A Legend of MontroseWalter Scott
Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer and David Widger
A LEGEND OF MONTROSE
Sir Walter Scott
I. Introduction to A LEGEND OF MONTROSE. II. Introduction (Supplement). Sergeant More M'Alpin. III. Main text of A LEGEND OF MONTROSE. IV. Appendix No. I Clan Alpin's Vow. No. II The Children of the Mist. V. Notes Note I Fides et Fiducia sunt relativa. Note II Wraiths.
Note: Footnotes in the printed book have been inserted in the etext in square brackets ("") close to the place where they were referenced by a suffix in the original text.
I. INTRODUCTION TO A LEGEND OF MONTROSE.
The Legend of Montrose was written chiefly with a view to place beforethe reader the melancholy fate of John Lord Kilpont, eldest son ofWilliam Earl of Airth and Menteith, and the singular circumstancesattending the birth and history of James Stewart of Ardvoirlich, bywhose hand the unfortunate nobleman fell.
Our subject leads us to talk of deadly feuds, and we must begin withone still more ancient than that to which our story relates. Duringthe reign of James IV., a great feud between the powerful familiesof Drummond and Murray divided Perthshire. The former, being the mostnumerous and powerful, cooped up eight score of the Murrays in the kirkof Monivaird, and set fire to it. The wives and the children of theill-fated men, who had also found shelter in the church, perished by thesame conflagration. One man, named David Murray, escaped by the humanityof one of the Drummonds, who received him in his arms as he leaped fromamongst the flames. As King James IV. ruled with more activity than mostof his predecessors, this cruel deed was severely revenged, and severalof the perpetrators were beheaded at Stirling. In consequence of theprosecution against his clan, the Drummond by whose assistance DavidMurray had escaped, fled to Ireland, until, by means of the person whoselife he had saved, he was permitted to return to Scotland, where he andhis descendants were distinguished by the name of Drummond-Eirinich, orErnoch, that is, Drummond of Ireland; and the same title was bestowed ontheir estate.
The Drummond-ernoch of James the Sixth's time was a king's forester inthe forest of Glenartney, and chanced to be employed there in search ofvenison about the year 1588, or early in 1589. This forest was adjacentto the chief haunts of the MacGregors, or a particular race of them,known by the title of MacEagh, or Children of the Mist. They consideredthe forester's hunting in their vicinity as an aggression, or perhapsthey had him at feud, for the apprehension or slaughter of some of theirown name, or for some similar reason. This tribe of MacGregors wereoutlawed and persecuted, as the reader may see in the Introduction toROB ROY; and every man's hand being against them, their hand was ofcourse directed against every man. In short, they surprised and slewDrummond-ernoch, cut off his head, and carried it with them, wrapt inthe corner of one of their plaids.
In the full exultation of vengeance, they stopped at the house ofArdvoirlich and demanded refreshment, which the lady, a sister of themurdered Drummond-ernoch (her husband being absent), was afraid orunwilling to refuse. She caused bread and cheese to be placed beforethem, and gave directions for more substantial refreshments to beprepared. While she was absent with this hospitable intention, thebarbarians placed the head of her brother on the table, filling themouth with bread and cheese, and bidding him eat, for many a merry mealhe had eaten in that house.
The poor woman returning, and beholding this dreadful sight, shriekedaloud, and fled into the woods, where, as described in the romance,she roamed a raving maniac, and for some time secreted herself from allliving society. Some remaining instinctive feeling brought her at lengthto steal a glance from a distance at the maidens while they milked thecows, which being observed, her husband, Ardvoirlich, had her conveyedback to her home, and detained her there till she gave birth to a child,of whom she had been pregnant; after which she was observed gradually torecover her mental faculties.
Meanwhile the outlaws had carried to the utmost their insults againstthe regal authority, which indeed, as exercised, they had little reasonfor respecting. They bore the same bloody trophy, which they had sosavagely exhibited to the lady of Ardvoirlich, into the old church ofBalquidder, nearly in the centre of their country, where the Laird ofMacGregor and all his clan being convened for the purpose, laid theirhands successively on the dead man's head, and swore, in heathenishand barbarous manner, to defend the author of the deed. This fierce andvindictive combination gave the author's late and lamented friend,Sir Alexander Boswell, Bart., subject for a spirited poem, entitled"Clan-Alpin's Vow," which was printed, but not, I believe, published, in1811 [See Appendix No. I].
