Bonnie Prince Charlie A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden by G. A. Henty
CHAPTER I: The Return of a Prodigal.
It was a dull evening in the month of September, 1728. The apprentices had closed and barred the shutters and the day's work was over. Supper was laid in the long room over the shop, the viands were on the table, and round it were standing Bailie Anderson and his wife, his foreman John Gillespie, and his two apprentices. The latter were furtively eying the eatables, and wondering how much longer the grace which their master was delivering would be. Suddenly there was a knock at the door below. No one stirred until the bailie had finished his grace, before which time the knock had been twice repeated.
"Elspeth, woman," the bailie said when he had brought the grace to an end, "go down below and see who knocks so impatiently; look through the grille before you open the door; these are nor times when one opens to the first stranger who knocks."
The old servant, who had been standing behind her mistress, went downstairs. The door was opened, and they heard an exclamation of surprise at the answer to her question, "Who is it that's knocking as if the house belonged to him?"
Those gathered up stairs heard the bolts withdrawn. There was a confused sound of talking and then a heavy step was heard ascending the stairs, and without introduction a tall man, wrapped in a cloak and carrying a child of some two years old, strode into the room. He threw his hat on to a settle and advanced straight towards the bailie, who looked in surprise at this unceremonious entry.
"Don't you know me, Andrew?"
"Heaven preserve us," the bailie exclaimed, "why it's Malcolm!"
"Malcolm himself," the visitor repeated, "sound in wind and limb."
"The Lord be praised!" the bailie exclaimed as he grasped the other's hand and wrung it warmly. "I had thought you dead years and years ago. Janet, this is my brother Malcolm of whom you have often heard me speak."
"And of whom you can have heard little good, mistress, if my brother has spoken the truth concerning me. I was ever a ne'er do well, while Andrew struck hard and fast to our father's trade."
"My husband has ever spoken with affection of you," Janet Anderson said. "The bailie is not given to speak ill of any, much less of his own flesh and blood."
"And now sit down, Malcolm. Supper is waiting, and you are, I doubt not, ready for it. It is ill talking to a fasting man. When you have done you shall tell me what you have been doing for the last fifteen years, and how it comes that you thus suddenly come back among us with your boy."
"He is no boy of mine," Malcolm said; "but I will tell you all about it presently. First let me lay him down on that settle, for the poor little chap is fast asleep and dead tired out. Elspeth, roll up my cloak and make a pillow for him. That's right, he will do nicely now. You are changed less than any of us, Elspeth. Just as hard to look at, and, I doubt not, just as soft at heart as you used to be when you tried to shield me when I got into scrapes. And now to supper."
Little was said during the meal; fortunately the table was bounteously spread, for the newcomer's appetite was prodigious; but at last he was satisfied, and after a long drink at the horn beside him, which Elspeth had kept filled with ale, he said:
"There's nothing like a Scottish meal after all, Andrew. French living is well enough for a time, but one tires of it; and many a time when I have been lying down supperless on the sod, after marching and fighting the whole day, I have longed for a bowl of porridge and a platter well filled with oatmeal cakes."
Supper over, John and the apprentices retired. Elspeth went off to prepare the guest's chamber and to make up a little bed for the child.
"Now, brother, let us hear your story; but, first of all, perhaps you want to light your pipe?"
"That do I," Malcolm replied, "if Mistress Janet has no objection thereto."
"She is accustomed to it," the bailie said, answering for her. "I smoke myself; I deem that tobacco, like other things, was given for our use, and methinks that with a pipe between the lips men's brains work more easily and that it leadeth to pleasant converse."
Janet went to a cupboard, brought out two long pipes and a jar of tobacco, placed two tumblers, a flat bottle, and a jug of water on the table.
"That is right," the bailie said. "I do not often touch strong waters. The habit, as I see too plainly, is a harmful one, and in this good city of Glasgow there are many, even of those so placed that they should be an example to their fellows, who are given nightly to drink more than is good for them; but on an occasion like the present I deem it no harm to take a glass."
"I should think not," Malcolm said heartily; "it is long since I tasted a glass of real Scotch spirit, and I never need an excuse for taking a glass of whatever it be that comes in my way. Not, Mistress Janet, that I am a toper. I don't say that at the sack of a town, or at times when liquor is running, so to speak, to waste, I am more backward than the rest; but my hand wouldn't be as steady as it is if I had been one of those who are never so happy as when they are filling themselves with liquor. And now, Andrew, to my story. You know that when I saw you last — just when the troubles in '15 began — in spite of all your warnings to the contrary, I must needs throw myself into the thick of them. You, like a wise man, stuck to your shop, and here you are now a bailie of Glasgow; while I, who have been wandering over the face of the earth fighting for the cause of France and risking my life a thousand times in a matter which concerned me in no way, have returned just as penniless as I set out."
"It is said, brother Malcolm," Janet said mildly, "that a rolling stone gathers no moss."
"That is true enough," Malcolm assented; "and yet do you know there are few rolling stones who, if their time were to come over again, would remain fixed in their bed. Of course we have not the pleasures of home, of wives and children; but the life of adventure has its own joys, which I, for one, would not change for the others. However, brother, as you know, I threw myself heart and soul into that business.
"The last time I saw you was just as I was starting with a score of others to make our way to join the Earl of Mar's army at Perth. I have seen many an army since, but never did I see sixteen thousand finer fighting men than were there assembled. The Laird of Mackintosh brought five hundred clansmen from Inverness shire, the Marquis of Huntly had five hundred horse and two thousand foot, and the Earl Marischal had a thousand men. The Laird of Glenlyon brought five hundred Campbells, and the Marquis of Tullibardine fourteen hundred, and a score of other chiefs of less power were there with their clansmen. There were enough men there to have done anything had they been properly armed and led; but though arms and ammunition had been promised from France, none came, and the Earl of Mar had so little decision that he would have wrecked the finest army that ever marched.
"The army lay doing nothing for weeks, and just before we were expecting a movement, the company I belonged to was sent with a force of Highlanders under Mackintosh to join the army under the Lords Derwentwater, Kenmure, and Nithsdale. Lord Derwentwater had risen with a number of other gentlemen, and with their attendants and friends had marched against Newcastle. They had done nothing there but remained idle near Hexham till, joined by a force raised in the Lowlands of Scotland by the Earls of Nithsdale, Carnwath, and Wintoun, the united army marched north again to Kelso, where we joined them.
"We Scots soon saw that we had gained nothing by the change of commanders. Lord Derwentwater was ignorant of military affairs, and he was greatly swayed by a Mr. Forster, who was somehow at the head of the business, and who was not only incompetent, but proved to be a coward, if not, as most folks believed, a traitor. So dissension soon broke out, and four hundred Highlanders marched away north. After a long delay it was resolved to move south, where, it was said, we should be joined by great numbers in Lancashire; but by this time all had greatly lost spirit and hope in the enterprise. We crossed the border and marched down through Penrith, Appleby, and Kendal to Lancaster, and then on to Preston.
"I was little more than a lad, Andrew, but even to me it seemed madness thus to march into England with only two thousand men. Of these twelve hundred were foot, commanded by Brigadier Mackintosh; the others were horse. There were two troops of Stanhope's dragoons quartered in Preston, but these retired when we neared the town, and we entered without opposition. Next day, which was, I remember, the 10th of November, the Chevalier was proclaimed king, and some country gentlemen with their tenants came in and joined us.
"I suppose it would have come to the same thing in the end, but never were things so badly managed as they were by Mr. Forster.
"Preston was a strong natural position; an enemy coming from the south could only reach it by crossing a narrow bridge over the river Ribble a mile and a half away, and this could have been held by a company against an army. From the bridge to the town the road was so narrow that in several places two men could not ride abreast. It ran between two high and steep banks, and it was here that Cromwell was nearly killed when he attacked Charles's troops.
"Well, all these places, where we might certainly have defended ourselves, were neglected, and we were all kept in the town, where we formed four main posts. One was in the churchyard, and this was commanded by Brigadier Mackintosh. In support of this was the volunteer horse under Derwentwater and the three other lords. Lord Charles Murray was in command at a barricade at a little distance from the churchyard. Colonel Mackintosh had charge of a post at a windmill; and the fourth was in the centre of the town.
