BY S. R. CROCKETT
AUTHOR OF "THE RAIDERS," "THE STICKIT MINISTER," "LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM," "ANNE OF THE BARRICADES," ETC.
SYNDICATE PUBLISHING COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON
All rights reserved
COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1913. Reprinted February, 1913; April, December, 1913.
CHAPTER I. HEIRESS AND HEIR
CHAPTER II. THE MAIDENS' COVE
CHAPTER III. THE BOTHY
CHAPTER IV. BY FORCE OF ARMS
CHAPTER V. PATSY'S CONFESSIONS
CHAPTER VI. HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
CHAPTER VII. THE LADS IN THE HEATHER
CHAPTER VIII. THE BLACK PEARL OF CAIRN FERRIS
CHAPTER IX. HIS LIFE IN HIS HAND
CHAPTER X. THE WICKED LAYETH A SNARE
CHAPTER XI. THE TRAMPLING OF HORSE IN THE NIGHT
CHAPTER XII. PATSY'S RESCUE
CHAPTER XIII. PLOTS AND PRINCES
CHAPTER XIV. THE END OF AN OLD FEUD
CHAPTER XV. THE FECHTIN' FOOL
CHAPTER XVI. A RIDER COMES TO CASTLE RAINCY
CHAPTER XVII. PATSY HELD IN HONOUR
CHAPTER XVIII. UNCLE JULIAN'S PRINCESS
CHAPTER XIX. MISS ALINE TAKES COMMAND
CHAPTER XX. LOUIS RAINCY ENDURES HARDNESS
CHAPTER XXI. THE CAVE OF ADULLAM
CHAPTER XXII. WINTER AFTERNOON
CHAPTER XXIII. PATSY HAS GREATNESS THRUST UPON HER
CHAPTER XXIV. THE LOST FOLK'S ACRE
CHAPTER XXV. THE HIGH STILE
CHAPTER XXVI. THE GIBBET RING
CHAPTER XXVII. THE DUKES ... AND SUPSORROW
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE "GREEN DRAGON"
CHAPTER XXIX. ENEMY'S COUNTRY
CHAPTER XXX. A CREDIT TO THE "GREEN DRAGON"
CHAPTER XXXI. THE NIGHT LANDING
CHAPTER XXXII. ORDEAL BY FIRE
CHAPTER XXXIII. PATSY RAISES THE COUNTRY
CHAPTER XXXIV. THE PRISON-BREAKERS
CHAPTER XXXV. THE PICTS' WAY IS THE WOMAN'S WAY
CHAPTER XXXVI. STIFF-NECKED AND REBELLIOUS
CHAPTER XXXVII. A PICTISH HONEYMOON
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE LAND OF ALWAYS AFTERNOON
CHAPTER XXXIX. REBEL GALLOWAY
CHAPTER XL. "WHY DO THEY LOVE YOU?"
CHAPTER XLI. THE BATTLE OF THE CAUSEWAY
HEIRESS AND HEIR
They stood high on the Abbey cliff-edge—an old man, eagle-profiled, hawk-beaked, cockatoo-crested, with angry grey eyebrows running peakily upwards towards his temples at either side ... and a boy.
They were the Earl Raincy and his grandson Louis—all the world knew them in that country of the Southern Albanach. For Leo Raincy was a great man, and the lad the heir of all he possessed.
For all—or almost all—they looked upon belonged to the Earl of Raincy. Even those blue hills bounding the meadow valleys to the north hid a fair half of his property, and he was sorry for that. Because he was a land miser, hoarding parishes and townships. He grudged the sea its fringe of foam, the three-mile fishing limit, the very high-and-low mark between the tides which was not his, but belonged to the crown—along which the common people had a right to pass, and where fisherfolk from the neighbouring villages might fish and dry their nets, when all ought to have been his.
The earl's dark eyes passed with carelessness over hundreds of farm-towns, snug sheltered villages, mills with little threads of white wimpling away from the unheard constant clack of the wheel, barns, byres and stackyards—all were his, but of these he took no heed.
Behind them Castle Raincy itself stood up finely from the plain of corn-land and green park, an artificial lake in front, deep trees all about, patterned gardens, the fiery flash of hot-house glass where the sun struck, and pinnacles high in air, above all the tall tower from which Margaret de Raincy had defied the English invader during the minority of James the Fifth. The earl's eyes passed all these over. He did not see them as aught to take pride in.
What he lingered upon was the wide pleasant valley beneath him, with a burn running and lurking among twinkling birches, interspersed with alders, many finely drained fields with the cows feeding belly-deep with twitching tails, and the sweep of the ripening crops which ran off to either side over knolls carefully planed down—and so back and back to the shelter of dark fir woods. Twelve hundred acres—and not his! Not a Raincy stone upon it, nor had been for four hundred years.
There were two houses on this twelve hundred acres of good land. First came Cairn Ferris, at the head of the glen of the Abbey Water. Close to the road that, under the lee of the big pines, a plain, douce, much-ivied house; and down in a nook by the sea, Abbey Burnfoot, called "The Abbey," a newer and brighter place, set like a jewel on the very edge of the sea, the white sand in front and the blue sweep of the bay widening out on either hand. Horrible—oh, most horrible! Not his—nor ever would be!
This was the blot which blackened all the rest—the property of the Ferrises of Cairn Ferris, of Adam, chief of the name at the top of the Glen, and of his brother Julian—he who had cursed the noble scythe-sweep of the Abbey Bay, which all ought to have been untouched Raincy property, with crow-stepped gables and beflowered verandahs.
"They stole it, boy, stole it!" muttered old Earl Raincy, setting a shaking hand on the boy's shoulder, "four hundred years ago they stole it. They came with the Stuart king who had nothing to do in the Free Province, and we stood for the Douglases, as was our duty. Your ancestor and mine was killed at Arkinholm with three earls and twenty barons, he not the least noble!"
He paused a moment to control his senile anger and then went quavering on.
"This Ferris was a mercenary—a fighter for his own hand, and they gave him this while we were exiled. And they have held it ever since—the pick of our heritage—the jewel in the lotus. Often we have asked it back—often taken it. But because they married into the Fife Wemysses—yes, even this last of them, they have always retaken and held it, to our despite!"
The boy on the stile, sprawling and thinking of something else (for he had heard all this fifty times before), yawned.
"Well, there's plenty more—why worry, grandfather?" he said, fanning himself with the blue velvet college cap that had a bright gold badge in front.
The old man started as if stung. He frowned and blinked like an angry bald eagle.
"There speaks the common wash of Whiggish blood. MacBryde will out!—No Raincy would thus have sold his birthright for a mess of pottage."
The eyes of the lad were still indolent, but also somewhat impudent in schoolboy fashion, as he answered, "Still, grandfather, mother's MacBryde money has paid off a good many Raincy—encumbrances, don't you call them here?—mortgages is the name for them in England! And more than that, don't go back and worry mother about these old cow-pastures. You know you are really very fond of her. As for me, I may not be a real Raincy, for I was born to do something in life, not to idle through it. You won't let me go into the navy, and fight as a man ought. If I go into the army, we shall have mother in a permanent fit. So I must just stop on and lend a hand where I can, till I am old enough to turn out that thief of an estate agent of yours and do something to help you—really, I mean!"
