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Romance of War (or The Highlanders in Spain)
Chapter 3 - A True Highlander

One fine forenoon, a few days after the occurrences related in the last chapter, a horseman appeared riding along the narrow uneven road leading by the banks of Lochisla towards the tower. It was Sir Allan Lisle, who came along at a slow trot, managing his nag with the ease and grace of a perfect rider, never making use of either whip or spur, but often drawing in his rein to indulge the pleasure and curiosity with which he beheld (though accustomed to the splendid scenery of Perthshire) this secluded spot, which he had never seen before, — the black and solitary tower, the dark blue waveless loch, and the wild scenery by which it was surrounded.

As he advanced up the ascent towards the tower, his horse began to snort, shake its mane, and grow restive, as its ears were saluted by a noise to which they were unaccustomed.

Donald Iverach, the old piper of the family (which office his ancestors had held since the days of Robert the Second, according to his own account), was pacing with a stately air to and fro before the door of the fortalice, with the expanded bag of the piob mhor under his arm, blowing from its long chaunter and three huge drones 'a tempest of dissonance;' while he measured with regular strides the length of the barbican or court, at one end of which stood a large stoup of whisky (placed on the end of a cask), to which he applied himself at every turn of his promenade to wet his whistle.

The piper, though of low stature, was of a powerful, athletic, and sinewy form, and although nearly sixty, was as fresh as when only sixteen; his face was rough and purple, from drinking and exposure to the weather; his huge red whiskers curled round beneath his chin and grew up to his eyes, which twinkled and glittered beneath their shaggy-brows; a smart blue bonnet set jauntily, very much over the right eye, gave him a knowing look, and his knees, which had never known covering from the day of his birth,' where exposed by the kilt, were hairy and rough as the hide of the roe-buck; his plaid waved behind, and a richly-mounted dirk, eighteen inches long, hanging on his right side, completed his attire.

Great was the surprise of the Celt when, on turning in his march, he suddenly beheld Sir Allan Lisle, whom he had not seen since the last year, when by the laird's orders he had endeavoured, by the overwhelming noise of his pipe, to drown a speech which the baronet was addressing to the electors of the county. But what earthly errand, thought Donald, could bring a Lisle up Strathisla, where one of the race had not been since the father of the present Sir Allan had beleaguered the tower in 1746 with a party of the Scottish Fusiliers. The chaunter fell from the hand of the astonished piper, and the wind in the bag of his instrument escaped with an appalling groan.

'My good friend, I am glad you have ceased at last,' said Sir Allan; 'I expected every moment that my horse would have thrown me. This fortress of yours will be secure against cavalry while you are in it, I dare swear.'

'I dinna ken, sir,' replied the piper, touching his bonnet haughtily; 'but when pare leggit gillies and red coats tried it in the troublesome times, they aye gat the tead man's share o' the deep loch below.'

'Is your master — is Lochisla at home?' His honour the laird is within,' replied Iverach, as Sir Allan dismounted and desired him to hold his horse.

'Lochisla's piper will hold nae man's bridle-rein, his honour's excepted,' said the indignant Highlander;' put a common gillie may do tat. Holloa! Alpin Oig Stuart; Dugald! Evan ! come an' hold ta shentle-man's praw sheltie,' shouted he, making the old barbican ring.

'One will do, I dare say,' said Sir Allan, smiling as he resigned his nag to Evan, Iverach's son, a powerful young mountaineer, who appeared at his father's shout.

Preceded by Donald, Sir Allan ascended the winding staircase of the tower, and was ushered into the hall, or principal apartment it contained, the roof of which was a stone arch. At one side yawned a large fireplace, on the mouldered lintel of which appeared die crest and badge-flower of the Stuarts — a thistle — and underneath was the family motto 'Omne solum forti patria.' At each end of the chamber was a window of moderate size, with a stone mullion in the form of a cross ; one commanded a view of the loch and neighbouring forests of birch and pine, and the other the distant outline of the high Benmore. The walls were adorned with apparatus for hunting, fishing, shooting, and sylvan trophies, intermixed with targets, claymores, Lochaber axes, old muskets, matchlocks, etc.

