Rob Roy

by Sir Walter Scott

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Volume II - Chapter Twelfth

Bagpipes, not lyres, the Highland hills adorn,
              MacLean’s loud hollo, and MacGregor’s horn.
                          John Cooper’s Reply to Allan Ramsay.

I stopped in the entrance of the stable, if indeed a place be entitled to that name where horses were stowed away along with goats, poultry, pigs, and cows, under the same roof with the mansion-house; although, by a degree of refinement unknown to the rest of the hamlet, and which I afterwards heard was imputed to an overpride on the part of Jeanie MacAlpine, our landlady, the apartment was accommodated with an entrance different from that used by her biped customers. By the light of my torch, I deciphered the following billet, written on a wet, crumpled, and dirty piece of paper, and addressed—“For the honoured hands of Mr. F. O., a Saxon young gentleman—These.” The contents were as follows:—


“There are night-hawks abroad, so that I cannot give you and my respected kinsman, B. N. J., the meeting at the Clachan of Aberfoil, whilk was my purpose. I pray you to avoid unnecessary communication with those you may find there, as it may give future trouble. The person who gives you this is faithful and may be trusted, and will guide you to a place where, God willing, I may safely give you the meeting, when I trust my kinsman and you will visit my poor house, where, in despite of my enemies, I can still promise sic cheer as ane Hielandman may gie his friends, and where we will drink a solemn health to a certain D. V., and look to certain affairs whilk I hope to be your aidance in; and I rest, as is wont among gentlemen,

your servant to command, R. M. C.”

I was a good deal mortified at the purport of this letter, which seemed to adjourn to a more distant place and date the service which I had hoped to receive from this man Campbell. Still, however, it was some comfort to know that he continued to be in my interest, since without him I could have no hope of recovering my father’s papers. I resolved, therefore, to obey his instructions; and, observing all caution before the guests, to take the first good opportunity I could find to procure from the landlady directions how I was to obtain a meeting with this mysterious person.

My next business was to seek out Andrew Fairservice, whom I called several times by name, without receiving any answer, surveying the stable all round, at the same time, not without risk of setting the premises on fire, had not the quantity of wet litter and mud so greatly counterbalanced two or three bunches of straw and hay. At length my repeated cries of “Andrew Fairservice! Andrew! fool!—ass! where are you?” produced a doleful “Here,” in a groaning tone, which might have been that of the Brownie itself. Guided by this sound, I advanced to the corner of a shed, where, ensconced in the angle of the wall, behind a barrel full of the feathers of all the fowls which had died in the cause of the public for a month past, I found the manful Andrew; and partly by force, partly by command and exhortation, compelled him forth into the open air. The first words he spoke were, “I am an honest lad, sir.”

“Who the devil questions your honesty?” said I, “or what have we to do with it at present? I desire you to come and attend us at supper.”

“Yes,” reiterated Andrew, without apparently understanding what I said to him, “I am an honest lad, whatever the Bailie may say to the contrary. I grant the warld and the warld’s gear sits ower near my heart whiles, as it does to mony a ane—But I am an honest lad; and, though I spak o’ leaving ye in the muir, yet God knows it was far frae my purpose, but just like idle things folk says when they’re driving a bargain, to get it as far to their ain side as they can—And I like your honour weel for sae young a lad, and I wadna part wi’ ye lightly.”

“What the deuce are you driving at now?” I replied. “Has not everything been settled again and again to your satisfaction? And are you to talk of leaving me every hour, without either rhyme or reason?”

“Ay,—but I was only making fashion before,” replied Andrew; “but it’s come on me in sair earnest now—Lose or win, I daur gae nae farther wi’ your honour; and if ye’ll tak my foolish advice, ye’ll bide by a broken tryste, rather than gang forward yoursell. I hae a sincere regard for ye, and I’m sure ye’ll be a credit to your friends if ye live to saw out your wild aits, and get some mair sense and steadiness—But I can follow ye nae farther, even if ye suld founder and perish from the way for lack of guidance and counsel. To gang into Rob Roy’s country is a mere tempting o’ Providence.”

“Rob Roy?” said I, in some surprise; “I know no such person. What new trick is this, Andrew?”

“It’s hard,” said Andrew—“very hard, that a man canna be believed when he speaks Heaven’s truth, just because he’s whiles owercome, and tells lees a little when there is necessary occasion. Ye needna ask whae Rob Roy is, the reiving lifter that he is—God forgie me! I hope naebody hears us—when ye hae a letter frae him in your pouch. I heard ane o’ his gillies bid that auld rudas jaud of a gudewife gie ye that. They thought I didna understand their gibberish; but, though I canna speak it muckle, I can gie a gude guess at what I hear them say—I never thought to hae tauld ye that, but in a fright a’ things come out that suld be keepit in. O, Maister Frank! a’ your uncle’s follies, and a’ your cousin’s pliskies, were naething to this! Drink clean cap out, like Sir Hildebrand; begin the blessed morning with brandy sops, like Squire Percy; swagger, like Squire Thorncliff; rin wud amang the lasses, like Squire John; gamble, like Richard; win souls to the Pope and the deevil, like Rashleigh; rive, rant, break the Sabbath, and do the Pope’s bidding, like them a’ put thegither—But, merciful Providence! take care o’ your young bluid, and gang nae near Rob Roy!”

