Evan Maccombich looked at him with great earnestness, and, rising up, seemed anxious to speak; but the confusion of the court, and the perplexity arising from thinking in a language different from that in which he was to express himself, kept him silent. There was a murmur of compassion among the spectators, from the idea that the poor fellow intended to plead the influence of his superior as an excuse for his crime. The Judge commanded silence, and encouraged Evan to proceed. ’I was only ganging to say, my lord,’ said Evan, in what he meant to be an insinuating manner, ’that if your excellent honour and the honourable Court would let Vich Ian Vohr go free just this once, and let him gae back to France, and no to trouble King George’s government again, that ony six o’ the very best of his clan will be willing to be justified in his stead; and if you’ll just let me gae down to Glennaquoich, I’ll fetch them up to ye mysell, to head or hang, and you may begin wi’ me the very first man.’
Notwithstanding the solemnity of the occasion, a sort of laugh was heard in the court at the extraordinary nature of the proposal. The Judge checked this indecency, and Evan, looking sternly around, when the murmur abated, ’If the Saxon gentlemen are laughing,’ he said, ’because a poor man, such as me, thinks my life, or the life of six of my degree, is worth that of Vich Ian Vohr, it’s like enough they may be very right; but if they laugh because they think I would not keep my word and come back to redeem him, I can tell them they ken neither the heart of a Hielandman nor the honour of a gentleman.’
There was no farther inclination to laugh among the audience, and a dead silence ensued.
The Judge then pronounced upon both prisoners the sentence of the law of high treason, with all its horrible accompaniments. The execution was appointed for the ensuing day. ’For you, Fergus Mac-Ivor,’ continued the Judge, ’I can hold out no hope of mercy. You must prepare against to-morrow for your last sufferings here, and your great audit hereafter.’
‘I desire nothing else, my lord,’ answered Fergus, in the same manly and firm tone.
The hard eyes of Evan, which had been perpetually bent on his Chief, were moistened with a tear. ‘For you, poor ignorant man,’ continued the Judge, ’who, following the ideas in which you have been educated, have this day given us a striking example how the loyalty due to the king and state alone is, from your unhappy ideas of clanship, transferred to some ambitious individual who ends by making you the tool of his crimes—for you, I say, I feel so much compassion that, if you can make up your mind to petition for grace, I will endeavour to procure it for you. Otherwise—’
‘Grace me no grace,’ said Evan; ’since you are to shed Vich Ian Vohr’s blood, the only favour I would accept from you is to bid them loose my hands and gie me my claymore, and bide you just a minute sitting where you are!’