Within the bounds of Annandale
The gentle Johnstones ride;
They have been there a thousand years,
A thousand more they’ll bide.
The character and quality of Sir Patrick Charteris, the Provost of Perth, being such as we have sketched in the last chapter, let us now return to the deputation which was in the act of rendezvousing at the East Port, in order to wait upon that dignitary with their complaints at Kinfauns.
And first appeared Simon Glover, on a pacing palfrey, which had sometimes enjoyed the honour of bearing the fairer person as well as the lighter weight of his beautiful daughter. His cloak was muffled round the lower part of his face, as a sign to his friends not to interrupt him by any questions while he passed through the streets, and partly, perhaps, on account of the coldness of the weather. The deepest anxiety was seated on his brow, as if the more he meditated on the matter he was engaged in, the more difficult and perilous it appeared. He only greeted by silent gestures his friends as they came to the rendezvous.
A strong black horse, of the old Galloway breed, of an under size, and not exceeding fourteen hands, but high shouldered, strong limbed, well coupled, and round barrelled, bore to the East Port the gallant smith. A judge of the animal might see in his eye a spark of that vicious temper which is frequently the accompaniment of the form that is most vigorous and enduring; but the weight, the hand, and the seat of the rider, added to the late regular exercise of a long journey, had subdued his stubbornness for the present. He was accompanied by the honest bonnet maker, who being, as the reader is aware, a little round man, and what is vulgarly called duck legged, had planted himself like a red pincushion (for he was wrapped in a scarlet cloak, over which he had slung a hawking pouch), on the top of a great saddle, which he might be said rather to be perched upon than to bestride. The saddle and the man were girthed on the ridge bone of a great trampling Flemish mare, with a nose turned up in the air like a camel, a huge fleece of hair at each foot, and every hoof full as large in circumference as a frying pan. The contrast between the beast and the rider was so extremely extraordinary, that, whilst chance passengers contented themselves with wondering how he got up, his friends were anticipating with sorrow the perils which must attend his coming down again; for the high seated horseman’s feet did not by any means come beneath the laps of the saddle. He had associated himself to the smith, whose motions he had watched for the purpose of joining him; for it was Oliver Proudfute’s opinion that men of action showed to most advantage when beside each other; and he was delighted when some wag of the lower class had gravity enough to cry out, without laughing outright: “There goes the pride of Perth — there go the slashing craftsmen, the jolly Smith of the Wynd and the bold bonnet maker!”
It is true, the fellow who gave this all hail thrust his tongue in his cheek to some scapegraces like himself; but as the bonnet maker did not see this byplay, he generously threw him a silver penny to encourage his respect for martialists. This munificence occasioned their being followed by a crowd of boys, laughing and hallooing, until Henry Smith, turning back, threatened to switch the foremost of them — a resolution which they did not wait to see put in execution.
“Here are we the witnesses,” said the little man on the large horse, as they joined Simon Glover at the East Port; “but where are they that should back us? Ah, brother Henry! authority is a load for an ass rather than a spirited horse: it would but clog the motions of such young fellows as you and me.”
“I could well wish to see you bear ever so little of that same weight, worthy Master Proudfute,” replied Henry Gow, “were it but to keep you firm in the saddle; for you bounce aloft as if you were dancing a jig on your seat, without any help from your legs.”
“Ay — ay; I raise myself in my stirrups to avoid the jolting. She is cruelly hard set this mare of mine; but she has carried me in field and forest, and through some passages that were something perilous, so Jezabel and I part not. I call her Jezabel, after the Princess of Castile.”
“Isabel, I suppose you mean,” answered the smith.
“Ay — Isabel, or Jezabel — all the same, you know. But here comes Bailie Craigdallie at last, with that poor, creeping, cowardly creature the pottingar. They have brought two town officers with their partizans, to guard their fair persons, I suppose. If there is one thing I hate more than another, it is such a sneaking varlet as that Dwining.”
