Read RED CAP TALES FROM "WAVERLEY" : THE SECOND TALE of Red Cap Tales Stolen from the Treasure Chest of the Wizard of the North , free online book, by Samuel Rutherford Crockett, on ReadCentral.com.

I. THE CATTLE-LIFTING

NEXT morning (I continued, looking up for inspiration to the pinnacles of Melrose, cut against the clear sky of evening, as sharply as when “John Morow, master mason,” looked upon his finished work and found it very good) next morning, as Captain Edward Waverley was setting out for his morning walk, he found the castle of Bradwardine by no means the enchanted palace of silence he had first discovered. Milkmaids, bare-legged and wild-haired, ran about distractedly with pails and three-legged stools in their hands, crying, “Lord, guide us!” and “Eh, sirs!”

Bailie Macwheeble, mounted on his dumpy, round-barrelled pony, rode hither and thither with half the ragged rascals of the neighbourhood clattering after him. The Baron paced the terrace, every moment glancing angrily up at the Highland hills from under his bushy grey eyebrows.

From the byre-lasses and the Bailie, Edward could obtain no satisfactory explanation of the disturbance. He judged it wiser not to seek it from the angry Baron.

Within-doors, however, he found Rose, who, though troubled and anxious, replied to his questions readily enough.

“There has been a ‘creach,’ that is, a raid of cattle-stealers from out of the Highland hills,” she told him, hardly able to keep back her tears not, she explained, because of the lost cattle, but because she feared that the anger of her father might end in the slaying of some of the Caterans, and in a blood-feud which would last as long as they or any of their family lived.

“And all because my father is too proud to pay blackmail to Vich Ian Vohr!” she added.

“Is the gentleman with that curious name,” said Edward, “a local robber or a thief-taker?”

“Oh, no,” Rose laughed outright at his southern ignorance, “he is a great Highland chief and a very handsome man. Ah, if only my father would be friends with Fergus Mac-Ivor, then Tully-Veolan would once again be a safe and happy home. He and my father quarrelled at a county meeting about who should take the first place. In his heat he told my father that he was under his banner and paid him tribute. But it was Bailie Macwheeble who had paid the money without my father’s knowledge. And since then he and Vich Ian Vohr have not been friends.”

“But what is blackmail?” Edward asked in astonishment. For he thought that such things had been done away with long ago. All this was just like reading an old black-letter book in his uncle’s library.

“It is money,” Rose explained, “which, if you live near the Highland border, you must pay to the nearest powerful chief such as Vich Ian Vohr. And then, if your cattle are driven away, all you have to do is just to send him word and he will have them sent back, or others as good in their places. Oh, you do not know how dreadful to be at feud with a man like Fergus Mac-Ivor. I was only a girl of ten when my father and his servants had a skirmish with a party of them, near our home-farm so near, indeed, that some of the windows of the house were broken by the bullets, and three of the Highland raiders were killed. I remember seeing them brought in and laid on the floor in the hall, each wrapped in his plaid. And next morning their wives and daughters came, clapping their hands and crying the coronach and shrieking and they carried away the dead bodies, with the pipes playing before them. Oh, I could not sleep for weeks afterward, without starting up, thinking that I heard again these terrible cries.”

All this seemed like a dream to Waverley to hear this young gentle girl of seventeen talk familiarly of dark and bloody deeds, such as even he, a grown man and a soldier, had only imagined yet which she had seen with her own eyes!

By dinner-time the Baron’s mood had grown somewhat less stormy. He seemed for the moment to forget his wounded honour, and was even offering, as soon as the quarrel was made up, to provide Edward with introductions to many powerful northern chiefs, when the door opened, and a Highlander in full costume was shown in by the butler.

“Welcome, Evan Dhu Maccombich!” said the Baron, without rising, and speaking in the manner of a prince receiving an embassy; “what news from Fergus Mac-Ivor Vich Ian Vohr?”

