of Lewis Grant of
Auchernach on the evening of the previous night, at the wedding at the
miller's--conduct which had already been talked of and discussed with
no inconsiderable degree of reprobation by every one who had seen or
heard of it, now came fresh into the minds of all. The vengeful threat
which he seemed to have directed against the innocent and pious Priest
Innes, in return for his calm and fatherly rebuke, was now remembered
by every one. The very words had been treasured up by many of them,
and were repeated from mouth to mouth--"Old man! look that thou dost
not pay dear for thy favour to that new guest of thine!" Uttered as
they had been with the gnashing teeth of frantic passion, and with
rage and revenge flashing from his eyes, they were too plain to be
mistaken. High in favour as Auchernach was well known to have been
with the pure inhabitants of the priest's dwelling, his violence
was very easily explained by the jealousy which it was natural to
suppose must have been excited in him by the visible preference which
had been that evening given by Priest Innes to his rival, John Dhu
of Knockando, a circumstance to which his threat had so distinctly
pointed. The grounds of suspicion against him, therefore, were too
evident--too damning to be for one moment doubted; and he who, two
short days before, had been respected and beloved by all who knew him,
was at once condemned by every one as a cool, deliberate, sacrilegious
murderer. A hue and cry was immediately raised for his apprehension,
and off ran the whole population, young and old, and of both sexes,
to secure, or to witness his capture, leaving no one to attend to
the afflicted Helen Dunbar but her old woman Janet.

But strange as it may seem, after the people had been gone for some
considerable time in hot search of the felon, Lewis Grant himself rode
slowly up to the priest's house. For some reason which he best knew,
he came by a road quite different from that which should have brought
him directly from Auchernach. He seemed gloomy and thoughtful--his head
hung down--and as he walked his horse up to the stable and dismounted,
as he was often wont to do, to put the beast with his own hand into
the stall with which it was sufficiently familiar, his eyes glanced
furtively in all directions from under the broad bonnet that shaded
his brow. Having disposed of the animal, he shut the stable door,
and, with a downcast look and chastened step, very much unlike that
which had usually carried him over the same fragment of ground, and
with a sigh that almost amounted to a groan, he presented himself at
the little portal of the house. With a hesitating hand he lifted the
latch, and with his limbs trembling beneath him, he moved softly along
the passage that led to the priest's parlour. He halted for a moment
irresolutely at the door of that little chamber where he had passed
so many happy days and hours. At last he summoned up courage enough
to open it, and he stood on its threshold with his eyes thrown upon
the ground. Silence prevailed within, till it was broken by a deep
convulsive sob. He looked up, and he beheld old Janet, with her back
towards him, kneeling beside a low couch placed against the opposite
wall; and upon its pillow, and stretched out at length upon it in a
state which left him in doubt whether she was dying, or already dead,
lay the grief-worn countenance and the form of Helen Dunbar. He was
struck dumb by this spectacle. He stood amazed, with the blood running
cold to his heart. But recollection soon returned to him--his whole
frame shook with the agitation of his feelings, and, clasping his
hands in an agony, he rushed forward and threw himself on his knees
before the couch. The humble domestic was terrified to behold him,
and started aloof at the very sight of him.

"Helen!--my life!--my love!" cried he in a frantic tone; "can I--can
I, wretch that I am--can I, murderer that I am!--can I have brought
death upon my beloved! Oh, answer me!--gaze not thus silently upon me
with that fearful look! Am I then become in thy sight so accursed? Oh,
mercy!--mercy!--look not so upon me!"

He tried to take her hand. His very attempt to do so seemed
instantaneously to rouse her from the stupor in which she had hitherto
lain. She recoiled from him back to the wall as if a serpent had stung
her, whilst her fixed eyes stared, and her lips moved without sound,
as if she could find no utterance for the horrors that possessed her.

"Is there no mercy for me?" cried Auchernach again. "Hast thou doomed
me to destruction? Am I to be spurned by thee as I was by thine uncle
Priest Innes?"

A prolonged and piercing shriek was all the reply that his frantic
appeal received from Helen Dunbar. It was echoed by her old attendant,
and mingled with loud cries for help. Steps were heard pattering fast
without--Auchernach started up to his feet. The steps came hurrying
along the passage--several men burst into the chamber--they stood for
a moment in mute astonishment. Then it was that Helen Dunbar seemed to
regain all her dormant energies. She sprang from the couch--retreated
from Auchernach--and gazing fearfully at him, with, her head and body
drawn back, she pointed wildly towards him, with both her outstretched
arms and hands--and whilst every nerve was convulsed by the torture
which her soul was enduring, she at last found words to speak.

"Seize him! Seize the murderer of mine uncle!" she cried in a voice
which rang shrilly and terribly in the ears of all who heard her;
and altogether exhausted by this extraordinary effort, she would
have fallen forward senseless on the floor, had she not been caught
by some of the bystanders, who carried her in a swoon to the couch
from which she had so recently risen.

Auchernach stood fixed and frozen, as if her words had suddenly
converted him into a pillar of ice. He was immediately laid hold of
by some of the men, who hastily bound him, and he submitted to be
led away, as if utterly unaware of what had befallen him. His horse
was taken from the stable; he was lifted powerless into the saddle,
and strapped firmly to the animal's back. The crowd of people who had
collected, some on horseback, and some on foot, looked upon him with
horror, mingled with awe. But no one uttered a word, either of pity
or of condemnation. He sat erect, it is true, but it was with all
the rigidity of a stiffened corpse, for not a feature nor a muscle
exhibited the smallest sign of consciousness. That night found him,
after a wearisome journey, of the scenes or events of which he had
no knowledge, chained, on a heap of straw, on the floor of one of
the deepest dungeon-vaults in the Priory of Pluscarden.

