Were ever two such loving friends!--
How could they disagree?
Oh, thus it was, he loved him dear,
And thought how to requite him,
And having no friend left but he,
He did resolve to fight him. DUKE UPON DUKE.
The pair of friends had traversed with their usual cordiality the
grassy wilds of Liddesdale, and crossed the opposite part of
Cumberland, emphatically called The Waste. In these solitary
regions the cattle under the charge of our drovers derived their
subsistence chiefly by picking their food as they went along the
drove-road, or sometimes by the tempting opportunity of a START
AND OWERLOUP, or invasion of the neighbouring pasture, where an
occasion presented itself. But now the scene changed before
them. They were descending towards a fertile and enclosed
country, where no such liberties could be taken with impunity, or
without a previous arrangement and bargain with the possessors of
the ground. This was more especially the case, as a great
northern fair was upon the eve of taking place, where both the
Scotch and English drover expected to dispose of a part of their
cattle, which it was desirable to produce in the market rested
and in good order. Fields were therefore difficult to be
obtained, and only upon high terms. This necessity occasioned a
temporary separation betwixt the two friends, who went to
bargain, each as he could, for the separate accommodation of his
herd. Unhappily it chanced that both of them, unknown to each
other, thought of bargaining for the ground they wanted on the
property of a country gentleman of some fortune, whose estate lay
in the neighbourhood. The English drover applied to the bailiff
on the property, who was known to him. It chanced that the
Cumbrian Squire, who had entertained some suspicions of his
manager's honesty, was taking occasional measures to ascertain
how far they were well founded, and had desired that any
enquiries about his enclosures, with a view to occupy them for a
temporary purpose, should be referred to himself. As however,
Mr. Ireby had gone the day before upon a journey of some miles
distance to the northward, the bailiff chose to consider the
check upon his full powers as for the time removed, and concluded
that he should best consult his master's interest, and perhaps
his own, in making an agreement with Harry Wakefield. Meanwhile,
ignorant of what his comrade was doing, Robin Oig, on his side,
chanced to be overtaken by a good-looking smart little man upon a
pony, most knowingly hogged and cropped, as was then the fashion,
the rider wearing tight leather breeches, and long-necked bright
spurs. This cavalier asked one or two pertinent questions about
markets and the price of stock. So Robin, seeing him a well-
judging civil gentleman, took the freedom to ask him whether he
could let him know if there was any grass-land to be let in that
neighbourhood, for the temporary accommodation of his drove. He
could not have put the question to more willing ears. The
gentleman of the buckskins was the proprietor, with whose bailiff
Harry Wakefield had dealt, or was in the act of dealing.
"Thou art in good luck, my canny Scot," said Mr. Ireby, "to have
spoken to me, for I see thy cattle have done their day's work,
and I have at my disposal the only field within three miles that
is to be let in these parts."
"The drove can pe gang two, three, four miles very pratty weel
indeed"--said the cautious Highlander; "put what would his honour
pe axing for the peasts pe the head, if she was to tak the park
for twa or three days?"
"We won't differ, Sawney, if you let me have six stots for
winterers, in the way of reason."
"And which peasts wad your honour pe for having?"
"Why--let me see--the two black--the dun one--yon doddy--him with
the twisted horn--the brockit--How much by the head?"
"Ah," said Robin, "your honour is a shudge--a real shudge. I
couldna have set off the pest six peasts petter mysel'--me that
ken them as if they were my pairns, puir things."
"Well, how much per head, Sawney?" continued Mr. Ireby.
"It was high markets at Doune and Falkirk," answered Robin.
And thus the conversation proceeded, until they had agreed on the
PRIX JUSTE for the bullocks, the Squire throwing in the temporary
accommodation of the enclosure for the cattle into the boot, and
Robin making, as he thought, a very good bargain, provided the
grass was but tolerable. The Squire walked his pony alongside of
the drove, partly to show him the way, and see him put into
possession of the field, and partly to learn the latest news of
the northern markets.
They arrived at the field, and the pasture seemed excellent. But
what was their surprise when they saw the bailiff quietly
inducting the cattle of Harry Wakefield into the grassy Goshen
which had just been assigned to those of Robin Oig M'Combich by
the proprietor himself! Squire Ireby set spurs to his horse,
dashed up to his servant, and learning what had passed between
the parties, briefly informed the English drover that his bailiff
had let the ground without his authority, and that he might seek
grass for his cattle wherever he would, since he was to get none
there. At the same time he rebuked his servant severely for
having transgressed his commands, and ordered him instantly to
assist in ejecting the hungry and weary cattle of Harry
Wakefield, which were just beginning to enjoy a meal of unusual
plenty, and to introduce those of his comrade, whom the English
drover now began to consider as a rival.