The ambassador delivered a courteous greeting from the Highland chief. “Fergus Mac-Ivor (he said) was sorry for the cloud that hung between him and his ancient friend. He hoped that the Baron would be sorry too and that he should say so. More than this he did not ask.”

This the Baron readily did, drinking to the health of the chief of the Mac-Ivors, while Evan Maccombich in turn drank prosperity to the house of Bradwardine.

II. THE ROBBER’S CAVE

Then these high matters being finished, the Highlander retired with Bailie Macwheeble, doubtless to arrange with him concerning the arrears of blackmail. But of that the Baron was supposed to know nothing. This done, the Highlander began to ask all about the party which had driven off the cattle, their appearance, whence they had come, and in what place they had last been seen. Edward was much interested by the man’s shrewd questions and the quickness with which he arrived at his conclusions. While on his part Evan Dhu was so flattered by the evident interest of the young Englishman, that he invited him to “take a walk with him into the mountains in search of the cattle,” promising him that if the matter turned out as he expected, he would take Edward to such a place as he had never seen before and might never have a chance of seeing again.

Waverley accepted with eager joy, and though Rose Bradwardine turned pale at the idea, the Baron, who loved boldness in the young, encouraged the adventure. He gave Edward a young gamekeeper to carry his pack and to be his attendant, so that he might make the journey with fitting dignity.

Through a great pass, full of rugged rocks and seamed with roaring torrents indeed, the very pass of Bally-Brough in which the reivers had last been spied across weary and dangerous morasses, where Edward had perforce to spring from tuft to tussock of coarse grass, Evan Dhu led our hero into the depths of the wild Highland country, where no Saxon foot trod or dared to tread without the leave of Vich Ian Vohr, as the chief’s foster-brother took occasion to inform Edward more than once.

By this time night was coming on, and Edward’s attendant was sent off with one of Evan Dhu’s men, that they might find a place to sleep in, while Evan himself pushed forward to warn the supposed cattle-stealer, one Donald Bean Lean, of the party’s near approach. For, as Evan Dhu said, the Cateran might very naturally be startled by the sudden appearance of a sidier roy or red soldier in the very place of his most secret retreat.

Edward was thus left alone with the single remaining Highlander, from whom, however, he could obtain no further information as to his journey’s end save that, as the Sassenach was somewhat tired, Donald Bean might possibly send the currach for him.

Edward wished much to know whether the currach was a horse, a cart, or a chaise. But in spite of all his efforts, he could get no more out of the man with the Lochaber axe than the words repeated over and over again, “Aich aye, ta currach! Aich aye, ta currach!”

However, after stumbling on a little farther, they came out on the shores of a loch, and the guide, pointing through the darkness in the direction of a little spark of light far away across the water, said, “Yon’s ta cove!” Almost at the same moment the dash of oars was heard, and a shrill whistle came to their ears out of the darkness. This the Highlander answered, and a boat appeared in which Edward was soon seated, and on his way to the robber’s cave.

The light, which at first had been no bigger than a rush-light, grew rapidly larger, glowing red (as it seemed) upon the very bosom of the lake. Cliffs began to rise above their heads, hiding the moon. And, as the boat rapidly advanced, Edward could make out a great fire kindled on the shore, into which dark mysterious figures were busily flinging pine branches. The fire had been built on a narrow ledge at the opening of a great black cavern, into which an inlet of the loch seemed to advance. The men rowed straight for this black entrance. Then, letting the boat run on with shipped oars, the fire was soon passed and left behind, and the cavern entered through a great rocky arch. At the foot of some natural steps the boat stopped. The beacon brands which had served to guide them were thrown hissing into the water, and Edward found himself lifted out of the boat by brawny arms and carried almost bodily into the depths of the cavern. Presently, however, he was allowed to walk, though still guided on either side, when suddenly at a turn of the rock passage, the cave opened out, and Edward found the famous Cateran, Donald Bean Lean, and his whole establishment plain before his eyes.