The simple and unpretending funeral of the good Priest Innes had a
larger following than that of any person who had been buried from that
district for many years, and the silent sorrow which was exhibited by
all who beheld it, was not only more sincere, but it was likewise far
more eloquent than those louder lamentations, and those otherwise more
obtrusive expressions of woe which had arisen around the bier of many
a departed knight and laird of Strathspey. His corpse was carried the
same road as they had taken the wretched man who stood charged with
his murder. It was met at some distance from the Priory by its monks
and their superior, who accompanied the procession, chanting hymns
before the coffin, till it was carried into the church. There the
services were performed for the dead, and he was laid to rest in his
last narrow house, within the cemetery of that religious establishment,
where the requiem masses that were sung for his soul went faintly, and
with anything but consolation, to the ears of the wretched Auchernach
in his subterranean prison.

Most of the gentry of the neighbouring country were present at
these obsequies, and John Dhu Grant was there amongst others. It was
especially remarked, that although his house of Knockando lay directly
in the way between Easter Duthel and the Priory, and about equidistant
from the two places, his desire to show respect to the memory of the
deceased was so great that he appeared at the priest's house early on
the morning of the funeral, and rode with the procession all the way
to the place of interment. He, moreover, took a very prominent part
in the whole ceremonial. From these pregnant signs the good people
naturally argued that there had been a gross mistake in the belief
that had hitherto so currently prevailed as to which of the rival
lairds had been really most favoured by Helen Dunbar and her uncle;
and the wiser gossips now shook their heads, and looked forward to the
time when John Dhu Grant would probably dry up the orphan's tears,
and establish her in the arm-chair at the comfortable fireside of
Knockando. The laird himself never did nor said anything which might
have contradicted any such supposition; on the contrary, he always
spoke and acted as if it was tolerably well-founded.

A good many days passed away after the loss of her uncle, before
the tide of Helen's grief had gushed from her eyes in sufficient
abundance to afford any relief to her deep affliction. Many were
the kind hearts that came to condole with her, but some of her more
intimate friends of her own sex only had as yet been admitted to
her presence to share her sorrows. John Dhu Grant had made repeated
journeys to call at the house, but his urgent entreaties for admission
had been always met by courteous refusals. He came at length one day,
and as he stated that he was the bearer of an especial message from the
Lord Prior of Pluscarden, Helen could no longer decline giving him an
audience. She received him, however, not only in the presence of old
Janet, whose long services in the priest's house had given her most
of the privileges and indulgences of an old friend, but also in that
of an elderly matron, who had kindly agreed to spend some time with
her to cheer her loneliness. You will not be surprised when I tell
you that Helen was deeply affected and much agitated when the laird
entered. After she was somewhat composed, and the first preliminary
civilities were interchanged,--

"I come, lady, from the Lord Prior of Pluscarden," said Knockando,
"and I am the bearer of a message to know, with all due respect and
godly greeting, on his part, whether thou art as yet sufficiently
restored to be able to undertake a journey to the Priory, that thou
mayest give evidence against him who now lieth in a dungeon there,
charged with the crime of the most sacrilegious murder of thine uncle,
Priest Innes?"

"I beseech thee, sir," said Helen, much affected, and with a trembling
and scarcely audible voice, "I beseech thee to tell the reverend
father, that I do, with all humility, abide his command, and that
when he shall see fit to demand my presence, I shall be ready to obey."

"I doubt not that thou art by this time most eager to see vengeance
fall speedily upon the foul murderer," said Knockando.

"Alas! no vengeance can restore him to me whom I have lost," said
Helen, bursting into a flood of tears.

"But his blood crieth out for vengeance, and it lieth with thee to
see it done upon the murderer," said Knockando.

"When the Lord Prior calleth for me, I shall speak the truth, and let
vengeance rest with that Almighty Being who alone beheld the cruel
deed!" said Helen, throwing her eyes upwards as if secretly appealing
to Heaven. "As for me, I can but weep for him that is gone, and pray
to have that Christian feeling supplied to me which may enable me to
forgive even--to forgive even his murderer."

"Forgive his murderer!" cried Knockando, with a strange and wild
expression. "Canst thou indeed think that thou mayest yet ever
be brought to forgive him? But no! no! no!" continued he calmly,
and with his usual cold manner and unmoved countenance, "it cannot
surely be that thou couldst ever bring thyself to save the monster
who could allow one passing word of just reproof to wipe out so many
years of kind and hospitable intercourse, and who could revenge it
by so barbarous and unheard of a murder."

"I said forgive, not save," replied Helen, in a half choked voice. "The
laws of God and of man alike require that the murderer should die;
and I shall never flinch from the dreadful but imperious duty which
now devolves upon me, to see that justice is done upon the guilty
person. But our blessed Saviour hath taught me to forgive even him;
and ere he be called on to expiate his crime on earth, may the Holy
Virgin yield me strength to pray sincerely for his repentance, so
that his unhappy soul may be assoilzied from an eternity of torment."

"What!" cried Knockando, with a recurrence of that wildness
of expression which he had already exhibited, "canst thou even
contemplate so much as this regarding a wretch, who, lighting down
like some nocturnal fiend upon the sacred person of thine uncle, and,
reckless of the emblem of Christ which lay upon his bosom"----

"Ha!" exclaimed Helen, suddenly moved as the horrors of the spectacle
she had witnessed were thus so rashly and so rudely recalled to her
recollection by this ill-timed speech. "What saidst thou?"