"Remember you are a Raincy by name, whatever you may be by nature," said the old man. Suddenly the boy stood up straight and firm before him, with a dourness on his face which was clearly not akin to the swoop and dash of his vulturine grandfather.
"If you don't let me do as I like here—do something real which will show that I have not been to school and the university for nothing, I shall go straight to the ship-building yard and get my uncle, mother's brother David, to take me on as an apprentice! We still own enough of the business to make him ready to do that."
Like one who hears and rebukes blasphemy, the old man made a gesture of despair with his hands, as though abandoning his grandson to his own evil courses, and then turned on his heel and walked slowly away towards the Castle.
* * * * *
With a sigh of relief the young man stretched himself luxuriously out on the broad triple plank of the stile, and drew from his pocket a brass spy-glass which he had been itching to make use of for the past ten minutes. He also had his reasons for being interested in the Ferris properties which lay beneath him, every field and dyke and hedgerow, every curve of coast and curvet of breaking wave as clear and near as if he could have touched them merely by reaching out his finger. But Louis Raincy nourished no historical wraths nor feudal jealousies.
"I am sorry the old fellow is savage with me," he muttered as he looked about to make sure that his grandfather was not turning round to forgive him. "I'm sure I don't mean to make him angry. I promise mother every day. But why he wants to be for ever trotting out a grievance four hundred years old—hang me if I see. Anyway, Dame Comfort will soon put him all right. He gets on with her—he and I never hit it off ... quite. I fear I wasn't born lordly, even though my father was a Raincy. They say he disgraced his family by being an artist, and that it was when he was painting Dame Comfort's portrait that—oh, I say, there's Patsy, or I'm the son of a Dutchman!"
As only the moment before he had been declaring himself the son of a De Raincy, this could hardly be. So there was good prima facie evidence that, in Louis's opinion, there was Patsy, whoever Patsy might be.
In a moment he had the spy-glass to his eye. He stilled the boyish flailing of his legs in the air as he lay prone on the stile-top, leaning on his elbows, and intently studying something that flashed and was lost among the birches that shaded the path up the glen of the Abbey Burn.
"Patsy it is, by Jove of the Capitol!" he proclaimed triumphantly, and shutting up the brass telescope with a facile snap of sliding tubes, he slipped it into his pocket and sprang off the stile. In three seconds he was on Ferris territory—and a trespasser. Louis Raincy was quick, impulsive, with fair Norse hair blown in what the country folk called a "birse" about his face, and dark-blue western eyes—the eyes of the island MacBrydes who had built ships to ride the sea, and whose younger branches had captained and made fortunes out of far sea adventuring. So with the thoroughness of these same privateer shipbuilders, Louis precipitated himself down the steep breakneck cliff, catching the trunk of a pine here, or snatching at a birch and swinging right round it there to keep his speed from becoming a mere avalanche, till at last, breathed a little and with a scraped hand, of which he took not the slightest notice, he stood on the winding, hide-and-seek path which meanders along the side of the Abbey Burn, as it were, keeping step with it.
The pines stood about still and solemn. The light breeze from the sea made no difference to them, but the birches quivered, blotting the white of the path with myriads of purple splashes, none of which were distinct or ever for a second stood still, criss-crossing and melting one into the other, all equally a-dither with excitement.
Louis checked for a moment to breathe and listen. He said to himself that Patsy, for whose sake he had torn through the underbrush at the imminent danger of life and limb, was still far away down the glen.
"I shall go a bit farther till I find a snug corner and then—wait for Patsy!"
What Louis Raincy meant was that he would find a place equally sheltered from the eyes of his grandfather and from possible spies in the front windows of Cairn Ferris, the quiet ivy-grown house at the head of the glen, against which his grandfather had hurled so many anathemas in vain.
At last he found his place—a chosen nook. The sound of voices would be drowned by the splash of the little waterfall. The pool into which it fell was deep enough to keep any one from breaking in upon them too suddenly, and through a rift in the leaves a piece of bluest sky peered down. White of waterfall, sleepy brown of pool, dusky under an eyelash of bracken, and blue of sky—Patsy, who noticed all things, would like that.
But Patsy did not come. Could she have passed and he not seen? Clearly not, for Louis had come downhill as fast as a big boulder set a-rolling. What, then, could she be doing?
Ah, who could ever tell what Patsy might be doing or call her to account afterwards for the deed? Louis only knew that he dared not even try. All the same he left his nook with some disrelish—it would have been so capital a conjuncture to have met her just there, and he had taken such pains! However, there was no choice. He must go to seek Patsy if Patsy would not come to him.
She was returning from her daily lesson at her uncle Julian's. He knew that she would most likely have a book under her arm, and an ashplant in her hand. She would come along quietly, whistling low to herself, tickling the tails of the trout in the shallows with her stick and laughing aloud as they scudded away into the Vandyke-brown shadows of the bank.
The glen opened out a little and Louis paused at the corner, standing still in shadow.
Twenty yards away Patsy was talking to a young man in a shabby grey suit, a broad blue bonnet set on his head, and they were conferring profoundly over a book which Patsy held in her hands. The young man in the shabby suit appeared to be instructing Patsy, or at least explaining a difficult passage, which he did with more zeal and gusto than Louis cared about.
He knew him in a moment, for of course the heir of Raincy knew everybody within thirty miles.
"Only Frank Airie, the Poor Scholar!" he said to himself, his jealousy melting like a summer cloud, "of course—what a fool I was. He's on his way home from teaching the Auchenmore brats. Though it is a miracle that he should happen to cross the glen at the same point exactly. Perhaps he had a spy-glass, too!"
What Louis noticed most of all was the pretty shape of Patsy's small head, the dense quavering blackness of the little curls that frothed about her brow, and the sidelong way she had of appealing to the giant who bent over her with his finger on the line of Virgil he was expounding.
Presently with a squaring of the shoulders and a grasp at the blue bonnet which lifted it clear of his head, the Poor Scholar strode away. He crossed the Abbey Burn in a couple of leaps, his feet hardly seeming to touch the stones, and in a moment more his tall figure was hoisting itself up the opposite bank, his hands grasping rock and tree-trunk, root and dry bent-grass indiscriminately, till presently, without once turning round, he was out of sight.
Louis Raincy detached himself from the rock by which he had stood silent during the interview with the Poor Scholar. He swung himself lightly up into the Y-shaped crotch of a willow that overhung the big pool.
The girl came along, her lips moving as she repeated the words of the passage she had just had explained. Then Louis Raincy whistled an air well known to both of them, "Can ye sew cushions, can ye sew sheets?"
Instantly the girl looked up, turning a vivid, scarlet-lipped face, crowned with a ripple of ink-black locks, to the notch of the willow, and said easily, "Hillo, Louis Raincy! What are you doing here, a mile off your own ground?"
"Watching you turn the head of that poor boy Francis Airie!"
"His head will not turn so easy as yours, Louis, lad," Patsy retorted; "there is a deal more in it!"
Louis Raincy was not in any way put out. Of course Patsy was different. You never knew in the least what she was going to say, and it would have grieved him exceedingly not to be abused. He would have been sure, either that the girl was sickening for a serious illness, or that he had mortally offended her.
