صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

the neist day. The jackanape they caa'd Major Weir, it joid and cried as if it was mocking its master; my gudesire's head was like to turn – he forgot baith siller and receipt, and down stairs he banged; but as he ran, the shrieks came faint and fainter; there was a deep-drawn shivering groan, and word . through the Castle, that the Laird was ead. Weel, away came my gudesire, wi' his finger in his mouth, and his best hope was, that Dougal had seen the money-bag, and heard the Laird speak of writing the receipt. The young Laird, now Sir John, came from Edinburgh, to see things put to rights. Sir John and his father never gree'd weel. Sir John had been bred an advocate, and afterwards sat in the last Scots Parliament and voted for the Union, having gotten, it was thought, a rug of the compensations — if his father could have come out of his grave, he would have brained him for it on his awn hearthstane. Some thought it was easier counting with the auld rough Knight than the fair-spoken young ane – but mair of that anon. Dougal MacCallum, poor body, neither grat nor grained, but gaed about the house looking like a corpse, but directing, as was his duty, a' the order of the grand funeral. Now, Dougal looked aye waur and waur when night was coming, and was aye the last to gang to his bed, whilk was in a little round, just opposite the chamber of dais, whilk his master occupied while he was living, and where he now lay in state, as they caa'd it, weel-a-day! The night before the funeral, Dougal could keep his awn counsel nae langer; he came doun with his proud spirit, and fairly asked auld Hutcheon to sit in his room with him for an hour. When they were in the round, Dougal took ae tass of brandy to himsell, and gave another to Hutcheon, and wished him all health and lang life, and said that, for himsell, he wasna lang for this world; for that, every night since Sir Robert's death, his silver call had sounded from the state chamber, just as it used to do at nights in his lifetime, to call Dougal to help to turn him in his bed. Dougal said, that being alone with the dead on that floor of the tower, (for naebody cared to wake Sir Robert Redgauntlet like another corpse,) he had never daured to answer the call, but that now his conscience checked him for neglecting his duty; for “though death breaks Service,” said MacCallum, “it shall never break my service to Sir Robert; and I will

