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

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THE SECOND INTERLUDE

As soon as this part of the tale was finished, the audience showed much greater eagerness to enter immediately upon the acting of Donald Bean Lean's cattle-raid, and its consequences, than it had previously displayed as to the doings of Edward Waverley.

As Hugh John admitted, this was "something like!" The Abbey precincts were instantly filled with the mingled sounds characteristic of all well-conducted forays, and it was well indeed that the place was wholly deserted. For the lowings of the driven cattle, the shouts of the triumphant Highlanders, the deep rage of the Baron, stalking to and fro wrapped in his cloak on the Castle terrace, might well have astonished the crowd which in these summer days comes from the four corners of the world "to view fair Melrose aright."

It was not till the edge had worn off their first enthusiasm, that it became possible to collect them again in order to read "The Hold of a Highland Robber," which makes Chapter Seventeenth of Waverley itself. And the reading so fired the enthusiasm of Sweetheart that she asked for the book to take to bed with her. The boys were more practical, though equally enthusiastic.

"Wait till we get home," cried Hugh John, cracking his fingers and thumbs. "I know a proper place for Donald Bean Lean's cave."

"And I," said Sir Toady Lion, "will light a fire by the pond and toss the embers into the water. It will be jolly to hear 'em hiss, I tell you!"

"But what," asked Maid Margaret, "shall we do for the cattle and sheep that were hanging by the heels, when Edward went into Donald Bean Lean's cave?"

"Why, we will hang you up by the heels and cut slices off you!" said Sir Toady, with frowning truculence.

Whereat the little girl, a little solemnised, began to edge away from the dangerous neighbourhood of such a pair of young cannibals. Sweetheart reproached her brothers for inventing calumnies against their countrymen.

"Even the Highlanders were never so wicked," she objected; "they did not eat one another."

"Well, anyway," retorted Sir Toady Lion, unabashed, "Sawney Bean did. Perhaps he was a cousin of Donald's, though in the history it says that he came from East Lothian."

"Yes," cried Hugh John, "and in an old book written in Latin it says (father read it to us) that one of his little girls was too young to be executed with the rest on the sands of Leith. So the King sent her to be brought up by kind people, where she was brought up without knowing anything of her father, the cannibal, and her mother, the cannibaless—"

"Oh," cried Sweetheart, who knew what was coming, putting up her hands over her ears, "please don't tell that dreadful story all over again."

"Father read it out of a book—so there!" cried Sir Toady, implacably, "go on, Hugh John!"

"And so when this girl was about as big as Sweetheart, and, of course, could not remember her grandfather's nice cave or the larder where the arms and legs were hung up to dry in the smoke—"

"Oh, you horrid boy!" cried Sweetheart, not, however, removing herself out of ear-shot—because, after all, it was nice to shiver just a little.

"Oh, yes, and I have seen the cave," cried Sir Toady, "it is on the shore near Ballantrae—a horrid place. Go on, Hugh John, tell about Sawney Bean's grandchild!"

"Well, she grew up and up, playing with dolls just like other girls, till she was old enough to be sent out to service. And after she had been a while about the house to which she went, it was noticed that some of the babies in the neighbourhood began to go a-missing, and they found—"

"I think she was a nursemaid!" interrupted Sir Toady, dispassionately. "That must have been it. The little wretches cried—so she ate them!"

"Oh," cried Sweetheart, stopping her ears with her fingers, "don't tell us what they found—I believe you made it all up, anyway."

"No, I didn't," cried Hugh John, shouting in her ear as if to a very deaf person, "it was father who read it to us, out of a big book with fat black letters. So it must be true!"

Sir Toady was trying to drag away his sister's arms that she might have the benefit of details, when I appeared in the distance. Whereupon Hugh John, who felt his time growing limited, concluded thus, "And when they were taking the girl away to hang her, the minister asked her why she had killed the babies, and she answered him, 'If people only knew how good babies were—especially little girls—there would not be one left between Forth and Solway!'"

Then quite unexpectedly Maid Margaret began to sob bitterly.

"They shan't hang me up and eat me," she cried, running as hard as she could and flinging herself into my arms; "Hugh John and Sir Toady say they will, as soon as we get home."

