Part 8 out of 10
and up he rose from his seat. His companions also arose, muttering to
each other, drawing up their plaids, and snorting and snuffing the air
after the mariner of their countrymen when working themselves into a
"I tauld ye what wad come, gentlemen," said the landlady, "an ye wad hae
been tauld:--get awa' wi' ye out o' my house, and make nae disturbance
here--there's nae gentleman be disturbed at Jeanie MacAlpine's an she can
hinder. A wheen idle English loons, gaun about the country under cloud o'
night, and disturbing honest peaceable gentlemen that are drinking their
drap drink at the fireside!"
At another time I should have thought of the old Latin adage,
"Dat veniam corvis, vexat censure columbas"--
But I had not any time for classical quotation, for there was obviously a
fray about to ensue, at which, feeling myself indiginant at the
inhospitable insolence with which I was treated, I was totally
indifferent, unless on the Bailie's account, whose person and qualities
were ill qualified for such an adventure. I started up, however, on
seeing the others rise, and dropped my. cloak from my shoulders, that I
might be ready to stand on the defensive.
"We are three to three," said the lesser Highlander, glancing his eyes at
our party: "if ye be pretty men, draw!" and unsheathing his broadsword,
he advanced on me. I put myself in a posture of defence, and aware of the
superiority of my weapon, a rapier or small-sword, was little afraid of
the issue of the contest. The Bailie behaved with unexpected mettle. As
he saw the gigantic Highlander confront him with his weapon drawn, he
tugged for a second or two at the hilt of his _shabble,_ as he called it;
but finding it loth to quit the sheath, to which it had long been secured
by rust and disuse, he seized, as a substitute, on the red-hot coulter of
a plough which had been employed in arranging the fire by way of a poker,
and brandished it with such effect, that at the first pass he set the
Highlander's plaid on fire, and compelled him to keep a respectful
distance till he could get it extinguished. Andrew, on the contrary, who
ought to have faced the Lowland champion, had, I grieve to say it,
vanished at the very commencement of the fray. But his antagonist, crying
"Fair play, fair play!" seemed courteously disposed to take no share in
the scuffle. Thus we commenced our rencontre on fair terms as to numbers.
My own aim was, to possess myself, if possible, of my antagonist's
weapon; but I was deterred from closing, for fear of the dirk which he
held in his left hand, and used in parrying the thrusts of my rapier.
Meantime the Bailie, notwithstanding the success of his first onset, was
sorely bested. The weight of his weapon, the corpulence of his person,
the very effervescence of his own passions, were rapidly exhausting both
his strength and his breath, and he was almost at the mercy of his
antagonist, when up started the sleeping Highlander from the floor on
which he reclined, with his naked sword and target in his hand, and threw
himself between the discomfited magistrate and his assailant, exclaiming,
"Her nainsell has eaten the town pread at the Cross o' Glasgow, and py
her troth she'll fight for Bailie Sharvie at the Clachan of Aberfoil--tat
will she e'en!" And seconding his words with deeds, this unexpected
auxiliary made his sword whistle about the ears of his tall countryman,
who, nothing abashed, returned his blows with interest. But being both
accoutred with round targets made of wood, studded with brass, and
covered with leather, with which they readily parried each other's
strokes, their combat was attended with much more noise and clatter than
serious risk of damage. It appeared, indeed, that there was more of
bravado than of serious attempt to do us any injury; for the Lowland
gentleman, who, as I mentioned, had stood aside for want of an antagonist
when the brawl commenced, was now pleased to act the part of moderator
[Illustration: Fray at Jeannie MacAlpine's--154]
"Hand your hands! haud your hands!--eneugh done!--eneugh done! the
quarrel's no mortal. The strange gentlemen have shown themselves men of
honour, and gien reasonable satisfaction. I'll stand on mine honour as
kittle as ony man, but I hate unnecessary bloodshed."
It was not, of course, my wish to protract the fray--my adversary seemed
equally disposed to sheathe his sword--the Bailie, gasping for breath,
might be considered as _hors de combat,_ and our two sword-and-buckler
men gave up their contest with as much indifference as they had entered
"And now," said the worthy gentleman who acted as umpire, "let us drink
and gree like honest fellows--The house will haud us a'. I propose that
this good little gentleman, that seems sair forfoughen, as I may say, in
this tuilzie, shall send for a tass o' brandy and I'll pay for another,
by way of archilowe,* and then we'll birl our bawbees a' round about,
"And fa's to pay my new ponnie plaid," said the larger Highlander, "wi' a
hole burnt in't ane might put a kail-pat through? Saw ever onybody a
decent gentleman fight wi' a firebrand before?"
"Let that be nae hinderance," said the Bailie, who had now recovered his
breath, and was at once disposed to enjoy the triumph of having behaved
with spirit, and avoid the necessity of again resorting to such hard and
doubtful arbitrament--"Gin I hae broken the head," he said, "I sall find
the plaister. A new plaid sall ye hae, and o' the best--your ain
clan-colours, man,--an ye will tell me where it can be sent t'ye frae
"I needna name my clan--I am of a king's clan, as is weel ken'd," said
the Highlander; "but ye may tak a bit o' the plaid--figh! she smells like
a singit sheep's head!--and that'll learn ye the sett--and a gentleman,
that's a cousin o' my ain, that carries eggs doun frae Glencroe, will ca'
for't about Martimas, an ye will tell her where ye bide. But, honest
gentleman, neist time ye fight, an ye hae ony respect for your
athversary, let it be wi' your sword, man, since ye wear ane, and no wi'
thae het culters and fireprands, like a wild Indian."
"Conscience!" replied the Bailie, "every man maun do as he dow. My sword
hasna seen the light since Bothwell Brigg, when my father that's dead and
gane, ware it; and I kenna weel if it was forthcoming then either, for
the battle was o' the briefest--At ony rate, it's glued to the scabbard
now beyond my power to part them; and, finding that, I e'en grippit at
the first thing I could make a fend wi'. I trow my fighting days is done,
though I like ill to take the scorn, for a' that.--But where's the honest
lad that tuik my quarrel on himself sae frankly?--I'se bestow a gill o'
aquavitae on him, an I suld never ca' for anither."
* Archilowe, of unknown derivation, signifies a peace-offering.
The champion for whom he looked around was, however, no longer to be
seen. He had escaped unobserved by the Bailie, immediately when the brawl
was ended, yet not before I had recognised, in his wild features and
shaggy red hair, our acquaintance Dougal, the fugitive turnkey of the
Glasgow jail. I communicated this observation in a whisper to the Bailie,
who answered in the same tone, "Weel, weel,--I see that him that ye ken
o' said very right; there _is_ some glimmering o' common sense about that
creature Dougal; I maun see and think o' something will do him some
Thus saying, he sat down, and fetching one or two deep aspirations, by
way of recovering his breath, called to the landlady--"I think, Luckie,
now that I find that there's nae hole in my wame, whilk I had muckle
reason to doubt frae the doings o' your house, I wad be the better o'
something to pit intill't."
The dame, who was all officiousness so soon as the storm had blown over,
immediately undertook to broil something comfortable for our supper.
Indeed, nothing surprised me more, in the course of the whole matter,
than the extreme calmness with which she and her household seemed to
regard the martial tumult that had taken place. The good woman was only
heard to call to some of her assistants--"Steek the door! steek the door!
kill or be killed, let naebody pass out till they hae paid the lawin."
And as for the slumberers in those lairs by the wall, which served the
family for beds, they only raised their shirtless bodies to look at the
fray, ejaculated, "Oigh! oigh!" in the tone suitable to their respective
sex and ages, and were, I believe, fast asleep again, ere our swords were
well returned to their scabbards.
Our landlady, however, now made a great bustle to get some victuals
ready, and, to my surprise, very soon began to prepare for us in the
frying-pan a savoury mess of venison collops, which she dressed in a
manner that might well satisfy hungry men, if not epicures. In the
meantime the brandy was placed on the table, to which the Highlanders,
however partial to their native strong waters, showed no objection, but
much the contrary; and the Lowland gentleman, after the first cup had
passed round, became desirous to know our profession, and the object of
"We are bits o' Glasgow bodies, if it please your honour," said the
Bailie, with an affectation of great humility, "travelling to Stirling to
get in some siller that is awing us."
I was so silly as to feel a little disconcerted at the unassuming account
which he chose to give of us; but I recollected my promise to be silent,
and allow the Bailie to manage the matter his own way. And really, when I
recollected, Will, that I had not only brought the honest man a long
journey from home, which even in itself had been some inconvenience (if I
were to judge from the obvious pain and reluctance with which he took his
seat, or arose from it), but had also put him within a hair's-breadth of
the loss of his life, I could hardly refuse him such a compliment. The
spokesman of the other party, snuffing up his breath through his nose,
repeated the words with a sort of sneer;--"You Glasgow tradesfolks hae
naething to do but to gang frae the tae end o' the west o' Scotland to
the ither, to plague honest folks that may chance to be awee ahint the
hand, like me."
"If our debtors were a' sic honest gentlemen as I believe you to be,
Garschattachin," replied the Bailie, "conscience! we might save ourselves
a labour, for they wad come to seek us."
"Eh! what! how!" exclaimed the person whom he had addressed,--"as I shall
live by bread (not forgetting beef and brandy), it's my auld friend Nicol
Jarvie, the best man that ever counted doun merks on a band till a
distressed gentleman. Were ye na coming up my way?--were ye na coming up
the Endrick to Garschattachin?"
"Troth no, Maister Galbraith," replied the Bailie, "I had other eggs on
the spit--and I thought ye wad be saying I cam to look about the annual
rent that's due on the bit heritable band that's between us."
"Damn the annual rent!" said the laird, with an appearance of great
heartiness--"Deil a word o' business will you or I speak, now that ye're
so near my country. To see how a trot-cosey and a joseph can disguise a
man--that I suldna ken my auld feal friend the deacon!"
"The Bailie, if ye please," resumed my companion; "but I ken what gars ye
mistak--the band was granted to my father that's happy, and he was
deacon; but his name was Nicol as weel as mine. I dinna mind that there's
been a payment of principal sum or annual rent on it in my day, and
doubtless that has made the mistake."
"Weel, the devil take the mistake and all that occasioned it!" replied
Mr. Galbraith. "But I am glad ye are a bailie. Gentlemen, fill a
brimmer--this is my excellent friend, Bailie Nicol Jarvie's health--I
ken'd him and his father these twenty years. Are ye a' cleared kelty
aff?--Fill anither. Here's to his being sune provost--I say
provost--Lord Provost Nicol Jarvie!--and them that affirms there's a man
walks the Hie-street o' Glasgow that's fitter for the office, they will
do weel not to let me, Duncan Galbraith of Garschattachin, hear them say
sae--that's all." And therewith Duncan Galbraith martially cocked his
hat, and placed it on one side of his head with an air of defiance.
The brandy was probably the best recommendation of there complimentary
toasts to the two Highlanders, who drank them without appearing anxious
to comprehend their purport. They commenced a conversation with Mr.
Galbraith in Gaelic, which he talked with perfect fluency, being, as I
afterwards learned, a near neighbour to the Highlands.
"I ken'd that Scant-o'-grace weel eneugh frae the very outset," said the
Bailie, in a whisper to me; "but when blude was warm, and swords were out
at ony rate, wha kens what way he might hae thought o' paying his debts?
it will be lang or he does it in common form. But he's an honest lad, and
has a warm heart too; he disna come often to the Cross o' Glasgow, but
mony a buck and blackcock he sends us doun frae the hills. And I can want
my siller weel eneugh. My father the deacon had a great regard for the
family of Garschattachin."
Supper being now nearly ready, I looked round for Andrew Fairservice; but
that trusty follower had not been seen by any one since the beginning of
the rencontre. The hostess, however, said that she believed our servant
had gone into the stable, and offered to light me to the place, saying
that "no entreaties of the bairns or hers could make him give any answer;
and that truly she caredna to gang into the stable herself at this hour.
She was a lone woman, and it was weel ken'd how the Brownie of
Ben-ye-gask guided the gudewife of Ardnagowan; and it was aye judged
there was a Brownie in our stable, which was just what garr'd me gie ower
keeping an hostler."
