Volume I

Letter XI

The Same to the Same

Walter Scott

YOU are now to conceive us proceeding in our different directions across the bare downs. Yonder flies little Benjie to the northward with Hemp scampering at his heels, both running as if for dear life so long as the rogue is within sight of his employer, and certain to take the walk very easy so soon as he is out of ken. Stepping westward, you see Maggie’s tall form and high-crowned hat, relieved by the fluttering of her plaid upon the left shoulder, darkening as the distance diminishes her size and as the level sunbeams begin to sink upon the sea. She is taking her quiet journey to the Shepherd’s Bush.

Then, stoutly striding over the lea, you have a full view of Darsie Latimer, with his new acquaintance, Wandering Willie, who, bating that he touched the ground now and then with his staff, not in a doubtful groping manner, but with the confident air of an experienced pilot, heaving the lead when he has the soundings by heart, walks as firmly and boldly as if he possessed the eyes of Argus. There they go, each with his violin slung at his back, but one of them at least totally ignorant whither their course is directed.

And wherefore did you enter so keenly into such a mad frolic? says my wise counsellor.—Why, I think, upon the whole, that as a sense of loneliness, and a longing for that kindness which is interchanged in society, led me to take up my temporary residence at Mount Sharon, the monotony of my life there, the quiet simplicity of the conversation of the Geddeses, and the uniformity of their amusements and employments, wearied out my impatient temper, and prepared me for the first escapade which chance might throw in my way.

What would I have given that I could have procured that solemn grave visage of thine, to dignify this joke, as it has done full many a one of thine own! Thou hast so happy a knack of doing the most foolish things in the wisest manner, that thou mightst pass thy extravagances for rational actions, even in the eyes of Prudence herself.

From the direction which my guide observed, I began to suspect that the dell at Brokenburn was our probable destination; and it became important to me to consider whether I could, with propriety, or even perfect safety, intrude myself again upon the hospitality of my former host. I therefore asked Willie whether we were bound for the laird’s, as folk called him.

“Do ye ken the laird?” said Willie, interrupting a sonata of Corelli, of which he had whistled several bars with great precision.

“I know the laird a little,” said I; “and therefore I was doubting whether I ought to go to his town in disguise.”

“I should doubt, not a little only, but a great deal, before I took ye there, my chap,” said Wandering Willie; “for I am thinking it wad be worth little less than broken banes baith to you and me. Na, na, chap, we are no ganging to the laird’s, but to a blithe birling at the Brokenburn-foot, where there will be mony a braw lad and lass; and maybe there may be some of the laird’s folks, for he never comes to sic splores himsell. He is all for fowling-piece and salmon-spear, now that pike and musket are out of the question.”

“He has been at soldier, then?” said I.

“I’se warrant him a soger,” answered Willie; “but take my advice, and speer as little about him as he does about you. Best to let sleeping dogs lie. Better say naething about the laird, my man, and tell me instead, what sort of a chap ye are that are sae ready to cleik in with an auld gaberlunzie fiddler? Maggie says ye’re gentle, but a shilling maks a’ the difference that Maggie kens between a gentle and a semple, and your crowns wad mak ye a prince of the blood in her een. But I am ane that ken full weel that ye may wear good claithes, and have a saft hand, and yet that may come of idleness as weel as gentrice.”

I told him my name, with the same addition I had formerly given to Mr. Joshua Geddes; that I was a law-student, tired of my studies, and rambling about for exercise and amusement.

“And are ye in the wont of drawing up wi’ a’ the gangrel bodies that ye meet on the high-road, or find cowering in a sand-bunker upon the links?” demanded Willie.

“Oh, no; only with honest folks like yourself, Willie,” was my reply.

“Honest folks like me! How do ye ken whether I am honest, or what I am? I may be the deevil himsell for what ye ken; for he has power to come disguised like an angel of light; and besides he is a prime fiddler. He played a sonata to Corelli, ye ken.”

There was something odd in this speech, and the tone in which it was said. It seemed as if my companion was not always in his constant mind, or that he was willing to try if he could frighten me. I laughed at the extravagance of his language, however, and asked him in reply, if he was fool enough to believe that the foul fiend would play so silly a masquerade.

“Ye ken little about it—little about it,” said the old man, shaking his head and beard, and knitting his brows, “I could tell ye something about that.”

What his wife mentioned of his being a tale-teller, as well as a musician, now occurred to me; and as you know I like tales of superstition, I begged to have a specimen of his talent as we went along.

“It is very true,” said the blind man, “that when I am tired of scraping thairm or singing ballants, I whiles mak a tale serve the turn among the country bodies; and I have some fearsome anes, that make the auld carlines shake on the settle, and the bits o’ bairns skirl on their minnies out frae their beds. But this that I am gaun to tell you was a thing that befell in our ain house in my father’s time—that is, my father was then a hafflins callant; and I tell it to you that it may be a lesson to you, that are but a young, thoughtless chap, wha ye draw up wi’ on a lonely road; for muckle was the dool and care that came o’t to my gudesire.”

He commenced his tale accordingly, in a distinct narrative tone of voice which he raised and depressed with considerable skill; at times sinking almost into a whisper, and turning his clear but sightless eyeballs upon my face, as if it had been possible for him to witness the impression which his narrative made upon my features. I will not spare you a syllable of it, although it be of the longest; so I make a dash—and begin



Ye maun have heard of Sir Robert Redgauntlet of that Ilk, who lived in these parts before the dear years. The country will lang mind him; and our fathers used to draw breath thick if ever they heard him named. He was out wi’ the Hielandmen in Montrose’s time; and again he was in the hills wi’ Glencairn in the saxteen hundred and fifty-twa; and sae when King Charles the Second came in, wha was in sic favour as the Laird of Redgauntlet? He was knighted at Lonon court, wi’ the king’s ain sword; and being a redhot prelatist, he came down here, rampauging like a lion, with commissions of lieutenancy (and of lunacy, for what I ken) to put down a’ the Whigs and Covenanters in the country. Wild wark they made of it; for the Whigs were as dour as the Cavaliers were fierce, and it was which should first tire the other. Redgauntlet was ay for the strong hand; and his name is kend as wide in the country as Claverhouse’s or Tam Dalyell’s. Glen, nor dargle, nor mountain, nor cave, could hide the puir hill-folk when Redgauntlet was out with bugle and bloodhound after them, as if they had been sae mony deer. And troth when they fand them, they didna mak muckle mair ceremony than a Hielandman wi’ a roebuck—it was just, “Will ye tak the test?”—if not, “Make ready—present—fire!”—and there lay the recusant.