"How did you leave the Wise Uncle this morning?" he asked, with a nod of his head in the direction of the house by the Abbey Burnfoot. Both had begun to climb a little way up out of the path by the waterside. They did so without any words. It was the regular order of things, as they both knew. For in the valley bottom Uncle Julian or Adam Ferris might come round the corner upon them in a moment, and being young, they wanted to talk without restraint. Besides, there was a constant coming and going of messengers between the two houses. A carriage road led along the highway to the cliffs, and then bent sharply down steep zigzags to the stables of the Abbey, but all ordinary intercourse between the houses was conducted along the footpath by the Abbey Burn.
"Uncle Julian," said the girl, as if continuing some former conversation, "is quite different from father. He has seen the world and can tell tales of black savages and Arab chiefs and piracy in the China seas. But father has just lived in his own house of Cairn Ferris all his life. You know he called me Patricia after my mother—Patricia Wemyss Ferris. Oh, not even your grandfather is better known than my father. They made him a justice of the peace, too, but because he can do no good to the poor folk against the great landlords, he mostly stays at home. You know our house? From the outside—yes, of course. Well, when your grandfather will let you, you shall know it from the inside too. But not till then. Oh, it is big, roomy and quite comfortable, and though it would not hold an army like Castle Raincy, it is quite big enough to get lost in."
"Of course," said Raincy, vaguely feeling the necessity of defending himself and those who were his, "if it were not for grandfather and his wretched old feud, mother and I would come and see you to-morrow. She is—well, she would love you!"
"Would she, I doubt?" said Patsy, giving her bonnet a vicious jerk to bid it stay on her head; "mothers seldom like those whom their sons—"
"Adore!" put in Louis Raincy smilingly.
"Out, traitor!" cried the girl with a quick, scornful upthrow of the chin, "it is the smile that saves you, Louis, lad. Easy it is to see that you have had little experience of talking to women, when you come firing off words that ought to mean great things into the middle of a talk about smuggling cases and justices of the peace."
"But I do mean—" began Louis, preparing to take solemn oath.
"You mean nothing of the sort, and well it is for you, little boy. Quiet, now, and listen! I am a Pict—yes, I, Patsy Ferris! Uncle Julian says so. I am (so he tells me) a throwback to my grandmother's folk who were Fingauls—and her father the Laird of Kirkmaiden was the chief of them. That is why I do nothing, say nothing, think nothing like a scone-faced maid of the Scots. I am centuries older than they. If it ever arrives to me to fall in love with any man—it seems impossible, but Uncle Julian says it will come—it is I who will seek that man and make him love me, and if he ever leaves me or is untrue, I shall kill him. For that is the way of the Fingaul. Uncle Julian says so."
As she explained her lot in life Patsy was peeling and eating a sappy root of rush which she had plucked. With this and a piece of clear brown gum, the exudation of a smooth-barked wild cherry tree, she made a delicious repast. She offered his share to Louis, who was in no mood for frivolities. In spite of his smile he had been hurt to the quick. But Patsy was perfectly calm, and having fixed a large lump of cherry-gum on a thorn, she licked round and round it with relish, occasionally holding it between her eye and the twinkle of the sun to see the effect of the deep amber hue.
Still she was circumspect, and when a figure in grey appeared tramping sturdily up the glen swinging a stick, she nudged her companion into sulky kind of attention.
"Uncle Julian," she said, after the tall clean-shaved man had turned the corner. "I wish you could see his house—properly, I mean, not just from the road."
"I have seen it from the sea!" said Louis, still grumpily.
"And that is no wise way to see it. There are always gentlemen of the Free Trade hanging about in the offing these days, and if they thought that the heir of Raincy was spying on them—well, they might take the liberty of throwing him overboard to sink or swim."
"But surely your uncle has nothing to do with smuggling or smugglers? My grandfather says that it is no business for a gentleman to dip his fingers in!"
"Your grandfather says a great many other things to which you do not pay great heed—else you would not be sitting here looking as gloomy as the raven that croaked when the old cow wouldn't die. No, sir, you would be sitting up on the stile yonder, cursing the Ferrises with bell, book and candle—and the old man helping you out when you forgot the words."
The girl went on sucking her cherry-gum without the least concern as to whether Louis Raincy was hurt in his feelings or no. If he were, the obvious alternative was before him. He could return to Castle Raincy the way he had come. About this or about him Patsy gave herself no trouble.
Indeed, Patsy gave herself no trouble about anything or anybody, and so accustomed herself to the management of men. Women, she knew, were different.
THE MAIDENS' COVE
Castle Raincy was a great lord's mansion, and the best of the neighbouring county folk were glad of a rare invitation there. Cairn Ferris was the ancient home of an ancient family, the house of a "bonnet" laird, but then the feather in the side of the Ferris bonnet had always been worn very proudly and gallantly indeed.
Abbey Burnfoot was the picturesque modern fancy of a cultured man of the world, who had come thither to live his life between his books, his paintings, his music, and the eternally fresh wash of the sea in the little white bay of pebble and shell underneath his windows.
But half a mile or a little more over the heuchs stood the farm of Glenanmays, which, with two or three smaller holdings and his own farm of Cairn Ferris, constituted the whole landed estate of Adam Ferris. The Garlands of Glenanmays had been holders of that farm and liegemen of Cairn Ferris almost from the days when the first Ferris settled on that noble brace of seaward-looking valleys, through which the Mays Water and the Abbey Burn trundled, roared and soughed to the sea.
The early years of the nineteenth century looked on no more characteristic farmhouse than that where dwelt Diarmid Garland and his brood, on the bank above the swift-running water-race which turned the corn-mill with such deftness that people came from as far as Stranryan to admire.
A large farm it was, needing many hands to work it,—byre, stable, plough-lands, hill pasture, flat and heathery in appearance and outline, but satisfactory for sheep-feeding—that was Glenanmays. Diarmid had three sons and four daughters, with most of whom this history must one time or another concern itself.
Diarmid also was no mean citizen of any state, hard to be driven, temperate, humorous and dour. He held for the old ways, and each day presided at meals, his bonnet of blue on his head, broad as a barrow-wheel, and brought all the way from Kilmarnock. All the rest of the table sat bareheaded—the sons and daughters whom God had given him, as well as the hired servant, and even the stranger within his gates.
For at Glenanmays there was no master but old Diarmid Garland. To each man and maid there was set down a plate of earthenware, a horn spoon, a knife and fork—that is, for all who fed at the high table, over which the blue Kilmarnock bonnet of the master presided. For the minute or so while he said grace or "returned thanks," Diarmid took off his bonnet, but resumed it the moment after. He doffed his blue crown of his to God alone, and even his liege lord, Adam Ferris, had to content himself with a hand carried half military fashion to its weather-beaten brim.
When Adam dined, as he often did, at the bountiful table of Glenanmays, he also found his horn spoon, his knife and fork beside his plate, and he was always careful to set his hat, his riding-whip and his gloves and cape behind the door. Then, bareheaded, he took his place on the right hand of his host at the long oaken table, to which in due order came son, daughter, house-maiden, out-lass, ploughman and herd. The only difference was that when it came to the blessing upon the food to be partaken of, Adam the Laird stood up, while the others sat still with bowed heads. Why this was, no one knew, not even Adam or Diarmid. But so it had been in the time of their fathers, and so it would continue till there was not a Ferris in Cairn Ferris—a time which neither liked to consider—for the same thought came to both—how that Patsy being an heiress, Patsy would marry, and the lands that had so long been those of Ferris of Cairn Ferris would pass to children of another name.
