To understand my story the better, gentlemen, you must yemaygine to yourselves a snug well-doing Nairnshire farmer’s onstead,1 situated in the parish of Auldearn, with a comfortable dwelling-house, of two low stories, accurately put down, so as mathematically to face the twelve o’clock line, – with its crow-steppit gables, small windows, little out-shot low addition behind, tall chimneys, and grey-slated root – just such a house, to wit, as a man of his condition required in the middle of the last century – with two lines of strange-looking thatched or sod-covered stables, byres, barns, and other outhouses, projecting from its sides at right angles to its front, with divers out-riders, and isolated straggling edifices, of similar architecture and materials, dropped down here and there, as the hand of chance might have sown them – the smoke coming furth from some of their lumm-heads, and partly also from their low door-ways, proving to you, almost against your conviction, that they actually are the dwelling-places of human beings. Fancy the whole grouped (as Mr. Grant, the long painter lad of Grantown, would have said) with sundry goodly rows of peat and turf stacks, a number of corn ricks wonderfully formed, and bulging and hanging out of the centre of gravity, each in a different direction, like a parcel of drunken Dutch dancers;- in the midst of all a large midden – (query whether the word midden may not be a mere corruption of the words middle-in, – the midden being always in the middle of all rural premises in Scotland? so that unlucky visitors not unfrequently walk up to the middle into the middle of it). Then picture to yourselves, behind the biggins, sundry kail-yards, with a few very ancient ash trees, sycamores, and rowan trees, rising from among their bourtree fences, or from the sides of their dilapidated dry-stone dikes. At a little distance below, a bog, with its attendant pools of dark moss-water, which shine amidst the black chaotic mass around them, and look blue by their reflection of the sky – with a half-ruined and roofless killogie, or kiln for drying corn and malt, standing on a slooping bank at no great distance from them. Then people all this with the farmer himself, a stout, hale, healthy-looking man, going bustling about from door to door among his folk, his muck-carts, and his horses, with a hodden-grey coat upon his back, a broad blue bonnet on his head, a hazle staff in his hand, and a colley and one or two rough terriers and greyhounds at his heels, shouting every now and then in Gaelic to his man, John Smith, a tall, handsome, strong-built Highlander, whilst the gudeman’s wife, a very good-looking, round-formed, trigly-dressed English woman, is seen appearing and disappearing from under the wooden porch over which some attempts have been made to trail a plant or two of rose and honeysuckle, but which attempts have been rendered abortive by the epicurean taste of the browsing animals of the farm – her south country tongue sounding quick and sharp in the ears of Morag, or Mary, a clever, well-made, bare-footed, and short-gowned Highland lass, with pleasing countenance, largish cheek bones, black snooded hair, sparkling eyes, arched eyebrows, and rosy cheeks, busied in washing out her milk cogues, with her coats kilted up to her knees, to which add the herd of cows, oxen, queys, stirks, and calves of all sorts and sizes, with a due mixture of sheep and lambs, and pownys, sprinkled all about, feeding among the whinny pasture-hillocks and baulks, dividing the queer-shaped patches of the surrounding arable land. Above all, I would have you particularly to remark a verra large sow-beast, with a numerous litter of pigs, grubbing up the ground about the old killogie, amid the ruins of which her progeny first saw the light. In addition thereto, fancy, in the words of our own Scottish pastoral poet, Allan Ramsay, that
“Hens on the midden, ducks in dubbs are seen,”
and you will be in full possession of the first scene of my tale, as well as acquainted with some of its more important dramatis personæ.
Mr. MacArthur, the farmer, though a Highlander, was a stanch Whig, which made him, as you may well suppose, gentlemen, rather a
“Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno”
among his brother Celts. He had acquired his principles during his residence in England, where he had fallen in with and married his wife, who was a woman of good condition for her rank in life, and of superior yeddication. She was attached to the Hanoverian royal family, both by principle and interest. Her brother was an officer in the Royal Regiment; and as everything connected with England was dear to her, because it was her country, so everything connected with the English army was especially dear to her on her brother’s account.
During the year 1745, when the recruiting for the army of the Prince of Stuarts was going on, many of Mr. MacArthur’s servants, and John Smith in particular, manifested a strong disposition to enlist under his banners. But so powerful were the influence and eloquence of this English lady, that she succeeded in dissuading them, one by one, from following out the bent of their inclinations. This her zealous and active opposition to the Prince’s cause, soon began to attract public attention, in a district where it was so generally favoured. She became a marked object of dislike to the Jacobites, and this all the more so, perhaps, that she was an English woman. Oftener than once it happened, that, whilst they spared some of her neighbours, whose politics were dubious, and therefore obnoxious in their eyes, they plundered her goodman’s farm on her especial account. But these depredations were comparatively trifling, and protected as she was by her husband’s fortitude, she bore these little evils with the magnanimity of a martyr; nay, she even ventured to talk of them with contempt, and there were many people who believed that she actually gloried in them. As Mr. MacArthur was a Highlander, and spoke the Gaelic language fluently, he might perhaps have been able, by modest behaviour, kind treatment, and smooth words, in some degree to have mitigated the prejudice which his countrymen had against his wife as a Pensassenach, or English wife, as she was uniformly called by way of reproach. But husbands cannot always restrain the political enthusiasm of their ladies – and so it was with Mr. MacArthur. With or without his approbation she scrupled not, at times, when a good opportunity offered, to set the Jacobites at defiance, to give them all manner of opprobrious epithets, and, with all a woman’s rashness, but with more than feminine intrepidity, she dared them to do their worst.
It was after sunset on the evening of the 13th of April, 1745, that the Pensassenach was seated in her elbow chair, by the fire in her little parlour. She was alone, for her husband had been called away from home, for some days, on very urgent business, and as she felt herself slightly indisposed, she was prepared to take particular care of herself for that night. A small tall-shaped chased silver vessel of mulled elderberry wine, with a close top to it to keep its contents warm, together with a very tiny silver cup, were placed beside her on a little round walnut-tree table, supported on a single spiral pillar with three claws. She was about to pour out a little of this medicinal fluid, to be taken preparatory to retiring to bed for the night, when she was startled by a noise in the kitchen, and immediately afterwards she was alarmed by the abrupt entrance of her maid Morag.
“Mem! – Mem!” cried the girl, breathless with the importance of her intelligence, “tare’s Wully Tallas, ta packman in ta kitchen! He’s come a’ ta way frae Speymouth sin yesterday. Ta Englishers are a’ comin’ upon us horse and futs! – horse and futs an’ mockell cannons, an’ we’ll be a’ mordered an’ waur! – fat wull we do?”
“What say you, girl?” exclaimed the Pensassenach, starting from her chair, and overturning all her medicated comforts in her hurry. “But get out of my way, you senseless fool, I’ll speak to the man myself. Dallas! Will Dallas!” cried she, throwing her voice shrilly along the passage towards the kitchen. “Come this way, Will Dallas, and let me hear your news from your own mouth!”
“Comin’ mem!” cried the travelling merchant, as he appeared limping along the passage, by no means sorry to be thus called on to unbuckle his budget of news, which he was always ready to dispose of at a much cheaper rate than he generally sold his goods.
“Where have you come from, Will Dallas?” cried the Pensassenach; “and what news have ye got?”
“Weel, ye see, mem, I hae come straught frae Speymouth, as fast as my heavy pack and this happity lamiter leg o’ mine wad let me,” replied Dallas. “And my pack’s very heavy yee noo, for I’ve got a grand new stock o’ gudes in’t.”
