A Legend of Montrose, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 23

My maid — my blue-eyed maid, he bore away,

Due to the toils of many a bloody day.

ILLIAD.

It was necessary, for many reasons, that Angus M’Aulay, so long the kind protector of Annot Lyle, should be made acquainted with the change in the fortunes of his late protege; and Montrose, as he had undertaken, communicated to him these remarkable events. With the careless and cheerful indifference of his character, he expressed much more joy than wonder at Annot’s good fortune; had no doubt whatever she would merit it, and as she had always been bred in loyal principles, would convey the whole estate of her grim fanatical father to some honest fellow who loved the king. “I should have no objection that my brother Allan should try his chance,” added he, “notwithstanding that Sir Duncan Campbell was the only man who ever charged Darnlinvarach with inhospitality. Annot Lyle could always charm Allan out of the sullens, and who knows whether matrimony might not make him more a man of this world?” Montrose hastened to interrupt the progress of his castle-building, by informing him that the lady was already wooed and won, and, with her father’s approbation, was almost immediately to be wedded to his kinsman, the Earl of Menteith; and that in testimony of the high respect due to M’Aulay, so long the lady’s protector, he was now to request his presence at the ceremony. M’Aulay looked very grave at this intimation, and drew up his person with the air of one who thought that he had been neglected.

“He contrived,” he said, “that his uniform kind treatment of the young lady, while so many years under his roof, required something more upon such an occasion than a bare compliment of ceremony. He might,” he thought, “without arrogance, have expected to have been consulted. He wished his kinsman of Menteith well, no man could wish him better; but he must say he thought he had been hasty in this matter. Allan’s sentiments towards the young lady had been pretty well understood, and he, for one, could not see why the superior pretensions which he had upon her gratitude should have been set aside, without at least undergoing some previous discussion.”

Montrose, seeing too well where all this pointed, entreated M’Aulay to be reasonable, and to consider what probability there was that the Knight of Ardenvohr could be brought to confer the hand of his sole heiress upon Allan, whose undeniable excellent qualities were mingled with others, by which they were overclouded in a manner that made all tremble who approached him.

“My lord,” said Angus M’Aulay, “my brother Allan has, as God made us all, faults as well as merits; but he is the best and bravest man of your army, be the other who he may, and therefore ill deserved that his happiness should have been so little consulted by your Excellency — by his own near kinsman — and by a young person who owes all to him and to his family.”

Montrose in vain endeavoured to place the subject in a different view; this was the point in which Angus was determined to regard it, and he was a man of that calibre of understanding, who is incapable of being convinced when he has once adopted a prejudice. Montrose now assumed a higher tone, and called upon Angus to take care how he nourished any sentiments which might be prejudicial to his Majesty’s service. He pointed out to him, that he was peculiarly desirous that Allan’s efforts should not be interrupted in the course of his present mission; “a mission,” he said, “highly honourable for himself, and likely to prove most advantageous to the King’s cause. He expected his brother would hold no communication with him upon other subjects, nor stir up any cause of dissension, which might divert his mind from a matter of such importance.”

Angus answered somewhat sulkily, that “he was no makebate, or stirrer-up of quarrels; he would rather be a peacemaker. His brother knew as well as most men how to resent his own quarrels — as for Allan’s mode of receiving information, it was generally believed he had other sources than those of ordinary couriers. He should not be surprised if they saw him sooner than they expected.”

A promise that he would not interfere, was the farthest to which Montrose could bring this man, thoroughly good-tempered as he was on all occasions, save when his pride, interest, or prejudices, were interfered with. And at this point the Marquis was fain to leave the matter for the present.

A more willing guest at the bridal ceremony, certainly a more willing attendant at the marriage feast, was to be expected in Sir Dugald Dalgetty, whom Montrose resolved to invite, as having been a confidant to the circumstances which preceded it. But even Sir Dugald hesitated, looked on the elbows of his doublet, and the knees of his leather breeches, and mumbled out a sort of reluctant acquiescence in the invitation, providing he should find it possible, after consulting with the noble bridegroom. Montrose was somewhat surprised, but scorning to testify displeasure, he left Sir Dugald to pursue his own course.

This carried him instantly to the chamber of the bride-groom, who, amidst the scanty wardrobe which his camp-equipage afforded, was seeking for such articles as might appear to the best advantage upon the approaching occasion. Sir Dugald entered, and paid his compliments, with a very grave face, upon his approaching happiness, which, he said, “he was very sorry he was prevented from witnessing.”

“In plain truth,” said he, “I should but disgrace the ceremony, seeing that I lack a bridal garment. Rents, and open seams, and tatters at elbows in the apparel of the assistants, might presage a similar solution of continuity in your matrimonial happiness — and to say truth, my lord, you yourself must partly have the blame of this disappointment, in respect you sent me upon a fool’s errand to get a buff-coat out of the booty taken by the Camerons, whereas you might as well have sent me to fetch a pound of fresh butter out of a black dog’s throat. I had no answer, my lord, but brandished dirks and broadswords, and a sort of growling and jabbering in what they call their language. For my part, I believe these Highlanders to be no better than absolute pagans, and have been much scandalized by the manner in which my acquaintance, Ranald MacEagh, was pleased to beat his final march, a little while since.”

