Dangle.—Egad, I think the interpreter is the harder to be understood of the two.
“I am not,” was my reflection, “transgressing her injunction so pathetically given, since I am but pursuing my own journey by the only open route.—If I have succeeded in recovering my father’s property, it still remains incumbent on me to see my Glasgow friend delivered from the situation in which he has involved himself on my account; besides, what other place of rest can I obtain for the night excepting at the little inn of Aberfoil? They also must stop there, since it is impossible for travellers on horseback to go farther—Well, then, we shall meet again—meet for the last time perhaps—But I shall see and hear her—I shall learn who this happy man is who exercises over her the authority of a husband—I shall learn if there remains, in the difficult course in which she seems engaged, any difficulty which my efforts may remove, or aught that I can do to express my gratitude for her generosity—for her disinterested friendship.”
As I reasoned thus with myself, colouring with every plausible pretext which occurred to my ingenuity my passionate desire once more to see and converse with my cousin, I was suddenly hailed by a touch on the shoulder; and the deep voice of a Highlander, who, walking still faster than I, though I was proceeding at a smart pace, accosted me with, “A braw night, Maister Osbaldistone—we have met at the mirk hour before now.”
There was no mistaking the tone of MacGregor; he had escaped the pursuit of his enemies, and was in full retreat to his own wilds and to his adherents. He had also contrived to arm himself, probably at the house of some secret adherent, for he had a musket on his shoulder, and the usual Highland weapons by his side. To have found myself alone with such a character in such a situation, and at this late hour in the evening, might not have been pleasant to me in any ordinary mood of mind; for, though habituated to think of Rob Roy in rather a friendly point of view, I will confess frankly that I never heard him speak but that it seemed to thrill my blood. The intonation of the mountaineers gives a habitual depth and hollowness to the sound of their words, owing to the guttural expression so common in their native language, and they usually speak with a good deal of emphasis. To these national peculiarities Rob Roy added a sort of hard indifference of accent and manner, expressive of a mind neither to be daunted, nor surprised, nor affected by what passed before him, however dreadful, however sudden, however afflicting. Habitual danger, with unbounded confidence in his own strength and sagacity, had rendered him indifferent to fear, and the lawless and precarious life he led had blunted, though its dangers and errors had not destroyed, his feelings for others. And it was to be remembered that I had very lately seen the followers of this man commit a cruel slaughter on an unarmed and suppliant individual.
Yet such was the state of my mind, that I welcomed the company of the outlaw leader as a relief to my own overstrained and painful thoughts; and was not without hopes that through his means I might obtain some clew of guidance through the maze in which my fate had involved me. I therefore answered his greeting cordially, and congratulated him on his late escape in circumstances when escape seemed impossible.
“Ay,” he replied, “there is as much between the craig and the woodie1 as there is between the cup and the lip. But my peril was less than you may think, being a stranger to this country. Of those that were summoned to take me, and to keep me, and to retake me again, there was a moiety, as cousin Nicol Jarvie calls it, that had nae will that I suld be either taen, or keepit fast, or retaen; and of tother moiety, there was as half was feared to stir me; and so I had only like the fourth part of fifty or sixty men to deal withal.”
“And enough, too, I should think,” replied I.
“I dinna ken that,” said he; “but I ken, that turn every ill-willer that I had amang them out upon the green before the Clachan of Aberfoil, I wad find them play with broadsword and target, one down and another come on.”
He now inquired into my adventures since we entered his country, and laughed heartily at my account of the battle we had in the inn, and at the exploits of the Bailie with the red-hot poker.
“Let Glasgow Flourish!” he exclaimed. “The curse of Cromwell on me, if I wad hae wished better sport than to see cousin Nicol Jarvie singe Iverach’s plaid, like a sheep’s head between a pair of tongs. But my cousin Jarvie,” he added, more gravely, “has some gentleman’s bluid in his veins, although he has been unhappily bred up to a peaceful and mechanical craft, which could not but blunt any pretty man’s spirit.—Ye may estimate the reason why I could not receive you at the Clachan of Aberfoil as I purposed. They had made a fine hosenet for me when I was absent twa or three days at Glasgow, upon the king’s business—But I think I broke up the league about their lugs—they’ll no be able to hound one clan against another as they hae dune. I hope soon to see the day when a’ Hielandmen will stand shouther to shouther. But what chanced next?”