Andrew’s alarm was too sincere to permit me to suppose he counterfeited. I contented myself, however, with telling him, that I meant to remain in the alehouse that night, and desired to have the horses well looked after. As to the rest, I charged him to observe the strictest silence upon the subject of his alarm, and he might rely upon it I would not incur any serious danger without due precaution. He followed me with a dejected air into the house, observing between his teeth, “Man suld be served afore beast—I haena had a morsel in my mouth, but the rough legs o’ that auld muircock, this haill blessed day.”

The harmony of the company seemed to have suffered some interruption since my departure, for I found Mr. Galbraith and my friend the Bailie high in dispute.

“I’ll hear nae sic language,” said Mr. Jarvie, as I entered, “respecting the Duke o’ Argyle and the name o’ Campbell. He’s a worthy public-spirited nobleman, and a credit to the country, and a friend and benefactor to the trade o’ Glasgow.”

“I’ll sae naething against MacCallum More and the Slioch-nan-Diarmid,” said the lesser Highlander, laughing. “I live on the wrang side of Glencroe to quarrel with Inverara.”

“Our loch ne’er saw the Cawmil lymphads,” * said the bigger Highlander.

* Lymphads. The galley which the family of Argyle and others of the * Clan Campbell carry in their arms.

“She’ll speak her mind and fear naebody—She doesna value a Cawmil mair as a Cowan, and ye may tell MacCallum More that Allan Iverach said sae— It’s a far cry to Lochow.” *

* Lochow and the adjacent districts formed the original seat of the * Campbells. The expression of a “far cry to Lochow” was proverbial.

Mr. Galbraith, on whom the repeated pledges which he had quaffed had produced some influence, slapped his hand on the table with great force, and said, in a stern voice, “There’s a bloody debt due by that family, and they will pay it one day—The banes of a loyal and a gallant Grahame hae lang rattled in their coffin for vengeance on thae Dukes of Guile and Lords for Lorn. There ne’er was treason in Scotland but a Cawmil was at the bottom o’t; and now that the wrang side’s uppermost, wha but the Cawmils for keeping down the right? But this warld winna last lang, and it will be time to sharp the maiden* for shearing o’ craigs and thrapples. I hope to see the auld rusty lass linking at a bluidy harst again.”

* A rude kind of guillotine formerly used in Scotland.

“For shame, Garschattachin!” exclaimed the Bailie; “fy for shame, sir! Wad ye say sic things before a magistrate, and bring yoursell into trouble?—How d’ye think to mainteen your family and satisfy your creditors (mysell and others), if ye gang on in that wild way, which cannot but bring you under the law, to the prejudice of a’ that’s connected wi’ ye?”

“D—n my creditors!” retorted the gallant Galbraith, “and you if ye be ane o’ them! I say there will be a new warld sune—And we shall hae nae Cawmils cocking their bonnet sae hie, and hounding their dogs where they daurna come themsells, nor protecting thieves, nor murderers, and oppressors, to harry and spoil better men and mair loyal clans than themsells.”

The Bailie had a great mind to have continued the dispute, when the savoury vapour of the broiled venison, which our landlady now placed before us, proved so powerful a mediator, that he betook himself to his trencher with great eagerness, leaving the strangers to carry on the dispute among themselves.

“And tat’s true,” said the taller Highlander—whose name I found was Stewart—“for we suldna be plagued and worried here wi’ meetings to pit down Rob Roy, if the Cawmils didna gie him refutch. I was ane o’ thirty o’ my ain name—part Glenfinlas, and part men that came down frae Appine. We shased the MacGregors as ye wad shase rae-deer, till we came into Glenfalloch’s country, and the Cawmils raise, and wadna let us pursue nae farder, and sae we lost our labour; but her wad gie twa and a plack to be as near Rob as she was tat day.”

It seemed to happen very unfortunately, that in every topic of discourse which these warlike gentlemen introduced, my friend the Bailie found some matter of offence. “Ye’ll forgie me speaking my mind, sir; but ye wad maybe hae gien the best bowl in your bonnet to hae been as far awae frae Rob as ye are e’en now—Od! my het pleugh-culter wad hae been naething to his claymore.”

