“This Austin humbly did.” “Did he?” quoth he.
“Austin may do the same again for me.”
Pope’s Prologue to Canterbury Tales from Chaucer.
The course of our story will be best pursued by attending that of Simon Glover. It is not our purpose to indicate the exact local boundaries of the two contending clans, especially since they are not clearly pointed out by the historians who have transmitted accounts of this memorable feud. It is sufficient to say, that the territory of the Clan Chattan extended far and wide, comprehending Caithness and Sutherland, and having for their paramount chief the powerful earl of the latter shire, thence called Mohr ar Chat. In this general sense, the Keiths, the Sinclairs, the Guns, and other families and clans of great power, were included in the confederacy. These, however, were not engaged in the present quarrel, which was limited to that part of the Clan Chattan occupying the extensive mountainous districts of Perthshire and Inverness shire, which form a large portion of what is called the northeastern Highlands. It is well known that two large septs, unquestionably known to belong to the Clan Chattan, the MacPhersons and the MacIntoshes, dispute to this day which of their chieftains was at the head of this Badenoch branch of the great confederacy, and both have of later times assumed the title of Captain of Clan Chattan. Non nostrum est. But, at all events, Badenoch must have been the centre of the confederacy, so far as involved in the feud of which we treat.
Of the rival league of Clan Quhele we have a still less distinct account, for reasons which will appear in the sequel. Some authors have identified them with the numerous and powerful sept of MacKay. If this is done on good authority, which is to be doubted, the MacKays must have shifted their settlements greatly since the reign of Robert III, since they are now to be found (as a clan) in the extreme northern parts of Scotland, in the counties of Ross and Sutherland. We cannot, therefore, be so clear as we would wish in the geography of the story. Suffice it that, directing his course in a northwesterly direction, the glover travelled for a day’s journey in the direction of the Breadalbane country, from which he hoped to reach the castle where Gilchrist MacIan, the captain of the Clan Quhele, and the father of his pupil Conachar, usually held his residence, with a barbarous pomp of attendance and ceremonial suited to his lofty pretensions.
We need not stop to describe the toil and terrors of such a journey, where the path was to be traced among wastes and mountains, now ascending precipitous ravines, now plunging into inextricable bogs, and often intersected with large brooks, and even rivers. But all these perils Simon Glover had before encountered in quest of honest gain; and it was not to be supposed that he shunned or feared them where liberty, and life itself, were at stake.
The danger from the warlike and uncivilised inhabitants of these wilds would have appeared to another at least as formidable as the perils of the journey. But Simon’s knowledge of the manners and language of the people assured him on this point also. An appeal to the hospitality of the wildest Gael was never unsuccessful; and the kerne, that in other circumstances would have taken a man’s life for the silver button of his cloak, would deprive himself of a meal to relieve the traveller who implored hospitality at the door of his bothy. The art of travelling in the Highlands was to appear as confident and defenceless as possible; and accordingly the glover carried no arms whatever, journeyed without the least appearance of precaution, and took good care to exhibit nothing which might excite cupidity. Another rule which he deemed it prudent to observe was to avoid communication with any of the passengers whom he might chance to meet, except in the interchange of the common civilities of salutation, which the Highlanders rarely omit. Few opportunities occurred of exchanging even such passing greetings. The country, always lonely, seemed now entirely forsaken; and, even in the little straths or valleys which he had occasion to pass or traverse, the hamlets were deserted, and the inhabitants had betaken themselves to woods and caves. This was easily accounted for, considering the imminent dangers of a feud which all expected would become one of the most general signals for plunder and ravage that had ever distracted that unhappy country.
Simon began to be alarmed at this state of desolation. He had made a halt since he left Kinfauns, to allow his nag some rest; and now he began to be anxious how he was to pass the night. He had reckoned upon spending it at the cottage of an old acquaintance, called Niel Booshalloch (or the cow herd), because he had charge of numerous herds of cattle belonging to the captain of Clan Quhele, for which purpose he had a settlement on the banks of the Tay, not far from the spot where it leaves the lake of the same name. From this his old host and friend, with whom he had transacted many bargains for hides and furs, the old glover hoped to learn the present state of the country, the prospect of peace or war, and the best measures to be taken for his own safety. It will be remembered that the news of the indentures of battle entered into for diminishing the extent of the feud had only been communicated to King Robert the day before the glover left Perth, and did not become public till some time afterwards.