"Lord Derwentwater was a poor general, but he was a brave man. He and his two brothers, the Ratcliffs, rode about everywhere, setting an example of coolness, animating the soldiers, and seeing to the work on the barriers. Two days after we reached the town we heard that General Wilde was approaching. Colonel Farquharson was sent forward with a portion of Mackintosh's battalion to hold the bridge and the pass; but Mr. Forster, who went out on horseback, no sooner saw the enemy approaching than he gave orders to Farquharson and his men to retreat to the town. If I had been in Farquharson's place I would have put a bullet through the coward's head, and would have defended the bridge till the last.
"After that everything was confusion; the Highlanders came back into the town furious and disheartened. The garrison prepared to receive the enemy. Mr. Forster was seen no more, and in fact he went straight back to the house where he was lodging and took his bed, where he remained till all was over. The enemy came on slowly. They could not understand why strong posts should be left undefended, and feared falling in an ambuscade. I was at the post commanded by Brigadier Mackintosh. I had joined a company commanded by Leslie of Glenlyon, who had brought with him some twenty men, and had made up his company with men who, like myself, came up without a leader. His company was attached to Mackintosh's regiment.
"Presently the English came in sight, and as soon as they ascertained that we were still there, which they had begun to doubt, they attacked us. We beat them back handsomely, and Derwentwater with his cavalry charged their dragoons so fiercely that he drove them out of the town. It was late in the afternoon when the fight began, and all night the struggle went on. At each of our posts we beat them back over and over again. The town was on fire in half a dozen places, but luckily the night was still and the flames did not spread. We knew that it was a hopeless fight we were making; for, from some prisoners, we learned that three regiments of dragoons were also coming up against us, and had already arrived at Clitheroe. From some inhabitants, I suppose, the enemy learned that the street leading to Wigan had nor been barricaded, and Lord Forrester brought up Preston's regiment by this way, and suddenly fell on the flank of our barrier. It was a tough fight, but we held our own till the news came that Forster had agreed to capitulate.
"I don't say that our case wasn't hopeless. We were outnumbered and had no leader; sooner or later we must have been overpowered. Still, no capitulation should have been made except on the terms of mercy to all concerned. But Forster no doubt felt safe about himself, and that was all he cared for; and the end showed that he knew what he was about, for while all the brave young noblemen, and numbers of others, were either executed or punished in other ways, Forster, who had been the leading spirit who had persuaded them to rise, and led them into this strait, was after a short imprisonment suffered to go free. I tell you, brother Andrew, if I were to meet him now, even if it were in a church, I would drive my dagger into his heart.
"However, there we were. So furious were we that it was with difficulty the officers could prevent us from sallying out sword in hand and trying to cut our way through the enemy. As to Forster, if he had appeared in the streets he would have been hewn to pieces. However, it was useless to resist now; the English troops marched in and we laid down our arms, and our battalions marched into a church and were guarded as prisoners. It was not a great army they had taken, for there were but one thousand four hundred and ninety captured, including noblemen, gentlemen, and officers.
"Many of us were wounded more or less. I had got a slice on the shoulder from a dragoon's sword. This I gained when rushing out to rescue Leslie, who had been knocked down, and would have been slain by three dragoons had I not stood over him till some of our men rushed out and carried him in. He was not badly hurt, the sword having turned as it cut through his bonnet. My action won his regard, and from that time until a month since we have never been separated. Under a strong escort of soldiers we were marched south. In most places the country people mocked us as we passed; but here and there we saw among the crowds who gathered in the streets of the towns through which we passed, faces which we passed, faces which expressed pity and sympathy
"We were not badly treated on the march by our guard, and had little to complain of. When we reached Barnet we fell out as usual when the march was over, and I went up to the door of a house and asked a woman, who looked pityingly at us, for a drink of water. She brought me some, and while I drank she said:
"'We are Catholics and well wishers of the Chevalier; if you can manage to slip in here after it is dark we will furnish you with a disguise, and will direct you to friends who will pass you on until you can escape.
"'Can you give me disguises for two?' I asked. 'I will not go without my captain.'
"'Yes,' she said, 'for two, but no more.'
"'I will steal away after dark,' I said as I gave her back the jug.
"I told Leslie what had happened, and he agreed to join me in time to escape, for there was no saying what fate might befall us in London; and, indeed, the very next morning severities commenced, the whole of the troops being obliged to suffer the indignity of having their arms tied behind them, and so being marched into London.
"After it was dark Leslie and I managed to steal away from our guards, who were not very watchful, for our uniform would at once have betrayed us, and the country people would have seized and handed us over. The woman was on the watch, and as soon as we neared the door she opened it. Her husband was with her and received us kindly. He at once furnished us with the attire of two countrymen, and, letting us out by a back way, started with us across the country.
"After walking twenty miles he brought us to the house of another adherent of the Chevalier, where we remained all day. So we were passed on until we reached the coast, where we lay hid for some days until an arrangement was made with the captain of a fishing boat to take us to sea, and either to land us at Calais or to put us on board a French fishing boat. So we got over without trouble.
"Long before that, as you know, the business had virtually come to an end here. The Earl of Mar's army lay week after week at Perth, till at last it met the enemy under Argyle at Sheriffmuir.
"You know how that went. The Highland clans in the right and centre carried all before them, and drove the enemy from the field, but on the left they beat us badly. So both parties claimed the victory. But, victory or defeat, it was fatal to the cause of the Chevalier. Half the Highland clans went off to their homes that night, and Mar had to fall back to Perth.
"Well, that was really the end of it. The Chevalier landed, and for a while our hopes rose. He did nothing, and our hopes fell. At last he took ship and went away, and the affair was over, except for the hangings and slaughterings.
"Leslie, like most of the Scottish gentlemen who succeeded in reaching France, took service with the French king, and, of course, I did the same. It would have done your heart good to see how the Scottish regiments fought on many a field; the very best troops of France were never before us, and many a tough field was decided by our charge. Leslie was a cornet. He was about my age; and you know I was but twenty when Sheriffmuir was fought. He rose to be a colonel, and would have given me a pair of colours over and over again if I would have taken them; but I felt more comfortable among our troopers than I should have done among the officers, who were almost all men of good Highland family; so I remained Leslie's right hand.
"A braver soldier never swung a leg over saddle; but he was always in some love affair or another. Why he didn't marry I couldn't make out. I suppose he could never stick long enough to one woman. However, some four years ago he got into an affair more serious than any he had been in before, and this time he stuck to it in right earnest. Of course she was precisely one of the women he oughtn't to have fallen in love with, though I for one couldn't blame him, for a prettier creature wasn't to be found in France. Unfortunately she was the only daughter of the Marquis de Recambours, one of the wealthiest and most powerful of French nobles, and there was no more chance of his giving his consent to her throwing herself away upon a Scottish soldier of fortune than to her going into a nunnery; less, in fact. However, she was as much in love with Leslie as he was with her, and so they got secretly married. Two years ago this child was born, but she managed somehow to keep it from her father, who was all this time urging her to marry the Duke de Chateaurouge.
"At last, as ill luck would have it, he shut her up in a convent just a week before she had arranged to fly with Leslie to Germany, where he intended to take service until her father came round. Leslie would have got her out somehow; but his regiment was ordered to the frontier, and it was eighteen months before we returned to Paris, where the child had been in keeping with some people with whom he had placed it. The very evening of his return I was cleaning his arms when he rushed into the room.
"'All is discovered,' he said; 'here is my signet ring, go at once and get the child, and make your way with it to Scotland; take all the money in the escritoire, quick!'
"I heard feet approaching, and dashed to the bureau, and transferred the bag of louis there to my pocket. An official with two followers entered.
"'Colonel Leslie,' he said, 'it is my duty to arrest you by order of his gracious majesty;' and he held out an order signed by the king.
"'I am unconscious of having done any wrong, sir, to his majesty, whom I have served for the last sixteen years. However, it is not for me to dispute his orders;' thereupon he unbuckled his sword and handed it to the officers. 'You will look after the things till I return, Malcolm. As I am sure I can clear myself of any charge that may be brought against me, I trust to be speedily back again.
"'Your trooper need not trouble himself,' the officer said; 'the official with me will take charge of everything, and will at once affix my seal to all your effects.'
"I went down stairs and saw the colonel enter a carriage with the two officials, then I went straight to the major. 'Colonel Leslie has been arrested, sir, on what charge I know not. He has intrusted a commission to me. Therefore, if you find I am absent from parade in the morning you will understand I am carrying out his orders.'