I gave him an account of the arrival of Captain Thornton and his party, and the arrest of the Bailie and myself under pretext of our being suspicious persons; and upon his more special inquiry, I recollected the officer had mentioned that, besides my name sounding suspicious in his ears, he had orders to secure an old and young person, resembling our description. This again moved the outlaw’s risibility.
“As man lives by bread,” he said, “the buzzards have mistaen my friend the Bailie for his Excellency, and you for Diana Vernon—O, the most egregious night-howlets!”
“Miss Vernon?” said I, with hesitation, and trembling for the answer—“Does she still bear that name? She passed but now, along with a gentleman who seemed to use a style of authority.”
“Ay, ay,” answered Rob, “she’s under lawfu’ authority now; and full time, for she was a daft hempie—But she’s a mettle quean. It’s a pity his Excellency is a thought eldern. The like o’ yourself, or my son Hamish, wad be mair sortable in point of years.”
Here, then, was a complete downfall of those castles of cards which my fancy had, in despite of my reason, so often amused herself with building. Although in truth I had scarcely anything else to expect, since I could not suppose that Diana could be travelling in such a country, at such an hour, with any but one who had a legal title to protect her, I did not feel the blow less severely when it came; and MacGregor’s voice, urging me to pursue my story, sounded in my ears without conveying any exact import to my mind.
“You are ill,” he said at length, after he had spoken twice without receiving an answer; “this day’s wark has been ower muckle for ane doubtless unused to sic things.”
The tone of kindness in which this was spoken, recalling me to myself, and to the necessities of my situation, I continued my narrative as well as I could. Rob Roy expressed great exultation at the successful skirmish in the pass.
“They say,” he observed, “that king’s chaff is better than other folk’s corn; but I think that canna be said o’ king’s soldiers, if they let themselves be beaten wi’ a wheen auld carles that are past fighting, and bairns that are no come till’t, and wives wi’ their rocks and distaffs, the very wally-draigles o’ the countryside. And Dougal Gregor, too—wha wad hae thought there had been as muckle sense in his tatty-pow, that ne’er had a better covering than his ain shaggy hassock of hair!—But say away—though I dread what’s to come neist—for my Helen’s an incarnate devil when her bluid’s up—puir thing, she has ower muckle reason.”
I observed as much delicacy as I could in communicating to him the usage we had received, but I obviously saw the detail gave him great pain.
“I wad rather than a thousand merks,” he said, “that I had been at hame! To misguide strangers, and forbye a’, my ain natural cousin, that had showed me sic kindness—I wad rather they had burned half the Lennox in their folly! But this comes o’ trusting women and their bairns, that have neither measure nor reason in their dealings. However, it’s a’ owing to that dog of a gauger, wha betrayed me by pretending a message from your cousin Rashleigh, to meet him on the king’s affairs, whilk I thought was very like to be anent Garschattachin and a party of the Lennox declaring themselves for King James. Faith! but I ken’d I was clean beguiled when I heard the Duke was there; and when they strapped the horse-girth ower my arms, I might hae judged what was biding me; for I ken’d your kinsman, being, wi’ pardon, a slippery loon himself, is prone to employ those of his ain kidney—I wish he mayna hae been at the bottom o’ the ploy himsell—I thought the chield Morris looked devilish queer when I determined he should remain a wad, or hostage, for my safe back-coming. But I am come back, nae thanks to him, or them that employed him; and the question is, how the collector loon is to win back himsell—I promise him it will not be without a ransom.”
“Morris,” said I, “has already paid the last ransom which mortal man can owe.”
“Eh! What?” exclaimed my companion hastily; “what d’ye say? I trust it was in the skirmish he was killed?”
“He was slain in cold blood after the fight was over, Mr. Campbell.”
“Cold blood?—Damnation!” he said, muttering betwixt his teeth—“How fell that, sir? Speak out, sir, and do not Maister or Campbell me—my foot is on my native heath, and my name is MacGregor!”