“If Niel Booshalloch hath left his dwelling like the rest of them, I shall be finely holped up,” thought Simon, “since I want not only the advantage of his good advice, but also his interest with Gilchrist MacIan; and, moreover, a night’s quarters and a supper.”
Thus reflecting, he reached the top of a swelling green hill, and saw the splendid vision of Loch Tay lying beneath him — an immense plate of polished silver, its dark heathy mountains and leafless thickets of oak serving as an arabesque frame to a magnificent mirror.
Indifferent to natural beauty at any time, Simon Glover was now particularly so; and the only part of the splendid landscape on which he turned his eye was an angle or loop of meadow land where the river Tay, rushing in full swoln dignity from its parent lake, and wheeling around a beautiful valley of about a mile in breadth, begins his broad course to the southeastward, like a conqueror and a legislator, to subdue and to enrich remote districts. Upon the sequestered spot, which is so beautifully situated between lake, mountain, and river, arose afterwards the feudal castle of the Ballough [Balloch is Gaelic for the discharge of a lake into a river], which in our time has been succeeded by the splendid palace of the Earls of Breadalbane.
But the Campbells, though they had already attained very great power in Argyleshire, had not yet extended themselves so far eastward as Loch Tay, the banks of which were, either by right or by mere occupancy, possessed for, the present by the Clan Quhele, whose choicest herds were fattened on the Balloch margin of the lake. In this valley, therefore, between the river and the lake, amid extensive forests of oak wood, hazel, rowan tree, and larches, arose the humble cottage of Niel Booshalloch, a village Eumaeus, whose hospitable chimneys were seen to smoke plentifully, to the great encouragement of Simon Glover, who might otherwise have been obliged to spend the night in the open air, to his no small discomfort.
He reached the door of the cottage, whistled, shouted, and made his approach known. There was a baying of hounds and collies, and presently the master of the hut came forth. There was much care on his brow, and he seemed surprised at the sight of Simon Glover, though the herdsman covered both as well as he might; for nothing in that region could be reckoned more uncivil than for the landlord to suffer anything to escape him in look or gesture which might induce the visitor to think that his arrival was an unpleasing, or even an unexpected, incident. The traveller’s horse was conducted to a stable, which was almost too low to receive him, and the glover himself was led into the mansion of the Booshalloch, where, according to the custom of the country, bread and cheese was placed before the wayfarer, while more solid food was preparing. Simon, who understood all their habits, took no notice of the obvious marks of sadness on the brow of his entertainer and on those of the family, until he had eaten somewhat for form’s sake, after which he asked the general question, “Was there any news in the country?”
“Bad news as ever were told,” said the herdsman: “our father is no more.”
“How!” said Simon, greatly alarmed, “is the captain of the Clan Quhele dead?”
“The captain of the Clan Quhele never dies,” answered the Booshalloch; “but Gilchrist MacIan died twenty hours since, and his son, Eachin MacIan, is now captain.”
“What, Eachin — that is Conachar — my apprentice?”
“As little of that subject as you list, brother Simon,” said the herdsman. “It is to be remembered, friend, that your craft, which doth very well for a living in the douce city of Perth, is something too mechanical to be much esteemed at the foot of Ben Lawers and on the banks of Loch Tay. We have not a Gaelic word by which we can even name a maker of gloves.”
“It would be strange if you had, friend Niel,” said Simon, drily, “having so few gloves to wear. I think there be none in the whole Clan Quhele, save those which I myself gave to Gilchrist MacIan, whom God assoilzie, who esteemed them a choice propine. Most deeply do I regret his death, for I was coming to him on express business.”
“You had better turn the nag’s head southward with morning light,” said the herdsman. “The funeral is instantly to take place, and it must be with short ceremony; for there is a battle to be fought by the Clan Quhele and the Clan Chattan, thirty champions on a side, as soon as Palm Sunday next, and we have brief time either to lament the dead or honour the living.”
“Yet are my affairs so pressing, that I must needs see the young chief, were it but for a quarter of an hour,” said the glover.