The feelings which arose in Wakefield's mind would have induced
him to resist Mr. Ireby's decision; but every Englishman has a
tolerably accurate sense of law and justice, and John
Fleecebumpkin, the bailiff, having acknowledged that he had
exceeded his commission, Wakefield saw nothing else for it than
to collect his hungry and disappointed charge, and drive them on
to seek quarters elsewhere. Robin Oig saw what had happened with
regret, and hastened to offer to his English friend to share with
him the disputed possession. But Wakefield's pride was severely
hurt, and he answered disdainfully, "Take it all, man--take it
all; never make two bites of a cherry. Thou canst talk over the
gentry, and blear a plain man's eye. Out upon you, man. I would
not kiss any man's dirty latchets for leave to bake in his oven."
Robin Oig, sorry but not surprised at his comrade's displeasure,
hastened to entreat his friend to wait but an hour till he had
gone to the Squire's house to receive payment for the cattle he
had sold, and he would come back and help him to drive the cattle
into some convenient place of rest, and explain to him the whole
mistake they had both of them fallen into. But the Englishman
continued indignant: "Thou hast been selling, hast thou? Ay,
ay; thou is a cunning lad for kenning the hours of bargaining.
Go to the devil with thyself, for I will ne'er see thy fause
loon's visage again--thou should be ashamed to look me in the
"I am ashamed to look no man in the face," said Robin Oig,
something moved; "and, moreover, I will look you in the face this
blessed day, if you will bide at the Clachan down yonder."
"Mayhap you had as well keep away," said his comrade; and turning
his back on his former friend, he collected his unwilling
associates, assisted by the bailiff, who took some real and some
affected interest in seeing Wakefield accommodated.
After spending some time in negotiating with more than one of the
neighbouring farmers, who could not, or would not, afford the
accommodation desired, Henry Wakefield at last, and in his
necessity, accomplished his point by means of the landlord of the
alehouse at which Robin Oig and he had agreed to pass the night,
when they first separated from each other. Mine host was content
to let him turn his cattle on a piece of barren moor, at a price
little less than the bailiff had asked for the disputed
enclosure; and the wretchedness of the pasture, as well as the
price paid for it, were set down as exaggerations of the breach
of faith and friendship of his Scottish crony. This turn of
Wakefield's passions was encouraged by the bailiff, (who had his
own reasons for being offended against poor Robin, as having been
the unwitting cause of his falling into disgrace with his
master), as well as by the innkeeper, and two or three chance
guests, who stimulated the drover in his resentment against his
quondam associate--some from the ancient grudge against the
Scots, which, when it exists anywhere, is to be found lurking in
the Border counties, and some from the general love of mischief,
which characterises mankind in all ranks of life, to the honour
of Adam's children be it spoken. Good John Barleycorn also, who
always heightens and exaggerates the prevailing passions, be they
angry or kindly, was not wanting in his offices on this occasion,
and confusion to false friends and hard masters was pledged in
more than one tankard.
In the meanwhile Mr. Ireby found some amusement in detaining the
northern drover at his ancient hall. He caused a cold round of
beef to be placed before the Scot in the butler's pantry,
together with a foaming tankard of home-brewed, and took pleasure
in seeing the hearty appetite with which these unwonted edibles
were discussed by Robin Oig M'Combich. The Squire himself
lighting his pipe, compounded between his patrician dignity and
his love of agricultural gossip, by walking up and down while he
conversed with his guest.
"I passed another drove," said the Squire, with one of your
countrymen behind them. They were something less beasts than
your drove--doddies most of them. A big man was with them. None
of your kilts, though, but a decent pair of breeches. D'ye know
who he may be?"
"Hout aye; that might, could, and would be Hughie Morrison. I
didna think he could hae peen sae weel up. He has made a day on
us; but his Argyleshires will have wearied shanks. How far was
"I think about six or seven miles," answered the Squire, "for I
passed them at the Christenbury Crag, and I overtook you at the
Hollan Bush. If his beasts be leg-weary, he will be maybe
"Na, na, Hughie Morrison is no the man for pargains--ye maun come
to some Highland body like Robin Oig hersel' for the like of
these. Put I maun pe wishing you goot night, and twenty of them,
let alane ane, and I maun down to the Clachan to see if the lad
Harry Waakfelt is out of his humdudgeons yet."
The party at the alehouse were still in full talk, and the
treachery of Robin Oig still the theme of conversation, when the
supposed culprit entered the apartment. His arrival, as usually
happens in such a case, put an instant stop to the discussion of
which he had furnished the subject, and he was received by the
company assembled with that chilling silence which, more than a
thousand exclamations, tells an intruder that he is unwelcome.
