Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

serving of a better fate than poor Shela. Several of the neighbours would indeed have gladly received her as an inmate and companion, but the maiden's pride rejected the friendly offer, and she made her way to Glasgow, where she could earn her bread among those to whom her melancholy history was unknown.

The two brothers, who were much attached to each other, sharing the same pride as their sister, left the neighbourhood which had witnessed their former prosperity, and retired to a remote, rugged, and almost inaccessible glen, or rather ravine, where, with their small remaining means they determined to commence the distillation of Cisgebay. In this dangerous and illicit trade they were assisted by Gorimil,* an interesting young woman of good family, who, left an orphan, had been brought up at Baltoman; and who, being foster-sister to the younger Grant, not more from a strong attachment to him, which was reciprocal, than from a generous and grateful endeavour to alleviate the hardships of their adversity, resolved to follow the sons of her benefactor to their secluded retreat, and share their toilsome and precarious labours,

That this young female should volunteer to keep house for two smugglers under such circumstances, is not, in a Highland damsel, any indication of a want of delicacy. That she should do so without reproach, may appear strange to the more civilized and scrupulous inhabitants of the South; but, among the unsophisticated Gaël, her conduct was rather admired for its principle; and her honour was as unsullied as if the establishment had been as numerous as in the house of her chief. Besides, she was betrothed to Allan, and the rectitude of Highland morals is, or rather perhaps was, undeniable.

In this wild seclusion the brothers assiduously pursued their harassing occupation for, seldom as the gauger could venture on his duty among the tenants of the hills, the smuggler was not altogether secure, for the rider, or mounted exciseman, occasionally penetrated into the gloomy fastnesses of the Grampians, and, with proper assistance, he often secured both the persons and property of these fearJess defrauders of the revenue, whose sequestered bothies he sometimes surprised, notwithstanding the prompt warning, when the obnoxious visitor made his appearance at the opening of the strath, by a white sheet successively displayed from the different house-tops along the glen, with a celerity

Blue-eyed.

rivalling the fiery cross of the olden time. The vigilance which the smuggler was obliged to exert at home, was not the most arduous part of his work, Conveying the produce of his still down to the low country, or through the bills to the south, was attended with great personal risk and fatigue, the expeditions being conducted during the night, and by unfrequented tracts. Not only were those illegal traders exposed to casual encounter with the excisemen, but suffered much from the treachery of those who were unavoidably engaged in the transfer of the whisky to the custody of the purchasers. Such unprincipled characters were liberally paid by the Highlander, and accepted a handsome reward for the betrayal of their unsuspecting employer.

The Grants carried on their arduous trade for some years with various success. On the whole they were prosperous ; their greatest misfortune being a large seizure, made as they were crossing the hills of Glenshee to Perth. Not only was the whisky on this occasion captured, but horses and carts also fell into the hands of the officers, who had the assistance of a few regular soldiers. Notwithstanding the disproportion of force and badness of the cause, yet did the Highlanders, five in number, venture to contend for the defence of their property; and did not abandon the hope of rescue until Allan had by a shot got his arm disabled. The three carts in advance were taken; a fourth had dropped behind; and, on observing the attack, its driver turned the horse's head, and applying a stout cudgel to its back, the animal started off in a retrograde direction, and quickly bore its load out of reach of the enemy, while the owner hastened to join his companions in the fray with their foes.

It happened at last that a vagrant beggar from the Lowlands, casually straying through the hills, came to the hut of the smugglers, and from them experienced the frank hospitality which characterizes so especially the sons of the Gaël. He was entertained for the night, and was even conducted across the unfrequented hills by one of his hosts, whose curiosity to learn the news of the South was amply gratified by the loquacious mendicant, who, like many others, adopted the profession more from an idle, lazy habit, which was much encouraged by the inconsiderate charity of the Highlanders, than from want. He was one of those who were denounced in old Scottish law as masterful sorners.”

A short time after this unlucky visit, the secluded bothy

was approached early one morning by two excisemen, a constable, and the treacherous and ungrateful vagabond, who had become informer, and acted as guide to the party. Luath, the faithful dog, alarmed the inmates of the lonely cottage, who too soon discovered the cause of the unseasonable interruption. The door and the two small apertures for winocs* were guarded, while the gauger demanded admittance in the king's name, and peaceable surrender. No answer was returned, and the door was burst open.

The Grants rushed forward, oversetting the exciseman; and Allan, felling to the ground the constable and beggar, who tried to secure him, fled to the hill. A shot from the assistant officer took no effect, and the agility of the fugitive quickly effected his safe retreat.

Duncan was prevented from getting out by the door, but he quickly effected his escape by the lum, or wide opening for the emission of smoke, and was soon also out of sight, in the recesses of the mountain.

The humble dwelling was now in possession of the king's officers, and it being impracticable to carry off the apparatus, it was destroyed, the malt and barley being thrown, as usual, into the neighbouring torrent; and the party having regaled themselves on the venison and oatcake, which they found in the cottage, washed down with some of the excellent whisky they had secured, soon left the dwelling, as the hostile cathern of old were wont to do in their predatory forays.