“Hark thee, friend,” replied his host, “I think thy business must be either to gather money or to make traffic. Now, if the chief owe thee anything for upbringing or otherwise, ask him not to pay it when all the treasures of the tribe are called in for making gallant preparation of arms and equipment for their combatants, that we may meet these proud hill cats in a fashion to show ourselves their superiors. But if thou comest to practise commerce with us, thy time is still worse chosen. Thou knowest that thou art already envied of many of our tribe, for having had the fosterage of the young chief, which is a thing usually given to the best of the clan.”’
“But, St. Mary, man!” exclaimed the glover, “men should remember the office was not conferred on me as a favour which I courted, but that it was accepted by me on importunity and entreaty, to my no small prejudice. This Conachar, or Hector, of yours, or whatever you call him, has destroyed me doe skins to the amount of many pounds Scots.”
“There again, now,” said the Booshalloch, “you have spoken word to cost your life — any allusion to skins or hides, or especially to deer and does — may incur no less a forfeit. The chief is young, and jealous of his rank; none knows the reason better than thou, friend Glover. He will naturally wish that everything concerning the opposition to his succession, and having reference to his exile, should be totally forgotten; and he will not hold him in affection who shall recall the recollection of his people, or force back his own, upon what they must both remember with pain. Think how, at such a moment, they will look on the old glover of Perth, to whom the chief was so long apprentice! Come — come, old friend, you have erred in this. You are in over great haste to worship the rising sun, while his beams are yet level with the horizon. Come thou when he has climbed higher in the heavens, and thou shalt have thy share of the warmth of his noonday height.”
“Niel Booshalloch,” said the glover, “we have been old friends, as thou say’st; and as I think thee a true one, I will speak to thee freely, though what I say might be perilous if spoken to others of thy clan. Thou think’st I come hither to make my own profit of thy young chief, and it is natural thou shouldst think so. But I would not, at my years, quit my own chimney corner in Curfew Street to bask me in the beams of the brightest sun that ever shone upon Highland heather. The very truth is, I come hither in extremity: my foes have the advantage of me, and have laid things to my charge whereof I am incapable, even in thought. Nevertheless, doom is like to go forth against me, and there is no remedy but that I must up and fly, or remain and perish. I come to your young chief, as one who had refuge with me in his distress — who ate of my bread and drank of my cup. I ask of him refuge, which, as I trust, I shall need but a short time.”
“That makes a different case,” replied the herdsman. “So different, that, if you came at midnight to the gate of MacIan, having the King of Scotland’s head in your hand, and a thousand men in pursuit for the avenging of his blood, I could not think it for his honour to refuse you protection. And for your innocence or guilt, it concerns not the case; or rather, he ought the more to shelter you if guilty, seeing your necessity and his risk are both in that case the greater. I must straightway to him, that no hasty tongue tell him of your arriving hither without saying the cause.”
“A pity of your trouble,” said the glover; “but where lies the chief?”
“He is quartered about ten miles hence, busied with the affairs of the funeral, and with preparations for the combat — the dead to the grave and the living to battle.”
“It is a long way, and will take you all night to go and come,” said the glover; “and I am very sure that Conachar when he knows it is I who —”
“Forget Conachar,” said the herdsman, placing his finger on his lips. “And as for the ten miles, they are but a Highland leap, when one bears a message between his friend and his chief.”
So saying, and committing the traveller to the charge of his eldest son and his daughter, the active herdsman left his house two hours before midnight, to which he returned long before sunrise. He did not disturb his wearied guest, but when the old man had arisen in the morning he acquainted him that the funeral of the late chieftain was to take place the same day, and that, although Eachin MacIan could not invite a Saxon to the funeral, he would be glad to receive him at the entertainment which was to follow.
“His will must be obeyed,” said the glover, half smiling at the change of relation between himself and his late apprentice. “The man is the master now, and I trust he will remember that, when matters were otherwise between us, I did not use my authority ungraciously.”
“Troutsho, friend!” exclaimed the Booshalloch, “the less of that you say the better. You will find yourself a right welcome guest to Eachin, and the deil a man dares stir you within his bounds. But fare you well, for I must go, as beseems me, to the burial of the best chief the clan ever had, and the wisest captain that ever cocked the sweet gale (bog myrtle) in his bonnet. Farewell to you for a while, and if you will go to the top of the Tom an Lonach behind the house, you will see a gallant sight, and hear such a coronach as will reach the top of Ben Lawers. A boat will wait for you, three hours hence, at a wee bit creek about half a mile westward from the head of the Tay.”