Far and wide was Sir Robert hated and feared. Men thought he had a direct compact with Satan—that he was proof against steel—and that bullets happed aff his buff-coat like hailstanes from a hearth—that he had a mear that would turn a hare on the side of Carrifra-gawns1—and muckle to the same purpose, of whilk mair anon. The best blessing they wared on him was, “Deil scowp wi’ Redgauntlet!” He wasna a bad master to his ain folk, though, and was weel aneugh liked by his tenants; and as for the lackies and troopers that raid out wi’ him to the persecutions, as the Whigs caa’d those killing times, they wad hae drunken themsells blind to his health at ony time.

Now you are to ken that my gudesire lived on Redgauntlet’s grund—they ca’ the place Primrose Knowe. We had lived on the grund, and under the Redgauntlets, since the riding days, and lang before. It was a pleasant bit; and I think the air is callerer and fresher there than onywhere else in the country. It’s a’ deserted now; and I sat on the broken door-cheek three days since, and was glad I couldna see the plight the place was in; but that’s a’ wide o’ the mark. There dwelt my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, a rambling, rattling chiel’ he had been in his young days, and could play weel on the pipes; he was famous at “Hoopers and Girders”—a’ Cumberland couldna, touch him at “Jockie Lattin”—and he had the finest finger for the back-lilt between Berwick and Carlisle. The like o’ Steenie wasna the sort that they made Whigs o’. And so he became a Tory, as they ca’ it, which we now ca’ Jacobites, just out of a kind of needcessity, that he might belang to some side or other. He had nae ill will to the Whig bodies, and liked little to see the blude rin, though, being obliged to follow Sir Robert in hunting and hoisting, watching and warding, he saw muckle mischief, and maybe did some, that he couldna avoid.

Now Steenie was a kind of favourite with his master, and kend a’ the folks about the castle, and was often sent for to play the pipes when they were at their merriment. Auld Dougal MacCallum, the butler, that had followed Sir Robert through gude and ill, thick and thin, pool and stream, was specially fond of the pipes, and ay gae my gudesire his gude word wi’ the laird; for Dougal could turn his master round his finger.

Weel, round came the Revolution, and it had like to have broken the hearts baith of Dougal and his master. But the change was not a’thegether sae great as they feared, and other folk thought for. The Whigs made an unco crawing what they wad do with their auld enemies, and in special wi’ Sir Robert Redgauntlet. But there were ower mony great folks dipped in the same doings, to mak a spick and span new warld. So Parliament passed it a’ ower easy; and Sir Robert, bating that he was held to hunting foxes instead of Covenanters, remained just the man he was.2 His revel was as loud, and his hall as weel lighted, as ever it had been, though maybe he lacked the fines of the nonconformists, that used to come to stock his larder and cellar; for it is certain he began to be keener about the rents than his tenants used to find him before, and they behoved to be prompt to the rent-day, or else the laird wasna pleased. And he was sic an awsome body, that naebody cared to anger him; for the oaths he swore, and the rage that he used to get into, and the looks that he put on, made men sometimes think him a devil incarnate.

Weel, my gudesire was nae manager—no that he was a very great misguider—but he hadna the saving gift, and he got twa terms’ rent in arrear. He got the first brash at Whitsunday put ower wi’ fair word and piping; but when Martinmas came, there was a summons from the grund-officer to come wi’ the rent on a day preceese, or else Steenie behoved to flit. Sair wark he had to get the siller; but he was weel-freended, and at last he got the haill scraped thegether—a thousand merks—the maist of it was from a neighbour they ca’d Laurie Lapraik—a sly tod. Laurie had walth o’ gear—could hunt wi’ the hound and rin wi’ the hare—and be Whig or Tory, saunt or sinner, as the wind stood. He was a professor in this Revolution warld, but he liked an orra sough of this warld, and a tune on the pipes weel aneugh at a bytime; and abune a’, he thought he had gude security for the siller he lent my gudesire ower the stocking at Primrose Knowe.

Away trots my gudesire to Redgauntlet Castle wi’ a heavy purse and a light heart, glad to be out of the laird’s danger. Weel, the first thing he learned at the castle was, that Sir Robert had fretted himsell into a fit of the gout, because he did not appear before twelve’ o’clock. It wasna a’thegether for sake of the money, Dougal thought; but because he didna like to part wi’ my gudesire aff the grund. Dougal was glad to see Steenie, and brought him into the great oak parlour, and there sat the laird his leesome lane, excepting that he had beside him a great, ill-favoured jackanape, that was a special pet of his; a cankered beast it was, and mony an ill-natured trick it played—ill to please it was, and easily angered—ran about the haill castle, chattering and yowling, and pinching, and biting folk, specially before ill weather, or disturbances in the state. Sir Robert caa’d it Major Weir, after the warlock that was burnt;3 and few folk liked either the name or the conditions of the creature—they thought there was something in it by ordinar—and my gudesire was not just easy in mind when the door shut on him, and he saw himself in the room wi’ naebody but the laird, Dougal MacCallum, and the major, a thing that hadna chanced to him before.