As, however, she lighted me towards the miserable hovel into which they
had crammed our unlucky steeds, to regale themselves on hay, every fibre
of which was as thick as an ordinary goose-quill, she plainly showed me
that she had another reason for drawing me aside from the company than
that which her words implied. "Read that," she said, slipping a piece of
paper into my hand, as we arrived at the door of the shed; "I bless God I
am rid o't. Between sogers and Saxons, and caterans and cattle-lifters,
and hership and bluidshed, an honest woman wad live quieter in hell than
on the Hieland line."
So saying, she put the pine-torch into my hand, and returned into the
Bagpipes, not lyres, the Highland hills adorn,
MacLean's loud hollo, and MacGregor's horn.
John Cooper's Reply to Allan Ramsay.
I stopped in the entrance of the stable, if indeed a place be entitled to
that name where horses were stowed away along with goats, poultry, pigs,
and cows, under the same roof with the mansion-house; although, by a
degree of refinement unknown to the rest of the hamlet, and which I
afterwards heard was imputed to an overpride on the part of Jeanie
MacAlpine, our landlady, the apartment was accommodated with an entrance
different from that used by her biped customers. By the light of my
torch, I deciphered the following billet, written on a wet, crumpled, and
dirty piece of paper, and addressed--"For the honoured hands of Mr. F.
O., a Saxon young gentleman--These." The contents were as follows:--
"There are night-hawks abroad, so that I cannot give you and my respected
kinsman, B. N. J., the meeting at the Clachan of Aberfoil, whilk was my
purpose. I pray you to avoid unnecessary communication with those you may
find there, as it may give future trouble. The person who gives you this
is faithful and may be trusted, and will guide you to a place where, God
willing, I may safely give you the meeting, when I trust my kinsman and
you will visit my poor house, where, in despite of my enemies, I can
still promise sic cheer as ane Hielandman may gie his friends, and where
we will drink a solemn health to a certain D. V., and look to certain
affairs whilk I hope to be your aidance in; and I rest, as is wont among
your servant to command,
R. M. C."
I was a good deal mortified at the purport of this letter, which seemed
to adjourn to a more distant place and date the service which I had hoped
to receive from this man Campbell. Still, however, it was some comfort to
know that he continued to be in my interest, since without him I could
have no hope of recovering my father's papers. I resolved, therefore, to
obey his instructions; and, observing all caution before the guests, to
take the first good opportunity I could find to procure from the landlady
directions how I was to obtain a meeting with this mysterious person.
My next business was to seek out Andrew Fairservice, whom I called
several times by name, without receiving any answer, surveying the stable
all round, at the same time, not without risk of setting the premises on
fire, had not the quantity of wet litter and mud so greatly
counterbalanced two or three bunches of straw and hay. At length my
repeated cries of "Andrew Fairservice! Andrew! fool!--ass! where are
you?" produced a doleful "Here," in a groaning tone, which might have
been that of the Brownie itself. Guided by this sound, I advanced to the
corner of a shed, where, ensconced in the angle of the wall, behind a
barrel full of the feathers of all the fowls which had died in the cause
of the public for a month past, I found the manful Andrew; and partly by
force, partly by command and exhortation, compelled him forth into the
open air. The first words he spoke were, "I am an honest lad, sir."
"Who the devil questions your honesty?" said I, "or what have we to do
with it at present? I desire you to come and attend us at supper."
"Yes," reiterated Andrew, without apparently understanding what I said to
him, "I am an honest lad, whatever the Bailie may say to the contrary. I
grant the warld and the warld's gear sits ower near my heart whiles, as
it does to mony a ane--But I am an honest lad; and, though I spak o'
leaving ye in the muir, yet God knows it was far frae my purpose, but
just like idle things folk says when they're driving a bargain, to get it
as far to their ain side as they can--And I like your honour weel for sae
young a lad, and I wadna part wi' ye lightly."
"What the deuce are you driving at now?" I replied. "Has not everything
been settled again and again to your satisfaction? And are you to talk of
leaving me every hour, without either rhyme or reason?"
"Ay,--but I was only making fashion before," replied Andrew; "but it's
come on me in sair earnest now--Lose or win, I daur gae nae farther wi'
your honour; and if ye'll tak my foolish advice, ye'll bide by a broken
tryste, rather than gang forward yoursell. I hae a sincere regard for ye,
and I'm sure ye'll be a credit to your friends if ye live to saw out your
wild aits, and get some mair sense and steadiness--But I can follow ye
nae farther, even if ye suld founder and perish from the way for lack of
guidance and counsel. To gang into Rob Roy's country is a mere tempting
"Rob Roy?" said I, in some surprise; "I know no such person. What new
trick is this, Andrew?"
"It's hard," said Andrew--"very hard, that a man canna be believed when
he speaks Heaven's truth, just because he's whiles owercome, and tells
lees a little when there is necessary occasion. Ye needna ask whae Rob
Roy is, the reiving lifter that he is--God forgie me! I hope naebody
hears us--when ye hae a letter frae him in your pouch. I heard ane o' his
gillies bid that auld rudas jaud of a gudewife gie ye that. They thought
I didna understand their gibberish; but, though I canna speak it muckle,
I can gie a gude guess at what I hear them say--I never thought to hae
tauld ye that, but in a fright a' things come out that suld be keepit in.
O, Maister Frank! a' your uncle's follies, and a' your cousin's pliskies,
were naething to this! Drink clean cap out, like Sir Hildebrand; begin
the blessed morning with brandy sops, like Squire Percy; swagger, like
Squire Thorncliff; rin wud amang the lasses, like Squire John; gamble,
like Richard; win souls to the Pope and the deevil, like Rashleigh; rive,
rant, break the Sabbath, and do the Pope's bidding, like them a' put
thegither--But, merciful Providence! take care o' your young bluid, and
gang nae near Rob Roy!"
Andrew's alarm was too sincere to permit me to suppose he counterfeited.
I contented myself, however, with telling him, that I meant to remain in
the alehouse that night, and desired to have the horses well looked
after. As to the rest, I charged him to observe the strictest silence
upon the subject of his alarm, and he might rely upon it I would not
incur any serious danger without due precaution. He followed me with a
dejected air into the house, observing between his teeth, "Man suld be
served afore beast--I haena had a morsel in my mouth, but the rough legs
o' that auld muircock, this haill blessed day."
The harmony of the company seemed to have suffered some interruption
since my departure, for I found Mr. Galbraith and my friend the Bailie
high in dispute.
"I'll hear nae sic language," said Mr. Jarvie, as I entered, "respecting
the Duke o' Argyle and the name o' Campbell. He's a worthy
public-spirited nobleman, and a credit to the country, and a friend and
benefactor to the trade o' Glasgow."
"I'll sae naething against MacCallum More and the Slioch-nan-Diarmid,"
said the lesser Highlander, laughing. "I live on the wrang side of
Glencroe to quarrel with Inverara."
"Our loch ne'er saw the Cawmil lymphads,"* said the bigger Highlander.
* _Lymphads._ The galley which the family of Argyle and others of the *
Clan Campbell carry in their arms.
"She'll speak her mind and fear naebody--She doesna value a Cawmil mair
as a Cowan, and ye may tell MacCallum More that Allan Iverach said sae--
It's a far cry to Lochow."*
* Lochow and the adjacent districts formed the original seat of the *
Campbells. The expression of a "far cry to Lochow" was proverbial.
Mr. Galbraith, on whom the repeated pledges which he had quaffed had
produced some influence, slapped his hand on the table with great force,
and said, in a stern voice, "There's a bloody debt due by that family,
and they will pay it one day--The banes of a loyal and a gallant Grahame
hae lang rattled in their coffin for vengeance on thae Dukes of Guile and
Lords for Lorn. There ne'er was treason in Scotland but a Cawmil was at
the bottom o't; and now that the wrang side's uppermost, wha but the
Cawmils for keeping down the right? But this warld winna last lang, and
it will be time to sharp the maiden* for shearing o' craigs and
thrapples. I hope to see the auld rusty lass linking at a bluidy harst
* A rude kind of guillotine formerly used in Scotland.
"For shame, Garschattachin!" exclaimed the Bailie; "fy for shame, sir!
Wad ye say sic things before a magistrate, and bring yoursell into
trouble?--How d'ye think to mainteen your family and satisfy your
creditors (mysell and others), if ye gang on in that wild way, which
cannot but bring you under the law, to the prejudice of a' that's
connected wi' ye?"
"D--n my creditors!" retorted the gallant Galbraith, "and you if ye be
ane o' them! I say there will be a new warld sune--And we shall hae nae
Cawmils cocking their bonnet sae hie, and hounding their dogs where they
daurna come themsells, nor protecting thieves, nor murderers, and
oppressors, to harry and spoil better men and mair loyal clans than
The Bailie had a great mind to have continued the dispute, when the
savoury vapour of the broiled venison, which our landlady now placed
before us, proved so powerful a mediator, that he betook himself to his
trencher with great eagerness, leaving the strangers to carry on the
dispute among themselves.
"And tat's true," said the taller Highlander--whose name I found was
Stewart--"for we suldna be plagued and worried here wi' meetings to pit
down Rob Roy, if the Cawmils didna gie him refutch. I was ane o' thirty
o' my ain name--part Glenfinlas, and part men that came down frae Appine.
We shased the MacGregors as ye wad shase rae-deer, till we came into
Glenfalloch's country, and the Cawmils raise, and wadna let us pursue nae
farder, and sae we lost our labour; but her wad gie twa and a plack to be
as near Rob as she was tat day."
It seemed to happen very unfortunately, that in every topic of discourse
which these warlike gentlemen introduced, my friend the Bailie found some
matter of offence. "Ye'll forgie me speaking my mind, sir; but ye wad
maybe hae gien the best bowl in your bonnet to hae been as far awae frae
Rob as ye are e'en now--Od! my het pleugh-culter wad hae been naething to
"She had better speak nae mair about her culter, or, by G--! her will gar
her eat her words, and twa handfuls o' cauld steel to drive them ower
wi'!" And, with a most inauspicious and menacing look, the mountaineer
laid his hand on his dagger.
"We'll hae nae quarrelling, Allan," said his shorter companion; "and if
the Glasgow gentleman has ony regard for Rob Roy, he'll maybe see him in
cauld irons the night, and playing tricks on a tow the morn; for this
country has been owre lang plagued wi' him, and his race is near-hand
run--And it's time, Allan, we were ganging to our lads."
"Hout awa, Inverashalloch," said Galbraith;--"Mind the auld saw, man--
It's a bauld moon, quoth Bennygask--another pint, quoth Lesley;--we'll no
start for another chappin."
"I hae had chappins eneugh," said Inverashalloch; "I'll drink my quart of
usquebaugh or brandy wi' ony honest fellow, but the deil a drap mair when
I hae wark to do in the morning. And, in my puir thinking,
Garschattachin, ye had better be thinking to bring up your horsemen to
the Clachan before day, that we may ay start fair."
"What the deevil are ye in sic a hurry for?" said Garschattachin; "meat
and mass never hindered wark. An it had been my directing, deil a bit o'
me wad hae fashed ye to come down the glens to help us. The garrison and
our ain horse could hae taen Rob Roy easily enough. There's the hand," he
said, holding up his own, "should lay him on the green, and never ask a
Hielandman o' ye a' for his help."
"Ye might hae loot us bide still where we were, then," said
Inverashalloch. "I didna come sixty miles without being sent for. But an
ye'll hae my opinion, I redd ye keep your mouth better steekit, if ye
hope to speed. Shored folk live lang, and sae may him ye ken o'. The way
to catch a bird is no to fling your bannet at her. And also thae
gentlemen hae heard some things they suldna hae heard, an the brandy
hadna been ower bauld for your brain, Major Galbraith. Ye needna cock
your hat and bully wi' me, man, for I will not bear it."
"I hae said it," said Galbraith, with a solemn air of drunken gravity,
"that I will quarrel no more this night either with broadcloth or tartan.
When I am off duty I'll quarrel with you or ony man in the Hielands or
Lowlands, but not on duty--no--no. I wish we heard o' these red-coats. If
it had been to do onything against King James, we wad hae seen them lang
syne--but when it's to keep the peace o' the country they can lie as
lound as their neighbours."
