« VorigeDoorgaan »
old, for that purpose. They came good speed, and beat the Clan Allan at the Burn of Uaigh-an-t'saigh-dear (the soldier's tomb); but, too rashly squatting down in the places of those they had ousted, they allowed the vanquished to reassemble in the upper glens. Hearing of this, the chief of Clan Coutts hastily assembled a few followers and hurried away, leaving orders for the mass to follow close after. The Clan Allan met this small party on the Vannich, and cut them to pieces. There is a stone, called Clach a 'Chouttsich, where they fell. The Couttses, “like ilka dog," had their day. The loss of their chief caused their ruin. All the clan except one very poor man perished. He luckily had three sons, and at his death apportioned them his goods and chattels as follow:-To the eldest, “an lair bhan” (the grey mare), and from him, therefore, came Couttsich na larachbaine” (grey mare Couttses); to the second,“ bolla 'mhin eorna' (a boll of bear-meal), thence father of “ Couttsich a' bholla 'mhin eorna” (the boll of bear-meal Couttses); and to the third, all the worthless traps he could pick up about their bothy, the progenitor of “Couttsich cac choin” (the dog-dirt Couttses), dog-dirt being an elegant term to imply the worthlessness of the last son's inheritance.
Long, long ago, to return to Malcolm. He took strange notions into his head, and indeed there was plenty of room for them there. He felt an enormous fancy to the taming of a huge monster, called the “Tad-Losgann ;” others say a wild-boar ; and the people round about were taxed, each in turn, a cow or bullock, for its maintenance. Some years previous to this time, a poor man, a MacLeod, had established his household gods in a cottage on the castle plain. He died, leaving his widow with an only son, who grew up a sturdy youth. Imitating the fashions of his fathers, he married, and in due time had a son. When the widow's turn to supply the tax in favour of the monster drew near, having but one cow and few merks to purchase another, she cried out in sorrow and rage
“ Nach truagh nach 'eil ah’aon de shiol Thorcuill beo, a’mharbheadh an Tad-Losgann!” (“What a pity there is not one of the Siol Torquil alive to kill the Tad-Losgann!")
This hint at degeneracy from his father's valour fired the young man's blood, and on the morning for the surrender of his mother's cow, it was found the Tad-Losgann had bid adieu to the land of the living—not, by any means, of his own accord. The king frowned and fumed and stormed, and doomed the murderer of his monster to the death. A gibbet, high and strong, awaited him on Creag Choinnich. He was led out by the north gate. The king attended in state. A crowd of nobles
surrounded him, and the poor country-folks hung timidly on their flanks. Just at the moment the procession was to set forward, a woman, with an infant in her arms, rushed shrieking through the crowd. She threw her arms round MacLeod.
“Spare him, spare him,” cried she, turning to the King, “and take everything else we have.”
When the soldiers offered to separate them, she clung to him more firmly. “My love," said the poor fellow, “go in
blessing go with you.”
"No, no,” exclaimed she, frantically, “I will not leave you ; I will die with you.”
Malcolm was moved to compassion for the wife's sake, but he hated the fellow.
“It's a pity,” said our friend Allan Durward,“ to hang such a splendid archer."
A splendid archer, eh, Allan ?" replied the king ; " I've an idea."
He had indeed a few, and no wonder, with such a head. The procession wended slowly down to the Dee. Arrived on the nearer bank, the young wife, with her child in her arms, was put across on horseback, and placed on Tom Ghainmheine. MacLeod must pierce with an arrow an apple placed on the head of his son in his wife's arms. The width of the Dee must separate him from his mark. He asked for a bow and three arrows, all of which he examined with the greatest care. Of the spare two, one he took between his teeth,
and the other he stuck into his belt. He aimed ; but his body trembled like the leaves of an aspen, and he drew back, crying out,“ This is hard.” Again he placed himself ; but he trembled still. He turned round to the king, and repeated in a low voice, “This is hard.” There was no relenting in the king's face. For the third time he fell into the attitude. A voice, hoarse, and lowly distinct like the roll of distant thunder, uttered, “This is hard.” Every one of the spectators trembled, and withheld their breath. His son stretched out his arms on the opposite bank, and the mother covered her eyes with her hand. His sinews stiffened like tightened cords, and stood out from the surrounding flesh like willowwands: the arrow parted like a ray of moonshine—the apple fell from the child's head in two equal halves ; the mother seized her child with a cry of delight, pressed him to her bosom, and covered him with kisses. The murmur of applause rose into a shout of triumph. The king approached, and, seeing the last traces of agony passing from the face of MacLeod
Why," demanded he,“ did you ask for three arrows-you so sure of hand, and keen of sight ?"
· Because, if I had missed the apple, or hurt my wife or son, I was determined not to miss you.”
The king turned pale ; but imagining that a man like this would perhaps be as valuable to him as the Tad-Losgann
“Friend,” said he, softening his voice, “ I receive you into my body-guard, in which you will be well provided for."
“I can never love you enough,” answered the undaunted Celt, “ to fight in your defence, after the painful proof you have put my heart to."
The king turned away in amazement, crying out, “ Hardy thou art, and Hardy thou shalt be.”
The descendants of this MacLeod were called Hardy's son, which, in Gaelic, is MacHardy,
Long, long ago, the men of the Braes o' Mar were mighty
The flower of our days are children to the heroes of those times. They speak of the mettle, the sinews, and breath of the present generation. What are they to those of the days of old ? M'Gregor of Ballochbuie's oldest son left home in the morning after a boar. He pursued him through Glen Callater, Glen Cluny, and the Baddoch-over the hills, through Glen Ey—over the hills, and through Glen Geaully—over the hills, and up by Ben Vrotan, Cairntoul, and Ben Muiduie—through the Glen Luibeg and the Derry-over the hills, through Glen Cuaich, past Ben-na-bord, through Glen Candlic-over the Ballochdearg, and drove him down to the Dee at Pol-ma-nuire, a little above Balmoral.