Gorimil, who got away unmolested during the confusion, remained at some distance during the spoliation of the cottage, and returning on the departure of the officers, lighted her fire, and awaited the return of her masters. In the evening they ventured to revisit the shealing, but they could no longer sojourn in Benfallach. They privately left the country, and with what money they could collect they proceeded to the lowlands, and settled themselves in a sequestered cottage on the bank of the Doveran, near an ancient borough, formerly of some note.

The faithful Gorimil still followed the fortunes of the refugees, and, to better their condition, the manufacture of a small drop of whisky was again resorted to.

In their new abode it was extremely difficult long to avoid detection; and among the native inhabitants, who were par

* Windows.

ticularly inimical to the settlement of strangers in their bounds, they found no friendly disposition.

They had not disposed of more than the product of one “brewst,” before a complete seizure of their little remaining stock was made, and themselves, after an obstinate resistance, escaped with great difficulty. When the strictness of search abated, the unhappy young men returned to the cottage, where they lurked unmolested for some days, and even went into the village to purchase some necessaries. It was however remarked that they had provided themselves with a considerable quantity of powder and shot; and the inhabitants, who had recently seen 900 of their clansmen from Strathspey voluntarily march down burning in wrath to Elgin, to protect from outrage Lady Grant, and revenge on an electioneering mob insults which had been offered to their chief, became greatly alarmed, and verily were persuaded that the Grants meant to burn and sack the town. The people incontinently took arms, and stood to their immediate defence. The men capable of taking the field were therefore called out, and the Baron Baillie, on his grey yad, assuming the command, led them on with what arms they could provide, and before midnight the formidable array approached the solitary cottage, to surprise and lead captive the bloody-minded outlaws.

They were again warned of their danger by the same faithful animal, which had given the timely alarm at Benfallach, and, habitually vigilant, they were prepared to fly. Too late however to avoid observation, they were closely followed, and the moonbeams favoured the pursuit of their numerous assailants. Duncan, hoping to check the advance, fired on the foremost, but before he could reload he was overtaken and surrounded ; the muscular evolutions which he performed with his firelock kept his foes at bay for a short time, but were quite insufficient, without assistance, to prevent his capture. Gorimil, who had followed at some distance, seeing the critical situation of Duncan, called out earnestly for his brother to come to the rescue. “ Nach fhiach beatha, do bhrathar pairt de d'fhuil ?” save your own blood, and let your brother die?” exclaimed the maiden ; and the appeal instantly arrested the onward flight of Allan, and he ran forward shouting, “For Gorimil and for Duncan!”

Their opponents hearing the wild and unintelligible exclamations, and thinking that they were signals for assist

«« Will you

ance from concealed adherents, hesitated for a moment, which the Grants improved, by bounding off like the mountain-deer. As quickly were they pursued; but superior fleetness enabled them to gain ground, and both would have made their escape, but, unfortunately, Allan, in attempting to clear the deep tract of a mountain-stream, fell short, and striking the hard rock with his bare knees, fell to the ground, unable to resume his flight. Soon were the villagers at the spot, and one in advance, thirsting for blood, and anxious, no doubt, to gain credit for the seizure of the outlaw, barbarously ran a rusty bayonet into the side of the prostrate and defenceless Highlander. Duncan reached the Doveran, over which he swam, and escaped. Allan was conveyed with exultation to the prison of the village, and was, when the state of his wound permitted, handcuffed, mounted on á horse, with his feet tied under the belly, and marched to the jail of Aberdeen under a proper guard. The escort proceeded with due regularity until it reached a wild part of the country near the river Don, eleven miles from their destination, when Grant, who had contrived to disengage his legs, suddenly sprang from his horse, and, shackled as he was, bounded away with the speed of a greyhound. From the swiftness with which he ran the chace seemed hopeless, but, after proceeding about five miles, some labourers in a field near which he passed, observing the pursuit, intercepted the fugitive, and again consigned him to the guard.

Poor Allan was at length safely lodged in the tolbooth of Aberdeen, to await his trial by the Lords of Justiciary, for contravening the excise laws, and aggravated deforcement ; and the period for his certain condemnation rapidly approached. It was, however, one morning discovered that the dexterous smuggler had broke from confinement; but how he eluded the observation of the jailers and regained his freedom, in defiance of the strongest bolts and bars, could not be truly made out. It appeared that the devoted Gorimil, who had followed her beloved Allan, had contrived to provide him with instruments, by the help of which and main strength, he had delivered himself from his own solitary cell, and entered, disguised as a female, another, which, being occupied by debtors was favourable to his purpose. Here he could escape immediate detection ; and, as it was visited by the jailer before proceeding to the more solitary dungeons, the prisoner was able to pass out before the warder discovered his escape. Whichever way his libera

« ПредишнаНапред »