Red Cap Tales, Stolen from the Treasure Chest of the Wizard of the NorthТекст

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III. THE BARON AND THE BEAR

Rose Bradwardine was still quite young. Scarce did the tale of her years number seventeen, but already she was noted over all the countryside as a pretty girl, with a skin like snow, and hair that glistened like pale gold when the light fell upon it. Living so far from society, she was naturally not a little shy. But as soon as her first feeling of bashfulness was over, Rose spoke freely and brightly. Edward and she, however, had but little time to be alone together. For it was not long before the Baron of Bradwardine appeared, striding toward them as if he had possessed himself of the giant's seven-league boots. Bradwardine was a tall, thin, soldierly man, who in his time had seen much of the world, and who under a hard and even stern exterior, hid a heart naturally warm.

He was much given to the singing of French songs and to making long and learned Latin quotations. And indeed he quoted Latin, even with the tears standing in his eyes, as he first shook Edward by the hand and then embraced him in the foreign fashion on both cheeks—all to express the immense pleasure it was to receive in his house of Tully-Veolan "a worthy scion of the old stock of Waverley-Honour."

While Miss Rose ran off to make some changes in her dress, the Baron conducted Edward into a hall hung about with pikes and armour. Four or five servants, in old-fashioned livery, received them with honour, the majordomo at their head. The butler-gardener was not to be caught napping a second time.

Bradwardine took Captain Waverley at once into an old dining room all panelled with black oak, round the walls of which hung pictures of former chiefs of the line of Tully-Veolan. Somewhere out-of-doors a bell was ringing to announce the arrival of other guests, and Edward observed with some interest that the table was laid for six people. In such a desolate country it seemed difficult to imagine where they would arrive from.

Upon this point Edward soon received enlightenment. First, there was the Laird of Balmawhapple,—"a discreet young gentleman," said the Baron, "much given to field sports." Next came the Laird of Killancureit, who cultivated his own fields and cared for his own cattle—thereby (quoth the Baron) showing the commonness of his origin. Added to these were a "non-juring" Episcopal minister—that is, one who had refused to take the oaths of allegiance to King George's government, and, last of all, the "Baron-Bailie" or land-steward of Bradwardine, one Mr. Macwheeble.

This last, to show his consciousness of his inferior position, seated himself as far as possible from the table, and as often as he wanted to eat, he bent himself nearly double over his plate, in the shape of a clasp-knife about to shut. When dinner was over, Rose and the clergyman discreetly retired, when, with a sign to the butler, the Baron of Bradwardine produced out of a locked case a golden cup called the Blessed Bear of Bradwardine, in which first the host and then all the company pledged the health of the young English stranger. After a while, the Baron and Edward set out to see their guests a certain distance on their way, going with them down the avenue to the village "change-house" or inn, where Balmawhapple and Killancureit had stabled their horses.

Edward, being weary, would much rather have found himself in bed, but this desertion of good company the Baron would noways allow. So under the low cobwebbed roof of Lucky Macleary's kitchen the four gentlemen sat down to "taste the sweets of the night." But it was not long before the wine began to do its work in their heads. Each one of them, Edward excepted, talked or sang without paying any attention to his fellows. From wine they fell to politics, when Balmawhapple proposed a toast which was meant to put an affront upon the uniform Edward wore, and the King in whose army he served.

"To the little gentleman in black velvet," cried the young Laird, "he who did such service in 1702, and may the white horse break his neck over a mound of his making!"

The "little gentleman in black velvet" was the mole over whose hillock King William's horse is said to have stumbled, while the "white horse" represented the house of Hanover.

Though of a Jacobite family, Edward could not help taking offence at the obvious insult, but the Baron was before him. The quarrel was not his, he assured him. The guest's quarrel was the host's—so long as he remained under his roof.

"Here," quoth the Baron, "I am in loco parentis to you, Captain Waverley. I am bound to see you scatheless. And as for you, Mr. Falconer of Balmawhapple, I warn you to let me see no more aberrations from the paths of good manners."