In Menteith’s state of mind, disposed to be pleased with everything, and everybody, the grave complaint of Sir Dugald furnished additional amusement. He requested his acceptance of a very handsome buff-dress which was lying on the floor. “I had intended it,” he said, “for my own bridal-garment, as being the least formidable of my warlike equipments, and I have here no peaceful dress.”

Sir Dugald made the necessary apologies — would not by any means deprive — and so forth, until it happily occurred to him that it was much more according to military rule that the Earl should be married in his back and breast pieces, which dress he had seen the bridegroom wear at the union of Prince Leo of Wittlesbach with the youngest daughter of old George Frederick, of Saxony, under the auspices of the gallant Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North, and so forth. The good-natured young Earl laughed, and acquiesced; and thus having secured at least one merry face at his bridal, he put on a light and ornamented cuirass, concealed partly by a velvet coat, and partly by a broad blue silk scarf, which he wore over his shoulder, agreeably to his rank, and the fashion of the times.

Everything was now arranged; and it had been settled that, according to the custom of the country, the bride and bridegroom should not again meet until they were before the altar. The hour had already struck that summoned the bridegroom thither, and he only waited in a small anteroom adjacent to the chapel, for the Marquis, who condescended to act as bride’s-man upon the occasion. Business relating to the army having suddenly required the Marquis’s instant attention, Menteith waited his return, it may be supposed, in some impatience; and when he heard the door of the apartment open, he said, laughing, “You are late upon parade.”

“You will find I am too early,” said Allan M’Aulay, who burst into the apartment. “Draw, Menteith, and defend yourself like a man, or die like a dog!”

“You are mad, Allan!” answered Menteith, astonished alike at his sudden appearance, and at the unutterable fury of his demeanour. His cheeks were livid — his eyes started from their sockets — his lips were covered with foam, and his gestures were those of a demoniac.

“You lie, traitor!” was his frantic reply —“you lie in that, as you lie in all you have said to me. Your life is a lie!”

“Did I not speak my thoughts when I called you mad,” said Menteith, indignantly, “your own life were a brief one. In what do you charge me with deceiving you?”

“You told me,” answered M’Aulay, “that you would not marry Annot Lyle! — False traitor! — she now waits you at the altar.”

“It is you who speak false,” retorted Menteith. “I told you the obscurity of her birth was the only bar to our union — that is now removed; and whom do you think yourself, that I should yield up my pretensions in your favour?”

“Draw then,” said M’Aulay; “we understand each other.”

“Not now,” said Menteith, “and not here. Allan, you know me well — wait till tomorrow, and you shall have fighting enough.”

“This hour — this instant — or never,” answered M’Aulay.

“Your triumph shall not go farther than the hour which is stricken. Menteith, I entreat you by our relationship — by our joint conflicts and labours — draw your sword, and defend your life!” As he spoke, he seized the Earl’s hand, and wrung it with such frantic earnestness, that his grasp forced the blood to start under the nails. Menteith threw him off with violence, exclaiming, “Begone, madman!”

“Then, be the vision accomplished!” said Allan; and, drawing his dirk, struck with his whole gigantic force at the Earl’s bosom. The temper of the corslet threw the point of the weapon upwards, but a deep wound took place between the neck and shoulder; and the force of the blow prostrated the bridegroom on the floor. Montrose entered at one side of the anteroom. The bridal company, alarmed at the noise, were in equal apprehension and surprise; but ere Montrose could almost see what had happened, Allan M’Aulay had rushed past him, and descended the castle stairs like lightning. “Guards, shut the gate!” exclaimed Montrose —“Seize him — kill him, if he resists! — He shall die, if he were my brother!”

But Allan prostrated, with a second blow of his dagger, a sentinel who was upon duty —— traversed the camp like a mountain-deer, though pursued by all who caught the alarm — threw himself into the river, and, swimming to the opposite side, was soon lost among the woods. In the course of the same evening, his brother Angus and his followers left Montrose’s camp, and, taking the road homeward, never again rejoined him.

Of Allan himself it is said, that, in a wonderfully short space after the deed was committed, he burst into a room in the Castle of Inverary, where Argyle was sitting in council, and flung on the table his bloody dirk.

“Is it the blood of James Grahame?” said Argyle, a ghastly expression of hope mixing with the terror which the sudden apparition naturally excited.

“It is the blood of his minion,” answered M’Aulay —“It is the blood which I was predestined to shed, though I would rather have spilt my own.”

Having thus spoken, he turned and left the castle, and from that moment nothing certain is known of his fate. As the boy Kenneth, with three of the Children of the Mist, were seen soon afterwards to cross Lochfine, it is supposed they dogged his course, and that he perished by their hand in some obscure wilderness. Another opinion maintains, that Allan M’Aulay went abroad and died a monk of the Carthusian order. But nothing beyond bare presumption could ever be brought in support of either opinion.