"The major was thunderstruck at the news, but told me to do as the colonel had ordered me, whatever it might be. I mounted the colonel's horse at once and rode to the house where the child was in keeping. The people knew me well, as I had often been there with messages from the colonel. When I showed them the signet ring, and told them that I had orders to take the child to his father, they made no opposition. I said I would return for him as soon as it was dusk. I then went and purchased a suit of civilian clothes, and returning to the house attired myself in these, and taking the child on the saddle before me, rode for the frontier.
"Following unfrequented roads, travelling only at night, and passing a day in a wood, I passed the frontier unmolested, and made my way to Ostend, where I sold the horse and took passage in the first ship sailing for Leith. I arrived there two days ago, and have walked here, with an occasional lift in a cart; and here I am, brother Andrew, to ask you for hospitality for a while for myself and Leslie's boy. I have a hundred louis, but these, of course, belong to the child. As for myself, I confess I have nothing; saving has never been in my line."
"You are heartily welcome, Malcolm, as long as you choose to stop; but I trust that ere long you will hear of Colonel Leslie."
"I trust so," Malcolm said; "but if you knew the court of France as well as I do you would not feel very sanguine about it. It is easier to get into a prison than out of one."
"But the colonel has committed no crime!" the bailie said.
"His chance would be a great deal better if he had," Malcolm laughed. "A colonel of one of his majesty's Scottish regiments can do a good deal in the way of crime without much harm befalling him; but when it comes to marrying the daughter of a nobleman who is a great personage at court, without his consent, it is a different affair altogether, I can tell you. Leslie has powerful friends, and his brother officers will do what they can for him; but I can tell you services at the court of France go for very little. Influence is everything, and as the nobleman the marquis intended to be the husband of his daughter is also a great personage at court and a friend of Louis's, there is no saying how serious a matter they may make of it. Men have been kept prisoners for life for a far less serious business than this."
"But supposing he is released, does he know where to communicate with you?"
"I am afraid he doesn't," Malcolm said ruefully. "He knows that I come from Glasgow, but that is all. Still, when he is freed, no doubt he will come over himself to look for his son, and I am sure to hear of his being here."
"You might do, and you might not," the bailie said. "Still, we must hope for the best, Malcolm. At any rate I am in no haste for the colonel to come. Now I have got you home again after all these years, I do not wish to lose you again in a hurry."
Malcolm only remained for a few weeks at his brother's house. The restraint of life at the bailie's was too much for him. Andrew's was a well ordered household. The bailie was methodical and regular, a leading figure in the kirk, far stricter than were most men of his time as to undue consumption of liquor, strong in exhortation in season and out of season. His wife was kindly but precise, and as outspoken as Andrew himself. For the first day or two the real affection which Andrew had for his younger brother, and the pleasure he felt at his return, shielded Malcolm from comment or rebuke; but after the very first day the bailie's wife had declared to herself that it was impossible that Malcolm could long remain an inmate of the house. She was not inhospitable, and would have made great sacrifices in some directions for the long missing brother of her husband; but his conduct outraged all the best feelings of a good Scotch housewife.
Even on that first day he did not come punctually to his meals. He was away about the town looking up old acquaintance, came in at dinner and again at supper after the meal had already begun, and dropped into his place and began to eat without saying a word of grace. He stamped about the house as if he had cavalry spurs still on his heels; talked in a voice that could be heard from attic to basement; used French and Flemish oaths which horrified the good lady, although she did not understand them; smoked at all hours of the day, whereas Andrew always confined himself to his after supper pipe, and, in spite of his assertions on the previous evening, consumed an amount of liquor which horrified the good woman.
At his meals he talked loudly, kept the two apprentices in a titter with his stories of campaigning, spoke slightingly of the city authorities, and joked the bailie with a freedom and roughness which scandalized her. Andrew was slow to notice the incongruity of his brother's demeanour and bearing with the atmosphere of the house, although he soon became dimly conscious that there was a jarring element in the air. At the end of a week Malcolm broached the subject to him.
"Andrew," he said, "you are a good fellow, though you are a bailie and an elder of the kirk, and I thank you for the hearty welcome you have given me, and for your invitation to stay for a long time with you; but it will not do. Janet is a good woman and a kindly, but I can see that I keep her perpetually on thorns. In good truth, fifteen years of campaigning are but an indifferent preparation for a man as an inmate of a respectable household. I did not quite know myself how thoroughly I had become a devil may care trooper until I came back to my old life here. The ways of your house would soon be as intolerable to me as my ways are to your good wife, and therefore it is better by far that before any words have passed between you and me, and while we are as good friends as on the evening when I returned, I should get out of this. I met an old friend today, one of the lads who went with me from Glasgow to join the Earl of Mar at Perth. He is well to do now, and trades in cattle, taking them in droves down into England. For the sake of old times he has offered me employment, and methinks it will suit me as well as any other."
"But you cannot surely be going as a drover, Malcolm!"
"Why not? The life is as good as any other. I would not sit down, after these years of roving, to an indoor life. I must either do that or cross the water again and take service abroad. I am only six and thirty yet, and am good for another fifteen years of soldiering, and right gladly would I go back if Leslie were again at the head of his regiment, but I have been spoiled by him. He ever treated me as a companion and as a friend rather than as a trooper in his regiment, and I should miss him sorely did I enter any other service. Then, too, I would fain be here to be ready to join him again if he sends for me or comes, and I should wish to keep an eye always on his boy. You will continue to take charge of him, won't you, Andrew? He is still a little strange, but he takes to Elspeth, and will give little trouble when he once learns the language."
"I don't like it at all, Malcolm," the bailie said.
"No, Andrew, but you must feel it is best. I doubt not that ere this your wife has told you her troubles concerning me."
As the bailie on the preceding night had listened to a long string of complaints and remonstrances on the part of his wife as to his brother's general conduct he could not deny the truth of Malcolm's supposition.
"Just so, Andrew," Malcolm went on; "I knew that it must be so. Mistress Janet has kept her lips closed firm to me, but I could see how difficult it was for her sometimes to do so. It could not be otherwise. I am as much out of place here as a wolf in a sheepfold. As to the droving, I shall not mention to all I meet that I am brother to one of the bailies of Glasgow. I shall like the life. The rough pony I shall ride will differ in his paces from my old charger, but at least it will be life in the saddle. I shall be earning an honest living; if I take more than is good for me I may get a broken head and none be the wiser, whereas if I remain here and fall foul of the city watch it would be grief and pain for you."
The bailie was silenced. He had already begun to perceive that Malcolm's ways and manners were incompatible with the peace and quiet of a respectable household, and that Janet's complaints were not altogether unreasonable. He had seen many of his acquaintances lift their eyebrows in disapprobation at the roystering talk of his brother, and had foreseen that it was probable trouble would come.
At the same rime he felt a repugnance to the thought that after so many years of absence his brother should so soon quit his house. It seemed a reflection alike on his affection and hospitality.
"You will take charge of the child, won't you?" Malcolm pleaded. "There is a purse of a hundred louis, which will, I should say, pay for any expense to which he may put you for some years."
"As if I would take the bairn's money!" Andrew exclaimed angrily. "What do you take me for, Malcolm? Assuredly I will take the child. Janet and I have no bairn of our own, and it's good for a house to have a child in it. I look upon it as if it were yours, for it is like enough you will never hear of its father again. It will have a hearty welcome. It is a bright little fellow, and in time I doubt not that Janet will take greatly to it. The charge of a child is a serious matter, and we cannot hope that we shall not have trouble with it, but there is trouble in all things. At any rate, Malcolm, we will do our best, and if at the end of a year I find that Janet has not taken to it we will see about some other arrangement. And, Malcolm, I do trust that you will stay with us for another week or two. It would seem to me as if I had turned you out of my house were you to leave me so soon."
So Malcolm made a three weeks' stay at his brother's, and then started upon his new occupation of driving Highland cattle down into Lancashire. Once every two or three months he came to Glasgow for a week or two between his trips. In spite of Andrew's entreaties he refused on these occasions to take up his abode with him, but took a lodging not far off, coming in the evening for an hour to smoke a pipe with his brother, and never failing of a morning to come in and take the child for a long walk with him, carrying him upon his shoulder, and keeping up a steady talk with him in his native French, which he was anxious that the boy should nor forget, as at some time or other he might again return to France.