With these words he took his departure, followed by his three sons, to man the boat in which he was to join the rest of the mourners, and two daughters, whose voices were wanted to join in the lament, which was chanted, or rather screamed, on such occasions of general affliction.
Simon Glover, finding himself alone, resorted to the stable to look after his nag, which, he found, had been well served with graddan, or bread made of scorched barley. Of this kindness he was fully sensible, knowing that, probably, the family had little of this delicacy left to themselves until the next harvest should bring them a scanty supply. In animal food they were well provided, and the lake found them abundance of fish for their lenten diet, which they did not observe very strictly; but bread was a delicacy very scanty in the Highlands. The bogs afforded a soft species of hay, none of the best to be sure; but Scottish horses, like their riders, were then accustomed to hard fare.
Gauntlet, for this was the name of the palfrey, had his stall crammed full of dried fern for litter, and was otherwise as well provided for as Highland hospitality could contrive.
Simon Glover being thus left to his own painful reflections, nothing better remained, after having seen after the comforts of the dumb companion of his journey, than to follow the herdsman’s advice; and ascending towards the top of an eminence called Tom an Lonach, or the Knoll of Yew Trees, after a walk of half an hour he reached the summit, and could look down on the broad expanse of the lake, of which the height commanded a noble view. A few aged and scattered yew trees of great size still vindicated for the beautiful green hill the name attached to it. But a far greater number had fallen a sacrifice to the general demand for bow staves in that warlike age, the bow being a weapon much used by the mountaineers, though those which they employed, as well as their arrows, were, in shape and form, and especially in efficacy, far inferior to the archery of merry England. The dark and shattered individual yews which remained were like the veterans of a broken host, occupying in disorder some post of advantage, with the stern purpose of resisting to the last. Behind this eminence, but detached from it, arose a higher hill, partly covered with copsewood, partly opening into glades of pasture, where the cattle strayed, finding, at this season of the year, a scanty sustenance among the spring heads and marshy places, where the fresh grass began first to arise.
The opposite or northern shore of the lake presented a far more Alpine prospect than that upon which the glover was stationed. Woods and thickets ran up the sides of the mountains, and disappeared among the sinuosities formed by the winding ravines which separated them from each other; but far above these specimens of a tolerable natural soil arose the swart and bare mountains themselves, in the dark grey desolation proper to the season.
Some were peaked, some broad crested, some rocky and precipitous, others of a tamer outline; and the clan of Titans seemed to be commanded by their appropriate chieftains — the frowning mountain of Ben Lawers, and the still more lofty eminence of Ben Mohr, arising high above the rest, whose peaks retain a dazzling helmet of snow far into the summer season, and sometimes during the whole year. Yet the borders of this wild and silvan region, where the mountains descended upon the lake, intimated, even at that early period, many traces of human habitation. Hamlets were seen, especially on the northern margin of the lake, half hid among the little glens that poured their tributary streams into Loch Tay, which, like many earthly things, made a fair show at a distance, but, when more closely approached, were disgustful and repulsive, from their squalid want of the conveniences which attend even Indian wigwams. They were inhabited by a race who neither cultivated the earth nor cared for the enjoyments which industry procures. The women, although otherwise treated with affection, and even delicacy of respect, discharged all the absolutely necessary domestic labour. The men, excepting some reluctant use of an ill formed plough, or more frequently a spade, grudgingly gone through, as a task infinitely beneath them, took no other employment than the charge of the herds of black cattle, in which their wealth consisted. At all other times they hunted, fished, or marauded, during the brief intervals of peace, by way of pastime; plundering with bolder license, and fighting with embittered animosity, in time of war, which, public or private, upon a broader or more restricted scale, formed the proper business of their lives, and the only one which they esteemed worthy of them.
The magnificent bosom of the lake itself was a scene to gaze on with delight. Its noble breadth, with its termination in a full and beautiful run, was rendered yet more picturesque by one of those islets which are often happily situated in the Scottish lakes. The ruins upon that isle, now almost shapeless, being overgrown with wood rose, at the time we speak of, into the towers and pinnacles of a priory, where slumbered the remains of Sibylla, daughter of Henry I of England, and consort of Alexander the First of Scotland. This holy place had been deemed of dignity sufficient to be the deposit of the remains of the captain of the Clan Quhele, at least till times when the removal of the danger, now so imminently pressing, should permit of his body being conveyed to a distinguished convent in the north, where he was destined ultimately to repose with all his ancestry.
