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“ Alas !" replied Butler, “ what are we, that the laws of nature should correspond in their march with our ephemeral deeds or sufferings! The clouds will burst when surcharged with the electric fluid, whether a goat is falling at that instant from the cliffs of Arran, or a hero expiring on the field of battle he has won."
“ The mind delights to deem it otherwise,” said Sir George Staunton; “ and to dwell on the fate of humanity as on that which is the prime central movement of the mighty machine. We love not to think that we shall mix with the ages that have gone before us, as these broad black raindrops mingle with the waste of waters, making a trifling and momentary eddy, and are then lost for ever.”
“ For ever!—we are not—we cannot be lost for ever,” said Butler, looking upward; “death is to us change, not consummation; and the commencement of a new existence, corresponding in character to the deeds which we have done in the body.”
While they agitated these grave subjects, to which the solemnity of the approaching storm naturally led them, their voyage threatened to be more tedious than they expected, for gusts of wind, which rose and fell with sudden impetuosity, swept the bosom of the firth, and impeded the efforts of the rowers. They had now only to double a small headland, in order to get to the proper landing-place in the mouth of the little river ; but in the state of the weather, and the boat being heavy, this was like to be a work of time, and in the meanwhile they must necessarily be exposed to the storm.
“ Could we not land on this side of the headland,” asked Sir George, “and so gain some shelter ?"
Butler knew of no landing-place, at least none affording a convenient or even practicable passage up the rocks which surrounded the shore.
“ Think again,” said Sir George Staunton; “ the storm will soon be violent.”
“ Hout, ay,” said one of the boatmen, “there's the Caird's Cove; but we dinna tell the minister about it, and I am no sure if I can steer the boat to it, the bay is sae fu’o’shoals and sunk rocks."
“ Try,” said Sir George, "and I will give you half-a-guinea.”
The old fellow took the helm, and observed, "that, if they could get in, there was a steep path up from the beach, and half-an-hour's walk from thence to the Manse.” “ Are you sure you
?” said Butler to the old man. “I maybe kend it a wee better fifteen years syne, when Dandie Wilson was in the firth wi' his clean-ganging lugger. I mind Dandie had a wild young Englisher wi' him, that they ca'd
“If you chatter so much,” said Sir George Staunton, “ you will have the boat on the Grindstone—bring that white rock in a line with the steeple.” “By GM," said the veteran, staring, “I think your honour kens the bay as weel as
-Your honour's nose has been on the Grindstone ere now, I'm thinking.” As they spoke thus, they approached the little cove, which, concealed behind crags, and defended on every point by shallows and sunken rocks, could scarce be discovered or approached, except by those intimate with the navigation. An old shattered boat was already drawn up on the beach within the cove, close beneath the trees, and with precautions for concealment.
Upon observing this vessel, Butler remarked to his companion, “It is impossible for you to conceive, Sir George, the difficulty I have had with my poor people, in teaching them the guilt and the danger of this contraband trade-yet they have perpetually before their eyes all its dangerous consequences. I do not know anything that more effectually depraves and ruins their moral and religious principles."
Sir George forced himself to say something in a low voice, about the spirit of adventure natural to youth, and that unquestionably, many would become wiser as they grew older.
“ Too seldom, sir,” replied Butler. “If they have been deeply engaged, and especially if they have mingled in the scenes of violence and blood to which their occupation
naturally leads, I have observed, that, sooner or later, they come to an evil end. Experience, as well as Scripture, teaches us, Sir George, that mischief shall hunt the violent man, and that the bloodthirsty man shall not live half his days—But take my arm to help you ashore.”
Sir George needed assistance, for he was contrasting in his altered thought the different feelings of mind and frame with which he had formerly frequented the same place. As they landed, a low growl of thunder was heard at a distance.
“That is ominous, Mr. Butler," said Sir George.
The boatmen were ordered to make the best of their way round the head-land to the ordinary landing-place; the two gentlemen, followed by their servant, sought their way by a blind and tangled path, through a close copsewood to the Manse of Knocktarlitie, where their arrival was anxiously expected.
The sisters in vain had expected their husbands' return on the preceding day, which was that appointed by Sir George's letter. The delay of the travellers at Calder had occasioned this breach of appointment. The inhabitants of the Manse began even to doubt whether they would arrive on the present day. Lady Staunton felt this hope of delay as a brief reprieve; for she dreaded the pangs which her husband's pride must undergo at meeting with a sister-in-law, to whom the whole of his unhappy and dishonourable history was too well known. She knew, whatever force or constraint he might put upon his feelings in public, that she herself must be doomed to see them display themselves in full vehemence in secret,-consume his health, destroy his temper, and render him at once an object of dread and compassion. Again and again she cautioned Jeanie to display no tokens of recognition, but to receive him as a perfect stranger,-and again and again Jeanie renewed her promise to comply with her wishes.