Surprised and offended, but not appalled by the reception which
he experienced, Robin entered with an undaunted and even a
haughty air, attempted no greeting, as he saw he was received
with none, and placed himself by the side of the fire, a little
apart from a table at which Harry Wakefield, the bailiff, and two
or three other persons, were seated. The ample Cumbrian kitchen
would have afforded plenty of room, even for a larger separation.
Robin thus seated, proceeded to light his pipe, and call for a
pint of twopenny.
"We have no twopence ale," answered Ralph Heskett the landlord;
"but as thou find'st thy own tobacco, it's like thou mayst find
thy own liquor too--it's the wont of thy country, I wot."
"Shame, goodman," said the landlady, a blithe, bustling
housewife, hastening herself to supply the guest with liquor.
"Thou knowest well enow what the strange man wants, and it's thy
trade to be civil, man. Thou shouldst know, that if the Scot
likes a small pot, he pays a sure penny."
Without taking any notice of this nuptial dialogue, the
Highlander took the flagon in his hand, and addressing the
company generally, drank the interesting toast of "Good markets"
to the party assembled.
"The better that the wind blew fewer dealers from the north,"
said one of the farmers, "and fewer Highland runts to eat up the
"Saul of my pody, put you are wrang there, my friend," answered
Robin, with composure; "it is your fat Englishmen that eat up our
Scots cattle, puir things."
"I wish there was a summat to eat up their drovers," said
another; "a plain Englishman canna make bread within a kenning of
"Or an honest servant keep his master's favour but they will come
sliding in between him and the sunshine," said the bailiff.
"If these pe jokes," said Robin Oig, with the same composure,
"there is ower mony jokes upon one man."
"It is no joke, but downright earnest," said the bailiff.
"Harkye, Mr. Robin Ogg, or whatever is your name, it's right we
should tell you that we are all of one opinion, and that is, that
you, Mr. Robin Ogg, have behaved to our friend Mr. Harry
Wakefield here, like a raff and a blackguard."
"Nae doubt, nae doubt," answered Robin, with great composure;
"and you are a set of very pretty judges, for whose prains or
pehaviour I wad not gie a pinch of sneeshing. If Mr. Harry
Waakfelt kens where he is wranged, he kens where he may be
"He speaks truth," said Wakefield, who had listened to what
passed, divided between the offence which he had taken at Robin's
late behaviour, and the revival of his habitual feelings of
He now rose, and went towards Robin, who got up from his seat as
he approached, and held out his hand.
"That's right, Harry--go it--serve him out," resounded on all
sides--"tip him the nailer--show him the mill."
"Hold your peace all of you, and be--," said Wakefield; and then
addressing his comrade, he took him by the extended hand, with
something alike of respect and defiance. "Robin," he said, "thou
hast used me ill enough this day; but if you mean, like a frank
fellow, to shake hands, and take a tussle for love on the sod,
why I'll forgie thee, man, and we shall be better friends than
"And would it not pe petter to pe cood friends without more of
the matter?" said Robin; "we will be much petter friendships
with our panes hale than proken."
Harry Wakefield dropped the hand of his friend, or rather threw
it from him.
"I did not think I had been keeping company for three years with
"Coward pelongs to none of my name," said Robin, whose eyes began
to kindle, but keeping the command of his temper. "It was no
coward's legs or hands, Harry Waakfelt, that drew you out of the
fords of Frew, when you was drifting ower the plack rock, and
every eel in the river expected his share of you."
"And that is true enough, too," said the Englishman, struck by
"Adzooks!" exclaimed the bailiff--"sure Harry Wakefield, the
nattiest lad at Whitson Tryste, Wooler Fair, Carlisle Sands, or
Stagshaw Bank, is not going to show white feather? Ah, this
comes of living so long with kilts and bonnets--men forget the
use of their daddles."
"I may teach you, Master Fleecebumpkin, that I have not lost the
use of mine," said Wakefield and then went on. "This will never
do, Robin. We must have a turn-up, or we shall be the talk of
the country-side. I'll be d--d if I hurt thee--I'll put on the
gloves gin thou like. Come, stand forward like a man."
"To be peaten like a dog," said Robin; "is there any reason in
that? If you think I have done you wrong, I'll go before your
shudge, though I neither know his law nor his language."
A general cry of "No, no--no law, no lawyer! a bellyful and be
friends," was echoed by the bystanders.
"But," continued Robin, "if I am to fight, I have no skill to
fight like a jackanapes, with hands and nails."