“Well, well, never mind your goods at present!” cried the impatient Pensassenach: “quick! quick! what news have you?”
“Od, mem, it wad at no rate do for me no to mind my goods at a’ times and at a’ saisans,” said Dallas. “But touching the news, mem, – the Duke, mem – that is, the Duke o’ Cummerland, I mean, crossed the Spey yesterday wi’ a’ his airmy.”
“Is it possible?” cried the Pensassenach, her eyes sparkling with delight.”
“It’s quite true, mem, for I seed the whole tott o’ them yefeck the passage wi’ my ain een,” said Dallas.
“Ha! tell me, good Dallas, how did they cross?” demanded the lady.
“They just fuirded through the Spey, mem, in three grand deveesions, at three different pairts, just for a’ the warld as gin ye had been rollin’ aff three different pieces o’red ribban like, at yae time,” replied Dallas.
“A glorious sight!” cried the Pensassenach.
“Aye, truly, ye wad hae said sae had ye seen’t, mem,” said Dallas; “gin ye had seen them wi’ the sun glancin’ on their airms, and on the flashin’ faem o‘ the Spey! Every bone o’ them got safe across, exceppin’ yae dragoon that had taen a wee thoughty ower muckle liquor, and fell fae his horse, – and four weemen fouk, wha were whamled out o’ a bit cairty, and wha were a’ carried down, and a’ drooned outright.”
“Poor wretches!” said the Pensassenach. “But it was well they were not men: their lives were comparatively but little worth.”
“I daur swear that you’re right there, mem,” said Dallas; “little worth followers of the camp they were, nae doot; – and yet the hizzies were weel pit on. I followed the bodies as they soomed down the water, and cleekit ane o’ them ashore, and although her mutch was gane, she had a gude goon and a daycent rocklay on, and ither things forbye; but they ware a’ saae spiled wi’ the water, that I sent them till a woman in Elgin for an auld sang. But I’ll tell ye what it is, mem, weemen – that is, daycent weemen – have nae business -”
“You have no business with the women, Mr. Dallas,” interrupted the Pensassenach, impatiently – “it is of the men – of the troops, and of their noble and gallant leader that I would hear. All across, said you? and what became of the other Duke?” continued she, in a contemptuous tone. “I mean the rebel Duke – the Duke of Perth, I mean? Where was he, and where were his heroes, that they did not arrest the progress of the Royal army?”
“Troth, mem, the Duke o’ Perth and his men just came on their ways wast the country, and left the English airmy to cross at their ain wull,” replied Willy.
“Bravo! bravo!” shouted the lady, waving her hand around her head. “The false knaves dared not to face them! Well, any more news, Dallas?”
“I ken nae mair that I hae to tell ye,” said Dallas, “exceppin’ that I was in the English camp yestreen mysel’, and that I selled a wheen caumrick pocket-napkins, and three yairds o’ black ribban, till yere brither, Captain John, and I promised to ca’ in by this way aince eerant to tell ye that he was weel, and to drink his health.”
“Thank ye, thank ye, good Bill Dallas!” cried the lady, clapping her hands in an ecstacy of joy; “you shall not fail to do that; but why did you not tell me this joyful news before? Stay, my good man – here is for your happy tidings!” and, running to a corner cupboard, she brought out a bottle of brandy, and filled him a tasse, that made his eyes dance in his head after he had tossed it off.
“My certy, that’s prime stuff indeed,” said Dallas, panting with the very strength of it. “And noo, mem, will ye look at my pack. I hae some o’ the grandest jewels, rings, chains, watches, and brooches; the gayest ribbons, and, aboon a’, the bonniest lace – ye never saw siccan lace. The captain said he was quite sure it wad tak’ your ee, for that you had siccan a fine taste. Troth, says I till him, you’re no far wrang there, captain; Mrs. MacArthur has the best taste and joodgement in lace o’ a’ my customers, north or sooth – north or sooth, said I. It’s quite beautifou lace, mem, as ye’ll say when ye see’t; and sae cheap, too! Od, I’m sellin’ it for half nothin’. Shall I bring the pack ben here, mem? Ye’ll hae mair licht here.”
“No – no – no! – not at present, Will,” cried the Pensassenach, her patience quite exhausted with his prolixity. “Another time, Will – but I have other fish to fry at present. Morag! – Morag, girl! run! call out all the men! My stars, how unfortunate it is that MacArthur is from home! How he would rejoice! Call all the men, I say!”
“Fat vas she cryin’ aboot?” said Morag, hurrying to answer her call.
“Run and call all the men, I tell you, girl!” cried the Pensassenach, bustling about, all life and activity, and her indisposition entirely forgotten. “Call all the men, I say; and John Smith in particular. I want John Smith here immediately. What glorious news! There won’t be a rascally rebel knave of them left in the whole country, And my brother John coming too! Who knows but we may have the honour of being presented to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland in person! How provoking it is that MacArthur is from home!”
“Fat was ta leddy be wantin’ wi’ her?” said John Smith, at that moment putting his head into the room, his Kilmarnock cowl, and the disordered state of the covering of so much of the upper part of his person as was visible, sufficiently indicating that he had been roused from his bed. “Fat wad ta leddy be wantin’? We wus a’ beddit.”
“Run, John!” cried the impatient lady, “run and make all the people get out of their beds directly! collect every one, man and woman, about the farm. Make them yoke all the carts, and drive the whole peat-stack to the head of the knoll, and build up a large bonfire, and see that you mix your layers of peats with layers of moss-fir, and dry furze-bushes. I’ll have a blaze that shall be seen from Forres to Inverness. Have we any tar-barrels left!”
“Ou aye!” replied John; “a tar-barrels tat was ower mockell fan we last tar da sheeps.”
“Then put the whole tar-barrel in the midst of all,” cried the Pensassenach. “Come, John, why do you stand staring so? Run, man, and do as I bid you, without a moment’s delay.”
“Ou aye, aye, she’s runnin’ fast.” replied John, slowly moving away. “Fod, but she’s thinks tat ta Pensassenach be gaen taft awtagedder.”
“Morag! bring a basket here directly,” cried the Pensassenach, as she hurried down stairs with the large key of the cellar in her hand. “Now,” said she, putting a number of bottles into the basket, “take care of these; and make haste, and bring a cheese, and some loaves of bread, and follow me quickly out to the knoll with the basket.”
In a very little time an enormous pile of fuel was built up on the summit of the knoll, with the tar-barrel in the centre of it, to which an opening was at first left from the external air, which was afterwards partially filled with dry furze-bushes dipped in tar, so as to afford the flame a ready communication inwards. When everything was prepared, the Pensassenach seized a lighted candle from a lantern, and, as Dryden hath it, she
“Like another Helen, fired another Troy!”
that is to say, she set fire, not to a city, indeed, but to the whin-bushes, and the flame running inwards, to the tar-barrel, the whole mighty fabric of fuel was instantaneously in such a blaze, that anyone might have thought that it was Troy itself that was burning.
“Now,” said the Pensassenach, “draw me one of those stone bottle of brandy, and fill me a tasse of it. I drink to those to whom I have dedicated this bonfire – I drink, in the first place, to the health of my brother John, captain in the Royal Regiment, whom I hope soon to see here!” and, putting the cuach to her lips, she sipped a modest lady’s share of the contents.
“Come, Bill Dallas,” continued she, addressing the travelling merchant, who, tired as he was with his long tramp, had yet sneaked out to secure his share of the liquor, as well as of the fun. “Come, Bill, you must drink next; you have the best right to do so, as the bearer of the good news.”