"Nay," continued Knockando, "I wonder not that thou shouldst start
thus, as I stir up thy remembrance of the bloody and most inhuman
act. Methinks thou wilt hardly now deny me that the man who could
put aside the holy image of Christ, that he might plunge his dirk
into the innocent throat of his sacred servant, must not only die
the death of a felon, but that he can never hope for mercy from Him
whose blessed emblem he hath outraged."

"Give me air! give me air!" cried Helen faintly, as she motioned to
her companions to open the lattice; and then falling back into the
couch, she covered her face with both her hands, and was seized with
a long hysterical fit of laughter, followed by a convulsive shudder,
from which she was relieved by a deluge of tears.

"This is no scene for a stranger to witness," said the lady who sat
with her, "nor is the subject which thou hast chosen to dwell on so
circumstantially by any means suited to the weak state of this poor
sufferer. I must entreat of thee to withdraw."

"Madam," said Knockando coolly, "I am no stranger. I am here as the
messenger of the Lord Prior, and as the friend of the deceased. As
that friend to whom the good Priest Innes did manifest his last most
open act of confidence. I am here, as it were, by his posthumous
authority, as the avenger of his foul murder, and as the protector
of his desolate orphan niece; so that hardly even might the orders
of the lady herself induce me to quit this apartment whilst my duty
may tell me that I ought to remain."

"Thine arm, Janet," said Helen feebly; and, with the old woman's
support, she slowly arose and moved towards the door.

"Stay, stay, I beseech thee, my beloved Helen!" cried Knockando,
eagerly rising to follow her. "Stay, I entreat thee, or say at least
when I may return to offer thee my protection, that legitimate
protection which thine uncle authorised me to yield thee, that
substantial protection which can alone be supplied by him who hath
the rights and the affection of a husband."

"A husband!" cried Helen, turning suddenly round and gazing wildly
at him,--"Husband!" and being again seized with the same involuntary
laugh, she was hurried away up stairs to her chamber by the women.

Knockando then slowly left the apartment, called for his horse,
and departed.

Helen Dunbar kept her bed all next day, and no one was admitted to
her chamber but the lady I have mentioned, and her old and faithful
Janet. With these she had long, deep, and private talk regarding all
that had passed the previous day. On the ensuing morning the Laird of
Knockando again came to the house. Janet was immediately despatched
to refuse him admittance. He now came, he said, with a letter from
the Lord Prior of Pluscarden, which he trusted would be a passport
for him to the lady's presence. Leaving him below, Janet carried it up
stairs to her mistress. It was tied with a piece of black silk ribbon,
but it had no seal. It ran in these terms:--


"To Helen Dunbar, these,--It being our will and pleasure that
the vengeance with the which it doth behoove us to visit Lewis
Grant of Auchernach, the murderer of thine uncle, Priest Innes,
shall no longer tarry, but descend quickly upon his guilty head,
so that the air of our sacred precincts may cease to be poisoned by
the foul breath of his life, we do now, by these presents, call upon
thee to appear before us here on Tuesday next at noon, to give thy
testimony against him. And as the way hither is long and lonely, we
do further give thee our fatherly advice to avail thyself of the kind
offer about to be made thee by the bearer of this, our friend, that
worthy gentleman, John Grant of Knockando, who promises to shorten
thy travel by lodging thee in his house on the previous night, and
to guard thee hither. And so we greet thee with our holy blessing.

    "Duncanus Prior. Plus."


Helen was much agitated by the perusal of this letter, but after a
little consultation, her friend took it upon herself to go down to
tell Knockando that the Prior's summons should be obeyed; but that the
laird's offer of protection and hospitality were with all civility
declined. After much vain solicitation on his part, Knockando left
the house with great unwillingness.

He had not been gone an hour when the tramping of a horse again
sounded in their ears.

"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed Janet, as she looked from the lattice to
ascertain who this new visitor might be. "As I hope to be saved,
it is the lay brother who rides on the Lord Prior's errands. What
can he want, I wonder?"

Janet hastened down, and soon returned.

"He came the short way over the hills with it," said Janet, putting
another letter into Helen's hands.

It bore the large seal of the priory over the black silk ribbon by
which it was bound.

"What can this mean?" said Helen, as with trembling hands she
applied the shears to divide the ribbon. "Again a letter from the
Lord Prior! But, as I live, in a very different, fairer, and more
clerk-like hand, and, methinks, in better terms."


"To our much afflicted and much beloved daughter Helen Dunbar--these:

"Deeply do we and all our brethren grieve for thy cruel affliction. By
ourselves, or our sub-prior, we should have ere this visited thee
with heavenly comfort, had not weighty affairs hindered. But deem not
thyself desolate; for we do hold that our brother, thy much beloved
and greatly lamented uncle, the umquhile Priest Innes (whom God
assoilzie!) hath left thee to our guardianship, and, as a daughter
of the Church, thou shalt be watched with our especial care. We have
made it known to all, that, but further delay, we shall, God willing,
proceed on Wednesday next, after the hour of tierce, to look earnestly
into the mysterious case of the good priest's wicked and sacrilegious
slaughter. We beseech thee, therefore, to do thy best, to render
thyself at the priory on the forecoming day, that, assured of the best
hospitality that we can provide for thee, thou mayest rest and prepare
thee for the trial of the following morrow. Till then we commend
thee to the care of God, the blessed Virgin, and Holy Saint Andrew;
and with this, our consolatory benediction, we bid thee farewell.

    "Duncanus,
        "Monach. Ordinis, Vallis Caulium, Plus. Prior."