"How would you fight then?" said his antagonist; "though I am
thinking it would be hard to bring you to the scratch anyhow."
"I would fight with proadswords, and sink point on the first
plood drawn--like a gentlemans."
A loud shout of laughter followed the proposal, which indeed had
rather escaped from poor Robin's swelling heart, than been the
dictate of his sober judgment.
"Gentleman, quotha!" was echoed on all sides, with a shout of
unextinguishable laughter; "a very pretty gentleman, God wot.
--Canst get two swords for the gentleman to fight with, Ralph
"No, but I can send to the armoury at Carlisle, and lend them two
forks, to be making shift with in the meantime."
"Tush, man," said another, "the bonny Scots come into the world
with the blue bonnet on their heads, and dirk and pistol at their
"Best send post," said Mr. Fleecebumpkin, "to the Squire of Corby
Castle, to come and stand second to the GENTLEMAN."
In the midst of this torrent of general ridicule, the Highlander
instinctively griped beneath the folds of his plaid,
"But it's better not," he said in his own language. "A hundred
curses on the swine-eaters, who know neither decency nor
"Make room, the pack of you," he said, advancing to the door.
But his former friend interposed his sturdy bulk, and opposed his
leaving the house; and when Robin Oig attempted to make his way
by force, he hit him down on the floor, with as much ease as a
boy bowls down a nine-pin.
"A ring, a ring!" was now shouted, until the dark rafters, and
the hams that hung on them, trembled again, and the very platters
on the BINK clattered against each other. "Well done, Harry"
--"Give it him home, Harry"--"Take care of him now--he sees his
Such were the exclamations, while the Highlander, starting from
the ground, all his coldness and caution lost in frantic rage,
sprung at his antagonist with the fury, the activity, and the
vindictive purpose of an incensed tiger-cat. But when could rage
encounter science and temper? Robin Oig again went down in the
unequal contest; and as the blow was necessarily a severe one, he
lay motionless on the floor of the kitchen. The landlady ran to
offer some aid, but Mr. Fleecebumpkin would not permit her to
"Let him alone," he said, "he will come to within time, and come
up to the scratch again. He has not got half his broth yet."
"He has got all I mean to give him, though," said his antagonist,
whose heart began to relent towards his old associate; "and I
would rather by half give the rest to yourself, Mr.
Fleecebumpkin, for you pretend to know a thing or two, and Robin
had not art enough even to peel before setting to, but fought
with his plaid dangling about him.--Stand up, Robin, my man! All
friends now; and let me hear the man that will speak a word
against you, or your country, for your sake."
Robin Oig was still under the dominion of his passion, and eager
to renew the onset; but being withheld on the one side by the
peacemaking Dame Heskett, and on the other, aware that Wakefield
no longer meant to renew the combat, his fury sunk into gloomy
"Come, come, never grudge so much at it, man," said the brave-
spirited Englishman, with the placability of his country; "shake
hands, and we will be better friends than ever."
"Friends!" exclaimed Robin Oig with strong emphasis--"friends!
Never. Look to yourself, Harry Waakfelt."
"Then the curse of Cromwell on your proud Scots stomach, as the
man says in the play, and you may do your worst, and be d--d; for
one man can say nothing more to another after a tussle, than that
he is sorry for it."
On these terms the friends parted. Robin Oig drew out, in
silence, a piece of money, threw it on the table, and then left
the alehouse. But turning at the door, he shook his hand at
Wakefield, pointing with his forefinger upwards, in a manner
which might imply either a threat or a caution. He then
disappeared in the moonlight.
Some words passed after his departure, between the bailiff, who
piqued himself on being a little of a bully, and Harry Wakefield,
who, with generous inconsistency, was now not indisposed to begin
a new combat in defence of Robin Oig's reputation, "although he
could not use his daddles like an Englishman, as it did not come
natural to him." But Dame Heskett prevented this second quarrel
from coming to a head by her peremptory interference. "There
should be no more fighting in her house," she said; "there had
been too much already.--And you, Mr. Wakefield, may live to
learn," she added, "what it is to make a deadly enemy out of a
"Pshaw, dame! Robin Oig is an honest fellow, and will never keep
"Do not trust to that; you do not know the dour temper of the
Scots, though you have dealt with them so often. I have a right
to know them, my mother being a Scot."
"And so is well seen on her daughter," said Ralph Heskett.
This nuptial sarcasm gave the discourse another turn. Fresh
customers entered the tap-room or kitchen, and others left it.
The conversation turned on the expected markets, and the report
of prices from different parts both of Scotland and England.