“She had better speak nae mair about her culter, or, by G—! her will gar her eat her words, and twa handfuls o’ cauld steel to drive them ower wi’!” And, with a most inauspicious and menacing look, the mountaineer laid his hand on his dagger.

“We’ll hae nae quarrelling, Allan,” said his shorter companion; “and if the Glasgow gentleman has ony regard for Rob Roy, he’ll maybe see him in cauld irons the night, and playing tricks on a tow the morn; for this country has been owre lang plagued wi’ him, and his race is near-hand run—And it’s time, Allan, we were ganging to our lads.”

“Hout awa, Inverashalloch,” said Galbraith;—“Mind the auld saw, man— It’s a bauld moon, quoth Bennygask—another pint, quoth Lesley;—we’ll no start for another chappin.”

“I hae had chappins eneugh,” said Inverashalloch; “I’ll drink my quart of usquebaugh or brandy wi’ ony honest fellow, but the deil a drap mair when I hae wark to do in the morning. And, in my puir thinking, Garschattachin, ye had better be thinking to bring up your horsemen to the Clachan before day, that we may ay start fair.”

“What the deevil are ye in sic a hurry for?” said Garschattachin; “meat and mass never hindered wark. An it had been my directing, deil a bit o’ me wad hae fashed ye to come down the glens to help us. The garrison and our ain horse could hae taen Rob Roy easily enough. There’s the hand,” he said, holding up his own, “should lay him on the green, and never ask a Hielandman o’ ye a’ for his help.”

“Ye might hae loot us bide still where we were, then,” said Inverashalloch. “I didna come sixty miles without being sent for. But an ye’ll hae my opinion, I redd ye keep your mouth better steekit, if ye hope to speed. Shored folk live lang, and sae may him ye ken o’. The way to catch a bird is no to fling your bannet at her. And also thae gentlemen hae heard some things they suldna hae heard, an the brandy hadna been ower bauld for your brain, Major Galbraith. Ye needna cock your hat and bully wi’ me, man, for I will not bear it.”

“I hae said it,” said Galbraith, with a solemn air of drunken gravity, “that I will quarrel no more this night either with broadcloth or tartan. When I am off duty I’ll quarrel with you or ony man in the Hielands or Lowlands, but not on duty—no—no. I wish we heard o’ these red-coats. If it had been to do onything against King James, we wad hae seen them lang syne—but when it’s to keep the peace o’ the country they can lie as lound as their neighbours.”

As he spoke we heard the measured footsteps of a body of infantry on the march; and an officer, followed by two or three files of soldiers, entered the apartment. He spoke in an English accent, which was very pleasant to my ears, now so long accustomed to the varying brogue of the Highland and Lowland Scotch.—“You are, I suppose, Major Galbraith, of the squadron of Lennox Militia, and these are the two Highland gentlemen with whom I was appointed to meet in this place?”

They assented, and invited the officer to take some refreshments, which he declined.—“I have been too late, gentlemen, and am desirous to make up time. I have orders to search for and arrest two persons guilty of treasonable practices.”

“We’ll wash our hands o’ that,” said Inverashalloch. “I came here wi’ my men to fight against the red MacGregor that killed my cousin, seven times removed, Duncan MacLaren, in Invernenty;* but I will hae nothing to do touching honest gentlemen that may be gaun through the country on their ain business.”

* This, as appears from the introductory matter to this Tale, is an anachronism. The slaughter of MacLaren, a retainer of the chief of Appine, by the MacGregors, did not take place till after Rob Roy’s death, since it happened in 1736.

“Nor I neither,” said Iverach.

Major Galbraith took up the matter more solemnly, and, premising his oration with a hiccup, spoke to the following purpose:—

“I shall say nothing against King George, Captain, because, as it happens, my commission may rin in his name—But one commission being good, sir, does not make another bad; and some think that James may be just as good a name as George. There’s the king that is—and there’s the king that suld of right be—I say, an honest man may and suld be loyal to them both, Captain. But I am of the Lord Lieutenant’s opinion for the time, as it becomes a militia officer and a depute-lieutenant—and about treason and all that, it’s lost time to speak of it—least said is sunest mended.”

“I am sorry to see how you have been employing your time, sir,” replied the English officer—as indeed the honest gentleman’s reasoning had a strong relish of the liquor he had been drinking—“and I could wish, sir, it had been otherwise on an occasion of this consequence. I would recommend to you to try to sleep for an hour.—Do these gentlemen belong to your party?”—looking at the Bailie and me, who, engaged in eating our supper, had paid little attention to the officer on his entrance.

“Travellers, sir,” said Galbraith—“lawful travellers by sea and land, as the prayer-book hath it.”

“My instructions.” said the Captain, taking a light to survey us closer, “are to place under arrest an elderly and a young person—and I think these gentlemen answer nearly the description.”