"Haste thee, good Janet," said Helen Dunbar, after she had read the
prior's letter; "haste thee, and see that the honest lay-brother and
his beast be well looked to for this night."

Left to themselves, the ladies compared and canvassed the two letters,
one of which was so evidently a forgery. They had little difficulty
in determining which was the true one. After some consultation,
Helen proceeded to pen a proper answer to that which she had last
received; and having sent orders to old James to get his steed ready,
she despatched him with it forthwith by that short route over the
hills which the lay-brother had taken to bring the prior's letter
to her. And a few lines of reply, which James brought her next day
from the reverend father himself, assured her of the safe delivery
of her communication.

During the interval which elapsed before the day on which she was
to set out for Pluscarden, the Laird of Knockando made two more
ineffectual attempts to gain admittance to Helen, and on both of
these occasions he sent her urgent messages to come to his house on
her way, and to allow him to be her escort on the journey. To these
courteous but resolute refusals were given by the matron, who was
then her companion, and on both occasions Knockando left the house
with a degree of disappointment and mortification which he could not
altogether conceal.

The day fixed for her journey at last arrived. Aware of the stern
necessity that existed of arming herself with fortitude to undergo all
that she had to encounter, she kneeled down, and fervently prayed to
God and to the Virgin to aid and to support her. She arose with the
conscious conviction that her prayers had been heard, and she met
her friend with a quiet and composed countenance. As that lady and
Janet were to be the companions of her journey, she calmly issued
her directions for getting ready the animals which were destined to
carry them. The table was already spread for their morning's meal,
when suddenly a loud trampling of horses was heard, and ere they were
aware, they saw through the casements that the house was surrounded by
about a dozen of mounted men-at-arms. Before they had time to recover
from their astonishment, their leader threw himself from his saddle,
and entered the house and the apartment.

"Knockando!" cried the ladies in astonishment and alarm.

"Fear nothing," said John Dhu Grant, advancing and bowing with his
usual imperturbable manner. "I have merely ridden up hither with a
handful of brave fellows to guard thee. Ha!--what's this?" continued
he, surveying the ample table which was liberally spread with
trenchers, flagons, and drinking cups, and provisions of all kinds
much beyond what the moderate wants of the two ladies could have
required. "It was kind, indeed, to be thus hospitably prepared for
our coming. But think not, I pray thee, of my fellows without there,
for their hound-like stomachs are already provisioned for the day's
toil. As for myself, indeed, I shall make bold to benefit by thy
kindness to me, for I rarely eat at so early an hour as my spearmen
do."

"John Grant of Knockando," said Helen Dunbar, drawing herself up
with an effort to summon all her resolution, and speaking with great
determination, "I lack not thine aid, and I reject it as insulting to
me! And touching my hospitality, I tell thee that it is to be given
solely to such as it may please me to bestow it upon--not taken,
as thou wouldst have it, by a masterful hand. That board was never
spread for thee, and thou shalt never partake of it with my good will!"

"These are strong and hard words, lady," said Knockando, coolly seating
himself; "they are hard, yea, and sharp too--harder and sharper,
methinks, than anything that I have unconsciously done to offend
thee may well have merited. Hadst thou not better unsay them? if not
with thy lips, at least by silently seating thyself here beside me,
to do me the honours of the table."

"Again I tell thee, that table was never spread for thee!" said Helen
firmly. "Begone, then! and leave, it untouched for me, and for such
other guests as I may judge to be most fit to seat themselves there."

"Tush, tush, lady!" said Knockando frigidly. "The good old Priest
Innes never meant that this table should be spread for thee without
my sitting at it with thee. That very last night we passed together,
the worthy man told me that he should leave thee to me as a legacy
together with all his little means. So, lady, I have e'en come to
claim thee, and I have brought these rough but staunch spearmen
with me, that we may guard thee safely to Knockando as we would a
treasure. There a priest waits to make thee even yet more securely
mine own. After which we shall ride together, if it shall so please,
thee, to Pluscarden, that we may draw down the blessing of holy
mother Church upon our union, by seeing condign punishment swiftly
done on the murderer who now lieth there. Come, lady! break thy fast,
I pray thee, with what haste thou mayest, for thy palfrey waits by
this time. Ha! what stir is that among my people?"

"Thanks! thanks to Heaven, they come at last!" cried Helen, clasping
her hands together with fervour.

"Who comes?" said Knockando, turning to the lattice, and growing deadly
pale as he looked out. "What! the sub-prior of Pluscarden!--ha! and the
bailie too with him, and a strong force of mounted men-at-arms! What
means all this?"

The small plump of men who had come with Knockando were smothered up,
as it were, by the long train of horsemen who now filed up and crowded
the confined space formed by the modest front of the priest's manse,
and the humble out-buildings which were attached to it at right
angles. The heads of the houses of Cistertian monks, of which the
brethren of Vallis Caulium were but a sect, seldom travelled in later
times without all those external emblems of religious pomp which their
rules allowed them. Upon the present occasion, the sub-prior and his
palfrey were both arrayed in all the trappings to which his official
dignity entitled him. Before him appeared a monk bearing a tall and
splendidly gilded crucifix, that glittered in the morning sun, and
some dozen of the brotherhood came riding after him, two and two,
with their white cassocks and their scapularies covered by the black
gowns in which they usually went abroad. These carried banners,
charged with the arms of the Priory--the figure of Saint Andrew
their patron saint--and various other devices. And a strong body of
men-at-arms, who, as belonging to the regality attached to the Priory,
owed service to it as vassals, preceded and followed the procession,
under the orders of the seneschal or bailie. A monk dismounted to
hold the stirrup of the sub-prior as he alighted at the door, and
singing a cross in the air, the holy father forthwith entered.