“Have a care he does not hear you say so,” said the smith, “I tell thee, bonnet maker, that there is more danger in yonder slight wasted anatomy than in twenty stout fellows like yourself.”
“Pshaw! Bully Smith, you are but jesting with me,” said Oliver, softening his voice, however, and looking towards the pottingar, as if to discover in what limb or lineament of his wasted face and form lay any appearance of the menaced danger; and his examination reassuring him, he answered boldly: “Blades and bucklers, man, I would stand the feud of a dozen such as Dwining. What could he do to any man with blood in his veins?”
“He could give him a dose of physic,” answered the smith drily.
They had no time for further colloquy, for Bailie Craigdallie called to them to take the road to Kinfauns, and himself showed the example. As they advanced at a leisurely pace, the discourse turned on the reception which they were to expect from their provost, and the interest which he was likely to take in the aggression which they complained of. The glover seemed particularly desponding, and talked more than once in a manner which implied a wish that they would yet consent to let the matter rest. He did not speak out very plainly, however, fearful, perhaps, of the malignant interpretation which might be derived from any appearance of his flinching from the assertion of his daughter’s reputation. Dwining seemed to agree with him in opinion, but spoke more cautiously than in the morning.
“After all,” said the bailie, “when I think of all the propines and good gifts which have passed from the good town to my Lord Provost’s, I cannot think he will be backward to show himself. More than one lusty boat, laden with Bordeaux wine, has left the South Shore to discharge its burden under the Castle of Kinfauns. I have some right to speak of that, who was the merchant importer.”
“And,” said Dwining, with his squeaking voice, “I could speak of delicate confections, curious comfits, loaves of wastel bread, and even cakes of that rare and delicious condiment which men call sugar, that have gone thither to help out a bridal banquet, or a kirstening feast, or suchlike. But, alack, Bailie Craigdallie, wine is drunk, comfits are eaten, and the gift is forgotten when the flavour is past away. Alas! neighbour, the banquet of last Christmas is gone like the last year’s snow.”
“But there have been gloves full of gold pieces,” said the magistrate.
“I should know that who wrought them,” said Simon, whose professional recollections still mingled with whatever else might occupy his mind. “One was a hawking glove for my lady. I made it something wide. Her ladyship found no fault, in consideration of the intended lining.”
“Well, go to,” said Bailie Craigdallie, “the less I lie; and if these are not to the fore, it is the provost’s fault, and not the town’s: they could neither be eat nor drunk in the shape in which he got them.”
“I could speak of a brave armour too,” said the smith; “but, cogan na schie! [Peace or war, I care not!] as John Highlandman says — I think the knight of Kinfauns will do his devoir by the burgh in peace or war; and it is needless to be reckoning the town’s good deeds till we see him thankless for them.”
“So say I,” cried our friend Proudfute, from the top of his mare. “We roystering blades never bear so base a mind as to count for wine and walnuts with a friend like Sir Patrick Charteris. Nay, trust me, a good woodsman like Sir Patrick will prize the right of hunting and sporting over the lands of the burgh as an high privilege, and one which, his Majesty the King’s Grace excepted, is neither granted to lord nor loon save to our provost alone.”
As the bonnet maker spoke, there was heard on the left hand the cry of, “So so — waw waw — haw,” being the shout of a falconer to his hawk.
“Methinks yonder is a fellow using the privilege you mention, who, from his appearance, is neither king nor provost,” said the smith.
“Ay, marry, I see him,” said the bonnet maker, who imagined the occasion presented a prime opportunity to win honour. “Thou and I, jolly smith, will prick towards him and put him to the question.”
“Have with you, then,” cried the smith; and his companion spurred his mare and went off, never doubting that Gow was at his heels.
But Craigdallie caught Henry’s horse by the reins. “Stand fast by the standard,” he said; “let us see the luck of our light horseman. If he procures himself a broken pate he will be quieter for the rest of the day.”