Some weeks after Malcolm's return to Scotland, he wrote to Colonel Leslie, briefly giving his address at Glasgow; but making no allusion to the child, as, if the colonel were still in prison, the letter would be sure to be opened by the authorities. He also wrote to the major, giving him his address, and begging him to communicate it to Colonel Leslie whenever he should see him; that done, there was nothing for it but to wait quietly. The post was so uncertain in those days that he had but slight hope that either of his letters would ever reach their destination. No answer came to either of his letters.
Four years later Malcolm went over to Paris, and cautiously made inquiries; but no one had heard anything of Colonel Leslie from the day he had been arrested. The regiment was away fighting in the Low Countries, and the only thing Malcolm could do was to call upon the people who had had charge of the child, to give them his address in case the colonel should ever appear to inquire of them. He found, however, the house tenanted by other people. He learned that the last occupants had left years before. The neighbors remembered that one morning early some officers of the law had come to the house, and the man had been seized and carried away. He had been released some months later, only to find that his wife had died of grief and anxiety, and he had then sold off his goods and gone no one knew whither. Malcolm, therefore, returned to Glasgow, with the feeling that he had gained nothing by his journey.
CHAPTER II: The Jacobite Agent.
So twelve years passed. Ronald Leslie grew up a sturdy lad, full of fun and mischief in spite of the sober atmosphere of the bailie's house; and neither flogging at school nor lecturing at home appeared to have the slightest effect in reducing him to that state of sober tranquillity which was in Mrs. Anderson's eyes the thing to be most desired in boys. Andrew was less deeply shocked than his wife at the discovery of Ronald's various delinquencies, but his sense of order and punctuality was constantly outraged. He was, however, really fond of the lad; and even Mrs. Anderson, greatly as the boy's ways constantly disturbed and ruffled her, was at heart as fond of him as was her husband. She considered, and not altogether wrongly, that his wilderness, as she called it, was in no slight degree due to his association with her husband's brother.
Ronald looked forward to the periodical visits of the drover with intense longing. He was sure of a sympathetic listener in Malcolm, who listened with approval to the tales of the various scrapes into which he had got since his last visit; of how, instead of going to school, he had played truant and with another boy his own age had embarked in a fisherman's boat and gone down the river and had not been able to get back until next day; how he had played tricks upon his dominie, and had conquered in single combat the son of Councillor Duff, the butcher, who had spoken scoffing words at the Stuarts. Malcolm was, in fact, delighted to find, that in spite of repression and lectures his young charge was growing up a lad of spirit. He still hoped that some day Leslie might return, and he knew how horrified he would be were he to find that his son was becoming a smug and well conducted citizen. No small portion of his time on each of his visits to Glasgow Malcolm spent in training the boy in the use of arms.
"Your father was a gentleman," he would say to him, "and it is fitting that you should know how to handle a gentleman's arms. Clubs are well enough for citizens' apprentices, but I would have you handle rapier and broadsword as well as any of the young lairds. When you get old enough, Ronald, you and I will cross the seas, and together we will try and get to the bottom of the mystery of your father's fate, and if we find that the worst has come to the worst, we will seek our your mother. She will most likely have married again. They will be sure to have forced her into it; but even if she dare not acknowledge you as her son, her influence may obtain for you a commission in one of the king's regiments, and even if they think I'm too old for a trooper I will go as your follower. There are plenty of occasions at the court of France when a sharp sword and a stout arm, even if it be somewhat stiffened by age, can do good service."
The lessons began as soon as Ronald was old enough to hold a light blade, and as between the pauses of exercise Malcolm was always ready to tell stories of his adventures in the wars of France, the days were full of delight to Ronald. When the latter reached the age of fourteen Malcolm was not satisfied with the amount of proficiency which the lad was able to gain during his occasional visits, and therefore took him for further instruction to a comrade who had, like himself, served in France, and had returned and settled down in Glasgow, where he opened a fencing school, having been a maitre d'armes among the Scotch regiments.
The arrangement was, however, kept a profound secret from Andrew and his wife; but on half holidays, and on any other days when he could manage to slip away for an hour, Ronald went to his instructor and worked hard and steadily with the rapier. Had Mrs. Anderson had an idea of the manner in which he spent his time she would have been horrified, and would certainly have spared her encomiums on his improved conduct and the absence of the unsatisfactory reports which had before been so common.
The cloud of uncertainty which hung over his father's fate could not but have an influence upon the boy's character, and the happy carelessness and gaiety which were its natural characteristics were modified by the thought that his father might be languishing in a dungeon. Sometimes he would refuse to accompany his school fellows on their rambles or fishing expeditions, and would sit for hours thinking over all sorts of wild plans by which he might penetrate to him and aid him to escape. He was never tired of questioning Malcolm Anderson as to the prisons in which, if still alive, his father would be likely to be confined. He would ask as to their appearance, the height of their walls, whether they were moated or not, and whether other houses abutted closely upon them. One day Malcolm asked him the reason of these questions, and he replied, "Of course I want to see how it will be possible to get my father out." And although Malcolm tried to impress upon him that it would be an almost impossible task even to discover in which prison his father was kept, he would not allow himself to be discouraged.
"There must be some way of finding out, Malcolm. You tell me that prisoners are not even known by their name to the warders, but only under a number. Still someone must know — there must be lists kept of those in prison, and I shall trust to my mother to find out for me. A great lady as she is must be able to get at people if she sets about it, and as certainly she must have loved my father very very much, or she never would have married him secretly, and got into such trouble for it. I am sure she will do her best when she finds that you and I have come over to get him out. When we know that, I think we ought to be able to manage. You could get employment as a warder, or I could go disguised as a woman, or as a priest, or somehow. I feel sure we shall succeed if we do but find out that he is alive and where he is."
Malcolm knew too much about the strong and well guarded prisons of France to share in the boy's sanguine hopes, but he did not try to discourage him. He thought that with such an object in life before him the boy would devote himself all the more eagerly to exercises which would strengthen his arm, increase his skill with weapons, and render him a brave and gallant officer, and in this he was right. As the time went on Ronald became more and more serious. He took no part whatever in the school boy games and frolics in which he had been once a leader. He worked hard at his school tasks the sooner to be done with them, and above all devoted himself to acquiring a mastery of the sword with a perseverance and enthusiasm which quite surprised his instructor.
"I tell you, Malcolm, man," he said one day to his old comrade, after Ronald had been for upwards of two years his pupil, "if I had known, when you first asked me to teach the lad to handle a sword, how much of my time he was going to occupy, I should have laughed in your face, for ten times the sum you agreed to pay me would not have been enough; but, having begun it for your sake, I have gone on for the lad's. It has been a pleasure to teach him, so eager was he to learn — so ready to work heart and soul to improve. The boy's wrist is as strong as mine and his eye as quick. I have long since taught him all I know, and it is practice now, and not teaching, that we have every day. I tell you I have work to hold my own with him; he knows every trick and turn as well as I do, and is quicker with his lunge and riposte. Were it not that I have my extra length of arm in my favour I could not hold my own. As you know, I have many of the officers of the garrison among my pupils, and some of them have learned in good schools, but there is not one of them could defend himself for a minute against that boy. If it were not that the matter has to be kept secret I would set him in front of some of them, and you would see what short work he would make of them. Have you heard the rumours, Malcolm, that the young Chevalier is likely to follow the example of his father, thirty years back, and to make a landing in Scotland?"
"I have heard some such rumours," Malcolm replied, "though whether there be aught in them I know not. I hope that if he does so he will at any rate follow the example of his father no further. As you know, I hold to the Stuarts, but I must own they are but poor hands at fighting. Charles the First ruined his cause; James the Second threw away the crown of Ireland by galloping away from the battle of the Boyne; the Chevalier showed here in '15 that he was no leader of men; and unless this lad is made of very different stuff to his forefathers he had best stay in France."
"But if he should come, Malcolm, I suppose you will join him? I am afraid I shall be fool enough to do so, even with my fifty years on my head. And you?"
"I suppose I shall be a fool too," Malcolm said. "The Stuarts are Scotch, you see, and with all their faults I would rather a thousand times have a Scottish king than these Germans who govern us from London. If the English like them let them keep them, and let us have a king of our own. However, nought may come of it; it may be but a rumour. It is a card which Louis has threatened to play a score of times, whenever he wishes to annoy England. It is more than likely that it will come to nought, as it has so often done before."
