THAT remarkable personage, the Laird
of Macnab, was perfectly furious on the subject of family rank.
"There were, questionless, mony
Maister Macnabs; but the auld black chiel may ha’e my saul if I ken
but ae Macnab."
It was quite enough to put him in a
frenzy, to dignify with the title of chieftain anyone, however high in
title or fortune, whom he thought had no claim to that superimperial rank.
It is not to be supposed that this was ever done for the pleasure of
beholding the laird in one of those passions, which resembled one of his
No; he was by no means the man to
hazard such a joke upon, and could he have suspected for a moment (a
supposition, indeed, almost impossible) that any person whatever attempted
to play upon him, miserable would have been the fate of the unhappy wight
who made the experiment. The narrator of this anecdote had a narrow escape
from the overwhelming indignation of this genuine Gaelic worthy.
It occurred after dinner, the good
laird being a little mellow—for as to being drunk, oceans of liquor would
have failed to produce that effect—at least to the length of prostration.
The party on whose account the chief’s bile was so powerfully excited was
indeed blessed with a more lofty and sonorous cognomen than himself. If it
did not indisputably stamp the owner as an ancient feudal baron, an
ignorant Lowlander might well be excused for thinking so. We shall suppose
it to be Macloran of Dronascandlich—a name trying enough, certes, for the
utterance of any common pair of jaws.
Thus commenced the unlucky
querist:"Macnab, are you acquainted with Macloran, who has lately
purchased so many thousand acres in —shire?"
This was more than sufficient to set
the laird off in furious tilt on his genealogical steed.
"Ken wha? the puddock-stool of a
creature they ca’ Dronascandlich, wha no far bygane daured (deil tak’
him!) to offer siller, sir, for an auld ancient estate, sir; an estate as
auld as the Flude, sir—a gude deal aulder, sir—siller, sir, scrapit
thegither by the miserable deevil in India, sir; not in an offisher or
gentleman-like way, sir—but (Satan burst him!) making cart wheels and
trams, sir, and barrows, and the like o’ that wretched handywark.
"Ken him, sir? I ken the creature
weel, and wha he comes frae, sir; and so I ken that dumb tyke, sir—a
better brute by a half than a score o’ him!"
"Mercy on us ! Macnab, you surprise
me; I thought from the sublime sound of his name and title, he had been a
chief of at least ten centuries standing."
The instant this remark was made,
the visage of the laird grew ghastly with rage; he snorted in the true
Gaelic style; his eyes caught fire; he alternately raised and depressed
the skin of his awful front, while every muscle of the whole man quivered
with indignation. A fearful tornado was naturally expected; but
restraining himself with a convulsive effort, thus he cried, or rather
"By the saul o’ the Macnabs, sir,
naething but yere deeabolical Lowland ignorance can excuse ye for sic
shamefu’ profanation! Hear ye me, sir :—it’s fifty year and mair bygane,
ae time I was at Glasgow, wanting some tyking, or Osenbrugs, or what the
fiend ca’ ye them, what ye mak’ pillows and bowsters o’?
"Weel, sir, I was recommendit to an
auld decent creature o’ a wabster wha picket up a meeserable subsistence
in the Gallowgate.
"I gaed up a pair o’ stairs,—two,
three, syne four pair o’ stairs,—a perfit Toor o’ Babel in meenature, sir.
"At last I quat the regions of stane
and lime, and cam’ to timmer, sir, about twenty or thretty rotten
boords, that were a perfit temptation o’ Providence to venture the foot o’
a five year auld bairn on.
"I gaed in at a hole—door it couldna
be ca’d, sir, and there I found a meeserable deevil, the perfit picture of
famine, sir, wi’ a face as white as a clout, an auld red Kilmarnock on his
puir auld grey pow, and treddle, treddling awa’ wi’ his pitifu’ wizend
"Wha think ye, sir, was this
abortion of a creature—this threadbare, penniless, and parritchless scrap
o’ an antediluvian wabster?
"This was Macloran’s grandfather,
sir (in a voice of thunder). That was the origin o’ Dronascandlich, sir
(in a lower tone, accompanied with a truly diabolical
girn), and a bonnie
origin for a Highland chief, by the L—d."
Well may the reader exclaim in the words of the
"Ay! that was Macnab in the height of his pride !"