His passions were obviously irritated; but without noticing the rudeness of his tone, I gave him a short and distinct account of the death of Morris. He struck the butt of his gun with great vehemence against the ground, and broke out—“I vow to God, such a deed might make one forswear kin, clan, country, wife, and bairns! And yet the villain wrought long for it. And what is the difference between warsling below the water wi’ a stane about your neck, and wavering in the wind wi’ a tether round it?—it’s but choking after a’, and he drees the doom he ettled for me. I could have wished, though, they had rather putten a ball through him, or a dirk; for the fashion of removing him will give rise to mony idle clavers—But every wight has his weird, and we maun a’ dee when our day comes—And naebody will deny that Helen MacGregor has deep wrongs to avenge.”
So saying, he seemed to dismiss the theme altogether from his mind, and proceeded to inquire how I got free from the party in whose hands he had seen me.
My story was soon told; and I added the episode of my having recovered the papers of my father, though I dared not trust my voice to name the name of Diana.
“I was sure ye wad get them,” said MacGregor;—“the letter ye brought me contained his Excellency’s pleasure to that effect and nae doubt it was my will to have aided in it. And I asked ye up into this glen on the very errand. But it’s like his Excellency has foregathered wi’ Rashleigh sooner than I expected.”
The first part of this answer was what most forcibly struck me.
“Was the letter I brought you, then, from this person you call his Excellency? Who is he? and what is his rank and proper name?”
“I am thinking,” said MacGregor, “that since ye dinna ken them already they canna be o’ muckle consequence to you, and sae I shall say naething on that score. But weel I wot the letter was frae his ain hand, or, having a sort of business of my ain on my hands, being, as ye weel may see, just as much as I can fairly manage, I canna say I would hae fashed mysell sae muckle about the matter.”
I now recollected the lights seen in the library—the various circumstances which had excited my jealousy—the glove—the agitation of the tapestry which covered the secret passage from Rashleigh’s apartment; and, above all, I recollected that Diana retired in order to write, as I then thought, the billet to which I was to have recourse in case of the last necessity. Her hours, then, were not spent in solitude, but in listening to the addresses of some desperate agent of Jacobitical treason, who was a secret resident within the mansion of her uncle! Other young women have sold themselves for gold, or suffered themselves to be seduced from their first love from vanity; but Diana had sacrificed my affections and her own to partake the fortunes of some desperate adventurer—to seek the haunts of freebooters through midnight deserts, with no better hopes of rank or fortune than that mimicry of both which the mock court of the Stuarts at St. Germains had in their power to bestow.
“I will see her,” I said internally, “if it be possible, once more. I will argue with her as a friend—as a kinsman—on the risk she is incurring, and I will facilitate her retreat to France, where she may, with more comfort and propriety, as well as safety, abide the issue of the turmoils which the political trepanner, to whom she has united her fate, is doubtless busied in putting into motion.”
“I conclude, then,” I said to MacGregor, after about five minutes’ silence on both sides, “that his Excellency, since you give me no other name for him, was residing in Osbaldistone Hall at the same time with myself?”
“To be sure—to be sure—and in the young lady’s apartment, as best reason was.” This gratuitous information was adding gall to bitterness. “But few,” added MacGregor, “ken’d he was derned there, save Rashleigh and Sir Hildebrand; for you were out o’ the question; and the young lads haena wit eneugh to ca’ the cat frae the cream—But it’s a bra’ auld-fashioned house, and what I specially admire is the abundance o’ holes and bores and concealments—ye could put twenty or thirty men in ae corner, and a family might live a week without finding them out—whilk, nae doubt, may on occasion be a special convenience. I wish we had the like o’ Osbaldistone Hall on the braes o’ Craig-Royston—But we maun gar woods and caves serve the like o’ us puir Hieland bodies.”
“I suppose his Excellency,” said I, “was privy to the first accident which befell”—
I could not help hesitating a moment.
“Ye were going to say Morris,” said Rob Roy coolly, for he was too much accustomed to deeds of violence for the agitation he had at first expressed to be of long continuance. “I used to laugh heartily at that reik; but I’ll hardly hae the heart to do’t again, since the ill-far’d accident at the Loch. Na, na—his Excellency ken’d nought o’ that ploy—it was a’ managed atween Rashleigh and mysell. But the sport that came after—and Rashleigh’s shift o’ turning the suspicion aff himself upon you, that he had nae grit favour to frae the beginning—and then Miss Die, she maun hae us sweep up a’ our spiders’ webs again, and set you out o’ the Justice’s claws—and then the frightened craven Morris, that was scared out o’ his seven senses by seeing the real man when he was charging the innocent stranger—and the gowk of a clerk—and the drunken carle of a justice—Ohon! ohon!—mony a laugh that job’s gien me—and now, a’ that I can do for the puir devil is to get some messes said for his soul.”