answer his next whistle, so be you will stand by me, Hutcheon.” Hutcheon had nae will to the wark, but he had stood by Dougal in battle and broil, and he wad not fail him at this pinch; so down the carles sat ower a stoup of brandy, and Hutcheon, who was something of a clerk, would have read a chapter of the Bible; but Dougal would hear naething but a blaud of Davie Lindsay, whilk was the waur preparation. When midnight came, and the house was quiet as the grave, sure enough the silver whistle sounded as sharp and shrill as if Sir Robert was blowing it, and up got the twa auld servingmen, and tottered into the room where the dead man lay. Hutcheon saw aneugh at the first glance; for there were torches in the room, which showed him the foul fiend, in his ain shape, sitting on the Laird's coffin' Ower he cowped as if he had been dead. He could not tell how lang he lay in a trance at the door, but when he gathered himself, he cried on his neighbour, and getting nae answer, raised the house, when Dougal was found lying dead within twa steps of the bed where his master's coffin was placed. As for the whistle, it was gane anes and aye; but mony a time was it heard at the top of the house on the bartizan, and amang the auld chimneys and turrets where the howlets have their nests. Sir John hushed the matter up, and the funeral passed over without mair bogle-wark. But when a’ was ower, and the Laird was beginning to settle his affairs, every tenant was called up for his arrears, and my gudesire for the full sum that stood against him in the rental-book. Weel, away he trots to the Castle, to tell his story, and there he is introduced to Sir John, sitting in his father's chair, in deep mourning, with weepers and hanging cravat, and a small walking rapier by his side, instead of the auld broadsword that had a hundred-weight of steel about it, what with blade, chape, and basket-hilt. I have heard their communing so often tauld ower, that I almost think I was there mysell, though I couldna be born at the time. (In fact, Alan, my companion mimicked, with a good deal of humour, the flattering, conciliating tone of the tenant's address, and the hypocritical melancholy of the Laird's reply. His grandfather, he said, had, while he spoke, his eye fixed on the rental-book, as if it were a mastiff-dog that he was afraid would spring up and bite him.) “I wuss ye joy, sir, of the head seat, and the white loaf, and the braid lairdship. Your father was a kind man to friends and followers; muckle grace to you, Sir John, to fill his shoon — his boots, I suld say, for he seldom wore shoon, unless it were muils when he had the gout.” “Ay, Steenie,” quoth the Laird, sighing deeply, and putting his napkin to his een, “his was a sudden call, and he will be missed in the country; no time to set his house in order — weel prepared Godward, no doubt, which is the root of the matter – but left us behind a tangled hesp to wind, Steenie. — Hem' hem! We maun go to business, Steenie; much to do, and little time to do it in.” Here he opened the fatal volume. I have heard of a thing they call Doomsday-book – I am clear it has been a rental of back-ganging tenants. “Stephen,” said Sir John, still in the same soft, sleekit tone of voice – “Stephen Stevenson, or Steenson, ye are down here for a year's rent behind the hand – due at last term.” Stephen.—“Please your honour, Sir John, I paid it to your father.” Sir John. “Ye took a receipt, then, doubtless, Stephen; and can produce it?” Stephen. “Indeed, I hadna time, an it like your honour; for nae sooner had I set doun the siller, and just as his honour, Sir Robert, that's gaen, drew it till him to count it, and write out the receipt, he was ta'en wi' the pains that removed him.” “That was unlucky,” said Sir John, after a pause. “But ye maybe paid it in the presence of somebody. I want but a talis qualis evidence, Stephen. I would go ower strictly to work with no poor man.” Stephen. —“Troth, Sir John, there was naebody in the room but Dougal MacCallum the butler. But, as your honour kens, he has een followed his auld master.” “Very unlucky again, Stephen,” said Sir John, without altering his voice a single note. “The man to whom ye paid the money is dead — and the man who witnessed the payment is dead too — and the siller, which should have been to the fore, is neither seen nor heard tell of in the repositories. How am I to believe a' this?” Stephen. “I dinna ken, your honour; but there is a bit memorandum note of the very coins; for, God help me! I had to borrow out of twenty purses; and I am sure

that ilka man there set down will take his grit oath for what purpose I borrowed the money.” Sir John. “I have little doubt ye borrowed the money, Steenie. It is the payment to my father that I want to have some proof of.” Stephen. “The siller maun be about the house, Sir John. And since your honour never got it, and his honour that was canna have taen it wi' him, maybe some of the family may have seen it.” Sir John. “We will examine the servants, Stephen; that is but reasonable.” But lackey and lass, and page and groom, all denied stoutly that they had ever seen such a bag of money as my gudesire described. What was waur, he had unluckily not mentioned to any living soul of them his purpose of paying his rent. Ae quean had noticed something under his arm, but she took it for the pipes. Sir John Redgauntlet ordered the servants out of the room, and then said to my gudesire, “Now, Steenie, ye see ye have fair play; and, as I have little doubt ye ken better where to find the siller than ony other body, I beg, in fair terms, and for your own sake, that you will end this fasherie; for, Stephen, ye maun pay or flit.” “The Lord forgie your opinion,” said Stephen, driven almost to his wit’s end – “I am an honest man.” “So am I, Stephen,” said his honour; “and so are all the folks in the house, I hope. But if there be a knave amongst us, it must be he that tells the story he cannot prove. He paused, and then added, mair sternly, “If I understand your trick, sir, you want to take advantage of some malicious reports concerning things in this family, and particularly respecting my father's sudden death, thereby to cheat me out of the money, and perhaps take away my character, by insinuating that I have received the rent I am demanding. — Where do you suppose this money to be? — I insist upon knowing.” My gudesire saw every thing look so muckle against him, that he grew nearly desperate — however, he shifted from one foot to another, looked to every corner of the room, and made no answer. “Speak out, sirrah,” said the Laird, assuming a look of his father's, a very particular ane, which he had when he was angry — it seemed as if the wrinkles of his frown made that selfsame fearful shape of a horse's shoe in the middle of his brow; – “Speak out, sir! I