The furniture was of oak, or old and black mahogany, massive and much dilapidated, presenting a very different appearance to that in the splendid modern drawing-room at Inchavon. A few old portraits hung on the blackened walls; and one in particular, that of a stern old Highlander, whose white beard flowed over his belted plaid, seemed to scowl on Sir Allan, who felt considerably embarrassed when he unexpectedly found himself in the habitation of one whom he could not consider otherwise than as his foe.

While awaiting the appearance of the proprietor, whom the piper was gone to inform of the visit, Sir Allan's eye often wandered to the portrait above the fireplace, and he remembered that it was the likeness of the father of the present Stuart, who at the battle of Falkirk had unhorsed, by a stroke of his broadsword, his (Sir Allan's) father, then an officer in the army of General Hawley. While Sir Allan mused over the tales he had heard of the grim Ian Mhor of Lochisla, the door opened, and Mr. Stuart entered.

Erect in person, stately in step, and graceful in deportment, strong and athletic of form, he appeared in every respect the genuine Highland gentleman. He was upwards of sixty, but his eye was clear, keen, and right, and his weather-beaten cheek and expansive forehead were naturally tinged with a ruddy tint, which was increased to a flush by the excitement caused at this unlooked-for visit.

Unlike his servants, who wore the red tartan of their race, he was attired in the usual dress of a country gentleman, and wore his silver locks thickly and unnecessarily powdered, and clubbed in a thick queue behind.

The natural politeness and hospitable feeling of a Highlander had banished every trace of displeasure from his bold and unwrinkled brow, and he grasped Sir Allan's hand with a frankness at which the latter was surprised, as was old Janet the housekeeper, who saw through the keyhole what passed, though she was unable, in consequence of her deafness, to hear what was said.

'Be seated, Sir Allan,' said Mr. Stuart, bowing politely, though he felt his stiffness and hauteur rising within him, and endeavoured to smother it. 'To what am I indebted for the honour of this visit? which, I must have the candour to acknowledge, is most unexpected.'

'Lochisla,' replied the other, addressing him in the Scottish manner by the name of his property, 'to the gallantry of your brave boy, Ronald, but for whose exertions I should at this moment have been sleeping at the bottom of the Linn at Corrieavon. I have deemed it incumbent upon me to visit Lochisla, to return my earnest thanks personally for the signal service he has rendered to me, and I regret that the terms on which you — on which we have lived, render, in your estimation my visit rather an honour than a pleasure.'

A shade crossed the brow of the Highlander, but on hearing the particulars, he congratulated Sir Allan on his escape in a distant and polite manner, while the twinkle of his bright eyes showed how much satisfaction he enjoyed at the brave conduct of his son. While Sir Allan was relating the story, Mr. Stuart placed near him a large silver liqueur-frame, containing six cut-glass bottles, the variously-coloured contents of which sparkled behind their silver labels.

'Come, Sir Allan, fill your glass, and drink to my boy's health: one does not experience so narrow an escape often, nowadays at least. Come, sir, fill your glass, — there is sherry, brandy, port, and the purer dew of the hills; choose which you please.'

'You Stuarts of Lochisla have long borne a name for hospitality, but it is rather early to taste strong waters — 'tis not meridian yet.'

'Our hospitality was greater in the olden time than it is now; but it is not often that this old hall has within it one of the Lisles of the Inch, and you must positively drink with me,' answered his host, compelling him to fill his glass from the decanter of purple port.

'Our visits have been fewer, and less friendly, than I trust they will be for the future. Your health, Lochisla,' he added, sipping his wine. ''Tis sixty years and more, I think, since my father came up the Strath with his followers, when-------'

'We will not talk of these matters, Sir Allan,' exclaimed Stuart, on whose features was gathering a stern expression, which Sir Allan saw not, as he sat with his face to a window and looked through his glass with one eye closed, watching a crumb of the bee's-wing floating on the bright liquor. 'They are the last I would wish to think of when you are my guest.'

'Pardon me, I had no wish to offend ; we have ever been as strangers to each other, although our acres march. I have had every desire to live on amicable terms with you, Mr. Stuart; but you have ever been prejudiced against me, and truly without a cause.'