As he spoke we heard the measured footsteps of a body of infantry on the
march; and an officer, followed by two or three files of soldiers,
entered the apartment. He spoke in an English accent, which was very
pleasant to my ears, now so long accustomed to the varying brogue of the
Highland and Lowland Scotch.--"You are, I suppose, Major Galbraith, of
the squadron of Lennox Militia, and these are the two Highland gentlemen
with whom I was appointed to meet in this place?"
They assented, and invited the officer to take some refreshments, which
he declined.--"I have been too late, gentlemen, and am desirous to make
up time. I have orders to search for and arrest two persons guilty of
"We'll wash our hands o' that," said Inverashalloch. "I came here wi' my
men to fight against the red MacGregor that killed my cousin, seven times
removed, Duncan MacLaren, in Invernenty;* but I will hae nothing to do
touching honest gentlemen that may be gaun through the country on their
* This, as appears from the introductory matter to this Tale, is an
anachronism. The slaughter of MacLaren, a retainer of the chief of
Appine, by the MacGregors, did not take place till after Rob Roy's death,
since it happened in 1736.
"Nor I neither," said Iverach.
Major Galbraith took up the matter more solemnly, and, premising his
oration with a hiccup, spoke to the following purpose:--
"I shall say nothing against King George, Captain, because, as it
happens, my commission may rin in his name--But one commission being
good, sir, does not make another bad; and some think that James may be
just as good a name as George. There's the king that is--and there's the
king that suld of right be--I say, an honest man may and suld be loyal to
them both, Captain. But I am of the Lord Lieutenant's opinion for the
time, as it becomes a militia officer and a depute-lieutenant--and about
treason and all that, it's lost time to speak of it--least said is sunest
"I am sorry to see how you have been employing your time, sir," replied
the English officer--as indeed the honest gentleman's reasoning had a
strong relish of the liquor he had been drinking--"and I could wish, sir,
it had been otherwise on an occasion of this consequence. I would
recommend to you to try to sleep for an hour.--Do these gentlemen belong
to your party?"--looking at the Bailie and me, who, engaged in eating our
supper, had paid little attention to the officer on his entrance.
"Travellers, sir," said Galbraith--"lawful travellers by sea and land, as
the prayer-book hath it."
"My instructions." said the Captain, taking a light to survey us closer,
"are to place under arrest an elderly and a young person--and I think
these gentlemen answer nearly the description."
"Take care what you say, sir," said Mr. Jarvie; "it shall not be your red
coat nor your laced hat shall protect you, if you put any affront on me.
I'se convene ye baith in an action of scandal and false imprisonment--I
am a free burgess and a magistrate o' Glasgow; Nicol Jarvie is my name,
sae was my father's afore me--I am a bailie, be praised for the honour,
and my father was a deacon."
"He was a prick-eared cur," said Major Galbraith, "and fought agane the
King at Bothwell Brigg."
"He paid what he ought and what he bought, Mr. Galbraith," said the
Bailie, "and was an honester man than ever stude on your shanks."
"I have no time to attend to all this," said the officer; "I must
positively detain you, gentlemen, unless you can produce some respectable
security that you are loyal subjects."
"I desire to be carried before some civil magistrate," said the
Bailie--"the sherra or the judge of the bounds;--I am not obliged to
answer every red-coat that speers questions at me."
"Well, sir, I shall know how to manage you if you are silent--And you,
sir" (to me), "what may your name be?"
"Francis Osbaldistone, sir."
"What, a son of Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone of Northumberland?"
"No, sir," interrupted the Bailie; "a son of the great William
Osbaldistone of the House of Osbaldistone and Tresham, Crane-Alley,
"I am afraid, sir," said the officer, "your name only increases the
suspicions against you, and lays me under the necessity of requesting
that you will give up what papers you have in charge."
I observed the Highlanders look anxiously at each other when this
proposal was made.
"I had none," I replied, "to surrender."
The officer commanded me to be disarmed and searched. To have resisted
would have been madness. I accordingly gave up my arms, and submitted to
a search, which was conducted as civilly as an operation of the kind well
could. They found nothing except the note which I had received that night
through the hand of the landlady.
"This is different from what I expected," said the officer; "but it
affords us good grounds for detaining you. Here I find you in written
communication with the outlawed robber, Robert MacGregor Campbell, who
has been so long the plague of this district--How do you account for
"Spies of Rob!" said Inverashalloch. "We wad serve them right to strap
them up till the neist tree."
"We are gaun to see after some gear o' our ain, gentlemen," said the
Bailie, "that's fa'en into his hands by accident--there's nae law agane a
man looking after his ain, I hope?"
"How did you come by this letter?" said the officer, addressing himself
I could not think of betraying the poor woman who had given it to me, and
"Do you know anything of it, fellow?" said the officer, looking at
Andrew, whose jaws were chattering like a pair of castanets at the
threats thrown out by the Highlander.
"O ay, I ken a' about it--it was a Hieland loon gied the letter to that
lang-tongued jaud the gudewife there; I'll be sworn my maister ken'd
naething about it. But he's wilfu' to gang up the hills and speak wi'
Rob; and oh, sir, it wad be a charity just to send a wheen o' your
red-coats to see him safe back to Glasgow again whether he will or
no--And ye can keep Mr. Jarvie as lang as ye like--He's responsible
enough for ony fine ye may lay on him--and so's my master for that
matter; for me, I'm just a puir gardener lad, and no worth your
"I believe," said the officer, "the best thing I can do is to send these
persons to the garrison under an escort. They seem to be in immediate
correspondence with the enemy, and I shall be in no respect answerable
for suffering them to be at liberty. Gentlemen, you will consider
yourselves as my prisoners. So soon as dawn approaches, I will send you
to a place of security. If you be the persons you describe yourselves, it
will soon appear, and you will sustain no great inconvenience from being
detained a day or two. I can hear no remonstrances," he continued,
turning away from the Bailie, whose mouth was open to address him; "the
service I am on gives me no time for idle discussions."
"Aweel, aweel, sir," said the Bailie, "you're welcome to a tune on your
ain fiddle; but see if I dinna gar ye dance till't afore a's dune."
An anxious consultation now took place between the officer and the
Highlanders, but carried on in so low a tone, that it was impossible to
catch the sense. So soon as it was concluded they all left the house. At
their departure, the Bailie thus expressed himself:--"Thae Hielandmen are
o' the westland clans, and just as light-handed as their neighbours, an
a' tales be true, and yet ye see they hae brought them frae the head o'
Argyleshire to make war wi' puir Rob for some auld ill-will that they hae
at him and his sirname. And there's the Grahames, and the Buchanans, and
the Lennox gentry, a' mounted and in order--It's weel ken'd their
quarrel; and I dinna blame them--naebody likes to lose his kye. And then
there's sodgers, puir things, hoyed out frae the garrison at a' body's
bidding--Puir Rob will hae his hands fu' by the time the sun comes ower
the hill. Weel--it's wrang for a magistrate to be wishing onything agane
the course o' justice, but deil o' me an I wad break my heart to hear
that Rob had gien them a' their paiks!"
Hear me, and mark me well, and look upon me
Directly in my face--my woman's face--
See if one fear, one shadow of a terror,
One paleness dare appear, but from my anger,
To lay hold on your mercies.
We were permitted to slumber out the remainder of the night in the best
manner that the miserable accommodations of the alehouse permitted. The
Bailie, fatigued with his journey and the subsequent scenes--less
interested also in the event of our arrest, which to him could only be a
matter of temporary inconvenience--perhaps less nice than habit had
rendered me about the cleanliness or decency of his couch,--tumbled
himself into one of the cribs which I have already described, and soon
was heard to snore soundly. A broken sleep, snatched by intervals, while
I rested my head upon the table, was my only refreshment. In the course
of the night I had occasion to observe that there seemed to be some doubt
and hesitation in the motions of the soldiery. Men were sent out, as if
to obtain intelligence, and returned apparently without bringing any
satisfactory information to their commanding officer. He was obviously
eager and anxious, and again despatched small parties of two or three
men, some of whom, as I could understand from what the others whispered
to each other, did not return again to the Clachan.
The morning had broken, when a corporal and two men rushed into the hut,
dragging after them, in a sort of triumph, a Highlander, whom I
immediately recognised as my acquaintance the ex-turnkey. The Bailie, who
started up at the noise with which they entered, immediately made the
same discovery, and exclaimed--"Mercy on us! they hae grippit the puir
creature Dougal.--Captain, I will put in bail--sufficient bail, for that
To this offer, dictated undoubtedly by a grateful recollection of the
late interference of the Highlander in his behalf, the Captain only
answered by requesting Mr. Jarvie to "mind his own affairs, and remember
that he was himself for the present a prisoner."
"I take you to witness, Mr. Osbaldistone," said the Bailie, who was
probably better acquainted with the process in civil than in military
cases, "that he has refused sufficient bail. It's my opinion that the
creature Dougal will have a good action of wrongous imprisonment and
damages agane him, under the Act seventeen hundred and one, and I'll see
the creature righted."
The officer, whose name I understood was Thornton, paying no attention to
the Bailie's threats or expostulations, instituted a very close inquiry
into Dougal's life and conversation, and compelled him to admit, though
with apparent reluctance, the successive facts,--that he knew Rob Roy
MacGregor--that he had seen him within these twelve months--within these
six months--within this month--within this week; in fine, that he had
parted from him only an hour ago. All this detail came like drops of
blood from the prisoner, and was, to all appearance, only extorted by the
threat of a halter and the next tree, which Captain Thornton assured him
should be his doom, if he did not give direct and special information.
"And now, my friend," said the officer, "you will please inform me how
many men your master has with him at present."
Dougal looked in every direction except at the querist, and began to
answer, "She canna just be sure about that."
"Look at me, you Highland dog," said the officer, "and remember your life
depends on your answer. How many rogues had that outlawed scoundrel with
him when you left him?"
"Ou, no aboon sax rogues when I was gane."
"And where are the rest of his banditti?"
"Gane wi' the Lieutenant agane ta westland carles."
"Against the westland clans?" said the Captain. "Umph--that is likely
enough; and what rogue's errand were you despatched upon?"
"Just to see what your honour and ta gentlemen red-coats were doing doun
here at ta Clachan."
"The creature will prove fause-hearted, after a'," said the Bailie, who
by this time had planted himself close behind me; "it's lucky I didna pit
mysell to expenses anent him."
"And now, my friend," said the Captain, "let us understand each other.
You have confessed yourself a spy, and should string up to the next
tree--But come, if you will do me one good turn, I will do you another.
You, Donald--you shall just, in the way of kindness, carry me and a small
party to the place where you left your master, as I wish to speak a few
words with him on serious affairs; and I'll let you go about your
business, and give you five guineas to boot."
"Oigh! oigh!" exclaimed Dougal, in the extremity of distress and
perplexity; "she canna do tat--she canna do tat; she'll rather be
"Hanged, then, you shall be, my friend" said the officer; "and your blood
be upon your own head. Corporal Cramp, do you play Provost-Marshal--away
The corporal had confronted poor Dougal for some time, ostentatiously
twisting a piece of cord which he had found in the house into the form of
a halter. He now threw it about the culprit's neck, and, with the
assistance of two soldiers, had dragged Dougal as far as the door, when,
overcome with the terror of immediate death, he exclaimed, "Shentlemans,
stops--stops! She'll do his honour's bidding--stops!"
"Awa' wi' the creature!" said the Bailie, "he deserves hanging mair now
than ever; awa' wi' him, corporal. Why dinna ye tak him awa'?"
"It's my belief and opinion, honest gentleman," said the corporal, "that
if you were going to be hanged yourself, you would be in no such d--d
This by-dialogue prevented my hearing what passed between the prisoner
and Captain Thornton; but I heard the former snivel out, in a very
subdued tone, "And ye'll ask her to gang nae farther than just to show ye
where the MacGregor is?--Ohon! ohon!"
"Silence your howling, you rascal--No; I give you my word I will ask you
to go no farther.--Corporal, make the men fall in, in front of the
houses. Get out these gentlemen's horses; we must carry them with us. I
cannot spare any men to guard them here. Come, my lads, get under arms."