“ Did you see,” asked he at a man working near by, “ boar pass this
way a little ago ?” “You yourself” replied the man, looking at the wild appearance of the excited M Gregor, “ are the wildest boar I am likely ever to see.”
“You speak truth,” replied the fiery hunter, driving his spear through him in revenge for his insulting language.
They were nowise particular in those days. A little further on, he came up with the now exhausted boar, and served him as he had the workman. As the sun was disappearing, he reached his father's door, bearing his prize on his shoulders. This was something, and yet not the best of what the mettle of the times gone by could achieve. Need I speak of another feat ? Yes, let it be so.
Malcolm of the Big Head got another queer idea into it. Next year, when he came to Braemar, he must needs prove and endurance of a vigorous young Celt. His notion was to establish a post system for the kingdom, and this he meant to do by means of foot-runners. All his tenants and subjects of
the speed Braemar were therefore assembled on the mound of the plain whereon the present castle is built. A splendid baldric and sword, besides a purse of gold, was to be given to the youth who should first reach the summit of Creag Choinnich, as seen from the rendezvous. Among the assembled competitors stood conspicuous the two eldest sons of M'Gregor of Ballochbuie. The runners were ranged. The king held the glass ready to be turned. Three lord judges waved the flag on the hill to signify they were ready. The king struck his shield; the trumpet sounded; the tartans streamed and whistled in the wind; the ground trembled beneath their tramp; the eye seemed to carry them forward, not to follow them; they rose and fell again, bounding like the motion of the swift sea. Just as they reached the foot of the hill, another young man, perspiring profusely, scarlet with heat, breathless with haste, broke into the circle where the king stood viewing the competitors.
“Oh! will you let me run," cried the youth_“will you let me run?"
“You are too late, my good fellow," observed the king.
“Oh! no, no; let me run, let me run;" and, unbuckling as he spoke, he had already thrown aside his sword, dirk, and skian, tightened the belt of his kilt, and now stood leaning forward on one foot, looking imploringly at the king, and casting every moment an unquiet glance at the racers, who were now toiling up the hillside. “Go, if you wish,” said the king; “ but you are too late.” The youth did not wait to answer. “Who is he?" inquired Malcolm at his forester.
“The youngest of M'Gregor of Ballochbuie's sons. His two brothers are among those that compete.” The youth cleared the plain fleet as the stag. The foremost were hanging on the face of the hill above him, diminished to children, and seeming scarcely to move. Young MʻGregor appeared to leap up like the vigorous goat; now climbing on all fours, now seizing the long heather with his hands, and drawing himself up, always up. He stopped no breathing-space; he looked not behind; he missed never a step or hold. He reached the last of the line of white that marked the progress of the runners through the long heather and scattered bushes.
“ The springal will beat them all,” exclaimed Malcolm; “look how he ascends!”
power to him," exclaimed our huge old friend Allan Durward, looking as if he meant it.
The race be me more and more exciting. Some of the hindermost had indeed given over; but all those
who were not despair. ingly far behind put forth thew and sinew, and pressed close
after each other, ready to take advantage of every accident. The two MʻGregors had indeed left the others considerably behind, but they might both fail; now was the critical moment. Young M'Gregor sprang forward with unabated energy, passing the others one after one. They were now hanging on the brow of that steep which stands as a wall to a kind of steppe sloping from the east westwards, and from behind which rises the last elevation seen from the castle plain. The youth was now next to his brothers. They had gained the steppe, but as the last was disappearing to the spectators on the mound, his form rose erect on the edge, and he was seen plunging, it seemed, into a gulf. Now close behind them, he cried out
“Halves, brothers, and I'll stop."
“Gain what you can,” replied the hero of the boar-hunt, "and keep what you gain. I will do the same.
The second was too breathless to speak. The young lad never halted; even while he spoke he rushed onwards, and the first, who had taken a breathing-space, saw him pass the second, and bound within a few paces of the place where he himself was. They were now engaged on the last steep, and as they reappeared to the spectators, there were two abreast, both equally ardent, both exerting themselves to the utmost.
“Now, brother,” said the youngest again, “halves and I will yield."
No, never," returned he; “keep what you gain." They felt their heads dizzy, their eyes dim and painful the breath rolled quick through their nostrils like fire—their hearts beat louder than the sound of their footsteps_every muscle and sinew. was tightened to breaking—the foam in their mouths seemed dried into sand—their bleeding lips, when closed, glued themselves together—the sweat pearled on their skin in cold drops—and their feet rose and fell mechanically more than otherwise. Now they come in sight of the goal—now the judges encourage them by their cheers—now they seem renewed again in vigour. The youngest put his whole soul forth; the oldest summoned up all the strength of his tougher frame. Terribly pressed, he was yet determined to gain, and stretched out his arm to impede the motion of his rival, but felt nothing. They had only four yards to go. He looked to his side, expecting to see him on the ground. At that moment the tartans grazed the skin of his knee. His brother had leaped forward below his outstretched arm. Furious, he bounded on and fell, his hand clutching with iron grasp the kilt of his rival. He was yet two yards from the flag, and his strength was exhausted. He could not drag the other's prostrate body one step, and now he saw the hindermost fast approaching, encouraged by this incident,