“From what I already see,” said the smith, “he may easily come by such a boon. Yonder fellow, who stops so impudently to look at us, as if he were engaged in the most lawful sport in the world — I guess him, by his trotting hobbler, his rusty head piece with the cock’s feather, and long two handed sword, to be the follower of some of the southland lords — men who live so near the Southron, that the black jack is never off their backs, and who are as free of their blows as they are light in their fingers.”
Whilst they were thus speculating on the issue of the rencounter the valiant bonnet maker began to pull up Jezabel, in order that the smith, who he still concluded was close behind, might overtake him, and either advance first or at least abreast of himself. But when he saw him at a hundred yards distance, standing composedly with the rest of the group, the flesh of the champion, like that of the old Spanish general, began to tremble, in anticipation of the dangers into which his own venturous spirit was about to involve it. Yet the consciousness of being countenanced by the neighbourhood of so many friends, the hopes that the appearance of such odds must intimidate the single intruder, and the shame of abandoning an enterprise in which he had volunteered, and when so many persons must witness his disgrace, surmounted the strong inclination which prompted him to wheel Jezabel to the right about, and return to the friends whose protection he had quitted, as fast as her legs could carry them. He accordingly continued his direction towards the stranger, who increased his alarm considerably by putting his little nag in motion, and riding to meet him at a brisk trot. On observing this apparently offensive movement, our hero looked over his left shoulder more than once, as if reconnoitring the ground for a retreat, and in the mean while came to a decided halt. But the Philistine was upon him ere the bonnet maker could decide whether to fight or fly, and a very ominous looking Philistine he was. His figure was gaunt and lathy, his visage marked by two or three ill favoured scars, and the whole man had much the air of one accustomed to say, “Stand and deliver,” to a true man.
This individual began the discourse by exclaiming, in tones as sinister as his looks, “The devil catch you for a cuckoo, why do you ride across the moor to spoil my sport?”
“Worthy stranger,” said our friend, in the tone of pacific remonstrance, “I am Oliver Proudfute, a burgess of Perth, and a man of substance; and yonder is the worshipful Adam Craigdallie, the oldest bailie of the burgh, with the fighting Smith of the Wynd, and three or four armed men more, who desire to know your name, and how you come to take your pleasure over these lands belonging to the burgh of Perth; although, natheless, I will answer for them, it is not their wish to quarrel with a gentleman, or stranger for any accidental trespass; only it is their use and wont not to grant such leave, unless it is duly asked; and — and — therefore I desire to know your name, worthy sir.”
The grim and loathly aspect with which the falconer had regarded Oliver Proudfute during his harangue had greatly disconcerted him, and altogether altered the character of the inquiry which, with Henry Gow to back him, he would probably have thought most fitting for the occasion.
The stranger replied to it, modified as it was, with a most inauspicious grin, which the scars of his visage made appear still more repulsive. “You want to know my name? My name is the Devil’s Dick of Hellgarth, well known in Annandale for a gentle Johnstone. I follow the stout Laird of Wamphray, who rides with his kinsman the redoubted Lord of Johnstone, who is banded with the doughty Earl of Douglas; and the earl and the lord, and the laird and I, the esquire, fly our hawks where we find our game, and ask no man whose ground we ride over.”
“I will do your message, sir,” replied Oliver Proudfute, meekly enough; for he began to be very desirous to get free of the embassy which he had so rashly undertaken, and was in the act of turning his horse’s head, when the Annandale man added:
“And take you this to boot, to keep you in mind that you met the Devil’s Dick, and to teach you another time to beware how you spoil the sport of any one who wears the flying spur on his shoulder.”
With these words he applied two or three smart blows of his riding rod upon the luckless bonnet maker’s head and person. Some of them lighted upon Jezabel, who, turning sharply round, laid her rider upon the moor, and galloped back towards the party of citizens.
