Rob Roy

by Sir Walter Scott

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Volume II - Chapter Nineteenth

Farewell to the land where the clouds love to rest,
            Like the shroud of the dead, on the mountain’s cold breast
            To the cataract’s roar where the eagles reply,
            And the lake her lone bosom expands to the sky.

Our route lay through a dreary, yet romantic country, which the distress of my own mind prevented me from remarking particularly, and which, therefore, I will not attempt to describe. The lofty peak of Ben Lomond, here the predominant monarch of the mountains, lay on our right hand, and served as a striking landmark. I was not awakened from my apathy, until, after a long and toilsome walk, we emerged through a pass in the hills, and Loch Lomond opened before us. I will spare you the attempt to describe what you would hardly comprehend without going to see it. But certainly this noble lake, boasting innumerable beautiful islands, of every varying form and outline which fancy can frame,—its northern extremity narrowing until it is lost among dusky and retreating mountains,—while, gradually widening as it extends to the southward, it spreads its base around the indentures and promontories of a fair and fertile land, affords one of the most surprising, beautiful, and sublime spectacles in nature. The eastern side, peculiarly rough and rugged, was at this time the chief seat of MacGregor and his clan,—to curb whom, a small garrison had been stationed in a central position betwixt Loch Lomond and another lake. The extreme strength of the country, however, with the numerous passes, marshes, caverns, and other places of concealment or defence, made the establishment of this little fort seem rather an acknowledgment of the danger, than an effectual means of securing against it.

On more than one occasion, as well as on that which I witnessed, the garrison suffered from the adventurous spirit of the outlaw and his followers. These advantages were never sullied by ferocity when he himself was in command; for, equally good-tempered and sagacious, he understood well the danger of incurring unnecessary odium. I learned with pleasure that he had caused the captives of the preceding day to be liberated in safety; and many traits of mercy, and even of generosity, are recorded of this remarkable man on similar occasions.

A boat waited for us in a creek beneath a huge rock, manned by four lusty Highland rowers; and our host took leave of us with great cordiality, and even affection. Betwixt him and Mr. Jarvie, indeed, there seemed to exist a degree of mutual regard, which formed a strong contrast to their different occupations and habits. After kissing each other very lovingly, and when they were just in the act of parting, the Bailie, in the fulness of his heart, and with a faltering voice, assured his kinsman, “that if ever an hundred pund, or even twa hundred, would put him or his family in a settled way, he need but just send a line to the Saut-Market;” and Rob, grasping his basket-hilt with one hand, and shaking Mr. Jarvie’s heartily with the other, protested, “that if ever anybody should affront his kinsman, an he would but let him ken, he would stow his lugs out of his head, were he the best man in Glasgow.”

With these assurances of mutual aid and continued good-will, we bore away from the shore, and took our course for the south-western angle of the lake, where it gives birth to the river Leven. Rob Roy remained for some time standing on the rock from beneath which we had departed, conspicuous by his long gun, waving tartans, and the single plume in his cap, which in those days denoted the Highland gentleman and soldier; although I observe that the present military taste has decorated the Highland bonnet with a quantity of black plumage resembling that which is borne before funerals. At length, as the distance increased between us, we saw him turn and go slowly up the side of the hill, followed by his immediate attendants or bodyguard.

We performed our voyage for a long time in silence, interrupted only by the Gaelic chant which one of the rowers sung in low irregular measure, rising occasionally into a wild chorus, in which the others joined.

My own thoughts were sad enough;—yet I felt something soothing in the magnificent scenery with which I was surrounded; and thought, in the enthusiasm of the moment, that had my faith been that of Rome, I could have consented to live and die a lonely hermit in one of the romantic and beautiful islands amongst which our boat glided.

The Bailie had also his speculations, but they were of somewhat a different complexion; as I found when, after about an hour’s silence, during which he had been mentally engaged in the calculations necessary, he undertook to prove the possibility of draining the lake, and “giving to plough and harrow many hundred, ay, many a thousand acres, from whilk no man could get earthly gude e’enow, unless it were a gedd,* or a dish of perch now and then.”