Happily I had a light cane of a good vintage in my hand, and it did not take long to convince the pair of young scamps of the inconvenience of frightening their little sister. Sweetheart looked on approvingly as two forlorn young men were walked off to a supper, healthfully composed of plain bread and butter, and washed down by some nice cool water from the pump.

"I told you!" she said, "you wouldn't believe me."

All the same she was tender-hearted enough to convey a platter of broken meats secretly up to their "condemned cell," as I knew from finding the empty plate under their washstand in the morning. And as Maid Margaret was being carried off to be bathed and comforted, a Voice, passing their door, threatened additional pains and penalties to little boys who frightened their sisters.

"It was all in a book," said Hugh John, defending himself from under the bedclothes, "father read it to us!"

"We did it for her good," suggested Sir Toady.

"If I hear another word out of you—" broke in the Voice; and then added, "go to sleep this instant!"

The incident of the cave had long been forgotten and forgiven, before I could continue the story of Waverley in the cave of Donald Bean Lean. We sat once more "in oor ain hoose at hame," or rather outside it, near a certain pleasant chalet in a wood, from which place you can see a brown and turbulent river running downward to the sea.

THE THIRD TALE FROM "WAVERLEY"

I. THE CHIEF OF THE MAC-IVORS AND THE CHIEF'S SISTER

When Edward awoke next morning, he could not for a moment remember where he was. The cave was deserted. Only the grey ashes of the fire, a few gnawed bones, and an empty keg remained to prove that he was still on the scene of last night's feast. He went out into the sunlight. In a little natural harbour the boat was lying snugly moored. Farther out, on a rocky spit, was the mark of last night's beacon-fire. Here Waverley had to turn back. Cliffs shut him in on every side, and Edward was at a loss what to do, till he discovered, climbing perilously out in the rock above the cave mouth, some slight steps or ledges. These he mounted with difficulty, and, passing over the shoulder of the cliff, found himself presently on the shores of a loch about four miles long, surrounded on every side by wild heathery mountains.

In the distance he could see a man fishing and a companion watching him. By the Lochaber axe which the latter carried Edward recognised the fisher as Evan Dhu. On a stretch of sand under a birch tree, a girl was laying out a breakfast of milk, eggs, barley bread, fresh butter, and honeycomb. She was singing blithely, yet she must have had to travel far that morning to collect such dainties in so desolate a region.

This proved to be Alice, the daughter of Donald Bean Lean, and it is nothing to her discredit that she had made herself as pretty as she could, that she might attend upon the handsome young Englishman. All communication, however, had to be by smiles and signs, for Alice spoke no English. Nevertheless she set out her dainties with right good-will, and then seated herself on a stone a little distance away to watch for an opportunity of serving the young soldier.

Presently Evan Dhu came up with his catch, a fine salmon-trout, and soon slices of the fish were broiling on the wood embers. After breakfast, Alice gathered what was left into a wicker basket, and, flinging her plaid about her, presented her cheek to Edward for "the stranger's kiss." Evan Dhu made haste to secure a similar privilege, but Alice sprang lightly up the bank out of his reach, and with an arch wave of her hand to Edward she disappeared.

Then Evan Dhu led Edward back to the boat. The three men embarked, and after emerging from the mouth of the cavern, a clumsy sail was hoisted, and they bore away up the lake—Evan Dhu all the time loud in the praises of Alice Bean Lean.

Edward said that it was a pity that such a maiden should be the daughter of a common thief. But this Evan hotly denied. According to Evan, Donald Bean Lean, though indeed no reputable character, was far from being a thief. A thief was one who stole a cow from a poor cotter, but he who lifted a drove from a Sassenach laird was "a gentleman drover."

"But he would be hanged, all the same, if he were caught!" objected Edward. "I do not see the difference."

"To be sure, he would die for the law, as many a pretty man has done before him," cried Evan. "And a better death than to die, lying on damp straw in yonder cave like a mangy tyke!"

"And what," Edward suggested, "would become of pretty Alice then?"

"Alice is both canny and fendy," said the bold Evan Dhu, with a cock of his bonnet, "and I ken nocht to hinder me to marry her mysel'!"

Edward laughed and applauded the Highlander's spirit, but asked also as to the fate of the Baron of Bradwardine's cattle.

