DONALD MACPHERSON,

SMUGGLER.

HIS ADVENTURES IN AND AROUND DUFFTOWN.

CHAPTER IV
THE SKIRMISH AT THE LAGGAN. – PREMATURE BURIAL OF DONALD.

Someone has written somewhere that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but such does not appear to have been the case with Donald, for, as the time for his return to the wife of his bosom approached, he exhibited a certain amount of uneasiness not in keeping with his usual jovial disposition. This may be accounted for partly by his gipsy-like tendency to a roving and adventurous life, and partly to a certain dread of what would happen on his first meeting with Janet after his prolonged and unauthorised absence. He was quite aware that matters would go on all right at the croft, for he tacitly admitted that his absence or presence there made very little difference, Janet being the person who conducted all matter relating to the buying and selling of stock and other farm produce. But then the question arose in his mind, how was the stock of whisky in the cave to be kept up if he did not start another spell of brewing?

These considerations determined him to brave Janet’s reproaches and set out for home, and as he had made a few pounds at Auchleven he resolved to hand over the amount to her as a peace offering. Bidding his friends goodbye, after a hearty deoh-an-dheoris and many promises of a speedy return, he reluctantly turned his face homewards. “Remember, Donald,” said the miller, who accompanied him some distance on his way, “you have been of the greatest service to us, an’ we will be only too glad to welcome ye back. Ye hae not only improved the quality o’ oor brewing, but ye hae gi’n thae billies o’ excisemen something to dae for their money.” “Ay, ay,” responded Donald, a grim smile overspreading his features, “they get their money easily – no like you an’ me wha hae to wark hard for it.” “Well,” said the miller, extending his hand, which Donald shook warmly, “haste ye back.”

Donald’s way led him through the Cabrach and the Balloch, and when he came to the Laggan another adventure befell him similar, but far more serious in its consequences, than any he had hitherto experienced. For obvious reasons the writer prefers not to describe in detail the collusion which occurred between the representatives of law and order and the populace at this place. He is decidedly of opinion that those details had better for all purpose remain where they are – sunk in the ashes of oblivion. Suffice it then, to say that it only once more illustrates the old saw that many things begun in mere frolic have ended with disastrous consequences, and the play whose prologue was a mirth-provoking farce has had a tragedy for its epilogue.

After the rencontre with the gaugers at the Laggan Donald remained with some others in hiding at the Blue Cairn on Jock’s Hill, where food was supplied to them surreptitiously during the darkening hours of night.

Blue Cairn on Jock’s Hill (map of 1855)

The spirit of adventure, however, was too strongly developed in Donald to allow him to remain here any longer, so, acting on the presumption that he had not been recognised by any of the gaugers in the affray, he wended his way down the mountain aide to Pitglassie, where a number of his “customers” as he called them, resided. Here he found that his return was waited with the utmost impatience, and his arrival was hailed with unbounded delight by the thirsty souls.

“Man, Donald,” said one (Jock Scott by name), shaking him warmly by the hand, “I thocht we had tint ye a’thegither. Whar hae ye been this last while? Come ben and gie’s a crack. I’m shair a sicht o’ ye is for sair ean.”

“Weel,” said Donald as he entered Jock’s cottage and took a seat, “I hae been busy, an’ am just noo returned to get up the stock a little bit. I’m jalousin’ Janet’s cask will be near toomed be this time.” “Toomed, did you say?” cried Jock, astonished at his ignorance. “Why, man, we hinna had a drap for the last fortnight, an’ we’re a’ as dry as whussles. I dinna believe there’s as muckle aboot the glen at the present moment as would droon a midge.”

“Never mind,” returned Donald, “I’ll soon pit that to rights. By anither ten days ye’ll hae planty an’ to spare.”

In this way they continued talking while they partook of a frugal meal, and when this was finished they lit their pipes and continued their discussion of the recent events in the neighbourhood until the shades of night had fallen.

The moon rose in silvery grandeur above the eastern mountains and shed a bright mellow light on the surrounding hills, bringing the more prominent objects into relief, while the numerous passes and gorges were enveloped in darkness, rendered still more dense by contrast with the surrounding brightness. Donald and his friend still sat smoking and chatting, when their conversation was interrupted by the hurried entrance of the latter’s son, a bright strapping youth of some sixteen summers.

“What is that, Sandy?” inquired Jock. “Hae ye seen onything?” The gaugers are at the top of the glack, and are coming this way. There are two of them, baith mounted, and will be here immediately.”

Donald jumped to his feet and made a bolt for the door, but alas! The youth had spoken only too truly – even now, as Donald put out his head he could see them tying their horses to a stake not fifty yards from the door, and directly in front of it. Donald withdrew his head quickly, and closed the door cautiously. To attempt to steal away without being observed was impossible in the bright moonlight, and to remain where he was gave him a very uncomfortable feeling, as how was he to explain his presence here, and at the same time keep clear of the Laggan business.

It also flashed across his mind that those very parties were paying a round of visits for the purpose of identifying as many as possible of those who were present on that unlucky occasion.

His host came to the rescue. “Here, Donald,” he cried, tearing down a small mound of peats which was built against the inside of one of the walls of the cottage. “Get in here an’ ye’ll be a’ richt. I’ll build them again on top o’ ye.”

In a few seconds there was a sufficiently-large space for Donald to hide in, and in an instant he had stretched himself in it, while the other commenced building the peats over him, an operation he had barely accomplished when a knock was heard at the door, and in response to his invitation to enter, the two officers presented themselves.

“A fine night,” said one, whose name was Barret, a middle-sized man with a grey whisker and piercing eyes. “It is indeed,” responded Jock in a half sleepy tone. “Plenty o’ moonlight e’enoo, hooever.” “We have been looking if we could find any indications of smuggling about the hills,” continued the officer, “and seeing your light we dropped in to warm ourselves.” “Ye’re very welcome, gentlemen,” said Jock – then in an undertone he muttered “but I’ve got my ain opinion aboot yer object, an’ am ower auld to be caught wi’ chaff.”

The two officers drew their chairs closer to the fire and kept up a lively conversation, while they were answered by Jock in monosyllables as a hint that their room was preferable to their company; whether they did not see this, or pretended not to do so, they evidently had no intention of taking their departure for some time

By-and-bye Jock became very fidgety, casting ever and anon an anxious glance at the mound of peats under which Donald lay hidden; and his anxiety was further increased by an occasional sound omitted by Donald’s nasal organ, which was evidently to play a tune of its own accord. At first, this sound did not reach the ears of the officers, but when the drone came into play there was no mistaking it: Donald Snored.

“What’s that?” exclaimed the officer, starting to his feet, and gazing in every direction but the right one. “It’s the doug,” cried Jock. “Here, Sandy, put him into the shed, and dinna come back till ye tie him up,” and he gave his son a meaning look which the latter understood.

And so the supposed offender was marched off in disgrace, but as the snoring continued the officers decided on searching the house, and was beginning to do so when a clatter of hoofs arrested their attention, and a moment after Jock’s son burst in crying-

“The gentlemen’s horses hae broken loose.”

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