Jeanie herself could not fail to bestow an anxious thought on the awkwardness of the approaching meeting; but hor conscience was ungalled--and then she was cumbered with many household cares of an unusual nature, which, joined to the anxious wish once more to see Butler, after an absence of unusual length, made her extremely desirous that the travellers should arrive as soon as possible. And—why should I disguise the truth?— ever and anon a thought stole across her mind that her gala dinner had now been postponed for two days; and how few of the dishes, after every art of her simple cuisine had been exerted to dress them, could with any credit or propriety appear again upon the third; and what was she to do with the rest?–Upon this last subject she was saved the trouble of farther deliberation, by the sudden appearance of the Captain at the head of half-a-dozen stout fellows, dressed and armed in the Highland fashion.
« Goot-morrow morning to ye, Leddy Staunton, and I hope I hae the pleasure to see ye weel-And goot-morrow to you, goot Mrs. Putler-I do peg you will order some victuals and ale and prandy for the lads, for we hae peen out on firth and moor since afore daylight, and a' to no purpose neither-Cot tam !"
So saying, he sate down, pushed back his brigadier wig, and wiped his head with an air of easy importance; totally regardless of the look of well-bred astonishment by which Lady Staunton endeavoured to make him comprehend that he was assuming too great a liberty.
“It is some comfort, when one has had a sair tussel,” continued the Captain, addressing Lady Staunton, with an air of gallantry, “that it is in a fair leddy's service, or in the service of a gentleman whilk has a fair leddy, whilk is the same thing, since serving the husband is serving the wife, as Mrs. Putler does very weel know."
“Really, sir,” said Lady Staunton, “as you seem to intend this compliment for me, I am at a loss to know what interest Sir George or I can have in your movements this morning."
“O Cot tam!—this is too cruel, my leddy—as if it was not py special express from his
Grace's honourable agent and commissioner at Edinburgh, with a warrant conform, that I was to seek for and apprehend Donacha dhu na Dunaigh, and pring him pefore myself and Sir George Staunton, that he may have his deserts, that is to say, the gallows, whilk he has doubtless deserved, py peing the means of frightening your leddyship, as weel as for something of less importance.”
Frightening me!” said her ladyship; “why, I never wrote to Sir George about my alarm at the waterfall."
“ Then he must have heard it otherwise ; for what else can give him sic an earnest tesire to see this rapscallion, that I maun ripe the haill mosses and muirs in the country for him, as if I were to get something for finding him, when the pest o't might pe a pall through my prains ?"
“Can it be really true, that it is on Sir George's account that you have been attempting to apprehend this fellow?"
“Py Cot, it is for no other cause that I know than his honour's pleasure; for the creature might hae gone on in a decent quiet way for me, sae lang as he respectit the Duke's pounds-put reason goot he suld be taen, and hangit to poot, if it may pleasure ony honourable shentleman that is the Duke's friend—Sae I got the express over night, and I caused warn half a score of pretty lads, and was up in the morning pefore the sun, and I garr'd the lads take their kilts and short coats.”
“I wonder you did that, Captain,” said Mrs. Butler, “ when you know the act of parliament against wearing the Highland dress."
Hout, tout, ne'er fash your thumb, Mrs. Putler. The law is put twa-three years auld yet, and is ower young to hae come our length; and pesides, how the lads to climb the praes wi' thae tamn'd breekens on them? It makes me sick to see them. Put ony how, I thought I kend Donacha's haunt gey and weel, and I was at the place where he had rested yestreen; for I saw the leaves the limmers had lain on, and the ashes of them; by the same token, there was a pit greeshoch purning yet. I am thinking they got some word out o' the island what was intended—I sought every glen and cleuch, as if I had been deer-stalking, but teil a wauff of his coat-tail could I see-Cot tam !”
“He'll be away down the firth to Cowal,” said David ; and Reuben, who had been out early that morning a-nutting, observed, “ That he had seen a boat making for the Caird's Cove;". a place well known to the boys, though their less adventurous father was ignorant of its existence.
“ Py Cot,” said Duncan, “then I will stay here no longer than to trink this very horn of prandy and water, for it's very possible they will pe in the wood. Donacha's a clever fellow, and maype thinks it pest to sit next the chimley when the lum reeks. He thought naebody would look for him sae near hand! I peg your leddyship will excuse my aprupt departure, as I will return forthwith, and I will either pring you Donacha in life, or else his head, whilk I dare to say will be as satisfactory. And I hope to pass a pleasant evening with your leddyship; and I hope to have mine revenges on Mr. Putler at packgammon, for the four pennies whilk he won, for he will pe surely at home soon, or else he will have a wet journey, seeing it is apout to pe a scud.”