"By this time," said Evan, "I warrant they are safe in the pass of Bally-Brough and on their road back to Tully-Veolan. And that is more than a regiment of King George's red soldiers could have brought about!"

 

Evan Dhu had indeed some reason to be proud.

Reassured as to this, Edward accompanied his guide with more confidence toward the castle of Vich Ian Vohr. The "five miles Scots" seemed to stretch themselves out indefinitely, but at last the figure of a hunter, equipped with gun, dogs, and a single attendant, was seen far across the heath.

"Shogh," said the man with the Lochaber axe, "tat's the Chief!"

Evan Dhu, who had boasted of his master's great retinue, denied it fiercely.

"The Chief," he said, "would not come out with never a soul with him but Callum Beg, to meet with an English gentleman."

But in spite of this prophecy, the Chief of Clan Ivor it was. Fergus Mac-Ivor, whom his people called Vich Ian Vohr, was a young man of much grace and dignity, educated in France, and of a strong, secret, and turbulent character, which by policy he hid for the most part under an appearance of courtesy and kindness. He had long been mustering his clan in secret, in order once more to take a leading part in another attempt to dethrone King George, and to set on the throne of Britain either the Chevalier St. George or his son Prince Charles.

When Waverley and the Chief approached the castle—a stern and rugged pile, surrounded by walls, they found a large body of armed Highlanders drawn up before the gate.

"These," said Vich Ian Vohr, carelessly, "are a part of the clan whom I ordered out, to see that they were in a fit state to defend the country in such troublous times. Would Captain Waverley care to see them go through part of their exercise?"

Thereupon the men, after showing their dexterity at drill, and their fine target-shooting, divided into two parties, and went through the incidents of a battle—the charge, the combat, the flight, and the headlong pursuit—all to the sound of the great warpipes.

Edward asked why, with so large a force, the Chief did not at once put down such robber bands as that of Donald Bean Lean.

"Because," said the Chief, bitterly, "if I did, I should at once be summoned to Stirling Castle to deliver up the few broadswords the government has left us. I should gain little by that. But there is dinner," he added, as if anxious to change the subject, "let me show you the inside of my rude mansion."

The long and crowded dinner-table to which Edward sat down, told of the Chief's immense hospitality. After the meal, healths were drunk, and the bard of the clan recited a wild and thrilling poem in Gaelic—of which, of course, Edward could not understand so much as one word, though it excited the clansmen so that they sprang up in ecstasy, many of them waving their arms about in sympathy with the warlike verses. The Chief, exactly in the ancient manner, presented a silver cup full of wine to the minstrel. He was to drink the one and keep the other for himself.

After a few more toasts, Vich Ian Vohr offered to take Waverley up to be presented to his sister. They found Flora Mac-Ivor in her parlour, a plain and bare chamber with a wide prospect from the windows. She had her brother's dark curling hair, dark eyes, and lofty expression, but her expression seemed sweeter, though not, perhaps, softer. She was, however, even more fiercely Jacobite than her brother, and her devotion to "the King over the Water" (as they called King James) was far more unselfish than that of Vich Ian Vohr. Flora Mac-Ivor had been educated in a French convent, yet now she gave herself heart and soul to the good of her wild Highland clan and to the service of him whom she looked on as the true King.

She was gracious to Edward, and at the request of Fergus, told him the meaning of the war-song he had been listening to in the hall. She was, her brother said, famed for her translations from Gaelic into English, but for the present she could not be persuaded to recite any of these to Edward.

He had better fortune, however, when, finding Flora Mac-Ivor in a wild spot by a waterfall, she sang him, to the accompaniment of a harp, a song of great chiefs and their deeds which fired the soul of the young man. He could not help admiring—he almost began to love her from that moment.

After this reception, Edward continued very willingly at Glennaquoich—both because of his growing admiration for Flora, and because his curiosity increased every day as to this wild race, and the life so different from all that he had hitherto known. Nothing occurred for three weeks to disturb his pleasant dreams, save the chance discovery, made when he was writing a letter to the Baron, that he had somehow lost his seal with the arms of Waverley, which he wore attached to his watch. Flora was inclined to blame Donald Bean Lean for the theft, but the Chief scouted the idea. It was impossible, he said, when Edward was his guest, and, besides (he added slyly), Donald would never have taken the seal and left the watch. Whereupon Edward borrowed Vich Ian Vohr's seal, and, having despatched his letter, thought no more of the matter.

