Rob Roy, by Walter Scott

Volume Two

Helen MacGregor
Helen MacGregor

Chapter First

And hurry, hurry, off they rode,

As fast as fast might be;

Hurra, hurra, the dead can ride,

Dost fear to ride with me?

Burger.

There is one advantage in an accumulation of evils, differing in cause and character, that the distraction which they afford by their contradictory operation prevents the patient from being overwhelmed under either. I was deeply grieved at my separation from Miss Vernon, yet not so much so as I should have been, had not my father’s apprehended distresses forced themselves on my attention; and I was distressed by the news of Mr. Tresham, yet less so than if they had fully occupied my mind. I was neither a false lover nor an unfeeling son; but man can give but a certain portion of distressful emotions to the causes which demand them; and if two operate at once, our sympathy, like the funds of a compounding bankrupt, can only be divided between them. Such were my reflections when I gained my apartment — it seems, from the illustration, they already began to have a twang of commerce in them.

I set myself seriously to consider your father’s letter. It was not very distinct, and referred for several particulars to Owen, whom I was entreated to meet with as soon as possible at a Scotch town called Glasgow; being informed, moreover, that my old friend was to be heard of at Messrs. MacVittie, MacFin, and Company, merchants in the Gallowgate of the said town. It likewise alluded to several letters — which, as it appeared to me, must have miscarried or have been intercepted, and complained of my obdurate silence, in terms which would have, been highly unjust, had my letters reached their purposed destination. I was amazed as I read. That the spirit of Rashleigh walked around me, and conjured up these doubts and difficulties by which I was surrounded, I could not doubt for one instant; yet it was frightful to conceive the extent of combined villany and power which he must have employed in the perpetration of his designs. Let me do myself justice in one respect. The evil of parting from Miss Vernon, however distressing it might in other respects and at another time have appeared to me, sunk into a subordinate consideration when I thought of the dangers impending over my father. I did not myself set a high estimation on wealth, and had the affectation of most young men of lively imagination, who suppose that they can better dispense with the possession of money, than resign their time and faculties to the labour necessary to acquire it. But in my father’s case, I knew that bankruptcy would be considered as an utter and irretrievable disgrace, to which life would afford no comfort, and death the speediest and sole relief.

My mind, therefore, was bent on averting this catastrophe, with an intensity which the interest could not have produced had it referred to my own fortunes; and the result of my deliberation was a firm resolution to depart from Osbaldistone Hall the next day and wend my way without loss of time to meet Owen at Glasgow. I did not hold it expedient to intimate my departure to my uncle, otherwise than by leaving a letter of thanks for his hospitality, assuring him that sudden and important business prevented my offering them in person. I knew the blunt old knight would readily excuse ceremony; and I had such a belief in the extent and decided character of Rashleigh’s machinations, that I had some apprehension of his having provided means to intercept a journey which was undertaken with a view to disconcert them, if my departure were publicly announced at Osbaldistone Hall.

I therefore determined to set off on my journey with daylight on the ensuing morning, and to gain the neighbouring kingdom of Scotland before any idea of my departure was entertained at the Hall. But one impediment of consequence was likely to prevent that speed which was the soul of my expedition. I did not know the shortest, nor indeed any road to Glasgow; and as, in the circumstances in which I stood, despatch was of the greatest consequence, I determined to consult Andrew Fairservice on the subject, as the nearest and most authentic authority within my reach. Late as it was, I set off with the intention of ascertaining this important point, and after a few minutes’ walk reached the dwelling of the gardener.

Andrew’s dwelling was situated at no great distance from the exterior wall of the garden — a snug comfortable Northumbrian cottage, built of stones roughly dressed with the hammer, and having the windows and doors decorated with huge heavy architraves, or lintels, as they are called, of hewn stone, and its roof covered with broad grey flags, instead of slates, thatch, or tiles. A jargonelle pear-tree at one end of the cottage, a rivulet and flower-plot of a rood in extent in front, and a kitchen-garden behind; a paddock for a cow, and a small field, cultivated with several crops of grain, rather for the benefit of the cottager than for sale, announced the warm and cordial comforts which Old England, even at her most northern extremity, extends to her meanest inhabitants.