“May I ask,” said I, “how Miss Vernon came to have so much influence over Rashleigh and his accomplices as to derange your projected plan?”
“Mine! it was none of mine. No man can say I ever laid my burden on other folk’s shoulders—it was a’ Rashleigh’s doings. But, undoubtedly, she had great influence wi’ us baith on account of his Excellency’s affection, as weel as that she ken’d far ower mony secrets to be lightlied in a matter o’ that kind.—Deil tak him,” he ejaculated, by way of summing up, “that gies women either secret to keep or power to abuse—fules shouldna hae chapping-sticks.”
We were now within a quarter of a mile from the village, when three Highlanders, springing upon us with presented arms, commanded us to stand and tell our business. The single word Gregaragh, in the deep and commanding voice of my companion, was answered by a shout, or rather yell, of joyful recognition. One, throwing down his firelock, clasped his leader so fast round the knees, that he was unable to extricate himself, muttering, at the same time, a torrent of Gaelic gratulation, which every now and then rose into a sort of scream of gladness. The two others, after the first howling was over, set off literally with the speed of deers, contending which should first carry to the village, which a strong party of the MacGregors now occupied, the joyful news of Rob Roy’s escape and return. The intelligence excited such shouts of jubilation, that the very hills rung again, and young and old, men, women, and children, without distinction of sex or age, came running down the vale to meet us, with all the tumultuous speed and clamour of a mountain torrent. When I heard the rushing noise and yells of this joyful multitude approach us, I thought it a fitting precaution to remind MacGregor that I was a stranger, and under his protection. He accordingly held me fast by the hand, while the assemblage crowded around him with such shouts of devoted attachment, and joy at his return, as were really affecting; nor did he extend to his followers what all eagerly sought, the grasp, namely, of his hand, until he had made them understand that I was to be kindly and carefully used.
The mandate of the Sultan of Delhi could not have been more promptly obeyed. Indeed, I now sustained nearly as much inconvenience from their well-meant attentions as formerly from their rudeness. They would hardly allow the friend of their leader to walk upon his own legs, so earnest were they in affording me support and assistance upon the way; and at length, taking advantage of a slight stumble which I made over a stone, which the press did not permit me to avoid, they fairly seized upon me, and bore me in their arms in triumph towards Mrs. MacAlpine’s.
On arrival before her hospitable wigwam, I found power and popularity had its inconveniences in the Highlands, as everywhere else; for, before MacGregor could be permitted to enter the house where he was to obtain rest and refreshment, he was obliged to relate the story of his escape at least a dozen times over, as I was told by an officious old man, who chose to translate it at least as often for my edification, and to whom I was in policy obliged to seem to pay a decent degree of attention. The audience being at length satisfied, group after group departed to take their bed upon the heath, or in the neighbouring huts, some cursing the Duke and Garschattachin, some lamenting the probable danger of Ewan of Brigglands, incurred by his friendship to MacGregor, but all agreeing that the escape of Rob Roy himself lost nothing in comparison with the exploit of any one of their chiefs since the days of Dougal Ciar, the founder of his line.
The friendly outlaw, now taking me by the arm, conducted me into the interior of the hut. My eyes roved round its smoky recesses in quest of Diana and her companion; but they were nowhere to be seen, and I felt as if to make inquiries might betray some secret motives, which were best concealed. The only known countenance upon which my eyes rested was that of the Bailie, who, seated on a stool by the fireside, received with a sort of reserved dignity, the welcomes of Rob Roy, the apologies which he made for his indifferent accommodation, and his inquiries after his health.
“I am pretty weel, kinsman,” said the Bailie—“indifferent weel, I thank ye; and for accommodations, ane canna expect to carry about the Saut Market at his tail, as a snail does his caup;—and I am blythe that ye hae gotten out o’ the hands o’ your unfreends.”
“Weel, weel, then,” answered Roy, “what is’t ails ye, man—a’s weel that ends weel!—the warld will last our day—Come, take a cup o’ brandy—your father the deacon could take ane at an orra time.”