“Take care what you say, sir,” said Mr. Jarvie; “it shall not be your red coat nor your laced hat shall protect you, if you put any affront on me. I’se convene ye baith in an action of scandal and false imprisonment—I am a free burgess and a magistrate o’ Glasgow; Nicol Jarvie is my name, sae was my father’s afore me—I am a bailie, be praised for the honour, and my father was a deacon.”

“He was a prick-eared cur,” said Major Galbraith, “and fought agane the King at Bothwell Brigg.”

“He paid what he ought and what he bought, Mr. Galbraith,” said the Bailie, “and was an honester man than ever stude on your shanks.”

“I have no time to attend to all this,” said the officer; “I must positively detain you, gentlemen, unless you can produce some respectable security that you are loyal subjects.”

“I desire to be carried before some civil magistrate,” said the Bailie—“the sherra or the judge of the bounds;—I am not obliged to answer every red-coat that speers questions at me.”

“Well, sir, I shall know how to manage you if you are silent—And you, sir” (to me), “what may your name be?”

“Francis Osbaldistone, sir.”

“What, a son of Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone of Northumberland?”

“No, sir,” interrupted the Bailie; “a son of the great William Osbaldistone of the House of Osbaldistone and Tresham, Crane-Alley, London.”

“I am afraid, sir,” said the officer, “your name only increases the suspicions against you, and lays me under the necessity of requesting that you will give up what papers you have in charge.”

I observed the Highlanders look anxiously at each other when this proposal was made.

“I had none,” I replied, “to surrender.”

The officer commanded me to be disarmed and searched. To have resisted would have been madness. I accordingly gave up my arms, and submitted to a search, which was conducted as civilly as an operation of the kind well could. They found nothing except the note which I had received that night through the hand of the landlady.

“This is different from what I expected,” said the officer; “but it affords us good grounds for detaining you. Here I find you in written communication with the outlawed robber, Robert MacGregor Campbell, who has been so long the plague of this district—How do you account for that?”

“Spies of Rob!” said Inverashalloch. “We wad serve them right to strap them up till the neist tree.”

“We are gaun to see after some gear o’ our ain, gentlemen,” said the Bailie, “that’s fa’en into his hands by accident—there’s nae law agane a man looking after his ain, I hope?”

“How did you come by this letter?” said the officer, addressing himself to me.

I could not think of betraying the poor woman who had given it to me, and remained silent.

“Do you know anything of it, fellow?” said the officer, looking at Andrew, whose jaws were chattering like a pair of castanets at the threats thrown out by the Highlander.

“O ay, I ken a’ about it—it was a Hieland loon gied the letter to that lang-tongued jaud the gudewife there; I’ll be sworn my maister ken’d naething about it. But he’s wilfu’ to gang up the hills and speak wi’ Rob; and oh, sir, it wad be a charity just to send a wheen o’ your red-coats to see him safe back to Glasgow again whether he will or no—And ye can keep Mr. Jarvie as lang as ye like—He’s responsible enough for ony fine ye may lay on him—and so’s my master for that matter; for me, I’m just a puir gardener lad, and no worth your steering.”

“I believe,” said the officer, “the best thing I can do is to send these persons to the garrison under an escort. They seem to be in immediate correspondence with the enemy, and I shall be in no respect answerable for suffering them to be at liberty. Gentlemen, you will consider yourselves as my prisoners. So soon as dawn approaches, I will send you to a place of security. If you be the persons you describe yourselves, it will soon appear, and you will sustain no great inconvenience from being detained a day or two. I can hear no remonstrances,” he continued, turning away from the Bailie, whose mouth was open to address him; “the service I am on gives me no time for idle discussions.”

“Aweel, aweel, sir,” said the Bailie, “you’re welcome to a tune on your ain fiddle; but see if I dinna gar ye dance till’t afore a’s dune.”

An anxious consultation now took place between the officer and the Highlanders, but carried on in so low a tone, that it was impossible to catch the sense. So soon as it was concluded they all left the house. At their departure, the Bailie thus expressed himself:—“Thae Hielandmen are o’ the westland clans, and just as light-handed as their neighbours, an a’ tales be true, and yet ye see they hae brought them frae the head o’ Argyleshire to make war wi’ puir Rob for some auld ill-will that they hae at him and his sirname. And there’s the Grahames, and the Buchanans, and the Lennox gentry, a’ mounted and in order—It’s weel ken’d their quarrel; and I dinna blame them—naebody likes to lose his kye. And then there’s sodgers, puir things, hoyed out frae the garrison at a’ body’s bidding—Puir Rob will hae his hands fu’ by the time the sun comes ower the hill. Weel—it’s wrang for a magistrate to be wishing onything agane the course o’ justice, but deil o’ me an I wad break my heart to hear that Rob had gien them a’ their paiks!”


Return to the Rob Roy Summary Return to the Sir Walter Scott Library

© 2022