An iron race the mountain-cliffs maintain,|
Foes to the gentler genius of the plain.
. . . . .
The rough abode of want and liberty,
As lawless force from confidence will grow,
Insult the plenty of the vales below.
I made a suitable apology for my breach of punctuality, and was soon seated at table, where Mr. Jarvie presided with great glee and hospitality, compelling, however, Owen and myself to do rather more justice to the Scottish dainties with which his board was charged, than was quite agreeable to our southern palates. I escaped pretty well, from having those habits of society which enable one to elude this species of well-meant persecution. But it was ridiculous enough to see Owen, whose ideas of politeness were more rigorous and formal, and who was willing, in all acts of lawful compliance, to evince his respect for the friend of the firm, eating with rueful complaisance mouthful after mouthful of singed wool, and pronouncing it excellent, in a tone in which disgust almost overpowered civility.
When the cloth was removed, Mr. Jarvie compounded with his own hands a very small bowl of brandy-punch, the first which I had ever the fortune to see.
“The limes,” he assured us, “were from his own little farm yonder-awa” (indicating the West Indies with a knowing shrug of his shoulders), “and he had learned the art of composing the liquor from auld Captain Coffinkey, who acquired it,” he added in a whisper, “as maist folk thought, among the Buccaniers. But it’s excellent liquor,” said he, helping us round; “and good ware has aften come frae a wicked market. And as for Captain Coffinkey, he was a decent man when I kent him, only he used to swear awfully—But he’s dead, and gaen to his account, and I trust he’s accepted—I trust he’s accepted.”
We found the liquor exceedingly palatable, and it led to a long conversation between Owen and our host on the opening which the Union had afforded to trade between Glasgow and the British Colonies in America and the West Indies, and on the facilities which Glasgow possessed of making up sortable cargoes for that market. Mr. Jarvie answered some objection which Owen made on the difficulty of sorting a cargo for America, without buying from England, with vehemence and volubility.
“Na, na, sir, we stand on our ain bottom—we pickle in our ain pock-neuk—We hae our Stirling serges, Musselburgh stuffs, Aberdeen hose, Edinburgh shalloons, and the like, for our woollen or worsted goods—and we hae linens of a’ kinds better and cheaper than you hae in Lunnon itsell—and we can buy your north o’ England wares, as Manchester wares, Sheffield wares, and Newcastle earthenware, as cheap as you can at Liverpool—And we are making a fair spell at cottons and muslins—Na, na! let every herring hing by its ain head, and every sheep by its ain shank, and ye’ll find, sir, us Glasgow folk no sae far ahint but what we may follow.—This is but poor entertainment for you, Mr. Osbaldistone” (observing that I had been for some time silent); “but ye ken cadgers maun aye be speaking about cart-saddles.”
I apologised, alleging the painful circumstances of my own situation, and the singular adventures of the morning, as the causes of my abstraction and absence of mind. In this manner I gained what I sought—an opportunity of telling my story distinctly and without interruption. I only omitted mentioning the wound I had received, which I did not think worthy of notice. Mr. Jarvie listened with great attention and apparent interest, twinkling his little grey eyes, taking snuff, and only interrupting me by brief interjections. When I came to the account of the rencounter, at which Owen folded his hands and cast up his eyes to Heaven, the very image of woeful surprise, Mr. Jarvie broke in upon the narration with “Wrang now—clean wrang—to draw a sword on your kinsman is inhibited by the laws o’ God and man; and to draw a sword on the streets of a royal burgh is punishable by fine and imprisonment—and the College-yards are nae better privileged—they should be a place of peace and quietness, I trow. The College didna get gude £600 a year out o’ bishops’ rents (sorrow fa’ the brood o’ bishops and their rents too!), nor yet a lease o’ the archbishopric o’ Glasgow the sell o’t, that they suld let folk tuilzie in their yards, or the wild callants bicker there wi’ snaw-ba’s as they whiles do, that when Mattie and I gae through, we are fain to make a baik and a bow, or run the risk o’ our harns being knocked out—it suld be looked to.1—But come awa’wi’ your tale—what fell neist?”
On my mentioning the appearance of Mr. Campbell, Jarvie arose in great surprise, and paced the room, exclaiming, “Robin again!—Robert’s mad—clean wud, and waur—Rob will be hanged, and disgrace a’ his kindred, and that will be seen and heard tell o’. My father the deacon wrought him his first hose—Od, I am thinking Deacon Threeplie, the rape-spinner, will be twisting his last cravat. Ay, ay, puir Robin is in a fair way o’ being hanged—But come awa’, come awa’—let’s hear the lave o’t.”