Sir Robert sat, or, I should say, lay, in a great armed chair, wi’ his grand velvet gown, and his feet on a cradle; for he had baith gout and gravel, and his face looked as gash and ghastly as Satan’s. Major Weir sat opposite to him, in a red laced coat, and the laird’s wig on his head; and ay as Sir Robert girned wi’ pain, the jackanape girned too, like a sheep’s-head between a pair of tangs—an ill-faur’d, fearsome couple they were. The laird’s buff-coat was hung on a pin behind him, and his broadsword and his pistols within reach; for he keepit up the auld fashion of having the weapons ready, and a horse saddled day and night, just as he used to do when he was able to loup on horseback, and away after ony of the hill-folk he could get speerings of. Some said it was for fear of the Whigs taking vengeance, but I judge it was just his auld custom—he wasna, gien to fear onything. The rental-book, wi’ its black cover and brass clasps, was lying beside him; and a book of sculduddry sangs was put betwixt the leaves, to keep it open at the place where it bore evidence against the Goodman of Primrose Knowe, as behind the hand with his mails and duties. Sir Robert gave my gudesire a look, as if he would have withered his heart in his bosom. Ye maun ken he had a way of bending his brows, that men saw the visible mark of a horseshoe in his forehead, deep dinted, as if it had been stamped there.

“Are ye come light-handed, ye son of a toom whistle?” said Sir Robert. “Zounds! if you are——”

My gudesire, with as gude acountenance as he could put on, made a leg, and placed the bag of money on the table wi’ a dash, like a man that does something clever. The laird drew it to him hastily—“Is it all here, Steenie, man?”

“Your honour will find it right,” said my gudesire.

“Here, Dougal,” said the laird, “gie Steenie a tass of brandy downstairs, till I count the siller and write the receipt.”

But they werena weel out of the room, when Sir Robert gied a yelloch that garr’d the castle rock. Back ran Dougal—in flew the livery-men—yell on yell gied the laird, ilk ane mair awfu’ than the ither. My gudesire knew not whether to stand or flee, but he ventured back into the parlour, where a’ was gaun hirdy-girdie—naebody to say “come in,” or “gae out.” Terribly the laird roared for cauld water to his feet, and wine to cool his throat; and Hell, hell, hell, and its flames, was ay the word in his mouth. They brought him water, and when they plunged his swollen feet into the tub, he cried out it was burning; and folk say that it did bubble and sparkle like a seething cauldron. He flung the cup at Dougal’s head, and said he had given him blood instead of burgundy; and, sure aneugh, the lass washed clotted blood aff the carpet; the neist day. The jackanape they caa’d Major Weir, it jibbered and cried as if it was mocking its master; my gudesire’s head was like to turn—he forgot baith siller and receipt, and downstairs he banged; but as he ran, the shrieks came faint and fainter; there was a deep-drawn shivering groan, and word gaed through the castle that the laird was dead.

Weel, away came my gudesire, wi’ his finger in his mouth, and his best hope was that Dougal had seen the money-bag, and heard the laird speak of writing the receipt. The young laird, now Sir John, came from Edinburgh, to see things put to rights. Sir John and his father never gree’d weel. Sir John had been bred an advocate, and afterwards sat in the last Scots Parliament and voted for the Union, having gotten, it was thought, a rug of the compensations—if his father could have come out of his grave, he would have brained him for it on his awn hearthstane. Some thought it was easier counting with the auld rough knight than the fair-spoken young ane—but mair of that anon.

Dougal MacCallum, poor body, neither grat nor grained, but gaed about the house looking like a corpse, but directing, as was his duty, a’ the order of the grand funeral. Now Dougal looked ay waur and waur when night was coming, and was ay the last to gang to his bed, whilk was in a little round just opposite the chamber of dais, whilk his master occupied while he was living, and where he now lay in state, as they caa’d it, weel-a-day! The night before the funeral, Dougal could keep his awn counsel nae langer; he came doun with his proud spirit, and fairly asked auld Hutcheon to sit in his room with him for an hour. When they were in the round, Dougal took ae tass of brandy to himsell, and gave another to Hutcheon, and wished him all health and lang life, and said that, for himsell, he wasna lang for this world; for that, every night since Sir Robert’s death, his silver call had sounded from the state chamber, just as it used to do at nights in his lifetime, to call Dougal to help to turn him in his bed. Dougal said that being alone with the dead on that floor of the tower (for naebody cared to wake Sir Robert Redgauntlet like another corpse) he had never daured to answer the call, but that now his conscience checked him for neglecting his duty; for, “though death breaks service,” said MacCallum, “it shall never break my service to Sir Robert; and I will answer his next whistle, so be you will stand by me, Hutcheon.”

Hutcheon had nae will to the wark, but he had stood by Dougal in battle and broil, and he wad not fail him at this pinch; so down the carles sat ower a stoup of brandy, and Hutcheon, who was something of a clerk, would have read a chapter of the Bible; but Dougal would hear naething but a blaud of Davie Lindsay, whilk was the waur preparation.

When midnight came, and the house was quiet as the grave, sure enough the silver whistle sounded as sharp and shrill as if Sir Robert was blowing it, and up got the twa auld serving-men, and tottered into the room where the dead man lay. Hutcheon saw aneugh at the first glance; for there were torches in the room, which showed him the foul fiend, in his ain shape, sitting on the laird’s coffin! Ower he cowped as if he had been dead. He could not tell how lang he lay in a trance at the door, but when he gathered himself, he cried on his neighbour, and getting nae answer, raised the house, when Dougal was found lying dead within twa steps of the bed where his master’s coffin was placed. As for the whistle, it was gaen anes and ay; but mony a time was it heard at the top of the house on the bartizan, and amang the auld chimneys and turrets where the howlets have their nests. Sir John hushed the matter up, and the funeral passed over without mair bogle-wark.

