SORROW for the sudden
departure of Ronald was the prevailing sentiment in the tower of Lochisla,
which old Janet the housekeeper caused to re-echo with her ceaseless
lamentations, poured forth either in broken broad Scotch, or in her more
poetical and descriptive Gaelic, for the going forth of the bold boy whom
she had watched over and nursed from childhood with the tenderness of a
His father felt deeply the
pang of parting with the only child that death had left him; but he pent
his feelings within his own proud bosom, and showed them but little. He
said nothing more of Alice Lisle, unwilling to sour the few remaining
hours they had to spend together by harsh injunctions or disagreeable
topics, deeming that Ronald, in the busy scenes which were before him in
his military career, would be taught to forget the boyish attachment of
his early days. It is thus that old men ever reckon, forgetting that the
first impressions which the young heart receives are ever the strongest
and most lasting.
He directed with cool
firmness the arrangements for his son's early departure ; and save now and
then a quivering of the lip or a deep sigh, no other emotion was visible.
He felt keenly, nor would he ever have parted with Ronald, notwithstanding
the eagerness of the youth to join the army, but for the entanglement of
his private affairs, which rendered it absolutely necessary that his son
should be independent of his shattered patrimony, and the proud and
martial disposition of both their minds made arms the only profession to
It was close upon the time
of his departure ere Ronald could make an arrangement to obtain an
interview with Alice Lisle. He despatched by Evan, the son of Iverach, a
note to Alice, requesting her to meet and bid him adieu, in the lawn in
front of Inchavon House, on the evening of the second day, referring her
to the bearer for a recapitulation of the events which had taken place.
The young Highlander, who
was to accompany Ronald to the regiment as a servant and follower, was as
shrewd and acute as a love-messenger required to be, and succeeded, after
considerable trouble and delay, in delivering the billet into the fair
hands of the young lady herself, who, although she neither shrieked nor
fainted, nor expired altogether, like a heroine of romance, was
nevertheless overwhelmed with the intelligence, which Evan related to her
as gently as he could; and after promising to attend to the note without
fail, she retired to her own chamber, and gave way to the deepest anguish.
At last arrived the
important day which was to behold Ronald launched from his peaceful
Highland home into the stormy scenes of a life which was new to him. Evan
Iverach had been sent off in the morning with the baggage to the hamlet of
Strathisla, where the stagecoach for Perth was to take up his young
Sorrowful indeed was the
parting between the old piper and his son Evan Bean (i.e. fair-haired
Evan), and they were but little comforted by the assurance of the old
crone Janet, who desired them to '"greet weel," as their weird was read,
and they would never meet mair.'
Ronald was seated with his
father at breakfast in the hall or dining-room of the tower. The table was
covered with viands of every kind, exhibiting all the profuseness of a
true Scottish breakfast, tea, coffee, cold venison, cheese, oaten
bannocks, etc., etc., etc., and a large silver-mouthed bottle, containing
most potent usquebaugh, distilled for the laird's own use by Alpin Oig
Stuart in one of the dark and dangerous chasms on the banks of the Isla, a
spot unknown to the excise man, a personage much dreaded and abhorred in
all Highland districts.
The old cailloch, Janet,
was in attendance, weeping and muttering to herself. Iverach was without
the tower, making the yard ring to the spirit-stirring notes of
'We'll awa' to Shirramuir,
An' haud the Whigs in order;'
and he strode to and fro,
blowing furiously, as if to keep up the failing spirit of his tough old
Mr. Stuart said little, but
took his morning meal as usual. Now and then he bit his nether lip, his
eye glistened, and his brow was knit, to disguise the painful emotions
that filled his heart.
Ronald ate but little, and
sat totally silent, gazing with swimming eyes, while his heart swelled
almost to bursting, on the lofty hills and dark pine-woods, which,
perchance, he might never more behold; and the sad certainty that slowly
passing years would elapse ere he again stood by his paternal hearth, or
beheld his father's face, if, indeed, he was ever to behold it again,
raised within him emotions of the deepest sadness.
'Alas!' thought he, 'how
many years may roll away before I again look on all I have loved so long;
and what dismal changes may not have taken place in that time !'
'Hui-uigh! Ochon ochanari!'
cried the old woman, unable to restrain herself longer, as she sunk upon a
settle in the recess of the hall window. ' He is going forth to the far-awa
land of the stranger, where the hoodiecraw and fox pyke the banes of the
dead brave; but he winna return to us, as the eagle's brood return to
their eyrie among the black cliffs o' bonnie Craigonan.'