The fact is ascertained by a proclamation from the Privy Council, dated4th February, 1589, directing letters of fire and sword against theMacGregors [See Appendix No. II]. This fearful commission was executedwith uncommon fury. The late excellent John Buchanan of Cambusmoreshowed the author some correspondence between his ancestor, the Laird ofBuchanan, and Lord Drummond, about sweeping certain valleys with theirfollowers, on a fixed time and rendezvous, and "taking sweet revenge forthe death of their cousin, Drummond-ernoch." In spite of all, however,that could be done, the devoted tribe of MacGregor still bred upsurvivors to sustain and to inflict new cruelties and injuries.
[I embrace the opportunity given me by a second mention of this tribe,to notice an error, which imputes to an individual named Ciar MohrMacGregor, the slaughter of the students at the battle of Glenfruin.I am informed from the authority of John Gregorson, Esq., that thechieftain so named was dead nearly a century before the battlein question, and could not, therefore, have done the cruel actionmentioned. The mistake does not rest with me, as I disclaimed beingresponsible for the tradition while I quoted it, but with vulgar fame,which is always disposed to ascribe remarkable actions to a remarkablename.--See the erroneous passage, ROB ROY, Introduction; and so softsleep the offended phantom of Dugald Ciar Mohr.
It is with mingled pleasure and shame that I record the more importanterror, of having announced as deceased my learned acquaintance, the Rev.Dr. Grahame, minister of Aberfoil.--See ROB ROY, p.360. I cannot nowrecollect the precise ground of my depriving my learned and excellentfriend of his existence, unless, like Mr. Kirke, his predecessor in theparish, the excellent Doctor had made a short trip to Fairyland, withwhose wonders he is so well acquainted. But however I may have beenmisled, my regret is most sincere for having spread such a rumour; andno one can be more gratified than I that the report, however I have beeninduced to credit and give it currency, is a false one, and that Dr.Grahame is still the living pastor of Aberfoil, for the delight andinstruction of his brother antiquaries.]
Meanwhile Young James Stewart of Ardvoirlich grew up to manhooduncommonly tall, strong, and active, with such power in the grasp of hishand in particular, as could force the blood from beneath the nails ofthe persons who contended with him in this feat of strength. His temperwas moody, fierce, and irascible; yet he must have had some ostensiblegood qualities, as he was greatly beloved by Lord Kilpont, the eldestson of the Earl of Airth and Menteith.
This gallant young nobleman joined Montrose in the setting up hisstandard in 1644, just before the decisive battle at Tippermuir, on the1st September in that year. At that time, Stewart of Ardvoirlich sharedthe confidence of the young Lord by day, and his bed by night, when,about four or five days after the battle, Ardvoirlich, either from a fitof sudden fury or deep malice long entertained against his unsuspectingfriend, stabbed Lord Kilpont to the heart, and escaped from the camp ofMontrose, having killed a sentinel who attempted to detain him. BishopGuthrie gives us a reason for this villainous action, that Lord Kilponthad rejected with abhorrence a proposal of Ardvoirlich to ass
assinateMontrose. But it does not appear that there is any authority for thischarge, which rests on mere suspicion. Ardvoirlich, the assassin,certainly did fly to the Covenanters, and was employed and promoted bythem. He obtained a pardon for the slaughter of Lord Kilpont, confirmedby Parliament in 1634, and was made Major of Argyle's regiment in 1648.Such are the facts of the tale here given as a Legend of Montrose'swars. The reader will find they are considerably altered in thefictitious narrative.