“Weel, here’s to Captain John, and wussin him health, and muckle happiness, and a gude wife till him, wi’ plenty o’ siller,” said the packman, tossing off the full contents of the tasse. “I’m sure there‘s no a bonnier man, nor a better man, nor a gallanter sodger – eh, beg his honour’s pardon, I meant offisher – in the hail land o’ the British Isles, be the ither wha he may.”
“Well spoken, Bill,” cried the lady. “Now, John Smith, come it is your turn next.”
“Here’s helss, an’ mokel o’t, to her broder Captain Shon, and mokel gude wifes and gude sillers!” cried John Smith, draining the cuach to the last drop. – “Oich, but she’s goot trinks!” added he.
The cup and the toast went round the large and increasing party; for the bonfire, sending up sharp pointed flames, as if it meditated piercing the very clouds, spread wonder and speculation all over the country far and wide, and brought all manner of idlers, like flies and moths, about it. A considerable space of time, as well as a tolerable quantity of brandy, was expended, before the health had been drank by everyone.
“Now,” said the Pensassenach, filling the cuach again to the brim, “I drink health and success to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and confusion to all his enemies!” – and, kissing the cup merely, she handed it to the packman.
“Weel, mem, here’s wussin that same wi’ a’ my heart!” cried Mr. Dallas, and off went every drop of his brimmer.
“Now, John,” said the Pensassenach, filling the cuach again to the lip, “now, John Smith, it is your turn. Come, man, drink the toast – health and success to the Duke and his brave fellows.”
“Na!” said John, – turning away as if the cup had contained vinegar or verjuice – “na! Teel be on her an’ she do!”
“What do you mean, John?” demanded the Pensassenach, in a mingled tone of surprise and displeasure. “Will you refuse to drink my toast?”
“Hoot, man, dinna refuse to drink the leddy’s toast,” said the packman. “That gude brandy would wash down ony toast ava, let alane siccan’ a grand man, and a hero like the Duke o’ Cummerland. Od, man, an’ ye had seen him as I hae seen him, ridin’ at the head o’ his men, wi’ as muckle gold lace and reyal Genowa velvet aboot him as might serve to cover a papish pulpit wi’, ye wad say he was the grandest man that ever ye seed. Come, man, drink success till him, and confusion till a’ his yennemies!”
“Surely you will not refuse to drink success to that brave army in which my brother John serves?” said the Pensassenach, “and to that noble and gallant Prince who commands it?”
“She’ll no grudge to drink hail bottals till ta helts o’ Captain Shon, because she’s her broder,” said Smith, in a positive manner; “but fint ae drops wull she tak’ to wuss ony helts to ta titter man an’ his fouks!”
“Tuts, nonsense man,” said the packman; ye’re just a reyal guse. Come awa! drink the Duke’s health – the brandy’s just parteeklar gude.”
“Why should you hesitate?” said his mistress. “Come, drink the Duke’s health.”
“Tamm hersell an’ she do ony siccan’ a sing!” said John Smith, doggedly, and with powerful emphasis and action. “She’s as soon eat ta cuach!”
“What! are you a loyal subject, and refuse to drink the health of the Duke of Cumberland – the King’s own brother!” exclaimed the Pensassenach, energetically.
“Ou troth – ou aye, – she be loyals eneugh till her ain Kings,” said John, “an’ she’ll no grudge to trink gallons till her. But for ta titter mans, fod but she’s wussin’ her nasins ava but a good clink on ta croon;” and with that John walked off with a countenance so expressive of dissatisfaction and determination as rendered it evident that it would be quite hopeless to call him back.
“He is an obstinate disloyal mule!” cried the Pensassenach, giving full way to her anger.
“A reyal dour ass as I ever cam’ across,” said the packman. “An’ siccan’ reyal fine speerits too. The cheild thoguht naething o’ hammerin’ awa’ and keepin’ a’ huss loyal folk frae our drap drink. It’s weel that he’s awa’. My certy, I rauken that there’s nae ither body here that’ll be sae dooms foolish as to refuse that gude brandy, let what toast there may be soomin’ on the tap o’ the brimmer.”
“I trust that that fellow is the only disloyal man about the place,” said the Pensassenach. “If it be otherwise, I’ll have all such Jacobite knaves turned off this farm. We shall have none other but good loyal subjects here, I promise you, now that the Duke and his gallant army are coming among us.”
This hint was not lost on the rest of the company; for whatever their private political opinions might have been, they preferred swallowing the good brandy in peace, let the tasse be prefaced by whatsoever toast the Pensassenach pleased, rather than be martyrs like John Smith, and risk the loss of the liquor and their places by any heroic and straightforward declaration of their sentiments. We sometimes see such folk in common life even at the present time, gentlemen. Many, then, were the toasts of the same character that went round. Liberally did the Pensassenach make her enlivening eau-de-vie to circulate. The huge bonfire was again and again supplied by the willing revellers. They were wise enough to see that the endurance of the joviality of the night must, in all probability, be measured by that of the fire, and so they laboured and sweated like horses to keep it going. Loud were the shouts, and many were the antic tricks performed around its blazing circle, all of which were to be attributed to the mirth-inspiring spirit. The packman was particularly joyous and hilarious, and his loquacity increased as he became elevated with the liquor. At last the Pensassenach, wishing gradually to wind up the festivities of the night, proposed another toast.
“Now, come,” said she, filling the cuach, “Let us drink confusion to the rebels!”
“Hurrah! a capital toast!” cried the packman, whilst his cheer was blindly echoed by the more than half-intoxicated crowd around him.
“Then here I drink it as my most cordial wish,” said the Pensassenach, sipping a little of the liquor in token of her earnestness and sincerity.
“Tamm! but she’ll rue tat wuss!” cried a hoarse voice, which came from the shadow beyond the circle of revellers.
“Who spoke?” demanded the Pensassenach, in vain endeavouring to dart her eyes into the impenetrable darkness by which the bright field of light was surrounded.
“Tamm her, but she’ll ken tat soon eneugh!” replied the same voice; but the Pensassenach could see nothing but a pair of eyes, that, for the fraction of an instant, caught a strong reflection of the red light from the bonfire, glared fearfully at her, and then were gone.
“Lord hae a care o’ huss! I wus that I had had naething ado wi’ this matter,” exclaimed Mr. Dallas, very much fear-stricken.
“Seize that man, whoever he may be!” cried the Pensassenach. But he was nowhere to be found. All the feeble and unsteady attempts of the drunken people to catch him were thrown away. the Pensassenach was vexed and mortified. the voice was sterner than John Smith’s; but she could by no means banish the idea that it was his. She inquired and found that he was nowhere about the place, and she retired home to her chamber, filled with doubt regarding him, or rather more than half convinced that she nourished a traitor in her house.
Appearances on the following morning were by no means such as to overcome these suspicions.
“is that you, Morag?” demanded the Pensassenach, as awakened at a later hour than usual by her maid she started up from that profound sleep which the extraordinary fatigue and excitement of the previous evening had thrown her into, and began to huddle on such parts of her clothes as lay nearest at hand.
“Aye, mem, it’s me,” replied Morag. “Fat wull she be doin’ for mulks? Shon Smiss has driven awa’ a’ ta wholl kye lang or it was skreichs o’ tay.”
“What said you?” demanded the Pensassenach. “John Smith has driven away all our cows! Traitorous thief and robber that he is, I thought as much!”
“Toot na! Shon’s nae fiefs nor rubbers neither,” replied Morag, in anything but a pleased tone.
“He is a thief and a traitor to boot,” cried the enraged Pensassenach.
