"On Teviot's side in fight
And tuneful hands were stained with blood,
Where still the thorns white branches wave
Memorial o'er his rival's grave."
DOUGLAS should have been
hoeing potatoes, but he dawdled over his work, finally brought the hoe
back, hung it in its place in the barn, took his gun, and went off to the
woods. (There were no game laws in those untrammelled early days.) The
lassies ran back and forth until Margaret and Elspeth chided them roundly
for idleness, while they themselves found numberless occasions for
consultation. Sandy and Jamie needed no excuse for "occupying" a log in
one backyard, and discussing the important question arising before the
Grand Jury now sitting, and in deciding which their own Rob would play a
Only a week ago, just as
the sun was sending out a company, with gleaming lances, and banners of
purple and crimson, to herald his return, and the opalescent dewdrops made
a short-lived carpet of gems for their feet, while the birds overhead were
fearlessly singing matins, and the tiny four-footed creatures of the woods
and fields were lingering in their way curious and unafraid (the white
man's residence among them had been so short, they had not learned his
needs and his wickedness), four men went down the fragrant fields, three
only came back, and there was blood on the gemmed carpet, and blood on a
This had been called the
Field of Honor in the old and experienced world. Many a widow, and many a
mother, bereft, had cried out, all in vain, against this legalized crime
in the Motherland, where thought moves slow, and what has been will be.
The question was important.
Should the monster be allowed to rear its head in this new land to which
they had come to "better their conditions." Might the sword never be
sheathed, even here? Must it be that here a man when in flush of health
and strength could, by taunts and inuendoes, be made accessory to his
removal from the path of a rival, in any degree, and any cause? Must
scenes, as enacted in the Spanish West Indies, redden the soil and deplete
the population of what we had considered our more favored and more
And this case right at home
had particularly grievous features.
The seconds had loaded with
blank cartridges, shots were exchanged, each man had shewn himself willing
to die in and for the cause he maintained. This would have been supposed
to satisfy any but the veriest fire-eater, appeased their wrath, and
satisfied, their honor. It did not: someone said, "One must fall"; a
consultation between seconds and principals was held; the seconds retired
; loaded. Again the principals stood face to face. One, two, three—the
handkerchief dropped—two shots rang out simultaneously, one man fell to
rise no more, the other turned, scathless, to justify himself before a
jury of his peers.
They had carefully
refrained from discussion before Rob, for though neither James nor Sandy
feared the law, both had a wholesome respect for it, and as Rob was to be
an arbiter, he must not be biased. Now their pent-up thoughts found
"Its no that I'd tak th'
lee off ony mon mysel," Sandy is saying, "an' happen my fist wad be
readier'n my tongue to tell't."
"'Deed an' that same fist
wad tak as gude care o' ony man's honor as a pistol-ball could," chuckled
Jamie, in gleeful remembrance of some "settlements "in days of auld lang
syne." "Aye," he continued, "an' no need for a crowner to tak tent o't
"That's the kernel o' th'
nut, Jamie—the need for th' crowner. Is there no t' be room for a mon till
he's kilt someone else? An' for why? To fill Heeven wi' those fittest tae
gang? Lang before we cam frae Auld Scotia I'll aye noticed it'll not be
always the mon wha's richt wha leeved t' tell th' why o't."
"I've minded that mysel',"
said Jamie, "an' I've whiles wonnered at. We hae need o' gude people doon
here, amang's a'."
"It's the wiles o' th'
deevil, Jamie, an' th' honor that taks th' killin' o' ither men t'
preserve 't, is ain o' his geefts. A pickle chesteesment 's aiblins gude
fer ae body, an' there be words said in haste that nae mon 'll thole
wi'out a blow; but when 'tis dune an' ower, ye'll can gie'm your han', an'
mony a gude turn ae may do th' ither a' your lives aifter. But tae rid a
mon aff th' face o' th' airth because ye'll want his hoose or his gear (or
happen the gudewife hersel), sal, mon, Dauvit himsel found th' Laird 'd no
"Aye," said Jamie, "an sin
He's gie's th' pooer, He'll expect us tae warstle wi' th' enemy an'
destroy sic plans. We can doo't noo, as yon did in th' beginnin' o't, th'
evil o' keepin' men's bodies in bondage."
"Yon did excel't that,
Jamie," said Sandy, "'twas a sair thing tae haud men an' wimmin t' answer
t' an airthly maister for a' their doins 'n sayins, till they'r feart t'
hae een a thocht feart 't'd slip oot unawares. But thae's warse, f'r th'
ither kenned richtly wha was his maister, and wha he maun mind, but at
this, a man daurna draw a breath o' air feart some man, he michtent ken
wha, shud hae want'd 't, an bein' a better haun wi a gun, or cleverer wi'
tricks, micht send him tae Heeven maist before e'en th' Laird himsel' had
time t' ken o't."
"It's richtly ye say't,
Sandy," said Jamie, "an' oor Rob 'll gie 's word tae the doon-puttin' o'
sic sinfa wark, aiblins there'll be ithers wha'll no' want their ain plans
"Ye ne'er cracked truer nor
that, Jamie. It's th' deevil gettin' in high places make a' th' comether."
"Would you be so good as to
inform me where Captain Joshua Adams lives?"
The tone was purest
English, something rare in this new Scotland. With true Highland
impurturbability, Sandy and Jamie merely turned their heads in salutation.
"Ye'll find him doon th'
road a mile, a bit wast till ye coom till anither road gaein' north, then
win on till ye coom till a wee bit mill, an' thae's he," answered one of
the men, " and," expecting a fair return, "what micht ye'r name be?"
"My name," said the
stranger, with the utmost frankness, realizing, no doubt, that the desired
information merited an exchange, "is Philip Maxwell, and I have come out
to look over some mining land in this vicinity. Captain Adams is an
interested party, and I am anxious to confer with him."
Neither Sandy nor Jamie
were insensible to the advantages which accrue to a mine owner, therefore,
with a desire to learn more of what might prove of personal interest,
together with a Highland hospitality which has never been impeached, Jamie
in whose back-yard they were sitting, bid the man with the mining
knowledge "Bide an' sup wi's till be past th' houer ere ye'll coom ben at
That this was a not
unwelcome invitation will be realized when one recognizes the master of
poor Bess's enemy of the night before.