'Your idea is a very common one among theseignorant people,' rejoined Snaggs, with a smile onhis mouth and a glare in his wolfish eye; 'but Imust condescend to inform you, that the law ofScotland says, when a landlord or overlord dies, therents past due belong to his executors. Sir Horacetook the estate with all its debts, and the half-year'srent then current, with all arrears, are his due; andthis rule applies especially to grass-farms, as youwill find in the case of Elliot versus Elliot, before theLords of Council and Session in 1792; and the landlordhas a hypothec for his rent over the crop andstocking; hence your furniture and plenishing arethe property of Sir Horace Everingham.'
Thoughts of armed, manly, and determined resistancefloated darkly and fiercely through my mind;and I am certain that the same ideas were hoveringbefore Callum, as he sat by his humble but untastedbreakfast, sharpening his skene dhu, cleaning, oilingand examining his favourite rifle, the crack of whichmight never more wake the echoes of the mountains;and our pretty Minnie watched him the while withloving and anxious eyes. There were weaponsenough in the cottages to arm the men of the glen,and their number was sufficient to have held againstthree thousand red coats, the gorge that led to thevalley, for there our grandfathers had made a longand desperate defence against the ruffianly HuskesBrigade in 1746, and we were able to do as muchagain; but the steamers had opened up the lochs inour rear; and though we might have repelled theauthorities for a few days, we were sure of beingovercome and severely chastised in the end; thusthe rash and dangerous idea to taking arms to defendour old hereditary hearths and homes was no soonerformed than it was dismissed.
We were silent, I have said, for both were toomuch oppressed to speak. Suddenly a black cockappeared on a fragment of rock near us, and clappedhis wings as if in defiance. Quick as lightningCallum levelled the pistol and shot him dead; amoment the outstpread pinions beat the heather,and then lay still, while the pistol-shot was pealingamong the echoes of the wilderness. My fostererleisurely reloaded and brought the bird to me; itwas large, weighing more than five pounds, its sableplumage glazed all over with a shining blue, and itsstomach gorged with bilberries.
Fiercely it crackled, smouldered, and burned, inthose places where the bracken or whins, theburr-docks, brambles, rank weeds, and gorse grew thick;but in others it rolled steadily on with great rapidity,spreading and widening in the form of a vastsemi-circle, as if it would embrace the whole country inits grasp. As it mounted into the higher portions ofthe landscape, and seized on the thickets of silverbirch and the resinous mountain-pine, the conflagrationbegan to crackle, roar, and hiss, and its flames toshoot aloft and brighten against the sky like thewavering beams of the Northern Lights, tinging theclouds with pink and purple hues.
But now the same fire which had consumed thetufted whins, the turf and heath, assailed the dryroots of the ash which twined among them, and soonthe whole fabric of the tree was in a blaze; and as itsfibres crackled and relaxed their tough grasp of therocks and smouldering turf, the stem began to sinkand yield with its own weight, and the weight of thefainting sinner who clung to it. 2b1af7f3a8