The cavern was lit with pine torches, and about a charcoal fire five or six Highlanders were seated, while in the dusk behind several others slumbered, wrapped in their plaids. In a large recess to one side were seen the carcasses of both sheep and cattle, hung by the heels as in a butcher’s shop, some of them all too evidently the spoils of the Baron of Bradwardine’s flocks and herds.

The master of this strange dwelling came forward to welcome Edward, while Evan Dhu stood by his side to make the necessary introductions. Edward had expected to meet with a huge savage warrior in the captain of such banditti, but to his surprise he found Donald Bean Lean to be a little man, pale and insignificant in appearance, and not even Highland in dress. For at one time Donald had served in the French army. So now, instead of receiving Edward in his national costume, he had put on an old blue-and-red foreign uniform, in which he made so strange a figure that, though it was donned in his honour, his visitor had hard work to keep from laughing. Nor was the freebooter’s conversation more in accord with his surroundings. He talked much of Edward’s family and connections, and especially of his uncle’s Jacobite politics on which last account, he seemed inclined to welcome the young man with more cordiality than, as a soldier of King George, Edward felt to be his due. The scene which followed was, however, better fitted to the time and place.

At a half-savage feast Edward had the opportunity of tasting steaks fresh cut from some of the Baron’s cattle, broiled on the coals before his eyes, and washed down with draughts of Highland whiskey.

Yet in spite of the warmth of his welcome, there was something very secret and unpleasant about the shifty cunning glance of this little robber-chief, who seemed to know so much about the royal garrisons, and even about the men of Edward’s own troop whom he had brought with him from Waverley-Honour.

When at last they were left alone together, Evan Dhu having lain down in his plaid, the little captain of cattle-lifters asked Captain Waverley in a very significant manner, “if he had nothing particular to say to him.”

Edward, a little startled at the tone in which the question was put, answered that he had no other reason for coming to the cave but a desire to see so strange a dwelling-place.

For a moment Donald Bean Lean looked him full in the face, as if waiting for something more, and then, with a nod full of meaning, he muttered: “You might as well have confided in me. I am as worthy of trust as either the Baron of Bradwardine or Vich Ian Vohr! But you are equally welcome to my house!”

His heather bed, the flickering of the fire, the smoking torches, and the movement of the wild outlaws going and coming about the cave, soon, however, diverted Waverley’s thoughts from the mysterious words of his host. His eyelids drew together, nor did he reopen them till the morning sun, reflected from the lake, was filling all the cave with a glimmering twilight.

THE SECOND INTERLUDE

As soon as this part of the tale was finished, the audience showed much greater eagerness to enter immediately upon the acting of Donald Bean Lean’s cattle-raid, and its consequences, than it had previously displayed as to the doings of Edward Waverley.

As Hugh John admitted, this was “something like!” The Abbey precincts were instantly filled with the mingled sounds characteristic of all well-conducted forays, and it was well indeed that the place was wholly deserted. For the lowings of the driven cattle, the shouts of the triumphant Highlanders, the deep rage of the Baron, stalking to and fro wrapped in his cloak on the Castle terrace, might well have astonished the crowd which in these summer days comes from the four corners of the world “to view fair Melrose aright.”

It was not till the edge had worn off their first enthusiasm, that it became possible to collect them again in order to read “The Hold of a Highland Robber,” which makes Chapter Seventeenth of Waverley itself. And the reading so fired the enthusiasm of Sweetheart that she asked for the book to take to bed with her. The boys were more practical, though equally enthusiastic.

“Wait till we get home,” cried Hugh John, cracking
his fingers and thumbs. “I know a proper place for
Donald Bean Lean’s cave.”

“And I,” said Sir Toady Lion, “will light a fire by
the pond and toss the embers into the water. It
will be jolly to hear ’em hiss, I tell you!”

“But what,” asked Maid Margaret, “shall we do for the cattle and sheep that were hanging by the heels, when Edward went into Donald Bean Lean’s cave?”

