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Chapter 19
The Chief And His Mansion
The ingenious licentiate, Francisco de Ubeda, when he commenced his history of La
Picara Justina Diez,--which, by the way, is one of the most rare books of Spanish
literature,--complained of his pen having caught up a hair, and forthwith begins, with
more eloquence than common sense, an affectionate expostulation with that useful
implement, upbraiding it with being the quill of a goose,--a bird inconstant by nature, as
frequenting the three elements of water, earth, and air, indifferently, and being, of course,
'to one thing constant never.' Now I protest to thee, gentle reader, that I entirely dissent
from Francisco de Ubeda in this matter, and hold it the most useful quality of my pen,
that it can speedily change from grave to gay, and from description and dialogue to
narrative and character. So that, if my quill display no other properties of its mother-
goose than her mutability, truly I shall be well pleased; and I conceive that you, my
worthy friend, will have no occasion for discontent. From the jargon, therefore, of the
Highland gillies, I pass to the character of their Chief. It is an important examination, and
therefore, like Dogberry, we must spare no wisdom.
The ancestor of Fergus Mac-Ivor, about three centuries before, had set up a claim to be
recognized as chief of the numerous and powerful clan to which he belonged, the name of
which it is unnecessary to mention. Being defeated by an opponent who had more justice,
or at least more force, on his side, he moved southwards, with those who adhered to him,
in quest of new settlements, like a second Aeneas. The state of the Perthshire Highlands
favoured his purpose. A great baron in that country had lately become traitor to the
crown; Ian, which was the name of our adventurer, united himself with those who were
commissioned by the king to chastise him, and did such good service, that he obtained a
grant of the property, upon which he and his posterity afterwards resided. He followed
the king also in war to the fertile regions of England, where he employed his leisure
hours so actively in raising subsidies among the boors of Northumberland and Durham,
that upon his return he was enabled to erect a stone tower, or fortalice, so much admired
by his dependants and neighbours, that he, who had hitherto been called Ian Mac-Ivor, or
John the son of Ivor, was thereafter distinguished, both in song and genealogy, by the
high title of IAN NAN CHAISTEL, or John of the Tower. The descendants of this
worthy were so proud of him, that the reigning chief always bore the patronymic title of
Vich Ian Vohr, i.e. the son of John the Great; while the clan at large, to distinguish them
from that from which they had seceded, were denominated SLIOCHD NAN IVOR, the
race of Ivor.
The father of Fergus, the tenth in direct descent from John of the Tower, engaged heart
and hand in the insurrection of 1715, and was forced to fly to France, after the attempt of
that year in favour of the Stuarts had proved unsuccessful. More fortunate than other
fugitives, he obtained employment in the French service, and married a lady of rank in
that kingdom, by whom he had two children, Fergus and his sister Flora. The Scottish
estate had been forfeited and exposed to sale, but was re- purchased for a small price in