"But they tell me that there are agents travelling about among the Highland clans, and that this time something is really to be done."
"They have said so over and over again, and nothing has come of it. For my part, I don't care which way it goes. After the muddle that was made of it thirty years ago it does not seem to me more likely that we shall get rid of the Hanoverians now. Besides, the hangings and slaughterings then, would, I should think, make the nobles and the heads of clans think twice ere they risked everything again."
"That is true, but when men's blood is up they do not count the cost; besides, the Highland clans are always ready to fight. If Prince Charles comes you will see there will not be much hanging back whatever the consequences may be. Well, you and I have not much to lose, except our lives."
"That is true enough, old friend; and I would rather die that way than any other. Still, to tell you the truth, I would rather keep my head on my shoulders for a few years if I can."
"Well, nothing may come of it; but if it does I shall strike a blow again for the old cause."
At home Ronald heard nothing but expressions of loyalty to the crown. The mere fact that the Highlanders espoused the cause of the Stuarts was sufficient in itself to make the Lowlanders take the opposite side. The religious feeling, which had always counted for so much in the Lowlands, and had caused Scotland to side with the Parliament against King Charles, had not lost its force. The leanings of the Stuarts were, it was known, still strongly in favour of the Catholic religion, and although Prince Charles Edward was reported to be more Protestant in feelings than the rest of his race, this was not sufficient to counterbalance the effect of the hereditary Catholic tendency. Otherwise there was no feeling of active loyalty towards the reigning king in Scotland. The first and second Georges had none of the attributes which attract loyal affection. The first could with difficulty speak the language of the people over whom he ruled. Their feelings and sympathies were Hanoverian rather than English, and all court favours were bestowed as fast as possible upon their countrymen. They had neither the bearing nor manner which men associate with royalty, nor the graces and power of attraction which distinguished the Stuarts. Commonplace and homely in manner, in figure, and in bearing, they were not men whom their fellows could look up to or respect; their very vices were coarse, and the Hanoverian men and women they gathered round them were hated by the English people.
Thus neither in England nor Scotland was there any warm feeling of loyalty for the reigning house; and though it was possible that but few would adventure life and property in the cause of the Stuarts, it was equally certain that outside the army there were still fewer who would draw sword for the Hanoverian king. Among the people of the Lowland cities of Scotland the loyalty which existed was religious rather than civil, and rested upon the fact that their forefathers had fought against the Stuarts, while the Highlanders had always supported their cause. Thus, although in the household and in kirk Ronald had heard King George prayed for regularly, he had heard no word concerning him calculated to waken a boyish feeling of loyalty, still less of enthusiasm. Upon the other hand he knew that his father had fought and suffered for the Stuarts and was an exile in their cause, and that Hanoverians had handed over the estate of which he himself would now be the heir to one of their adherents.
"It is no use talking of these matters to Andrew," Malcolm impressed upon him; "it would do no good. When he was a young man he took the side of the Hanoverians, and he won't change now; while, did Mistress Janet guess that your heart was with the Stuarts, she would say that I was ruining you, and should bring you to a gallows. She is not fond of me now, though she does her best to be civil to her husband's brother; but did she know that you had become a Jacobite, like enough she would move Andrew to put a stop to your being with me, and there would be all sorts of trouble."
"But they could nor prevent my being with you," Ronald said indignantly. "My father gave me into your charge, not into theirs."
"That's true enough, laddie; but it is they who have cared for you and brought you up. When you are a man you can no doubt go which way it pleases you; but till then you owe your duty and respect to them, and not to me, who have done nought for you but just carry you over here in my cloak."
"I know they have done everything for me," Ronald said penitently. "They have been very good and kind, and I love them both; but for all that it is only natural that my father should be first, and that my heart should be in the cause that he fought for."
"That is right enough, Ronald, and I would not have it otherwise, and I have striven to do my best to make you as he would like to see you. Did he never come back again I should be sorry indeed to see Colonel Leslie's son growing up a Glasgow tradesman, as my brother no doubt intends you to be, for I know he has long since given up any thought of hearing from your father; but in that you and I will have a say when the time comes. Until then you must treat Andrew as your natural guardian, and there is no need to anger him by letting him know that your heart is with the king over the water, any more than that you can wield a sword like a gentleman. Let us have peace as long as we can. You are getting on for sixteen now; another two years and we will think about going to Paris together. I am off again tomorrow, Ronald; it will not be a long trip this time, but maybe before I get back we shall have news from France which will set the land on fire."
A short time after this conversation, as Ronald on his return from college (for he was now entered at the university) passed through the shop, the bailie was in conversation with one of the city magistrates, and Ronald caught the words:
"He is somewhere in the city. He came down from the Highlands, where he has been going to and fro, two days since. I have a warrant out against him, and the constables are on the lookout. I hope to have him in jail before tonight. These pestilent rogues are a curse to the land, though I cannot think the clans would be fools enough to rise again, even though Charles Stuart did come."
Ronald went straight up to his room, and for a few minutes sat in thought. The man of whom they spoke was doubtless an emissary of Prince Charles, and his arrest might have serious consequences, perhaps bring ruin on all with whom he had been in communication. Who he was or what he was like Ronald knew not; but he determined at any rate to endeavour to defeat the intentions of the magistrate to lay hands on him. Accordingly a few minutes later, while the magistrate was still talking with Andrew, he again went out.
Ronald waited about outside the door till he left, and then followed him at a short distance. The magistrate spoke to several acquaintances on the way, and then went to the council chamber. Waiting outside, Ronald saw two or three of the magistrates enter. An hour later the magistrate he was watching came out; but he had gone but a few paces when a man hurrying up approached him. They talked earnestly for a minute or two. The magistrate then re-entered the building, remained there a few minutes, and then joined the man who was waiting outside. Ronald had stolen up and taken his stand close by.
"It is all arranged," the magistrate said; "as soon as night has fallen a party will go down, surround the house, and arrest him. It is better not to do it in daylight. I shall lead the party, which will come round to my house, so if the men you have left on watch bring you news that he has changed his hiding place, let me know at once.
The magistrate walked on. Ronald stood irresolute. He had obtained no clue as to the residence of the person of whom they were in search, and after a moment's thought he determined to keep an eye upon the constable, who would most likely join his comrade on the watch. This, however, he did not do immediately. He had probably been for some time at work, and now took the opportunity of going home for a meal, for he at once made his way to a quiet part of the city, and entered a small house.
It was half an hour before he came out again, and Ronald fidgeted with impatience, for it was already growing dusk. When he issued out Ronald saw that he was armed with a heavy cudgel. He walked quickly now, and Ronald, following at a distance, passed nearly across the town, and down a quiet street which terminated against the old wall running from the Castle Port to a small tower. When he got near the bottom of the street a man came out from an archway, and the two spoke together. From their gestures Ronald felt sure that it was the last house on the left hand side of the street that was being watched. He had not ventured to follow far down the street, for as there was no thoroughfare he would at once be regarded with suspicion. The question now was how to warn the man of his danger. He knew several men were on the watch, and as only one was in the street, doubtless the others were behind the house. If anything was to be done there was no time to be lost, for the darkness was fast closing in.
After a minute's thought he went quickly up the street, and then started at a run, and then came down upon a place where he could ascend the wall, which was at many points in bad repair. With some difficulty he climbed up, and found that he was exactly opposite the house he wished to reach. It was dark now. Even in the principal streets the town was only lit by oil lamps here and there, and there was no attempt at illumination in the quiet quarters, persons who went abroad after nightfall always carrying a lantern with them. There was still sufficient light to show Ronald that the house stood at a distance of some fourteen feet from the wall. The roof sloped too steeply for him to maintain his holding upon it; but halfway along the house was a dormer window about three feet above the gutter. It was unglazed, and doubtless gave light to a granary or store room.
Ronald saw that his only chance was to alight on the roof close enough to this window to be able to grasp the woodwork. At any other moment he would have hesitated before attempting such a leap. The wall was only a few feet wide, and he could therefore get but little run for a spring. His blood was, however, up, and having taken his resolution he did not hesitate. Drawing back as far as he could he took three steps, and then sprang for the window. Its sill was some three feet higher than the edge of the wall from which he sprang.