“It might be he might do sae, Robin, after fatigue—whilk has been my lot mair ways than ane this day. But,” he continued, slowly filling up a little wooden stoup which might hold about three glasses, “he was a moderate man of his bicker, as I am mysell—Here’s wussing health to ye, Robin” (a sip), “and your weelfare here and hereafter” (another taste), “and also to my cousin Helen—and to your twa hopefu’ lads, of whom mair anon.”
So saying, he drank up the contents of the cup with great gravity and deliberation, while MacGregor winked aside to me, as if in ridicule of the air of wisdom and superior authority which the Bailie assumed towards him in their intercourse, and which he exercised when Rob was at the head of his armed clan, in full as great, or a greater degree, than when he was at the Bailie’s mercy in the Tolbooth of Glasgow. It seemed to me, that MacGregor wished me, as a stranger, to understand, that if he submitted to the tone which his kinsman assumed, it was partly out of deference to the rights of hospitality, but still more for the jest’s sake.
As the Bailie set down his cup he recognised me, and giving me a cordial welcome on my return, he waived farther communication with me for the present.—“I will speak to your matters anon; I maun begin, as in reason, wi’ those of my kinsman.—I presume, Robin, there’s naebody here will carry aught o’ what I am gaun to say, to the town-council or elsewhere, to my prejudice or to yours?”
“Make yourself easy on that head, cousin Nicol,” answered MacGregor; “the tae half o’ the gillies winna ken what ye say, and the tother winna care—besides that, I wad stow the tongue out o’ the head o’ any o’ them that suld presume to say ower again ony speech held wi’ me in their presence.”
“Aweel, cousin, sic being the case, and Mr. Osbaldistone here being a prudent youth, and a safe friend—I’se plainly tell ye, ye are breeding up your family to gang an ill gate.” Then, clearing his voice with a preliminary hem, he addressed his kinsman, checking, as Malvolio proposed to do when seated in his state, his familiar smile with an austere regard of control.—“Ye ken yourself ye haud light by the law—and for my cousin Helen, forbye that her reception o’ me this blessed day—whilk I excuse on account of perturbation of mind, was muckle on the north side o’ friendly, I say (outputting this personal reason of complaint) I hae that to say o’ your wife”—
“Say nothing of her, kinsman,” said Rob, in a grave and stern tone, “but what is befitting a friend to say, and her husband to hear. Of me you are welcome to say your full pleasure.”
“Aweel, aweel,” said the Bailie, somewhat disconcerted, “we’se let that be a pass-over—I dinna approve of making mischief in families. But here are your twa sons, Hamish and Robin, whilk signifies, as I’m gien to understand, James and Robert—I trust ye will call them sae in future—there comes nae gude o’ Hamishes, and Eachines, and Angusses, except that they’re the names ane aye chances to see in the indictments at the Western Circuits for cow-lifting, at the instance of his majesty’s advocate for his majesty’s interest. Aweel, but the twa lads, as I was saying, they haena sae muckle as the ordinar grunds, man, of liberal education—they dinna ken the very multiplication table itself, whilk is the root of a’ usefu’ knowledge, and they did naething but laugh and fleer at me when I tauld them my mind on their ignorance—It’s my belief they can neither read, write, nor cipher, if sic a thing could be believed o’ ane’s ain connections in a Christian land.”
“If they could, kinsman,” said MacGregor, with great indifference, “their learning must have come o’ free will, for whar the deil was I to get them a teacher?—wad ye hae had me put on the gate o’ your Divinity Hall at Glasgow College, ‘Wanted, a tutor for Rob Roy’s bairns?’”
“Na, kinsman,” replied Mr. Jarvie, “but ye might hae sent the lads whar they could hae learned the fear o’ God, and the usages of civilised creatures. They are as ignorant as the kyloes ye used to drive to market, or the very English churls that ye sauld them to, and can do naething whatever to purpose.”
“Umph!” answered Rob; “Hamish can bring doun a black-cock when he’s on the wing wi’ a single bullet, and Rob can drive a dirk through a twa-inch board.”