I told the whole story as pointedly as I could; but Mr. Jarvie still found something lacking to make it clear, until I went back, though with considerable reluctance, on the whole story of Morris, and of my meeting with Campbell at the house of Justice Inglewood. Mr. Jarvie inclined a serious ear to all this, and remained silent for some time after I had finished my narrative.
“Upon all these matters I am now to ask your advice, Mr. Jarvie, which, I have no doubt, will point out the best way to act for my father’s advantage and my own honour.”
“Ye’re right, young man—ye’re right,” said the Bailie. “Aye take the counsel of those who are aulder and wiser than yourself, and binna like the godless Rehoboam, who took the advice o’ a wheen beardless callants, neglecting the auld counsellors who had sate at the feet o’ his father Solomon, and, as it was weel put by Mr. Meiklejohn, in his lecture on the chapter, were doubtless partakers of his sapience. But I maun hear naething about honour—we ken naething here but about credit. Honour is a homicide and a bloodspiller, that gangs about making frays in the street; but Credit is a decent honest man, that sits at hame and makes the pat play.”
“Assuredly, Mr. Jarvie,” said our friend Owen, “credit is the sum total; and if we can but save that, at whatever discount”—
“Ye are right, Mr. Owen—ye are right; ye speak weel and wisely; and I trust bowls will row right, though they are a wee ajee e’enow. But touching Robin, I am of opinion he will befriend this young man if it is in his power. He has a gude heart, puir Robin; and though I lost a matter o’ twa hundred punds wi’ his former engagements, and haena muckle expectation ever to see back my thousand punds Scots that he promises me e’enow, yet I will never say but what Robin means fair by men.”
“I am then to consider him,” I replied, “as an honest man?”
“Umph!” replied Jarvie, with a precautionary sort of cough—“Ay, he has a kind o’ Hieland honesty—he’s honest after a sort, as they say. My father the deacon used aye to laugh when he tauld me how that by-word came up. Ane Captain Costlett was cracking crouse about his loyalty to King Charles, and Clerk Pettigrew (ye’ll hae heard mony a tale about him) asked him after what manner he served the king, when he was fighting again him at Wor’ster in Cromwell’s army; and Captain Costlett was a ready body, and said that he served him after a sort. My honest father used to laugh weel at that sport—and sae the by-word came up.”
“But do you think,” I said, “that this man will be able to serve me after a sort, or should I trust myself to this place of rendezvous which he has given me?”
“Frankly and fairly, it’s worth trying. Ye see yourself there’s some risk in your staying here. This bit body Morris has gotten a custom-house place doun at Greenock—that’s a port on the Firth doun by here; and tho’ a’ the world kens him to be but a twa-leggit creature, wi’ a goose’s head and a hen’s heart, that goes about on the quay plaguing folk about permits, and cockits, and dockits, and a’ that vexatious trade, yet if he lodge an information—ou, nae doubt a man in magisterial duty maun attend to it, and ye might come to be clapped up between four wa’s, whilk wad be ill-convenient to your father’s affairs.”
“True,” I observed; “yet what service am I likely to render him by leaving Glasgow, which, it is probable, will be the principal scene of Rashleigh’s machinations, and committing myself to the doubtful faith of a man of whom I know little but that he fears justice, and has doubtless good reasons for doing so; and that, for some secret, and probably dangerous purpose, he is in close league and alliance with the very person who is like to be the author of our ruin?”
“Ah, but ye judge Rob hardly,” said the Bailie, “ye judge him hardly, puir chield; and the truth is, that ye ken naething about our hill country, or Hielands, as we ca’ them. They are clean anither set frae the like o’ huz;—there’s nae bailie-courts amang them—nae magistrates that dinna bear the sword in vain, like the worthy deacon that’s awa’, and, I may say’t, like mysell and other present magistrates in this city—But it’s just the laird’s command, and the loon maun loup; and the never another law hae they but the length o’ their dirks—the broadsword’s pursuer, or plaintiff, as you Englishers ca’ it, and the target is defender; the stoutest head bears langest out;—and there’s a Hieland plea for ye.”
Owen groaned deeply; and I allow that the description did not greatly increase my desire to trust myself in a country so lawless as he described these Scottish mountains.