"And I tell you, Mr. Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine of Bradwardine and Tully-Veolan," retorted the other, in huge disdain, "that I will make a muir cock of the man that refuses my toast, whether he be a crop-eared English Whig wi' a black ribband at his lug, or ane wha deserts his friends to claw favour wi' the rats of Hanover!"

In an instant rapiers were out, and the Baron and Balmawhapple hard at it. The younger man was stout and active, but he was no match for the Baron at the sword-play. And the encounter would not have lasted long, had not the landlady, Lucky Macleary, hearing the well-known clash of swords, come running in on them, crying that surely the gentlemen would not bring dishonour on an honest widow-woman's house, when there was all the lee land in the country to do their fighting upon.

So saying, she stopped the combat very effectually by flinging her plaid over the weapons of the adversaries.

Next morning Edward awoke late, and in no happy frame of mind. It was an age of duels, and with his first waking thoughts there came the memory of the insult which had been passed upon him by the Laird of Balmawhapple. His position as an officer and a Waverley left him no alternative but to send that sportsman a challenge. Upon descending, he found Rose Bradwardine presiding at the breakfast table. She was alone, but Edward felt in no mood for conversation, and sat gloomy, silent, and ill-content with himself and with circumstances. Suddenly he saw the Baron and Balmawhapple pass the window arm in arm, and the next moment the butler summoned him to speak with his master in another apartment.

There he found Balmawhapple, no little sulky and altogether silent, with the Baron by his side. The latter in his capacity of mediator made Edward a full and complete apology for the events of the past evening—an apology which the young man gladly accepted along with the hand of the offender—somewhat stiffly given, it is true, owing to the necessity of carrying his right arm in a sling—the result (as Balmawhapple afterwards assured Miss Rose) of a fall from his horse.

It was not till the morning of the second day that Edward learned the whole history of this reconciliation, which had at first been so welcome to him. It was Daft Davie Gellatley, who, by the roguish singing of a ballad, first roused his suspicions that something underlay Balmawhapple's professions of regret for his conduct.

 
"The young man will brawl at the evening board
Heard ye so merry the little birds sing?
But the old man will draw at the dawning the sword,
And the throstle-cock's head is under his wing."
 

Edward could see by the sly looks of the Fool that he meant something personal by this, so he plied the butler with questions, and discovered that the Baron had actually fought Balmawhapple on the morning after the insult, and wounded him in the sword-arm!

Here, then, was the secret of the young Laird's unexpected submission and apology. As Davie Gellatley put it, Balmawhapple had been "sent hame wi' his boots full o' bluid!"

THE FIRST INTERLUDE OF ACTION

The tale-telling had at this point to be broken off. Clouds began to spin themselves from Eildon top. Dinner also was in prospect, and, most of all, having heard so much of the tale, the four listeners desired to begin to "play Waverley."

Sweetheart made a stately, if skirted, Bradwardine. Besides, she was in Cæsar, and had store of Latin quotations—mostly, it is true, from the examples in the grammar, such as "Illa incedit regina!" Certainly she walked like a queen. Or, as it might be expressed, more fittingly with the character of the Baron in the original:

 
"Stately stepped she east the wa',
And stately stepped she west."
 

Hugh John considered the hero's part in any story only his due. His only fault with that of Waverley was that so far he had done so little. He specially resented the terrible combat "in the dawning" between the Baron and the overbold Balmawhapple (played by Maid Margaret). Sir Toady Lion as low comedian ("camelion" he called it) performed numerous antics as Daft Davie Gellatley. He had dressed the part to perfection by putting his striped jersey on outside his coat, and sticking in his cricket cap such feathers as he could find.

"Lie down, Hugh John," he cried, in the middle of his dancing and singing round and round the combatants; "why, you are asleep in bed!"

This, according to the authorities, being obvious, the baffled hero had to succumb, with the muttered reflection that "Jim Hawkins wouldn't have had to stay asleep, when there was a fight like that going on!"

Still, however, Hugh John could not restrain the natural rights of criticism. He continually raised his head from his pillow of dried branches to watch Sweetheart and Maid Margaret.