But when a’ was ower, and the laird was beginning to settle his affairs, every tenant was called up for his arrears, and my gudesire for the full sum that stood against him in the rental-book. Weel, away he trots to the castle, to tell his story, and there he is introduced to Sir John, sitting in his father’s chair, in deep mourning, with weepers and hanging cravat, and a small wallring rapier by his side, instead of the auld broadsword that had a hundredweight of steel about it, what with blade, chape, and basket-hilt. I have heard their communing so often tauld ower, that I almost think I was there mysell, though I couldna be born at the time. (In fact, Alan, my companion mimicked, with a good deal of humour, the flattering, conciliating tone of the tenant’s address, and the hypocritical melancholy of the laird’s reply. His grandfather, he said, had, while he spoke, his eye fixed on the rental-book, as if it were a mastiff-dog that he was afraid would spring up and bite him).

“I wuss ye joy, sir, of the head seat, and the white loaf, and the braid lairdship. Your father was a kind man to friends and followers; muckle grace to you, Sir John, to fill his shoon—his boots, I suld say, for he seldom wore shoon, unless it were muils when he had the gout.”

“Aye, Steenie,” quoth the laird, sighing deeply, and putting his napkin to his een, “his was a sudden call, and he will be missed in the country; no time to set his house in order—weel prepared Godward, no doubt, which is the root of the matter—but left us behind a tangled heap to wind, Steenie.—Hem! hem! We maun go to business, Steenie; much to do, and little time to do it in.”

Here he opened the fatal volume. I have heard of a thing they call Doomsday Book—I am clear it has been a rental of back-ganging tenants.

“Stephen,” said Sir John, still in the same soft, sleekit tone of voice—“Stephen Stevenson, or Steenson, ye are down here for a year’s rent behind the hand—due at last term.”

Stephen. “Please your honour, Sir John, I paid it to your father.”

Sir John. “Ye took a receipt, then, doubtless, Stephen; and can produce it?”

Stephen. “Indeed I hadna time, an it like your honour; for nae sooner had I set doun the siller, and just as his honour, Sir Robert, that’s gaen, drew it till him to count it, and write out the receipt, he was ta’en wi’ the pains that removed him.”

“That was unlucky,” said Sir John, after a pause. “But ye maybe paid it in the presence of somebody, I want but a talis qualis evidence, Stephen. I would go ower strictly to work with no poor man.”

Stephen. “Troth, Sir John, there was naebody in the room but Dougal MacCallum the butler. But, as your honour kens, he has e’en followed his auld master.

“Very unlucky again, Stephen,” said Sir John, without altering his voice a single note. “The man to whom ye paid the money is dead—and the man who witnessed the payment is dead too—and the siller, which should have been to the fore, is neither seen nor heard tell of in the repositories. How am I to believe a’ this?”

Stephen. “I dinna, ken, your honour; but there is a bit memorandum note of the very coins; for, God help me! I had to borrow out of twenty purses; and I am sure that ilka man there set down will take his grit oath for what purpose I borrowed the money.”

Sir John. “I have little doubt ye borrowed the money, Steenie. It is the payment to my father that I want to have some proof of.”

Stephen. “The siller maun be about the house, Sir John. And since your honour never got it, and his honour that was canna have taen it wi’ him, maybe some of the family may have seen it.”

Sir John. “We will examine the servants, Stephen; that is but reasonable.”

But lackey and lass, and page and groom, all denied stoutly that they had ever seen such a bag of money as my gudesire described. What was waur, he had unluckily not mentioned to any living soul of them his purpose of paying his rent. Ae quean had noticed something under his arm, but she took it for the pipes.

Sir John Redgauntlet ordered the servants out of the room, and then said to my gudesire, “Now, Steenie, ye see ye have fair play; and, as I have little doubt ye ken better where to find the siller than ony other body, I beg, in fair terms, and for your own sake, that you will end this fasherie; for, Stephen, ye maun pay or flit.”

“The Lord forgie your opinion,” said Stephen, driven almost to his wit’s end—“I am an honest man.”

“So am I, Stephen,” said his honour; “and so are all the folks in the house, I hope. But if there be a knave amongst us, it must be he that tells the story he cannot prove.” He paused, and then added, mair sternly, “If I understand your trick, sir, you want to take advantage of some malicious reports concerning things in this family, and particularly respecting my father’s sudden death, thereby to cheat me out of the money, and perhaps take away my character, by insinuating that I have received the rent I am demanding. Where do you suppose this money to be? I insist upon knowing.”

My gudesire saw everything look so muckle against him, that he grew nearly desperate—however, he shifted from one foot to another, looked to every corner of the room, and made no answer.

“Speak out, sirrah,” said the laird, assuming a look of his father’s, a very particular ane, which he had when he was angry—it seemed as if the wrinkles of his frown made that selfsame fearful shape of a horse’s shoe in the middle of his brow;—“Speak out, sir! I will know your thoughts;—do you suppose that I have this money?”

“Far be it frae me to say so,” said Stephen.

“Do you charge any of my people with having taken it?”

“I wad be laith to charge them that may be innocent,” said my gudesire; “and if there be any one that is guilty, I have nae proof.”

“Somewhere the money must be, if there is a word of truth in your story,” said Sir John; “I ask where you think it is—and demand a correct answer?”

“In hell, if you will have my thoughts of it,” said my gudesire, driven to extremity, “in hell! with your father, his jackanape, and his silver whistle.”

Down the stairs he ran (for the parlour was nae place for him after such a word) and he heard the laird swearing blood and wounds behind him, as fast; as ever did Sir Robert, and roaring for the bailie and the baron-officer.

Away rode my gudesire to his chief creditor (him they ca’d Laurie Lapraik) to try if he could make onything out of him; but when he tauld his story, he got but the worst word in his wame—thief, beggar, and dyvour, were the saftest terms; and to the boot of these hard terms, Laurie brought up the auld story of his dipping his hand in the blood of God’s saunts, just as if a tenant could have helped riding with the laird, and that a laird like Sir Robert Redgauntlet. My gudesire was, by this time, far beyond the bounds of patience, and, while he and Laurie were at deil speed the liars, he was wanchancie aneugh to abuse Lapraik’s doctrine as weel as the man, ond said things that garr’d folks’ flesh grue that heard them;—he wasna just himsell, and he had lived wi’ a wild set in his day.