“Now, sir,” said Jarvie, “we speak little o’ thae things, because they are familiar to oursells; and where’s the use o’ vilifying ane’s country, and bringing a discredit on ane’s kin, before southrons and strangers? It’s an ill bird that files its ain nest.”
“Well, sir, but as it is no impertinent curiosity of mine, but real necessity, that obliges me to make these inquiries, I hope you will not be offended at my pressing for a little farther information. I have to deal, on my father’s account, with several gentlemen of these wild countries, and I must trust your good sense and experience for the requisite lights upon the subject.”
This little morsel of flattery was not thrown out in vain. “Experience!” said the Bailie—“I hae had experience, nae doubt, and I hae made some calculations—Ay, and to speak quietly amang oursells, I hae made some perquisitions through Andrew Wylie, my auld clerk; he’s wi’ MacVittie & Co. now—but he whiles drinks a gill on the Saturday afternoons wi’ his auld master. And since ye say ye are willing to be guided by the Glasgow weaver-body’s advice, I am no the man that will refuse it to the son of an auld correspondent, and my father the deacon was nane sic afore me. I have whiles thought o’ letting my lights burn before the Duke of Argyle, or his brother Lord Ilay (for wherefore should they be hidden under a bushel?), but the like o’ thae grit men wadna mind the like o’ me, a puir wabster body—they think mair o’ wha says a thing, than o’ what the thing is that’s said. The mair’s the pity—mair’s the pity. Not that I wad speak ony ill of this MacCallum More—‘Curse not the rich in your bedchamber,’ saith the son of Sirach, ‘for a bird of the air shall carry the clatter, and pint-stoups hae lang lugs.’”
I interrupted these prolegomena, in which Mr. Jarvie was apt to be somewhat diffuse, by praying him to rely upon Mr. Owen and myself as perfectly secret and safe confidants.
“It’s no for that,” he replied, “for I fear nae man—what for suld I?—I speak nae treason—Only thae Hielandmen hae lang grips, and I whiles gang a wee bit up the glens to see some auld kinsfolks, and I wadna willingly be in bad blude wi’ ony o’ their clans. Howsumever, to proceed—ye maun understand I found my remarks on figures, whilk as Mr. Owen here weel kens, is the only true demonstrable root of human knowledge.”
Owen readily assented to a proposition so much in his own way, and our orator proceeded.
“These Hielands of ours, as we ca’ them, gentlemen, are but a wild kind of warld by themsells, full of heights and howes, woods, caverns, lochs, rivers, and mountains, that it wad tire the very deevil’s wings to flee to the tap o’ them. And in this country, and in the isles, whilk are little better, or, to speak the truth, rather waur than the mainland, there are about twa hunder and thirty parochines, including the Orkneys, where, whether they speak Gaelic or no I wotna, but they are an uncivilised people. Now, sirs, I sall haud ilk parochine at the moderate estimate of eight hunder examinable persons, deducting children under nine years of age, and then adding one-fifth to stand for bairns of nine years auld, and under, the whole population will reach to the sum of—let us add one-fifth to 800 to be the multiplier, and 230 being the multiplicand”—
“The product,” said Mr. Owen, who entered delightedly into these statistics of Mr. Jarvie, “will be 230,000.”
“Right, sir—perfectly right; and the military array of this Hieland country, were a’ the men-folk between aughteen and fifty-six brought out that could bear arms, couldna come weel short of fifty-seven thousand five hundred men. Now, sir, it’s a sad and awfu’ truth, that there is neither wark, nor the very fashion nor appearance of wark, for the tae half of thae puir creatures; that is to say, that the agriculture, the pasturage, the fisheries, and every species of honest industry about the country, cannot employ the one moiety of the population, let them work as lazily as they like, and they do work as if a pleugh or a spade burnt their fingers. Aweel, sir, this moiety of unemployed bodies, amounting to”—
“To one hundred and fifteen thousand souls,” said Owen, “being the half of the above product.”
“Ye hae’t, Mr. Owen—ye hae’t—whereof there may be twenty-eight thousand seven hundred able-bodied gillies fit to bear arms, and that do bear arms, and will touch or look at nae honest means of livelihood even if they could get it—which, lack-a-day! they cannot.”
“But is it possible,” said I, “Mr. Jarvie, that this can be a just picture of so large a portion of the island of Britain?”