“He is no fiefs!” rejoined Morag, with great energy, both of voice and of action. “Not a bone o’ him but is as honest as yoursel’.”
“I tell you he is a thief and a traitor, and for aught I know, an assassin too!” replied the Pensassenach; “and you are an impudent baggage for daring to contradict me.”
“She canna stand and hear Shon Smiss misca’ed,” exclaimed Morag, bursting into tears of mingled grief and rage, excited by the unextinguishable loe for John which had long secretly possessed her; “an’ war she no the mistress,” continued Morag, with very violent action, “war she no the mistress, Fod but she wad pu’ tat cockernony aff her head for saying as mockell! But och mercy be aboot huss a’!” cried the girl, darting a look out at the window and hurrying away as she spoke; “mercy be aboot huss a’! yonder comes Shon himsel’, rinnin’ like ony rae-buck!”
“God be merciful to me, can the traitor mean murder!” cried the Pensassenach, hastily shutting, locking, and bolting the chamber door, and with great exertion moving a chest of drawers against it, whilst, her very heart almost ceased to beat from the terror that fell upon her.
“Far is she, Morag? Is she oot o’ her bed!” cried John, in a loud and hurried voice as he came flying up the stair and began thundering like a madman at the lady’s bed-chamber door. “Come, come, let her in direckly!”
“No one can come here,” said the lady, trembling; “I am not half dressed.”
“Dress be tamm!” cried John, furiously; “come away fast – open ta toor or she be killed!”
“You shall find no entrance here, you murdering bloodthirsty villain, whilst I have power to defend my life,” cried the Pensassenach, driven to desperation, and as, with immense labour, she was dragging a heavy trunk of napery across the floor, which she reared on end against the chest of drawers. “Oh, why did MacArthur leave me thus to be murdered?”
“let her in, or she see her sure murdered,” cried John, in a voice of thunder, and kicking terribly at the door.
“God help me, I’m gone!” muttered the Pensassenach, in an agony of fear. “Oh, why did my husband leave me? The door never can stand such kicks as these. I see it yielding. Murder! murder! murder!”
“Tamm her nane sel’, but she has no more time for nonsense!” cried John, in a voice that seemed to betoken the climax of fury, and with that he drove the whole weight of his body with the force of a battering-ram against the door, forcing it out from its hinges and tumbling it and the chest of drawers and the huge trunk into the very middle of the room with a violence that burst them open and scattered their contents in all directions.
“Villain!” cried the Pensassenach, now suddenly excited to an unnatural boldness by despair of life, and standing with her back to the further wall, armed with her husband’s broadsword which she had snatched from the bed-head, and drawn in her own defence, and which she now flourished with great activity and determined resolution, altogether regardless of the imperfect state of her attire. “Villain that you are, come but one step nearer to me and this sword shall drink your life’s blood from your heart.”
“Ou fye! ou fye!” cried John, standing considerably abashed at this spectacle; “far got she tat terrible swoord?”
“Villain, you tremble!” cried the Pensassenach, roused still more, and advancing towards John Smith step by step as she spoke; “fly villain, or I will put you to instant death!”
“Fye, fye!” said John; “but Fod, she mauna mind it noo; tere’s nae mair time for ceremonies. She maun e’en tak’ her as she is.”
“Attack me as I am!” cried the Pensassenach; “if you do, death, instant death, shall be your portion.”
“We sall see tat,” said John, lifting his hazel rung; “we sall soon see tat,” and springing suddenly over the obstructing obstacles, John, with one blow of his stick, sent the sword spinning from the feeble grasp of the delicate hand that held it.
“Oh, mercy, mercy!” cried the Pensassenach, throwing herself on her knees before him with the horrible dread of impending death upon her. “You would not murder your mistress, John, and all for asking you to drink an idle toast? Oh, spare me! spare me! Do not murder me in cold blood!”
“Shon Smiss murder!” cried he, with horror and astonishment on his countenance. “Foo! foo! fat could gars her sinks tat o’ Shon Smiss? Shon wad fichts to ta last trop o’ her blots for her, futher she be King Charles’s man or futher she be ta titter bis body o’ a sham king’s man. Foo! foo! – hoo could she sinks tat Shon Smiss wad do ony ill to ta Pensassenach tat has aye been sae kind till her, aye, and to Morag an a’,” and the poor fellow began blubbering and crying.
“God be praised that I am safe, then!” cried the lady, immeasurably relieved. “But what is the meaning of all this violence, John? Are you mad?”
“Na,” cried John, starting from the melting fit into which he had been thrown. “She no mad a bit. But ta Hillantmens comin’! Swarrants to Hillantmens no liket ta bonfires!”
“The Highlanders!” cried the Pensassenach. “Heaven defend me, what shall I do without the protection of my husband? What! – what shall I do?” and she burst into a flood of tears, from the nervous excitement to which she had been subjected.
“Troth, she be sinkin’ tat its as weel tat ta master’s no at hame,” said he. “But fat need she fear as lang as Shon Smiss be here?”
“Will you protect me?” cried the Pensassenach, eagerly. “Will you really be true to me?”
“Fat has Shon Smiss toon to mak ta Pensassenach sink tat she’ll no be true till her ain mistress?” cried Smith, in a whimpering tone, betokening vexation, so sincere, as, in a great measure, to restore the lady’s confidence in him.
“Why did you drive away the cattle this morning, and what have you done with them?” demanded she.
“Trots she was dootin’, a’ nicht, tat ta Hillantmen wad come after a’ yon mockel fires,” replied John, “an’ sae she just trave tem coos, cattal, sheeps, an’ staigs, an’ awtegitter, a’ awa’ ower to ta glen, whaur she’s sinking tat tey’ll no be gettin’ em at ‘tis turn.”
“Faithful creature, after all, then!” cried the Pensassenach. “How can I sufficiently thank you?”
“Did she no tell her tat Shon Smiss was nae feefs nor rubbers neither,” said Morag, entering triumphantly at that moment. “Is she no a prave ponny man? But uve, uve, mem, fat way is tat to be stannin’? Fye, Shon Smiss! hoo could ye stand glowerin’ tere? – get oot, man, till she gets ta leddy dressed.”
“Fod, she has nae time, noo!” cried John. “Fod, but she hears ta pipes ‘tis blesset moment. Hoot, toot! Hurry, a blanket from the bed, he threw it over his mistress, and whipping her up in his arms ere she wist, he strode down stairs with her in a moment. “Where are you carrying me? Where are you carrying me to, John Smith?” cried the Pensassenach, much alarmed.
“Dis she no hear ta pipes?” cried John. “She be carrying her to hide her in ta auld killogie to be sure. Dinna be fear. She mak’ her safe enough, she swarrants her o’ tat.”
John accordingly ran with the Pensassenach to the old kiln, as fast as his legs could carry him and his burden. He found it already occupied by the great sow and her numerous progeny, who, from their unwillingness to quit it, seemed to consider it, both by birthright, and by long possession, as their own particular castle, from which no one could lawfully remove them. John Smith used no great ceremony with them, but serving them all with an instantaneous process of ejectment, delivered by divers rapid and severe blows of his hazel cudgel, he forthwith dislodged them from the pend, or fire-place of the kiln, where they were used to find a dry and snug lair, and from which both mother and children retreated with manifest dissatisfaction, and with all manner of sounds and signs of extreme ire. To these John Smith gave but small heed, but, shoving the Pensassenach, blanket and all, with as much tenderness and delicacy as he could, into this their vacant bed-chamber, he concealed her as much as possible by covering her up with straw, and he had hardly accomplished all this, and made his retreat good from the killogie, when a large body of armed Highlanders, under the command of a certain Captain McTaggart, appeared filing over the neighbouring brow, and with what intent might easily be guessed, from the numerous horses they brought with them, some harnessed in rude carts, and some fitted with panniers or crooked saddles, for carrying off plunder. The men themselves displayed infuriated countenances, and ceased not, as they drew nearer, to give vent to the most horrible denunciations of vengeance against the Pensassenach.