The leap was successful; his feet struck just upon the gutter, and the impetus threw forward his body, and his hands grasped the woodwork of the window. In a moment he had dragged himself inside. It was quite dark within the room. He moved carefully, for the floor was piled with disused furniture, boxes, sacking, and rubbish. He was some time finding the door, but although he moved as carefully as he could he knocked over a heavy chest which was placed on a rickety chair, the two falling with a crash on the floor. At last he found the door and opened it. As he did so a light met his eyes, and he saw ascending the staircase a man with a drawn sword, and a woman holding a light above her head following closely. The man uttered an exclamation on seeing Ronald appear.
"A thief!" he said. "Surrender, or I will run you through at once."
"I am no thief," Ronald replied. "My name is Ronald Leslie, and I am a student at the university. I have come here to warn someone, whom I know not, in this house that it is watched, and that in a few minutes at the outside a band of the city watch will be here to capture him."
The man dropped the point of his sword, and taking the light from the woman held it closer to Ronald's face.
"How came you here?" he asked. "How did you learn this news?"
"The house is watched both sides below," Ronald said, "and I leapt from the wall through the dormer window. I heard a magistrate arranging with one of the constables for a capture, and gathered that he of whom they were in search was a Jacobite, and as I come of a stock which has always been faithful to the Stuarts, I hastened to warn him."
The woman uttered a cry of alarm.
"I thank you with all my heart, young sir. I am he for whom they are in search, and if I get free you will render a service indeed to our cause; but there is no time to talk now, if what you tell me be true. You say the house is watched from both sides?"
"Yes; there are two men in the lane below, one or more, I know not how many, behind."
"There is no escape behind," the man said; "the walls are high, and other houses abut upon them. I will sally out and fight through the men in front."
"I can handle the sword," Ronald put in; "and if you will provide me with a weapon I will do my best by your side."
"You are a brave lad," the man said, "and I accept your aid."
He led the way down stairs and entered a room, took down a sword from over the fireplace, and gave it to Ronald.
As he took it in his hand there was a loud knocking at the door.
"Too late!" the man exclaimed. "Quick, the light, Mary! At any rate I must burn my papers."
He drew some letters from his pocket, lit them at the lamp, and threw them on the hearth; then opening a cabinet he drew forth a number of other papers and crumpling them up added them to the blaze.
"Thank God that is safe!" he said; "the worst evil is averted."
"Can you not escape by the way by which I came hither?" Ronald said. "The distance is too great to leap; but if you have got a plank, or can pull up a board from the floor, you could put it across to the wall and make your escape that way. I will try to hold the stairs till you are away."
"I will try at least," the man said. "Mary, bring the light, and aid me while our brave friend does his best to give us time."
So saying he sprang upstairs, while Ronald made his way down to the door.
"Who is making such a noise at the door of a quiet house at this time of night?" he shouted.
"Open in the king's name," was the reply; "we have a warrant to arrest one who is concealed here."
"There is no one concealed here," Ronald replied, "and I doubt that you are, as you say, officers of the peace; but if so, pass your warrant through the grill, and if it be signed and in due form I will open to you."
"I will show my warrant when need be," the voice answered. "Once more, open the door or we will break it in."
"Do it at your peril," Ronald replied. "How can I tell you are not thieves who seek to ransack the house, and that your warrant is a pretence? I warn you that the first who enters I will run him through the body."
The reply was a shower of blows on the door, and a similar attack was begun by a party behind the house. The door was strong, and after a minute or two the hammering ceased, and then there was a creaking, straining noise, and Ronald knew they were applying a crowbar to force it open. He retreated to a landing halfway up the stairs, placed a lamp behind him so that it would show its light full on the faces of those ascending the stairs, and waited. A minute later there was a crash; the lock had yielded, but the bar still held the door in its place. Then the blows redoubled, mingled with the crashing of wood; then there was the sound of a heavy fall, and a body of men burst in.
There was a rush at the stairs, but the foremost halted at the sight of Ronald with his drawn sword.
"Keep back," he shouted, "or beware! The watch will be here in a few minutes, and then you will all be laid by the heels."
"Fools! We are the watch," one of the men exclaimed, and, dashing up the stairs, aimed a blow at Ronald. He guarded it and ran the man through the shoulder. He dropped his sword and fell back with a curse.
At this moment the woman ran down stairs from above and nodded to Ronald to signify that the fugitive had escaped.
"You see I hold to my word," Ronald said in a loud voice. "If ye be the watch, which I doubt, show me the warrant, or if ye have one in authority with you let him proclaim himself."
"Here is the warrant, and here am I, James M'Whirtle, a magistrate of this city."
"Why did you not say so before?" Ronald exclaimed, lowering his sword. "If it be truly the worshipful Mr. M'Whirtle let him show himself, for surely I know him well, having seen him often in the house of my guardian, Bailie Anderson."
Mr. M'Whirtle, who had been keeping well in the rear, now came forward.
"It is himself." Ronald said. "Why did you not say you were here at once, Mr. M'Whirtle, instead of setting your men to break down the door, as if they were Highland caterans on a foray?"
"We bade you open in the king's name," the magistrate said, "and you withstood us, and it will be hanging matter for you, for you have aided the king's enemies."
"The king's enemies!" Ronald said in a tone of surprise. "How can there be any enemies of the king here, seeing there are only myself and the good woman up stairs? You will find no others."
"Search the house," the magistrate said furiously, "and take this malapert lad into custody on the charge of assisting the king's enemies, of impeding the course of justice, of withstanding by force of arms the issue of a lawful writ, and with grievously wounding one of the city watch."
"It is a grievous list, worshipful sir; but mark you, as soon as you showed your warrant and declared yourself I gave way to you. I only resisted so long as it seemed to me you were evildoers breaking into a peaceful house."
Two of the watch remained as guard over Ronald; one of the others searched the house from top to bottom. No signs of the fugitive were discovered.
"He must be here somewhere," the magistrate said, "since he was seen to enter, and the house has been closely watched ever since. See, there are a pile of ashes on the hearth as if papers had been recently burned. Sound the floors and the walls."
The investigation was particularly sharp in the attic, for a board was here found to be loose, and there were signs of its being recently wrenched out of its place, but as the room below was unceiled this discovery led to nothing. At last the magistrate was convinced that the fugitive was not concealed in the house, and, after placing his seals on the doors of all the rooms and leaving four men in charge, he left the place, Ronald, under the charge of four men, accompanying him.
On the arrival at the city Tolbooth Ronald was thrust into a cell and there left until morning. He was then brought before Mr. M'Whirtle and two other of the city magistrates. Andrew Anderson was in attendance, having been notified the night before of what had befallen Ronald. The bailie and his wife had at first been unable to credit the news, and were convinced that some mistake had been made. Andrew had tried to obtain his release on his promise to bring him up in the morning, but Mr. M'Whirtle and his colleagues, who had been hastily summoned together, would not hear of it.
"It's a case of treason, man. Treason against his gracious majesty; aiding and abetting one of the king's enemies, to say nought of brawling and assaulting the city watch."
The woman found in the house had also been brought up, but no precise charge was made against her. The court was crowded, for Andrew, in his wrath at being unable to obtain Ronald's release, had not been backward in publishing his grievance, and many of his neighbours were present to hear this strange charge against Ronald Leslie.
The wounded constable and another first gave their evidence.
"I myself can confirm what has been said," Mr. M'Whirtle remarked, "seeing that I was present with the watch to see the arrest of a person against whom a warrant had been issued."
"Who is that person?" Ronald asked. "Seeing that I am charged with aiding and abetting his escape it seems to me that I have a right to know who he is."
The magistrates looked astounded at the effrontery of the question, but after a moment's consultation together Mr. M'Whirtle said that in the interest of justice it was unadvisable at the present moment to state the name of the person concerned.
"What have you to say, prisoner, to the charge made against you? In consideration of our good friend Bailie Anderson, known to be a worthy citizen and loyal subject of his majesty, we would be glad to hear what you have to say anent this charge."
"I have nothing to say," Ronald replied quietly. "Being in the house when it was attacked, with as much noise as if a band of Border ruffians were at the gate, I stood on the defence. I demanded to see what warrant they had for forcing an entry, and as they would show me none, I did my best to protect the house; but the moment Mr. M'Whirtle proclaimed who he was I lowered my sword and gave them passage."
There was a smile in the court at the boy's coolness.
"But how came ye there, young sir? How came ye to be in the house at all, if ye were there for a good motive?"