Proudfute, thus overthrown, began to cry for assistance in no very manly voice, and almost in the same breath to whimper for mercy; for his antagonist, dismounting almost as soon as he fell, offered a whinger, or large wood knife, to his throat, while he rifled the pockets of the unlucky citizen, and even examined his hawking bag, swearing two or three grisly oaths, that he would have what it contained, since the wearer had interrupted his sport. He pulled the belt rudely off, terrifying the prostrate bonnet maker still more by the regardless violence which he used, as, instead of taking the pains to unbuckle the strap, he drew till the fastening gave way. But apparently it contained nothing to his mind. He threw it carelessly from him, and at the same time suffered the dismounted cavalier to rise, while he himself remounted his hobbler, and looked towards the rest of Oliver’s party, who were now advancing.
When they had seen their delegate overthrown, there was some laughter; so much had the vaunting humor of the bonnet maker prepared his friends to rejoice when, as Henry Smith termed it, they saw the Oliver meet with a Rowland. But when the bonnet maker’s adversary was seen to bestride him, and handle him in the manner described, the armourer could hold out no longer.
“Please you, good Master Bailie, I cannot endure to see our townsman beaten and rifled, and like to be murdered before us all. It reflects upon the Fair Town, and if it is neighbour Proudfute’s misfortune, it is our shame. I must to his rescue.”
“We will all go to his rescue,” answered Bailie Craigdallie; “but let no man strike without order from me. We have more feuds on our hands, it is to be feared, than we have strength to bring to good end. And therefore I charge you all, more especially you, Henry of the Wynd, in the name of the Fair City, that you make no stroke but in self defence.”
They all advanced, therefore, in a body; and the appearance of such a number drove the plunderer from his booty. He stood at gaze, however, at some distance, like the wolf, which, though it retreats before the dogs, cannot be brought to absolute flight.
Henry, seeing this state of things, spurred his horse and advanced far before the rest of the party, up towards the scene of Oliver Proudfute’s misfortune. His first task was to catch Jezabel by the flowing rein, and his next to lead her to meet her discomfited master, who was crippling towards him, his clothes much soiled with his fall, his eyes streaming with tears, from pain as well as mortification, and altogether exhibiting an aspect so unlike the spruce and dapper importance of his ordinary appearance, that the honest smith felt compassion for the little man, and some remorse at having left him exposed to such disgrace. All men, I believe, enjoy an ill natured joke. The difference is, that an ill natured person can drink out to the very dregs the amusement which it affords, while the better moulded mind soon loses the sense of the ridiculous in sympathy for the pain of the sufferer.
“Let me pitch you up to your saddle again, neighbour,” said the smith, dismounting at the same time, and assisting Oliver to scramble into his war saddle, as a monkey might have done.
“May God forgive you, neighbour Smith, for not backing of me! I would not have believed in it, though fifty credible witnesses had sworn it of you.”
Such were the first words, spoken in sorrow more than anger, by which the dismayed Oliver vented his feelings.
“The bailie kept hold of my horse by the bridle; and besides,” Henry continued, with a smile, which even his compassion could not suppress, “I thought you would have accused me of diminishing your honour, if I brought you aid against a single man. But cheer up! the villain took foul odds of you, your horse not being well at command.”
“That is true — that is true,” said Oliver, eagerly catching at the apology.
“And yonder stands the faitour, rejoicing at the mischief he has done, and triumphing in your overthrow, like the king in the romance, who played upon the fiddle whilst a city was burning. Come thou with me, and thou shalt see how we will handle him. Nay, fear not that I will desert thee this time.”
So saying, he caught Jezabel by the rein, and galloping alongside of her, without giving Oliver time to express a negative, he rushed towards the Devil’s Dick, who had halted on the top of a rising ground at some distance. The gentle Johnstone, however, either that he thought the contest unequal, or that he had fought enough for the day, snapping his fingers and throwing his hand out with an air of defiance, spurred his horse into a neighbouring bog, through which he seemed to flutter like a wild duck, swinging his lure round his head, and whistling to his hawk all the while, though any other horse and rider must have been instantly bogged up to the saddle girths.