At last they parted, and my gudesire was to ride hame through the wood of Pitmurkie, that is a’ fou of black firs, as they say.—I ken the wood, but the firs may be black or white for what I can tell.—At the entry of the wood there is a wild common, and on the edge of the common, a little lonely change-house, that was keepit then by an ostler-wife, they suld hae caa’d her Tibbie Faw, and there puir Steenie cried for a mutchkin of brandy, for he had had no refreshment the haill day. Tibbie was earnest wi’ him to take a bite of meat, but he couldna think o’t, nor would he take his foot out of the stirrup, and took off the brandy wholely at twa draughts, and named a toast at each:—the first was the memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and might he never lie quiet in his grave till he had righted his poor bond-tenant; and the second was a health to Man’s Enemy, if he would but get him back the pock of siller or tell him what came o’t, for he saw the haill world was like to regard him as a thief and a cheat, and he took that waur than even the ruin of his house and hauld.

On he rode, little caring where. It was a dark night turned, and the trees made it yet darker, and he let the beast take its ain road through the wood; when all of a sudden, from tired and wearied that it was before, the nag began to spring and flee, and stend, that my gudesire could hardly keep the saddle. Upon the whilk, a horseman, suddenly riding up beside him, said, “That’s a mettle beast of yours, freend; will you sell him?” So saying, he touched the horse’s neck with his riding-wand, and it fell into its auld heigh-ho of a stumbling trot. “But his spunk’s soon out of him, I think,” continued the stranger, “and that is like mony a man’s courage, that thinks he wad do great things till he come to the proof.”

My gudesire scarce listened to this, but spurred his horse, with “Gude e’en to you, freend.”

But it’s like the stranger was ane that doesna lightly yield his point; for, ride as Steenie liked, he was ay beside him at the selfsame pace. At last my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, grew half angry, and, to say the truth, half feared.

“What is it that ye want with me, freend?” he said. “If ye be a robber, I have nae money; if ye be a leal man, wanting company, I have nae heart to mirth or speaking; and if ye want to ken the road, I scarce ken it mysell.”

“If you will tell me your grief,” said the stranger, “I am one that, though I have been sair miscaa’d in the world, am the only hand for helping my freends.”

So my gudesire, to ease his ain heart, mair than from any hope of help, told him the story from beginning to end.

“It’s a hard pinch,” said the stranger; “but I think I can help you.”

“If you could lend the money, sir, and take a lang day—I ken nae other help on earth,” said my gudesire.

“But there may be some under the earth,” said the stranger. “Come, I’ll be frank wi’ you; I could lend you the money on bond, but you would maybe scruple my terms. Now, I can tell you, that your auld laird is disturbed in his grave by your curses, and the wailing of your family, and if ye daur venture to go to see him, he will give you the receipt.”

My gudesire’s hair stood on end at this proposal, but he thought his companion might be some humoursome chield that was trying to frighten him, and might end with lending him the money. Besides, he was bauld wi’ brandy, and desperate wi’ distress; and he said he had courage to go to the gate of hell, and a step farther, for that receipt. The stranger laughed.

Weel, they rode on through the thickest of the wood, when, all of a sudden, the horse stopped at the door of a great house; and, but that he knew the place was ten miles off, my father would have thought he was at Redgauntlet Castle. They rode into the outer courtyard, through the muckle faulding yetts and aneath the auld portcullis; and the whole front of the house was lighted, and there were pipes and fiddles, and as much dancing and deray within as used to be at Sir Robert’s house at Pace and Yule, and such high seasons. They lap off, and my gudesire, as seemed to him, fastened his horse to the very ring he had tied him to that morning, when he gaed to wait on the young Sir John.

“God!” said my gudesire, “if Sir Robert’s death be but a dream!”

He knocked at the ha’ door just as he was wont, and his auld acquaintance, Dougal MacCallum—just after his wont, too,—came to open the door, and said, “Piper Steenie, are ye there, lad? Sir Robert has been crying for you.”

My gudesire was like a man in a dream—he looked for the stranger, but he was gane for the time. At last he just tried to say, “Ha! Dougal Driveower, are ye living? I thought ye had been dead.”

“Never fash yoursell wi’ me,” said Dougal, “but look to yoursell; and see ye tak naethlng frae ony body here, neither meat, drink, or siller, except just the receipt that is your ain.”

So saying, he led the way out through halls and trances that were weel kend to my gudesire, and into the auld oak parlour; and there was as much singing of profane sangs, and birling of red wine, and speaking blasphemy and sculduddry, as had ever been in Redgauntlet Castle when it was at the blithest.

But, Lord take us in keeping, what a set of ghastly revellers they were that sat around that table! My gudesire kend mony that had long before gane to their place, for often had he piped to the most part in the hall of Redgauntlet. There was the fierce Middleton, and the dissolute Rothes, and the crafty Lauderdale; and Dalyell, with his bald head and a beard to his girdle; and Earlshall, with Cameron’s blude on his hand; and wild Bonshaw, that tied blessed Mr. Cargill’s limbs till the blude sprung; and Dunbarton Douglas, the twice-turned traitor baith to country and king. There was the Bluidy Advocate MacKenyie, who, for his worldly wit and wisdom had been to the rest as a god. And there was Claverhouse, as beautiful as when he lived, with his long, dark, curled locks streaming down over his laced buff-coat, and his left hand always on his right spule-blade, to hide the wound that the silver bullet had made.4 He sat apart from them all, and looked at them with a melancholy, haughty countenance; while the rest hallooed, and sang, and laughed, that the room rang. But their smiles were fearfully contorted from time to time; and their laugh passed into such wild sounds as made my gudesire’s very nails grow blue, and chilled the marrow in his banes.

