Redgauntlet - MacLaren's Escape

It is often noted that the MacLarens are mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's tale of "Redgauntlet" which is one of the Waverly novels. The story is about a plot of Bonnie Prince Charlie to renew his attempt on the throne of Great Britain. There is a character in the novel with the nickname of "Pate in Peril" whose story is supposed to be that of a certain MacLaren who had been captured in the 1745 uprising and was on his way for trial and probable execution. This is the "mention" the MacLarens get. If you don't know what you are looking for, you'll miss it! Here is the text from Redgauntlet where the daring escape is described:

'Weel, weel,' said the provost, 'a wilful man maun hae his way. What do your folk in the country think about the disturbances that are beginning to spunk out in the colonies?'

'Excellent, sir, excellent. When things come to the worst; they will mend; and to the worst they are coming. But as to that nonsense ploy of mine, if ye insist on hearing the particulars,'—said the laird, who began to be sensible that the period of telling his story gracefully was gliding fast away.

'Nay,' said the provost, 'it was not for myself, but this young gentlemen.'

'Aweel, what for should I not pleasure the young gentlemen? I'll just drink to honest folk at hame and abroad, and deil ane else. And then—but you have heard it before, Mrs. Crosbie?'

'Not so often as to think it tiresome, I assure ye,' said the lady; and without further preliminaries, the laird addressed Alan Fairford.

'Ye have heard of a year they call the FORTY-FIVE, young gentleman; when the Southrons' heads made their last acquaintance with Scottish claymores? There was a set of rampauging chields in the country then that they called rebels—I never could find out what for—Some men should have been wi' them that never came, provost—Skye and the Bush aboon Traquair for that, ye ken.—Weel, the job was settled at last. Cloured crowns were plenty, and raxed necks came into fashion. I dinna mind very weel what I was doing, swaggering about the country with dirk and pistol at my belt for five or six months, or thereaway; but I had a weary waking out of a wild dream. When did I find myself on foot in a misty morning, with my hand, just for fear of going astray, linked into a handcuff, as they call it, with poor Harry Redgauntlet's fastened into the other; and there we were, trudging along, with about a score more that had thrust their horns ower deep in the bog, just like ourselves, and a sergeant's guard of redcoats, with twa file of dragoons, to keep all quiet, and give us heart to the road. Now, if this mode of travelling was not very pleasant, the object did not particularly recommend it; for, you understand, young man, that they did not trust these poor rebel bodies to be tried by juries of their ain kindly countrymen, though ane would have thought they would have found Whigs enough in Scotland to hang us all; but they behoved to trounce us away to be tried at Carlisle, where the folk had been so frightened, that had you brought a whole Highland clan at once into the court, they would have put their hands upon their een, and cried, "hang them a'," just to be quit of them.'

'Aye, aye,' said the provost, 'that was a snell law, I grant ye.'

'Snell!' said the wife, 'snell! I wish they that passed it had the jury I would recommend them to!'

'I suppose the young lawyer thinks it all very right,' said Summertrees, looking at Fairford—'an OLD lawyer might have thought otherwise. However, the cudgel was to be found to beat the dog, and they chose a heavy one. Well, I kept my spirits better than my companion, poor fellow; for I had the luck to have neither wife nor child to think about, and Harry Redgauntlet had both one and t'other.—You have seen Harry, Mrs. Crosbie?'

'In troth have I,' said she, with the sigh which we give to early recollections, of which the object is no more. 'He was not so tall as his brother, and a gentler lad every way. After he married the great English fortune, folk called him less of a Scottishman than Edward.'

'Folk lee'd, then,' said Summertrees; 'poor Harry was none of your bold-speaking, ranting reivers, that talk about what they did yesterday, or what they will do to-morrow; it was when something was to do at the moment that you should have looked at Harry Redgauntlet. I saw him at Culloden, when all was lost, doing more than twenty of these bleezing braggarts, till the very soldiers that took him cried not to hurt him—for all somebody's orders, provost—for he was the bravest fellow of them all. Weel, as I went by the side of Harry, and felt him raise my hand up in the mist of the morning, as if he wished to wipe his eye—for he had not that freedom without my leave—my very heart was like to break for him, poor fellow. In the meanwhile, I had been trying and trying to make my hand as fine as a lady's, to see if I could slip it out of my iron wristband. You may think,' he said, laying his broad bony hand on the table, 'I had work enough with such a shoulder-of-mutton fist; but if you observe, the shackle-bones are of the largest, and so they were obliged to keep the handcuff wide; at length I got my hand slipped out, and slipped in again; and poor Harry was sae deep in his ain thoughts, I could not make him sensible what I was doing.'