Soon afterwards, whilst Waverley still remained at Glennaquoich, there was a great hunting of the stag, to which Fergus went with three hundred of his clan to meet some of the greatest Highland chiefs, his neighbours. He took Edward with him, and the numbers present amounted almost to those of a formidable army. While the clansmen drove in the deer, the chiefs sat on the heather in little groups and talked in low tones. During the drive, the main body of the deer, in their desperation, charged right upon the place where the chief sportsmen were waiting in ambush. The word was given for every one to fling himself down on his face. Edward, not understanding the language, remained erect, and his life was only saved by the quickness of Vich Ian Vohr, who seized him and flung him down, holding him there by main force till the whole herd had rushed over them. When Edward tried to rise, he found that he had severely sprained his ankle.

However, among those present at the drive, there was found an old man, half-surgeon, half-conjurer, who applied hot fomentations, muttering all the time of the operation such gibberish as Gaspar-Melchior-Balthazar-max-prax-fax!

Thus it happened that, to his great disappointment, Edward was unable to accompany the clansmen and their chiefs any farther. So Vich Ian Vohr had Edward placed in a litter, woven of birch and hazel, and walked beside this rude couch to the house of an old man, a smaller chieftain, who, with only a few old vassals, lived a retired life at a place called Tomanrait.

Here he left Edward to recruit, promising to come back in a few days, in the hope that by that time Edward would be able to ride a Highland pony in order to return to Glennaquoich.

On the sixth morning Fergus returned, and Edward gladly mounted to accompany him. As they approached the castle, he saw, with pleasure, Flora coming to meet them.

II. MISFORTUNES NEVER COME SINGLE

The Chief's beautiful sister appeared very glad to see Edward, and, as her brother spoke a few hasty words to her in Gaelic, she suddenly clasped her hands, and, looking up to heaven, appeared to ask a blessing upon some enterprise. She then gave Edward some letters that had arrived for him during his absence. It was perhaps as well that Edward took these to his room to open, considering the amount of varied ill news that he found in them.

The first was from his father, who had just been dismissed from his position as King's minister, owing (as he put it) to the ingratitude of the great—but really, as was proved afterwards, on account of some political plots which he had formed against his chief, the prime minister of the day.

Then his generous uncle, Sir Everard, wrote that all differences were over between his brother and himself. He had espoused his quarrel, and he directed Edward at once to send in the resignation of his commission to the War Office without any preliminaries, forbidding him longer to serve a government which had treated his father so badly.

But the letter which touched Edward most deeply was one from his commanding officer at Dundee, which declared curtly that if he did not report himself at the headquarters of the regiment within three days after the date of writing, he would be obliged to take steps in the matter which would be exceedingly disagreeable to Captain Waverley.

Edward at once sat down and wrote to Colonel Gardiner that, as he had thus chosen to efface the remembrance of past civilities, there was nothing left to him but to resign his commission, which he did formally, and ended his letter by requesting his commanding officer to forward this resignation to the proper quarter.

No little perplexed as to the meaning of all this, Edward was on his way to consult Fergus Mac-Ivor on the subject, when the latter advanced with an open newspaper in his hand.

"Do your letters," he asked, "confirm this unpleasant news?"

And he held out the Caledonian Mercury, in which not only did he find his father's disgrace chronicled, but on turning to the Gazette he found the words, "Edward Waverley, Captain in the —th regiment of dragoons, superseded for absence without leave." The name of his successor, one Captain Butler, followed immediately.

On looking at the date of Colonel Gardiner's missive as compared with that of the Gazette, it was evident that his commanding officer had carried out his threat to the letter. Yet it was not at all like him to have done so. It was still more out of keeping with the constant kindness that he had shown to Edward. It was the young man's first idea, in accordance with the customs of the time, to send Colonel Gardiner a challenge. But, upon Fergus Mac-Ivor's advice, Edward ultimately contented himself with adding a postscript to his first letter, marking the time at which he had received the first summons, and regretting that the hastiness of his commander's action had prevented his anticipating it by sending in his resignation.

"That, if anything," said Fergus, "will make this Calvinistic colonel blush for his injustice."