They that waited at the table were just the wicked serving-men and troopers, that had done their work and cruel bidding on earth. There was the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to take Argyle; and the bishop’s summoner, that they called the Deil’s Rattle-bag; and the wicked guardsmen in their laced coats; and the savage Highland Amorites, that shed blood like water; and many a proud serving-man, haughty of heart and bloody of hand, cringing to the rich, and making them wickeder than they would be; grinding the poor to powder, when the rich had broken them to fragments. And mony, mony mair were coming and ganging, a’ as busy in their vocation as if they had been alive.

Sir Robert Redgauntlet, in the midst of a’ this fearful riot, cried, wi’ a voice like thunder, on Steenie Piper to come to the board-head where he was sitting; his legs stretched out before him, and swathed up with flannel, with his holster pistols aside him, while the great broadsword rested against his chair, just as my gudesire had seen him the last time upon earth—the very cushion for the jackanape was close to him, but the creature itself was not there—it wasna its hour, it’s likely; for he heard them say as he came forward, “Is not the major come yet?” And another answered, “The jackanape will be here betimes the morn.” And when my gudesire came forward, Sir Robert, or his ghaist, or the deevil in his likeness, said, “Weel, piper, hae ye settled wi’ my son for the year’s rent?”

With much ado my father gat breath to say that Sir John would not settle without his honour’s receipt.

“Ye shall hae that for a tune of the pipes, Steenie,” said the appearance of Sir Robert—“Play us up ‘Weel hoddled, Luckie.’”

Now this was a tune my gudesire learned frae a warlock, that heard it when they were worshipping Satan at their meetings, and my gudesire had sometimes played it at the ranting suppers in Redgauntlet Castle, but never very willingly; and now he grew cauld at the very name of it, and said, for excuse, he hadna his pipes wi’ him.

“MacCallum, ye limb of Beelzebub,” said the fearfu’ Sir Robert, “bring Steenie the pipes that I am keeping for him!”

MacCallum brought a pair of pipes might have served the piper of Donald of the Isles. But he gave my gudesire a nudge as he offered them; and looking secretly and closely, Steenie saw that the chanter was of steel, and heated to a white heat; so he had fair warning not to trust his fingers with it. So he excused himself again, and said he was faint and frightened, and had not wind aneugh to fill the bag.

“Then ye maun eat and drink, Steenie,” said the figure; “for we do little else here; and it’s ill speaking between a fou man and a fasting.”

Now these were the very words that the bloody Earl of Douglas said to keep the king’s messenger in hand while he cut the head off MacLellan of Bombie, at the Threave Castle,5 and that put Steenie mair and mair on his guard. So he spoke up like a man, and said he came neither to eat, or drink or make minstrelsy; but simply for his ain—to ken what was come o’ the money he had paid, and to get a discharge for it; and he was so stout-hearted by this time that he charged Sir Robert for conscience-sake (he had no power to say the holy name) and as he hoped for peace and rest, to spread no snares for him, but just to give him his ain.

The appearance gnashed its teeth and laughed, but it took from a large pocket-book the receipt, and handed it to Steenie. “There is your receipt, ye pitiful cur; and for the money, my dog-whelp of a son may go look for it in the Cat’s Cradle.”

My gudesire uttered mony thanks, and was about to retire when Sir Robert roared aloud, “Stop, though, thou sack-doudling son of a whore! I am not done with thee. HERE we do nothing for nothing; and you must return on this very day twelvemonth, to pay your master the homage that you owe me for my protection.”

My father’s tongue was loosed of a suddenty, and he said aloud, “I refer mysell to God’s pleasure, and not to yours.”

He had no sooner uttered the word than all was dark around him; and he sank on the earth with such a sudden shock, that he lost both breath and sense.

How lang Steenie lay there, he could not tell; but when he came to himsell, he was lying in the auld kirkyard of Redgauntlet parochine just at the door of the family aisle, and the scutcheon of the auld knight, Sir Robert, hanging over his head. There was a deep morning fog on grass and gravestane around him, and his horse was feeding quietly beside the minister’s twa cows. Steenie would have thought the whole was a dream, but he had the receipt in his hand, fairly written and signed by the auld laird; only the last letters of his name were a little disorderly, written like one seized with sudden pain.

Sorely troubled in his mind, he left that dreary place, rode through the mist to Redgauntlet Castle, and with much ado he got speech of the laird.

“Well, you dyvour bankrupt,” was the first word, “have you brought me my rent?”

“No,” answered my gudesire, “I have not; but I have brought your honour Sir Robert’s receipt for it.”

“Wow, sirrah? Sir Robert’s receipt! You told me he had not given you one.”

“Will your honour please to see if that bit line is right?”

Sir John looked at every line, and at every letter, with much attention; and at last, at the date, which my gudesire had not observed,—“From my appointed place,” he read, “this twenty-fifth of november.”—“What! That is yesterday!—Villain, thou must have gone to hell for this!”

“I got it from your honour’s father—whether he be in heaven or hell, I know not,” said Steenie.

“I will delate you for a warlock to the Privy Council!” said Sir John. “I will send you to your master, the devil, with the help of a tar-barrel and a torch!”

“I intend to delate mysell to the Presbytery,” said Steenie, “and tell them all I have seen last night, whilk are things fitter for them to judge of than a borrel man like me.”

Sir John paused, composed himsell, and desired to hear the full history; and my gudesire told it him from point to point, as I have told it you—word for word, neither more nor less.

Sir John was silent again for a long time, and at last he said, very composedly, “Steenie, this story of yours concerns the honour of many a noble family besides mine; and if it be a leasing-making, to keep yourself out of my danger, the least you can expect is to have a redhot iron driven through your tongue, and that will be as bad as scauding your fingers wi’ a redhot chanter. But yet it may be true, Steenie; and if the money cast up I shall not know what to think of it. But where shall we find the Cat’s Cradle? There are cats enough about the old house, but I think they kitten without the ceremony of bed or cradle.”

“We were best ask Hutcheon,” said my gudesire; “he kens a’ the odd corners about as weel as—another serving-man that is now gane, and that I wad not like to name.”