* A pike.

Amidst a long discussion, which he “crammed into mine ear against the stomach of my sense,” I only remember, that it was part of his project to preserve a portion of the lake just deep enough and broad enough for the purposes of water-carriage, so that coal-barges and gabbards should pass as easily between Dumbarton and Glenfalloch as between Glasgow and Greenock.

At length we neared our distant place of landing, adjoining to the ruins of an ancient castle, and just where the lake discharges its superfluous waters into the Leven. There we found Dougal with the horses. The Bailie had formed a plan with respect to “the creature,” as well as upon the draining of the lake; and, perhaps in both cases, with more regard to the utility than to the practical possibility of his scheme. “Dougal,” he said, “ye are a kindly creature, and hae the sense and feeling o’ what is due to your betters—and I’m e’en wae for you, Dougal, for it canna be but that in the life ye lead you suld get a Jeddart cast* ae day suner or later. I trust, considering my services as a magistrate, and my father the deacon’s afore me, I hae interest eneugh in the council to gar them wink a wee at a waur faut than yours.

* [“The memory of Dunbar’s legal (?) proceedings at Jedburgh is preserved in the proverbial phrase Jeddart Justice, which signifies trial after execution.”—Minstrelsy of the Border, Preface, p. lvi.]

Sae I hae been thinking, that if ye will gang back to Glasgow wi’ us, being a strong-backit creature, ye might be employed in the warehouse till something better suld cast up.”

“Her nainsell muckle obliged till the Bailie’s honour,” replied Dougal; “but teil be in her shanks fan she gangs on a cause-way’d street, unless she be drawn up the Gallowgate wi’ tows, as she was before.”

In fact, I afterwards learned that Dougal had originally come to Glasgow as a prisoner, from being concerned in some depredation, but had somehow found such favour in the eyes of the jailor, that, with rather overweening confidence, he had retained him in his service as one of the turnkeys; a task which Dougal had discharged with sufficient fidelity, so far as was known, until overcome by his clannish prejudices on the unexpected appearance of his old leader.

Astonished at receiving so round a refusal to so favourable an offer, the Bailie, turning to me, observed, that the “creature was a natural-born idiot.” I testified my own gratitude in a way which Dougal much better relished, by slipping a couple of guineas into his hand. He no sooner felt the touch of the gold, than he sprung twice or thrice from the earth with the agility of a wild buck, flinging out first one heel and then another, in a manner which would have astonished a French dancing-master. He ran to the boatmen to show them the prize, and a small gratuity made them take part in his raptures. He then, to use a favourite expression of the dramatic John Bunyan, “went on his way, and I saw him no more.”

The Bailie and I mounted our horses, and proceeded on the road to Glasgow. When we had lost the view of the lake, and its superb amphitheatre of mountains, I could not help expressing with enthusiasm, my sense of its natural beauties, although I was conscious that Mr. Jarvie was a very uncongenial spirit to communicate with on such a subject.

“Ye are a young gentleman,” he replied, “and an Englishman, and a’ this may be very fine to you; but for me, wha am a plain man, and ken something o’ the different values of land, I wadna gie the finest sight we hae seen in the Hielands, for the first keek o’ the Gorbals o’ Glasgow; and if I were ance there, it suldna be every fule’s errand, begging your pardon, Mr. Francis, that suld take me out o’ sight o’ Saint Mungo’s steeple again!”

The honest man had his wish; for, by dint of travelling very late, we arrived at his own house that night, or rather on the succeeding morning. Having seen my worthy fellow-traveller safely consigned to the charge of the considerate and officious Mattie, I proceeded to Mrs. Flyter’s, in whose house, even at this unwonted hour, light was still burning. The door was opened by no less a person than Andrew Fairservice himself, who, upon the first sound of my voice, set up a loud shout of joyful recognition, and, without uttering a syllable, ran up stairs towards a parlour on the second floor, from the windows of which the light proceeded. Justly conceiving that he went to announce my return to the anxious Owen, I followed him upon the foot. Owen was not alone, there was another in the apartment—it was my father.