'I am one of the few who inherit the feelings of a bygone age. But, Sir Allah Lisle, let us not, I entreat you, refer to the past,' coldly replied the old Highlander, to whom two parts of his guest's last speech were displeasing. The recurrence to the past terms on which they had lived, brought to his mind more than one case of litigation in which Sir Allan had come off victorious ; the other was being addressed as Mr. Stuart, a title by which he was never known among his own people. The polite and affable manner of his visitor had tended to diminish his prejudices during the last five minutes, but Sir Allan's blundering observations recalled to the mind of the old duinhe-wassal the bitter feelings which he inherited from his father, and his high forehead became flushed and contracted.

'It appears very unaccountable,' said he, after the uncomfortable pause which had ensued, 'that my son has never, during the past days, mentioned the circumstance of the happy manner in which he drew you from the Corrie-avon.'

'To that,' replied the other, laughing, 'a story is appended, a very romantic one indeed, part of which I suppressed in my relation; nothing less, in fact, than a love-affair, to which, as I have conceived a friendship for the brave boy to whom I owe a life, I drink every success (draining his glass); 'but this must be treated of more gravely at a future interview.'

'Sir Allan, I understand you not; but if Ronald has formed any attachment in this neighbourhood, he must learn to forget it, as he will soon leave Lochisla. Some cottage-girl, I suppose; these attachments are common enough among the mountains.'

'You mistake me: the young lady is one every way his equal, and they have known each other from their childhood. But I will leave the hero to tell his own tale, which will sound better from the lips of a handsome Highland youth, than those of a plain gray-haired old fellow, like myself.

'I like your frankness,' said Stuart, softened by the praise bestowed on his son by his old adversary, whose hand he shook, 'and will requite it, Sir Allan. When Ronald comes down the glen, I will talk with him over this matter, which I confess troubles me a little at heart, as I never supposed he would have kept an attachment of his secret from me, his only parent now, and one that has loved him so dearly as I have done. But I must be gentle with him, as he is about to leave me soon, poor boy.'

'Ah! for the army, — so I have heard: our boys will follow nothing else nowadays. I fear my own springald, Lewis, is casting wistful thoughts that way. But should you wish it, I may do much in Ronald's favour: I have some little interest with those in power in London, and------'

'I thank you. but it needs not be so. Huntly has promised me that Ronald shall not be forgotten when a vacancy occurs in the "Gordon Highlanders," a regiment raised among his own people and kindred; and the Marquis, whose interest is great with the Duke of York, will not forget his word — his pledged word — to a Highland gentleman.'

On Sir Allan's departure, Stuart, from one of the hall windows, watched his retiring figure as he rode rapidly down the glen, and disappeared among the birchen foliage which overhung and shrouded the winding pathway. A sour smile curled his lip; he felt old prejudices rising strongly in his breast, and he turned his eye on the faded portrait of his father, and thought of the time when he had sat as a little child upon his knee, and heard the family of Lisle mentioned with all the bitterness of Highland rancour, and been told a thousand times of the days when Colonel Lisle had carried fire and sword through all Lochisla, besieging the little tower for days, until its inmates were perishing for want. In the tide of feeling which these reflections called forth, the late amiable interview was forgotten; and he only remembered Sir Allan as the foe of his race, and the victor in many a keenly-contested case in the Parliament House, the place where the Court of Session sit at Edinburgh.