The author has endeavoured to enliven the tragedy of the tale by theintroduction of a personage proper to the time and country. In thishe has been held by excellent judges to have been in some degreesuccessful. The contempt of commerce entertained by young men havingsome pretence to gentility, the poverty of the country of Scotland, thenational disposition to wandering and to adventure, all conduced to leadthe Scots abroad into the military service of countries which were atwar with each other. They were distinguished on the Continent bytheir bravery; but in adopting the trade of mercenary soldiers, theynecessarily injured their national character. The tincture of learning,which most of them possessed, degenerated into pedantry; their goodbreeding became mere ceremonial; their fear of dishonour no longer keptthem aloof from that which was really unworthy, but was made to dependon certain punctilious observances totally apart from that which wasin itself deserving of praise. A cavalier of honour, in search of hisfortune, might, for example, change his service as he would his shirt,fight, like the doughty Captain Dalgetty, in one cause after another,without regard to the justice of the quarrel, and might plunder thepeasantry subjected to him by the fate of war with the most unrelentingrapacity; but he must beware how he sustained the slightest reproach,even from a clergyman, if it had regard to neglect on the score of duty.The following occurrence will prove the truth of what I mean:--
"Here I must not forget the memory of one preacher, Master WilliamForbesse, a preacher for souldiers, yea, and a captaine in needeto leade souldiers on a good occasion, being full of courage, withdiscretion and good conduct, beyond some captaines I have knowne, thatwere not so capable as he. At this time he not onely prayed for us, butwent on with us, to remarke, as I thinke, men's carriage; and havingfound a sergeant neglecting his dutie and his honour at such a time(whose name I will not expresse), having chidden him, did promise toreveale him unto me, as he did after their service. The sergeant beingcalled before me, and accused, did deny his accusation, alleaging, if hewere no pasteur that had alleaged it, he would not lie under the injury,The preacher offered to fight with him, [in proof] that it was truthhe had spoken of him; whereupon I cashiered the sergeant, and gave hisplace to a worthier, called Mungo Gray, a gentleman of good worth,and of much courage. The sergeant being cashiered, never called MasterWilliam to account, for which he was evill thought of; so that heretired home, and quit the warres."
The above quotation is taken from a work which the author repeatedlyconsulted while composing the following sheets, and which is in greatmeasure written in the humour of Captain Dugald Dalgetty. It bears thefollowing formidable title:--"MONRO his Expedition with the worthyScots Regiment, called MacKeye's Regiment, levied in August 1626, by SirDonald MacKeye Lord Rees Colonel, for his Majestie's service of Denmark,and reduced after the battle of Nerling, in September 1634, at Wormes,in the Palz: Discharged in several duties and observations of service,first, under the magnanimous King of Denmark, during his wars againstthe Empire; afterwards under the invincible King of Sweden, duringhis Majestie's lifetime; and since under the Director-General, theRex-Chancellor Oxensterne, and his Generals: collected and gatheredtogether, at spare hours, by Colonel Robert Monro, as First Lieutenantunder the said Regiment, to the noble and worthy Captain ThomasMacKenzie of Kildon, brother to the noble Lord, the Lord Earl ofSeaforth, for the use of all noble Cavaliers favouring the laudableprofession of arms. To which is annexed, the Abridgement of Exercise,and divers Practical Observations for the Younger Officer, hisconsideration. Ending with the Soldier's Meditations on going onService."--London, 1637.
Another worthy of the same school, and nearly the same views of themilitary character, is Sir James Turner, a soldier of fortune, whorose to considerable rank in the reign of Charles II., had a command inGalloway and Dumfries-shire, for the suppression of conventicles, andwas made prisoner by the insurgent Covenanters in that rising whichwas followed by the battle of Pentland. Sir James is a person evenof superior pretensions to Lieutenant-Colonel Monro, having writtena Military Treatise on the Pike-Exercise, called "Pallas Armata."Moreover, he was educated at Glasgow College, though he escaped tobecome an Ensign in the German wars, instead of taking his degree ofMaster of Arts at that learned seminary.