“Ta Pensassenach! – ta Pensassenach! – ta heart’s blott o’ ta Pensassenach! – hang her! – purn her! – troon her! – far is she? – her heart’s blott! – her heart’s blott!” vociferated some thirty or forty rough and raging voices, coming from men that thirsted revengefully for her blood.
The poor woman’s heart almost died within her through fear, as these murderous sounds reached her, where she lay half suffocated under the straw in the killogie. Most active and particular was the search with the Highlanders then commenced. First of all, the captain and some of them proceeded to examine the dwelling-house, and there they were met at the very door by Mr. Dallas the packman. This worthy having been altogether overpowered by his last night’s debauch, had thrown himself down in his clothes on the bed hospitably provided for him by his hostess in the room contained in the little out-shot behind, and there he had slept, with his pack as usual under his head, until awakened by the noise made by John Smith and the Pensassenach. He had then witnessed enough to make him aware of the place where the lady was secreted. Seeing that the Highlanders came so suddenly upon them as to make it quite hopeless for him to attempt a retreat, with his lame leg, he hurried away out to the kail-yard and hid his pack under a goosberry bush, an operation which John Smith, as he was flying with his mistress on his back, chanced, with the tail of his eye, to observe him performing. After having done this, Mr. Dallas returned into the house, and, making a virtue of necessity, he stepped boldly forth to meet the leader, when the party came to the door.
“Muckle prosperity till you and your cause, noble captain,” said he, making his reverence. “There’s a bonny mornin’.”
“Who the devil are you, sir?” said Captain McTaggart, sharply.
“Troth, captain, I’m a poor travellin’ chapman,” replied Dallas. “I chanced to come here last night, and the guidewife gied me ludgings for Charity’s sake.”
“Where’s your pack, sir?” demanded Captain McTaggart.
“Troth, I left it yesterday at Inverness to get some fresh guides pit intil’t,” replied Dallas.
“You are rather a suspicious character, methinks,” said the captain. “See that you search every corner of the main house for this woman,” continued he, turning to his men, “and if you find this fellow’s pack bring it forth to me.”
“There’s nae pack o’ mine there, captain, an’ that’s as fack as death,” said Dallas. “But ye need hae nae jealousy o’ me, for I’m a reyal true and loyal subject o’ the Prince.”
“Ta Prince!” cried the same man who had watched the last night’s proceedings at the bonfire. “Ta Prince! – ta teevil; – tat is ta vera chield tat wanted to mak’ honest Shon Smiss trink ta helss o’ tat teevil ta Tuke o’ Cummerlant. He’s a reyal and blotty whugg, and weel deserves till hae his craig raxit.”
“Hang up the villain directly, then,” cried McTaggart, carelessly.
“Oh! spare my life, good captain, and I’ll tell ye whaur the P-p-p-.” Pensassenach is hid, were the words that the villain would have uttered, but they were arrested by the ready hand of John Smith, who sprang upon him with the pounce of an eagle, and clutched him up as that noble bird might clutch up a rat, his left arm being half round his middle, and his right hand gripping his throat, in such a manner as to stop all utterance, and nearly to choke him.
“Ta tamm scounrel would fain puy her life for tellin’ her fare her pack is,” said John, laughing heartily. “But she need na mak’ nae siccan pargains wi’ her, for her nane sell saw her hide it under a perry-puss in ta kail-yaird, and a rich pack it is, she kens tat weel eneugh. See, captain, tats ta way till ta yaird, and Shon Smiss ‘ill tak care o’ tis chiel, and pit her past tootin’ ony mair harms, she’ll swarrants tat.”
Off went the captain and those about him, greedy upon the scent of the pack, and caring little what became of its owner. John called to Morag to bring him a sack and some bits of rope, and he had no sooner got them under one arm than he ran off with the sprawling Mr. Dallas under the other, who, having his wind-pipe still tightened by the fearful grasp of him who bore him, was now kicking in the agonies of death. John dived through among some peat-stalks, and so managed to get clear off without observation, to the side of a deep pond or pool, in a retired spot, where the Pensassenach was wont to steep her flax. There laying his, by this time, semi-animate burden at length upon the brink, he put some heavy stones into the bottom of the sack, and then began to draw it on, like an under-garment, over the limbs of the unfortunate Mr. Dallas, inserting his arms therein, and tying the mouth of it tight round his neck, just as if her had been preparing him for running in a sack race, though it must be premised, that for such a purpose the heavy stones might have been well enough left out of the bottom of the sack.
“Hae mercy on my sowl, Maister Smith, ye’re no gawin’ till droon me!” groaned out Mr. Dallas, in a faint, hollow, and semi-suffocated voice. “Oh, mercy! mercy! what a horrible death! I’m no fit till dee, Maister Smith. I’ve been a horrible sinner. God forgee me for cheating the puir fowk? Oh, hae mercy, Maister Smith – mercy! – mercy! – for I’m no fit till dee.”
“She no be gawn till mak’ her dee,” said John, coolly, “though she wad pe weel wordy o’t. But she only be gawn ta hide her in ta watter tat ta Hillantmen mayna hangit her.”
“Hide me in the water? and is na that droonin’?” cried the terrified wretch. “Oh, mercy! mercy!”
“Foots, na, man!” said John. “Hidin’s no troonin’ ava, ava. She’ll come back an’ tak’ her oot again fan a’ is dune, an’ she’ll no be a hair ta waur o’t. But she maun stop her gab frae speakin’ about ta Pensassenach; an’ trots an’ she had been hangit or droonit either, aye, or baith tagedder, she had been weel wordy o’t a’, for fat she was gaein’ to hae tell’t on ta puir Pensassenach.”
By this time John had prepared an effectual gag for his patient’s mouth, which he had made him gape and receive between his jaws, and then he secured it firmly by tying it behind his neck. He then lifted him up bodily, and while the poor man “aw awed” and “yaw yawed,” from the dreadful fear that still possessed him that John’s intention, after all, was certainly to drown him, he gradually let down Mr. Dallas’s feet into a part of the water, the exact depth of which he perfectly knew would just admit of his immersion up to the neck, he left him, with his head resting safely against the bank on the side of the pool, with some dry rushes and sedges and flax scattered carelessly both over the bank and the water where he was, so as perfectly to conceal him.