A number of boats pushed off from various points of the near and more distant shore, many displaying sable banners, and others having their several pipers in the bow, who from time to time poured forth a few notes of a shrill, plaintive, and wailing character, and intimated to the glover that the ceremony was about to take place. These sounds of lamentation were but the tuning as it were of the instruments, compared with the general wail which was speedily to be raised.
A distant sound was heard from far up the lake, even as it seemed from the remote and distant glens out of which the Dochart and the Lochy pour their streams into Loch Tay. It was in a wild, inaccessible spot, where the Campbells at a subsequent period founded their strong fortress of Finlayrigg, that the redoubted commander of the Clan Quhele drew his last breath; and, to give due pomp to his funeral, his corpse was now to be brought down the loch to the island assigned for his temporary place of rest. The funeral fleet, led by the chieftain’s barge, from which a huge black banner was displayed, had made more than two thirds of its voyage ere it was visible from the eminence on which Simon Glover stood to overlook the ceremony. The instant the distant wail of the coronach was heard proceeding from the attendants on the funeral barge, all the subordinate sounds of lamentation were hushed at once, as the raven ceases to croak and the hawk to whistle whenever the scream of the eagle is heard. The boats, which had floated hither and thither upon the lake, like a flock of waterfowl dispersing themselves on its surface, now drew together with an appearance of order, that the funeral flotilla might pass onward, and that they themselves might fall into their proper places. In the mean while the piercing din of the war pipes became louder and louder, and the cry from the numberless boats which followed that from which the black banner of the chief was displayed rose in wild unison up to the Tom an Lonach, from which the glover viewed the spectacle. The galley which headed the procession bore on its poop a species of scaffold, upon which, arrayed in white linen, and with the face bare, was displayed the corpse of the deceased chieftain. His son and the nearest relatives filled the vessel, while a great number of boats, of every description that could be assembled, either on Loch Tay itself or brought by land carriage from Loch Earn and otherwise, followed in the rear, some of them of very frail materials. There were even curraghs, composed of ox hides stretched over hoops of willow, in the manner of the ancient British, and some committed themselves to rafts formed for the occasion, from the readiest materials that occurred, and united in such a precarious manner as to render it probable that, before the accomplishment of the voyage, some of the clansmen of the deceased might be sent to attend their chieftain in the world of spirits.
When the principal flotilla came in sight of the smaller group of boats collected towards the foot of the lake, and bearing off from the little island, they hailed each other with a shout so loud and general, and terminating in a cadence so wildly prolonged, that not only the deer started from their glens for miles around, and sought the distant recesses of the mountains, but even the domestic cattle, accustomed to the voice of man, felt the full panic which the human shout strikes into the wilder tribes, and like them fled from their pasture into morasses and dingles.
Summoned forth from their convent by those sounds, the monks who inhabited the little islet began to issue from their lowly portal, with cross and banner, and as much of ecclesiastical state as they had the means of displaying; their bells at the same time, of which the edifice possessed three, pealing the death toll over the long lake, which came to the ears of the now silent multitude, mingled with the solemn chant of the Catholic Church, raised by the monks in their procession. Various ceremonies were gone through, while the kindred of the deceased carried the body ashore, and, placing it on a bank long consecrated to the purpose, made the deasil around the departed. When the corpse was uplifted to be borne into the church, another united yell burst from the assembled multitude, in which the deep shout of warriors and the shrill wail of females joined their notes with the tremulous voice of age and the babbling cry of childhood. The coronach was again, and for the last time, shrieked as the body was carried into the interior of the church, where only the nearest relatives of the deceased and the most distinguished of the leaders of the clan were permitted to enter. The last yell of woe was so terribly loud, and answered by so many hundred echoes, that the glover instinctively raised his hands to his ears, to shut out, or deaden at least, a sound so piercing. He kept this attitude while the hawks, owls, and other birds, scared by the wild scream, had begun to settle in their retreats, when, as he withdrew his hands, a voice close by him said:
“Think you this, Simon Glover, the hymn of penitence and praise with which it becomes poor forlorn man, cast out from his tenement of clay, to be wafted into the presence of his maker?”