“There goes a thoroughbred moss trooper,” said the smith. “That fellow will fight or flee as suits his humor, and there is no use to pursue him, any more than to hunt a wild goose. He has got your purse, I doubt me, for they seldom leave off till they are full handed.”
“Ye — ye — yes,” said Proudfute, in a melancholy tone, “he has got my purse; but there is less matter since he hath left the hawking bag.”
“Nay, the hawking bag had been an emblem of personal victory, to be sure — a trophy, as the minstrels call it.”
“There is more in it than that, friend,” said Oliver, significantly.
“Why, that is well, neighbour: I love to hear you speak in your own scholarly tone again. Cheer up, you have seen the villain’s back, and regained the trophies you had lost when taken at advantage.”
“Ah, Henry Gow — Henry Gow —” said the bonnet maker, and stopped short with a deep sigh, nearly amounting to a groan.
“What is the matter?” asked his friend —“what is it you vex yourself about now?”
“I have some suspicion, my dearest friend, Henry Smith, that the villain fled for fear of you, not of me.”
“Do not think so,” replied the armourer: “he saw two men and fled, and who can tell whether he fled for one or the other? Besides, he knows by experience your strength and activity: we all saw how you kicked and struggled when you were on the ground.”
“Did I?” said poor Proudfute. “I do not remember it, but I know it is my best point: I am a strong dog in the loins. But did they all see it?”
“All as much as I,” said the smith, smothering an inclination to laughter.
“But thou wilt remind them of it?”
“Be assured I will,” answered Henry, “and of thy desperate rally even now. Mark what I say to Bailie Craigdallie, and make the best of it.”
“It is not that I require any evidence in thy favour, for I am as brave by nature as most men in Perth; but only —” Here the man of valour paused.
“But only what?” inquired the stout armourer.
“But only I am afraid of being killed. To leave my pretty wife and my young family, you know, would be a sad change, Smith. You will know this when it is your own case, and will feel abated in courage.”
“It is like that I may,” said the armourer, musing.
“Then I am so accustomed to the use of arms, and so well breathed, that few men can match me. It’s all here,” said the little man, expanding his breast like a trussed fowl, and patting himself with his hands —“here is room for all the wind machinery.”
“I dare say you are long breathed — long winded; at least your speech bewrays —”
“My speech! You are a wag — But I have got the stern post of a dromond brought up the river from Dundee.”
“The stern post of a Drummond!” exclaimed the armourer; “conscience, man, it will put you in feud with the whole clan — not the least wrathful in the country, as I take it.”
“St. Andrew, man, you put me out! I mean a dromond — that is, a large ship. I have fixed this post in my yard, and had it painted and carved something like a soldan or Saracen, and with him I breathe myself, and will wield my two handed sword against him, thrust or point, for an hour together.”
“That must make you familiar with the use of your weapon,” said the smith.
“Ay, marry does it; and sometimes I will place you a bonnet — an old one, most likely — on my soldan’s head, and cleave it with such a downright blow that in troth, the infidel has but little of his skull remaining to hit at.”
“That is unlucky, for you will lose your practice,” said Henry. “But how say you, bonnet maker? I will put on my head piece and corselet one day, and you shall hew at me, allowing me my broadsword to parry and pay back? Eh, what say you?”
“By no manner of means, my dear friend. I should do you too much evil; besides, to tell you the truth, I strike far more freely at a helmet or bonnet when it is set on my wooden soldan; then I am sure to fetch it down. But when there is a plume of feathers in it that nod, and two eyes gleaming fiercely from under the shadow of the visor, and when the whole is dancing about here and there, I acknowledge it puts out my hand of fence.”
“So, if men would but stand stock still like your soldan, you would play the tyrant with them, Master Proudfute?”
“In time, and with practice, I conclude I might,” answered Oliver. “But here we come up with the rest of them. Bailie Craigdallie looks angry, but it is not his kind of anger that frightens me.”