“Sir, I’ll make it as plain as Peter Pasley’s pike-staff. I will allow that ilk parochine, on an average, employs fifty pleughs, whilk is a great proportion in sic miserable soil as thae creatures hae to labour, and that there may be pasture enough for pleugh-horses, and owsen, and forty or fifty cows; now, to take care o’ the pleughs and cattle, we’se allow seventy-five families of six lives in ilk family, and we’se add fifty mair to make even numbers, and ye hae five hundred souls, the tae half o’ the population, employed and maintained in a sort o’ fashion, wi’ some chance of sour-milk and crowdie; but I wad be glad to ken what the other five hunder are to do?”
“In the name of God!” said I, “what do they do, Mr. Jarvie? It makes me shudder to think of their situation.”
“Sir,” replied the Bailie, “ye wad maybe shudder mair if ye were living near hand them. For, admitting that the tae half of them may make some little thing for themsells honestly in the Lowlands by shearing in harst, droving, hay-making, and the like; ye hae still mony hundreds and thousands o’ lang-legged Hieland gillies that will neither work nor want, and maun gang thigging and sorning2 about on their acquaintance, or live by doing the laird’s bidding, be’t right or be’t wrang. And mair especially, mony hundreds o’ them come down to the borders of the low country, where there’s gear to grip, and live by stealing, reiving, lifting cows, and the like depredations—a thing deplorable in ony Christian country!—the mair especially, that they take pride in it, and reckon driving a spreagh (whilk is, in plain Scotch, stealing a herd of nowte) a gallant, manly action, and mair befitting of pretty3 men (as sic reivers will ca’ themselves), than to win a day’s wage by ony honest thrift. And the lairds are as bad as the loons; for if they dinna bid them gae reive and harry, the deil a bit they forbid them; and they shelter them, or let them shelter themselves, in their woods and mountains, and strongholds, whenever the thing’s dune. And every ane o’ them will maintain as mony o’ his ane name, or his clan, as we say, as he can rap and rend means for; or, whilk’s the same thing, as mony as can in ony fashion, fair or foul, mainteen themsells. And there they are wi’ gun and pistol, dirk and dourlach, ready to disturb the peace o’ the country whenever the laird likes; and that’s the grievance of the Hielands, whilk are, and hae been for this thousand years by-past, a bike o’ the maist lawless unchristian limmers that ever disturbed a douce, quiet, God-fearing neighbourhood, like this o’ ours in the west here.”
“And this kinsman of yours, and friend of mine, is he one of those great proprietors who maintain the household troops you speak of?” I inquired.
“Na, na,” said Bailie Jarvie; “he’s nane o’ your great grandees o’ chiefs, as they ca’ them, neither. Though he is weel born, and lineally descended frae auld Glenstrae—I ken his lineage—indeed he is a near kinsman, and, as I said, of gude gentle Hieland blude, though ye may think weel that I care little about that nonsense—it’s a’ moonshine in water—waste threads and thrums, as we say—But I could show ye letters frae his father, that was the third aff Glenstrae, to my father Deacon Jarvie (peace be wi’ his memory!) beginning, Dear Deacon, and ending, your loving kinsman to command,—they are amaist a’ about borrowed siller, sae the gude deacon, that’s dead and gane, keepit them as documents and evidents—He was a carefu’ man.”
“But if he is not,” I resumed, “one of their chiefs or patriarchal leaders, whom I have heard my father talk of, this kinsman of yours has, at least, much to say in the Highlands, I presume?”
“Ye may say that—nae name better ken’d between the Lennox and Breadalbane. Robin was ance a weel-doing, painstaking drover, as ye wad see amang ten thousand—It was a pleasure to see him in his belted plaid and brogues, wi’ his target at his back, and claymore and dirk at his belt, following a hundred Highland stots, and a dozen o’ the gillies, as rough and ragged as the beasts they drave. And he was baith civil and just in his dealings; and if he thought his chapman had made a hard bargain, he wad gie him a luck-penny to the mends. I hae ken’d him gie back five shillings out o’ the pund sterling.”
“Twenty-five per cent,” said Owen—“a heavy discount.”