"That I decline to say," Ronald answered. "It seems to me that any one may be in a house by the consent of its owners, without having to give his reasons therefor."
"It will be the worse for you if you defy the court. I ask you again how came you there?"
"I have no objection to tell you how I came there," Ronald said. "I was walking on the old wall, which, as you know, runs close by the house, when I saw an ill looking loon hiding himself as if watching the house, looking behind I saw another ruffianly looking man there." Two gasps of indignation were heard from the porch at the back of the court. "Thinking that there was mischief on hand I leapt from the wall to the dormer window to warn the people of the house that there were ill doers who had designs upon the place, and then remained to see what came of it. That is the simple fact."
There was an exclamation of incredulity from the magistrates.
"If you doubt me," Ronald said, "you can send a man to the wall. I felt my feet loosen a tile and it slid down into the gutter."
One of the magistrates gave an order, and two of the watch left the court.
"And who did you find in the house?"
"I found this good woman, and sorely frightened she was when I told her what kind of folk were lurking outside."
"And was there anyone else there?"
"There was a man there," Ronald said quietly, "and he seemed alarmed too."
"What became of him?"
"I cannot say for certain," Ronald replied; "but if you ask my opinion I should say, that having no stomach for meeting people outside, he just went out the way I came in, especially as I heard the worshipful magistrate say that a board in the attic had been lifted."
The magistrates looked at each other in astonishment; the mode of escape had not occurred to any, and the disappearance of the fugitive was now explained.
"I never heard such a tale," one of the magistrates said after a pause. "It passes belief that a lad, belonging to the family of a worthy and respectable citizen, a bailie of the city and one who stands well with his fellow townsmen, should take a desperate leap from the wall through a window of a house where a traitor was in hiding, warn him that the house was watched, and give him time to escape while he defended the stairs. Such a tale, sure, was never told in a court. What say you, bailie?"
"I can say nought," Andrew said. "The boy is a good boy and a quiet one; given to mischief like other boys of his age, doubtless, but always amenable. What can have possessed him to behave in such a wild manner I cannot conceive, but it seems to me that it was but a boy's freak."
"It was no freak when he ran his sword through Peter Muir's shoulder," Mr. M'Whirtle said. "Ye will allow that, neighbour Anderson."
"The man must have run against the sword," the bailie said, "seeing the boy scarce knows one end of a weapon from another."
"You are wrong there, bailie," one of the constables said; "for I have seen him many a time going into the school of James Macklewain, and I have heard a comrade say, who knows James, that the lad can handle a sword with the best of them."
"I will admit at once," Ronald said, "that I have gone to Macklewain's school and learned fencing of him. My father, Colonel Leslie of Glenlyon, was a gentleman, and it was right that I should wield a sword, and James Macklewain, who had fought in the French wars and knew my father, was good enough to teach me. I may say that my guardian knew nothing of this."
"No, indeed," Andrew said. "I never so much as dreamt of it. If I had done so he and I would have talked together to a purpose."
"Leslie of Glenlyon was concerned in the '15, was he not?" Mr. M'Whirtle said; "and had to fly the country; and his son seems to be treading in his steps, bailie. I doubt ye have been nourishing a viper in your bosom."
At this moment the two constables returned, and reported that certainly a tile was loose as the prisoner had described, and there were scratches as if of the feet of someone entering the window, but the leap was one that very few men would undertake.
"Your story is so far confirmed, prisoner; but it does not seem to us that even had you seen two men watching a house it would be reasonable that you would risk your neck in this way without cause. Clearly you have aided and abetted a traitor to escape justice, and you will be remanded. I hope, before you are brought before us again, you will make up your mind to make a clean breast of it, and throw yourself on the king's mercy."
Ronald was accordingly led back to the cell, the bailie being too much overwhelmed with surprise at what he had heard to utter any remonstrance.
CHAPTER III: Free.
After Ronald had been removed from the court the woman was questioned. She asserted that her master was away, and was, she believed, in France, and that in his absence she often let lodgings to strangers. That two days before, a man whom she knew not came and hired a room for a few days. That on the evening before, hearing a noise in the attic, she went up with him, and met Ronald coming down stairs. That when Ronald said there were strange men outside the house, and when immediately afterwards there was a great knocking at the door, the man drew his sword and ordered her to come up stairs with him. That he then made her assist him to pull up a plank, and thrust it from the attic to the wall, and ordered her to replace it when he had gone. She supposed he was a thief flying from justice, but was afraid to refuse to do his bidding.
"And why did you not tell us all this, woman, when we came in?" Mr. M'Whirtle asked sternly. "Had ye told us we might have overtaken him."
"I was too much frightened," the woman answered. "There were swords out and blood running, and men using words contrary both to the law and Scripture. I was frighted enough before, and I just put my apron over my head and sat down till the hubbub was over. And then as no one asked me any questions, and I feared I might have done wrong in aiding a thief to escape, I just held my tongue."
No cross questioning could elicit anything further from the woman, who indeed seemed frightened almost out of her senses, and the magistrate at last ordered her to return to the house and remain there under the supervision of the constable until again sent for.
Andrew Anderson returned home sorely disturbed in his mind. Hitherto he had told none, even of his intimates, that the boy living in his house was the son of Colonel Leslie, but had spoken of him as the child of an old acquaintance who had left him to his care. The open announcement of Ronald that he was the son of one of the leaders in the last rebellion, coming just as it did when the air was thick with rumours of another rising, troubled him greatly; and there was the fact that the boy had, unknown to him, been learning fencing; and lastly this interference, which had enabled a notorious emissary of the Pretender to escape arrest.
"The boy's story may be true as far as it goes," he said to his wife when relating to her the circumstances, "for I have never known him to tell a lie; but I cannot think it was all the truth. A boy does not take such a dreadful leap as that, and risk breaking his neck, simply because he sees two men near the house. He must somehow have known that man was there, and went to give him warning. Now I think of it, he passed through the shop when Peter M'Whirtle was talking to me about it, though, indeed, he did not know then where the loon was in hiding. The boy went out soon afterwards, and must somehow have learned, if indeed he did not know before. Janet, I fear that you and I have been like two blind owls with regard to the boy, and I dread sorely that my brother Malcolm is at the bottom of all this mischief."
This Mrs. Anderson was ready enough to credit, but she was too much bewildered and horrified to do more than to shake her head and weep.
"Will they cut off his head, Andrew?" she asked at last.
"No, there's no fear of that; but they may imprison him for a bit, and perhaps give him a good flogging — the young rascal. But there, don't fret over it, Janet. I will do all I can for him. And in truth I think Malcolm is more to blame than he is; and we have been to blame too for letting the lad be so much with him, seeing that we might be sure he would put all sorts of notions in the boy's head."
"But what is to be done, Andrew? We cannot let the poor lad remain in prison."
"We have no choice in the matter, Janet. In prison he is, and in prison he has to remain until he is let out, and I see no chance of that. If it had only been a brawl with the watch it could have been got over easily enough; but this is an affair of high treason — aiding and abetting the king's enemies, and the rest of it. If it were in the old times they would put the thumb screws on him to find out all he knew about it, for they will never believe he risked his life in the plot; and the fact that his father before him was in arms for the Chevalier tells that way. I should not be surprised if an order comes for him to be sent to London to be examined by the king's councillors; but I will go round now and ask the justices what they think of the matter."
His tidings when he returned were not encouraging; the general opinion of the magistrates being that Ronald was certainly mixed up in the Jacobite plot, that the matter was altogether too serious to be disposed of by them, being of the nature of high treason, and that nothing could be done until instructions were received from London. No clue had been obtained as to the whereabouts of the man who had escaped, and it was thought probable that he had at once dropped beyond the walls and made for the west.
Malcolm arrived ten days later from a journey in Lancashire, and there was a serious quarrel between him and Andrew on his presenting himself at the house.
"It is not only that you led the lad into mischief, Malcolm, but that you taught him to do it behind my back."
"You may look at it in that way if you will, Andrew, and it's natural enough from your point of view; but I take no blame to myself You treated the boy as if he had been your son, and I thank you with all my heart for your kindness to him; but I could not forget Leslie of Glenlyon, and I do not blame myself that I have kept the same alive in his mind also. It was my duty to see that the young eagle was not turned into a barn door fowl; but I never thought he was going to use his beak and his claws so soon."