But it was not long before some part at least of the mystery was made plain. Fergus took advantage of Edward's natural anger at his unworthy treatment, to reveal to him that a great rising was about to take place in the Highlands in favour of King James, and to urge him to cast in his lot with the clans. Flora, on the contrary, urged him to be careful and cautious, lest he should involve others to whom he owed everything, in a common danger with himself.

Edward, whose fancy (if not whose heart) had gradually been turning more and more toward the beautiful and patriotic Flora, appeared less interested in rebellion than in obtaining her brother's good-will and bespeaking his influence with his sister.

"Out upon you," cried Fergus, with pretended ill-humour, "can you think of nothing but ladies at such a time? Besides, why come to me in such a matter? Flora is up the glen. Go and ask herself. And Cupid go with you! But do not forget that my lovely sister, like her loving brother, is apt to have a pretty strong will of her own!"

Edward's heart beat as he went up the rocky hillside to find Flora. She received and listened to him with kindness, but steadily refused to grant him the least encouragement. All her thoughts, her hopes, her life itself, were set on the success of this one bold stroke for a crown. Till the rightful King was on his throne, she could not think of anything else. Love and marriage were not for such as Flora Mac-Ivor. Edward, in spite of the manifest good-will of the chief, had to be content with such cold comfort as he could extract from Flora's promise that she would remember him in her prayers!

Next morning Edward was awakened to the familiar sound of Daft Davie Gellatley's voice singing below his window. For a moment he thought himself back at Tully-Veolan. Davie was declaring loudly that

 
"My heart's in the Highland, my heart is not here."
 

Then, immediately changing to a less sentimental strain, he added with a contemptuous accent:

 
"There's nocht in the Highlands but syboes and leeks,
And lang-leggit callants gaun wanting the breeks;
Wanting the breeks, and without hose or shoon,
But we'll a' win the breeks when King Jamie comes hame."
 

Edward, eager to know what had brought the Bradwardine "innocent" so far from home, dressed hastily and went down. Davie, without stopping his dancing for a moment, came whirling past, and, as he went, thrust a letter into Waverley's hand. It proved to be from Rose Bradwardine, and among other things it contained the news that the Baron had gone away to the north with a body of horsemen, while the red soldiers had been at Tully-Veolan searching for her father and also asking after Edward himself. Indeed they had carried off his servant prisoner, together with everything he had left at Tully-Veolan. Rose also warned him against the danger of returning thither, and at the same time sent her compliments to Fergus and Flora. The last words in the letter were, "Is she not as handsome and accomplished as I described her to be?"

 

Edward was exceedingly perplexed. Knowing his innocence of all treason, he could not imagine why he should be accused of it. He consulted Fergus, who told him he would to a certainty be hanged or imprisoned if he went south. Nevertheless, Edward persisted in "running his hazard." The Chief, though wishful to keep him, did not absolutely say him nay. Flora, instead of coming down to bid him good-bye, sent only excuses. So altogether it was in no happy frame of mind that Edward rode away to the south upon the Chief's horse, Brown Dermid, and with Callum Beg for an attendant in the guise of a Lowland groom.

Callum warned his master against saying anything when they got to the first little Lowland town, either on the subject of the Highlands, or about his master, Vich Ian Vohr.

"The people there are bitter Whigs, teil burst them!" he said fiercely. As they rode on they saw many people about the street, chiefly old women in tartan hoods and red cloaks, who seemed to cast up their hands in horror at the sight of Waverley's horse. Edward asked the reason.

"Oh," said Callum Beg, "it's either the muckle Sunday hersel', or the little government Sunday that they caa the Fast!"

It proved to be the latter, and the innkeeper, a severe sly-looking man, received them with scanty welcome. Indeed, he only admitted them because he remembered that it was in his power to fine them for the crime of travelling on a Fast Day by an addition to the length of his reckoning next morning.

But as soon as Edward announced his wish for a horse and guide to Perth, the hypocritical landlord made ready to go with him in person. Callum Beg, excited by the golden guinea which Waverley gave him, offered to show his gratitude by waiting a little distance along the road, and "kittlin' the landlord's quarters wi' her skene-occle"—or, in other words, setting a dagger in his back. Apparently Vich Ian Vohr's page thought no more of such a deed than an ordinary English boy would have thought of stealing an apple out of an orchard.

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