Great as was the time that all this occupied, John found, on his return to the farm-house, that it had not been more than sufficient to satisfy Captain McTaggart and his friends, in their examination of Mr. Dallas’s pack, and in the division of the rich booty it contained. Meanwhile, the search for the Pensassenach was going on keenly and most unremittingly, and John was relieved to find that it was so, since he was thereby satisfied that, as yet at least, her place of concealment had not been discovered. They opened every door, and looked into every corner, for the unfortunate lady, still swearing all the time the bloodiest oaths of vengeance against her. Not a house upon the premises, not a hole nor crevice about the whole place did they pass unexamined, save and except only the eye of the ruined killogie itself, where the object of their search was in reality concealed. frequently, to the almost complete annihilation of the action of the pulses of her heart, did she hear the footsteps of some of them passing close beside the place where she lay, as well as their curses, as they went. But so completely were they deceived by the ruined appearance of the roofless killogie, that they never once thought of the possibility of any one being concealed there. Wearies at length with their ineffectual search, and believing that the Pensassenach had fled, they began to wreak their rage, and to glut their rapacity, by plundering her effects. Meal, butter, cheese, beef, and bacon, were crammed indiscriminately into sacks, with articles of wearing apparel, and the blankets, and the webs of cloth and linen which the thrifty housewife had prepared for her household. Articles of silver plate were not forgotten, as well as all other valuables upon which they could lay their rapacious hands. The cellar was broken open and ransacked, and its contents, as well as many other pieces of plunder of a bulky nature, were stowed away to be carried off in the carts belonging to the farm. A general assault then commenced upon the live stock. John Smith’s zealous precaution has secured the greater part of the larger animals from their clutches, but the attack on the poultry was simultaneous and terrific. Loud was the cackling, gobbling, and quacking of the fowls, turkeys, ducks, and geese, as they were caught, one after another; and fearful was it to hear their music suddenly silenced, by their necks being drawn, and melancholy to behold their inanimate bodies thrown into the hampers that hung on the crook-saddled horses. The good Morag’s heart was rent, as she beheld these ruthless murders committed upon the innocent creatures whom she had delighted to rear. But honest John Smith comforted himself with the reflection, that he had saved all the weightier and more valuable stock, and therefore he witnessed all these ravages among the feathered folk with tolerable composure, until a circumstance occurred which renewed all his apprehensions for the safety of his mistress, and again excited him to the full exertion of all his energies.
War had not been long commenced against the poultry, when the large sow, alarmed by the murders she beheld going on around her, and terrified by the loud hurrahs of the plunderers, as well as scared by the sudden striking up of the bagpipes, took to flight in good time, and made straight for the eye of the killogie, at the head of her troop. The quick-sighted John Smith at once perceived the risk which his mistress, the Pensassenach, ran of being discovered, by the animals making this attempt to find shelter there. Off he flew like the wind to intercept them; and cutting in before them with great adroitness, he turned them right away towards the fragment of meadow, which lay in the close vicinity of the black bog. John played his part so well that this manœuvre of his had all the appearance as if he had been merely making a dash at them for the purpose of catching some of them, and that the creatures had for the present foiled him. They were accordingly left at peace for a time, during which John’s mind also remained in some degree tranquil and at ease.
But the sow and her inviting family were not long in being descried by the Highlanders, after every other living thing had been sacked by them, and a most eventful, hazardous, and very ludicrous chase after them immediately took place. Full of the most anxious apprehensions as to the result, John planted himself in front of the killogie, and between it and the scene of action; and as all the old sow’s efforts were directed towards her stronghold in the kiln, it was with the greatest difficulty that he repeatedly succeeded in driving her from the dangerous post. At length, by one exertion, greater than the rest, he had the good fortune to force the sow once more fairly a-field again, with all her grunting young ones running scattering after her, whilst the Highlanders, deceived by his shouting to them in Gaelic, and encouraging them to the pursuit, believed that he had no other object in view than honestly to aid them in catching her. To bind them still more, he now started off full tilt at the head of them, and soon outran the swiftest of them. With amazing dexterity, he first clutched up one pig, and then another, until he had one in each hand, swinging by the tail, and squeaking so fearfully as to excite the maternal anxiety and rage of the sow mother, to so great an extent, that she followed him, fast and furiously grunting, wheresoever he turned. John inwardly chuckled at the thought of having thus so easily and so perfectly the command of her motions. But a sudden onset from the Highlanders speedily dispersed the remainder of her progeny; and the pursuers naturally scattered themselves to follow after individual granters, so that the race was seen to rage over all parts of the field. This distracted the attention of the old sow, and she went cantering about, hither and thither, like a frantic creature, until, by degrees, she found herself at the very farthest end of the bog. There, seized by panic, she suddenly turned, and bolted desperately back again, with her snout pointed directedly towards the kiln. Winged by terror, she pushed wildly on at a bickering pace, and running her head right between John’s legs ere ever he wist, she carried him off for several yards, horsed upon her back, with his face to the tail; and in the blindness of her alarm, she ran headlong with him into a great peat-pot, where he was instantly launched all his length among the black chaotic fluid which it contained. John scrambled out of the hole with some difficulty, and, starting to his legs, and shaking his ears like a water-spaniel, and clearing the dirt from his eyes, he, to his great horror, beheld the sow scouring away as hard as she could gallop, in a direct course for that chamber in the killogie, which prescriptive right had so long made her believe to be her own. John saw her hurrying thither, pursued by one or two of the Highlanders. It was evident that she must soon reach it; and he felt certain that she would instantly dart in among the straw where the Pensassenach was lying, and that so the lady must be exposed to certain discovery, and consequently to instant death. What was to be done? Not a moment was to be lost. Taking advantage of a double which the sow was compelled to make, in consequence of some one having headed her course, and which forced her to swerve considerably from the straight line of the chase, John seized a gun from the hand of a Highlander near him, and aiming at the animal as she thus presented her great broadside to him, he fired at her, and rolled her over and over, by a bullet that passed through her very heart. There she lay dead before her pursuers, within some thirty or forty yards of her perilous place of refuge. A shout of applause at so wonderful a shot arose from all who witnessed it.
“Tat’s ta learn her, mockel fusome beast tat she is, for tummelin Shon Smiss inta ta peat-hole!” cried John, infinitely relieved from all his terrors.
The pigs were now very speedily secured in detail, and the great sow was dragged up to the farm-house, and quietly deposited, with her slaughtered family, in one of the carts.
“My brave fellow!” said Captain McTaggart, the leader of the party, now advancing towards John, and shaking him heartily by the hand, “you must come along with us. A young man, so handsome, so active, so spirited, and so soldierly-looking, – and, above all, so capital a shot as you are, – was never intended by nature to hold the stilts of a plough, or to fill dung-carts. You were born to be an officer at the very least, and, for aught I know, to be a colonel or a general. We are already aware that you are staunch to the righteous cause of the true Prince. Now is the time for you to raise yourself in the world, by joining his royal standard. Come, then, and lend us your powerful aid in placing our lawful King upon the throne of his ancestors! Come along with us, and I shall forthwith introduce you to Prince Charles, who may yet make a lord of you before you die.”
John Smith was, in truth, all that McTaggart had called him, being a handsome, good-looking man, as brave as a lion, and not altogether devoid of a certain natural ambition. But he was ignorant, thoughtless, and credulous, owing to his having been, up to that day, entirely without experience. He had never before seen anything like military array, and irregular and deficient, in many respects, as that was which he now beheld, still it was enough to captivate his unpractised eye. John had a strong attachment to his master and mistress, who had always been very kind to him. But his devotion to the Prince, whom he had never seen, was of a higher and holier order. Bestowing a few moments of reflection on the ceaseless and profitless plodding, and slavish drudgery of his present duties, all, in themselves, absolutely repugnant to the very nature of a Highlander, and comparing them with the ideal picture he had drawn to himself, of the gallant, gentlemanlike service of the Prince, whose soldiers, he believed, had not only daily opportunities of enriching themselves with honourable plunder, – a small specimen of which he had just witnessed – but who had the prospect opened to them of one day becoming great men, the contrast was by far too flattering in favour of the latter not to dazzle him. But if it had not had that effect, the promise which McTaggart made him of introducing him to Prince Charles, the son of the true and legitimate King of Scotland, was enough of itself to have gained John’s consent in a moment.
