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Chronicles of the Canongate by Sir Walter Scott

Part 3 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And who might Donald MacLeish be?"

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

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

'Let that be done which Mat doth say--
Yea, quoth the Earl, but not to-day.'"

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Lord forbid!" said Donald hastily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My beautiful--my brave!"

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Be silent, mother, or speak of what you understand," said
Hamish, much irritated, "and that is of the distaff and the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It is not on that score, mother, but since I must leave the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And that," she said, with assumed calmness, which her glancing
eye disowned, "is the punishment of a disobedient hound, is it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is well known, that the great and wise Earl of Chatham prided
himself on the scheme, by which he drew together for the defence
of the colonies those hardy Highlanders, who, until his time, had
been the objects of doubt, fear, and suspicion, on the part of
each successive administration. But some obstacles occurred,
from the peculiar habits and temper of this people, to the
execution of his patriotic project. By nature and habit, every
Highlander was accustomed to the use of arms, but at the same
time totally unaccustomed to, and impatient of, the restraints
imposed by discipline upon regular troops. They were a species
of militia, who had no conception of a camp as their only home.
If a battle was lost, they dispersed to save themselves, and look

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