will know your thoughts; – do you suppose that I have this money?” “Far be it frae me to say so,” said Stephen. “Do you charge any of my people with having taken it?” “I wad be laith to charge them that may be innocent,” said my gudesire; “and if there be any one that is guilty, I have nae proof.” “Somewhere the money must be, if there is a word of truth in your story,” said Sir John; “I ask where you think it is – and demand a correct answer?” “In hell, if you will have my thoughts of it,” said my gudesire, driven to extremity, ‘in hell! with your father, his jackanape, and his silver whistle.” Down the stairs he ran, (for the parlour was nae place for him after such a word,) and he heard the Laird swearing blood and wounds, behind him, as fast as ever did Sir Robert, and roaring for the bailie and the baronofficer. Away rode my gudesire to his chief creditor, (him they caa'd Laurie Lapraik,) to try if he could make ony thing out of him; but when he tauld his story, he got but the warst word in his wane — thief, beggar, and dyvour, were the saftest terms; and to the boot of these hard terms, Laurie brought up the auld story of his dipping his hand in the blood of God's saunts, just as if a tenant could have helped riding with the Laird, and that a laird like Sir Robert Redgauntlet. My gudesire was, by this time far beyond the bounds of patience, and, while he and Laurie were at deil speed the liars, he was wanchancie aneugh to abuse Lapraik's doctrine as weel as the man, and said things that garr'd folks' flesh grue that heard them; – he wasna just himsell, and he had lived wi' a wild set in his day. At last they parted, and my gudesire was to ride hame through the wood of Pitmurkie, that is a' fou of black firs, as they say. — I ken the wood, but the firs may be black or white for what I can tell. — At the entry of the wood there is a wild common, and on the edge of the common, a little lonely changehouse, that was keepit then by an ostler wife, they suld hae caa'd her Tibbie Faw, and there puir Steenie cried for a mutchkin of brandy, for he had had no refreshment the haill day. Tibbie was earnest wi' him to take a bite of meat, but he couldna think o't, nor would he take his foot out of the stirrup, and took off the brandy wholely at twa draughts, and named a toast at each: — the first was, the

memory of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, and might he never lie quiet in his grave till he had righted his poor bond-tenant; and the second was, a health to Man's Enemy, if he would but get him back the pock of siller, or tell him what came o't, for he saw the haill world was like to regard him as a thief and a cheat, and he took that waur than even the ruin of his house and hauld. On he rode, little caring where. It was a dark night turned, and the trees made it yet darker, and he let the beast take its ain road through the wood; when all of a sudden, from tired and wearied that it was before, the nag began to spring, and flee, and stend, that my gudesire could hardly keep the saddle. — Upon the , whilk, a horseman, suddenly riding up beside him, said, “That’s a mettle beast of yours, freend; will you sell him?” — So saying, he touched the horse's neck with his riding-wand, and it fell into its auld heigh-ho of a stumbling trot. “But his spunk's soon out of him, I think,” continued the stranger, “and that is like mony a man's courage, that thinks he wad do great things till he come to the proof.” My gudesire scarce listened to this, but spurred his horse, with “Gude e'en to you, freend.” But it’s like the stranger was ane that doesna lightly yield his point; for, ride as Steenie liked, he was aye beside him at the self-same pace. At last my gudesire, Steenie Steenson, grew half angry; and, to say the truth, half feared. “What is it that ye want with me, freend?” . he said, “If ye be a robber, I have nae money; if ye be a leal man, wanting company, I have nae heart to mirth or speaking; and if ye want to ken the road, I scarce ken it myself.” “If you will tell me your grief,” said the stranger, “I am one, that, though I have been sair miscaa'd in the world, am the only hand for helping my freends.” So my gudesire, to ease his ain heart, mair than from any hope of help, told him the story from beginning to end. “It’s a hard pinch,” said the stranger; “but I think I can help you.” “If you could lend the money, sir, and take a lang day — I ken nae other help on earth,” said my gudesire. “But there may be some under the earth,” said the stranger. “Come, I’ll be frank wi' you; I could lend you the money on bond, but you would maybe scruple my terms.