You are to recollect, gentle reader, that as soon as the bailie and those who attended him saw that the smith had come up to the forlorn bonnet maker, and that the stranger had retreated, they gave themselves no trouble about advancing further to his assistance, which they regarded as quite ensured by the presence of the redoubted Henry Gow. They had resumed their straight road to Kinfauns, desirous that nothing should delay the execution of their mission. As some time had elapsed ere the bonnet maker and the smith rejoined the party, Bailie Craigdallie asked them, and Henry Smith in particular, what they meant by dallying away precious time by riding uphill after the falconer.
“By the mass, it was not my fault, Master Bailie,” replied the smith. “If ye will couple up an ordinary Low Country greyhound with a Highland wolf dog, you must not blame the first of them for taking the direction in which it pleases the last to drag him on. It was so, and not otherwise, with my neighbour Oliver Proudfute. He no sooner got up from the ground, but he mounted his mare like a flash of lightning, and, enraged at the unknightly advantage which yonder rascal had taken of his stumbling horse, he flew after him like a dromedary. I could not but follow, both to prevent a second stumble and secure our over bold friend and champion from the chance of some ambush at the top of the hill. But the villain, who is a follower of some Lord of the Marches, and wears a winged spur for his cognizance, fled from our neighbour like fire from flint.”
The senior bailie of Perth listened with surprise to the legend which it had pleased Gow to circulate; for, though not much caring for the matter, he had always doubted the bonnet maker’s romancing account of his own exploits, which hereafter he must hold as in some degree orthodox.
The shrewd old glover looked closer into the matter. “You will drive the poor bonnet maker mad,” he whispered to Henry, “and set him a-ringing his clapper as if he were a town bell on a rejoicing day, when for order and decency it were better he were silent.”
“Oh, by Our Lady, father,” replied the smith, “I love the poor little braggadocio, and could not think of his sitting rueful and silent in the provost’s hall, while all the rest of them, and in especial that venomous pottingar, were telling their mind.”
“Thou art even too good natured a fellow, Henry,” answered Simon. “But mark the difference betwixt these two men. The harmless little bonnet maker assumes the airs of a dragon, to disguise his natural cowardice; while the pottingar wilfully desires to show himself timid, poor spirited, and humble, to conceal the danger of his temper. The adder is not the less deadly that he creeps under a stone. I tell thee, son Henry, that, for all his sneaking looks and timorous talking, this wretched anatomy loves mischief more than he fears danger. But here we stand in front of the provost’s castle; and a lordly place is Kinfauns, and a credit to the city it is, to have the owner of such a gallant castle for its chief magistrate.”
“A goodly fortalice, indeed,” said the smith, looking at the broad winding Tay, as it swept under the bank on which the castle stood, like its modern successor, and seemed the queen of the valley, although, on the opposite side of the river, the strong walls of Elcho appeared to dispute the pre-eminence. Elcho, however, was in that age a peaceful nunnery, and the walls with which it was surrounded were the barriers of secluded vestals, not the bulwarks of an armed garrison.
“’Tis a brave castle,” said the armourer, again looking at the towers of Kinfauns, “and the breastplate and target of the bonny course of the Tay. It were worth lipping a good blade, before wrong were offered to it.”
The porter of Kinfauns, who knew from a distance the persons and characters of the party, had already opened the courtyard gate for their entrance, and sent notice to Sir Patrick Charteris that the eldest bailie of Perth, with some other good citizens, were approaching the castle. The good knight, who was getting ready for a hawking party, heard the intimation with pretty much the same feelings that the modern representative of a burgh hears of the menaced visitation of a party of his worthy electors, at a time rather unseasonable for their reception. That is, he internally devoted the intruders to Mahound and Termagaunt, and outwardly gave orders to receive them with all decorum and civility; commanded the sewers to bring hot venison steaks and cold baked meats into the knightly hall with all despatch, and the butler to broach his casks, and do his duty; for if the Fair City of Perth sometimes filled his cellar, her citizens were always equally ready to assist at emptying his flagons.