Treaties were commenced, and Harry Wakefield was lucky enough to
find a chap for a part of his drove, and at a very considerable
profit--an event of consequence more than sufficient to blot out
all remembrances of the unpleasant scuffle in the earlier part of
the day. But there remained one party from whose mind that
recollection could not have been wiped away by the possession of
every head of cattle betwixt Esk and Eden.
This was Robin Oig M'Combich. "That I should have had no
weapon," he said, "and for the first time in my life! Blighted
be the tongue that bids the Highlander part with the dirk. The
dirk--ha! the English blood! My Muhme's word! When did her
word fall to the ground?"
The recollection of the fatal prophecy confirmed the deadly
intention which instantly sprang up in his mind.
"Ha! Morrison cannot be many miles behind; and if it were an
hundred, what then?"
His impetuous spirit had now a fixed purpose and motive of
action, and he turned the light foot of his country towards the
wilds, through which he knew, by Mr. Ireby's report, that
Morrison was advancing. His mind was wholly engrossed by the
sense of injury--injury sustained from a friend; and by the
desire of vengeance on one whom he now accounted his most bitter
enemy. The treasured ideas of self-importance and self-opinion
--of ideal birth and quality, had become more precious to him,
(like the hoard to the miser) because he could only enjoy them in
secret. But that hoard was pillaged--the idols which he had
secretly worshipped had been desecrated and profaned. Insulted,
abused, and beaten, he was no longer worthy, in his own opinion,
of the name he bore, or the lineage which he belonged to.
Nothing was left to him--nothing but revenge; and as the
reflection added a galling spur to every step, he determined it
should be as sudden and signal as the offence.
When Robin Oig left the door of the alehouse, seven or eight
English miles at least lay betwixt Morrison and him. The advance
of the former was slow, limited by the sluggish pace of his
cattle; the latter left behind him stubble-field and hedgerow,
crag and dark heath, all glittering with frost-rime in the broad
November moonlight, at the rate of six miles an hour. And now
the distant lowing of Morrison's cattle is heard; and now they
are seen creeping like moles in size and slowness of motion on
the broad face of the moor; and now he meets them--passes them,
and stops their conductor.
"May good betide us," said the Westlander. "Is this you, Robin
M'Combich, or your wraith?"
"It is Robin Oig M'Combich," answered the Highlander, "and it is
not. But never mind that, put pe giving me the skene-dhu."
"What! you are for back to the Highlands! The devil! Have you
selt all off before the fair? This beats all for quick markets!"
"I have not sold--I am not going north--maype I will never go
north again. Give me pack my dirk, Hugh Morrison, or there will
pe words petween us."
"Indeed, Robin, I'll be better advised before I gie it back to
you; it is a wanchancy weapon in a Highlandman's hand, and I am
thinking you will be about some harns-breaking."
"Prutt, trutt! let me have my weapon," said Robin Oig
"Hooly and fairly," said his well-meaning friend. "I'll tell you
what will do better than these dirking doings. Ye ken
Highlander, and Lowlander, and Border-men are a' ae man's bairns
when you are over the Scots dyke. See, the Eskdale callants, and
fighting Charlie of Liddesdale, and the Lockerby lads, and the
four Dandies of Lustruther, and a wheen mair grey plaids, are
coming up behind; and if you are wranged, there is the hand of a
Manly Morrison, we'll see you righted, if Carlisle and Stanwix
baith took up the feud."
"To tell you the truth," said Robin Oig, desirous of eluding the
suspicions of his friend, "I have enlisted with a party of the
Black Watch, and must march off to-morrow morning."
"Enlisted! Were you mad or drunk? You must buy yourself off. I
can lend you twenty notes, and twenty to that, if the drove
"I thank you--thank ye, Hughie; but I go with good-will the gate
that I am going. So the dirk, the dirk!"
"There it is for you then, since less wunna serve. But think on
what I was saying. Waes me, it will be sair news in the braes of
Balquidder that Robin Oig M'Combich should have run an ill gate,
and ta'en on."
"Ill news in Balquidder, indeed!" echoed poor Robin. "But Cot
speed you, Hughie, and send you good marcats. Ye winna meet with
Robin Oig again, either at tryste or fair."
So saying, he shook hastily the hand of his acquaintance, and set
out in the direction from which he had advanced, with the spirit
of his former pace.
