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Oh! busk ye the bride! the snood let her wear
As Mary's, the boast of green Ivanhre! The words died away, as they reached the appointed place for celebrating the espousals. Along either side of the hall stood the magnates of the clan, if we may be allowed so to speak, and where the door opened, beyond, upon the green, a motley array of the commoners. The clergyman was an impressive and middle-aged man, with a mild yet serious countenance; habited in a garb, at once indicative of the divine and mountaineer; for whilst a black coat and bands gave proof of the former, a dark-grey plaid loosely thrown over his shoulder, and a dirk stuck in his side-belt, betokened the semi-military habits of the latter. He called upon the affianced couple to stand forth, and as they did so, a dias or covering, formed of plaids extended lengthwise, was held over them by the bride's-maids, and bridegroom's best men. The solemnity was gone through, the maiden-kiss snatched by the husband, and the echo of musketry renewed; whilst brandy, French wines, and ale, (the latter a then universal beverage,) flew around the company. Again the whole party mustered, to escort the young bride down the glen to her future house; a walk, march, or run-it might appropriately be called either, as the performers could accomplish, redolent of joy, innocence, and glee. Arrived at the green before her new home, some of the youngsters performed the sword-dance, or, as it is ordinarily known, the step of Gillie-callum, jumping with singular skill, in measured time, across two transverse naked broad-swords. Next followed, what our antiquarian readers must well know was practised of yore, the kissingdance. Nor let any modest eye imagine, that in stating this picture of departed manners, we would raise a blush
on the cheek of innocence. Our virtuous fair need not shrink at being told that their grandmothers accorded, without any prudish pride, the chaste salute, which repaid, as the now cold finger-tipped touch of recognition does, the attention of their beaux. “ The march of intellect” has abated such soft reminiscences, but the moralist may question if for the better?
“Come, my old dame,” cried Niel Mhic Lea, “let you and I give example to these laggard heels of clansmen of the good old times before them, and cheer them on their duty," as he turned his aged helpmate into the ring.
Nay, my host,” said Coirshugle, “you must yield to me the honour of leading the mistress of our revels.” “The Mhic Lea's roof-tree !" shouted he to the musicians, whilst he handed the worthy lady forth. Loud cheers responded, as young Mhic Lea rose with Barbara Græme to join the dance. Meantime the night wore on, and still saw the happy band unseparated. At last the elders dropped off, and returned to Castle-na-mannoch, and the field was left to
The undressing of the bride, to facilitate which ceremony the love-knots of her dress had, according to Highland fashion, been carelessly tied; the throwing of the stocking, and the drinking of the hot cup by the married pair, were finally got through; the bridal-chamber, (which then served the purpose of a drawing-room, as indeed the best bedroom continued to do for years, after this period, in the Highlands,) was cleared, and the healths from without became deep, loud, and boisterous. A few wiser, or less strong-headed topers, staggered to their apartment, where they lay, promiscuously huddled together, on the naked floor,
“ Consigned to heaven their joys and woes,
And sunk in undisturbed repose." But the jollity was not confined to the upper ranks; the clansmen enjoyed their full share, though their thoughts often reverted to such of their friends as had marched to reinforce the prince's army. “Can you tell me,” said one of them to an old demure-looking creature, accounted the sage of the tribe, “what all ta splutter of ta muster of our lads was about?” “Teil kens,” replied the oracle, “but ta say that ta Mhic-Lea and ta King Sheorge hae casten out, and so ar gaun to war, and toutless ta Mhic-Lea is in to right.” With this sapient reply the circle was perfectly satisfied.
The inmates of Castlenamannoch, and at the young tacksman's, were as yet buried in sleep, or rubbing their bloodshot eyes and aching foreheads, when a man, spent with fatigue and fear, burst on the half-dreaming inmates. “The sidier roy is at your gates; arm, arm, or all is lost !” The chieftain himself was the first to spring to his feet. “sidier roy, did you say? then, by my faith, he shall be well met. What ho! Áulay of Drumquhsall, look that A’chuthag (the cuckoo), be well primed,” and he cried to a warder, stationed on the bartizan, in charge of a singular piece of ordnance known under the soubriquet in question. Aulay gave the duteous response; when Allan Vich Neil, who had heard his father's voice, rushed from his sleeping-place, to ask the tidings ?
“Tidings of woe, my son, our habitation is beset.' Seeing the posture of affairs, the young laird then ran over, with a beating heart, the tale of their misfortunes. “My brave followers,” exclaimed the old man, when the sad narration was finished, “what shall I say to soothe their aged parents' woe?”