The soldiers bustled about, and were ready to move. We were led out,
along with Dougal, in the capacity of prisoners. As we left the hut, I
heard our companion in captivity remind the Captain of "ta foive
"Here they are for you," said the officer, putting gold into his hand;
"but observe, that if you attempt to mislead me, I will blow your brains
out with my own hand."
"The creature," said the Bailie, "is waur than I judged him--it is a
warldly and a perfidious creature. O the filthy lucre of gain that men
gies themsells up to! My father the deacon used to say, the penny siller
slew mair souls than the naked sword slew bodies."
The landlady now approached, and demanded payment of her reckoning,
including all that had been quaffed by Major Galbraith and his Highland
friends. The English officer remonstrated, but Mrs. MacAlpine declared,
if "she hadna trusted to his honour's name being used in their company,
she wad never hae drawn them a stoup o' liquor; for Mr. Galbraith, she
might see him again, or she might no, but weel did she wot she had sma'
chance of seeing her siller--and she was a puir widow, had naething but
her custom to rely on."
Captain Thornton put a stop to her remonstrances by paying the charge,
which was only a few English shillings, though the amount sounded very
formidable in Scottish denominations. The generous officer would have
included Mr. Jarvie and me in this general acquittance; but the Bailie,
disregarding an intimation from the landlady to "make as muckle of the
Inglishers as we could, for they were sure to gie us plague eneugh," went
into a formal accounting respecting our share of the reckoning, and paid
it accordingly. The Captain took the opportunity to make us some slight
apology for detaining us. "If we were loyal and peaceable subjects," he
said, "we would not regret being stopt for a day, when it was essential
to the king's service; if otherwise, he was acting according to his
We were compelled to accept an apology which it would have served no
purpose to refuse, and we sallied out to attend him on his march.
I shall never forget the delightful sensation with which I exchanged the
dark, smoky, smothering atmosphere of the Highland hut, in which we had
passed the night so uncomfortably, for the refreshing fragrance of the
morning air, and the glorious beams of the rising sun, which, from a
tabernacle of purple and golden clouds, were darted full on such a scene
of natural romance and beauty as had never before greeted my eyes. To the
left lay the valley, down which the Forth wandered on its easterly
course, surrounding the beautiful detached hill, with all its garland of
woods. On the right, amid a profusion of thickets, knolls, and crags, lay
the bed of a broad mountain lake, lightly curled into tiny waves by the
breath of the morning breeze, each glittering in its course under the
influence of the sunbeams. High hills, rocks, and banks, waving with
natural forests of birch and oak, formed the borders of this enchanting
sheet of water; and, as their leaves rustled to the wind and twinkled in
the sun, gave to the depth of solitude a sort of life and vivacity. Man
alone seemed to be placed in a state of inferiority, in a scene where all
the ordinary features of nature were raised and exalted. The miserable
little _bourocks,_ as the Bailie termed them, of which about a dozen
formed the village called the Clachan of Aberfoil, were composed of loose
stones, cemented by clay instead of mortar, and thatched by turfs, laid
rudely upon rafters formed of native and unhewn birches and oaks from the
woods around. The roofs approached the ground so nearly, that Andrew
Fairservice observed we might have ridden over the village the night
before, and never found out we were near it, unless our horses' feet had
"gane through the riggin'."
From all we could see, Mrs. MacAlpine's house, miserable as were the
quarters it afforded, was still by far the best in the hamlet; and I dare
say (if my description gives you any curiosity to see it) you will hardly
find it much improved at the present day, for the Scotch are not a people
who speedily admit innovation, even when it comes in the shape of
* Note I. Clachan of Aberfoil.
The inhabitants of these miserable dwellings were disturbed by the noise
of our departure; and as our party of about twenty soldiers drew up in
rank before marching off, we were reconnoitred by many a beldam from the
half-opened door of her cottage. As these sibyls thrust forth their grey
heads, imperfectly covered with close caps of flannel, and showed their
shrivelled brows, and long skinny arms, with various gestures, shrugs,
and muttered expressions in Gaelic addressed to each other, my
imagination recurred to the witches of Macbeth, and I imagined I read in
the features of these crones the malevolence of the weird sisters. The
little children also, who began to crawl forth, some quite naked, and
others very imperfectly covered with tatters of tartan stuff, clapped
their tiny hands, and grinned at the English soldiers, with an expression
of national hate and malignity which seemed beyond their years. I
remarked particularly that there were no men, nor so much as a boy of ten
or twelve years old, to be seen among the inhabitants of a village which
seemed populous in proportion to its extent; and the idea certainly
occurred to me, that we were likely to receive from them, in the course
of our journey, more effectual tokens of ill-will than those which
lowered on the visages, and dictated the murmurs, of the women and
children. It was not until we commenced our march that the malignity of
the elder persons of the community broke forth into expressions. The last
file of men had left the village, to pursue a small broken track, formed
by the sledges in which the natives transported their peats and turfs,
and which led through the woods that fringed the lower end of the lake,
when a shrilly sound of female exclamation broke forth, mixed with the
screams of children, the whooping of boys, and the clapping of hands,
with which the Highland dames enforce their notes, whether of rage or
lamentation. I asked Andrew, who looked as pale as death, what all this
"I doubt we'll ken that ower sune," said he. "Means? It means that the
Highland wives are cursing and banning the red-coats, and wishing
ill-luck to them, and ilka ane that ever spoke the Saxon tongue. I have
heard wives flyte in England and Scotland--it's nae marvel to hear them
flyte ony gate; but sic ill-scrapit tongues as thae Highland
carlines'--and sic grewsome wishes, that men should be slaughtered like
sheep--and that they may lapper their hands to the elbows in their
heart's blude--and that they suld dee the death of Walter Cuming of
Guiyock,* wha hadna as muckle o' him left thegither as would supper a
messan-dog--sic awsome language as that I ne'er heard out o' a human
thrapple;--and, unless the deil wad rise amang them to gie them a
lesson, I thinkna that their talent at cursing could be amended.
* A great feudal oppressor, who, riding on some cruel purpose through the
forest of Guiyock, was thrown from his horse, and his foot being caught
in the stirrup, was dragged along by the frightened animal till he was
torn to pieces. The expression, "Walter of Guiyock's curse," is
The warst o't is, they bid us aye gang up the loch, and see what we'll
Adding Andrew's information to what I had myself observed, I could scarce
doubt that some attack was meditated upon our party. The road, as we
advanced, seemed to afford every facility for such an unpleasant
interruption. At first it winded apart from the lake through marshy
meadow ground, overgrown with copsewood, now traversing dark and close
thickets which would have admitted an ambuscade to be sheltered within a
few yards of our line of march, and frequently crossing rough mountain
torrents, some of which took the soldiers up to the knees, and ran with
such violence, that their force could only be stemmed by the strength of
two or three men holding fast by each other's arms. It certainly appeared
to me, though altogether unacquainted with military affairs, that a sort
of half-savage warriors, as I had heard the Highlanders asserted to be,
might, in such passes as these, attack a party of regular forces with
great advantage. The Bailie's good sense and shrewd observation had led
him to the same conclusion, as I understood from his requesting to speak
with the captain, whom he addressed nearly in the following terms:--
"Captain, it's no to fleech ony favour out o' ye, for I scorn it--and
it's under protest that I reserve my action and pleas of oppression and
wrongous imprisonment;--but, being a friend to King George and his army,
I take the liberty to speer--Dinna ye think ye might tak a better time to
gang up this glen? If ye are seeking Rob Roy, he's ken'd to be better
than half a hunder men strong when he's at the fewest; an if he brings in
the Glengyle folk, and the Glenfinlas and Balquhidder lads, he may come
to gie you your kail through the reek; and it's my sincere advice, as a
king's friend, ye had better tak back again to the Clachan, for thae
women at Aberfoil are like the scarts and seamaws at the Cumries--there's
aye foul weather follows their skirting."
"Make yourself easy, sir," replied Captain Thornton; "I am in the
execution of my orders. And as you say you are a friend to King George,
you will be glad to learn that it is impossible that this gang of
ruffians, whose license has disturbed the country so long, can escape the
measures now taken to suppress them. The horse squadron of militia,
commanded by Major Galbraith, is already joined by two or more troops of
cavalry, which will occupy all the lower passes of this wild country;
three hundred Highlanders, under the two gentlemen you saw at the inn,
are in possession of the upper part, and various strong parties from the
garrison are securing the hills and glens in different directions. Our
last accounts of Rob Roy correspond with what this fellow has confessed,
that, finding himself surrounded on all sides, he had dismissed the
greater part of his followers, with the purpose either of lying
concealed, or of making his escape through his superior knowledge of the
"I dinna ken," said the Bailie; "there's mair brandy than brains in
Garschattachin's head this morning--And I wadna, an I were you, Captain,
rest my main dependence on the Hielandmen--hawks winna pike out hawks'
een. They may quarrel among themsells, and gie ilk ither ill names, and
maybe a slash wi' a claymore; but they are sure to join in the lang run,
against a' civilised folk, that wear breeks on their hinder ends, and hae
purses in their pouches."
Apparently these admonitions were not altogether thrown away on Captain
Thornton. He reformed his line of march, commanded his soldiers to
unsling their firelocks and fix their bayonets, and formed an advanced
and rear-guard, each consisting of a non-commissioned officer and two
soldiers, who received strict orders to keep an alert look-out. Dougal
underwent another and very close examination, in which he steadfastly
asserted the truth of what he had before affirmed; and being rebuked on
account of the suspicious and dangerous appearance of the route by which
he was guiding them, he answered with a sort of testiness that seemed
very natural, "Her nainsell didna mak ta road; an shentlemans likit grand
roads, she suld hae pided at Glasco."
All this passed off well enough, and we resumed our progress.
Our route, though leading towards the lake, had hitherto been so much
shaded by wood, that we only from time to time obtained a glimpse of that
beautiful sheet of water. But the road now suddenly emerged from the
forest ground, and, winding close by the margin of the loch, afforded us
a full view of its spacious mirror, which now, the breeze having totally
subsided, reflected in still magnificence the high dark heathy mountains,
huge grey rocks, and shaggy banks, by which it is encircled. The hills
now sunk on its margin so closely, and were so broken and precipitous, as
to afford no passage except just upon the narrow line of the track which
we occupied, and which was overhung with rocks, from which we might have
been destroyed merely by rolling down stones, without much possibility of
offering resistance. Add to this, that, as the road winded round every
promontory and bay which indented the lake, there was rarely a
possibility of seeing a hundred yards before us. Our commander appeared
to take some alarm at the nature of the pass in which he was engaged,
which displayed itself in repeated orders to his soldiers to be on the
alert, and in many threats of instant death to Dougal, if he should be
found to have led them into danger. Dougal received these threats with an
air of stupid impenetrability, which might arise either from conscious
innocence, or from dogged resolution.
"If shentlemans were seeking ta Red Gregarach," he said, "to be sure they
couldna expect to find her without some wee danger."
Just as the Highlander uttered these words, a halt was made by the
corporal commanding the advance, who sent back one of the file who formed
it, to tell the Captain that the path in front was occupied by
Highlanders, stationed on a commanding point of particular difficulty.
Almost at the same instant a soldier from the rear came to say, that they
heard the sound of a bagpipe in the woods through which we had just
passed. Captain Thornton, a man of conduct as well as courage, instantly
resolved to force the pass in front, without waiting till he was assailed
from the rear; and, assuring his soldiers that the bagpipes which they
heard were those of the friendly Highlanders who were advancing to their
assistance, he stated to them the importance of advancing and securing
Rob Roy, if possible, before these auxiliaries should come up to divide
with them the honour, as well as the reward which was placed on the head
of this celebrated freebooter. He therefore ordered the rearguard to join
the centre, and both to close up to the advance, doubling his files so as
to occupy with his column the whole practicable part of the road, and to
present such a front as its breadth admitted. Dougal, to whom he said in
a whisper, "You dog, if you have deceived me, you shall die for it!" was
placed in the centre, between two grenadiers, with positive orders to
shoot him if he attempted an escape. The same situation was assigned to
us, as being the safest, and Captain Thornton, taking his half-pike from
the soldier who carried it, placed himself at the head of his little
detachment, and gave the word to march forward.