As I approached the mansion of the sapient Andrew, I heard a noise, which, being of a nature peculiarly solemn, nasal, and prolonged, led me to think that Andrew, according to the decent and meritorious custom of his countrymen, had assembled some of his neighbours to join in family exercise, as he called evening devotion. Andrew had indeed neither wife, child, nor female inmate in his family. “The first of his trade,” he said, “had had eneugh o’thae cattle.” But, notwithstanding, he sometimes contrived to form an audience for himself out of the neighbouring Papists and Church-of-Englandmen — brands, as he expressed it, snatched out of the burning, on whom he used to exercise his spiritual gifts, in defiance alike of Father Vaughan, Father Docharty, Rashleigh, and all the world of Catholics around him, who deemed his interference on such occasions an act of heretical interloping. I conceived it likely, therefore, that the well-disposed neighbours might have assembled to hold some chapel of ease of this nature. The noise, however, when I listened to it more accurately, seemed to proceed entirely from the lungs of the said Andrew; and when I interrupted it by entering the house, I found Fairservice alone, combating as he best could, with long words and hard names, and reading aloud, for the purpose of his own edification, a volume of controversial divinity.

“I was just taking a spell,” said he, laying aside the huge folio volume as I entered, “of the worthy Doctor Lightfoot.”

“Lightfoot!” I replied, looking at the ponderous volume with some surprise; “surely your author was unhappily named.”

“Lightfoot was his name, sir; a divine he was, and another kind of a divine than they hae now-adays. Always, I crave your pardon for keeping ye standing at the door, but having been mistrysted (gude preserve us!) with ae bogle the night already, I was dubious o’ opening the yett till I had gaen through the e’ening worship; and I had just finished the fifth chapter of Nehemiah — if that winna gar them keep their distance, I wotna what will.”

“Trysted with a bogle!” said I; “what do you mean by that, Andrew?”

“I said mistrysted,” replied Andrew; “that is as muckle as to say, fley’d wi’ a ghaist — Gude preserve us, I say again!”

“Flay’d by a ghost, Andrew! how am I to understand that?”

“I did not say flay’d,” replied Andrew, “but fley’d, — that is, I got a fleg, and was ready to jump out o’ my skin, though naebody offered to whirl it aff my body as a man wad bark a tree.”

“I beg a truce to your terrors in the present case, Andrew, and I wish to know whether you can direct me the nearest way to a town in your country of Scotland, called Glasgow?”

“A town ca’d Glasgow!” echoed Andrew Fairservice. “Glasgow’s a ceety, man. — And is’t the way to Glasgow ye were speering if I ken’d? — What suld ail me to ken it? — it’s no that dooms far frae my ain parish of Dreepdaily, that lies a bittock farther to the west. But what may your honour be gaun to Glasgow for?”

“Particular business,” replied I.

“That’s as muckle as to say, Speer nae questions, and I’ll tell ye nae lees. — To Glasgow?”— he made a short pause —“I am thinking ye wad be the better o’ some ane to show you the road.”

“Certainly, if I could meet with any person going that way.”

“And your honour, doubtless, wad consider the time and trouble?”

“Unquestionably — my business is pressing, and if you can find any guide to accompany me, I’ll pay him handsomely.”

“This is no a day to speak o’ carnal matters,” said Andrew, casting his eyes upwards; “but if it werena Sabbath at e’en, I wad speer what ye wad be content to gie to ane that wad bear ye pleasant company on the road, and tell ye the names of the gentlemen’s and noblemen’s seats and castles, and count their kin to ye?”

“I tell you, all I want to know is the road I must travel; I will pay the fellow to his satisfaction — I will give him anything in reason.”

“Onything,” replied Andrew, “is naething; and this lad that I am speaking o’ kens a’ the short cuts and queer by-paths through the hills, and”—

“I have no time to talk about it, Andrew; do you make the bargain for me your own way.”

“Aha! that’s speaking to the purpose,” answered Andrew. —“I am thinking, since sae be that sae it is, I’ll be the lad that will guide you mysell.”

“You, Andrew? — how will you get away from your employment?”

“I tell’d your honour a while syne, that it was lang that I hae been thinking o’ flitting, maybe as lang as frae the first year I came to Osbaldistone Hall; and now I am o’ the mind to gang in gude earnest — better soon as syne — better a finger aff as aye wagging.”

“You leave your service, then? — but will you not lose your wages?”