Aweel, Hutcheon, when he was asked, told them, that a ruinous turret, lang disused, next to the clock-house, only accessible by a ladder, for the opening was on the outside, and far above the battlements, was called of old the Cat’s Cradle.

“There will I go immediately,” said Sir John; and he took (with what purpose, Heaven kens) one of his father’s pistols from the hall-table, where they had lain since the night he died, and hastened to the battlements.

It was a dangerous place to climb, for the ladder was auld and frail, and wanted ane or twa rounds. However, up got Sir John, and entered at the turret-door, where his body stopped the only little light that was in the bit turret. Something flees at him wi’ a vengeance, maist dang him back ower—bang gaed the knight’s pistol, and Hutcheon, that held the ladder, and my gudesire that stood beside him, hears a loud skelloch. A minute after, Sir John flings the body of the jackanape down to them, and cries that the siller is fund, and that they should come up and help him. And there was the bag of siller sure aneugh, and mony orra thing besides, that had been missing for mony a day. And Sir John, when he had riped the turret weel, led my gudesire into the dining-parlour, and took him by the hand and spoke kindly to him, and said he was sorry he should have doubted his word and that he would hereafter be a good master to him to make amends.

“And now, Steenie,” said Sir John, “although this vision of yours tend, on the whole, to my father’s credit, as an honest man, that he should, even after his death, desire to see justice done to a poor man like you, yet you are sensible that ill-dispositioned men might make bad constructions upon it, concerning his soul’s health. So, I think, we had better lay the haill dirdum on that ill-deedie creature, Major Weir, and say naething about your dream in the wood of Pitmurkie. You had taken ower muckle brandy to be very certain about onything; and, Steenie, this receipt” (his hand shook while he held it out),—“it’s but a queer kind of document, and we will do best, I think, to put it quietly in the fire.”

“Od, but for as queer as it is, it’s a’ the voucher I have for my rent,” said my gudesire, who was afraid, it may be, of losing the benefit of Sir Robert’s discharge.

“I will bear the contents to your credit in the rental-book, and give you a discharge under my own hand,” said Sir John, “and that on the spot. And, Steenie, if you can hold your tongue about this matter, you shall sit, from this term downward, at an easier rent.”

“Mony thanks to your honour,” said Steenie, who saw easily in what corner the wind was; “doubtless I will be comformable to all your honour’s commands; only I would willingly speak wi’ some powerful minister on the subject, for I do not like the sort of sommons of appointment whilk your honour’s father’—

“Do not call the phantom my father!” said Sir John, interrupting him.

“Weel, then, the thing that was so like him,” said my gudesire; “he spoke of my coming back to see him this time twelvemonth, and it’s a weight on my conscience.”

“Aweel, then,” said Sir John, “if you be so much distressed in mind, you may speak to our minister of the parish; he is a douce man, regards the honour of our family, and the mair that he may look for some patronage from me.”

Wi’ that, my father readily agreed that the receipt should be burnt, and the laird threw it into the chimney with his ain hand. Burn it would not for them, though; but away it flew up the lum, wi’ a lang train of sparks at its tail, and a hissing noise like a squib.

My gudesire gaed down to the Manse, and the minister, when he had heard the story, said it was his real opinion that though my gudesire had gaen very far in tampering with dangerous matters, yet, as he had refused the devil’s arles (for such was the offer of meat and drink) and had refused to do homage by piping at his bidding, he hoped, that if he held a circumspect walk hereafter, Satan could take little advantage by what was come and gane. And, indeed, my gudesire, of his ain accord, lang foreswore baith the pipes and the brandy—it was not even till the year was out, and the fatal day past, that he would so much as take the fiddle, or drink usquebaugh or tippeny.

Sir John made up his story about the jackanape as he liked himsell; and some believe till this day there was no more in the matter than the filching nature of the brute. Indeed, ye’ll no hinder some to threap that it was nane o’ the auld Enemy that Dougal and my gudesire saw in the laird’s room, but only that wanchancy creature, the major, capering on the coffin; and that, as to the blawing on the laird’s whistle that was heard after he was dead, the filthy brute could do that as weel as the laird himsell, if no better. But Heaven kens the truth, whilk first came out by the minister’s wife, after Sir John and her ain gudeman were baith in the moulds. And then my gudesire, wha was failed in his limbs, but not in his judgement or memory—at least nothing to speak of—was obliged to tell the real narrative to his friends, for the credit of his good name. He might else have been charged for a warlock.6

The shades of evening were growing thicker around us as my conductor finished his long narrative with this moral—“Ye see, birkie, it is nae chancy thing to tak a stranger traveller for a guide, when you are in an uncouth land.”

“I should not have made that inference,” said I. “Your grandfather’s adventure was fortunate for himself, whom it saved from ruin and distress; and fortunate for his landlord also, whom it prevented from committing a gross act of injustice.”

“Aye, but they had baith to sup the sauce o’t sooner or later,” said Wandering Willie—“what was fristed wasna forgiven. Sir John died before he was much over three-score; and it was just like of a moment’s illness. And for my gudesire, though he departed in fullness of life, yet there was my father, a yauld man of forty-five, fell down betwixt the stilts of his pleugh, and rase never again, and left nae bairn but me, a puir sightless, fatherless, motherless creature, could neither work nor want. Things gaed weel aneugh at first; for Sir Redwald Redgauntlet, the only son of Sir John, and the oye of auld Sir Robert, and, waes me! the last of the honourable house, took the farm aff our hands, and brought me into his household to have care of me. He liked music, and I had the best teachers baith England and Scotland could gie me. Mony a merry year was I wi’ him; but waes me! he gaed out with other pretty men in the Forty-five—I’ll say nae mair about it—My head never settled weel since I lost him; and if I say another word about it, deil a bar will I have the heart to play the night.—Look out, my gentle chap,” he resumed in a different tone, “ye should see the lights at Brokenburn glen by this time.”