"There is something wrang with the lad," muttered the Morrison to
himself; "but we will maybe see better into it the morn's
But long ere the morning dawned, the catastrophe of our tale had
taken place. It was two hours after the affray had happened, and
it was totally forgotten by almost every one, when Robin Oig
returned to Heskett's inn. The place was filled at once by
various sorts of men, and with noises corresponding to their
character. There were the grave low sounds of men engaged in
busy traffic, with the laugh, the song, and the riotous jest of
those who had nothing to do but to enjoy themselves. Among the
last was Harry Wakefield, who, amidst a grinning group of smock-
frocks, hobnailed shoes, and jolly English physiognomies, was
trolling forth the old ditty,--
"What though my name be Roger,
Who drives the plough and cart--"
when he was interrupted by a well-known voice saying in a high
and stern voice, marked by the sharp Highland accent, "Harry
Waakfelt--if you be a man stand up!"
"What is the matter?--what is it?" the guests demanded of each
"It is only a d--d Scotsman," said Fleecebumpkin, who was by this
time very drunk, "whom Harry Wakefield helped to his broth to-
day, who is now come to have HIS CAULD KAIL het again."
"Harry Waakfelt," repeated the same ominous summons, "stand up,
if you be a man!"
There is something in the tone of deep and concentrated passion,
which attracts attention and imposes awe, even by the very sound.
The guests shrunk back on every side, and gazed at the Highlander
as he stood in the middle of them, his brows bent, and his
features rigid with resolution.
"I will stand up with all my heart, Robin, my boy, but it shall
be to shake hands with you, and drink down all unkindness. It is
not the fault of your heart, man, that you don't know how to
clench your hands."
By this time he stood opposite to his antagonist, his open and
unsuspecting look strangely contrasted with the stern purpose,
which gleamed wild, dark, and vindictive in the eyes of the
"'Tis not thy fault, man, that, not having the luck to be an
Englishman, thou canst not fight more than a school-girl."
"I can fight," answered Robin Oig sternly, but calmly, "and you
shall know it. You, Harry Waakfelt, showed me to-day how the
Saxon churls fight; I show you now how the Highland Dunnie-wassel
He seconded the word with the action, and plunged the dagger,
which he suddenly displayed, into the broad breast of the English
yeoman, with such fatal certainty and force that the hilt made a
hollow sound against the breast-bone, and the double-edged point
split the very heart of his victim. Harry Wakefield fell and
expired with a single groan. His assassin next seized the
bailiff by the collar, and offered the bloody poniard to his
throat, whilst dread and surprise rendered the man incapable of
"It were very just to lay you peside him," he said, "but the
blood of a pase pickthank shall never mix on my father's dirk,
with that of a brave man."
As he spoke, he cast the man from him with so much force that he
fell on the floor, while Robin, with his other hand, threw the
fatal weapon into the blazing turf-fire.
"There," he said, "take me who likes--and let fire cleanse blood
if it can."
The pause of astonishment still continuing, Robin Oig asked for a
peace-officer, and a constable having stepped out, he surrendered
himself to his custody.
"A bloody night's work you have made of it," said the constable.
"Your own fault," said the Highlander. "Had you kept his hands
off me twa hours since, he would have been now as well and merry
as he was twa minutes since."
"It must be sorely answered," said the peace-officer.
"Never you mind that--death pays all debts; it will pay that
The horror of the bystanders began now to give way to
indignation, and the sight of a favourite companion murdered in
the midst of them, the provocation being, in their opinion, so
utterly inadequate to the excess of vengeance, might have induced
them to kill the perpetrator of the deed even upon the very spot.
The constable, however, did his duty on this occasion, and with
the assistance of some of the more reasonable persons present,
procured horses to guard the prisoner to Carlisle, to abide his
doom at the next assizes. While the escort was preparing, the
prisoner neither expressed the least interest, nor attempted the
slightest reply. Only, before he was carried from the fatal
apartment, he desired to look at the dead body, which, raised
from the floor, had been deposited upon the large table (at the
head of which Harry Wakefield had presided but a few minutes
before, full of life, vigour, and animation), until the surgeons
should examine the mortal wound. The face of the corpse was
decently covered with a napkin. To the surprise and horror of
the bystanders, which displayed itself in a general AH! drawn
through clenched teeth and half-shut lips, Robin Oig removed the
cloth, and gazed with a mournful but steady eye on the lifeless
visage, which had been so lately animated that the smile of good-
humoured confidence in his own strength, of conciliation at once
and contempt towards his enemy, still curled his lip. While
those present expected that the wound, which had so lately
flooded the apartment with gore, would send forth fresh streams
at the touch of the homicide, Robin Oig replaced the covering
with the brief exclamation, "He was a pretty man!"