“Nae doubt there will be a certain loss; but then I hae siller o’ the laird’s in my hands that I took for the apples in the auld orchyard — and a sair bargain the folk had that bought them — a wheen green trash — and yet Sir Hildebrand’s as keen to hae the siller (that is, the steward is as pressing about it) as if they had been a’ gowden pippins — and then there’s the siller for the seeds — I’m thinking the wage will be in a manner decently made up. — But doubtless your honour will consider my risk of loss when we win to Glasgow — and ye’ll be for setting out forthwith?”

“By day-break in the morning,” I answered.

“That’s something o’ the suddenest — whare am I to find a naig? — Stay — I ken just the beast that will answer me.”

“At five in the morning, then, Andrew, you will meet me at the head of the avenue.”

“Deil a fear o’ me (that I suld say sae) missing my tryste,” replied Andrew, very briskly; “and if I might advise, we wad be aff twa hours earlier. I ken the way, dark or light, as weel as blind Ralph Ronaldson, that’s travelled ower every moor in the country-side, and disna ken the colour of a heather-cowe when a’s dune.”

I highly approved of Andrew’s amendment on my original proposal, and we agreed to meet at the place appointed at three in the morning. At once, however, a reflection came across the mind of my intended travelling companion.

“The bogle! the bogle! what if it should come out upon us? — I downa forgather wi’ thae things twice in the four-and-twenty hours.”

“Pooh! pooh!” I exclaimed, breaking away from him, “fear nothing from the next world — the earth contains living fiends, who can act for themselves without assistance, were the whole host that fell with Lucifer to return to aid and abet them.”

With these words, the import of which was suggested by my own situation, I left Andrew’s habitation, and returned to the Hall.

I made the few preparations which were necessary for my proposed journey, examined and loaded my pistols, and then threw myself on my bed, to obtain, if possible, a brief sleep before the fatigue of a long and anxious journey. Nature, exhausted by the tumultuous agitations of the day, was kinder to me than I expected, and I stink into a deep and profound slumber, from which, however, I started as the old clock struck two from a turret adjoining to my bedchamber. I instantly arose, struck a light, wrote the letter I proposed to leave for my uncle, and leaving behind me such articles of dress as were cumbrous in carriage, I deposited the rest of my wardrobe in my valise, glided down stairs, and gained the stable without impediment. Without being quite such a groom as any of my cousins, I had learned at Osbaldistone Hall to dress and saddle my own horse, and in a few minutes I was mounted and ready for my sally.

As I paced up the old avenue, on which the waning moon threw its light with a pale and whitish tinge, I looked back with a deep and boding sigh towards the walls which contained Diana Vernon, under the despondent impression that we had probably parted to meet no more. It was impossible, among the long and irregular lines of Gothic casements, which now looked ghastly white in the moonlight, to distinguish that of the apartment which she inhabited. “She is lost to me already,” thought I, as my eye wandered over the dim and indistinguishable intricacies of architecture offered by the moonlight view of Osbaldistone Hall —“She is lost to me already, ere I have left the place which she inhabits! What hope is there of my maintaining any correspondence with her, when leagues shall lie between?”

While I paused in a reverie of no very pleasing nature, the “iron tongue of time told three upon the drowsy ear of night,” and reminded me of the necessity of keeping my appointment with a person of a less interesting description and appearance — Andrew Fairservice.

At the gate of the avenue I found a horseman stationed in the shadow of the wall, but it was not until I had coughed twice, and then called “Andrew,” that the horticulturist replied, “I’se warrant it’s Andrew.”

“Lead the way, then,” said I, “and be silent if you can, till we are past the hamlet in the valley.”

