A Legend of Montrose, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 7

When Albin her claymore indignantly draws,

When her bonneted chieftains around her shall crowd,

Clan-Ranald the dauntless, and Moray the proud,

All plaided and plumed in their tartan array

LOCHEIL’S WARNING.

Whoever saw that morning, the Castle of Darnlinvarach, beheld a busy and a gallant sight.

The various Chiefs, arriving with their different retinues, which, notwithstanding their numbers, formed no more than their usual equipage and body-guard upon occasions of solemnity, saluted the lord of the castle and each other with overflowing kindness, or with haughty and distant politeness, according to the circumstances of friendship or hostility in which their clans had recently stood to each other. Each Chief, however small his comparative importance, showed the full disposition to exact from the rest the deference due to a separate and independent prince; while the stronger and more powerful, divided among themselves by recent contentions or ancient feuds, were constrained in policy to use great deference to the feelings of their less powerful brethren, in order, in case of need, to attach as many well-wishers as might be to their own interest and standard. Thus the meeting of Chiefs resembled not a little those ancient Diets of the Empire, where the smallest FREY-GRAF, who possessed a castle perched upon a barren crag, with a few hundred acres around it, claimed the state and honours of a sovereign prince, and a seat according to his rank among the dignitaries of the Empire.

The followers of the different leaders were separately arranged and accommodated, as room and circumstances best permitted, each retaining however his henchman, who waited, close as the shadow, upon his person, to execute whatever might be required by his patron.

The exterior of the castle afforded a singular scene. The Highlanders, from different islands, glens, and straths, eyed each other at a distance with looks of emulation, inquisitive curiosity, or hostile malevolence; but the most astounding part of the assembly, at least to a Lowland ear, was the rival performance of the bagpipers. These warlike minstrels, who had the highest opinion, each, of the superiority of his own tribe, joined to the most overweening idea of the importance connected with his profession, at first, performed their various pibrochs in front each of his own clan. At length, however, as the black-cocks towards the end of the season, when, in sportsman’s language, they are said to flock or crowd, attracted together by the sound of each others’ triumphant crow, even so did the pipers, swelling their plaids and tartans in the same triumphant manner in which the birds ruffle up their feathers, begin to approach each other within such distance as might give to their brethren a sample of their skill. Walking within a short interval, and eyeing each other with looks in which self-importance and defiance might be traced, they strutted, puffed, and plied their screaming instruments, each playing his own favourite tune with such a din, that if an Italian musician had lain buried within ten miles of them, he must have risen from the dead to run out of hearing.

The Chieftains meanwhile had assembled in close conclave in the great hall of the castle. Among them were the persons of the greatest consequence in the Highlands, some of them attracted by zeal for the royal cause, and many by aversion to that severe and general domination which the Marquis of Argyle, since his rising to such influence in the state, had exercised over his Highland neighbours. That statesman, indeed, though possessed of considerable abilities, and great power, had failings, which rendered him unpopular among the Highland chiefs. The devotion which he professed was of a morose and fanatical character; his ambition appeared to be insatiable, and inferior chiefs complained of his want of bounty and liberality. Add to this, that although a Highlander, and of a family distinguished for valour before and since, Gillespie Grumach [GRUMACH— ill-favored.] (which, from an obliquity in his eyes, was the personal distinction he bore in the Highlands, where titles of rank are unknown) was suspected of being a better man in the cabinet than in the field. He and his tribe were particularly obnoxious to the M’Donalds and the M’Leans, two numerous septs, who, though disunited by ancient feuds, agreed in an intense dislike to the Campbells, or, as they were called, the Children of Diarmid.

For some time the assembled Chiefs remained silent, until some one should open the business of the meeting. At length one of the most powerful of them commenced the diet by saying — “We have been summoned hither, M’Aulay, to consult of weighty matters concerning the King’s affairs, and those of the state; and we crave to know by whom they are to be explained to us?”