At the end of the long red-tiled kitchen in which the family meals were served opened out a sort of back-kitchen to which a wooden extension had been added. It was a sort of Court of the Young Lions, where herd-boys, out-workers of the daily-wage sort, turnip-singlers, Irish harvesters, Stranryan "strappers" and "lifters," crow-boys, and all the miscellany of a Galloway farm about the end of the Napoleonic wars ate from wooden platters, with only their own horn spoon and pocket-knife to aid their nimble fingers. There was no complaint, for Glenanmays was "a grand meat house," and with the broth served without stint and the meats rent asunder by the hands of the senior ploughman, the Young Lions did very well.
If quarrels arose, the senior ploughman kept a stick of grievous crab-tree handy, and was not loath to use it. Usually, however, his voice upraised in threatening sufficed. For Rob Dickson could stir the Logan Stone with his little finger. He had escaped from the press-gang on his way from Stanykirk Sacrament, and had carried away the slash of a cutlass with him, the scar of which was plain to be seen of all, beginning as it did a little below his ear and running to the point of the shoulder-blade. This made the prestige of Rob Dickson notable, especially among the Irish. Had he not resisted authority? So of him chiefly they sought counsel and direction—so much so that old Diarmid, quick to notice what made for the good of his farm, caused Rob Dickson to act as a kind of "grieve" during the time of harvest, when the land was overrun with "Islanders," "Paddies" and "Paipes"—for the religious hatred, though never crossing the North Channel, has yet made of the Irish Catholic in Wigtonshire a hewer of wood and a drawer of water to his Presbyterian masters.
Few things Adam Ferris liked better than a look at the Court of the Lions during feeding time, when Rob Dickson rose in his place to salute him and the Young Lions bent lower over their wooden platters, "eating away like murther" lest any neighbour should get ahead of them in the race. When their own proper broth was finished and the flesh sodden in it had all been distributed, the Young Lions were made free of the debris of the high table, and never were bones cleaned with greater dispatch. Scarce did those which were saved for the rough-tailed, soft-eyed collies, waiting expectant outside, emerge with a higher polish. The herds had to see to this final distribution themselves, each feeding his own pair at different corners of the yard, ready to check growlings which might end in fights with the stern toe of a mountain boot, very proper to the purpose.
Even oftener than her father, Patsy came to Glenanmays. It was good to get away from the dear but dull house of Cairn Ferris, the schooled and disciplined servants, the gentle but constant and masterful supervision of her old nurse, Annie McQuilliam.
She loved her home. She loved all who were in it. But there was no one of her own age at Cairn Ferris, and here at Glenanmays she could dip deep in the fountain of youth. Of the four girls, Faith and Elspeth were her seniors, and she looked up to them, sitting at their feet and keeping her secrets as carefully from them as she would have done from her own father.
But the third, Jean, a tall slight girl with head coiled about by swathes of fair hair, was year for year, month for month, Patsy's own age. And neither had any secrets from the other. Hopes, fears, anticipations were exchanged, but cautiously and in whispers, like young bathers who test the chill of the sea with bent, temerarious toes. So they touched and paused, shivering on the brink of the incoming tide of life.
Menie Garland, the youngest of all, was then a slim girl still at Stranryan Grammar School, with the softest eyes and the most wonderful voice, round-throated and full-chested even at the ungrateful age of fourteen.
Not the three brothers Garland, Fergus, Stair and Agnew, stalwart and brown, nor yet the two elder girls—not little Menie coming singing like a linnet over the moor, brought Patsy so often that way. But the quiet talks with Jean—Jean who had learned wisdom from her sisters' love affairs, from the escapades of her brothers, and who, by the rude rule of fact, could reduce to cautious verity the fiction which Patsy had learned from her Uncle Julian's books.
So Patsy went often to Glenanmays, and without interrupting the busy round of the afternoon's duties, prescribed by Diarmid for each member of his family, she made her way to the little shed hidden by the burnside, on the green in front of which the clothes-lines were strung, and clean garments fluttered in the sea-wind, fresh and glad as ship's bunting.
"Yes," Jean Garland would say after the girls had kissed one another, "I was up early this morning—soon after dawn. Madge Blair and I had our arms in the tubs by half-past three, and she had got the pot to boil before that. So now I am ready for the ironing, and—"
"Oh, let me help!" cried Patsy.
"Very well," Jean acquiesced, "you are getting to be none so ill with the goffering iron and the pliers—"
"Better with the fancy than the plain!" laughed Patsy.
"It is to be expected, you have the light hand, and you have taste—most have neither one nor the other, but iron for all the world like a roller going over a wet field."
They worked a while in silence, only looking up occasionally and smiling at each other, or Jean might throw in a hint as to a frill or tucker which must be dealt with in a particular way.
Suddenly Jeanie Garland came nearer, a pile of folded linen over her arm.
"Have you heard anything of the press-gang at your house, Patsy?"
"Nothing," said Patsy, busy with a best Sunday cap, all lace frills and furbelows. "Of course there is always Captain Laurence at Stranryan. On clear nights you can hear his fifes and drums by standing on the stile above our house, and they say there is a King's ship or two about Belfast Lough—but why do you ask?"
Jean Garland paused yet nearer to Patsy and spoke in her ear.
"It's the lads!" she murmured. "They are in it. I am feared for them."
"What?" exclaimed Patsy, but checked by a glance she instantly lowered her voice—"not Fergus and Stair and Agnew?"
Jean nodded slightly.
"Does their father know?" Patsy whispered back. Jean preserved a grave face.
"Not any one of us, his own family, can guess what Diarmid Garland knows and does not know. He had his time of the Free Trading. He was at the head of it, and if the boys head a clean run from the Dutch coast or the Isle of Man—why, if father is ignorant of the business, it is because he wishes to be."
"But there is nothing new in all that," said Patsy; "there have always been smugglers and shore lads who helped them—always King's cutters and preventive men to chase and lose them—what danger do the boys run more than at other times?"
"This," said Jean Garland, very gravely, "there is a new superintendent of enlistments at Stranraer. He is just a spy, one Eben McClure from Stonykirk, a man of our own country. He works with the preventive superintendent, and when they cannot or dare not meddle with the cargo-runners, as they dare not with my brothers, they set the press upon them—and the soldiers' press is the worst by far."
No more was said. The girls worked quietly for an hour till all was finished. The hedges and clothes-lines were cleared of their burden, and with a whisper of "Shall we go down to the cove—the tide is nearly full," the girls slipped each a cotton gown and a towel apiece into Patsy's little reticule and made off to the bathing cove, a well-hidden nook of sand, half cavern, half high shell-bank, which bygone tides had excavated in the huge flank of the Black Head. Fergus and his brothers knew about it, of course, and saw to it that none about the farm interfered with the girls at their play.
In a minute their young figures were lost among the birches of the valley, a wider and an opener one than that of the Abbey Burn, the banks higher and farther off, and from their ridges giving glimpses of the distant Mull of Galloway and the blue shores of Ireland.