The good burghers were reverently marshalled into the hall, where the knight, who was in a riding habit, and booted up to the middle of his thighs, received them with a mixture of courtesy and patronising condescension; wishing them all the while at the bottom of the Tay, on account of the interruption their arrival gave to his proposed amusement of the morning. He met them in the midst of the hall, with bare head and bonnet in hand, and some such salutation as the following:
“Ha, my Master Eldest Bailie, and you, worthy Simon Glover, fathers of the Fair City, and you, my learned pottingar, and you, stout smith, and my slashing bonnet maker too, who cracks more skulls than he covers, how come I to have the pleasure of seeing so many friends so early? I was thinking to see my hawks fly, and your company will make the sport more pleasant —(Aside, I trust in Our Lady they may break their necks!)— that is, always, unless the city have any commands to lay on me. Butler Gilbert, despatch, thou knave. But I hope you have no more grave errand than to try if the malvoisie holds its flavour?”
The city delegates answered to their provost’s civilities by inclinations and congees, more or less characteristic, of which the pottingar’s bow was the lowest and the smith’s the least ceremonious. Probably he knew his own value as a fighting man upon occasion. To the general compliment the elder bailie replied.
“Sir Patrick Charteris, and our noble Lord Provost,” said Craigdallie, gravely, “had our errand been to enjoy the hospitality with which we have been often regaled here, our manners would have taught us to tarry till your lordship had invited us, as on other occasions. And as to hawking, we have had enough on’t for one morning; since a wild fellow, who was flying a falcon hard by on the moor, unhorsed and cudgelled our worthy friend Oliver Bonnet Maker, or Proudfute, as some men call him, merely because he questioned him, in your honour’s name, and the town of Perth’s, who or what he was that took so much upon him.”
“And what account gave he of himself?” said the provost. “By St. John! I will teach him to forestall my sport!”
“So please your lordship,” said the bonnet maker, “he did take me at disadvantage. But I got on horseback again afterwards, and pricked after him gallantly. He calls himself Richard the Devil.”
“How, man! he that the rhymes and romances are made on?” said the provost. “I thought that smaik’s name had been Robert.”
“I trow they be different, my lord. I only graced this fellow with the full title, for indeed he called himself the Devil’s Dick, and said he was a Johnstone, and a follower of the lord of that name. But I put him back into the bog, and recovered my hawking bag, which he had taken when I was at disadvantage.”
Sir Patrick paused for an instant. “We have heard,” said he, “of the Lord of Johnstone, and of his followers. Little is to be had by meddling with them. Smith, tell me, did you endure this?”
“Ay, faith did I, Sir Patrick, having command from my betters not to help.”
“Well, if thou satst down with it,” said the provost, “I see not why we should rise up; especially as Master Oliver Proudfute, though taken at advantage at first, has, as he has told us; recovered his reputation and that of the burgh. But here comes the wine at length. Fill round to my good friends and guests till the wine leap over the cup. Prosperity to St. Johnston, and a merry welcome to you all, my honest friends! And now sit you to eat a morsel, for the sun is high up, and it must be long since you thrifty men have broken your fast.”
“Before we eat, my Lord Provost,” said the bailie, “let us tell you the pressing cause of our coming, which as yet we have not touched upon.”
“Nay, prithee, bailie,” said the provost, “put it off till thou hast eaten. Some complaint against the rascally jackmen and retainers of the nobles, for playing at football on the streets of the burgh, or some such goodly matter.”
“No, my lord,” said Craigdallie, stoutly and firmly. “It is the jackmen’s masters of whom we complain, for playing at football with the honour of our families, and using as little ceremony with our daughters’ sleeping chambers as if they were in a bordel at Paris. A party of reiving night walkers — courtiers and men of rank, as there is but too much reason to believe — attempted to scale the windows of Simon Glover’s house last night; they stood in their defence with drawn weapons when they were interrupted by Henry Smith, and fought till they were driven off by the rising of the citizens.”