My story is nearly ended. The unfortunate Highlander stood his
trial at Carlisle. I was myself present, and as a young Scottish
lawyer, or barrister at least, and reputed a man of some quality,
the politeness of the Sheriff of Cumberland offered me a place on
the bench. The facts of the case were proved in the manner I
have related them; and whatever might be at first the prejudice
of the audience against a crime so un-English as that of
assassination from revenge, yet when the rooted national
prejudices of the prisoner had been explained, which made him
consider himself as stained with indelible dishonour, when
subjected to personal violence--when his previous patience,
moderation, and endurance were considered--the generosity of the
English audience was inclined to regard his crime as the wayward
aberration of a false idea of honour rather than as flowing from
a heart naturally savage, or perverted by habitual vice. I shall
never forget the charge of the venerable judge to the jury,
although not at that time liable to be much affected either by
that which was eloquent or pathetic.
"We have had," he said, "in the previous part of our duty"
(alluding to some former trials), "to discuss crimes which infer
disgust and abhorrence, while they call down the well-merited
vengeance of the law. It is now our still more melancholy task
to apply its salutary though severe enactments to a case of a
very singular character, in which the crime (for a crime it is,
and a deep one) arose less out of the malevolence of the heart,
than the error of the understanding--less from any idea of
committing wrong, than from an unhappily perverted notion of that
which is right. Here we have two men, highly esteemed, it has
been stated, in their rank of life, and attached, it seems, to
each other as friends, one of whose lives has been already
sacrificed to a punctilio, and the other is about to prove the
vengeance of the offended laws; and yet both may claim our
commiseration at least, as men acting in ignorance of each
other's national prejudices, and unhappily misguided rather than
voluntarily erring from the path of right conduct.
"In the original cause of the misunderstanding, we must in
justice give the right to the prisoner at the bar. He had
acquired possession of the enclosure, which was the object of
competition, by a legal contract with the proprietor, Mr. Ireby;
and yet, when accosted with reproaches undeserved in themselves,
and galling, doubtless, to a temper at least sufficiently
susceptible of passion, he offered notwithstanding, to yield up
half his acquisition, for the sake of peace and good
neighbourhood, and his amicable proposal was rejected with scorn.
Then follows the scene at Mr. Heskett the publican's, and you
will observe how the stranger was treated by the deceased, and, I
am sorry to observe, by those around, who seem to have urged him
in a manner which was aggravating in the highest degree. While
he asked for peace and for composition, and offered submission to
a magistrate, or to a mutual arbiter, the prisoner was insulted
by a whole company, who seem on this occasion to have forgotten
the national maxim of 'fair play;' and while attempting to escape
from the place in peace, he was intercepted, struck down, and
beaten to the effusion of his blood.
"Gentlemen of the jury, it was with some impatience that I heard
my learned brother who opened the case for the crown give an
unfavourable turn to the prisoner's conduct on this occasion. He
said the prisoner was afraid to encounter his antagonist in fair
fight, or to submit to the laws of the ring; and that therefore,
like a cowardly Italian, he had recourse to his fatal stiletto,
to murder the man whom he dared not meet in manly encounter. I
observed the prisoner shrink from this part of the accusation
with the abhorrence natural to a brave man; and as I would wish
to make my words impressive when I point his real crime, I must
secure his opinion of my impartiality by rebutting everything
that seems to me a false accusation. There can be no doubt that
the prisoner is a man of resolution--too much resolution. I wish
to Heaven that he had less--or, rather that he had had a better
education to regulate it.
"Gentlemen, as to the laws my brother talks of, they may be known
in the bull-ring, or the bear-garden, or the cock-pit, but they
are not known here. Or, if they should be so far admitted as
furnishing a species of proof that no malice was intended in this
sort of combat, from which fatal accidents do sometimes arise, it
can only be so admitted when both parties are IN PARI CASU,
equally acquainted with, and equally willing to refer themselves
to, that species of arbitrament. But will it be contended that a
man of superior rank and education is to be subjected, or is
obliged to subject himself, to this coarse and brutal strife,
perhaps in opposition to a younger, stronger, or more skilful
opponent? Certainly even the pugilistic code, if founded upon
the fair play of Merry Old England, as my brother alleges it to
be, can contain nothing so preposterous. And, gentlemen of the
jury, if the laws would support an English gentleman, wearing, we
will suppose, his sword, in defending himself by force against a
violent personal aggression of the nature offered to this
prisoner, they will not less protect a foreigner and a stranger,
involved in the same unpleasing circumstances. If, therefore,
gentlemen of the jury, when thus pressed by a VIS MAJOR, the
object of obloquy to a whole company, and of direct violence from
one at least, and, as he might reasonably apprehend, from more,
the panel had produced the weapon which his countrymen, as we are
informed, generally carry about their persons, and the same
unhappy circumstance had ensued which you have heard detailed in
evidence, I could not in my conscience have asked from you a
verdict of murder. The prisoner's personal defence might indeed,
even in that case, have gone more or less beyond the MODERAMEN
INCULPATAE TUTELAE, spoken of by lawyers; but the punishment
incurred would have been that of manslaughter, not of murder. I
beg leave to add that I should have thought this milder species
of charge was demanded in the case supposed, notwithstanding the
statute of James I. cap. 8, which takes the case of slaughter by
stabbing with a short weapon, even without MALICE PREPENSE, out
of the benefit of clergy. For this statute of stabbing, as it is
termed, arose out of a temporary cause; and as the real guilt is
the same, whether the slaughter be committed by the dagger, or by
sword or pistol, the benignity of the modern law places them all
on the same, or nearly the same, footing.