"You fight just like girls," he cried indignantly; "keep your left hand behind you, Bradwardine—or Balmawhapple will hack it off! I say—girls are silly things. You two are afraid of hurting each other. Now me and Toady Lion—"

 

And he gave details of a late fraternal combat much in the manner of Froissart.

It is to be noted that thus far both Sweetheart and Maid Margaret disdained the female parts, the latter even going the length of saying that she preferred Celie Stubbs, the Squire's daughter at Waverley-Honour, to Rose Bradwardine. On being asked for an explanation of this heresy, she said, "Well, at any rate, Celie Stubbs got a new hat to come to church in!"

And though I read the "Repentance and a Reconciliation" chapter, which makes number Twelve of Waverley, to the combatants, I was conscious that I must hasten on to scenes more exciting if I meant to retain the attention of my small but exacting audience. Furthermore, it was beginning to rain. So, hurriedly breaking off the tale, we drove back to Melrose across the green holms of St. Boswells.

It was after the hour of tea, and the crowd of visitors had ebbed away from the precincts of the Abbey before the tale was resumed. A flat "throuch" stone sustained the narrator, while the four disposed themselves on the sunny grass, in the various attitudes of severe inattention which youth assumes when listening to a story. Sweetheart pored into the depths of a buttercup. Hugh John scratched the freestone of a half-buried tomb with a nail till told to stop. Sir Toady Lion, having a "pinch-bug" coralled in his palms, sat regarding it cautiously between his thumbs. Only Maid Margaret, her dimpled chin on her knuckles, sat looking upward in rapt attention. For her there was no joy like that of a story. Only, she was too young to mind letting the tale-teller know it. That made the difference.

Above our heads the beautiful ruin mounted, now all red gold in the lights, and purple in the shadows, while round and round, and through and through, from highest tower to lowest arch, the swifts shrieked and swooped.

THE SECOND TALE FROM "WAVERLEY"

I. THE CATTLE-LIFTING

Next morning (I continued, looking up for inspiration to the pinnacles of Melrose, cut against the clear sky of evening, as sharply as when "John Morow, master mason," looked upon his finished work and found it very good)—next morning, as Captain Edward Waverley was setting out for his morning walk, he found the castle of Bradwardine by no means the enchanted palace of silence he had first discovered. Milkmaids, bare-legged and wild-haired, ran about distractedly with pails and three-legged stools in their hands, crying, "Lord, guide us!" and "Eh, sirs!"

Bailie Macwheeble, mounted on his dumpy, round-barrelled pony, rode hither and thither with half the ragged rascals of the neighbourhood clattering after him. The Baron paced the terrace, every moment glancing angrily up at the Highland hills from under his bushy grey eyebrows.

From the byre-lasses and the Bailie, Edward could obtain no satisfactory explanation of the disturbance. He judged it wiser not to seek it from the angry Baron.

Within-doors, however, he found Rose, who, though troubled and anxious, replied to his questions readily enough.

"There has been a 'creach,' that is, a raid of cattle-stealers from out of the Highland hills," she told him, hardly able to keep back her tears—not, she explained, because of the lost cattle, but because she feared that the anger of her father might end in the slaying of some of the Caterans, and in a blood-feud which would last as long as they or any of their family lived.

"And all because my father is too proud to pay blackmail to Vich Ian Vohr!" she added.

"Is the gentleman with that curious name," said Edward, "a local robber or a thief-taker?"

"Oh, no," Rose laughed outright at his southern ignorance, "he is a great Highland chief and a very handsome man. Ah, if only my father would be friends with Fergus Mac-Ivor, then Tully-Veolan would once again be a safe and happy home. He and my father quarrelled at a county meeting about who should take the first place. In his heat he told my father that he was under his banner and paid him tribute. But it was Bailie Macwheeble who had paid the money without my father's knowledge. And since then he and Vich Ian Vohr have not been friends."