“Why, we will hang you up by the heels and cut
slices off you!” said Sir Toady, with frowning
truculence.

Whereat the little girl, a little solemnised, began to edge away from the dangerous neighbourhood of such a pair of young cannibals. Sweetheart reproached her brothers for inventing calumnies against their countrymen.

“Even the Highlanders were never so wicked,” she
objected; “they did not eat one another.”

“Well, anyway,” retorted Sir Toady Lion, unabashed, “Sawney Bean did. Perhaps he was a cousin of Donald’s, though in the history it says that he came from East Lothian.”

“Yes,” cried Hugh John, “and in an old book written in Latin it says (father read it to us) that one of his little girls was too young to be executed with the rest on the sands of Leith. So the King sent her to be brought up by kind people, where she was brought up without knowing anything of her father, the cannibal, and her mother, the cannibaless ”

“Oh,” cried Sweetheart, who knew what was coming,
putting up her hands over her ears, “please don’t
tell that dreadful story all over again.”

“Father read it out of a book so there!” cried Sir
Toady, implacably, “go on, Hugh John!”

“And so when this girl was about as big as Sweetheart, and, of course, could not remember her grandfather’s nice cave or the larder where the arms and legs were hung up to dry in the smoke ”

“Oh, you horrid boy!” cried Sweetheart, not,
however, removing herself out of ear-shot because,
after all, it was nice to shiver just a little.

“Oh, yes, and I have seen the cave,” cried Sir Toady, “it is on the shore near Ballantrae a horrid place. Go on, Hugh John, tell about Sawney Bean’s grandchild!”

“Well, she grew up and up, playing with dolls just like other girls, till she was old enough to be sent out to service. And after she had been a while about the house to which she went, it was noticed that some of the babies in the neighbourhood began to go a-missing, and they found ”

“I think she was a nursemaid!” interrupted Sir
Toady, dispassionately. “That must have been it.
The little wretches cried so she ate them!”

“Oh,” cried Sweetheart, stopping her ears with her
fingers, “don’t tell us what they found I believe
you made it all up, anyway.”

“No, I didn’t,” cried Hugh John, shouting in her ear as if to a very deaf person, “it was father who read it to us, out of a big book with fat black letters. So it must be true!”

Sir Toady was trying to drag away his sister’s arms that she might have the benefit of details, when I appeared in the distance. Whereupon Hugh John, who felt his time growing limited, concluded thus, “And when they were taking the girl away to hang her, the minister asked her why she had killed the babies, and she answered him, ’If people only knew how good babies were especially little girls there would not be one left between Forth and Solway!’”

Then quite unexpectedly Maid Margaret began to sob
bitterly.

“They shan’t hang me up and eat me,” she cried, running as hard as she could and flinging herself into my arms; “Hugh John and Sir Toady say they will, as soon as we get home.”

Happily I had a light cane of a good vintage in my hand, and it did not take long to convince the pair of young scamps of the inconvenience of frightening their little sister. Sweetheart looked on approvingly as two forlorn young men were walked off to a supper, healthfully composed of plain bread and butter, and washed down by some nice cool water from the pump.

“I told you!” she said, “you wouldn’t believe me.”

All the same she was tender-hearted enough to convey a platter of broken meats secretly up to their “condemned cell,” as I knew from finding the empty plate under their washstand in the morning. And as Maid Margaret was being carried off to be bathed and comforted, a Voice, passing their door, threatened additional pains and penalties to little boys who frightened their sisters.

“It was all in a book,” said Hugh John, defending
himself from under the bedclothes, “father read it
to us!”

“We did it for her good,” suggested Sir Toady.

“If I hear another word out of you ” broke in the
Voice; and then added, “go to sleep this instant!”

The incident of the cave had long been forgotten and forgiven, before I could continue the story of Waverley in the cave of Donald Bean Lean. We sat once more “in oor ain hoose at hame,” or rather outside it, near a certain pleasant chalet in a wood, from which place you can see a brown and turbulent river running downward to the sea.