They kept in the bottom of the glen, splashing and springing from stone to stone, with mirthful enjoyment of each other's slips. Far off on a heathery knoll Diarmid watched them go. He had noted the swift intaking of the white cleading on the hedges, the disappearance of fluttering garmentry from the clothes-lines. He approved of young people enjoying themselves, after their work was done—Diarmid's emphasis on the "after" was strong.
As they went Jean Garland pointed out a pony track high on the fells. "Careless fellows," she said, "that must have been Stair's band. For both Fergus and Agnew are more careful!"
Indeed, the trail by which the laden ponies had passed was still clearly evident, and Jean was roused to anger against the headstrong brother who had risked bringing all about the house into trouble.
"The others went by the bed of the burn," she said, "why could not Stair?"
Looking seaward, they saw all things more clearly than usual—the pause before a storm from the west, prophesied Jean Garland. The island at the Abbey Burnfoot divided itself into two peaks. They could see the houses at Donnahadee, and the boats turning sharply about to make for Belfast Lough, showing a sudden broadside of white canvas as they did so. But little they minded. At present the sky was glorious, the sea a mirror, and here was the Maidens' Cove, into which they dipped from the cliff edge, as suddenly as a kite swoops from the sky. In a moment they were lost to sight, and only the tinkle of their laughter among the blue, purple and creamy reflected lights of the cove told where they were.
Outside the sheltered sea rocked and laved the sands with a pleasant swishing invitation. Presently they looked out from the low mouth of the cove. All seemed still and lonely, and they were about to step down into the clear green water of the Atlantic, when a noise came to their ears. It was the sound of men rowing—many men, and many men at that time and place meant the pinnace of a King's ship. The thought of Stair's careless bridle-track high on the heathery side of the fell tortured the mind of his sister. What could they want? It was too early in the day for any surprise work in the interests of the Excise. There were no smuggling cellars near to search—but at that moment the girls of one accord drew in their heads. They moved stealthily into the dark of the cove. Here they could not be observed, but they could see a boat's crew of seamen which went past rapidly in the direction of Abbey Burnfoot, the salt water sparkling in a rain of silver and pearl from the oars, and an officer sitting spick and span at the tiller-ropes.
The next moment they were gone and in the clear submerged dark of the purple dulse that shaded the cavern mouth the girls looked at one another with dismay in their eyes.
"Can they be going to take Uncle Julian?" said Patsy.
"Uncle Julian—no," exclaimed Jean Garland, "of course not—what would they be doing with a learned man and a gentleman? It is that silly Stair who has set them on the track of my brothers. They will land at the Burnfoot and catch them all at the Bothy of Blairmore, where they gather to take their "four hours"—I must run and warn them—"
"Jean," said Patsy, "I can run two yards for your one. Lend me your scarf and I shall go and warn the lads."
"You—the laird's daughter!"
"Yes, I," said Patsy, girding her waist with the red sash, and looking to the criss-crossed ties of the bathing-sandals her uncle had given her out of his store of foreign things. Her kilted skirt came but a little way below her knee and her blouse of fine blue linen let her arms be seen to the elbow. Patsy looked more Pictish than ever thus, with a loose blown tassel of ink-black hair on her brow. Jean offered some faint objections but did not persist. After all, it was the main thing that the lads should be warned in time.
So Patsy, trim and slim as your forefinger with a string of red tied about it, sped eastward over the hills to the Bothy of Blairmore.
Patsy had always been a wonderful runner. She could outpace her pony. She could flee from Louis Raincy like the shadow of a wind-blown cloud crossing a mountain-side, and on the sands, with none but Jean Garland to see, Patsy could fleet it along the wet tide wash, sending the spray about her as a swallow that skims a pond and flirts the surface with its wings.
Old Diarmid mounted on the stile, balanced himself with his staff, and looked. The dogs accompanying him cocked their ears in hopes of a chase, but the next moment, their keen senses telling them that it was only Patsy running over the heather, they settled down, marvelling that men could be so strong with foot and hand and yet know so little.
There was half a mile to be run along the sands before turning up over the hot glacier-planed stones of the moor. Diarmid Garland watched and wondered. He had often seen Patsy giving his daughter Jean, of the heavier and slower-moving blonde Scandinavian blood, half the distance to Saythe Point and then passing her, as an arrow may miss and pass one who flees. Now she moved like a leaf blown by the hurricane. Her white feet in their sandals of yellow leather of Corinth hardly seemed to touch the sand. Then Patsy turned up the crumbling cliffs at their lowest point, mounting like a goat with an effortless ease till she crowned the causeway of seaworn rock and plunged to the armpits into the tall heather of the Wild of Blairmore.
Then Diarmid lost sight of the girl for a minute, but when he saw her again she was far out on the perilous goat-track which led down to the bothy itself. Diarmid scanned the distance with his eye—he knew the length of time it would have taken a hillsman to go from point to point.
"That girl is a miracle," he muttered to himself, "she can run through deep heather as fast as on the sand of the seashore."
He was wrong, however. She was only a Pictess, with some thousand years of the heather instinct in her blood. Her body was lithe and supple, her foot light, and her eye sure. Besides, she could hear what was hidden and unheard at the stile on which Diarmid stood, the rock-rock of the short, steady navy stroke, which was pulling the landing-party from His Majesty's ship Britomart nearer and nearer to the Bothy of Blairmore.
Then she passed quite out of sight. She had a long descent before her, sheltered seaward, so that she did not need to consider the danger of being seen by the enemy. The leather of her sandals pattered like rain on dry leaves on the narrow, twisted sheep-tracks, then mounted springily over the bulls'-fell of the knolls of stunted heather, and as it were in the clapping of a pair of hands, she appeared at the door of the Bothy of Blairmore, scarce heated, quite unbreathed, but with grave face and anxious eyes.
"Scatter!" she commanded, clapping her hands. "Off with you, lads! Take to the hills. The press-gang is landing at this moment at the Abbey Burnfoot to cut you off. Eben McClure is with them. He has heard of your cargo-running and he wants to send you all to the wars."
"And what will you do?" said Stair, who was always the boldest in speech as he was the most reckless in action.
"I—oh, pray don't give yourself the least trouble about me, Stair Garland. I shall stay here and wash the dishes."
The lads were declaring that under no circumstances should she remain where she was, but Patsy had made up her mind. She must see what a press-gang was like. She would see and speak with the officers who were at the head of it. Perhaps they had their side to it also, which would be worth the finding out. And the spy—she had never seen a spy, a marker-down of men—so she resolved to see this Eben McClure, the most hated man in all Wigtonshire. She would stay, and it was with a certain imperiousness that she ordered the boys away.
They went reluctantly, but they knew that because she was the daughter of a magistrate and a laird, nothing serious would happen to her, while they risked life and liberty every moment they stayed.
"Do you think I ran all the way from the bathing cove for nothing?" she said. "Save yourselves, lads. Do as I bid you and at once."
They went, though it was not with the best grace in the world. Stair wore a scowl on his handsome face as he slung his gun over his shoulder. Only Fergus thanked her for having come to warn them.
"Hold your tongue," said Patsy, peremptorily, "get out of sight. Keep yourselves safe. That is the best thanks, and all that I ask for from you."