M’Aulay, whose strength did not lie in oratory, intimated his wish that Lord Menteith should open the business of the council. With great modesty, and at the same time with spirit, that young lord said, “he wished what he was about to propose had come from some person of better known and more established character. Since, however, it lay with him to be spokesman, he had to state to the Chiefs assembled, that those who wished to throw off the base yoke which fanaticism had endeavoured to wreath round their necks, had not a moment to lose. ‘The Covenanters,’” he said, “after having twice made war upon their sovereign, and having extorted from him every request, reasonable or unreasonable, which they thought proper to demand — after their Chiefs had been loaded with dignities and favours — after having publicly declared, when his Majesty, after a gracious visit to the land of his nativity, was upon his return to England, that he returned a contented king from a contented people — after all this, and without even the pretext for a national grievance, the same men have, upon doubts and suspicions, equally dishonourable to the King, and groundless in themselves, detached a strong army to assist his rebels in England, in a quarrel with which Scotland had no more to do than she has with the wars in Germany. It was well,” he said, “that the eagerness with which this treasonable purpose was pursued, had blinded the junta who now usurped the government of Scotland to the risk which they were about to incur. The army which they had dispatched to England under old Leven comprehended their veteran soldiers, the strength of those armies which had been levied in Scotland during the two former wars —”

Here Captain Dalgetty endeavoured to rise, for the purpose of explaining how many veteran officers, trained in the German wars, were, to his certain knowledge, in the army of the Earl of Leven. But Allan M’Aulay holding him down in his seat with one hand, pressed the fore-finger of the other upon his own lips, and, though with some difficulty, prevented his interference. Captain Dalgetty looked upon him with a very scornful and indignant air, by which the other’s gravity was in no way moved, and Lord Menteith proceeded without farther interruption.

“The moment,” he said, “was most favourable for all true-hearted and loyal Scotchmen to show, that the reproach their country had lately undergone arose from the selfish ambition of a few turbulent and seditious men, joined to the absurd fanaticism which, disseminated from five hundred pulpits, had spread like a land-flood over the Lowlands of Scotland. He had letters from the Marquis of Huntly in the north, which he should show to the Chiefs separately. That nobleman, equally loyal and powerful was determined to exert his utmost energy in the common cause, and the powerful Earl of Seaforth was prepared to join the same standard. From the Earl of Airly, and the Ogilvies in Angusshire, he had had communications equally decided; and there was no doubt that these, who, with the Hays, Leiths, Burnets, and other loyal gentlemen, would be soon on horseback, would form a body far more than sufficient to overawe the northern Covenanters, who had already experienced their valour in the well-known rout which was popularly termed the Trot of Turiff. South of Forth and Tay,” he said, “the King had many friends, who, oppressed by enforced oaths, compulsatory levies, heavy taxes, unjustly imposed and unequally levied, by the tyranny of the Committee of Estates, and the inquisitorial insolence of the Presbyterian divines, waited but the waving of the royal banner to take up arms. Douglas, Traquair, Roxburgh, Hume, all friendly to the royal cause, would counterbalance,” he said, “the covenanting interest in the south; and two gentlemen, of name and quality, here present, from the north of England, would answer for the zeal of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Northumberland. Against so many gallant gentlemen the southern Covenanters could but arm raw levies; the Whigamores of the western shires, and the ploughmen and mechanics of the Low-country. For the West Highlands, he knew no interest which the Covenanters possessed there, except that of one individual, as well known as he was odious. But was there a single man, who, on casting his eye round this hall, and recognising the power, the gallantry, and the dignity of the chiefs assembled, could entertain a moment’s doubt of their success against the utmost force which Gillespie Grumach could collect against them? He had only farther to add, that considerable funds, both of money and ammunition, had been provided for the army”—(Here Dalgetty pricked up his ears)—“that officers of ability and experience in the foreign wars, one of whom was now present,” (the Captain drew himself up, and looked round,) “had engaged to train such levies as might require to be disciplined; — and that a numerous body of auxiliary forces from Ireland, having been detached from the Earl of Antrim, from Ulster, had successfully accomplished their descent upon the main land, and, with the assistance of Clanranald’s people, having taken and fortified the Castle of Mingarry, in spite of Argyle’s attempts to intercept them, were in full march to this place of rendezvous. It only remained,” he said, “that the noble Chiefs assembled, laying aside every lesser consideration, should unite, heart and hand, in the common cause; send the fiery cross through their clans, in order to collect their utmost force, and form their junction with such celerity as to leave the enemy no time, either for preparation, or recovery from the panic which would spread at the first sound of their pibroch. He himself,” he said, “though neither among the richest nor the most powerful of the Scottish nobility, felt that he had to support the dignity of an ancient and honourable house, the independence of an ancient and honourable nation, and to that cause he was determined to devote both life and fortune. If those who were more powerful were equally prompt, he trusted they would deserve the thanks of their King, and the gratitude of posterity.”