Thus saying, with many scrapes and bows, and apologies for leaving them, which were very readily received, and reiterated assurances of his speedy return, (of the sincerity whereof Mrs. Butler entertained no doubt, so long as her best greybeard of brandy was upon duty,) Duncan left the Manse, collected his followers, and began to scour the close and entangled wood which lay between the little glen and the Caird's Cove. David, who was a favourite with the Captain, on account of his spirit and courage, took the opportunity of escaping, to attend the investigations of that great man.
UNCAN and his party had not proceeded very far in the direction of the Caird's Cove before they heard a shot, which was quickly followed by one or two others. “Some tamnd villains among the roe-deer,” said Duncan; “look sharp out, lads."
The clash of swords was next heard, and Duncan and his myrmidons,
hastening to the spot, found Butler and Sir George Staunton's servant in the hands of four ruffians. Sir George himself lay stretched on the ground, with
his drawn sword in his hand. Duncan, who was as brave as a lion, instantly fired his pistol at the leader of the band, unsheathed his sword, cried out to his men, Claymore! and run his weapon through the body of the fellow whom he had previously wounded, who was no other than Donacha dhu na Dunaigh himself. The other banditti were speedily overpowered, excepting one young lad, who made wonderful resistance for his years, and was at length secured with difficulty.
Butler, so soon as he was liberated from the ruffians, ran to raise Sir George Staunton, but life had wholly left him.
“A creat misfortune,” said Duncan; “I think it will be pest that I go forward to intimate it to the coot lady.—Tavie, my dear, you hae smelled pouther for the first time this day-take my sword and hack off Donacha's head, whilk will pe coot practice for you against the time you may wish to do the same kindness to a living shentleman-or hould! as your father does not approve, you may leave it alone, as he will pe a greater object of satisfaction to Leddy Staunton to see him entire; and I hope she will do me the credit to pelieve that I can afenge a shentleman's plood fery speedily and well.”
Such was the observation of a man too much accustomed to the ancient state of manners in the Highlands, to look upon the issue of such a skirmish as anything worthy of wonder or emotion.
We will not attempt to describe the very contrary effect which the unexpected disaster produced upon Lady Staunton, when the bloody corpse of her husband was brought to the house, where she expected to meet him alive and well. All was forgotten, but that he was the lover of her youth; and whatever were his faults to the world, that he had towards her exhibited only those that arose from the inequality of spirits and temper, incident to a situation of unparalleled difficulty. In the vivacity of her grief she gave way to all the natural irritability of her temper; shriek followed shriek, and swoon succeeded to swoon. It required all Jeanie's watchful affection to prevent her from making known, in these paroxysms of affliction, much which it was of the highest importance that she should keep secret.
At length silence and exhaustion succeeded to frenzy, and Jeanie stole out to take counsel with her husband, and to exhort him to anticipate the Captain's interference, by taking possession, in Lady Staunton's name, of the private papers of her deceased husband. To the utter astonishment of Butler, she now, for the first time, explained the relation betwixt herself and Lady Staunton, which authorized, nay, demanded, that he should prevent any stranger from being unnecessarily made acquainted with her family affairs. It was in such a crisis that Jeanie's active and undaunted habits of virtuous exertion were most conspicuous. While the Captain's attention was still engaged by a prolonged refreshment, and a very tedious examination, in Gaelic and English, of all the prisoners, and every other witness of the fatal transaction, she had the body of her brother-in-law undressed and properly disposed. It then appeared, from the crucifix, the beads, and the shirt of hair which he wore next his person, that his sense of guilt had induced him to receive the dogmata of a religion, which pretends, by the maceration of the body, to expiate the crimes of the soul. In the packet of papers which the express had brought to Sir George Staunton from Edinburgh, and which Butler, authorized by his connexion with the deceased, did not scruple to examine, he found new and astonishing intelligence, which gave him reason to thank God he had taken that measure.
Ratcliffe, to whom all sorts of misdeeds and misdoers were familiar, instigated by the promised reward, soon found himself in a condition to trace the infant of these unhappy parents. The woman to whom Meg Murdockson had sold that most unfortunate child, had made it the companion of her wanderings and her beggary, until he was about seven or eight years old, when, as Rateliffe learned from a companion of hers, then in the Correction house of Edinburgh, she sold him in her turn to Donacha dhu na Dunaigh. This man, to whom no act of mischief was unknown, was occasionally an