The party advanced with the firmness of English soldiers. Not so Andrew
Fairservice, who was frightened out of his wits; and not so, if truth
must be told, either the Bailie or I myself, who, without feeling the
same degree of trepidation, could not with stoical indifference see our
lives exposed to hazard in a quarrel with which we had no concern. But
there was neither time for remonstrance nor remedy.
We approached within about twenty yards of the spot where the advanced
guard had seen some appearance of an enemy. It was one of those
promontories which run into the lake, and round the base of which the
road had hitherto winded in the manner I have described. In the present
case, however, the path, instead of keeping the water's edge, sealed the
promontory by one or two rapid zigzags, carried in a broken track along
the precipitous face of a slaty grey rock, which would otherwise have
been absolutely inaccessible. On the top of this rock, only to be
approached by a road so broken, so narrow, and so precarious, the
corporal declared he had seen the bonnets and long-barrelled guns of
several mountaineers, apparently couched among the long heath and
brushwood which crested the eminence. Captain Thornton ordered him to
move forward with three files, to dislodge the supposed ambuscade, while,
at a more slow but steady pace, he advanced to his support with the rest
of his party.
The attack which he meditated was prevented by the unexpected apparition
of a female upon the summit of the rock.
"Stand!" she said, with a commanding tone, "and tell me what ye seek in
I have seldom seen a finer or more commanding form than this woman. She
might be between the term of forty and fifty years, and had a countenance
which must once have been of a masculine cast of beauty; though now,
imprinted with deep lines by exposure to rough weather, and perhaps by
the wasting influence of grief and passion, its features were only
strong, harsh, and expressive. She wore her plaid, not drawn around her
head and shoulders, as is the fashion of the women in Scotland, but
disposed around her body as the Highland soldiers wear theirs. She had a
man's bonnet, with a feather in it, an unsheathed sword in her hand, and
a pair of pistols at her girdle.
"It's Helen Campbell, Rob's wife," said the Bailie, in a whisper of
considerable alarm; "and there will be broken heads amang us or it's
"What seek ye here?" she asked again of Captain Thornton, who had himself
advanced to reconnoitre.
"We seek the outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell," answered the officer,
"and make no war on women; therefore offer no vain opposition to the
king's troops, and assure yourself of civil treatment."
"Ay," retorted the Amazon, "I am no stranger to your tender mercies. Ye
have left me neither name nor fame--my mother's bones will shrink aside
in their grave when mine are laid beside them--Ye have left me neither
house nor hold, blanket nor bedding, cattle to feed us, or flocks to
clothe us--Ye have taken from us all--all!--The very name of our
ancestors have ye taken away, and now ye come for our lives."
"I seek no man's life," replied the Captain; "I only execute my orders.
If you are alone, good woman, you have nought to fear--if there are any
with you so rash as to offer useless resistance, their own blood be on
their own heads. Move forward, sergeant."
"Forward! march!" said the non-commissioned officer. "Huzza, my boys, for
Rob Roy's head and a purse of gold."
He quickened his pace into a run, followed by the six soldiers; but as
they attained the first traverse of the ascent, the flash of a dozen of
firelocks from various parts of the pass parted in quick succession and
deliberate aim. The sergeant, shot through the body, still struggled to
gain the ascent, raised himself by his hands to clamber up the face of
the rock, but relaxed his grasp, after a desperate effort, and falling,
rolled from the face of the cliff into the deep lake, where he perished.
Of the soldiers, three fell, slain or disabled; the others retreated on
their main body, all more or less wounded.
"Grenadiers, to the front!" said Captain Thornton.--You are to recollect,
that in those days this description of soldiers actually carried that
destructive species of firework from which they derive their name. The
four grenadiers moved to the front accordingly. The officer commanded the
rest of the party to be ready to support them, and only saying to us,
"Look to your safety, gentlemen," gave, in rapid succession, the word to
the grenadiers--"Open your pouches--handle your grenades--blow your
The whole advanced with a shout, headed by Captain Thornton,--the
grenadiers preparing to throw their grenades among the bushes where the
ambuscade lay, and the musketeers to support them by an instant and close
assault. Dougal, forgotten in the scuffle, wisely crept into the thicket
which overhung that part of the road where we had first halted, which he
ascended with the activity of a wild cat. I followed his example,
instinctively recollecting that the fire of the Highlanders would sweep
the open track. I clambered until out of breath; for a continued
spattering fire, in which every shot was multiplied by a thousand echoes,
the hissing of the kindled fusees of the grenades, and the successive
explosion of those missiles, mingled with the huzzas of the soldiers, and
the yells and cries of their Highland antagonists, formed a contrast
which added--I do not shame to own it--wings to my desire to reach a
place of safety. The difficulties of the ascent soon increased so much,
that I despaired of reaching Dougal, who seemed to swing himself from
rock to rock, and stump to stump, with the facility of a squirrel, and I
turned down my eyes to see what had become of my other companions. Both
were brought to a very awkward standstill.
The Bailie, to whom I suppose fear had given a temporary share of
agility, had ascended about twenty feet from the path, when his foot
slipping, as he straddled from one huge fragment of rock to another, he
would have slumbered with his father the deacon, whose acts and words he
was so fond of quoting, but for a projecting branch of a ragged thorn,
which, catching hold of the skirts of his riding-coat, supported him in
mid-air, where he dangled not unlike to the sign of the Golden Fleece
over the door of a mercer in the Trongate of his native city.
As for Andrew Fairservice, he had advanced with better success, until he
had attained the top of a bare cliff, which, rising above the wood,
exposed him, at least in his own opinion, to all the dangers of the
neighbouring skirmish, while, at the same time, it was of such a
precipitous and impracticable nature, that he dared neither to advance
nor retreat. Footing it up and down upon the narrow space which the top
of the cliff afforded (very like a fellow at a country-fair dancing upon
a trencher), he roared for mercy in Gaelic and English alternately,
according to the side on which the scale of victory seemed to
predominate, while his exclamations were only answered by the groans of
the Bailie, who suffered much, not only from apprehension, but from the
pendulous posture in which he hung suspended by the loins.
On perceiving the Bailie's precarious situation, my first idea was to
attempt to render him assistance; but this was impossible without the
concurrence of Andrew, whom neither sign, nor entreaty, nor command, nor
expostulation, could inspire with courage to adventure the descent from
his painful elevation, where, like an unskilful and obnoxious minister of
state, unable to escape from the eminence to which he had presumptuously
ascended, he continued to pour forth piteous prayers for mercy, which no
one heard, and to skip to and fro, writhing his body into all possible
antic shapes to avoid the balls which he conceived to be whistling around
In a few minutes this cause of terror ceased, for the fire, at first so
well sustained, now sunk at once--a sure sign that the conflict was
concluded. To gain some spot from which I could see how the day had gone
was now my object, in order to appeal to the mercy of the victors, who, I
trusted (whichever side might be gainers), would not suffer the honest
Bailie to remain suspended, like the coffin of Mahomet, between heaven
and earth, without lending a hand to disengage him. At length, by dint of
scrambling, I found a spot which commanded a view of the field of battle.
It was indeed ended; and, as my mind already augured, from the place and
circumstances attending the contest, it had terminated in the defeat of
Captain Thornton. I saw a party of Highlanders in the act of disarming
that officer, and the scanty remainder of his party. They consisted of
about twelve men most of whom were wounded, who, surrounded by treble
their number, and without the power either to advance or retreat, exposed
to a murderous and well-aimed fire, which they had no means of returning
with effect, had at length laid down their arms by the order of their
officer, when he saw that the road in his rear was occupied, and that
protracted resistance would be only wasting the lives of his brave
followers. By the Highlanders, who fought under cover, the victory was
cheaply bought, at the expense of one man slain and two wounded by the
grenades. All this I learned afterwards. At present I only comprehended
the general result of the day, from seeing the English officer, whose
face was covered with blood, stripped of his hat and arms, and his men,
with sullen and dejected countenances which marked their deep regret,
enduring, from the wild and martial figures who surrounded them, the
severe measures to which the laws of war subject the vanquished for
security of the victors.
"Woe to the vanquished!" was stern Brenno's word,
When sunk proud Rome beneath the Gallic sword--
"Woe to the vanquished!" when his massive blade
Bore down the scale against her ransom weigh'd;
And on the field of foughten battle still,
Woe knows no limits save the victor's will.
I anxiously endeavoured to distinguish Dougal among the victors. I had
little doubt that the part he had played was assumed, on purpose to lead
the English officer into the defile, and I could not help admiring the
address with which the ignorant, and apparently half-brutal savage, had
veiled his purpose, and the affected reluctance with which he had
suffered to be extracted from him the false information which it must
have been his purpose from the beginning to communicate. I foresaw we
should incur some danger on approaching the victors in the first flush of
their success, which was not unstained with cruelty; for one or two of
the soldiers, whose wounds prevented them from rising, were poniarded by
the victors, or rather by some ragged Highland boys who had mingled with
them. I concluded, therefore, it would be unsafe to present ourselves
without some mediator; and as Campbell, whom I now could not but identify
with the celebrated freebooter Rob Roy, was nowhere to be seen, I
resolved to claim the protection of his emissary, Dougal.
After gazing everywhere in vain, I at length retraced my steps to see
what assistance I could individually render to my unlucky friend, when,
to my great joy, I saw Mr. Jarvie delivered from his state of suspense;
and though very black in the face, and much deranged in the garments,
safely seated beneath the rock, in front of which he had been so lately
suspended. I hastened to join him and offer my congratulations, which he
was at first far from receiving in the spirit of cordiality with which
they were offered. A heavy fit of coughing scarce permitted him breath
enough to express the broken hints which he threw out against my
"Uh! uh! uh! uh!--they say a friend--uh! uh!--a friend sticketh closer
than a brither--uh! uh! uh! When I came up here, Maister Osbaldistone, to
this country, cursed of God and man--uh! uh--Heaven forgie me for
swearing--on nae man's errand but yours, d'ye think it was fair--uh! uh!
uh!--to leave me, first, to be shot or drowned atween red-wad Highlanders
and red-coats; and next to be hung up between heaven and earth, like an
auld potato-bogle, without sae muckle as trying--uh! uh!--sae muckle as
trying to relieve me?"
I made a thousand apologies, and laboured so hard to represent the
impossibility of my affording him relief by my own unassisted exertions,
that at length I succeeded, and the Bailie, who was as placable as hasty
in his temper, extended his favour to me once more. I next took the
liberty of asking him how he had contrived to extricate himself.
"Me extricate! I might hae hung there till the day of judgment or I could
hae helped mysell, wi' my head hinging down on the tae side, and my heels
on the tother, like the yarn-scales in the weigh-house. It was the
creature Dougal that extricated me, as he did yestreen; he cuttit aff the
tails o' my coat wi' his durk, and another gillie and him set me on my
legs as cleverly as if I had never been aff them. But to see what a thing
gude braid claith is! Had I been in ony o' your rotten French camlets
now, or your drab-de-berries, it would hae screeded like an auld rag wi'
sic a weight as mine. But fair fa' the weaver that wrought the weft
o't--I swung and bobbit yonder as safe as a gabbart* that's moored by a
three-ply cable at the Broomielaw."
* A kind of lighter used in the river Clyde,--probably from the French *
I now inquired what had become of his preserver.
"The creature," so he continued to call the Highlandman, "contrived to
let me ken there wad be danger in gaun near the leddy till he came back,
and bade me stay here. I am o' the mind," he continued, "that he's
seeking after you--it's a considerate creature--and troth, I wad swear he
was right about the leddy, as he ca's her, too--Helen Campbell was nane
o' the maist douce maidens, nor meekest wives neither, and folk say that
Rob himsell stands in awe o' her. I doubt she winna ken me, for it's mony
years since we met--I am clear for waiting for the Dougal creature or we
gang near her."