1.    A precipitous side of a mountain in Moffatdale.    [back]

2.    The caution and moderation of King William III, and his principles of unlimited toleration, deprived the Cameronians of the opportunity they ardently desired, to retaliate the injuries which they had received during the reign of prelacy, and purify the land, as they called it, from the pollution of blood. They esteemed the Revolution, therefore, only a half measure, which neither comprehended the rebuilding the Kirk in its full splendour, nor the revenge of the death of the Saints on their persecutors.    [back]

3.    A celebrated wizard, executed at Edinburgh for sorcery and other crimes.    [back]


The personages here mentioned are most of them characters of historical fame; but those less known and remembered may be found in the tract entitled, “The Judgment and Justice of God Exemplified, or, a Brief Historical Account of some of the Wicked Lives and Miserable Deaths of some of the most remarkable Apostates and Bloody Persecutors, from the Reformation till after the Revolution.” This constitutes a sort of postscript or appendix to John Howie of Lochgoin’s “Account of the Lives of the most eminent Scots Worthies.” The author has, with considerable ingenuity, reversed his reasoning upon the inference to be drawn from the prosperity or misfortunes which befall individuals in this world, either in the course of their lives or in the hour of death. In the account of the martyrs’ sufferings, such inflictions are mentioned only as trials permitted by providence, for the better and brighter display of their faith, and constancy of principle. But when similar afflictions befell the opposite party, they are imputed to the direct vengeance of Heaven upon their impiety. If, indeed, the life of any person obnoxious to the historian’s censures happened to have passed in unusual prosperity, the mere fact of its being finally concluded by death, is assumed as an undeniable token of the judgement of Heaven, and, to render the conclusion inevitable, his last scene is generally garnished with some singular circumstances. Thus the Duke of Lauderdale is said, through old age but immense corpulence, to have become so sunk in spirits, “that his heart was not the bigness of a walnut.”    [back]

5.    The reader is referred for particulars to Pitscottie’s HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.    [back]


I have heard in my youth some such wild tale as that placed in the mouth of the blind fiddler, of which, I think, the hero was Sir Robert Grierson of Lagg, the famous persecutor. But the belief was general throughout Scotland that the excessive lamentation over the loss of friends disturbed the repose of the dead, and broke even the rest of the grave. There are several instances of this in tradition, but one struck me particularly, as I heard it from the lips of one who professed receiving it from those of a ghost-seer. This was a Highland lady, named Mrs. C—— of B———, who probably believed firmly in the truth of an apparition which seems to have originated in the weakness of her nerves and strength of her imagination. She had been lately left a widow by her husband, with the office of guardian to their only child. The young man added to the difficulties of his charge by an extreme propensity for a military life, which his mother was unwilling to give way to, while she found it impossible to repress it. About this time the Independent Companies, formed for the preservation of the peace of the Highlands, were in the course of being levied; and as a gentleman named Cameron, nearly connected with Mrs. C——, commanded one of those companies, she was at length persuaded to compromise the matter with her son, by permitting him to enter this company in the capacity of a cadet, thus gratifying his love of a military life without the dangers of foreign service, to which no one then thought these troops were at all liable to be exposed, while even their active service at home was not likely to be attended with much danger. She readily obtained a promise from her relative that he would be particular in his attention to her son and therefore concluded she had accommodated matters between her son’s wishes and his safety in a way sufficiently attentive to both. She set off to Edinburgh to get what was awanting for his outfit, and shortly afterwards received melancholy news from the Highlands. The Independent Company into which her son was to enter had a skirmish with a party of caterans engaged in some act of spoil, and her friend the captain being wounded, and out of the reach of medical assistance, died in consequence. This news was a thunderbolt to the poor mother, who was at once deprived of her kinsman’s advice and assistance, and instructed by his fate of the unexpected danger to which her son’s new calling exposed him. She remained also in great sorrow for her relative, whom she loved with sisterly affection. These conflicting causes of anxiety, together with her uncertainty, whether to continue or change her son’s destination, were terminated in the following manner:—

The house in which Mrs. C—— resided in the old town of Edinburgh, was a flat or story of a land accessible, as was then universal, by a common stair. The family who occupied the story beneath were her acquaintances, and she was in the habit of drinking tea with them every evening. It was accordingly about six o’clock, when, recovering herself from a deep fit of anxious reflection, she was about to leave the parlour in which she sat in order to attend this engagement. The door through which she was to pass opened, as was very common in Edinburgh, into a dark passage. In this passage, and within a yard of her when she opened the door, stood the apparition of her kinsman, the deceased officer, in his full tartans, and wearing his bonnet. Terrified at what she saw, or thought she saw, she closed the door hastily, and, sinking on her knees by a chair, prayed to be delivered from the horrors of the vision. She remained in that posture till her friends below tapped on the door, to intimate that tea was ready. Recalled to herself by the signal, she arose, and, on opening the apartment door, again was confronted by the visionary Highlander, whose bloody brow bore token, on this second appearance, to the death he had died. Unable to endure this repetition of her terrors, Mrs. C—— sank on the door in a swoon. Her friends below, startled with the noise, came upstairs, and, alarmed at the situation in which they found her, insisted on her going to bed and taking some medicine, in order to compose what they took for a nervous attack. They had no sooner left her in quiet, than the apparition of the soldier was once more visible in the apartment. This time she took courage and said, “In the name of God, Donald, why do you haunt one who respected and loved you when living?” To which he answered readily, in Gaelic, “Cousin, why did you not speak sooner? My rest is disturbed by your unnecessary lamentation—your tears scald me in my shroud. I come to tell you that my untimely death ought to make no difference in your views for your son; God will raise patrons to supply my place and he will live to the fullness of years, and die honoured and at peace.” The lady of course followed her kinsman’s advice and as she was accounted a person of strict veracity, we may conclude the first apparition an illusion of the fancy, the final one a lively dream suggested by the other two.    [back]

Redgauntlet - Contents    |     Letter XII

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