A bustle in the narrow staircase recalled him to himself: the door was thrown open, and Ronald entered, gun in hand, from the hill, flushed and excited with the nature of the sport. Two tall Highlanders strode behind, bearing on their shoulders a stout pole, from which was suspended by the heels a gigantic deer, whose branching antlers trailed on the floor, which was sprinkled with spots of blood falling from its dilated nostrils and a death-wound in its neck, which had been gashed across by the skene-dhu of a Highlander. A number of red-eyed dogs accompanied them, displaying in their forms the long and muscular limbs, voluminous chest, and rough wiry coat of the old Scottish hound, — a noble animal, once common in the Lowlands, but now to be found only in the north, where the deer wander free over immense stretches of waste moorland or forest, as they did of old.
'A brave beast he is,' said Ronald exultingly, as he cast aside his bonnet and gun. ' At the head of the loch I fired, and wounded him here in the neck : we traced him by the blood for two miles down the Isla, where he flew through thicket and brake with the speed of an arrow; but the gallant dogs Odin and Carrill fastened upon him, and drew him down when about to take the water, near the marchstone of the Lisles. 'Twas luckily done : had he once gained the grounds of Inchavon, our prize would have been lost.'
' Ronald,' replied his father coldly, ' we will hear all this matter afterwards.' Then turning to the gillies, 'Dugald Stuart, and you Alpin Oig,' said he, ' carry away this quarry to the housekeeper, and desire her to fill your queghs for you. 1 have had a visit from Sir Allan Lisle,' resumed Stuart, when the Highlanders had obeyed his order and retired. ' Hah ! you change countenance already : this has been a mysterious matter. He has been here to return thanks for your pulling him out of Isla, where he was nearly drowned, poor man, a day or two since, — a circumstance which you seem to have thought too worthless to mention to me. But there is another matter, on which I might at least have been consulted,' he added, watching steadily the changes in the countenance of the young man, whose heart fluttered with excitement. ' You have formed an attachment to some girl in the neighbourhood, which has reached the ears of this Allan Lisle, although it never came to mine, and the intercourse has continued for years, although I have been ignorant of it. Ronald, my boy, who is the girl ? As your father, I have at least a right to inquire her name and family.'
' Do pray excuse me,' faltered the other, playing nervously with his bonnet; ' I am too much embarrassed at present to reply, — some other time. Ah ! your anger would but increase, I fear, were you to know.'
' It does increase ! Surely she is not a daughter of that grim churl Corrieoich, up the glen yonder ? I have seen his tawdry kimmers at the county ball. I can scarcely think this flame of yours is a child of his. You remember the squabble I had with him about firing on his people, who were dragging the loch with nets under the very tower windows. By Heaven! is she a daughter of his!' cried his father, in the loud and imperative tone so natural to a Highlander. 'Answer me, I command you, Ronald Stuart !'
' She is not, I pledge you my word,' replied the young man gently. ' Ronald !' exclaimed the old gentleman, a dark flush gathering on his cheek, ' she must be some mean and contemptible object, otherwise you would not shrink from the mention of her name, were it gentle and noble, in this coward way.'
' Coward I never was,' replied Ronald bitterly. ' I may shrink before my own father, when I would scorn to quail before the angry eye of any other man who lives or breathes. Nor do I blush to own the name of— of this lady. She is Alice, the daughter of Sir Allan Lisle, of Inchavon. Ah, sir! I fear I have applied a match to a mine ; but I must await the explosion.'

Ronald had indeed lighted a mine. A terrible expression flashed in the eyes of the old Highlander, and gathered upon his formidable brow.

'Ronald! Ronald; for this duplicity I was unprepared,' he exclaimed in emphatic Gaelic, with a tone of the bitterest reproach. 'Have you dared to address yourself to a daughter of that man? Look up, degenerate boy !' he added, grasping Ronald's arm with fierce energy, while he spoke with stern distinctness. 'Look upon the portrait of old Ian Mhor, your brave grandsire, and imagine what he would have thought of this. The Lisles of Inchavon! Dhia gledh sinn! I have not forgotten their last hostile attempt sixty-five years since, in 1746, when Colonel Lisle, the father of this Sir Allan, besieged our tower with his whole battalion. I was a mere infant then ; but I well remember how the muskets of the fusiliers flashed daily and nightly from rock and copse-wood, and from the dark loopholes of the tower, where the brave retainers of Lochisla defended my father's stronghold with the desperate courage of outlawed and ruined men, — ruined and outlawed in a noble cause! These days of death and siege I have not forgotten, nor the pale cheek of the mother at whose breast I hung seeking nourishment, while she was perishing for want of food. Nor have I forgotten the gallows-tree — God be gracious unto me! — raised by the insolent soldiery on the brae-head to hang our people when they surrendered; and, had they ever yielded, they would have swung every man of them, and have been food for the raven and hoodiecraw. And this paternal tower would have been now ruined and roofless, forming a lair for the fox and the owl, but for the friendship of our kinsman Seafield, who wrung a respite and reprieve from the unwilling hand of the merciless German duke.