"The blessing of Saint Andrew be upon this house!" said he, as he
stepped over the threshold. "Benedicite, my child of sorrow!" continued
he, as he entered the apartment. "Soh!--the Laird of Knockando here! I
thought as much. How earnest thou, false and lying knave, to use
the sacred name, and to forge the sign-manual of our most reverend
Lord Prior, to further thine own vile frauds against this innocent
daughter of the church? Surrender thyself forthwith into the hands
of this our bailie, that he may take thee prisoner to Pluscarden,
where thy delicts may be duly dealt with."

"What ho, there, men-at-arms!" cried the bailie aloud.

In an instant the followers of Knockando were disarmed, and the
apartment being filled with the men-at-arms belonging to the Church,
Knockando was made prisoner, led out, and bound upon his horse.

"It was well, daughter, that the blessed Virgin gave thee wit to
discover and to foil the base tricks of this false man," said the
sub-prior.

"Nay, reverend father, but rather let me say, thanks be to the Virgin,
and to thy timely succour," replied Helen. "One moment later, and
my fate had been sealed. But will it please thee to partake of our
humble Highland fare? and whilst thou dost condescend to taste of
the poor refreshment we have ventured to provide for thee, we women,
as beseems us, will withdraw."

"Nay, nay, fair daughter!" replied the sub-prior, "thou shalt by
no means depart. Were it a meal, indeed, we might see fit rigidly
to insist upon our rule. But we shall but taste thy viands, and put
our lips to thy wine-cup for mere courtesy's sake. Therefore disturb
thyself not. Marry, as we broke our fast scarcely two hours since
before leaving Inverallan, where we sojourned last night, we can have
but small appetite now. Yet thy board looketh well, and this upland
air of thine, in truth, is sharp and stimulating; and, moreover, we
should never refuse to partake--moderately I mean--of the blessings
which are furnished to us by a bountiful Providence, yea, even when
they are set forth on a table spread, as thine may be said to be,
in the wilderness."

Saying so, the good sub-prior seated himself, and set an example to the
rest by cutting off and placing on his own trencher the leg and wing
of a large turkey, relished it with some reasonably large slices of
bacon, and filled himself a cup of wine from a flagon on the table,
adding as much of nature's fluid to it as might, with due safety
to his conscience, enable him to call it wine and water. The rest
of the holy fraternity were not slack in imitating their superior;
and after he had thus shown how much the deeds of the Church were
better than its promises, by doing much more justice to the provisions
than his preface had led his entertainer to hope for, Helen and her
companions were mounted on their palfreys, and the sub-prior, and his
monks and their escort, having got into their saddles, the prisoner
was sent on before them well guarded, and they proceeded on their
way. The sight of the Priory of Pluscarden, as its picturesque ruins
now prove, was like that of all the monasteries of the same order,
beautifully retired, lying at the foot of the hills that abruptly bound
the northern side of its broad valley. It was surrounded by a square
inclosure of many acres, fenced in by a thick and high wall of masonry,
the remains of which are still visible. As the day was departing,
the setting sun that shed its light athwart the motionless foliage
of those woods that hung on the face of the hills behind the Priory,
and gilded the proud pinnacles of the building, which arose from the
tall grove in the middle of the large area I have described, threw a
last ray of illumination on the glittering crucifix as the long dark
line of the procession wound under the deep arch of the outer gate,
and as it threaded its way among the small gardens into which the
area was parcelled out for the several members of the fraternity. By
the kind and hospitable care of the Lord Prior the ladies were soon
safely and comfortably lodged in one of the detached buildings on
the outside of the wall inclosing the precincts of the Priory, whilst
the Laird of Knockando was thrown, a solitary prisoner, into one of
the subterranean dungeon vaults within.

Helen Dunbar was that night blessed with sweet and refreshing rest
after the fatiguing journey of the previous day. As her gentle
spirit began to return to her towards morning from that world of
unconsciousness where it had been laid by the profoundness of her
sleep, pleasing visions floated over her pillow. The saint-like
figure of her venerable uncle, surrounded by a resplendent glory,
hovered over her, and smiled upon her from above. Saint Andrew then
appeared beside him, and bore him slowly upwards, till both gradually
melted from her sight amidst a flood of light in the upper regions
of the sky. She awaked in a transport of delight to which her bosom
had been for some time a stranger. She arose and attired herself in
the sad and simple habit of mourning which she wore, and she threw
herself on her knees to ask again for aid from above in the trying
circumstances in which she was placed; and then, halving partaken of
the refreshment which was liberally provided for her and her companions
by the hospitable orders of the prior, she sat patiently waiting for
the moment when she should be summoned to attend the chapter.

The brethren of the Priory had no sooner performed the tierce,
as those services were called which took place at nine o'clock
in the morning, than the convent bell rang to call the chapter to
assemble. The chapter-house in which this convocation took place was a
beautiful Gothic apartment, of about thirty feet in diameter, lighted
by four large windows, and having its groined roof supported by a
single pillar. Arranged on one side were the seats of the members
of the holy tribunal. That of the Lord Bishop of the diocese, who
had come from his palace at Elgin on purpose to preside over the
investigation which was about to take place, was a high Gothic chair
raised on several steps. Arrayed in his gorgeous episcopal robes, he
sat silent and motionless, as if oppressed with the painful subject
of the inquiry in which he was to be engaged. On the steps where his
feet rested, two handsome boys of his choir were seated, one of whom
held his mitre and the other his crosier. On his right sat the Prior,
and on his left the Sub-Prior of Pluscarden, attired in their full
canonicals, and the other chairs on both sides were filled with those
dignitaries and brethren who were members of the chapter. The area of
the place was crowded by the monks in their flowing white draperies,
together with the lay brothers in their attire, the extreme interest
of the case having prevented every one from being absent who was not
in the sick-list of the infirmary, or occupied with duties from which
they dared not to absent themselves. A deep silence prevailed. At last
the sound of arms was heard echoing through the lofty aisles of the
adjacent church, and a body of spearmen, retainers of the monastery,
headed by the seneschal, entered, guarding in two prisoners.