In latter times, he was author of several discourses on historical andliterary subjects, from which the Bannatyne Club have extracted andprinted such passages as concern his Life and Times, under the titleof SIR JAMES TURNER'S MEMOIRS. From this curious book I extract thefollowing passage, as an example of how Captain Dalgetty might haverecorded such an incident had he kept a journal, or, to give it a morejust character, it is such as the genius of De Foe would have devised,to give the minute and distinguishing features of truth to a fictitiousnarrative:--
"Heere I will set doun ane accident befell me; for thogh it was nota very strange one, yet it was a very od one in all its parts. My tuobrigads lay in a village within halfe a mile of Applebie; my own quarterwas in a gentleman's house, ho was a Ritmaster, and at that time withSir Marmaduke; his wife keepd her chamber readie to be brought to bed.The castle being over, and Lambert farre enough, I resolved to goe tobed everie night, haveing had fatigue enough before. 'The first nightI sleepd well enough; and riseing nixt morning, I misd one linnenstockine, one halfe silke one, and one boothose, the accoustrement undera boote for one leg; neither could they be found for any search. Beingprovided of more of the same kind, I made myselfe reddie, and rode tothe head-quarters. At my returne, I could heare no news of my stockins.That night I went to bed, and nixt morning found myselfe just so used;missing the three stockins for one leg onlie, the other three being leftintire as they were the day before. A narrower search then the firstwas made, bot without successe. I had yet in reserve one paire of wholestockings, and a paire of boothose, greater then the former. These I puton my legs. The third morning I found the same usage, the stockins forone leg onlie left me. It was time for me then, and my servants too, toimagine it must be rats that had shard my stockins so inequallie withme; and this the mistress of the house knew well enough, but would nottell it me. The roome, which was a low parlour, being well searched withcandles, the top of my great boothose was found at a hole, in whichthey had drawne all the rest. I went abroad and ordered the boards to beraised, to see how the rats had disposed of my moveables. The mistresssent a servant of her oune to be present at this action, which she knewconcerned her. One board being bot a litle opend, a litle boy of minethrust in his hand, and fetchd with him foure and tuentie old peeces ofgold, and one angell. The servant of the house affirmed it appertainedto his mistres. The boy bringing the gold to me, I went immediatlie tothe gentlewomans chamber, and told her, it was probable Lambert haveingquarterd in that house, as indeed he had, some of his servants mighthave hid that gold; and if so, it was lawfullie mine; bot if she couldmake it appeare it belongd to her, I should immediatlie give it her. Thepoore gentlewoman told me with many teares, that her husband being noneof the frugallest men (and indeed he was a spendthrift), she had hidthat gold without his, knowledge, to make use of it as she had occasion,especiallie when she lay in; and conjured me, as I lovd the King (forwhom her husband and she had suffered much), not to detaine her gold.She said, if there was either more or lesse then foure and tuentie wholepeeces, and two halfe ones, it sould be none of hers; and that they wereput by her in a red velvet purse. After I had given her assureance ofher gold, a new search is made, the other angell is found, the velvetpurse all gnawd in bits, as my stockins were, and the gold instantlierestord to the gentlewoman. I have often heard that the eating orgnawing of clo
ths by rats is ominous, and portends some mischanceto fall on those to whom the cloths belong. I thank God I was neveraddicted to such divinations, or heeded them. It is true, that moremisfortunes then one fell on me shortlie after; bot I am sure I couldhave better forseene them myselfe then rats or any such vermine, and yetdid it not. I have heard indeed many fine stories told of rats, how theyabandon houses and ships, when the first are to be burnt and the seconddround. Naturalists say they are very sagacious creatures, and I beleevethey are so; bot I shall never be of the opinion they can forsee futurecontingencies, which I suppose the divell himselfe can neither forknownor fortell; these being things which the Almightie hath keepd hiddenin the bosome of his divine prescience. And whither the great God hathpreordained or predestinated these things, which to us are contingent,to fall out by ane uncontrollable and unavoidable necessitie, is aquestion not yet decided." [SIR JAMES TURNER'S MEMOIRS, Bannatyneedition, p. 59.]