"But what is blackmail?" Edward asked in astonishment. For he thought that such things had been done away with long ago. All this was just like reading an old black-letter book in his uncle's library.

"It is money," Rose explained, "which, if you live near the Highland border, you must pay to the nearest powerful chief—such as Vich Ian Vohr. And then, if your cattle are driven away, all you have to do is just to send him word and he will have them sent back, or others as good in their places. Oh, you do not know how dreadful to be at feud with a man like Fergus Mac-Ivor. I was only a girl of ten when my father and his servants had a skirmish with a party of them, near our home-farm—so near, indeed, that some of the windows of the house were broken by the bullets, and three of the Highland raiders were killed. I remember seeing them brought in and laid on the floor in the hall, each wrapped in his plaid. And next morning their wives and daughters came, clapping their hands and crying the coronach and shrieking—and they carried away the dead bodies, with the pipes playing before them. Oh, I could not sleep for weeks afterward, without starting up, thinking that I heard again these terrible cries."

All this seemed like a dream to Waverley—to hear this young gentle girl of seventeen talk familiarly of dark and bloody deeds, such as even he, a grown man and a soldier, had only imagined—yet which she had seen with her own eyes!

By dinner-time the Baron's mood had grown somewhat less stormy. He seemed for the moment to forget his wounded honour, and was even offering, as soon as the quarrel was made up, to provide Edward with introductions to many powerful northern chiefs, when the door opened, and a Highlander in full costume was shown in by the butler.

"Welcome, Evan Dhu Maccombich!" said the Baron, without rising, and speaking in the manner of a prince receiving an embassy; "what news from Fergus Mac-Ivor Vich Ian Vohr?"

The ambassador delivered a courteous greeting from the Highland chief. "Fergus Mac-Ivor (he said) was sorry for the cloud that hung between him and his ancient friend. He hoped that the Baron would be sorry too—and that he should say so. More than this he did not ask."

This the Baron readily did, drinking to the health of the chief of the Mac-Ivors, while Evan Maccombich in turn drank prosperity to the house of Bradwardine.

II. THE ROBBER'S CAVE

Then these high matters being finished, the Highlander retired with Bailie Macwheeble, doubtless to arrange with him concerning the arrears of blackmail. But of that the Baron was supposed to know nothing. This done, the Highlander began to ask all about the party which had driven off the cattle, their appearance, whence they had come, and in what place they had last been seen. Edward was much interested by the man's shrewd questions and the quickness with which he arrived at his conclusions. While on his part Evan Dhu was so flattered by the evident interest of the young Englishman, that he invited him to "take a walk with him into the mountains in search of the cattle," promising him that if the matter turned out as he expected, he would take Edward to such a place as he had never seen before and might never have a chance of seeing again.

Waverley accepted with eager joy, and though Rose Bradwardine turned pale at the idea, the Baron, who loved boldness in the young, encouraged the adventure. He gave Edward a young gamekeeper to carry his pack and to be his attendant, so that he might make the journey with fitting dignity.

Through a great pass, full of rugged rocks and seamed with roaring torrents—indeed, the very pass of Bally-Brough in which the reivers had last been spied—across weary and dangerous morasses, where Edward had perforce to spring from tuft to tussock of coarse grass, Evan Dhu led our hero into the depths of the wild Highland country,—where no Saxon foot trod or dared to tread without the leave of Vich Ian Vohr, as the chief's foster-brother took occasion to inform Edward more than once.

By this time night was coming on, and Edward's attendant was sent off with one of Evan Dhu's men, that they might find a place to sleep in, while Evan himself pushed forward to warn the supposed cattle-stealer, one Donald Bean Lean, of the party's near approach. For, as Evan Dhu said, the Cateran might very naturally be startled by the sudden appearance of a sidier roy—or red soldier—in the very place of his most secret retreat.

Edward was thus left alone with the single remaining Highlander, from whom, however, he could obtain no further information as to his journey's end—save that, as the Sassenach was somewhat tired, Donald Bean might possibly send the currach for him.