One of these was the wretched Laird of Auchernach, who appeared with
his arms loaded with heavy chains. The captivity which his body had
endured in his dungeon, and the mental agony which he had undergone,
had manifestly done sad havoc upon him. He took up the position
assigned to him by the seneschal with a subdued yet indifferent air, as
if the stream of his life had been poisoned, and that he cared not how
soon he should now be called upon to pour out its last bitter dregs.

The black visage of the Laird of Knockando, who was the other prisoner,
seemed also to have undergone a considerable change since the morning
of the preceding day. It was haggard, and his eyes were bloodshot,
as if he had had but little repose during the night. There was a
certain expression of mental uneasiness about it, which his habitual
air of cold and motionless placidity could not altogether conceal. The
two prisoners were placed near to each other in a position a little
to one side, and at some distance in front of the tribunal that was
about to investigate their respective cases.

"John Grant of Knockando," said the Bishop, whilst a subdued hush
ran round among the spectators, "thou hast been brought hither as
a prisoner, charged upon very undoubted evidence of having most
feloniously forged the sign-manual of the reverend superior of this
holy priory, and this for the base purpose of wickedly circumventing
an innocent orphan maiden, whom, for her pious uncle's sake, we have
been pleased to take under the especial protection of our holy mother
Church. But as thy delict is one with which we as churchmen may deal
in our own good time, we shall for the present postpone and continue
thy case, and proceed straightway to our inquiry into the graver,
and deeper charge touching that crime of a deeper dye, to wit,
the most sacrilegious murder of our pious brother the Priest Innes,
of the which he who now stands on thy left hand is accused,--I mean
thee, Lewis Grant of Auchernach. But as thou, John Grant of Knockando,
wert present at the last interview which the murdered man had with his
suspected murderer only the night before, where that unjust cause of
offence would seem to have been taken which whetted the cruel blade
of the assassin for its purpose, we would first hear what evidence
thou hast to give upon the matter."

"My Lord Bishop, and you most Reverend Fathers," said Knockando, his
eye having brightened up as the speaker had proceeded, and who had
by this time regained all his wonted coolness and self-possession,
"I now stand before this holy tribunal under circumstances the most
distressing that can well oppress a human being. I shall at present
pass entirely by those charges which have been made against myself;
and regarding which I trust I shall afterwards have little difficulty
in giving ample satisfaction to my venerable accusers. I shall pass
these charges by, I say, because I could not, if I were willing, find
room in my mind for anything touching myself, filled, as it at this
moment is, with the awful and heavy charge made against the unhappy
man who now stands beside me,--him whom I once called my friend, and
for whom, in the weakness of my nature, and in despite of the unjust
outrage which he did me on a recent occasion, I still cannot help
being agitated by the same friendly anxiety with which I was ever
moved on his account. Such being my feelings, I am sure that no one
who now heareth me but must pity me, compelled as I thus am to bear
an unwilling testimony the which, I am aware, must grievously tend
towards fixing on him the guilt of one of the most unnatural, cruel,
and deliberate murders that ever fouled the page of the history of
man, and that done, too, on the sacred person of a servant of God,
with whom the murderer had for long companied in habits of the
strictest intimacy, and in whose hospitalities he had so long and
so often shared. But my duty to mankind,--my duty to this venerable
tribunal,--and my duty to Heaven, all combine to compel me to speak
out the truth, which I shall now do as briefly as I can.

"It is already well known, most Reverend Fathers, that a merry meeting
took place at the mill of Duthel on the occasion of the marriage of
the miller's daughter. There all who were present can bear testimony,
that Lewis Grant of Auchernach did, without any cause of provocation on
my part--though it may perhaps be well enough urged in his exculpation,
that the violence he did me arose from jealousy because Helen Dunbar
took greater pleasure in my converse than in his--yet certain it is
that then and there he did most grievously assault me at unawares. The
good Priest Innes, who was my most especial friend, and who is now,
alas! so much lamented by me, bestowed a quiet word of reproof on
the enraged Auchernach, such as a pastor or a father might have well
given upon such an occasion. But instead of taking his rebuke with
that humble submission with the which it doth alway become a layman to
receive the admonitions of the Church, Auchernach in the ears of all
uttered fearful denunciations against the good old man as he was in
the act of leaving the place, leaning, as he was often compelled by
his infirmities to do, upon the stay of this arm of mine. It sorely
wounds my heart to be thus forced to repeat the very words which
he used, seeing that they are of themselves enow to condemn him;
but if I should fail of so doing, there is not a person of any age
or sex who was present that night who could not repeat them. They
were these,--'Old man! look that thou dost not pay dear for thy
favour to that new guest of thine!' Thus carrying his bitter and
most unjust rage from me to the good priest, who was about to show
me that hospitality which, for that night at least, had been denied
to himself. He could have made no successful attempt against the
good man that night, for I was in the house to act, under Heaven,
as his shield from all harm. But the very next night, when I was no
longer there--would I had!--to defend him, the murderer comes, and"----

"Thou hast now gone as far as thy knowledge as an eye or ear-witness
may bear thee, Knockando," said the Bishop. "When the subject of
thy testimony hath been taken down, our brother the sub-prior may go
forth to bring in the lady who is our next evidence."