“He wad gie it though, sir, as I tell ye; mair especially if he thought the buyer was a puir man, and couldna stand by a loss. But the times cam hard, and Rob was venturesome. It wasna my faut—it wasna my faut; he canna wyte me—I aye tauld him o’t—And the creditors, mair especially some grit neighbours o’ his, gripped to his living and land; and they say his wife was turned out o’ the house to the hill-side, and sair misguided to the boot. Shamefu’! shamefu’!—I am a peacefu’ man and a magistrate, but if ony ane had guided sae muckle as my servant quean, Mattie, as it’s like they guided Rob’s wife, I think it suld hae set the shabble4 that my father the deacon had at Bothwell brig a-walking again. Weel, Rob cam hame, and fand desolation, God pity us! where he left plenty; he looked east, west, south, north, and saw neither hauld nor hope—neither beild nor shelter; sae he e’en pu’d the bonnet ower his brow, belted the broadsword to his side, took to the brae-side, and became a broken man.”5
The voice of the good citizen was broken by his contending feelings. He obviously, while he professed to contemn the pedigree of his Highland kinsman, attached a secret feeling of consequence to the connection, and he spoke of his friend in his prosperity with an overflow of affection, which deepened his sympathy for his misfortunes, and his regret for their consequences.
“Thus tempted and urged by despair,” said I, seeing Mr. Jarvie did not proceed in his narrative, “I suppose your kinsman became one of those depredators you have described to us?”
“No sae bad as that,” said the Glaswegian,—“no a’thegither and outright sae bad as that; but he became a levier of black-mail, wider and farther than ever it was raised in our day, a through the Lennox and Menteith, and up to the gates o’ Stirling Castle.”
“Black-mail?—I do not understand the phrase,” I remarked.
“Ou, ye see, Rob soon gathered an unco band o’ blue-bonnets at his back, for he comes o’ a rough name when he’s kent by his ain, and a name that’s held its ain for mony a lang year, baith again king and parliament, and kirk too, for aught I ken—an auld and honourable name, for as sair as it has been worried and hadden down and oppressed. My mother was a MacGregor—I carena wha kens it—And Rob had soon a gallant band; and as it grieved him (he said) to see sic hership and waste and depredation to the south o’ the Hieland line, why, if ony heritor or farmer wad pay him four punds Scots out of each hundred punds of valued rent, whilk was doubtless a moderate consideration, Rob engaged to keep them scaithless;—let them send to him if they lost sae muckle as a single cloot by thieving, and Rob engaged to get them again, or pay the value—and he aye keepit his word—I canna deny but he keepit his word—a’ men allow Rob keeps his word.”
“This is a very singular contract of assurance,” said Mr. Owen.
“It’s clean again our statute law, that must be owned,” said Jarvie, “clean again law; the levying and the paying black-mail are baith punishable: but if the law canna protect my barn and byre, whatfor suld I no engage wi’ a Hieland gentleman that can?—answer me that.”
“But,” said I, “Mr. Jarvie, is this contract of black-mail, as you call it, completely voluntary on the part of the landlord or farmer who pays the insurance? or what usually happens, in case any one refuses payment of this tribute?”
“Aha, lad!” said the Bailie, laughing, and putting his finger to his nose, “ye think ye hae me there. Troth, I wad advise ony friends o’ mine to gree wi’ Rob; for, watch as they like, and do what they like, they are sair apt to be harried7 when the lang nights come on. Some o’ the Grahame and Cohoon gentry stood out; but what then?—they lost their haill stock the first winter; sae maist folks now think it best to come into Rob’s terms. He’s easy wi’ a’ body that will be easy wi’ him; but if ye thraw him, ye had better thraw the deevil.”
“And by his exploits in these vocations,” I continued, “I suppose he has rendered himself amenable to the laws of the country?”
“Amenable?—ye may say that; his craig wad ken the weight o’ his hurdies if they could get haud o’ Rob. But he has gude friends amang the grit folks; and I could tell ye o’ ae grit family that keeps him up as far as they decently can, to be a them in the side of another. And then he’s sic an auld-farran lang-headed chield as never took up the trade o’ cateran in our time; mony a daft reik he has played—mair than wad fill a book, and a queer ane it wad be—as gude as Robin Hood, or William Wallace—a’ fu’ o’ venturesome deeds and escapes, sic as folk tell ower at a winter ingle in the daft days. It’s a queer thing o’ me, gentlemen, that am a man o’ peace mysell, and a peacefu man’s son—for the deacon my father quarrelled wi’ nane out o the town-council—it’s a queer thing, I say, but I think the Hieland blude o’ me warms at thae daft tales, and whiles I like better to hear them than a word o’ profit, gude forgie me! But they are vanities—sinfu’ vanities—and, moreover, again the statute law—again the statute and gospel law.”