Edward wished much to know whether the currach was a horse, a cart, or a chaise. But in spite of all his efforts, he could get no more out of the man with the Lochaber axe than the words repeated over and over again, "Aich aye, ta currach! Aich aye, ta currach!"

However, after stumbling on a little farther, they came out on the shores of a loch, and the guide, pointing through the darkness in the direction of a little spark of light far away across the water, said, "Yon's ta cove!" Almost at the same moment the dash of oars was heard, and a shrill whistle came to their ears out of the darkness. This the Highlander answered, and a boat appeared in which Edward was soon seated, and on his way to the robber's cave.

The light, which at first had been no bigger than a rush-light, grew rapidly larger, glowing red (as it seemed) upon the very bosom of the lake. Cliffs began to rise above their heads, hiding the moon. And, as the boat rapidly advanced, Edward could make out a great fire kindled on the shore, into which dark mysterious figures were busily flinging pine branches. The fire had been built on a narrow ledge at the opening of a great black cavern, into which an inlet of the loch seemed to advance. The men rowed straight for this black entrance. Then, letting the boat run on with shipped oars, the fire was soon passed and left behind, and the cavern entered through a great rocky arch. At the foot of some natural steps the boat stopped. The beacon brands which had served to guide them were thrown hissing into the water, and Edward found himself lifted out of the boat by brawny arms and carried almost bodily into the depths of the cavern. Presently, however, he was allowed to walk, though still guided on either side, when suddenly at a turn of the rock passage, the cave opened out, and Edward found the famous Cateran, Donald Bean Lean, and his whole establishment plain before his eyes.

The cavern was lit with pine torches, and about a charcoal fire five or six Highlanders were seated, while in the dusk behind several others slumbered, wrapped in their plaids. In a large recess to one side were seen the carcasses of both sheep and cattle, hung by the heels as in a butcher's shop, some of them all too evidently the spoils of the Baron of Bradwardine's flocks and herds.

The master of this strange dwelling came forward to welcome Edward, while Evan Dhu stood by his side to make the necessary introductions. Edward had expected to meet with a huge savage warrior in the captain of such banditti, but to his surprise he found Donald Bean Lean to be a little man, pale and insignificant in appearance, and not even Highland in dress. For at one time Donald had served in the French army. So now, instead of receiving Edward in his national costume, he had put on an old blue-and-red foreign uniform, in which he made so strange a figure that, though it was donned in his honour, his visitor had hard work to keep from laughing. Nor was the freebooter's conversation more in accord with his surroundings. He talked much of Edward's family and connections, and especially of his uncle's Jacobite politics—on which last account, he seemed inclined to welcome the young man with more cordiality than, as a soldier of King George, Edward felt to be his due. The scene which followed was, however, better fitted to the time and place.

At a half-savage feast Edward had the opportunity of tasting steaks fresh cut from some of the Baron's cattle, broiled on the coals before his eyes, and washed down with draughts of Highland whiskey.

Yet in spite of the warmth of his welcome, there was something very secret and unpleasant about the shifty cunning glance of this little robber-chief, who seemed to know so much about the royal garrisons, and even about the men of Edward's own troop whom he had brought with him from Waverley-Honour.

 

When at last they were left alone together, Evan Dhu having lain down in his plaid, the little captain of cattle-lifters asked Captain Waverley in a very significant manner, "if he had nothing particular to say to him."

Edward, a little startled at the tone in which the question was put, answered that he had no other reason for coming to the cave but a desire to see so strange a dwelling-place.

For a moment Donald Bean Lean looked him full in the face, as if waiting for something more, and then, with a nod full of meaning, he muttered: "You might as well have confided in me. I am as worthy of trust as either the Baron of Bradwardine or Vich Ian Vohr! But you are equally welcome to my house!"

His heather bed, the flickering of the fire, the smoking torches, and the movement of the wild outlaws going and coming about the cave, soon, however, diverted Waverley's thoughts from the mysterious words of his host. His eyelids drew together, nor did he reopen them till the morning sun, reflected from the lake, was filling all the cave with a glimmering twilight.

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