The first impulse was to preserve the dignity of his usual equanimity,—“Francis, I am glad to see you.” The next was to embrace me tenderly,—“My dear—dear son!”—Owen secured one of my hands, and wetted it with his tears, while he joined in gratulating my return. These are scenes which address themselves to the eye and to the heart rather than to the ear—My old eye-lids still moisten at the recollection of our meeting; but your kind and affectionate feelings can well imagine what I should find it impossible to describe.

When the tumult of our joy was over, I learnt that my father had arrived from Holland shortly after Owen had set off for Scotland. Determined and rapid in all his movements, he only stopped to provide the means of discharging the obligations incumbent on his house. By his extensive resources, with funds enlarged, and credit fortified, by eminent success in his continental speculation, he easily accomplished what perhaps his absence alone rendered difficult, and set out for Scotland to exact justice from Rashleigh Osbaldistone, as well as to put order to his affairs in that country. My father’s arrival in full credit, and with the ample means of supporting his engagements honourably, as well as benefiting his correspondents in future, was a stunning blow to MacVittie and Company, who had conceived his star set for ever. Highly incensed at the usage his confidential clerk and agent had received at their hands, Mr. Osbaldistone refused every tender of apology and accommodation; and having settled the balance of their account, announced to them that, with all its numerous contingent advantages, that leaf of their ledger was closed for ever.

While he enjoyed this triumph over false friends, he was not a little alarmed on my account. Owen, good man, had not supposed it possible that a journey of fifty or sixty miles, which may be made with so much ease and safety in any direction from London, could be attended with any particular danger. But he caught alarm, by sympathy, from my father, to whom the country, and the lawless character of its inhabitants, were better known.

These apprehensions were raised to agony, when, a few hours before I arrived, Andrew Fairservice made his appearance, with a dismal and exaggerated account of the uncertain state in which he had left me. The nobleman with whose troops he had been a sort of prisoner, had, after examination, not only dismissed him, but furnished him with the means of returning rapidly to Glasgow, in order to announce to my friends my precarious and unpleasant situation.

Andrew was one of those persons who have no objection to the sort of temporary attention and woeful importance which attaches itself to the bearer of bad tidings, and had therefore by no means smoothed down his tale in the telling, especially as the rich London merchant himself proved unexpectedly one of the auditors. He went at great length into an account of the dangers I had escaped, chiefly, as he insinuated, by means of his own experience, exertion, and sagacity.

“What was to come of me now, when my better angel, in his (Andrew’s) person, was removed from my side, it was,” he said, “sad and sair to conjecture; that the Bailie was nae better than just naebody at a pinch, or something waur, for he was a conceited body—and Andrew hated conceit—but certainly, atween the pistols and the carabines of the troopers, that rappit aff the tane after the tother as fast as hail, and the dirks and claymores o’ the Hielanders, and the deep waters and weils o’ the Avondow, it was to be thought there wad be a puir account of the young gentleman.”

This statement would have driven Owen to despair, had he been alone and unsupported; but my father’s perfect knowledge of mankind enabled him easily to appreciate the character of Andrew, and the real amount of his intelligence. Stripped of all exaggeration, however, it was alarming enough to a parent. He determined to set out in person to obtain my liberty by ransom or negotiation, and was busied with Owen till a late hour, in order to get through some necessary correspondence, and devolve on the latter some business which should be transacted during his absence; and thus it chanced that I found them watchers.

It was late ere we separated to rest, and, too impatient long to endure repose, I was stirring early the next morning. Andrew gave his attendance at my levee, as in duty bound, and, instead of the scarecrow figure to which he had been reduced at Aberfoil, now appeared in the attire of an undertaker, a goodly suit, namely, of the deepest mourning. It was not till after one or two queries, which the rascal affected as long as he could to misunderstand, that I found out he “had thought it but decent to put on mourning, on account of my inexpressible loss; and as the broker at whose shop he had equipped himself, declined to receive the goods again, and as his own garments had been destroyed or carried off in my honour’s service, doubtless I and my honourable father, whom Providence had blessed wi’ the means, wadna suffer a puir lad to sit down wi’ the loss; a stand o’ claes was nae great matter to an Osbaldistone (be praised for’t!), especially to an old and attached servant o’ the house.”