In quoting these ancient authorities, I must not forget the more modernsketch of a Scottish soldier of the old fashion, by a masterhand, inthe character of Lesmahagow, since the existence of that doughtyCaptain alone must deprive the present author of all claim to absoluteoriginality. Still Dalgetty, as the production of his own fancy, hasbeen so far a favourite with its parent, that he has fallen into theerror of assigning to the Captain too prominent a part in the story.This is the opinion of a critic who encamps on the highest pinnacles ofliterature; and the author is so far fortunate in having incurred hiscensure, that it gives his modesty a decent apology for quoting thepraise, which it would have ill-befited him to bring forward in anunmingled state. The passage occurs in the EDINBURGH REVIEW, No. 55,containing a criticism on IVANHOE:--
"There is too much, perhaps, of Dalgetty,--or, rather, he engrossestoo great a proportion of the work,--for, in himself, we think he isuniformly entertaining;--and the author has nowhere shown more affinityto that matchless spirit who could bring out his Falstaffs and hisPistols, in act after act, and play after play, and exercise them everytime with scenes of unbounded loquacity, without either exhausting theirhumour, or varying a note from its characteristic tone, than in hislarge and reiterated specimens of the eloquence of the redoubtedRitt-master. The general idea of the character is familiar to our comicdramatists after the Restoration--and may be said in some measure tobe compounded of Captain Fluellen and Bobadil;--but theludicrous combination of the SOLDADO with the Divinity student ofMareschal-College, is entirely original; and the mixture of talent,selfishness, courage, coarseness, and conceit, was never so happilyexemplified. Numerous as his speeches are, there is not one that is notcharacteristic--and, to our taste, divertingly ludicrous."
While these pages were passing through the press, the author receiveda letter from the present Robert Stewart of Ardvoirlich, favouring himwith the account of the unhappy slaughter of Lord Kilpont, differingfrom, and more probable than, that given by Bishop Wishart, whosenarrative infers either insanity or the blackest treachery on the partof James Stewart of Ardvoirlich, the ancestor of the present family ofthat name. It is but fair to give the entire communication as receivedfrom my respected correspondent, which is more minute than the historiesof the period.
"Although I have not the honour of being personally known to you, I hopeyou will excuse the liberty I now take, in addressing you on the subjectof a transaction more than once alluded to by you, in which an ancestorof mine was unhappily concerned. I allude to the slaughter of LordKilpont, son of the Earl of Airth and Monteith, in 1644, by JamesStewart of Ardvoirlich. As the cause of this unhappy event, and thequarrel which led to it, have never been correctly stated in any historyof the period in which it took place, I am induced, in consequence ofyour having, in the second series of your admirable Tales on the Historyof Scotland, adopted Wishart's version of the transaction, and beingaware that your having done so will stamp it with an authenticity whichit does not merit, and with a view, as far as possible, to do justice tothe memory of my unfortunate ancestor, to send you the account of thisaffair as it has been handed down in the family.
"James Stewart of Ardvoirlich, who lived in the early part of the 17thcentury, and who was the unlucky cause of the slaughter of Lord Kilpont,as before mentioned, was appointed to the command of one of severalindependent companies raised in the Highlands at the commencement ofthe troubles in the reign of Charles I.; another of these companies wasunder the command of Lord Kilpont, and a strong intimacy, strengthenedby a distant relationship, subsisted between them. When Montrose raisedthe royal standard, Ardvoirlich was one of the first to declare for him,and is said to have been a principal means of bringing over Lord Kilpontto the same cause; and they accordingly, along with Sir John Drummondand their respective followers, joined Montrose, as recorded by Wishart,at Buchanty. While they served together, so strong was their intimacy,that they lived and slept in the same tent.
"In the meantime, Montrose had been joined by the Irish under thecommand of Alexander Macdonald; these, on their march to join Montrose,had committed some excesses on lands belonging to Ardvoirlich, whichlay in the line of their march from the west coast. Of this Ardvoirlichcomplained to Montrose, who, probably wishing as much as possible toconciliate his new allies, treated it in rather an evasive manner.Ardvoirlich, who was a man of violent passions, having failed to receivesuch satisfaction as he required, challenged Macdonald to single combat.Before they met, however, Montrose, on the information and by advice,as it is said, of Kilpont, laid them both under arrest. Montrose, seeingthe evils of such a feud at such a critical time, effected a sort ofreconciliation between them, and forced them to shake hands in hispresence; when, it was said, that Ardvoirlich, who was a very powerfulman, took such a hold of Macdonald's hand as to make the blood startfrom his fingers. Still, it would appear, Ardvoirlich was by no meansreconciled.