'He shall! old woman. What
mean you by these disheartening observations in so sad an hour as this?'
said the old gentleman sternly, roused by that prophetic tone which never
falls without effect on the ear of a Scottish Highlander.
'Dinna speak sae to me,
laird. God sain me! I read that in his bonnie black een which tells me
that they shall never again look on mine.' 'Hoigh! prutt, trutt,' said
Iverach, whom her cry had summoned to the spot, 'the auld teevil of a
cailloch will pe casting doon Maister Ronald's heart when it should pe at
the stoutest. Huisht, Janet, and no be bedevilling us with visions and
glaumorie just the noo.'
'Donald Iverach, I tell you
he shall never more behold those whom he looks on this day: I tell you so,
and I never spoke in vain,' cried the old sibyl in Gaelic, with a shrill
voice. ' When the brave sons of my bosom perished with their leader at
Corunna, did I not know of their fall the hour it happened? The secret
feeling, which a tongue cannot describe, informed me that they were no
more. Yes; I heard the wild wind howl their death-song, as it swept down
the pass of Craigonan, and I viewed their shapeless spirits floating in
the black mist that clung around the tower of Lochisla on the night the
field of Corunna was stricken, for many were the men of our race who
perished there : the dead-bell sung to me the livelong night, and our
caillochs and maidens were sighing and sad, but I alone knew why.'
'Peace ! bird of ill omen,'
replied the piper in the same language, overawed by the force of her
words,'Dhia gledh sinn! will you break the proud spirit of a
duinhe-wassal of the house of Lochisla, when about to gird on the claymore
and leave the roof-tree of his fathers?'
'Come, come; we have had
enough of this,' said Mr. Stuart. ' Retire, Janet, and do not by your
unseemly grief disturb the last hours that my son and I shall spend
'A wreath, and 'tis not for
nought, is coming across my auld een,' she replied, pressing her withered
hands upon her wrinkled brow. 'Sorrow and woe are before us all. I have
seen it in many a dark dream at midnicht, and heard it in the croak of the
nicht-bird, as it screamed from its eyrie in Coirnan-Taischatrin, where
the wee men and women dance their rings in the bonnie moonlicht. Greet and
be woefu', my braw bairn, for we shall never behold ye mair. Ochon ochon!'
and pressing Ronald to her breast, this faithful old dependant rushed from
'Grief has distracted the
poor old creature,' said Mr. Stuart, making a strong effort to control the
emotions which swelled his own bosom; while Ronald no longer concealed
his, but covering his face with his hands, wept freely, and the piper
began to blubber and sob in company.
'Hoigh! oigh! Got tam; it's
joost naething but fairies' spells and glaumorie that's ever and aye in
auld Janet's mouth. She craiks and croaks like the howlets in the auld
chapel-isle, till it's gruesome to hear her. But dinna mind her, Maister
Ronald; I'll blaw up the bags, and cheer your heart wi' the "gathering" on
the bonny piob mhor! The piper retired to the yard, where the cotters and
many a shepherd from the adjacent hills were assembled to behold Ronald
depart, and bid him farewell.
Ronald's father, the good
old man, although his heart was wrung and oppressed by the dismal
forebodings of his retainer, did all that he possibly could to raise the
drooping spirits of his son, by holding out hopes of quick promotion and a
speedy return home; but Ronald wept like a youth as he was, and answered
only by his tears.
'Oh, Ronald, my boy!'
groaned the old man, 'it is in an hour such as this that I most feel the
loss of her whose fair head has long, long been under the grassy turf
which covers her fair-haired little ones in the old churchyard yonder. The
sun is now shining through the window of the ruined chapel, and I see the
pine which marks their graves tossing its branches in the light.' He
looked fixedly across the loch at the islet, the grassy surface of which
was almost covered with gray tombstones, beneath which slept the retainers
of his ancestors, who themselves rested among the Gothic ruins of the
little edifice, which their piety had endowed and founded to St. John, the
patron saint of Perth.
The day sped fast away, and
the hour came in which Ronald was compelled to depart, if he would be in
time for the Perth stage, which passed through Strathisla. - His father
accompanied him to the gate of the tower, where he embraced and blessed
him. He then turned to depart, after shaking the hard hand of many an
'May Got's plessing and all
goot attend ye! Maister Ronald,' blubbered old Iverach, who was with
difficulty prevented from piping before him down the glen; and dinna
forget to befriend poor Evan Bean, that follows ye for love.'