“Ou, troth, she’ll no be lang o’ gangin’ wi’ her,” said John, “an she’ll but stop till she clean hersel’ a wee frae ta dirt o’ ta fulthy bog, tat ta soo beast pat her intill. – and syne bids fareweel to ta leddy.”
“Whoo!” exclaimed McTaggart. “The lady! What, then, the Pensassenach is somewhere about the place after all, and you know where she is? By holy St. Mary, but I will burn every house here, and force the rancorous whig she-devil to unkennel out of her hiding place!”
“Teel purn her nanesell’s fooliss tongue for namin’ ta leddy ava ava!” said John bitterly. “But she may e’en purn ta hale toon gin she likes – fint a bit o’ ta leddy can she purn.”
“Ha, my good fellow,” said McTaggart, “since you have the secret knowledge of her place of concealment locked in your bosom, what is to hinder me to use a thumbikin as a key to unlock it. I have a great mind to try.”
“She may e’em puts ta toomkin on her nanesell’s neck, and she’ll no tell after a’,” said John resolutely. “And ponny pounties tat wad be surely for Shon Smiss to serve ta Prince.”
“Nay, my good fellow, I was only joking,” said McTaggart, afraid to lose so good a volunteer “trust me I meant you no harm.”
“Gin she purns ta toon, or gin she do ony mair ill aboot ta place, fowk wull be sayin’ tat Shon Smiss bid her do it,’ continued John – “an tat wad be doin’ Shon mockell harm. Teevil ae stap wull shon be gangin’ wi’ her at a’ at a’, and she do ony mair bad sings here.”
“Well, well,” said McTaggart, soothing him, “go in and dress yourself, and make your mind easy; and the sooner we are away from here the better.”
John thought so too. He ran to the stable for his breachcan;2 put on his best coat, kilt, and hose; tied up his only two shirts, and a spare pair of hose, in a napkin, and placed the bundle into the fold of his plaid; and then seizing a trusty old broadsword, he put on his new Sunday’s bonnet, smartly cocked up, – and he strode so erectly forth to McTaggart, and with so martial an air, that, added to the wonderful change created in his personal appearance by his dress, made the captain hesitate for a moment in believing him to be the same man.
“She be ready noo,” said John; “put fare be ta rest o’ ta men, Captain?”
“They are hunting the Pensassenach,” replied McTaggart with a careless laugh.
“She pe verra idle loons tan,” said John, “for gin she wad seek a’ tay she wad na’ find her.” And then, by way of diverting the Captain’s attention from the search by a joke, he pointed to Morag, who stood at the door, weeping bitterly at the prospect of his departure, and added, – “see, tat pe ta Pensassenach.”
“That the Pensassenach!” said McTaggart. “That’s a good joke truly. I know well enough that’s not the Pensassenach that we are after.”
“She pe a verra ponny Pensassenach,” said John, going up to Morag, and hastily delivering to her, in a Gaelic whisper, directions how and when she should relieve her mistress from her confinement, and also where she was to look for the packman, that she might get him taken out of the water.
“That Pensassenach seems to be a favourite of yours, John,” said the Captain.
“She wunna say put she is,” replied John, his heart filling a little with sympathy for Morag’s tears, and at the prospect of leaving her. “Petter tak tiss Pensassenach wi’ huss,” – and then, rather as a parting word of kindness than anything else, he added, “Will she go, Morag?”
This was too much for poor Morag. Her heart was too full for her to command words to reply. She rushed forward, and threw her arms around John. She fixed her hands into the folds of that breachcan, in which, in their days of herding, when she was but a lassie, and he but a boy, she had been so often wrapped by her lover as a shelter from the stormy elements, and she gave way to a burst of grief that at length enabled her to find utterance for her feelings. She implored him, in all the anguish of despair, not to leave her. John’s heart was softened by her words, and her tears, and he blubbered like a child. McTaggart, fearing that the martial influence in John’s soul might be overpowered and extinguished by that of love, and setting a much greater value on him as a recruit, than on the capture of the Pensassenach, he thought it advisable to put an end to this tender interview as speedily as might be. He ordered the piper to play up therefore, and the men, abandoning their fruitless search after the English wife, were speedily gathered around him. The train of carts and horses, with the plunder, were driven on – the order of march was formed. John, after a severe struggle with his heart, rent himself away from the arms of Morag, and followed McTaggart, without daring to speak, or to look behind him; whilst the poor girl, bereft of her support, fell upon the green – where she lay beating her breast and tearing her hair in utter despair, till the sound of the distant pipe died away, and the presence of some of her fellow-servants brought her back to her reason.
Morag was no sooner sufficiently calm and collected, than she hastened to execute John Smith’s last injunctions. The poor Pensassenach was taken from the killogie more dead than alive. Morag would have had her go to bed, but, having recovered herself a little, she became too much excited to rest; and, having arranged her dress, she began to bustle about her affairs, and to take a full note of her loss. It was, indeed, severe. But she felt that she endured it for a glorious cause, and that reflection made her bear it with a wonderful philosophy. She was grieved, and even angry to learn that John Smith had enlisted with the Prince’s men, but she felt deeply grateful to him for having saved her life; and especially so, when she heard from Morag the story of the packman’s treachery, and John’s ingenuity in defeating it, as well as of the whole of his exertions for her preservation.
“Where has John bestowed the villain?” demanded the Pensassenach.
“Toon in ta lint pot, mem,” replied Morag; “I maun gang toon an get him oot o’ ta hole noo.”
“I’ll go with you, Morag,” said the Pensassenach; and so mistress and maid proceeded together towards the pond. “What noise is that?” cried the Pensassenach, as they drew near to it.
“Aw – yaw! – yaw – aw!” cried the packman from the pool.
“Where are you, wretched man?” cried the Pensassenach.
“Yaw – aw! – yaw – aw!” replied Mr. Dallas.
“Why don’t you speak distinctly?” demanded the lady.
“Aw – aw! – yaw – aw!” replied Dallas again.
“The sound would seem to come from under that loose heap of rushes at the margin of the pool yonder,” said the Pensassenach.
“Oich aye, she’s here mem,” cried Morag, removing the covering from the packman’s head.
“Yaw – aw! – aw – aw!” cried Dallas, raising his eyes with an expression of intense agony.
“Ah, I see how it is,” said the Pensassenach; “John has gagged him, to prevent his vile tongue from betraying me. Loosen that string, Morag, and take out the gag.”
“Oh, Heeven be praised that I haw fand freends at last,” cried the packman in a hoarse voice. “Hech, my jaws are stiff, stiff, and sair, sair, wi that plaguit bit o’ a rung that John Smith pat into my mooth. Hech me! kind souls that ye are, pu’ me oot, pu’ me oot o’ this, or I maun e’em drap awthe gither owerhead into the pool, for I haena mair poor to stand on this ae leg o’ mine, and I canna rest ony at a’ on the short ane, mind ye, without sinkin; my mooth below the water. Och, mem, pu’ me oot!”
“How can you ask me to assist you, base wretch that you are?” cried the Pensassenach; “you who would have sold my life to have saved your own. I shall push you as gently under the water as I can, but drowned you must be.”
“Oh, for the love o’ Heeven hae mair charity!” cried the packman most piteously. “I’m a sad sinner, nae doot. But I’m a puir, wake, nervish craytur, – and fan that deevil incarnate, Captain McTaggart, spak o’ hangin’ me, my brains whurled sae i’ my head, that I didna ken what I was sayin’. But I’m sure I never thocht o’ doin’ harm till you or ony o’ your hoose. Pu’ me oot, mem; pu’ me oot for the love o’ Heeven, or the very life‘ll leave my legs wi’ cauld.”