I now followed up my investigation, by inquiring what means of influence this Mr. Robert Campbell could possibly possess over my affairs, or those of my father.
“Why, ye are to understand,” said Mr. Jarvie in a very subdued tone—“I speak amang friends, and under the rose—Ye are to understand, that the Hielands hae been keepit quiet since the year aughty-nine—that was Killiecrankie year. But how hae they been keepit quiet, think ye? By siller, Mr. Owen—by siller, Mr. Osbaldistone. King William caused Breadalbane distribute twenty thousand oude punds sterling amang them, and it’s said the auld Hieland Earl keepit a lang lug o’t in his ain sporran. And then Queen Anne, that’s dead, gae the chiefs bits o’ pensions, sae they had wherewith to support their gillies and caterans that work nae wark, as I said afore; and they lay by quiet eneugh, saying some spreagherie on the Lowlands, whilk is their use and wont, and some cutting o’ thrapples amang themsells, that nae civilised body kens or cares onything anent.—Weel, but there’s a new warld come up wi’ this King George (I say, God bless him, for ane)—there’s neither like to be siller nor pensions gaun amang them; they haena the means o’ mainteening the clans that eat them up, as ye may guess frae what I said before; their credit’s gane in the Lowlands; and a man that can whistle ye up a thousand or feifteen hundred linking lads to do his will, wad hardly get fifty punds on his band at the Cross o’ Glasgow—This canna stand lang—there will be an outbreak for the Stuarts—there will be an outbreak—they will come down on the low country like a flood, as they did in the waefu’ wars o’ Montrose, and that will be seen and heard tell o’ ere a twalmonth gangs round.”
“Yet still,” I said, “I do not see how this concerns Mr. Campbell, much less my father’s affairs.”
“Rob can levy five hundred men, sir, and therefore war suld concern him as muckle as maist folk,” replied the Bailie; “for it is a faculty that is far less profitable in time o’ peace. Then, to tell ye the truth, I doubt he has been the prime agent between some o’ our Hieland chiefs and the gentlemen in the north o’ England. We a’ heard o’ the public money that was taen frae the chield Morris somewhere about the fit o’ Cheviot by Rob and ane o’ the Osbaldistone lads; and, to tell ye the truth, word gaed that it was yoursell Mr. Francis,—and sorry was I that your father’s son suld hae taen to sic practices—Na, ye needna say a word about it—I see weel I was mistaen; but I wad believe onything o’ a stage-player, whilk I concluded ye to be. But now, I doubtna, it has been Rashleigh himself or some other o’ your cousins—they are a’ tarred wi’ the same stick—rank Jacobites and papists, and wad think the government siller and government papers lawfu’ prize. And the creature Morris is sic a cowardly caitiff, that to this hour he daurna say that it was Rob took the portmanteau aff him; and troth he’s right, for your custom-house and excise cattle are ill liket on a’ sides, and Rob might get a back-handed lick at him, before the Board, as they ca’t, could help him.”
“I have long suspected this, Mr. Jarvie,” said I, “and perfectly agree with you. But as to my father’s affairs”—
“Suspected it?—it’s certain—it’s certain—I ken them that saw some of the papers that were taen aff Morris—it’s needless to say where. But to your father’s affairs—Ye maun think that in thae twenty years by-gane, some o’ the Hieland lairds and chiefs hae come to some sma’ sense o’ their ain interest—your father and others hae bought the woods of Glen-Disseries, Glen Kissoch, Tober-na-Kippoch, and mony mair besides, and your father’s house has granted large bills in payment,—and as the credit o’ Osbaldistone and Tresham was gude—for I’ll say before Mr. Owen’s face, as I wad behind his back, that, bating misfortunes o’ the Lord’s sending, nae men could be mair honourable in business—the Hieland gentlemen, holders o’ thae bills, hae found credit in Glasgow and Edinburgh—(I might amaist say in Glasgow wholly, for it’s little the pridefu’ Edinburgh folk do in real business)—for all, or the greater part of the contents o’ thae bills. So that—Aha! d’ye see me now?”
I confessed I could not quite follow his drift.