“Sae muckle the waur for them, cousin!—sae muckle the waur for them baith!” answered the Glasgow merchant in a tone of great decision; “an they ken naething better than that, they had better no ken that neither. Tell me yourself, Rob, what has a’ this cutting, and stabbing, and shooting, and driving of dirks, whether through human flesh or fir deals, dune for yourself?—and werena ye a happier man at the tail o’ your nowte-bestial, when ye were in an honest calling, than ever ye hae been since, at the head o’ your Hieland kernes and gally-glasses?”
I observed that MacGregor, while his well-meaning kinsman spoke to him in this manner, turned and writhed his body like a man who indeed suffers pain, but is determined no groan shall escape his lips; and I longed for an opportunity to interrupt the well-meant, but, as it was obvious to me, quite mistaken strain, in which Jarvie addressed this extraordinary person. The dialogue, however, came to an end without my interference.
“And sae,” said the Bailie, “I hae been thinking, Rob, that as it may be ye are ower deep in the black book to win a pardon, and ower auld to mend yourself, that it wad be a pity to bring up twa hopefu’ lads to sic a godless trade as your ain, and I wad blythely tak them for prentices at the loom, as I began mysell, and my father the deacon afore me, though, praise to the Giver, I only trade now as wholesale dealer—And—and”—
He saw a storm gathering on Rob’s brow, which probably induced him to throw in, as a sweetener of an obnoxious proposition, what he had reserved to crown his own generosity, had it been embraced as an acceptable one;—“and Robin, lad, ye needna look sae glum, for I’ll pay the prentice-fee, and never plague ye for the thousand merks neither.”
“Ceade millia diaoul, hundred thousand devils!” exclaimed Rob, rising and striding through the hut, “My sons weavers!—Millia molligheart!—but I wad see every loom in Glasgow, beam, traddles, and shuttles, burnt in hell-fire sooner!”
With some difficulty I made the Bailie, who was preparing a reply, comprehend the risk and impropriety of pressing our host on this topic, and in a minute he recovered, or reassumed, his serenity of temper.
“But ye mean weel—ye mean weel,” said he; “so gie me your hand, Nicol, and if ever I put my sons apprentice, I will gie you the refusal o’ them. And, as you say, there’s the thousand merks to be settled between us.— Here, Eachin MacAnaleister, bring me my sporran.”
The person he addressed, a tall, strong mountaineer, who seemed to act as MacGregor’s lieutenant, brought from some place of safety a large leathern pouch, such as Highlanders of rank wear before them when in full dress, made of the skin of the sea-otter, richly garnished with silver ornaments and studs.
“I advise no man to attempt opening this sporran till he has my secret,” said Rob Roy; and then twisting one button in one direction, and another in another, pulling one stud upward, and pressing another downward, the mouth of the purse, which was bound with massive silver plate, opened and gave admittance to his hand. He made me remark, as if to break short the subject on which Bailie Jarvie had spoken, that a small steel pistol was concealed within the purse, the trigger of which was connected with the mounting, and made part of the machinery, so that the weapon would certainly be discharged, and in all probability its contents lodged in the person of any one, who, being unacquainted with the secret, should tamper with the lock which secured his treasure. “This,” said he touching the pistol—“this is the keeper of my privy purse.”
The simplicity of the contrivance to secure a furred pouch, which could have been ripped open without any attempt on the spring, reminded me of the verses in the Odyssey, where Ulysses, in a yet ruder age, is content to secure his property by casting a curious and involved complication of cordage around the sea-chest in which it was deposited.
The Bailie put on his spectacles to examine the mechanism, and when he had done, returned it with a smile and a sigh, observing—“Ah! Rob, had ither folk’s purses been as weel guarded, I doubt if your sporran wad hae been as weel filled as it kythes to be by the weight.”
“Never mind, kinsman,” said Rob, laughing; “it will aye open for a friend’s necessity, or to pay a just due—and here,” he added, pulling out a rouleau of gold, “here is your ten hundred merks—count them, and see that you are full and justly paid.”
Mr. Jarvie took the money in silence, and weighing it in his hand for an instant, laid it on the table, and replied, “Rob, I canna tak it—I downa intromit with it—there can nae gude come o’t—I hae seen ower weel the day what sort of a gate your gowd is made in—ill-got gear ne’er prospered; and, to be plain wi’ you, I winna meddle wi’t—it looks as there might be bluid on’t.”