"But, gentlemen of the jury, the pinch of the case lies in the
interval of two hours interposed betwixt the reception of the
injury and the fatal retaliation. In the heat of affray and
CHAUDE MELEE, law, compassionating the infirmities of humanity,
makes allowance for the passions which rule such a stormy moment
--for the sense of present pain, for the apprehension of further
injury, for the difficulty of ascertaining with due accuracy the
precise degree of violence which is necessary to protect the
person of the individual, without annoying or injuring the
assailant more than is absolutely necessary. But the time
necessary to walk twelve miles, however speedily performed, was
an interval sufficient for the prisoner to have recollected
himself; and the violence with which he carried his purpose into
effect, with so many circumstances of deliberate determination,
could neither be induced by the passion of anger, nor that of
fear. It was the purpose and the act of predetermined revenge,
for which law neither can, will, nor ought to have sympathy or
"It is true, we may repeat to ourselves, in alleviation of this
poor man's unhappy action, that his case is a very peculiar one.
The country which he inhabits was, in the days of many now alive,
inaccessible to the laws, not only of England, which have not
even yet penetrated thither, but to those to which our neighbours
of Scotland are subjected, and which must be supposed to be, and
no doubt actually are, founded upon the general principles of
justice and equity which pervade every civilized country.
Amongst their mountains, as among the North American Indians, the
various tribes were wont to make war upon each other, so that
each man was obliged to go armed for his own protection. These
men, from the ideas which they entertained of their own descent
and of their own consequence, regarded themselves as so many
cavaliers or men-at-arms, rather than as the peasantry of a
peaceful country. Those laws of the ring, as my brother terms
them, were unknown to the race of warlike mountaineers; that
decision of quarrels by no other weapons than those which nature
has given every man must to them have seemed as vulgar and as
preposterous as to the NOBLESSE of France. Revenge, on the other
hand, must have been as familiar to their habits of society as to
those of the Cherokees or Mohawks. It is indeed, as described by
Bacon, at bottom a kind of wild untutored justice; for the fear
of retaliation must withhold the hands of the oppressor where
there is no regular law to check daring violence. But though all
this may be granted, and though we may allow that, such having
been the case of the Highlands in the days of the prisoner's
fathers, many of the opinions and sentiments must still continue
to influence the present generation, it cannot, and ought not,
even in this most painful case, to alter the administration of
the law, either in your hands, gentlemen of the jury, or in mine.
The first object of civilisation is to place the general
protection of the law, equally administered, in the room of that
wild justice which every man cut and carved for himself,
according to the length of his sword and the strength of his arm.
The law says to the subjects, with a voice only inferior to that
of the Deity, 'Vengeance is mine.' The instant that there is time
for passion to cool, and reason to interpose, an injured party
must become aware that the law assumes the exclusive cognisance
of the right and wrong betwixt the parties, and opposes her
inviolable buckler to every attempt of the private party to right
himself. I repeat that this unhappy man ought personally to be
the object rather of our pity than our abhorrence, for he failed
in his ignorance, and from mistaken notions of honour. But his
crime is not the less that of murder, gentlemen, and, in your
high and important office, it is your duty so to find.
Englishmen have their angry passions as well as Scots; and should
this man's action remain unpunished, you may unsheath, under
various pretences, a thousand daggers betwixt the Land's-End and
The venerable Judge thus ended what, to judge by his apparent
emotion, and by the tears which filled his eyes, was really a
painful task. The jury, according to his instructions, brought
in a verdict of Guilty; and Robin Oig M'Combich, ALIAS McGregor,
was sentenced to death, and left for execution, which took place
accordingly. He met his fate with great firmness, and
acknowledged the justice of his sentence. But he repelled
indignantly the observations of those who accused him of
attacking an unarmed man. "I give a life for the life I took,"
he said, "and what can I do more?" [See Note 11.--Robert Donn's