'Why not?' said Alan Fairford, for whom the tale began to have some interest.

'Because there was an unchancy beast of a dragoon riding close beside us on the other side; and if I had let him into my confidence as well as Harry, it would not have been long before a pistol-ball slapped through my bonnet.—Well, I had little for it but to do the best I could for myself; and, by my conscience, it was time, when the gallows was staring me in the face. We were to halt for breakfast at Moffat. Well did I know the moors we were marching over, having hunted and hawked on every acre of ground in very different times. So I waited, you see, till I was on the edge of Errickstane-brae—Ye ken the place they call the Marquis's Beef-stand, because the Annandale loons used to put their stolen cattle in there?'

Fairford intimated his ignorance,

'Ye must have seen it as ye came this way; it looks as if four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A d—d deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is, and goes straight down from the roadside, as perpendicular as it can do, to be a heathery brae. At the bottom, there is a small bit of a brook, that you would think could hardly find, its way out from the hills that are so closely jammed round it.'

'A bad pass, indeed,' said Alan.

'You may say that,' continued the laird. 'Bad as it was, sir, it was my only chance; and though my very flesh creeped when I thought what a rumble I was going to get, yet I kept my heart up all the same. And so, just when we came on the edge of this Beef-stand of the Johnstones, I slipped out my hand from the handcuff, cried to Harry Gauntlet, 'Follow me!'—whisked under the belly of the dragoon horse—flung my plaid round me with the speed of lightning—threw myself on my side, for there was no keeping my feet, and down the brae hurled I, over heather and fern, and blackberries, like a barrel down Chalmer's Close, in Auld Reekie. G—, sir, I never could help laughing when I think how the scoundrel redcoats must have been bumbazed; for the mist being, as I said, thick, they had little notion, I take it, that they were on the verge of such a dilemma. I was half way down—for rowing is faster wark than rinning—ere they could get at their arms; and then it was flash, flash, flash—rap, rap, rap—from the edge of the road; but my head was too jumbled to think anything either of that or the hard knocks I got among the stones. I kept my senses thegither, whilk has been thought wonderful by all that ever saw the place; and I helped myself with my hands as gallantly as I could, and to the bottom I came. There I lay for half a moment; but the thoughts of a gallows is worth all the salts and scent-bottles in the world for bringing a man to himself. Up I sprang, like a four-year-auld colt. All the hills were spinning round with me, like so many great big humming-tops. But there was nae time to think of that neither; more especially as the mist had risen a little with the firing. I could see the villains, like sae mony craws on the edge of the brae; and I reckon that they saw me; for some of the loons were beginning to crawl down the hill, but liker auld wives in their red cloaks, coming frae a field preaching, than such a souple lad as I was. Accordingly, they soon began to stop and load their pieces. Good-e'en to you, gentlemen, thought I, if that is to be the gate of it. If you have any further word with me, you maun come as far as Carriefraw-gauns. And so off I set, and never buck went faster ower the braes than I did; and I never stopped till I had put three waters, reasonably deep, as the season was rainy, half a dozen mountains, and a few thousand acres of the worst moss and ling in Scotland, betwixt me and my friends the redcoats.'

'It was that job which got you the name of Pate-in-Peril,' said the provost, filling the glasses, and exclaiming with great emphasis, while his guest, much animated with the recollections which the exploit excited, looked round with an air of triumph for sympathy and applause,—'Here is to your good health; and may you never put your neck in such a venture again.'

[The escape of a Jacobite gentleman while on the road to Carlisle to take his trial for his share in the affair of 1745, took place at Errickstane-brae, in the singular manner ascribed to the Laird of Summertrees in the text. The author has seen in his youth the gentleman to whom the adventure actually happened.]