* * * * *
So it came about that fifteen minutes later, Lieutenant Everard of the Britomart, disembarking with Captain Laurence of the Dragoons and the Superintendent of Enlistments, Mr. Ebenezer McClure, came upon a picture framed in the doorway of the Bothy of Blairmore. Patsy had spread Jean Garland's scarlet sash to its broadest, and so had been able to let down her skirt of blue linen till it came to almost her ankles, above which the yellow cross-gartering of the sandals was diamonded in the Greek fashion her Uncle Julian had taught her.
Patsy had found piles of unwashen dishes and spoons, for the boys of the Glenanmays family depended for cleaning up upon uncertain, semi-occasional visits, from one or other of their sisters. What they wanted at the time they took out and washed in the pleasant tumble of the hill brook which passed their door on its way down to meet the Abbey Burn a little above Uncle Julian's house. The rest they left.
The two officers of His Majesty stood a moment too astonished for speech. This was not at all what they had come out to find, nor what their men had been posted all about the bothy to secure in case of an attempt to escape.
Patsy nodded brightly to her visitors, and the officers saluted, without, however, abandoning their gravity. The third man, a long, lean, hook-nosed fellow with curly black hair plastered about his brow and tied in a greasy fall of ringlets on his shoulders, frowned and growled. He had understood at once that the game was up. If the authority had been his, he would have had the sailors and marines scouring the hillside and searching every rift in the rocks.
"May I ask you," said Captain Laurence, a tall, good-looking, blond officer, bowing to Patsy, "where the young men Garland are to be found? We had come with warrants for their taking. This is His Majesty's press."
"Ah," said Patsy easily, "so you are the press-gang—let me look at you. I have never seen a 'press' before. Where are your handcuffs? Which of you is the chief executioner? You tie up the poor fellows, they tell me."
"I must ask you to explain your presence here," said Captain Laurence, who had grown hot all over at being spoken to in this fashion.
"This is the Maid Marian of the gang," suggested Lieutenant Everard of the Britomart, with a sneer. "I have seen something like this get up in the Gulf of Corinth."
"Then you are a lucky man," said the captain of dragoons. "All the same I must ask you to account for your presence here, young lady."
"Rather might I ask you to explain yours," said Patsy, breathing on a glass, rubbing it, and holding it up to the light. "You are trespassing on my father's ground—and from what I see of your arms, in pursuit of game!"
"And who is your father, madame?"
"I have quite as good a right to ask you for the name of yours!"
The officers laughed and glanced at each other.
"Not quite," said the dragoon; "you observe that we are on special duty—"
"I should indeed hope so," said Patsy, standing up with her drying-cloth in her hand and shaking it contemptuously at them. "Special duty, indeed, that means the chasing of honest men and honest men's sons at the bidding of spies!"
"It is a duty which I perform as seldom as possible," said Captain Laurence. "Naturally I would rather be fighting the foes of my king and country, but as to that I am not consulted. Besides, the naval and military forces of the realm must be recruited in some way or other!"
"I should have thought that treating men like criminals was not the best way to make brave soldiers of them!"
"Tell us your father's name," broke in Lieutenant Everard, a small dark man, very nervous and restless, with eyes that winked continually and impatient fingers that fiddled endlessly with the tassel of his sword-hilt. "We will not be put off longer. The men are escaping all the time while you are left here to hold us in talk. If he be, as you say, a gentleman and a magistrate, he will give us assistance in our search, according to his oath."
"My father's name is Adam Ferris, of Cairn Ferris," said Patsy, pleasantly. "But whether he will be at your service or not, I cannot tell. As for me, if you are the gallant gentlemen you look, you will bring me a pailful of fresh water from the spring—see, yonder at the foot of the rock—ah, thank you!"
"Captain, we are wasting valuable time," insinuated Eben McClure, the superintendent of recruitment, touching the officer lightly on the arm.
"Keep your dirty fingers off my sleeve, sir, and go to the devil. I command here. Miss Ferris, I beg your pardon. I may as well fetch a pair when I am about it."
Captain Laurence had noticed that the second pail contained very little water. So with a quick heave he sent a shining spout in the direction of the spy, who was drenched from knee to shoe-buckle. Then he caught up the pails with a clash of their iron handles and with the easiest swagger in the world took the direction of the spring, his spurs jingling as he went. A sailor on guard behind the rock would have aided him to fill them, but he told the man to keep his station, and dipped for himself. He brought them back brimming and with a courtly bow inquired of Patsy if she had any further commands for him, because if not he must go about the duties of his service.
Patsy thanked him with the distinctive simplicity of one who has officers of dragoons to carry water for her every day of her life. But she went to the door and showed Captain Laurence the way over the ridges to the house of Cairn Ferris. "My father is likely to be at home," she said, "but if you do not find him, he is sure to be at my Uncle Julian's at the Abbey. You have only to follow the glen."
"Your uncle?" said Captain Laurence, "your father's brother?"
"No, my mother's," said Patsy. "Mr. Julian Wemyss of Auchenyards and Wellwood—and the best man in the world—the wisest too!"
"I shall have pleasure in making the acquaintance of your uncle; his family (and that of your mother) is from my part of Scotland."
He bowed low and withdrew. The lieutenant of the Britomart and the Superintendent of Enlistments were in a state of incipient lunacy. Oh, the fool! They would break him if they could. They would write to the Secretary. They would—but as they growled and cursed behind him, Eben McClure suddenly remembered that Julian Wemyss and my Lord Erskine were first cousins, and that so long as the government remained in office, it would be advisable to stand well with all friends and neighbours of the Secretary, Erskines, Wemysses, Melvilles, wherever found. He was unpopular enough in the country as it was. He could not afford to be "ill seen" at headquarters as well.
Patsy found herself left alone in the bothy. But she knew that the two men who had not spoken would certainly leave some hidden spy to watch whether the young men returned, or if she attempted to communicate with them.
Therefore she did not hasten. Jean would arrive before long with the garments in which she had left home, and which she had shed, as it were providentially, to be able to run the better across the sands of Killantringan and the heathery fastnesses of the Wild of Blairmore.
Hardly had Patsy gotten the bothy to her liking—or something like it—when Jean arrived, full of wonder and joy. She carried a parcel under her arm, done up carefully in her neckerchief.
"It is a pity to change," she said, "you will never look so pretty again!"
And she detailed with the admiration of generous youth the beauty of the black locks, waved tightly about the small head, the pale blue linen gown girt with the sash of scarlet silk, and the cross-gartered sandals, showing Patsy's brown skin and pretty ankles half-way to the knee.
"It is a great shame," she repeated, "that you can't go about like that all the time."
"I shall think it over," said Patsy; "but if I went to the kirk on Sabbath dressed as you would have me, I believe Mr. MacCanny would have me turned out."
"Yes," said the loyal Jean, "because nobody would be able to attend to his sermon for looking at you!"
"But what are the lads going to do?"
"Oh," said Jean, "they have two or three places handy for lying up in. They are snug by this time. At least Fergus and Agnew are. Stair I met on my way here. He was lurking in a moss-hag with his gun ready for the first red-coat or blue-jacket who should lift a hand to you."
"Send him off to join the rest," said Patsy more seriously. "I never was in the least danger, and there is no doubt but that the man McClure has left some of his rascals to watch the bothy."