In obedience to the Bishop's order, the sub-prior withdrew, and soon
afterwards returned, ushering in Helen Dunbar. As she entered, she
was so overcome by the feelings naturally excited by her situation,
at well as by the solemn and impressive spectacle before her, that she
did not very well know how she found herself seated in the chair that
was placed for her a little to one side, and at such an angle to those
of the members of the chapter, so as to permit a full stream of light
to fall upon her from a window. Her eyes were thrown on the ground,
and she put up a secret aspiration for aid from Heaven during the
interval of silence which the judges charitably allowed to give her
time to compose herself.

"Helen Dunbar!" said the Bishop, at length slowly addressing her in
a deep-toned voice, but with an encouraging manner; "thou already
knowest but too well, and to thine unutterable grief and affliction,
that thy uncle, Priest Innes, a godly, and now, it is to be hoped,
a sainted son of the Church, was, upon the night of the twenty-ninth
day of the last month, most cruelly and barbarously murdered, by
some one at present unknown. What canst thou say touching that strong
suspicion which doth attach to the prisoner, Lewis Grant of Auchernach,
who now standeth yonder?"

"My lord," said Helen Dunbar, looking fearfully round, whilst every
fibre of her frame seemed to quiver with agitation, as she caught
her first view of the wasted form and countenance of the unfortunate
prisoner, and met his eye, which was now filled with a flitting fire
of anxiety which it had not before exhibited. But she seemed yet
more affected by the glance of the Laird of Knockando, who stood
beside him. It quite overcame her for some moments. "My lord!--my
lord! I--I"----

"Take thine own time, daughter!" said the Bishop cheerily; "and begin,
if it so pleaseth thee, with thy recollection of what befell at the
wedding at the mill of Duthel. The prisoner Auchernach did then and
there strike down John Grant of Knockando without cause of provocation,
did he not?"

"My lord, he did strike down Knockando," said Helen; "but as I
chanced to watch them standing for some time, as if in talk together,
I observed their looks; and, were I to judge from what I saw, I
should hold that John Grant of Knockando had by his words so chafed
Auchernach, and worked upon his dormant ire, as to fret it into the
sudden outburst of that flame, the which blazed forth so openly to
the senses of all who were then present."

"Was he not rebuked by the good priest, thine uncle, for the outrage
of which he was then guilty?" demanded the Bishop.

"He was, my lord," replied Helen; "and in a sterner tone than he had
ever heard the priest use before. But ere mine uncle went to bed, on
the evening of that very night in which he was murdered, these ears
did privately hear him express a doubt whether he might not have been
too hasty in judging him, and he then uttered a fervent ejaculation
to Heaven for pardon if he had so erred."

"Heard ye no threat from the lips of Auchernach against thine
uncle?" demanded the Bishop.

"I did hear words which in mine agitation at the time I could not
well interpret," said Helen. "After the murder of mine uncle, I did,
in my distraction, recall and connect these words with the cruel deed
which had so swiftly followed them. But certain circumstances did
afterwards occur to satisfy me that the words,--'Old man! look that
thou dost not pay dear for thy favour to that new guest of thine!' were
meant by Auchernach as a friendly warning, and not as a threat."

"Against whom then dost thou believe that Auchernach's friendly
warning was given? if so thou judgest it to be," said the Bishop.

"Against him who now standeth beside the accused," said Helen Dunbar;
and rising from her chair as she said so, she turned round, and
drawing herself up to her full height, she regarded the individual she
was addressing with a firm and resolute look, and added in a clear,
distinct, and solemn voice,--"The warning of Auchernach was kindly
meant, and would to the holy saints that it had been taken as it
was intended! The warning of Auchernach was meant to guard against
the false arts of John Dhu Grant of Knockando there, whom I do here
fearlessly accuse as the real murderer of mine uncle!"

The murmurs of astonishment which ran through the assemblage at
this most unlooked for accusation may easily be imagined, as well
as the change that took place on the respective countenances of the
two prisoners.

"My guardian angel!" cried Auchernach, clasping his hands fervently,
and looking tenderly and gratefully towards Helen, his face suddenly
flushed with joy.

"Some deep conspiracy against me," murmured Knockando, his countenance
changing alternately from the deadly white of guilty fear to the
black expression of fiend-like ferocity. "A deep compact between the
murderer and his paramour! Where can the veriest shadow of proof be
found against my perfect innocence of this foul deed?"

"Let the sacred dignity of our tribunal be respected!" said the Bishop
sternly; "and let all such unseemly interruptions cease. Proceed
maiden! proceed to offer to us the testimony on which thou art bold
enough to make so strange and so determined an accusation."

"My lord," said Helen, still standing, and betraying deep agitation,
as in her modest and respectful address to the Bishop she recalled
the appalling circumstances; "I was the first person who entered mine
uncle's apartment on the morning which followed the fatal night of his
murder. When I did approach me to the bed I fancied that he slept;
for, as was not uncommon with him, he lay with the blessed crucifix
over his bosom. I lifted the holy emblem in my left hand, whilst with
my right I did remove the bed-clothes from his chin--when--when--when
beholding, as I did, the bloody work which had been done upon him,
I fell backwards on the floor in a swoon, and so firmly did I grasp
the crucifix to my bosom in mine unconscious agony, that those who
came to mine aid, called thither by my scream, found it so placed,
and it was carried with me to mine own apartment, and I so found it
when my senses were restored to me. That the crucifix had ever lain
that night upon mine uncle's breast at all, therefore, could have been
known only to myself alone; and to him who, during that fatal night,
removed it from his bosom for the purpose of doing the murder on him,
and who replaced it there after he had wrought the cruel deed."