Asorrowful farewell in
emphatic Gaelic was muttered through the court as Ronald, breaking from
among them, rushed down the steep descent, as if anxious to end the
painful scene. His father gazed wistfully after, as if his very soul
seemed to follow his steps. Ronald looked back but once, and then dashed
on as fast as his strength could carry him ; but that look he never, never
The old man had reverently
taken off his hat, allowing his silver hair to stream in the wind, and
with eyes upturned to heaven was fervently ejaculating 'O God! that
hearest me, be a father unto my poor boy, and protect him in the hour of
It was the last time that
Ronald beheld the face of his father, and deeply was the memory of its
expression impressed upon his heart. Not daring again to turn his head, he
hurried along the mountain-path, until he came to a turn of the glen which
would hide the much-loved spot for ever. Here he turned and looked back:
his father was no longer visible, but there stood the well-known tower,
rising above the rich copse-land, with the gray smoke from its huge
kitchen-chimney curling over the battlements in the evening wind, which
brought to his ear the wail of Iverach's bagpipe. The smooth surface of
the loch shone with purple and gold in the light of the setting sun, the
rays of which fell obliquely as its flaming orb appeared to rest on the
huge dark mountains of the western Highlands.
'Ah ! never shall I behold
a scene like this in the land to which I go,' thought Ronald, as he cast
one eager glance over it all; and then, entering the deep rocky gorge,
through which the road wound, hurried towards the romantic hamlet of
Strathisla, the green mossy roofs and curling smoke of which he saw
through the tufts of birch and pine a short distance before him.
It was dusk before he
reached the cluster of primitive cottages, at the door of one of which,
dignified by the name of 'the coach-office,' stood Evan with the baggage,
impatiently awaiting the appearance of his master, as the time for the
arrival of the coach was close at hand. Telling him hastily that he would
meet the vehicle on the road near Inchavon Park, he passed forward to keep
his promise to Alice. A few minutes' walk brought him to the boundary-wall
of Sir Allan's property; vaulting lightly over, he found himself among the
thickets of shrubs which were planted here and there about the smooth
grassy lawn, in the centre of which appeared Inchavon House, a handsome
modern structure : the lofty walls and portico of fine Corinthian columns,
surmounted by a small dome, all shone in the light of the summer moon, by
which he saw the glimmer of a white dress advancing hastily towards him.
At that instant the sound
of the coach, as it came rattling and rumbling down a neighbouring hill,
struck his ear, and his heart died within him, as he knew it would be
there almost immediately.
'Alice!' he exclaimed, as
he threw one arm passionately around her. 'Ronald, oh, Ronald!' was all
the weeping girl could articulate, as she clung to him tremblingly.
'Remember me when I am
gone. Love me as you do now when I shall be far, far away from you,
Alice!' 'Ah, how could I ever forget you!'
At that moment the
unwelcome vehicle drew up on the road. 'Stuart Ronald, my old comrade,'
cried the frank though faltering voice of Lewis Lisle, who appeared at
that moment; ' give me your hand, my boy. You surely would not go without
Ronald pressed the hand of
Lewis, who threw over his neck a chain, at which hung a miniature of his
'Alas!' muttered Ronald, 'I
have nothing to give as a keepsake in return ! Ay, this ring 'tis a very
old one, but it was my mother's; wear it for my sake, Alice.' To kiss her
pale cheek, place her in the arms of Lewis, to cross the park and leap the
wall, were to the young Highlander the work of a moment and he vanished
from their side.
'Come alang, sir! We canna
be keepit here the haill nicht,' bawled the driver crossly, as Ronald
appeared upon the road, where the white steam was curling from the four
panting horses in the moonlight, which revealed Evan, seated with the
goods and chattels of himself and master among the muffled-up passengers
who loaded the coach-top.
'Inside, sir!' said the
guard from behind the shawl which muffled his weather-beaten face as he
held open the door. Ronald, scarcely knowing what he did, stepped in, and
the door closed with a bang which made the driver rock on his seat. 'A'
richt, Jamie; drive on !' cried the guard, vaulting into the dickey; and
in a few minutes more the noise of wheels and hoofs had died away from the
ears of poor Alice and her brother, who listened with beating hearts to
the retiring sound.