"A nice thing you will have to tell his father, that owing to your teachings his son is a prisoner in the Tower, maybe for life. But there — there's no fear of that. You will never have to render that account, for there's no more chance of your ever hearing more of him than there is of my becoming king of Scotland. It's bad enough that you have always been a ne'er do well yourself without training that unfortunate boy to his ruin."
"Well, well, Andrew, I will not argue with you, and I don't blame you at being sore and angry over the matter; nor do I deny what you have said about myself; it's true enough, and you might say worse things against me without my quarreling with ye over it. However, the less said the better. I will take myself off and think over what's to be done."
"You had better come up and have your supper with us," Andrew said, mollified by his brother's humility.
"Not for twenty golden guineas, Andrew, would I face Mistress Janet. She has borne with me well, though I know in her heart she disapproves of me altogether; but after this scrape into which I have got the boy I daren't face her. She might not say much, but to eat with her eye upon me would choke me."
Malcolm proceeded at once to the establishment of his friend Macklewain.
"This is a nice kettle of fish, Malcolm, about young Leslie. I have had the justices down here, asking me all sorts of questions, and they have got into their minds that I taught him not only swordplay but treason, and they have been threatening to put me in the stocks as a vagabond; but I snapped my fingers in their faces, saying I earned my money as honestly as they did, and that I concern myself in no way in politics, but teach English officers and the sons of Glasgow tradesmen as well as those of Highland gentlemen. They were nicely put out, I can tell you; but I didn't care for that, for I knew I was in the right of it. But what on earth made the young cock meddle in this matter? How came he to be mixed up in a Jacobite plot? Have you got your finger in it?"
"Not I, James; and how it happens that he is concerned in it is more than I can guess. I know, of course, his heart is with the king over the water; but how he came to get his hand into the pie is altogether beyond me."
"The people here are well nigh mad about it. I know not who the gallant who has escaped is; but it is certain that his capture was considered a very important one, and that the justices here expected to have gained no small credit by his arrest, whereas now they will be regarded as fools for letting him slip through their fingers."
"I cannot for the life of me make out how he came to be mixed up in such a matter. No one but you and I could have known that he was a lad of mettle, who might be trusted in such a business. It can hardly be that they would have confided any secrets to him; still, the fact that he was in the house with the man they are in search of, and that he drew and risked his life and certain imprisonment to secure his escape, shows that he must have been heart and soul in the plot."
"And what do you think of doing, Malcolm?"
"I shall get him out somehow. I can lay hands on a score or two or more of our old comrades here in Glasgow, and I doubt not that they will all strike a blow with me for Leslie's son, to say nothing of his being a follower of the Stuarts."
"You are not thinking, man, of attacking the jail! That would be a serious matter. The doors are strong, and you would have the soldiers, to say nought of the town guard and the citizens, upon you before you had reached him."
"No, no, James, I am thinking of no such foolishness. I guess that they will not be trying him for withstanding the watch, that's but a small matter; they will be sending him south for the king's ministers to get out of him what he knows about the Jacobite plot and the names of all concerned, and it's upon the road that we must get him out of their hands. Like enough they will only send four troopers with him, and we can easily master them somewhere in the dales."
"It's more like, Malcolm, they will send him by ship. They will know well enough that if the lad knows aught there will be plenty whose interest it is to get him out of their hands. I think they will take the safer way of putting him on board ship."
"Like enough they will," Malcolm agreed, "and in that case it will be a harder job than I deemed it. But at any rate I mean to try. Ronald's not the lad to turn traitor; he will say nothing whatever they do to him, you may be sure, and he may lie for years in an English prison if we do not get him out of their hands before he gets there. At any rate what we have got to do now is to mark every ship in the port sailing for London, and to find out whether passages are taken for a prisoner and his guard in any of them. I will make that my business, and between times get a score of trusty fellows together in readiness to start if they should send him by land; but I doubt not that you are right, and that he will be taken off by ship."
The days of waiting passed slowly to Ronald, and Andrew Anderson once or twice obtained permission to see him. The bailie wisely abstained from any reproaches, and sought only to persuade him to make a clean breast of the business, and to tell all he knew about a plot which could but end in failure and ruin to all concerned. Although his belief in Ronald's truthfulness was great he could not credit that the story which he had told contained all the facts of the matter. To the bailie it seemed incredible that merely from an abstract feeling in favour of the Stuarts Ronald would have risked his life and liberty in aiding the escape of a Jacobite agent, unless he was in some way deeply involved in the plot; and he regarded Ronald's assurances to the contrary as the outcome of what he considered an entirely mistaken sense of loyalty to the Stuart cause.
"It's all very well, Ronald," he said, shaking his head sadly; "but when they get you to London they will find means to make you open your mouth. They have done away with the thumb screws and the rack, but there are other ways of making a prisoner speak, and it would be far better for you to make a clean breast of it at once. Janet is grieving for you as if you were her own son, and I cannot myself attend to my business. Who would have thought that so young a lad should have got himself mixed up in such sair trouble!"
"I have really told you all, bailie, though you will not believe me, and I am sorry indeed for the trouble I have brought upon you and my aunt" — for Ronald had from the first been taught to address the bailie and his wife as if Malcolm Anderson had been his real father; "anyhow I wish they would settle it. I would rather know the worst than go on from day to day expecting something that never happens."
"You have to wait, Ronald, till word comes from London. If they write from there that your case can be dealt with merely for the assault upon the watch I can promise you that a few weeks in jail are all that you are like to have; but I fear that there is little chance of that. They are sure to send for you to London, and whether you will ever come back alive the gude Lord only knows. We know what came of treason thirty years ago, and like enough they will be even more severe now, seeing that they will hold that folks have all the less right to try and disturb matters so long settled."
"Have you seen Malcolm?" Ronald asked, to change the conversation.
"Ay, lad, I have seen him, and the meeting was not altogether a pleasant one for either of us."
"I hope you have not quarrelled with him on my account!" Ronald said eagerly.
"We have not exactly quarrelled, but we have had words. I could not but tell him my opinion as to his learning you to take such courses, but we parted friends; but I doubt it will be long before Janet can see him with patience."
The jailer, who was present at the interview, here notified that the bailie's time was up.
"I shall see you again, Ronald, before they take you south. I would that I could do more to help you besides just coming to see you."
"I know you cannot, uncle. I have got into the scrape and must take the consequences; but if I were placed in the same position I should do it again."
A few days afterwards, as he was eating his ration of prison bread, Ronald found in it a small pellet of paper, and on opening it read the words: "Keep up your courage, friends are at work for you. You will hear more yet of M. A."
Ronald was glad to know that his old friend was thinking of him, but, knowing how strong was the prison, he had little hopes that Malcolm would be able to effect anything to help him. Still the note gave him comfort.
Three days later Andrew called again to bid him goodbye, telling him that orders had been received from London that he was to be sent thither by ship.
"I should like to have seen Malcolm before I went, if I could," Ronald said.
"I have not seen him for several days," the bailie said. "I have sent down several times to the house where he lodges, but he is always away; but, whether or no, there would be no chance of your seeing him. I myself had difficulty in getting leave to see you, though a bailie and known to be a loyal citizen. But Malcolm knows that there would be no chance of one with such a character as his getting to see you, and that it would draw attention to him even to ask such a thing, which, if he has a hand in this mad brain plot, he would not wish."
"Malcolm would not mind a straw whether they kept a watch on him or not," Ronald said. "Will you tell him, when you see him next, that I got his message?"
"What message? I have given you no message that I know of."
"He will know what I mean. Tell him, whether aught comes of it or not I thank him, and for all his kindness to me, as I do you and Aunt Janet."
At the same time with the order that Ronald should be sent to London the authorities of Glasgow received an intimation that the ministers felt great surprise at the lukewarmness which had been shown in allowing so notorious and important an enemy of his majesty to escape, and that the king himself had expressed marked displeasure at the conduct of the city authorities in the matter. Greatly mortified at the upshot of an affair from which they had hoped to obtain much credit from government, and believing it certain that there were many greatly interested in getting Ronald out of the hands of his captors, the authorities took every precaution to prevent it. He was taken down to the river side under a strong escort, and in addition to the four warders who were to be in charge of the prisoner as far as London, they put on board twelve men of the city guard. These were to remain with the ship until she was well out at sea, and then to return in a boat which the vessel was to row behind her.