Dominie Departs, pp.11-13.

[Tales of the Highlands Contents]

SOON after quitting the dwelling of the Warlock, we were doomed to lose the company of one, with whom we were all much more unwilling to part.

Dominie Macpherson. – I can hardly bring myself to tell you, gentlemen, that I must now – sore against my will – take my humble leave of you. My road to my brother’s house lies north over the hill there. But ere I go, I am truly glad to have it in my power to put you under the guidance of my good friend, Serjeant Archy Stewart. I sent him a message last night to come and meet us here; and there is the very man coming over the knoll, with his Sabbath-day’s jacket and bonnet on. – How is all with you, Serjeant? My certy, I need not ask, for you look stout and hearty.

Serjeant Archy Stewart. – Thank ye, Mr. Macpherson, I cannot complain. I am a little the worse for the wear – but my old legs, such as they be, are fit enough for the hill yet. I am glad to see you well back in the country again.

Dominie. – Thank ye, Serjeant. Now, my good man, these are the three gentlemen you are to guide. Three better gentlemen you never fell in with in all your travels. You must do all you can for them; and, above all things, be sure to give them plenty of your cracks. They like to hear all manner of auld-warld stories; so, as you must put on a budget of their provisions on your back – which, by the bye, will be like Æsop’s burden, always growing less, – you may e’en lighten yourself as you go of as many of the auncient legends which you carry in your head as may help to ease your travel.

Serjeant. – Uh! I’ll not be slack at that, Mr. Macpherson, I promise ye, if it be the pleasure of the gentlemen.

I shall not attempt to describe the scene of our parting with the worthy schoolmaster. It threw a gloom over us all. As for the good man himself, his voice trembled – his lip quivered – and his eyes filled with moisture, when he pronounced that most unpleasant of all words – farewell – and gave us the last cordial shake of the hand, pouring out his best wishes and blessings upon us. He then put his stick firmly to the ground, as if to help his failing resolution, and, as he took his way over the hill, he turned and waved – and turned and waved, twenty times at least, e’er he disappeared from our sight.

Our attention was now directed towards Serjeant Archy Stewart, who was cheerfully occupying himself in shouldering a portion of our necessaries. He was a veteran of about sixty years of age, of middle size, and of a hardy, wiry, though not very robust frame. His fresh coloured countenance was lighted up by a pair of small, grey, and very intelligent eyes; and its bold forehead, aquiline nose, high cheek-bones, and prominent chin and lips, exhibited traits of a very undaunted and indomitable resolution, which his whole appearance showed had been well tried by hardships. All this, however, was tempered and sweetened with so perfect an expression of courtesy and good humour, pervading every line of his weather-beaten features, that he instantly gained the golden opinions of our party. After adjusting the wallet to his back, he pointed his hazel stick to the grass, and led the way before us with an activity much beyond his years.

Clifford. – Capital fishing hereabouts, no doubt Mr. Stewart?

Serjeant. – Just grand, sir – no better in this, or any other country side.

Clifford. – You know the river well, I suppose?

Serjeant. – Few should know it better, sir – for I’ve known it ever since I could look out over the nest.

Clifford. – You are a native of these mountains, then? – Come! we have been told that you are full of their legendary lore, and we look to have much of it out of you ere we part.

Serjeant. – I am sure your honour is welcome to as much as you can take and I can give you.

Clifford. – Come away then – you shall begin, if you please, by giving us your own history.

Serjeant. – Oh troth, sir, my history is little worth; but, such as it is, you shall have it. I was born in this very glen here – for I am come of the Clan-Allan Stewarts, who were the offspring of Sir Allan Stewart, who was said to have been a natural son of the Yearl of Moray.

Author. – What Earl of Moray was that, Archy?

Serjeant. – Really and truly I cannot tell you, sir. But this I know well enough, that them Clan-Allan Stewarts were a proud, powerful, domineering race, and always reported to have been very troublesome customers to those who happened to have any feud with them. I’ve heard say, indeed, that while they bore sway here away, fint a man of any other name dared to blow his nose throughout the whole of Strathdawn without their leave being first asked and granted. Wild chields they were, I’ll warrant ye.

Author. – That may be, Serjeant; but I shrewdly suspect that you are not altogether right in your genealogy. My belief is, that it does in reality go somewhat farther back than you suppose.

Serjeant. – Do you think so, sir? Well it may be so.

Author. – I am inclined to think that you must be come of the old Stewarts, Earls of Athol.

Serjeant. – Aye, aye! – Yearls of Athol! – that would be strange. But what makes you think that, sir?

Author. – Why, we know that it was through the marriage of Alexander, third Earl of Huntly, with the Lady Johanna Stewart, daughter of one of these Earls, in 1474, that Strathdawn first came into the family of the Gordons, with whom it still remains. It is therefore clear that Sir Allan, your ancestor, must have come here considerably before that period; and if your forefathers, the Clan-Allan Stewarts, were such hard-headed, knock-me-down, domineering fellows as you would seem to say they were, it is by no means improbable that they may have managed, by the use of their swords, to bear sway here for many a long day, after the lands were chartered to the Gordons.

Serjeant. – I have little doubt that your honor is perfectly right; and now I think on’t, I remember an auncient legend of the Stewarts of Clan-Allan, in which a speech of the old Lord of Cargarf strongly supports the very view of the matter which you have so well explained. I never could very well understand it before – but now, when I put that and that together, I see the truth as clear as day light.

Clifford (taking out his tablets and writing.) – I shall put you down for that same legend, Mister Serjeant; but in the meanwhile proceed with your own history, if you please.

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