Loud applause followed this speech of Lord Menteith, and testified the general acquiescence of all present in the sentiments which he had expressed; but when the shout had died away, the assembled Chiefs continued to gaze upon each other as if something yet remained to be settled. After some whispers among themselves, an aged man, whom his grey hairs rendered respectable, although he was not of the highest order of Chiefs, replied to what had been said.

“Thane of Menteith,” he said, “you have well spoken; nor is there one of us in whose bosom the same sentiments do not burn like fire. But it is not strength alone that wins the fight; it is the head of the commander, as well as the arm of the soldier, that brings victory. I ask of you who is to raise and sustain the banner under which we are invited to rise and muster ourselves? Will it be expected that we should risk our children, and the flower of our kinsmen, ere we know to whose guidance they are to be intrusted? This were leading those to slaughter, whom, by the laws of God and man, it is our duty to protect. Where is the royal commission, under which the lieges are to be convocated in arms? Simple and rude as we may be deemed, we know something of the established rules of war, as well as of the laws of our country; nor will we arm ourselves against the general peace of Scotland, unless by the express commands of the King, and under a leader fit to command such men as are here assembled.”

“Where would you find such a leader,” said another Chief, starting up, “saving the representative of the Lord of the Isles, entitled by birth and hereditary descent to lead forth the array of every clan of the Highlands; and where is that dignity lodged, save in the house of Vich Alister More?”

“I acknowledge,” said another Chief, eagerly interrupting the speaker, “the truth in what has been first said, but not the inference. If Vich Alister More desires to be held representative of the Lord of the Isles, let him first show his blood is redder than mine.”

“That is soon tried,” said Vich Alister More, laying his hand upon the basket hilt of his claymore. Lord Menteith threw himself between them, entreating and imploring each to remember that the interests of Scotland, the liberty of their country, and the cause of their King, ought to be superior in their eyes to any personal disputes respecting descent, rank, and precedence. Several of the Highland Chiefs, who had no desire to admit the claims of either chieftain, interfered to the same purpose, and none with more emphasis than the celebrated Evan Dhu.

“I have come from my lakes,” he said, “as a stream descends from the hills, not to turn again, but to accomplish my course. It is not by looking back to our own pretensions that we shall serve Scotland or King Charles. My voice shall be for that general whom the King shall name, who will doubtless possess those qualities which are necessary to command men like us. High-born he must be, or we shall lose our rank in obeying him — wise and skilful, or we shall endanger the safety of our people — bravest among the brave, or we shall peril our own honour — temperate, firm, and manly, to keep us united. Such is the man that must command us. Are you prepared, Thane of Menteith, to say where such a general is to be found?”

“There is but ONE,” said Allan M’Aulay; “and here,” he said, laying his hand upon the shoulder of Anderson, who stood behind Lord Menteith, “here he stands!”

The general surprise of the meeting was expressed by an impatient murmur; when Anderson, throwing back the cloak in which his face was muffled, and stepping forward, spoke thus:—“I did not long intend to be a silent spectator of this interesting scene, although my hasty friend has obliged me to disclose myself somewhat sooner than was my intention. Whether I deserve the honour reposed in me by this parchment will best appear from what I shall be able to do for the King’s service. It is a commission under the great seal, to James Graham, Earl of Montrose, to command those forces which are to be assembled for the service of his Majesty in this kingdom.”

A loud shout of approbation burst from the assembly. There was, in fact, no other person to whom, in point of rank, these proud mountaineers would have been disposed to submit. His inveterate and hereditary hostility to the Marquis of Argyle insured his engaging in the war with sufficient energy, while his well-known military talents, and his tried valour, afforded every hope of his bringing it to a favourable conclusion.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/legend/chapter7.html

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