Now, I can tell you, that your auld Laird is disturbed in his grave by your curses, and the wailing of your family, and if ye daur venture to go to see him, he will give you the receipt.” My gudesire's hair stood on end at this proposal, but he thought his companion might be some humoursome chield that was trying to frighten him, and might end with lending him the money. Besides, he was bauld wi' brandy, and desparate wi' distress; and he said he had courage to go to the gate of hell, and a step farther, for that receipt.—The stranger laughed. Weel, they rode on through the thickest of the wood, when, all of a sudden, the horse stopped at the door of a great house; and, but that he knew the place was ten miles off, my father would have thought he was at Redgauntlet Castle. They rode into the outer court-yard, through the muckle faulding yetts, and aneath the auld portcullis; and the whole front of the house was lighted, and there were pipes and fiddles, and as much dancing and deray within as used to be at Sir Robert's house at Pace and Yule, and such high seasons. They lap off, and my gudesire, as seemed to him, fastened his horse to the very ring he had tied him to that morning, when he gaed to wait on the young Sir John. “God!” said my gudesire, “if Sir Robert's death be but a dream l’’ He knocked at the ha' door just as he was wont, and his auld acquaintance, Dougal MacCallum, - just after his wont, too, came to open the door, and said, “Piper Steenie, are ye there, lad? Sir Robert has been crying for you.” My gudesire was like a man in a dream — he looked for the stranger, but he was gane for the time. At last he just tried to say, “Ha! Dougal Driveower, are ye living? I thought ye had been dead.” “Never fash yoursell wi' me,” said Dougal, “but look to yoursell; and see ye tak naething frae ony body here, neither meat, drink, or siller, except just the receipt that is your ain.” So saying, he led the way out through halls and trances that were weel kend to my gudesire, and into the auld oak parlour; and there was as much singing of profane sangs, and birling of red wine, and speaking blasphemy and sculduddry, as had ever been in Redgauntlet Castle when it was at the blithest. But, Lord take us in keeping, what a set of ghastly revellers they were that sat around that table ! — My gudesire kend mony that

had long before gane to their place, for often had he piped to the most part in the hall of Redgauntlet. There was the fierce Middleton, and the dissolute Rothes, and the crafty Lauderdale; and Dalyell, with his bauld head and a beard to his girdle; and Earlshall, with Cameron's blude on his hand; and wild Bonshaw, that tied blessed Mr. Cargill's limbs till the blude sprung; and Dunbarton Douglas, the twice-turned traitor baith to country and king. There was the Bluidy Advocate MacKenyie, who, for his worldly wit and wisdom, had been to the rest as a god. And there was Claverhouse, as beautiful as when he lived, with his long, dark, curled locks, streaming down over his laced buff-coat, and his left hand always on his right spule-blade, to hide the wound that the silver bullet had made. He sat apart from them all, and looked at them with a melancholy, haughty countenance; while the rest hallooed, and sung, and laughed, that the room rang. But their smiles were fearfully contorted from time to time; and their laughter passed into such wild sounds, as made my gudesire's very nails grow blue, and chilled the marrow in his banes. They that waited at the table were just the wicked serving-men and troopers, that had done their work and cruel bidding on earth. There was the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to take Argyle; and the Bishop's summoner, that they called the Deil's Rattlebag; and the wicked guardsmen in their laced coats; and the savage Highland Amorites, that shed blood like water; and many a proud serving-man, haughty of heart and bloody of hand, cringing to the rich, and making them wickeder than they would be; grinding the poor to powder, when the rich had broken them to fragments. And mony, mony mair were coming and ganging, a’ as busy in their vocation as if they had been alive. Sir Robert Redgauntlet, in the midst of a this fearful riot, cried, wi' a voice like thunder, on Steenie Piper to come to the board-head where he was sitting; his legs stretched out before him, and swathed up with flannel, with his holster pistols aside him, while the great broadsword rested against his chair, just as my gudesire had seen him the last time upon earth – the very cushion for the jackanape was close to him, but the creature itsell was not there – it wasna its hour, it's likely; for he heard them say, as he came forward, “Is not the Major come yet?” And another answered, “The jackanape will be here be:

times the morn.” And when my gudesire came forward, Sir Robert, or his ghaist, or the deevil in his likeness, said, “Weel, piper, hae ye settled wi' my son for the year's rent?” With much ado my father gat breath to say, that Sir John would not settle without his honour's receipt. “Ye shall hae that for a tune of the pipes, Steenie,” said the appearance of Sir Robert — “Play us up, ‘Weel hoddled, Luckie.’” Now this was a tune my gudesire learned frae a warlock, that heard it when they were worshipping Satan at their meetings; and my gudesire had sometimes played it at the ranting suppers in Redgauntlet Castle, but never very willingly; and now he grew cauld at the very name of it, and said, for excuse, he hadna his pipes wi' him. “MacCallum, ye limb of Beelzebub,” said the fearfu' Sir Robert, “bring Steenie the pipes that I am keeping for him l’’ MacCallum brought a pairof pipes might have served the piper of Donald of the Isles. But he gave my gudesire a nudge as he offered them; and looking secretly and closely, Steenie saw that the chanter was of steel, and heated to a white heat; so he had fair warning not to trust his fingers with it. So he excused himself again, and said, he was faint and frightened, and had not wind aneugh to fill the bag. “Then ye maun eat and drink, Steenie,” said the figure; “for we do little else here; and it's ill speaking between a fou man and a fasting.” Now these were the very words that the bloody Earl of Douglas said to keep the King's messenger in hand, while he cut the head off MacLellan of Bombie, at the Threave Castle, and that put Steenie mair and mair on his guard. So he spoke up like a man, and said he came neither to eat, or drink, or make minstrelsy; but simply for his ain — to ken what was come o’ the money he had paid, and to get a discharge for it; and he was so stout-hearted by this time, that he charged Sir Robert for conscience-sake — (he had no power to say the holy name) – and as he hoped for peace and rest, to spread no snares for him, but just to give him his ain. The appearance gnashed its teeth and laughed, but it took from a large pocket-book the receipt, and handed it to Steenie. “There is your receipt, ye pitiful cur; and for the

money, my dog-whelp of a son may go look for.

it in the Cat's Cradle.” My gudesire uttered mony thanks, and was

about to retire, when Sir Robert roared aloud, “Stop, though, thou sack-doudling son of a whorel I am not done with thee. Here we do nothing for nothing; and you must return on this very day twelvemonth, to pay your master the homage that you owe me for my protection.” My father's tongue was loosed of a suddenty, and he said aloud, “I refer mysell to God's pleasure, and not to yours.” He had no sooner uttered the word than all was dark around him; and he sunk on the earth with such a sudden shock, that he lost both breath and sense. How lang Steenie lay there, he could not tell; but when he came to himsell, he was lying in the auld kirkyard of Redgauntlet parochine, just at the door of the family aisle, and the scutcheon of the auld knight, Sir Robert, hanging over his head. There was a deep morning fog on grass and gravestane around him, and his horse was feeding quietly beside the minister's twa cows. Steenie would have thought the whole was a dream, but he had the receipt in his hand, fairly written and signed by the auld Laird; only the last letters of his name were a little disorderly, written like one seized with sudden pain. Sorely troubled in his mind, he left that dreary place, rode through the mist to Redgauntlet Castle, and with much ado he got speech of the Laird. “Well, you dyvour bankrupt,” was the first word, “have you brought me my rent?” “No,” answered my gudesire, “I have not; but I have brought your honour Sir Robert's receipt for it.” “How, sirrah? — Sir Robert's receipts — You told me he had not given you one.” “Will your honour please to see if that bit line is right?” Sir John looked at every line, and at every letter, with much attention; and at last, at the date, which my gudesire had not observed, “From my appointed place,” he read, “this twenty-fifth of November.” – “What! — That is yesterday !—Villain, thou must have gone to hell for this!” “I got it from your honour's father—whether he be in heaven or hell, I know not,” said Steenie. “I will delate you for a warlock to the Privy Councill” said Sir John. “I will send you to our master, the devil, with the help of a tararrel and a torch 1” “I intend to delate mysell to the Presby

« السابقةمتابعة »