"Then High Heaven help them if they come across Stair and his blunderbuss. He will bring them down like so many partridges. Not even father can manage Stair. He will take orders from no one, except in matters of the farm. He is a good boy, and has great influence among the young fellows, for he will stick at nothing. But he is easily angered, proud, and often both reckless and desperate. You may be sure that he will not leave you till he sees you safe in your own valley and among your own people."
Patsy heard this with outward impatience, but, like every girl, with something also of inward pride. She smiled at what Louis Raincy would have to say to this constant watchfulness, and how she herself would like it when next Louis and she climbed up to their "Nest" for one of their long talks. Would Louis be in danger from the bullets of the arrogant Stair?
She wondered if what Uncle Julian said could indeed be true—that though the men's secret of the heather ale had been lost, the women of the Picts would keep theirs and whistle men to heel, as sheep-dogs follow their masters. Uncle Julian said that she had in her the blood of Boadicca, who once on a day was a queen of the Picts far to the south.
But, after all, Uncle Julian jested so often, even when he appeared most serious, that you could not tell whether he meant it or no.
It would be nice if it were true, thought Patsy, but, after all, just because Uncle Julian said so did not make it true.
* * * * *
"Your daughter, sir," said Lieutenant Everard, half an hour later, "has aided the escape of three young men, all deeply implicated in breaking the laws of the land."
It was in the ancient hall of Cairn Ferris that Adam, tall, black and solemn, was receiving unexpected visitors. The hall, oak-beamed and still lighted mainly by tall, narrow windows, originally slotted for arrow and blunderbuss, was discouraging for men in search of the support of a modern justice of the peace.
The chief of a clan, some of whose members had been cattle-lifting, might have received them so.
"What men? What laws?" demanded Adam Ferris.
"The young men Garland, sons of one of your tenants," said the officer; "and as for the laws, they are those of His Majesty's excise."
"Ah," said Adam, dryly, "pardon me. Your uniform misled me. From your dress I took you for a naval officer."
"And so I am," cried Lieutenant Everard indignantly; "of His Majesty's ship Britomart, presently cruising in these waters."
Adam Ferris bowed gravely, as one who receives valuable information.
"I congratulate you," he said. "As for the young men, Fergus, Stair and Agnew Garland, they are fine lads and a credit to the neighbourhood. I cannot imagine that they have anything more to do with the traffic of which you speak than I myself. But if they have been reported to you as guilty, I am prepared to take cognizance of the evidence. I presume you did not come here without a warrant."
"We need no warrant," said the Lieutenant. "I am in command of His Majesty's press."
The expression of Adam Ferris's face changed suddenly.
"My tenants and my tenants' sons are not subject to the press-gang. There are no sailors among them—no, nor yet any fishermen."
"Captain Laurence of the dragoons is with us, sir," interpolated Eben McClure; "he has a right to beat up for recruits for the land forces."
"Ah," said Adam, "at fairs and markets, with fife and drum—yes! But not all over my estate, nor yet to meddle with my tenantry."
"He has particular permission from Earl Raincy," said the spy.
"I am not Earl Raincy, nor are my lands his," quoth Adam Ferris; "but, by the way, where is this Captain Laurence of whom you speak?"
The question seemed to embarrass the two men. "He was with us," said the Lieutenant at last, "but having discovered some fancied kinship with your brother's family, he separated himself from us and went (as I believe) to his house of Abbey Burnfoot!"
"Then I hope he does not press Julian for the cavalry. His cousin, the Secretary, might have something to say to that!"
Altogether there was small change to be got out of Adam Ferris, and as they gathered their men and, marched them off, they fell foul one of the other, the officer with his exercised sea-tongue having much the better of the word-strife. But presently they were friends again, both cursing Captain Laurence of the dragoons for deserting them in their time of need.
"I believe," said Lieutenant Everard, "that Laurence simply turned in his tracks and went back to that bothy to carry more water for the black-headed girl!"
This, however, was of little moment to the Superintendent of Enlistments, who had a bounty upon every pressed man safe drafted to headquarters or delivered on board ship.
"At any rate," he said, "we have lost our men, and we are little likely to see them again!"
The Lieutenant turned angrily upon him.
"You are thinking of your dirty dollars," he said bitterly. "It is for the sake of such as you that His Majesty's officers must be treated like huckstering excisemen by every dirty Scot who owns as much ground as a cow can turn round in! 'My estate!' 'My tenantry'—paugh, and the back of his hand to you because you are no better than an Englishman!"
"The Ferrises are an ill folk to come across!" insinuated the Superintendent of Enlistments.
Everard turned hotly upon his companion.
"And who brought us here to rub noses against rough stones climbing your accursed dykes, only to be insulted by country bumpkins and outwitted by half-clad minxes? You are a spy, and no fit company for gentlemen. I tell you so much to your face. But when you are in your own country and doing your foul business, you might at least have your information correct before calling out the forces of His Majesty."
And ten minutes later the boat of the Britomart was being rowed fast in the direction of that ship, because the men knew well that their officer was in no mood to be trifled with.
BY FORCE OF ARMS
The press-gang and its ugly work, Castle Raincy and its feudal associations, stern Cairn Ferris, the Abbey Burn and the bright new house of Julian Wemyss—Patsy going from one to the other, and the patriarchal simplicity of the farm of Glenanmays, with its girls and boys, its cave-riddled shore and its interests in the Free Traffic—these are what the district of the Back Shore meant in later Napoleonic times.
Most of this was on the surface, to be seen of all men, but the traffic and the "press" are only spoken of in whispers. As to them it is dangerous to appear too knowing.
Even great people were mysteriously tongue-tied. Silence was particularly golden in these days, and in the stillness of the night the little click of a sheep's trotters descending a mountain pathway was often mistaken for the clank of a scabbard point, or the clink of a gun-butt striking a loose stone.
Girls in moorland farms lay awake, half-fearing, half-hoping to hear the saddle-chains of the laden horses, each led by a lover or a brother.
King George might (and did) multiply officials and send what could be spared in the way of landing parties to support the executive, but the claims on the ministry were too many. They could only say, "Wait for a time of peace and then we will regulate the matter of the Solway free trade once for all."
But the most ignorant lad on the shore of Galloway from Loch Ryan to Annan Waterfoot knew that so long as the government waged war against Napoleon and America, it had no time to attend to them. The press-gang was all they had to avoid, and for that they trusted to their clear eyes and nimble feet.
They were also well informed. So soon as a patrol cleared the Irishman's Port in Stranryan, or a boat's crew was seen making for the beach of any of the Back Shore coves, messengers, ragged and brown, sped inland to warn the farms and villages engaged in the business, or even those merely acting as recipients and depots. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, all men under forty-five disappeared from the fields. The teams found their own way homewards or stood still till they were loosed by girls hurrying out from the steadings.
"Patriotism," said Stair Garland, bitterly, "that is a fine word. But the fine patriots tie the lads they catch to rings in the wall of the Stranryan gaol. They lash them till the blood runs just to learn them not to complain. Don't tell me about glory. There was Rob Blair, who came back from Spain after his brother Maxwell had been flogged to death. He shot a general near Corunna—him they make a fuss about—he and half a dozen of his mates, and he told me the reason that Allingham keeps so far ahead of his own soldiers is that they are better shots than the French, who do not fire at him nearly so often."