I signified my acquiescence in this reasoning; but it was not the will of
fate that day that the Bailie's prudence should profit himself or any one
Andrew Fairservice, though he had ceased to caper on the pinnacle upon
the cessation of the firing, which had given occasion for his whimsical
exercise, continued, as perched on the top of an exposed cliff, too
conspicuous an object to escape the sharp eyes of the Highlanders, when
they had time to look a little around them. We were apprized he was
discovered, by a wild and loud halloo set up among the assembled victors,
three or four of whom instantly plunged into the copsewood, and ascended
the rocky side of the hill in different directions towards the place
where they had discovered this whimsical apparition.
Those who arrived first within gunshot of poor Andrew, did not trouble
themselves to offer him any assistance in the ticklish posture of his
affairs, but levelling their long Spanish-barrelled guns, gave him to
understand, by signs which admitted of no misconstruction, that he must
contrive to come down and submit himself to their mercy, or to be marked
at from beneath, like a regimental target set up for ball-practice. With
such a formidable hint for venturous exertion, Andrew Fairservice could
no longer hesitate; the more imminent peril overcame his sense of that
which seemed less inevitable, and he began to descend the cliff at all
risks, clutching to the ivy and oak stumps, and projecting fragments of
rock, with an almost feverish anxiety, and never failing, as
circumstances left him a hand at liberty, to extend it to the plaided
gentry below in an attitude of supplication, as if to deprecate the
discharge of their levelled firearms. In a word, the fellow, under the
influence of a counteracting motive for terror, achieved a safe descent
from his perilous eminence, which, I verily believe, nothing but the fear
of instant death could have moved him to attempt. The awkward mode of
Andrew's descent greatly amused the Highlanders below, who fired a shot
or two while he was engaged in it, without the purpose of injuring him,
as I believe, but merely to enhance the amusement they derived from his
extreme terror, and the superlative exertions of agility to which it
At length he attained firm and comparatively level ground--or rather, to
speak more correctly, his foot slipping at the last point of descent, he
fell on the earth at his full length, and was raised by the assistance of
the Highlanders, who stood to receive him, and who, ere he gained his
legs, stripped him not only of the whole contents of his pockets, but of
periwig, hat, coat, doublet, stockings, and shoes, performing the feat
with such admirable celerity, that, although he fell on his back a
well-clothed and decent burgher-seeming serving-man, he arose a forked,
uncased, bald-pated, beggarly-looking scarecrow. Without respect to the
pain which his undefended toes experienced from the sharp encounter of
the rocks over which they hurried him, those who had detected Andrew
proceeded to drag him downward towards the road through all the
In the course of their descent, Mr. Jarvie and I became exposed to their
lynx-eyed observation, and instantly half-a-dozen of armed Highlanders
thronged around us, with drawn dirks and swords pointed at our faces and
throats, and cocked pistols presented against our bodies. To have offered
resistance would have been madness, especially as we had no weapons
capable of supporting such a demonstration. We therefore submitted to our
fate; and with great roughness on the part of those who assisted at our
toilette, were in the act of being reduced to as unsophisticated a state
(to use King Lear's phrase) as the plume-less biped Andrew Fairservice,
who stood shivering between fear and cold at a few yards' distance. Good
chance, however, saved us from this extremity of wretchedness; for, just
as I had yielded up my cravat (a smart Steinkirk, by the way, and richly
laced), and the Bailie had been disrobed of the fragments of his
riding-coat--enter Dougal, and the scene was changed. By a high tone of
expostulation, mixed with oaths and threats, as far as I could conjecture
the tenor of his language from the violence of his gestures, he compelled
the plunderers, however reluctant, not only to give up their further
depredations on our property, but to restore the spoil they had already
appropriated. He snatched my cravat from the fellow who had seized it,
and twisted it (in the zeal of his restitution) around my neck with such
suffocating energy as made me think that he had not only been, during his
residence at Glasgow, a substitute of the jailor, but must moreover have
taken lessons as an apprentice of the hangman. He flung the tattered
remnants of Mr. Jarvie's coat around his shoulders, and as more
Highlanders began to flock towards us from the high road, he led the way
downwards, directing and commanding the others to afford us, but
particularly the Bailie, the assistance necessary to our descending with
comparative ease and safety. It was, however, in vain that Andrew
Fairservice employed his lungs in obsecrating a share of Dougal's
protection, or at least his interference to procure restoration of his
"Na, na," said Dougal in reply, "she's nae gentle pody, I trow; her
petters hae ganged parefoot, or she's muckle mista'en." And, leaving
Andrew to follow at his leisure, or rather at such leisure as the
surrounding crowd were pleased to indulge him with, he hurried us down to
the pathway in which the skirmish had been fought, and hastened to
present us as additional captives to the female leader of his band.
We were dragged before her accordingly, Dougal fighting, struggling,
screaming, as if he were the party most apprehensive of hurt, and
repulsing, by threats and efforts, all those who attempted to take a
nearer interest in our capture than he seemed to do himself. At length we
were placed before the heroine of the day, whose appearance, as well as
those of the savage, uncouth, yet martial figures who surrounded us,
struck me, to own the truth, with considerable apprehension. I do not
know if Helen MacGregor had personally mingled in the fray, and indeed I
was afterwards given to understand the contrary; but the specks of blood
on her brow, her hands and naked arms, as well as on the blade of her
sword which she continued to hold in her hand--her flushed countenance,
and the disordered state of the raven locks which escaped from under the
red bonnet and plume that formed her head-dress, seemed all to intimate
that she had taken an immediate share in the conflict. Her keen black
eyes and features expressed an imagination inflamed by the pride of
gratified revenge, and the triumph of victory. Yet there was nothing
positively sanguinary, or cruel, in her deportment; and she reminded me,
when the immediate alarm of the interview was over, of some of the
paintings I had seen of the inspired heroines in the Catholic churches of
France. She was not, indeed, sufficiently beautiful for a Judith, nor had
she the inspired expression of features which painters have given to
Deborah, or to the wife of Heber the Kenite, at whose feet the strong
oppressor of Israel, who dwelled in Harosheth of the Gentiles, bowed
down, fell, and lay a dead man. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm by which she
was agitated gave her countenance and deportment, wildly dignified in
themselves, an air which made her approach nearly to the ideas of those
wonderful artists who gave to the eye the heroines of Scripture history.
I was uncertain in what terms to accost a personage so uncommon, when Mr.
Jarvie, breaking the ice with a preparatory cough (for the speed with
which he had been brought into her presence had again impeded his
respiration), addressed her as follows:--"Uh! uh! &c. &c. I am very happy
to have this _joyful_ opportunity" (a quaver in his voice strongly belied
the emphasis which he studiously laid on the word joyful)--"this joyful
occasion," he resumed, trying to give the adjective a more suitable
accentuation, "to wish my kinsman Robin's wife a very good morning--Uh!
uh!--How's a' wi' ye?" (by this time he had talked himself into his usual
jog-trot manner, which exhibited a mixture of familiarity and
self-importance)--"How's a' wi' ye this lang time? Ye'll hae forgotten
me, Mrs. MacGregor Campbell, as your cousin--uh! uh!--but ye'll mind my
father, Deacon Nicol Jarvie, in the Saut Market o' Glasgow?--an honest
man he was, and a sponsible, and respectit you and yours. Sae, as I said
before, I am right glad to see you, Mrs. MacGregor Campbell, as my
kinsman's wife. I wad crave the liberty of a kinsman to salute you, but
that your gillies keep such a dolefu' fast haud o' my arms, and, to speak
Heaven's truth and a magistrate's, ye wadna be the waur of a cogfu' o'
water before ye welcomed your friends."
There was something in the familiarity of this introduction which ill
suited the exalted state of temper of the person to whom it was
addressed, then busied with distributing dooms of death, and warm from
conquest in a perilous encounter.
"What fellow are you," she said, "that dare to claim kindred with the
MacGregor, and neither wear his dress nor speak his language?--What are
you, that have the tongue and the habit of the hound, and yet seek to lie
down with the deer?"
"I dinna ken," said the undaunted Bailie, "if the kindred has ever been
weel redd out to you yet, cousin--but it's ken'd, and can be prov'd. My
mother, Elspeth MacFarlane, was the wife of my father, Deacon Nicol
Jarvie--peace be wi' them baith!--and Elspeth was the daughter of Parlane
MacFarlane, at the Sheeling o' Loch Sloy. Now, this Parlane MacFarlane,
as his surviving daughter Maggy MacFarlane, _alias_ MacNab, wha married
Duncan MacNab o' Stuckavrallachan, can testify, stood as near to your
gudeman, Robert MacGregor, as in the fourth degree of kindred, for"--
The virago lopped the genealogical tree, by demanding haughtily, "If a
stream of rushing water acknowledged any relation with the portion
withdrawn from it for the mean domestic uses of those who dwelt on its
"Vera true, kinswoman," said the Bailie; "but for a' that, the burn wad
be glad to hae the milldam back again in simmer, when the chuckie-stanes
are white in the sun. I ken weel eneugh you Hieland folk haud us Glasgow
people light and cheap for our language and our claes;--but everybody
speaks their native tongue that they learned in infancy; and it would be
a daft-like thing to see me wi' my fat wame in a short Hieland coat, and
my puir short houghs gartered below the knee, like ane o' your
lang-legged gillies. Mair by token, kinswoman," he continued, in defiance
of various intimations by which Dougal seemed to recommend silence, as
well as of the marks of impatience which the Amazon evinced at his
loquacity, "I wad hae ye to mind that the king's errand whiles comes in
the cadger's gate, and that, for as high as ye may think o' the gudeman,
as it's right every wife should honour her husband--there's Scripture
warrant for that--yet as high as ye haud him, as I was saying, I hae been
serviceable to Rob ere now;--forbye a set o' pearlins I sent yourself
when ye was gaun to be married, and when Rob was an honest weel-doing
drover, and nane o' this unlawfu' wark, wi' fighting, and flashes, and
fluff-gibs, disturbing the king's peace and disarming his soldiers."
He had apparently touched on a key which his kinswoman could not brook.
She drew herself up to her full height, and betrayed the acuteness of her
feelings by a laugh of mingled scorn and bitterness.
"Yes," she said, "you, and such as you, might claim a relation to us,
when we stooped to be the paltry wretches fit to exist under your
dominion, as your hewers of wood and drawers of water--to find cattle for
your banquets, and subjects for your laws to oppress and trample on. But
now we are free--free by the very act which left us neither house nor
hearth, food nor covering--which bereaved me of all--of all--and makes me
groan when I think I must still cumber the earth for other purposes than
those of vengeance. And I will carry on the work, this day has so well
commenced, by a deed that shall break all bands between MacGregor and the
Lowland churls. Here Allan--Dougal--bind these Sassenachs neck and heel
together, and throw them into the Highland Loch to seek for their
The Bailie, alarmed at this mandate, was commencing an expostulation,
which probably would have only inflamed the violent passions of the
person whom he addressed, when Dougal threw himself between them, and in
his own language, which he spoke with a fluency and rapidity strongly
contrasted by the slow, imperfect, and idiot-like manner in which he
expressed himself in English, poured forth what I doubt not was a very
animated pleading in our behalf.
His mistress replied to him, or rather cut short his harangue, by
exclaiming in English (as if determined to make us taste in anticipation
the full bitterness of death)--"Base dog, and son of a dog, do you
dispute my commands? Should I tell ye to cut out their tongues and put
them into each other's throats, to try which would there best knap
Southron, or to tear out their hearts and put them into each other's
breasts, to see which would there best plot treason against the
MacGregor--and such things have been done of old in the day of revenge,
when our fathers had wrongs to redress--Should I command you to do this,
would it be your part to dispute my orders?"
"To be sure, to be sure," Dougal replied, with accents of profound
submission; "her pleasure suld be done--tat's but reason; but an it
were--tat is, an it could be thought the same to her to coup the
ill-faured loon of ta red-coat Captain, and hims corporal Cramp, and twa
three o' the red-coats, into the loch, herself wad do't wi' muckle mair
great satisfaction than to hurt ta honest civil shentlemans as were
friends to the Gregarach, and came up on the Chiefs assurance, and not
to do no treason, as herself could testify."