'Oh, Ronald Stuart! remember these things, and recall some traces of the spirit of Ian Mhor, whose name and blood you inherit. He was a stern old man, and a proud one, possessing the spirit of the days that are gone, — days when the bold son of the hills redressed his wrongs with his own right hand, and held his lands, not by possession of a sheepskin, but by the broad blade of his good claymore.'

He paused a moment, passed his hand across his glowing brow, and thus continued in a tone of sterner import, and more high-flown Gaelic: 'Listen to me, O Ronald! Hearken to a father who has loved, and watched, and tended you as never father did a son. Think no more of Inchavon's daughter! Promise me to spurn her from your remembrance or never more shall you find a home in the dwelling-place of our fathers: you shall be a stranger to my heart, and your name be known in Lochisla no more. I will cast you off as a withered branch, and leave our ancient patrimony to the hereditary chieftain of our race. Pledge me your word, or, Ronald, I pronounce you for ever lost.'

During this long and energetic harangue, which was delivered in the sonorous voice which Mr. Stuart always assumed with his Gaelic, various had been the contending emotions in the bosom of Ronald. Love and pride, indignation and filial respect, agitated him by turns; and when his father ceased, he took up his bonnet with an air of pride and grief.

'Sir — sir — O my father!' said he, while his pale lip quivered, and a tear glitted in his dark eye, 'you will be spared any further trouble on my account. I will go; leave Lochisla to the Stuarts of Appin, or whom you may please. I will seek my fortune elsewhere, and show you truly that " a brave man makes every soil his country."'

As he turned to leave the apartment, the stern aspect of his father's features relaxed, and he surveyed him with a wistful look.

'Stay, Ronald,' he exclaimed; 'I have been hasty. You would not desert me thus in my old age, and leave me with anger on your brow? Let not our pride overcome our natural affection. I will speak of this matter again, and------'

Here he was interrupted by Donald Iverach, who entered respectfully, bonnet in hand, bearing two long official-looking letters, which he handed to Mr. Stuart, who stared on perceiving 'On his Majesty's service' (an unusual notice to him) printed on the upper corner of each.

'Hoigh!' said the piper, 'your honour's clory disna get twa sic muckle letters ilka day. The auld doited cailloch tat keeps the post-house down at the clachan of Strathfillan, sent a gilly trotting up the waterside wi' them, as fast as his houghs could pring him.'

Their contents became speedily known. The first was a letter from the Horse Guards, informing Mr. Stuart that his son was appointed to an ensigncy in the 92nd regiment, or Gordon Highlanders, commanded by the Marquis of Huntly. The second was to Ronald himself, signed by the adjutant-general, directing him with all speed to join a detachment which was shortly to leave the depot in the Castle of Edinburgh for the seat of war.

Pride and pleasure at the new and varied prospect before him were the first emotions of Ronald's mind; sorrow and regret at thoughts of parting so suddenly, perhaps for ever, from all that was dear to him, succeeded them.

'Hoigh! hui-uigh!' cried old Iverach, capering with Highland agility on hearing the letters read. 'Hui-uigh!' he exclaimed, making the weapons clatter on the wall with his wild and startling shout, while he tossed his bonnet up to the vaulted roof; 'and so braw Maister Ronald is going to the clorious wars, to shoot the French loons like the muir-cocks o' Strathisla, or the bonnie red roes o' Benmore! Hoigh! Got tarn! auld Iverach's son sall gang too, and follow the laird's, as my ain father and mony a braw shentleman did auld Sir Ian Mhor to the muster o' Glenfinan. And when promotion is in the way, braw Maister Ronald will no forget puir Evan Iverach, the son of his father's piper, that follows him for love to the far-awa' land. And when the pipers blaw the onset, neither o' them will forget the bonnie banks of Lochisla, and the true hearts they have left behind them there. And when the onset is nigh, let them shout the war-cry of their race: my prave profilers cried it on the ramparts of Ticonderago, where the auld plack watch were mown doon like grass, in a land far peyond the isles, where the sun sets in the west.'

As this enthusiastic retainer left the apartment to communicate the news to the rest of the household, old Mr. Stuart turned to gaze on his son.

The arrival of these letters had caused a vast change in their feelings within the last five minutes ; all traces of discord had vanished, and the softest feelings of our nature remained behind.

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