“Why,” said he, “if these bills are not paid, the Glasgow merchant comes on the Hieland lairds, whae hae deil a boddle o’ siller, and will like ill to spew up what is item a’ spent—They will turn desperate—five hundred will rise that might hae sitten at hame—the deil will gae ower Jock Wabster—and the stopping of your father’s house will hasten the outbreak that’s been sae lang biding us.”
“You think, then,” said I, surprised at this singular view of the case, “that Rashleigh Osbaldistone has done this injury to my father, merely to accelerate a rising in the Highlands, by distressing the gentlemen to whom these bills were originally granted?”
“Doubtless—doubtless—it has been one main reason, Mr. Osbaldistone. I doubtna but what the ready money he carried off wi’ him might be another. But that makes comparatively but a sma’ part o’ your father’s loss, though it might make the maist part o’ Rashleigh’s direct gain. The assets he carried off are of nae mair use to him than if he were to light his pipe wi’ them. He tried if MacVittie & Co. wad gie him siller on them—that I ken by Andro Wylie—but they were ower auld cats to draw that strae afore them—they keepit aff, and gae fair words. Rashleigh Osbaldistone is better ken’d than trusted in Glasgow, for he was here about some jacobitical papistical troking in seventeen hundred and seven, and left debt ahint him. Na, na—he canna pit aff the paper here; folk will misdoubt him how he came by it. Na, na—he’ll hae the stuff safe at some o’ their haulds in the Hielands, and I daur say my cousin Rob could get at it gin he liked.”
“But would he be disposed to serve us in this pinch, Mr. Jarvie?” said I. “You have described him as an agent of the Jacobite party, and deeply connected in their intrigues: will he be disposed for my sake, or, if you please, for the sake of justice, to make an act of restitution, which, supposing it in his power, would, according to your view of the case, materially interfere with their plans?”
“I canna preceesely speak to that: the grandees among them are doubtfu’ o’ Rob, and he’s doubtfu’ o’ them.—And he’s been weel friended wi’ the Argyle family, wha stand for the present model of government. If he was freed o’ his hornings and captions, he would rather be on Argyle’s side than he wad be on Breadalbane’s, for there’s auld ill-will between the Breadalbane family and his kin and name. The truth is, that Rob is for his ain hand, as Henry Wynd feught8—he’ll take the side that suits him best; if the deil was laird, Rob wad be for being tenant; and ye canna blame him, puir fallow, considering his circumstances.
“But there’s ae thing sair again ye—Rob has a grey mear in his stable at hame.”
“A grey mare?” said I. “What is that to the purpose?”
“The wife, man—the wife,—an awfu’ wife she is. She downa bide the sight o’ a kindly Scot, if he come frae the Lowlands, far less of an Inglisher, and she’ll be keen for a’ that can set up King James, and ding down King George.”
“It is very singular,” I replied, “that the mercantile transactions of London citizens should become involved with revolutions and rebellions.”
“Not at a’, man—not at a’,” returned Mr. Jarvie; “that’s a’ your silly prejudications. I read whiles in the lang dark nights, and I hae read in Baker’s Chronicle10 that the merchants o’London could gar the Bank of Genoa break their promise to advance a mighty sum to the King o’ Spain, whereby the sailing of the Grand Spanish Armada was put aff for a haill year—What think you of that, sir?”
“That the merchants did their country golden service, which ought to be honourably remembered in our histories.”
“I think sae too; and they wad do weel, and deserve weal baith o’ the state and o’ humanity, that wad save three or four honest Hieland gentlemen frae louping heads ower heels into destruction, wi’ a’ their puir sackless11 followers, just because they canna pay back the siller they had reason to count upon as their ain—and save your father’s credit—and my ain gude siller that Osbaldistone and Tresham awes me into the bargain. I say, if ane could manage a’ this, I think it suld be done and said unto him, even if he were a puir ca’-the-shuttle body, as unto one whom the king delighteth to honour.”
“I cannot pretend to estimate the extent of public gratitude,” I replied; “but our own thankfulness, Mr. Jarvie, would be commensurate with the extent of the obligation.”
“Which,” added Mr. Owen, “we would endeavour to balance with a per contra, the instant our Mr. Osbaldistone returns from Holland.”