Andrew led the way accordingly, and at a much brisker pace than I would have recommended. — and so well did he obey my injunctions of keeping silence, that he would return no answer to my repeated inquiries into the cause of such unnecessary haste. Extricating ourselves by short cuts, known to Andrew, from the numerous stony lanes and by-paths which intersected each other in the vicinity of the Hall, we reached the open heath and riding swiftly across it, took our course among the barren hills which divide England from Scotland on what are called the Middle Marches. The way, or rather the broken track which we occupied, was a happy interchange of bog and shingles; nevertheless, Andrew relented nothing of his speed, but trotted manfully forward at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour. I was both surprised and provoked at the fellow’s obstinate persistence, for we made abrupt ascents and descents over ground of a very break-neck character, and traversed the edge of precipices, where a slip of the horse’s feet would have consigned the rider to certain death. The moon, at best, afforded a dubious and imperfect light; but in some places we were so much under the shade of the mountain as to be in total darkness, and then I could only trace Andrew by the clatter of his horse’s feet, and the fire which they struck from the flints. At first, this rapid motion, and the attention which, for the sake of personal safety, I was compelled to give to the conduct of my horse, was of service, by forcibly diverting my thoughts from the various painful reflections which must otherwise have pressed on my mind. But at length, after hallooing repeatedly to Andrew to ride slower, I became seriously incensed at his impudent perseverance in refusing either to obey or to reply to me. My anger was, however, quite impotent. I attempted once or twice to get up alongside of my self-willed guide, with the purpose of knocking him off his horse with the butt-end of my whip; but Andrew was better mounted than I, and either the spirit of the animal which he bestrode, or more probably some presentiment of my kind intentions towards him, induced him to quicken his pace whenever I attempted to make up to him. On the other hand, I was compelled to exert my spurs to keep him in sight, for without his guidance I was too well aware that I should never find my way through the howling wilderness which we now traversed at such an unwonted pace. I was so angry at length, that I threatened to have recourse to my pistols, and send a bullet after the Hotspur Andrew, which should stop his fiery-footed career, if he did not abate it of his own accord. Apparently this threat made some impression on the tympanum of his ear, however deaf to all my milder entreaties; for he relaxed his pace upon hearing it, and, suffering me to close up to him, observed, “There wasna muckle sense in riding at sic a daft-like gate.”

“And what did you mean by doing so at all, you self-willed scoundrel?” replied I; for I was in a towering passion — to which, by the way, nothing contributes more than the having recently undergone a spice of personal fear, which, like a few drops of water flung on a glowing fire, is sure to inflame the ardour which it is insufficient to quench.

“What’s your honour’s wull?” replied Andrew, with impenetrable gravity.

“My will, you rascal? — I have been roaring to you this hour to ride slower, and you have never so much as answered me — Are you drunk or mad to behave so?”

“An it like your honour, I am something dull o’ hearing; and I’ll no deny but I might have maybe taen a stirrup-cup at parting frae the auld bigging whare I hae dwelt sae lang; and having naebody to pledge, nae doubt I was obliged to do mysell reason, or else leave the end o’ the brandy stoup to thae papists — and that wad be a waste, as your honour kens.”

This might be all very true — and my circumstances required that I should be on good terms with my guide; I therefore satisfied myself with requiring of him to take his directions from me in future concerning the rate of travelling.

Andrew, emboldened by the mildness of my tone, elevated his own into the pedantic, conceited octave, which was familiar to him on most occasions.

“Your honour winna persuade me, and naebody shall persuade me, that it’s either halesome or prudent to tak the night air on thae moors without a cordial o’ clow-gilliflower water, or a tass of brandy or aquavitae, or sic-like creature-comfort. I hae taen the bent ower the Otterscrape-rigg a hundred times, day and night, and never could find the way unless I had taen my morning; mair by token that I had whiles twa bits o’ ankers o’ brandy on ilk side o’ me.”—

“In other words, Andrew,” said I, “you were a smuggler — how does a man of your strict principles reconcile yourself to cheat the revenue?”

“It’s a mere spoiling o’ the Egyptians,” replied Andrew; “puir auld Scotland suffers eneugh by thae blackguard loons o’ excisemen and gaugers, that hae come down on her like locusts since the sad and sorrowfu’ Union; it’s the part of a kind son to bring her a soup o’ something that will keep up her auld heart — and that will they nill they, the ill-fa’ard thieves!”

Upon more particular inquiry, I found Andrew had frequently travelled these mountain-paths as a smuggler, both before and after his establishment at Osbaldistone Hall — a circumstance which was so far of importance to me, as it proved his capacity as a guide, notwithstanding the escapade of which he had been guilty at his outset, Even now, though travelling at a more moderate pace, the stirrup-cup, or whatever else had such an effect in stimulating Andrew’s motions, seemed not totally to have lost its influence. He often cast a nervous and startled look behind him; and whenever the road seemed at all practicable, showed symptoms of a desire to accelerate his pace, as if he feared some pursuit from the rear. These appearances of alarm gradually diminished as we reached the top of a high bleak ridge, which ran nearly east and west for about a mile, with a very steep descent on either side. The pale beams of the morning were now enlightening the horizon, when Andrew cast a look behind him, and not seeing the appearance of a living being on the moors which he had travelled, his hard features gradually unbent, as he first whistled, then sung, with much glee and little melody, the end of one of his native songs —

“Jenny, lass! I think I hae her

Ower the muir amang the heather,

All their clan shall never get her.”