“pull you out,” exclaimed the pensassenach; “pull you out, – you who would have helped the Highlanders to my murder: pull you out, who wilfully spoke treason, to aid, abet, and comfort the rebel Captain. My loyalty to my King and my country forbids me to assist you, and compels me to make a sacrifice of you immediately. So, prepare for instant death.”
“Och, hae mercy on my puir sowl,” cried the packman in despair; “surely, surely, ye’re no gawin’ till droun me?”
“What can you say in exculpation of your treason?” demanded the Pensassenach, laying hold of the upper part of the sack with both her hands, and giving Mr. Dallas a gentle shake.
“Och, naething – naething ava,” cried Mr. Dallas. “Oh, I’m a dead man – a dead man: hae mercy – hae mercy upon me. I’m a great sinner – a wicked, and hardened sinner.”
“Perhaps it were well to allow you a few moments, wretch that you are, to confess your sins and repent, before you are sent into the other world,” said the Pensassenach. “So make haste – lose not the fleeting space of time which I thus mercifully grant to you, and lighten your soul of as much load as you can.”
“Oh, hae mercy – hae mercy on me!” cried Dallas.
“I’ll have no mercy on you, more than this,” cried the Pensassenach in a terrible voice. “If you will not confess yourself, your last moment is at hand;” and so saying, she ducked Mr. Dallas’s head under the water.
“O! O! O! Oh! – hech! ech!” cried Mr. Dallas, panting for breath; “I’m a dead man! I’m a dead man! Oh, Lord forgie me for sellin’ pastes for precious stanes.”
“Come! is that all?” cried the Pensassenach, shaking him again.
“Hae mercy on me for sellin’ rock crystal for diamunts,” cried Dallas.
“Come! out with it all!” said the Pensassenach.
“Och! Och! Forgie me for sellin’ bits o’ ayster shells for pearls,” creid Dallas again, “and pinchbeck for gold; and watches wi’ worn out auld warks for new anes.”
“Come! nothing else to confess?” said the Pensassenach.
“Oh, yes. Heaven help me, and hae mercy on me, for keepin’ fause weights and a fause ell-wand,” cried Dallas.
“Are these all your sins, villain?” exclaimed the Pensassenach.
“Oh, hey, aye, aye,” said Dallas piteously, “and ower muckle, gude kens.”
“Well, then,” said the Pensassenach, taking a more determined grasp of the sack; “now, that you have duly confessed, here goes.”
“Oh, stop, stop!” cried Dallas, in great fear. “Stop, stop! no yet! no yet! I hae mair to tell o’ yet. I hae noo an’ then picked up an odd silver spoon, or sae, or ony siccan wee article whan it came in my way, just tempin’ me like, in ony o’ the hooses whaur I had quarters. But I never was a great fief – no, no.”
“ ’Twas you belike who stole my silver punch-ladle,” said the Pensassenach. “I missed it immediately after you were last here.”
“I canna just charge my memory wi’ the punch-ladle,” said Mr. Dallas, unwilling to admit that he had in any way wronged the Pensassenach.
“Nay, then, your thefts must have been too numerous for you to note such a trifling item as that,” said the pensassenach; “but it is clear you did steal my punch-ladle, so now you shall die for not confessing. Now!”
“Oh, stop, stop, for mercy’s sake!” cried Dallas, in livid apprehension. “I mind noo! I mind noo! I did tak’ it – I did tak’ the ladle! It shined sae tempin’ through the glass door o’ the bit corner cupboard, and the door was open, sae that I may amaist say that the devil himsel’ handed it oot till me, and pat it intil my very pack. But I’ll never wrang you ony mair.”
“I’ll take good care you shall not,” said the lady; “you shall never wrong me, nor any one else more. So now, prepare, for this is your last moment.”
“Oh, mercy, mercy,” cried the packman again. “I hae mair yet to confess! Oh, dinna droun me just yet!”
“Well, be quick,” said the Pensassenach; “what more have ye to tell?”
“Oh, mercy, mercy!” cried Dallas. “That woman that I telled ye o’ yestreen; that woman that I clippit out o’ the Spey wasna just awthegither dead -”
“What!” exclaimed the Pensassenach, in horror; “wretch that you are, did you murder the woman?”
“Eh, na, na”” cried Dallas; “ill as I am, I didna do that. I just took her roklay and her gown, and some ither wee things aperteenin’ till her, and syne I gaed aff wi’ mysel’, leaving her to come roond to life at her nain leisure and convenience.”
“Leaving her to die without help you mean, you murdering thief!” said the Pensassenach, shrinking back with horror from the very touch of him. “Wretch, you are unworthy of life! But I shall not be your executioner. You will grace a gallows yet, I’ll warrant you. I shall now leave Morag to pull you out of the way. But hark ye, Mr. Dallas, before I leave you I may as well tell you that though I have spared your life, as indeed I never had the least intention of taking it, I advise you never to darken my door again; for, if you do, I promise you that you shall have another and a deeper taste of this lint-pot.”
“Oh, bless you, mem!” cried Mr. Dallas, with an earnestness which showed how much he was relieved by her words; “I’ll never come within five miles o’ your farm. Noo, Morag, my dawty,” continued he, addressing the maid after the mistress was gone; “gudesake, woman, be quick an’ pu’ me oot; or, as sure as death, I’ll dee o’t awthegither.”
“Fawse loons tat she is,” said Morag, looking terribly at him. “She will no pu’ her oot; she wull pit her toon in ta hole, an’ troon her! She is a wicked vullain – she wull pit her toon in ta hole an’ troon her wissout nae mercy at a’ at a’.”
“Oh!” cried the terrified Dallas, with his eyeballs again starting from his head with apprehension. “Oh, dinna droun me, noo that your mistress has spared me! I was ragin’ fu’ wi’ brandy last nicht, and I didna ken what I was doin’; and maybe I was a wee unceevil till ye, or the like. But oh, hae mercy, hae mercy on me!”
“She’ll no be ta waur o’ a gude tooky tan,” said Morag. seizing the sack and plunging the gasping Mr. Dallas two or three times successively under the water; “tat ‘ll cool ta hot speerits in her stamick, or she pe far mistane.”
“Oh! O! O! Och! hec”! och! oh! – O!” cried Dallas, gasping and panting. “O, mercy, mercy! an’ I hadna drucken a’ yon oceans o’ brandy yester nicht I had assuredly been a dead man this day, just frae a’ the water that my body has imbibit frae this nasty lint-pot by actuuwully makin’ a kind o’ wake punch o’ me. Oh, gude lassie that ye are, pu’ me oot, pu’ me oot!”
“Its mair nor she’s weel deservin’,” said Morag, now putting forth all her strength to pull the sack and its contents up out of the water; “but Morag canna let a man be trooned an she can help it, pad man so she pe.”
Having hauled up the sack, she laid it upon the grass, undid the fastenings of its mouth, and with some difficulty extricated Mr. Dallas from its durance vile. the worthy packman arose to his feet, and, shaking himself heartily, and stretching out first his short and then his long leg two or three times alternately, to relieve that killing cold cramp which possessed them, he hobbled off without uttering a word of thanks, and shivering so that his teeth were rattling in his head as if his jaws had contained a corps of drummers beating the rogue’s march. Morag looked after him with a hearty laugh, and then picking up the wet sack she hastened to join her mistress.
Let us now follow the march of John Smith.