“How!” said Sir Patrick, setting down the cup which he was about to raise to his head. “Cock’s body, make that manifest to me, and, by the soul of Thomas of Longueville, I will see you righted with my best power, were it to cost me life and land. Who attests this? Simon Glover, you are held an honest and a cautious man — do you take the truth of this charge upon your conscience?”
“My lord,” said Simon, “understand I am no willing complainer in this weighty matter. No damage has arisen, save to the breakers of the peace themselves. I fear only great power could have encouraged such lawless audacity; and I were unwilling to put feud between my native town and some powerful nobleman on my account. But it has been said that, if I hang back in prosecuting this complaint, it will be as much as admitting that my daughter expected such a visit, which is a direct falsehood. Therefore, my lord, I will tell your lordship what happened, so far as I know, and leave further proceeding to your wisdom.”
He then told, from point to point, all that he had seen of the attack.
Sir Patrick Charteris, listening with much attention, seemed particularly struck with the escape of the man who had been made prisoner.
“Strange,” he said, “that you did not secure him when you had him. Did you not look at him so as to know him again?”
“I had but the light of a lantern, my Lord Provost; and as to suffering him to escape, I was alone,” said the glover, “and old. But yet I might have kept him, had I not heard my daughter shriek in the upper room; and ere I had returned from her chamber the man had escaped through the garden.”
“Now, armourer, as a true man and a good soldier,” said Sir Patrick, “tell me what you know of this matter.”
Henry Gow, in his own decided style, gave a brief but clear narrative of the whole affair.
Honest Proudfute being next called upon, began his statement with an air of more importance. “Touching this awful and astounding tumult within the burgh, I cannot altogether, it is true, say with Henry Gow that I saw the very beginning. But it will not be denied that I beheld a great part of the latter end, and especially that I procured the evidence most effectual to convict the knaves.”
“And what is it, man?” said Sir Patrick Charteris. “Never lose time fumbling and prating about it. What is it?”
“I have brought your lordship, in this pouch, what one of the rogues left behind him,” said the little man. “It is a trophy which, in good faith and honest truth, I do confess I won not by the blade, but I claim the credit of securing it with that presence of mind which few men possess amidst flashing torches and clashing weapons. I secured it, my lord, and here it is.”
So saying, he produced, from the hawking pouch already mentioned, the stiffened hand which had been found on the scene of the skirmish.
“Nay, bonnet maker,” said the provost, “I’ll warrant thee man enough to secure a rogue’s hand after it is cut from the body. What do you look so busily for in your bag?”
“There should have been — there was — a ring, my lord, which was on the knave’s finger. I fear I have been forgetful, and left it at home, for I took it off to show to my wife, as she cared not to look upon the dead hand, as women love not such sights. But yet I thought I had put it on the finger again. Nevertheless, it must, I bethink me, be at home. I will ride back for it, and Henry Smith will trot along with me.”
“We will all trot with thee,” said Sir Patrick Charteris, “since I am for Perth myself. Look you, honest burghers and good neighbours of Perth; you may have thought me unapt to be moved by light complaints and trivial breaches of your privileges, such as small trespasses on your game, the barons’ followers playing football in the street, and suchlike. But, by the soul of Thomas of Longueville, you shall not find Patrick Charteris slothful in a matter of this importance. This hand,” he continued, holding up the severed joint, “belongs to one who hath worked no drudgery. We will put it in a way to be known and claimed of the owner, if his comrades of the revel have but one spark of honour in them. Hark you, Gerard; get me some half score of good men instantly to horse, and let them take jack and spear. Meanwhile, neighbours, if feud arise out of this, as is most likely, we must come to each other’s support. If my poor house be attacked, how many men will you bring to my support?”
The burghers looked at Henry Gow, to whom they instinctively turned when such matters were discussed.
“I will answer,” said he, “for fifty good fellows to be assembled ere the common bell has rung ten minutes; for a thousand, in the space of an hour.”
“It is well,” answered the gallant provost; “and in the case of need, I will come to aid the Fair City with such men as I can make. And now, good friends, let us to horse.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13