He patted at the same time the neck of the horse which had carried him so gallantly; and my attention being directed by that action to the animal, I instantly recognised a favourite mare of Thorncliff Osbaldistone. “How is this, sir?” said I sternly; “that is Mr. Thorncliff’s mare!”

“I’ll no say but she may aiblins hae been his honour’s Squire Thorncliff’s in her day — but she’s mine now.”

“You have stolen her, you rascal.”

“Na, na, sir — nae man can wyte me wi’ theft. The thing stands this gate, ye see. Squire Thorncliff borrowed ten punds o’ me to gang to York Races — deil a boddle wad he pay me back again, and spake o’ raddling my banes, as he ca’d it, when I asked him but for my ain back again; — now I think it will riddle him or he gets his horse ower the Border again — unless he pays me plack and bawbee, he sall never see a hair o’ her tail. I ken a canny chield at Loughmaben, a bit writer lad, that will put me in the way to sort him. Steal the mear! na, na, far be the sin o’ theft frae Andrew Fairservice — I have just arrested her jurisdictionis fandandy causey. Thae are bonny writer words — amaist like the language o’ huz gardeners and other learned men — it’s a pity they’re sae dear; — thae three words were a’ that Andrew got for a lang law-plea and four ankers o’ as gude brandy as was e’er coupit ower craig — Hech, sirs! but law’s a dear thing.”

“You are likely to find it much dearer than you suppose, Andrew, if you proceed in this mode of paying yourself, without legal authority.”

“Hout tout, we’re in Scotland now (be praised for’t!) and I can find baith friends and lawyers, and judges too, as weel as ony Osbaldistone o’ them a’. My mither’s mither’s third cousin was cousin to the Provost o’ Dumfries, and he winna see a drap o’ her blude wranged. Hout awa! the laws are indifferently administered here to a’ men alike; it’s no like on yon side, when a chield may be whuppit awa’ wi’ ane o’ Clerk Jobson’s warrants, afore he kens where he is. But they will hae little enough law amang them by and by, and that is ae grand reason that I hae gi’en them gude-day.”

I was highly provoked at the achievement of Andrew, and considered it as a hard fate, which a second time threw me into collision with a person of such irregular practices. I determined, however, to buy the mare of him, when he should reach the end of our journey, and send her back to my cousin at Osbaldistone Hall; and with this purpose of reparation I resolved to make my uncle acquainted from the next post-town. It was needless, I thought, to quarrel with Andrew in the meantime, who had, after all, acted not very unnaturally for a person in his circumstances. I therefore smothered my resentment, and asked him what he meant by his last expressions, that there would be little law in Northumberland by and by?

“Law!” said Andrew, “hout, ay — there will be club-law eneugh. The priests and the Irish officers, and thae papist cattle that hae been sodgering abroad, because they durstna bide at hame, are a’ fleeing thick in Northumberland e’enow; and thae corbies dinna gather without they smell carrion. As sure as ye live, his honour Sir Hildebrand is gaun to stick his horn in the bog — there’s naething but gun and pistol, sword and dagger, amang them — and they’ll be laying on, I’se warrant; for they’re fearless fules the young Osbaldistone squires, aye craving your honour’s pardon.”

This speech recalled to my memory some suspicions that I myself had entertained, that the Jacobites were on the eve of some desperate enterprise. But, conscious it did not become me to be a spy on my uncle’s words and actions, I had rather avoided than availed myself of any opportunity which occurred of remarking upon the signs of the times. — Andrew Fairservice felt no such restraint, and doubtless spoke very truly in stating his conviction that some desperate plots were in agitation, as a reason which determined his resolution to leave the Hall.

“The servants,” he stated, “with the tenantry and others, had been all regularly enrolled and mustered, and they wanted me to take arms also. But I’ll ride in nae siccan troop — they little ken’d Andrew that asked him. I’ll fight when I like mysell, but it sall neither be for the hure o’ Babylon, nor any hure in England.”

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