The lady was about to reply, when a few wild strains of a pibroch were
heard advancing up the road from Aberfoil, the same probably which had
reached the ears of Captain Thornton's rear-guard, and determined him to
force his way onward rather than return to the village, on finding the
pass occupied. The skirmish being of very short duration, the armed men
who followed this martial melody, had not, although quickening their
march when they heard the firing, been able to arrive in time sufficient
to take any share in the rencontre. The victory, therefore, was complete
without them, and they now arrived only to share in the triumph of their
There was a marked difference betwixt the appearance of these new comers
and that of the party by which our escort had been defeated--and it was
greatly in favour of the former. Among the Highlanders who surrounded the
Chieftainess, if I may presume to call her so without offence to grammar,
were men in the extremity of age, boys scarce able to bear a sword, and
even women--all, in short, whom the last necessity urges to take up arms;
and it added a shade of bitter shame to the defection which clouded
Thornton's manly countenance, when he found that the numbers and position
of a foe, otherwise so despicable, had enabled them to conquer his brave
veterans. But the thirty or forty Highlanders who now joined the others,
were all men in the prime of youth or manhood, active clean-made fellows,
whose short hose and belted plaids set out their sinewy limbs to the best
advantage. Their arms were as superior to those of the first party as
their dress and appearance. The followers of the female Chief had axes,
scythes, and other antique weapons, in aid of their guns; and some had
only clubs, daggers, and long knives. But of the second party, most had
pistols at the belt, and almost all had dirks hanging at the pouches
which they wore in front. Each had a good gun in his hand, and a
broadsword by his side, besides a stout round target, made of light wood,
covered with leather, and curiously studded with brass, and having a
steel spike screwed into the centre. These hung on their left shoulder
during a march, or while they were engaged in exchanging fire with the
enemy, and were worn on their left arm when they charged with sword in
But it was easy to see that this chosen band had not arrived from a
victory such as they found their ill-appointed companions possessed of.
The pibroch sent forth occasionally a few wailing notes expressive of a
very different sentiment from triumph; and when they appeared before the
wife of their Chieftain, it was in silence, and with downcast and
melancholy looks. They paused when they approached her, and the pipes
again sent forth the same wild and melancholy strain.
Helen rushed towards them with a countenance in which anger was mingled
with apprehension.--"What means this, Alaster?" she said to the
minstrel--"why a lament in the moment of victory?--Robert--Hamish--where's
the MacGregor?--where's your father?"
Her sons, who led the band, advanced with slow and irresolute steps
towards her, and murmured a few words in Gaelic, at hearing which she set
up a shriek that made the rocks ring again, in which all the women and
boys joined, clapping their hands and yelling as if their lives had been
expiring in the sound. The mountain echoes, silent since the military
sounds of battle had ceased, had now to answer these frantic and
discordant shrieks of sorrow, which drove the very night-birds from their
haunts in the rocks, as if they were startled to hear orgies more hideous
and ill-omened than their own, performed in the face of open day.
"Taken!" repeated Helen, when the clamour had subsided--"Taken!--
captive!--and you live to say so?--Coward dogs! did I nurse you for this,
that you should spare your blood on your father's enemies? or see him
prisoner, and come back to tell it?"
The sons of MacGregor, to whom this expostulation was addressed, were
youths, of whom the eldest had hardly attained his twentieth year.
_Hamish,_ or James, the elder of these youths, was the tallest by a head,
and much handsomer than his brother; his light-blue eyes, with a
profusion of fair hair, which streamed from under his smart blue bonnet,
made his whole appearance a most favourable specimen of the Highland
youth. The younger was called Robert; but, to distinguish him from his
father, the Highlanders added the epithet _Oig,_ or the young. Dark hair,
and dark features, with a ruddy glow of health and animation, and a form
strong and well-set beyond his years, completed the sketch of the young
Both now stood before their mother with countenances clouded with grief
and shame, and listened, with the most respectful submission, to the
reproaches with which she loaded them. At length when her resentment
appeared in some degree to subside, the eldest, speaking in English,
probably that he might not be understood by their followers, endeavoured
respectfully to vindicate himself and his brother from his mother's
reproaches. I was so near him as to comprehend much of what he said; and,
as it was of great consequence to me to be possessed of information in
this strange crisis, I failed not to listen as attentively as I could.
"The MacGregor," his son stated, "had been called out upon a trysting
with a Lowland hallion, who came with a token from"--he muttered the name
very low, but I thought it sounded like my own. "The MacGregor," he said,
"accepted of the invitation, but commanded the Saxon who brought the
message to be detained, as a hostage that good faith should be observed
to him. Accordingly he went to the place of appointment" (which had some
wild Highland name that I cannot remember), "attended only by Angus Breck
and Little Rory, commanding no one to follow him. Within half an hour
Angus Breck came back with the doleful tidings that the MacGregor had
been surprised and made prisoner by a party of Lennox militia, under
Galbraith of Garschattachin." He added, "that Galbraith, on being
threatened by MacGregor, who upon his capture menaced him with
retaliation on the person of the hostage, had treated the threat with
great contempt, replying, 'Let each side hang his man; we'll hang the
thief, and your catherans may hang the gauger, Rob, and the country will
be rid of two damned things at once, a wild Highlander and a revenue
officer.' Angus Breck, less carefully looked to than his master,
contrived to escape from the hands of the captors, after having been in
their custody long enough to hear this discussion, and to bring off the
"And did you learn this, you false-hearted traitor," said the wife of
MacGregor, "and not instantly rush to your father's rescue, to bring him
off, or leave your body on the place?"
The young MacGregor modestly replied, by representing the very superior
force of the enemy, and stated, that as they made no preparation for
leaving the country, he had fallen back up the glen with the purpose of
collecting a band sufficient to attempt a rescue with some tolerable
chance of success. At length he said, "the militiamen would quarter, he
understood, in the neighbouring house of Gartartan, or the old castle in
the port of Monteith, or some other stronghold, which, although strong
and defensible, was nevertheless capable of being surprised, could they
but get enough of men assembled for the purpose."
I understood afterwards that the rest of the freebooter's followers were
divided into two strong bands, one destined to watch the remaining
garrison of Inversnaid, a party of which, under Captain Thornton, had
been defeated; and another to show front to the Highland clans who had
united with the regular troops and Lowlanders in this hostile and
combined invasion of that mountainous and desolate territory, which lying
between the lakes of Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, and Loch Ard, was at this
time currently called Rob Roy's, or the MacGregor country. Messengers
were despatched in great haste, to concentrate, as I supposed, their
forces, with a view to the purposed attack on the Lowlanders; and the
dejection and despair, at first visible on each countenance, gave place
to the hope of rescuing their leader, and to the thirst of vengeance. It
was under the burning influence of the latter passion that the wife of
MacGregor commanded that the hostage exchanged for his safety should be
brought into her presence. I believe her sons had kept this unfortunate
wretch out of her sight, for fear of the consequences; but if it was so,
their humane precaution only postponed his fate. They dragged forward at
her summons a wretch already half dead with terror, in whose agonised
features I recognised, to my horror and astonishment, my old acquaintance
He fell prostrate before the female Chief with an effort to clasp her
knees, from which she drew back, as if his touch had been pollution, so
that all he could do in token of the extremity of his humiliation, was to
kiss the hem of her plaid. I never heard entreaties for life poured forth
with such agony of spirit. The ecstasy of fear was such, that instead of
paralysing his tongue, as on ordinary occasions, it even rendered him
eloquent; and, with cheeks pale as ashes, hands compressed in agony, eyes
that seemed to be taking their last look of all mortal objects, he
protested, with the deepest oaths, his total ignorance of any design on
the person of Rob Roy, whom he swore he loved and honoured as his own
soul. In the inconsistency of his terror, he said he was but the agent of
others, and he muttered the name of Rashleigh. He prayed but for
life--for life he would give all he had in the world: it was but life he
asked--life, if it were to be prolonged under tortures and privations:
he asked only breath, though it should be drawn in the damps of the
lowest caverns of their hills.
It is impossible to describe the scorn, the loathing, and contempt, with
which the wife of MacGregor regarded this wretched petitioner for the
poor boon of existence.
"I could have bid ye live," she said, "had life been to you the same
weary and wasting burden that it is to me--that it is to every noble and
generous mind. But you--wretch! you could creep through the world
unaffected by its various disgraces, its ineffable miseries, its
constantly accumulating masses of crime and sorrow: you could live and
enjoy yourself, while the noble-minded are betrayed--while nameless and
birthless villains tread on the neck of the brave and the long-descended:
you could enjoy yourself, like a butcher's dog in the shambles, battening
on garbage, while the slaughter of the oldest and best went on around
you! This enjoyment you shall not live to partake of!--you shall die,
base dog! and that before yon cloud has passed over the sun."
She gave a brief command in Gaelic to her attendants, two of whom seized
upon the prostrate suppliant, and hurried him to the brink of a cliff
which overhung the flood. He set up the most piercing and dreadful cries
that fear ever uttered--I may well term them dreadful, for they haunted
my sleep for years afterwards. As the murderers, or executioners, call
them as you will, dragged him along, he recognised me even in that moment
of horror, and exclaimed, in the last articulate words I ever heard him
utter, "Oh, Mr. Osbaldistone, save me!--save me!"
I was so much moved by this horrid spectacle, that, although in momentary
expectation of sharing his fate, I did attempt to speak in his behalf,
but, as might have been expected, my interference was sternly
disregarded. The victim was held fast by some, while others, binding a
large heavy stone in a plaid, tied it round his neck, and others again
eagerly stripped him of some part of his dress. Half-naked, and thus
manacled, they hurled him into the lake, there about twelve feet deep,
with a loud halloo of vindictive triumph,--above which, however, his last
death-shriek, the yell of mortal agony, was distinctly heard. The heavy
burden splashed in the dark-blue waters, and the Highlanders, with their
pole-axes and swords, watched an instant to guard, lest, extricating
himself from the load to which he was attached, the victim might have
struggled to regain the shore. But the knot had been securely bound--the
wretched man sunk without effort; the waters, which his fall had
disturbed, settled calmly over him, and the unit of that life for which
he had pleaded so strongly, was for ever withdrawn from the sum of human
And be he safe restored ere evening set,
Or, if there's vengeance in an injured heart,
And power to wreak it in an armed hand,
Your land shall ache for't.
I know not why it is that a single deed of violence and cruelty affects
our nerves more than when these are exercised on a more extended scale. I
had seen that day several of my brave countrymen fall in battle: it
seemed to me that they met a lot appropriate to humanity, and my bosom,
though thrilling with interest, was affected with nothing of that
sickening horror with which I beheld the unfortunate Morris put to death
without resistance, and in cold blood. I looked at my companion, Mr.
Jarvie, whose face reflected the feelings which were painted in mine.
Indeed he could not so suppress his horror, but that the words escaped
him in a low and broken whisper,--
"I take up my protest against this deed, as a bloody and cruel murder--it
is a cursed deed, and God will avenge it in his due way and time."
"Then you do not fear to follow?" said the virago, bending on him a look
of death, such as that with which a hawk looks at his prey ere he
"Kinswoman," said the Bailie, "nae man willingly wad cut short his thread
of life before the end o' his pirn was fairly measured off on the
yarn-winles--And I hae muckle to do, an I be spared, in this
warld--public and private business, as weel that belonging to the
magistracy as to my ain particular; and nae doubt I hae some to depend
on me, as puir Mattie, wha is an orphan--She's a far-awa' cousin o' the
Laird o' Limmerfield. Sae that, laying a' this thegither--skin for skin,
yea all that a man hath, will he give for his life."
"And were I to set you at liberty," said the imperious dame, "what name
could you give to the drowning of that Saxon dog?"
"Uh! uh!--hem! hem!" said the Bailie, clearing his throat as well as he
could, "I suld study to say as little on that score as might be--least
said is sunest mended."
"But if you were called on by the courts, as you term them, of justice,"
she again demanded, "what then would be your answer?"