His vengeance was much less complete than he probably fancied; for Menteith, though so severely wounded as to remain long in a dangerous state, was, by having adopted Major Dalgetty’s fortunate recommendation of a cuirass as a bridal-garment, happily secured from the worst consequences of the blow. But his services were lost to Montrose; and it was thought best, that he should be conveyed with his intended countess, now truly a mourning bride, and should accompany his wounded father-inlaw to the castle of Sir Duncan at Ardenvohr. Dalgetty followed them to the water’s edge, reminding Menteith of the necessity of erecting a sconce on Drumsnab to cover his lady’s newly-acquired inheritance.

They performed their voyage in safety, and Menteith was in a few weeks so well in health, as to be united to Annot in the castle of her father.

The Highlanders were somewhat puzzled to reconcile Menteith’s recovery with the visions of the second sight, and the more experienced Seers were displeased with him for not having died. But others thought the credit of the vision sufficiently fulfilled, by the wound inflicted by the hand, and with the weapon, foretold; and all were of opinion, that the incident of the ring, with the death’s head, related to the death of the bride’s father, who did not survive her marriage many months. The incredulous held, that all this was idle dreaming, and that Allan’s supposed vision was but a consequence of the private suggestions of his own passion, which, having long seen in Menteith a rival more beloved than himself, struggled with his better nature, and impressed upon him, as it were involuntarily, the idea of killing his competitor.

Menteith did not recover sufficiently to join Montrose during his brief and glorious career; and when that heroic general disbanded his army and retired from Scotland, Menteith resolved to adopt the life of privacy, which he led till the Restoration. After that happy event, he occupied a situation in the land befitting his rank, lived long, happy alike in public regard and in domestic affection, and died at a good old age.

Our DRAMATIS PERSONAE have been so limited, that, excepting Montrose, whose exploits and fate are the theme of history, we have only to mention Sir Dugald Dalgetty. This gentleman continued, with the most rigorous punctuality, to discharge his duty, and to receive his pay, until he was made prisoner, among others, upon the field of Philiphaugh. He was condemned to share the fate of his fellow-officers upon that occasion, who were doomed to death rather by denunciations from the pulpit, than the sentence either of civil or military tribunal; their blood being considered as a sort of sin-offering to take away the guilt of the land, and the fate imposed upon the Canaanites, under a special dispensation, being impiously and cruelly applied to them.

Several Lowland officers, in the service of the Covenanters, interceded for Dalgetty on this occasion, representing him as a person whose skill would be useful in their army, and who would be readily induced to change his service. But on this point they found Sir Dugald unexpectedly obstinate. He had engaged with the King for a certain term, and, till that was expired, his principles would not permit any shadow of changing. The Covenanters, again, understood no such nice distinction, and he was in the utmost danger of falling a martyr, not to this or that political principle, but merely to his own strict ideas of a military enlistment. Fortunately, his friends discovered, by computation, that there remained but a fortnight to elapse of the engagement he had formed, and to which, though certain it was never to be renewed, no power on earth could make him false. With some difficulty they procured a reprieve for this short space, after which they found him perfectly willing to come under any engagements they chose to dictate. He entered the service of the Estates accordingly, and wrought himself forward to be Major in Gilbert Ker’s corps, commonly called the Kirk’s Own Regiment of Horse. Of his farther history we know nothing, until we find him in possession of his paternal estate of Drumthwacket, which he acquired, not by the sword, but by a pacific intermarriage with Hannah Strachan, a matron somewhat stricken in years, the widow of the Aberdeenshire Covenanter.

Sir Dugald is supposed to have survived the Revolution, as traditions of no very distant date represent him as cruising about in that country, very old, very deaf, and very full of interminable stories about the immortal Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North, and the bulwark of the Protestant Faith.

READER! THE TALES OF MY LANDLORD ARE NOW FINALLY CLOSED, closed, and it was my purpose to have addressed thee in the vein of Jedediah Cleishbotham; but, like Horam the son of Asmar, and all other imaginary story-tellers, Jedediah has melted into thin air.

Mr. Cleishbotham bore the same resemblance to Ariel, as he at whose voice he rose doth to the sage Prospero; and yet, so fond are we of the fictions of our own fancy, that I part with him, and all his imaginary localities, with idle reluctance. I am aware this is a feeling in which the reader will little sympathize; but he cannot be more sensible than I am, that sufficient varieties have now been exhibited of the Scottish character, to exhaust one individual’s powers of observation, and that to persist would be useless and tedious. I have the vanity to suppose, that the popularity of these Novels has shown my countrymen, and their peculiarities, in lights which were new to the Southern reader; and that many, hitherto indifferent upon the subject, have been induced to read Scottish history, from the allusions to it in these works of fiction.

I retire from the field, conscious that there remains behind not only a large harvest, but labourers capable of gathering it in. More than one writer has of late displayed talents of this description; and if the present author, himself a phantom, may be permitted to distinguish a brother, or perhaps a sister shadow, he would mention, in particular, the author of the very lively work entitled MARRIAGE.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29