The glover turned, and in the old man with a long white beard who stood close beside him had no difficulty, from the clear mild eye and the benevolent cast of features, to recognise the Carthusian monk Father Clement, no longer wearing his monastic habiliments, but wrapped in a frieze mantle and having a Highland cap on his head.
It may be recollected that the glover regarded this man with a combined feeling of respect and dislike — respect, which his judgment could not deny to the monk’s person and character, and dislike, which arose from Father Clement’s peculiar doctrines being the cause of his daughter’s exile and his own distress. It was not, therefore, with sentiments of unmixed satisfaction that he returned the greetings of the father, and replied to the reiterated question, what he thought of the funeral rites which were discharged in so wild a manner: “I know not, my good father; but these men do their duty to their deceased chief according to the fashion of their ancestors: they mean to express their regret for their friend’s loss and their prayers to Heaven in his behalf; and that which is done of goodwill must, to my thinking, be accepted favourably. Had it been otherwise, methinks they had ere now been enlightened to do better.”
“Thou art deceived,” answered the monk. “God has sent His light amongst us all, though in various proportions; but man wilfully shuts his eyes and prefers darkness. This benighted people mingle with the ritual of the Roman Church the old heathen ceremonies of their own fathers, and thus unite with the abominations of a church corrupted by wealth and power the cruel and bloody ritual of savage paynims.”
“Father,” said Simon, abruptly, “methinks your presence were more useful in yonder chapel, aiding your brethren in the discharge of their clerical duties, than in troubling and unsettling the belief of an humble though ignorant Christian like myself.”
“And wherefore say, good brother, that I would unfix thy principles of belief?” answered Clement. “So Heaven deal with me, as, were my life blood necessary to cement the mind of any man to the holy religion he professeth, it should be freely poured out for the purpose.”
“Your speech is fair, father, I grant you,” said the glover; “but if I am to judge the doctrine by the fruits, Heaven has punished me by the hand of the church for having hearkened thereto. Ere I heard you, my confessor was little moved though I might have owned to have told a merry tale upon the ale bench, even if a friar or a nun were the subject. If at a time I had called Father Hubert a better hunter of hares than of souls, I confessed me to the Vicar Vinesauf, who laughed and made me pay a reckoning for penance; or if I had said that the Vicar Vinesauf was more constant to his cup than to his breviary, I confessed me to Father Hubert, and a new hawking glove made all well again; and thus I, my conscience, and Mother Church lived together on terms of peace, friendship, and mutual forbearance. But since I have listened to you, Father Clement, this goodly union is broke to pieces, and nothing is thundered in my ear but purgatory in the next world and fire and fagot in this. Therefore, avoid you, Father Clement, or speak to those who can understand your doctrine. I have no heart to be a martyr: I have never in my whole life had courage enough so much as to snuff a candle with my fingers; and, to speak the truth, I am minded to go back to Perth, sue out my pardon in the spiritual court, carry my fagot to the gallows foot in token of recantation, and purchase myself once more the name of a good Catholic, were it at the price of all the worldly wealth that remains to me.”
“You are angry, my dearest brother,” said Clement, “and repent you on the pinch of a little worldly danger and a little worldly loss for the good thoughts which you once entertained.”
“You speak at ease, Father Clement, since I think you have long forsworn the wealth and goods of the world, and are prepared to yield up your life when it is demanded in exchange for the doctrine you preach and believe. You are as ready to put on your pitched shirt and brimstone head gear as a naked man is to go to his bed, and it would seem you have not much more reluctance to the ceremony. But I still wear that which clings to me. My wealth is still my own, and I thank Heaven it is a decent pittance whereon to live; my life, too, is that of a hale old man of sixty, who is in no haste to bring it to a close; and if I were poor as Job and on the edge of the grave, must I not still cling to my daughter, whom your doctrines have already cost so dear?”
“Thy daughter, friend Simon,” said the Carmelite [Carthusian], “may be truly called an angel upon earth.”
“Ay, and by listening to your doctrines, father, she is now like to be called on to be an angel in heaven, and to be transported thither in a chariot of fire.”
“Nay, my good brother,” said Clement, “desist, I pray you, to speak of what you little understand. Since it is wasting time to show thee the light that thou chafest against, yet listen to that which I have to say touching thy daughter, whose temporal felicity, though I weigh it not even for an instant in the scale against that which is spiritual, is, nevertheless, in its order, as dear to Clement Blair as to her own father.”