"But how can this touch the Laird of Knockando?" demanded the Bishop
earnestly.

"My lord," said Helen, "some days after the murder, the Laird of
Knockando did force himself into my presence, under the false pretence
of bearing a message from the reverend lord prior. His object seemed to
be to whet my vengeance against the person who then lay accused of the
murder of mine uncle. It was then that, in the presence of my friend
and my servant, who are both now within the call of this tribunal,
prepared to support this my testimony, then it was, I say, that he
used expressions, the which were, for greater security, taken down
after he was gone,--'The wretch,' said he, 'The wretch who, lighting
down like some nocturnal fiend upon the sacred person of thine uncle,
and, reckless of the holy emblem of Christ which lay upon his bosom,
could put it aside, that he might plunge his dirk into the innocent
throat of his sacred servant, must not only die the death of a felon,
but he can never hope for mercy from Him whose blessed emblem he
hath outraged.' None but the murderer could have so circumstantially
described this most barbarous deed. John Dhu Grant of Knockando
did so describe it. Therefore is John Dhu Grant of Knockando the
murderer! On his head the blood of my murdered uncle doth loudly call
for that justice which it doth behoove man to do upon it. And may He
that died for us all, grant that mercy hereafter to his guilty soul
which his own relentless sentence would have denied to another."

As Helen Dunbar finished speaking, she fell back into her chair,
exhausted by her exertion to fulfil that duty which she had wound up
her mind to discharge. The murderer gasped for breath as if he was
undergoing suffocation; and his eyes started from their sockets with
the terrors which now overwhelmed him. The murmurs which burst from
those who were present being checked by the seneschal of the court, the
Bishop ordered Helen's servants, James and Janet, and also her friend,
to be all three severally called. Each of them were examined. The
members of the chapter conferred together for a few minutes apart;
and after they had resumed their seats on the tribunal, a death-like
silence prevailed, and the Bishop putting on his mitre, and leaning
on his crosier, began thus to speak:--

"After the full and patient probing which we have given to this
most mysterious case, it must be clear to all men who do now hear
us, that this holy tribunal hath before it, as its bounden duty,
to dismiss Lewis Grant of Auchernach, discharging him as free from
all taint or suspicion of any participation whatsoever in the foul
and barbarous murder of our pious brother, Priest Innes. And as it
is beyond our power to shut our eyes to the miraculous proof which
the Almighty in his wisdom hath caused the very murderer himself to
bear towards his own proper condemnation, we have no choice left but
to direct our bailie, the which we now hereby do, forthwith to return
John Dhu Grant of Knockando to the dungeon whence he was taken, thence
to remove him by to-morrow's earliest sun, and to convey him, under a
strong guard of our men-at-arms, to Elgin, there to be delivered into
the hands of the king's sheriff, that he may take measures to see that
the prisoner be submitted to the knowledge of an assize, to be by it
clenged or fouled of the crime laid to his charge, as the evidence
laid before it may determine. This we do without all prejudice to our
own claims to the full right of pit and gallows which belongeth to us;
but because this crime of murder, when not fresh and redhanded, being
to be considered as more especially one of the pleas of the Crown,
we do think it more seemly to leave it to the judges of the King's
Grace to execute justice upon the murderer."

The Laird of Knockando's countenance was all this time working
like that of a fiend, especially whilst the Bishop was delivering
this appalling judgment against him. He had no sooner heard it to
an end, than, putting his hand into his bosom, he plucked forth a
concealed dirk--that very weapon with which he had murdered the good
Priest Innes. He raised it aloft. Helen saw it glancing in the air,
and uttered a piercing shriek that rang in the groined roof of the
chapter-house. It saved her lover; for, as Knockando brought it down,
aimed with a desperate plunge at the heart of his rival, his intended
victim threw his body back, and so he most wonderfully escaped from
its fatal blade. But it fell not innocuous--it cleft the very skull
of a wretched lay-brother, who sat with his tablets below noting
down the minutes of the procedure, and the man dropped lifeless upon
the pavement. The perpetrator of this second murder was seized and
pinioned, and, being instantly tried red-handed as he was--his guilt
was established--he was carried out for shrift--confessed that his
first crime was done for the wicked purpose of revenging himself
against Auchernach by fixing upon him the guilt of the murder. After
which the convent-bell tolled dismally. A long procession of monks
chanting a hymn, followed by the criminal and the bourreau, guarded
by the seneschal and his men-at-arms was seen winding from the gate of
the Priory, and after a few short moments of prayer, he was forthwith
executed, without further mercy, on the gallow-hill.

I need not tell you that the Laird of Auchernach performed the part
of protector to Helen Dunbar during her homeward journey, and that so
soon as the days of mourning for her murdered uncle were fulfilled,
he received from her the right to act as her protector throughout the
longer journey of life. And if he had ever been supposed to be apt,
when provoked on certain occasions, to yield too hastily to that
indignation which chanced to be excited within him, the recollection
of the terrible events which I have narrated to you had the effect
of arming him ever afterwards with a degree of control over himself
which few men since his time have been known to possess.



                                THE END.



NOTES


[1] Cabar Fiadh, the head of the wild deer, the crest of the clan
MacKenzie.

[2] Fern.

[3] Good people, the propitiatory name usually given by the
superstitious peasants to the fairies.

[4] Strength.

[5] A dwelling only occupied in summer whilst feeding the cattle on
the highest hill-grazings. The same word as the Swiss chalet.

[6] Strange.





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