“I doubtna—I doubtna—he is a very worthy gentleman, and a sponsible, and wi’ some o’ my lights might do muckle business in Scotland—Weel, sir, if these assets could be redeemed out o’ the hands o’ the Philistines, they are gude paper—they are the right stuff when they are in the right hands, and that’s yours, Mr. Owen. And I’se find ye three men in Glasgow, for as little as ye may think o’ us, Mr. Owen—that’s Sandie Steenson in the Trade’s-Land, and John Pirie in Candleriggs, and another that sall be nameless at this present, sall advance what soums are sufficient to secure the credit of your house, and seek nae better security.”
Owen’s eyes sparkled at this prospect of extrication; but his countenance instantly fell on recollecting how improbable it was that the recovery of the assets, as he technically called them, should be successfully achieved.
“Dinna despair, sir—dinna despair,” said Mr. Jarvie; “I hae taen sae muckle concern wi’ your affairs already, that it maun een be ower shoon ower boots wi’ me now. I am just like my father the deacon (praise be wi’ him!) I canna meddle wi’ a friend’s business, but I aye end wi’ making it my ain—Sae, I’ll e’en pit on my boots the morn, and be jogging ower Drymen Muir wi’ Mr. Frank here; and if I canna mak Rob hear reason, and his wife too, I dinna ken wha can—I hae been a kind freend to them afore now, to say naething o’ ower-looking him last night, when naming his name wad hae cost him his life—I’ll be hearing o’ this in the council maybe frae Bailie Grahame and MacVittie, and some o’ them. They hae coost up my kindred to Rob to me already—set up their nashgabs! I tauld them I wad vindicate nae man’s faults; but set apart what he had done again the law o’ the country, and the hership o’ the Lennox, and the misfortune o’ some folk losing life by him, he was an honester man than stood on ony o’ their shanks—And whatfor suld I mind their clavers? If Rob is an outlaw, to himsell be it said—there is nae laws now about reset of inter-communed persons, as there was in the ill times o’ the last Stuarts—I trow I hae a Scotch tongue in my head—if they speak, I’se answer.”
It was with great pleasure that I saw the Bailie gradually surmount the barriers of caution, under the united influence of public spirit and good-natured interest in our affairs, together with his natural wish to avoid loss and acquire gain, and not a little harmless vanity. Through the combined operation of these motives, he at length arrived at the doughty resolution of taking the field in person, to aid in the recovery of my father’s property. His whole information led me to believe, that if the papers were in possession of this Highland adventurer, it might be possible to induce him to surrender what he could not keep with any prospect of personal advantage; and I was conscious that the presence of his kinsman was likely to have considerable weight with him. I therefore cheerfully acquiesced in Mr. Jarvie’s proposal that we should set out early next morning.
That honest gentleman was indeed as vivacious and alert in preparing to carry his purpose into execution, as he had been slow and cautious in forming it. He roared to Mattie to “air his trot-cosey, to have his jack-boots greased and set before the kitchen-fire all night, and to see that his beast be corned, and a’ his riding gear in order.” Having agreed to meet him at five o’clock next morning, and having settled that Owen, whose presence could be of no use to us upon this expedition, should await our return at Glasgow, we took a kind farewell of this unexpectedly zealous friend. I installed Owen in an apartment in my lodgings, contiguous to my own, and, giving orders to Andrew Fairservice to attend me next morning at the hour appointed, I retired to rest with better hopes than it had lately been my fortune to entertain.
1. The boys in Scotland used formerly to make a sort of Saturnalia in a snow-storm, by pelting passengers with snowballs. But those exposed to that annoyance were excused from it on the easy penalty of a baik (courtesy) from a female, or a bow from a man. It was only the refractory who underwent the storm. [back]
2. Thigging and sorning was a kind of genteel begging, or rather something between begging and robbing, by which the needy in Scotland used to extort cattle, or the means of subsistence, from those who had any to give. [back]
8. Two great clans fought out a quarrel with thirty men of a side, in presence ot the king, on the North Inch of Perth, on or about the year 1392; a man was amissing on one side, whose room was filled by a little bandy-legged citizen of Perth. This substitute, Henry Wynd—or, as the Highlanders called him, Gow Chrom, that is, the bandy-legged smith—fought well, and contributed greatly to the fate of the battle, without knowing which side he fought on;—so, “To fight for your own hand, like Henry Wynd,” passed into a proverb. [This incident forms a conspicuous part of the subsequent novel, “The Fair Maid of Perth.”] [back]
10. The Chronicle of the Kings of England, by Sir Richard Baker, with continuations, passed through several editions between 1641 and 1733. Whether any of them contain the passage alluded to is doubtful. [back]