“Say? Rouse them to revenge; send forth the fiery cross; bid the living remember those who are no more, and, like them, let them die to defend their country, not live, to deplore her woe. This determination is my only consolation for having survived Drummossie's terrors.
The father with a Roman sternness shook his son's hand. He said nothing; but there passed along his features one of those glances which tell more forcibly than words the mental happiness of the auditor.
“Leave the consolation of your tribe to me, since I have been their destroyer, and am doomed to be the malediction of my race. Did you not bid the ' A'chuthag' be prepared ? Woe is me! She herself now answers! That fatal sound bears death to him or her who hears her omened voice before he eats or drinks. Where is our bride of Ivanhre, and her young mate?”
“ Down the glen, at their own house; but what sickens
“Another blow! now is thy wretched son indeed of evil eye to his clan. They cannot have ate or drank, for the sun is scarce risen, and you know the motto, “The cuckoo has fouled them;" consequent on such a chance is death."
* Away with such phantasies ! arouse, thee boy!" but the words were scarcely escaped his lips, when a crowd of women rushed up the court-yard, singing and crying in the most doleful screams, the coronach, or lamentation. The chief and his son knew, by this token, the sad tidings had gone forth. “Weep not,” said the latter, “revenge to-day, mourning to-morrow! They advance; hark! the pipes!"
“Your alarm is vain,” uttered a person, as yet unobserved; "they are friends whom your guardsman observed, not foes, and they are rallying for a second trial yet.” « 1 told
you so, Coirshugle,” cried Balinbrek and Vich Neil, exultingly; I told you the white cross should wave again. ”
“And if so, where is your faithful emissary in whom you trust? Where is Hutcheon Roy, Mac Vaister, Vich lan of Glentairney? Does he lag ?”
“He lies who says so !" uttered the fierce mountaineer, as he strode into the circle, to the astonishment of even Vich Neil and Balinbrek. “He lies who holds Mac Vaister's honour in default.” “I said it not in dishonour;" and Glentairney grasped Mac Tosach's hand. The latter returned the grasp: "Enough, our gallant fellows are mustering for Mortlaig, in the isle of Morar; but will you not greet the strangers ?”
In an instant Vich Neil and Balinbrek went to them. They were a fine body of men belonging to a neighbouring clan, whom Glentairney had encountered on their way to the Low Country, to swell the ranks of the insurgents, now necessarily compelled to turn their faces westward, in consequence of the rueful intelligence which he had communicated. A council was speedily formed, and the measures of the leaders taken. These were, in substance, to march with such men as yet remained in the glen, and their new friends, for the appointed rendezvous in Morar. The mustering place was appointed, the burning symbol despatched, and, in an incredibly brief space of time, Mhic Lea saw his faithful followers arrayed for battle. Paramount to all other duty was the obedience of vassal to his lord; and sorely was it proved on the present occasion, when imperious honour tore the young bridegroom of yesterday from his weeping spouse, to swell their number. "You shall be my henchman,* Conan,” said Allan Vich Neil, anxious to work on the pride of his clansman, and do him honour in the
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sight of his comrades, as some compensation for his severely tried fidelity. The youth cocked his blue bonnet with a smarter air, showered a torrent of kisses on his bride, drew his hand across his eyes, and trod on with a determined step. “Lamh threin 'sghch cás !” (strong arm in every trial,) cried his chief, as he turned towards the piper : “strike up! thogail nam bo," (we come through the drift to drive the prey ;) and the column was instantly in motion.
With the adventurous band went all but the aged chieftain of the valley, and Mac Tosach of Coirshugle. His age excused the first; his own feelings deterred the latter, who returned to Stratharkaig. “If at least,” thought he, “ I cannot prevail on those who are dear to me from rushing blindly into danger, I may so time my motions, as to be prepared to succour, if I cannot guide.
As is now well known, the clans never made head again. The meeting at Mortlaig, and the more important gathering at Ruthven of Badenoch, came to nothing. What was the fate of the actors in the old clansman's narrative we cannot say; for the morning after he told it, our party broke up their quarters, and we never saw him more. But an antiquarian friend, in going through some musty papers of a Highland relative, found some rude verses of old Græme of Balinbrek, which indicated that he had gone abroad, and that the maladie du pays had seized him; since he therein personates an aged minstrel sighing for his distant Hebridean home. “Done at yo: Hague, Sept“ 1748, midnight, J. G.” is the finale to this lugubrious composition, which is as follows:
SONG OF THE BARD.
Where shall the exile look for rest,
Or find his lost repose,
Beset by cruel foes?
His eyes no more shall see;
The mountains of Tiree.
The sullen breakers roar,
And dream of home once more.