“Troutsho!” said the outlaw, affecting an indifference which perhaps he did not altogether feel; “it’s gude French gowd, and ne’er was in Scotchman’s pouch before mine. Look at them, man—they are a’ louis-d’ors, bright and bonnie as the day they were coined.”
“The waur, the waur—just sae muckle the waur, Robin,” replied the Bailie, averting his eyes from the money, though, like Cæsar on the Lupercal, his fingers seemed to itch for it—“Rebellion is waur than witchcraft, or robbery either; there’s gospel warrant for’t.”
“Never mind the warrant, kinsman,” said the freebooter; “you come by the gowd honestly, and in payment of a just debt—it came from the one king, you may gie it to the other, if ye like; and it will just serve for a weakening of the enemy, and in the point where puir King James is weakest too, for, God knows, he has hands and hearts eneugh, but I doubt he wants the siller.”
“He’ll no get mony Hielanders then, Robin,” said Mr. Jarvie, as, again replacing his spectacles on his nose, he undid the rouleau, and began to count its contents.
“Nor Lowlanders neither,” said MacGregor, arching his eyebrow, and, as he looked at me, directing a glance towards Mr. Jarvie, who, all unconscious of the ridicule, weighed each piece with habitual scrupulosity; and having told twice over the sum, which amounted to the discharge of his debt, principal and interest, he returned three pieces to buy his kinswoman a gown, as he expressed himself, and a brace more for the twa bairns, as he called them, requesting they might buy anything they liked with them except gunpowder. The Highlander stared at his kinsman’s unexpected generosity, but courteously accepted his gift, which he deposited for the time in his well-secured pouch.
The Bailie next produced the original bond for the debt, on the back of which he had written a formal discharge, which, having subscribed himself, he requested me to sign as a witness. I did so, and Bailie Jarvie was looking anxiously around for another, the Scottish law requiring the subscription of two witnesses to validate either a bond or acquittance. “You will hardly find a man that can write save ourselves within these three miles,” said Rob, “but I’ll settle the matter as easily;” and, taking the paper from before his kinsman, he threw it in the fire. Bailie Jarvie stared in his turn, but his kinsman continued, “That’s a Hieland settlement of accounts. The time might come, cousin, were I to keep a’ these charges and discharges, that friends might be brought into trouble for having dealt with me.”
The Bailie attempted no reply to this argument, and our supper now appeared in a style of abundance, and even delicacy, which, for the place, might be considered as extraordinary. The greater part of the provisions were cold, intimating they had been prepared at some distance; and there were some bottles of good French wine to relish pasties of various sorts of game, as well as other dishes. I remarked that MacGregor, while doing the honours of the table with great and anxious hospitality, prayed us to excuse the circumstance that some particular dish or pasty had been infringed on before it was presented to us. “You must know,” said he to Mr. Jarvie, but without looking towards me, “you are not the only guests this night in the MacGregor’s country, whilk, doubtless, ye will believe, since my wife and the twa lads would otherwise have been maist ready to attend you, as weel beseems them.”
Bailie Jarvie looked as if he felt glad at any circumstance which occasioned their absence; and I should have been entirely of his opinion, had it not been that the outlaw’s apology seemed to imply they were in attendance on Diana and her companion, whom even in my thoughts I could not bear to designate as her husband.
While the unpleasant ideas arising from this suggestion counteracted the good effects of appetite, welcome, and good cheer, I remarked that Rob Roy’s attention had extended itself to providing us better bedding than we had enjoyed the night before. Two of the least fragile of the bedsteads, which stood by the wall of the hut, had been stuffed with heath, then in full flower, so artificially arranged, that, the flowers being uppermost, afforded a mattress at once elastic and fragrant. Cloaks, and such bedding as could be collected, stretched over this vegetable couch, made it both soft and warm. The Bailie seemed exhausted by fatigue. I resolved to adjourn my communication to him until next morning; and therefore suffered him to betake himself to bed so soon as he had finished a plentiful supper. Though tired and harassed, I did not myself feel the same disposition to sleep, but rather a restless and feverish anxiety, which led to some farther discourse betwixt me and MacGregor.
|1. i.e. The throat and the withy. Twigs of willow, such as bind faggots, were often used for halters in Scotland and Ireland, being a sage economy of hemp. [back]|