The Bailie looked this way and that way, like a person who meditates an
escape, and then answered in the tone of one who, seeing no means of
accomplishing a retreat, determines to stand the brunt of battle--"I see
what you are driving me to the wa' about. But I'll tell you't plain,
kinswoman,--I behoved just to speak according to my ain conscience; and
though your ain gudeman, that I wish had been here for his ain sake and
mine, as wool as the puir Hieland creature Dougal, can tell ye that Nicol
Jarvie can wink as hard at a friend's failings as onybody, yet I'se tell
ye, kinswoman, mine's ne'er be the tongue to belie my thought; and sooner
than say that yonder puir wretch was lawfully slaughtered, I wad consent
to be laid beside him--though I think ye are the first Hieland woman wad
mint sic a doom to her husband's kinsman but four times removed."
It is probable that the tone and firmness assumed by the Bailie in his
last speech was better suited to make an impression on the hard heart of
his kinswoman than the tone of supplication he had hitherto assumed, as
gems can be cut with steel, though they resist softer metals. She
commanded us both to be placed before her. "Your name," she said to me,
"is Osbaldistone?--the dead dog, whose death you have witnessed, called
"My name _is_ Osbaldistone," was my answer.
"Rashleigh, then, I suppose, is your Christian name?" she pursued.
"No,--my name is Francis."
"But you know Rashleigh Osbaldistone," she continued. "He is your
brother, if I mistake not,--at least your kinsman and near friend."
"He is my kinsman," I replied, "but not my friend. We were lately engaged
together in a rencontre, when we were separated by a person whom I
understand to be your husband. My blood is hardly yet dried on his sword,
and the wound on my side is yet green. I have little reason to
acknowledge him as a friend."
"Then," she replied, "if a stranger to his intrigues, you can go in
safety to Garschattachin and his party without fear of being detained,
and carry them a message from the wife of the MacGregor?"
I answered that I knew no reasonable cause why the militia gentlemen
should detain me; that I had no reason, on my own account, to fear being
in their hands; and that if my going on her embassy would act as a
protection to my friend and servant, who were here prisoners, "I was
ready to set out directly." I took the opportunity to say, "That I had
come into this country on her husband's invitation, and his assurance
that he would aid me in some important matters in which I was interested;
that my companion, Mr. Jarvie, had accompanied me on the same errand."
"And I wish Mr. Jarvie's boots had been fu' o' boiling water when he drew
them on for sic a purpose," interrupted the Bailie.
"You may read your father," said Helen MacGregor, turning to her sons,
"in what this young Saxon tells us--Wise only when the bonnet is on his
head, and the sword is in his hand, he never exchanges the tartan for the
broad-cloth, but he runs himself into the miserable intrigues of the
Lowlanders, and becomes again, after all he has suffered, their
agent--their tool--their slave."
"Add, madam," said I, "and their benefactor."
"Be it so," she said; "for it is the most empty title of them all, since
he has uniformly sown benefits to reap a harvest of the most foul
ingratitude.--But enough of this. I shall cause you to be guided to the
enemy's outposts. Ask for their commander, and deliver him this message
from me, Helen MacGregor;--that if they injure a hair of MacGregor's
head, and if they do not set him at liberty within the space of twelve
hours, there is not a lady in the Lennox but shall before Christmas cry
the coronach for them she will be loath to lose,--there is not a farmer
but shall sing well-a-wa over a burnt barnyard and an empty byre,--there
is not a laird nor heritor shall lay his head on the pillow at night with
the assurance of being a live man in the morning,--and, to begin as we
are to end, so soon as the term is expired, I will send them this Glasgow
Bailie, and this Saxon Captain, and all the rest of my prisoners, each
bundled in a plaid, and chopped into as many pieces as there are checks
in the tartan."
As she paused in her denunciation, Captain Thornton, who was within
hearing, added, with great coolness, "Present my compliments--Captain
Thornton's of the Royals, compliments--to the commanding officer, and
tell him to do his duty and secure his prisoner, and not waste a thought
upon me. If I have been fool enough to have been led into an ambuscade by
these artful savages, I am wise enough to know how to die for it without
disgracing the service. I am only sorry for my poor fellows," he said,
"that have fallen into such butcherly hands."
"Whist! whist!" exclaimed the Bailie; "are ye weary o' your life?--Ye'll
gie _my_ service to the commanding officer, Mr. Osbaldistone--Bailie
Nicol Jarvie's service, a magistrate o' Glasgow, as his father the deacon
was before him--and tell him, here are a wheen honest men in great
trouble, and like to come to mair; and the best thing he can do for the
common good, will be just to let Rob come his wa's up the glen, and nae
mair about it. There's been some ill dune here already; but as it has
lighted chiefly on the gauger, it winna be muckle worth making a stir
With these very opposite injunctions from the parties chiefly interested
in the success of my embassy, and with the reiterated charge of the wife
of MacGregor to remember and detail every word of her injunctions, I was
at length suffered to depart; and Andrew Fairservice, chiefly, I believe,
to get rid of his clamorous supplications, was permitted to attend me.
Doubtful, however, that I might use my horse as a means of escape from my
guides, or desirous to retain a prize of some value, I was given to
understand that I was to perform my journey on foot, escorted by Hamish
MacGregor, the elder brother, who, with two followers, attended, as well
to show me the way, as to reconnoitre the strength and position of the
enemy. Dougal had been at first ordered on this party, but he contrived
to elude the service, with the purpose, as we afterwards understood, of
watching over Mr. Jarvie, whom, according to his wild principles of
fidelity, he considered as entitled to his good offices, from having once
acted in some measure as his patron or master.
After walking with great rapidity about an hour, we arrived at an
eminence covered with brushwood, which gave us a commanding prospect down
the valley, and a full view of the post which the militia occupied. Being
chiefly cavalry, they had judiciously avoided any attempt to penetrate
the pass which had been so unsuccessfully essayed by Captain Thornton.
They had taken up their situation with some military skill, on a rising
ground in the centre of the little valley of Aberfoil, through which the
river Forth winds its earliest course, and which is formed by two ridges
of hills, faced with barricades of limestone rock, intermixed with huge
masses of breecia, or pebbles imbedded in some softer substance which has
hardened around them like mortar; and surrounded by the more lofty
mountains in the distance. These ridges, however, left the valley of
breadth enough to secure the cavalry from any sudden surprise by the
mountaineers and they had stationed sentinels and outposts at proper
distances from this main body, in every direction, so that they might
secure full time to mount and get under arms upon the least alarm. It was
not, indeed, expected at that time, that Highlanders would attack cavalry
in an open plain, though late events have shown that they may do so with
* The affairs of Prestonpans and Falkirk are probably alluded to, which *
marks the time of writing the Memoirs as subsequent to 1745.
When I first knew the Highlanders, they had almost a superstitious dread
of a mounted trooper, the horse being so much more fierce and imposing in
his appearance than the little shelties of their own hills, and moreover
being trained, as the more ignorant mountaineers believed, to fight with
his feet and his teeth. The appearance of the piequeted horses, feeding
in this little vale--the forms of the soldiers, as they sate, stood, or
walked, in various groups in the vicinity of the beautiful river, and of
the bare yet romantic ranges of rock which hedge in the landscape on
either side,--formed a noble foreground; while far to the eastward the
eye caught a glance of the lake of Menteith; and Stirling Castle, dimly
seen along with the blue and distant line of the Ochil Mountains, closed
After gazing on this landscape with great earnestness, young MacGregor
intimated to me that I was to descend to the station of the militia and
execute my errand to their commander,--enjoining me at the same time,
with a menacing gesture, neither to inform them who had guided me to that
place, nor where I had parted from my escort. Thus tutored, I descended
towards the military post, followed by Andrew, who, only retaining his
breeches and stockings of the English costume, without a hat,
bare-legged, with brogues on his feet, which Dougal had given him out of
compassion, and having a tattered plaid to supply the want of all upper
garments, looked as if he had been playing the part of a Highland
Tom-of-Bedlam. We had not proceeded far before we became visible to one
of the videttes, who, riding towards us, presented his carabine and
commanded me to stand. I obeyed, and when the soldier came up, desired to
be conducted to his commanding-officer. I was immediately brought where a
circle of officers, sitting upon the grass, seemed in attendance upon one
of superior rank. He wore a cuirass of polished steel, over which were
drawn the insignia of the ancient Order of the Thistle. My friend
Garschattachin, and many other gentlemen, some in uniform, others in
their ordinary dress, but all armed and well attended, seemed to receive
their orders from this person of distinction. Many servants in rich
liveries, apparently a part of his household, were also in waiting.
Having paid to this nobleman the respect which his rank appeared to
demand, I acquainted him that I had been an involuntary witness to the
king's soldiers having suffered a defeat from the Highlanders at the pass
of Loch-Ard (such I had learned was the name of the place where Mr.
Thornton was made prisoner), and that the victors threatened every
species of extremity to those who had fallen into their power, as well as
to the Low Country in general, unless their Chief, who had that morning
been made prisoner, were returned to them uninjured. The Duke (for he
whom I addressed was of no lower rank) listened to me with great
composure, and then replied, that he should be extremely sorry to expose
the unfortunate gentlemen who had been made prisoners to the cruelty of
the barbarians into whose hands they had fallen, but that it was folly to
suppose that he would deliver up the very author of all these disorders
and offences, and so encourage his followers in their license. "You may
return to those who sent you," he proceeded, "and inform them, that I
shall certainly cause Rob Roy Campbell, whom they call MacGregor, to be
executed, by break of day, as an outlaw taken in arms, and deserving
death by a thousand acts of violence; that I should be most justly held
unworthy of my situation and commission did I act otherwise; that I shall
know how to protect the country against their insolent threats of
violence; and that if they injure a hair of the head of any of the
unfortunate gentlemen whom an unlucky accident has thrown into their
power, I will take such ample vengeance, that the very stones of their
glens shall sing woe for it this hundred years to come!"
I humbly begged leave to remonstrate respecting the honourable mission
imposed on me, and touched upon the obvious danger attending it, when the
noble commander replied, "that such being the case, I might send my
"The deil be in my feet," said Andrew, without either having respect to
the presence in which he stood, or waiting till I replied--"the deil be
in my feet, if I gang my tae's length. Do the folk think I hae another
thrapple in my pouch after John Highlandman's sneeked this ane wi' his
joctaleg? or that I can dive doun at the tae side of a Highland loch and
rise at the tother, like a shell-drake? Na, na--ilk ane for himsell, and
God for us a'. Folk may just make a page o' their ain age, and serve
themsells till their bairns grow up, and gang their ain errands for
Andrew. Rob Roy never came near the parish of Dreepdaily, to steal either
pippin or pear frae me or mine."
Silencing my follower with some difficulty, I represented to the Duke the
great danger Captain Thornton and Mr. Jarvie would certainly be exposed
to, and entreated he would make me the bearer of such modified terms as
might be the means of saving their lives. I assured him I should decline
no danger if I could be of service; but from what I had heard and seen, I
had little doubt they would be instantly murdered should the chief of the
outlaws suffer death.
The Duke was obviously much affected. "It was a hard case," he said, "and
he felt it as such; but he had a paramount duty to perform to the
country--Rob Roy must die!"
I own it was not without emotion that I heard this threat of instant
death to my acquaintance Campbell, who had so often testified his
good-will towards me. Nor was I singular in the feeling, for many of
those around the Duke ventured to express themselves in his favour. "It
would be more advisable," they said, "to send him to Stirling Castle, and
there detain him a close prisoner, as a pledge for the submission and
dispersion of his gang. It were a great pity to expose the country to be
plundered, which, now that the long nights approached, it would be found
very difficult to prevent, since it was impossible to guard every point,
and the Highlanders were sure to select those that were left exposed."
They added, that there was great hardship in leaving the unfortunate
prisoners to the almost certain doom of massacre denounced against them,
which no one doubted would be executed in the first burst of revenge.
Garschattachin ventured yet farther, confiding in the honour of the
nobleman whom he addressed, although he knew he had particular reasons
for disliking their prisoner. "Rob Roy," he said, "though a kittle
neighbour to the Low Country, and particularly obnoxious to his Grace,
and though he maybe carried the catheran trade farther than ony man o'
his day, was an auld-farrand carle, and there might be some means of
making him hear reason; whereas his wife and sons were reckless fiends,
without either fear or mercy about them, and, at the head of a' his
limmer loons, would be a worse plague to the country than ever he had
"Pooh! pooh!" replied his Grace, "it is the very sense and cunning of