"A few days after the battle of Tippermuir, when Montrose with hisarmy was encamped at Collace, an entertainment was given by him to hisofficers, in honour of the victory he had obtained, and Kilpont andhis comrade Ardvoirlich were of the party. After returning to theirquarters, Ardvoirlich, who seemed still to brood over his quarrel withMacdonald, and being heated with drink, began to blame Lord Kilpontfor the part he had taken in preventing his obtaining redress, andreflecting against Montrose for not allowing him what he consideredproper reparation. Kilpont of course defended the conduct of himselfand his relative Montrose, till their argument came to high words; andfinally, from the state they were both in, by an easy transition, toblows, when Ardvoirlich, with his dirk, struck Kilpont dead on thespot. He immediately fled, and under the cover of a thick mist escapedpursuit, leaving his eldest son Henry, who had been mortally wounded atTippermuir, on his deathbed.
"His followers immediately withdrew from Montrose, and no courseremained for him but to throw himself into the arms of the oppositefaction, by whom he was well received. His name is frequently mentionedin Leslie's campaigns, and on more than one occasion he is mentioned ashaving afforded protection to several of his former friends through hisinterest with Leslie, when the King's cause became desperate.
"The foregoing account of this unfortunate transaction, I am well aware,differs materially from the account given by Wishart, who alleges thatStewart had laid a plot for the assassination of Montrose, and that hemurdered Lord Kilpont in consequence of his refusal to participate inhis design. Now, I may be allowed to remark, that besides Wishart havingalways been regarded as a partial historian, and very questionableauthority on any subject connected with the motives or conduct of thosewho differed from him in opinion, that even had Stewart formed such adesign, Kilpont, from his name and connexions, was likely to be thevery last man of whom Stewart would choose to make a confidant andaccomplice. On the other hand, the above account, though never, that Iam aware, before hinted at, has been a constant tradition in the family;and, from the comparative recent date of the transaction, and thesources from which the tradition has been derived, I have no reason todoubt its perfect
authenticity. It was most circumstantially detailed asabove, given to my father, Mr. Stewart, now of Ardvoirlich, many yearsago, by a man nearly connected with the family, who lived to the age of100. This man was a great-grandson of James Stewart, by a natural sonJohn, of whom many stories are still current in this country, under hisappellation of JOHN DHU MHOR. This John was with his father at the time,and of course was a witness of the whole transaction; he lived tilla considerable time after the Revolution, and it was from him thatmy father's informant, who was a man before his grandfather, John dhuMhor's death, received the information as above stated.
"I have many apologies to offer for trespassing so long on yourpatience; but I felt a natural desire, if possible, to correct what Iconceive to be a groundless imputation on the memory of my ancestor,before it shall come to be considered as a matter of History. That hewas a man of violent passions and singular temper, I do not pretend todeny, as many traditions still current in this country amply verify;but that he was capable of forming a design to assassinate Montrose, thewhole tenor of his former conduct and principles contradict. That he wasobliged to join the opposite party, was merely a matter of safety, whileKilpont had so many powerful friends and connexions able and ready toavenge his death.
"I have only to add, that you have my full permission to make what useof this communication you please, and either to reject it altogether, orallow it such credit as you think it deserves; and I shall be ready atall times to furnish you with any further information on this subjectwhich you may require, and which it may be in my power to afford.
"ARDVOIRLICH, 15TH JANUARY, 1830."
The publication of a statement so particular, and probably so correct,is a debt due to the memory of James Stewart; the victim, it wouldseem, of his own violent passions, but perhaps incapable of an act ofpremeditated treachery.
ABBOTSFORD, 1ST AUGUST, 1830.