The tears stood in the old man’s eyes as he spoke, and Simon Glover was in some degree mollified as he again addressed him.
“One would think thee, Father Clement, the kindest and most amiable of men; how comes it, then, that thy steps are haunted by general ill will wherever thou chancest to turn them? I could lay my life thou hast contrived already to offend yonder half score of poor friars in their water girdled cage, and that you have been prohibited from attendance on the funeral?”
“Even so, my son,” said the Carthusian, “and I doubt whether their malice will suffer me to remain in this country. I did but speak a few sentences about the superstition and folly of frequenting St. Fillan’s church, to detect theft by means of his bell, of bathing mad patients in his pool, to cure their infirmity of mind; and lo! the persecutors have cast me forth of their communion, as they will speedily cast me out of this life.”
“Lo you there now,” said the glover, “see what it is for a man that cannot take a warning! Well, Father Clement, men will not cast me forth unless it were as a companion of yours. I pray you, therefore, tell me what you have to say of my daughter, and let us be less neighbours than we have been.”
“This, then, brother Simon, I have to acquaint you with. This young chief, who is swoln with contemplation of his own power and glory, loves one thing better than it all, and that is thy daughter.”
“He, Conachar!” exclaimed Simon. “My runagate apprentice look up to my daughter!”
“Alas!” said Clement, “how close sits our worldly pride, even as ivy clings to the wall, and cannot be separated! Look up to thy daughter, good Simon? Alas, no! The captain of Clan Quhele, great as he is, and greater as he soon expects to be, looks down to the daughter of the Perth burgess, and considers himself demeaned in doing so. But, to use his own profane expression, Catharine is dearer to him than life here and Heaven hereafter: he cannot live without her.”
“Then he may die, if he lists,” said Simon Glover, “for she is betrothed to an honest burgess of Perth; and I would not break my word to make my daughter bride to the Prince of Scotland.”
“I thought it would be your answer,” replied the monk; “I would, worthy friend, thou couldst carry into thy spiritual concerns some part of that daring and resolved spirit with which thou canst direct thy temporal affairs.”
“Hush thee — hush, Father Clement!” answered the glover; “when thou fallest into that vein of argument, thy words savour of blazing tar, and that is a scent I like not. As to Catharine, I must manage as I can, so as not to displease the young dignitary; but well is it for me that she is far beyond his reach.”
“She must then be distant indeed,” said the Carmelite [Carthusian]. “And now, brother Simon, since you think it perilous to own me and my opinions, I must walk alone with my own doctrines and the dangers they draw on me. But should your eye, less blinded than it now is by worldly hopes and fears, ever turn a glance back on him who soon may be snatched from you, remember, that by nought save a deep sense of the truth and importance of the doctrine which he taught could Clement Blair have learned to encounter, nay, to provoke, the animosity of the powerful and inveterate, to alarm the fears of the jealous and timid, to walk in the world as he belonged not to it, and to be accounted mad of men, that he might, if possible, win souls to God. Heaven be my witness, that I would comply in all lawful things to conciliate the love and sympathy of my fellow creatures! It is no light thing to be shunned by the worthy as an infected patient, to be persecuted by the Pharisees of the day as an unbelieving heretic, to be regarded with horror at once and contempt by the multitude, who consider me as a madman, who may be expected to turn mischievous. But were all those evils multiplied an hundredfold, the fire within must not be stifled, the voice which says within me ‘Speak’ must receive obedience. Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel, even should I at length preach it from amidst the pile of flames!”
So spoke this bold witness, one of those whom Heaven raised up from time to time to preserve amidst the most ignorant ages, and to carry down to those which succeed them, a manifestation of unadulterated Christianity, from the time of the Apostles to the age when, favoured by the invention of printing, the Reformation broke out in full splendour. The selfish policy of the glover was exposed in his own eyes; and he felt himself contemptible as he saw the Carthusian turn from him in all the hallowedness of resignation. He was even conscious of a momentary inclination to follow the example of the preacher’s philanthropy and disinterested zeal, but it glanced like a flash of lightning through a dark vault, where there lies nothing to catch the blaze; and he slowly descended the hill in a direction different from that of the Carthusian, forgetting him and his doctrines, and buried in anxious thoughts about his child’s fate and his own.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00