As there was something of justice in Andrew’s plea of loss in my service, his finesse succeeded; and he came by a good suit of mourning, with a beaver and all things conforming, as the exterior signs of woe for a master who was alive and merry.

My father’s first care, when he arose, was to visit Mr. Jarvie, for whose kindness he entertained the most grateful sentiments, which he expressed in very few, but manly and nervous terms. He explained the altered state of his affairs, and offered the Bailie, on such terms as could not but be both advantageous and acceptable, that part in his concerns which had been hitherto managed by MacVittie and Company. The Bailie heartily congratulated my father and Owen on the changed posture of their affairs, and, without affecting to disclaim that he had done his best to serve them, when matters looked otherwise, he said, “He had only just acted as he wad be done by—that, as to the extension of their correspondence, he frankly accepted it with thanks. Had MacVittie’s folk behaved like honest men,” he said, “he wad hae liked ill to hae come in ahint them, and out afore them this gate. But it’s otherwise, and they maun e’en stand the loss.”

The Bailie then pulled me by the sleeve into a corner, and, after again cordially wishing me joy, proceeded, in rather an embarrassed tone—“I wad heartily wish, Maister Francis, there suld be as little said as possible about the queer things we saw up yonder awa. There’s nae gude, unless ane were judicially examinate, to say onything about that awfu’ job o’ Morris—and the members o’ the council wadna think it creditable in ane of their body to be fighting wi’ a wheen Hielandmen, and singeing their plaidens—And abune a’, though I am a decent sponsible man, when I am on my right end, I canna but think I maun hae made a queer figure without my hat and my periwig, hinging by the middle like bawdrons, or a cloak flung ower a cloak-pin. Bailie Grahame wad hae an unco hair in my neck an he got that tale by the end.”

I could not suppress a smile when I recollected the Bailie’s situation, although I certainly thought it no laughing matter at the time. The good-natured merchant was a little confused, but smiled also when he shook his head—“I see how it is—I see how it is. But say naething about it—there’s a gude callant; and charge that lang-tongued, conceited, upsetting serving man o’ yours, to sae naething neither. I wadna for ever sae muckle that even the lassock Mattie ken’d onything about it. I wad never hear an end o’t.”

He was obviously relieved from his impending fears of ridicule, when I told him it was my father’s intention to leave Glasgow almost immediately. Indeed he had now no motive for remaining, since the most valuable part of the papers carried off by Rashleigh had been recovered. For that portion which he had converted into cash and expended in his own or on political intrigues, there was no mode of recovering it but by a suit at law, which was forthwith commenced, and proceeded, as our law-agents assured us, with all deliberate speed.

We spent, accordingly, one hospitable day with the Bailie, and took leave of him, as this narrative now does. He continued to grow in wealth, honour, and credit, and actually rose to the highest civic honours in his native city. About two years after the period I have mentioned, he tired of his bachelor life, and promoted Mattie from her wheel by the kitchen fire to the upper end of his table, in the character of Mrs. Jarvie. Bailie Grahame, the MacVitties, and others (for all men have their enemies, especially in the council of a royal burgh), ridiculed this transformation. “But,” said Mr. Jarvie, “let them say their say. I’ll ne’er fash mysell, nor lose my liking for sae feckless a matter as a nine days’ clash. My honest father the deacon had a byword,

Brent brow and lily skin,

A loving heart, and a leal within,

Is better than gowd or gentle kin.

Besides,” as he always concluded, “Mattie was nae ordinary lassock-quean; she was akin to the Laird o’ Limmerfield.”

Whether it was owing to her descent or her good gifts, I do not presume to decide; but Mattie behaved excellently in her exaltation, and relieved the apprehensions of some of the Bailie’s friends, who had deemed his experiment somewhat hazardous. I do not know that there was any other incident of his quiet and useful life worthy of being particularly recorded.


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