True or not, this was the Galloway idea of soldiering during the later Napoleonic wars, and it was only after a bout of drunkenness at some fair that recruits could be looked for. Suicide was not uncommon after a few weeks of discipline, and many were drowned from the transport ships which took them to Vigo or the Tagus mouth.
Galloway has always been cut off from the rest of Scotland. In spite of the invasion of its fertile valleys by Ayrshire dairy farmers it has remained the old Free Province, a little anti-Scottish, a good deal anti-Irish, excessively anti-English, self-centred, self-satisfied, quarrel-some and frondeur, yet in the main politically conservative.
In 1811 the Ayrshire invasion had not yet begun, and there was nothing to mitigate the determination of the people not to send a single man to fight in a war about which they cared nothing. No regiment in the service bore its name. It was looked upon as the haunt of an evil breed who would smuggle and fight, but against, and not among, the soldiers of the King.
A landing party had been attacked and cut up on the Corse of Slakes. Soldiers had to take and hold the old camp of the Levellers in the Duchrae wood, near the Black Water. Bitter hatred prevailed between the Lord Lieutenant's party, formed to aid the government in obtaining recruits, and the commonalty, which was equally determined that no one of theirs should be carried off to endure the shame of the cat-o'-nine-tails.
Earl Raincy made a tour of his estates, and the farmers promised wonderful things, but carefully and immediately sent their lads to the heather and the hill-caves for change of air. The girls took to the plough and threshed the grain on the beaten earth of the barn floor—emerging tired, but bright-eyed and happy. This, at least, they could do to keep Alec or John from the dread triangle and the lacerating whip. The Frenchman's bullet they were willing to risk, but not these. Galloway furnished its full tale of officers to both services, but as a recruiting-ground, even in milder times, it has given poor results.
In 1812 there was a good deal of writing about patriotism in struggling local journals. The big farmers were often loud-voiced, and the publicans hung out colours when the recruiting-officers made temporary headquarters of their houses, but the mass of the people stood silent, sullen and determined. They would not be taken, and if any were seized they would put up such a fight that the "press" would pay three or four lives for one. The chiefs would stay their hand, they argued, if they had to pay the price of three or four formed and disciplined men for a single unwilling recruit who would certainly desert at the first opportunity.
In the old outlaws' cave on Isle Ryan, towards the Mull out beyond Orraland, thirty or forty young men were gathered. They were not afraid of any attack by land or water. The stony bulk of the isle did not even fear cannon, and the passage, open only at low water, was exceedingly easily defended. Provisions they had in plenty, and for more they had only to cross to the mainland, where every farmer would willingly supply them.
Lads from all Galloway were there, shock-headed Vikings, with far-looking blue eyes, from Kirkmaiden to Leswalt, black, hook-nosed Blairs and McCallums from Garlieston sat beside Rerrick and Colvend men with deep-set eyes, the fine flower of the Free Trade, men whose forefathers had run cargoes for a hundred and thirty years into the same ports, and refused King's service for many thousand, though perfectly obedient to their own lords and war committees. There were always a plenty of fighting men along Solway shore, as the published rolls of 1638 attest. Willing were they to fight, only they would fight when and against whom they chose, under such and such officers, appointed by themselves, and under no others. Kings, whether Highland Stuarts or German Guelphs, they would not obey—no, not though military parties made examples of them at every dyke back. The iron of the Killing Time was branded deep into the folk of Galloway. They would not go soldiering, and they would smuggle. In the last resort, if matters got too hot, the young men would silently betake themselves to Canada, where they rose to be factors and chief traders under the Hudson Bay Company, or, like Paul Jones, took service under another flag, and fought with the lust of battle ever in their heart, against all that was English or smelt of the service of King George.
[Footnote 1: The Galloway War Committee of 1638 (Nicholson, Kirkcudbright).]
"Are we to stay here for ever?" demanded Stair Garland, lying on the sand of the upper cavern and looking out at the blue curtain of sky, which was all he could see. Outside was a kind of balcony on which they stretched their legs at night, but, as there were preventive officers on the cliffs with telescopes under their arms, it was forbidden to go out there in daylight.
"We must stay here till the ships of war have gone out of the channel. You can see the top-sails of the Britomart at this moment, hanging about the Mull, and a sloop-of-war lies off Logan House, waiting for Captain Laurence's orders."
It was a Stewartry man who spoke, keen of eye and crisply black-haired, his voice soft and easy, not hectoring and overbearing like that of most of his fellows—his name, Godfrey McCulloch, the younger son of a younger son, but of the best and oldest blood in Scotland, which is to say of the Ardwalls.
Godfrey and Stair were in a manner rivals for leadership. The Stewartry man was the elder by many years, and among his own enjoyed an unrivalled reputation, but three-fourths of the Isle Ryan refugees were Wigtonshire men and faithful to Stair Garland.
But Stair Garland was often reckless and headstrong, so brave himself that he hardly thought of danger to those whom he led. Godfrey McCulloch, on the other hand, was cautious and long-sighted. He argued out every possibility, and arranged what was to be done if things fell out so and so. Sometimes he even hesitated too long, balancing between two wise courses, while Stair, leading his men with a rush, would thresh his way through to victory. On the whole, Godfrey was the safer, Stair far the more popular leader.
"We cannot lie up in this hole much longer," said Stair, digging his heels into the sand.
"I do not see that you do much lying up," retorted Godfrey McCulloch, his eyes dark and beady in the semi-dark; "you are off ashore more than half the time—"
"After that little slip of a Ferris girl, Patsy," said an Irishman from Antrim. "I saw the pair of you go down the glen together, and may I never see Cushendal more if you had not your arm about her waist behind the dyke—"
Stair's clenched fist shut in the remainder of the sentence. The Rathlain man choked as he swallowed a couple of teeth, and felt his raw lip acrid upon the gap.
"Tell them you lie—tell them before you spit—or I will send the rest of your teeth after those two!"
The man gasped out that "Sure it was only a joke—"
"A joke, was it?" said Stair fiercely; "then I hope you will consider the teeth you have swallowed as the cream of it!"
The men were silent—not from fear at all, but because any two of them had a right to settle such differences in their own way.
"Will the Irishman not sell us because of Stair Garland's fist closing his mouth so awkward like?" inquired a second Rerrick man, lying at the shoulder of Godfrey McCulloch.
"Not by a great deal," said Godfrey, "perhaps he will kill Stair if he can, though Stair is more likely to kill him. But he will not lay information as to the lads of the Free Trade. He will remember what happened to Luke Finney and James Tynan when they thought to lift the hundred pound reward out for Captain Maxwell of the Scaur."
"What was that?" said the youth at his elbow.
"Have you not heard? It is a Colvend story, too," said McCulloch. "We took them out into mid-channel and tied each man to an old anchor with his fifty pounds in jingling gold about his neck. For which cause Luke Finney and James Tynan, two rusty anchors and a hundred guineas of unrusted gold lie in the gut of the North Channel to this day."
"Is the water deep?" the young man asked.
"Deeper than any diver will reach till the judgment day," quoth Godfrey. "This Rathlin man will think twice before he plays Judas to the lads of the Trade."
"It must have been worst when they were over the side before the anchors went plunk!" The young fellow shuddered. A clean death in a fair fight he did not mind more than another, but dangling there tied to an anchor—"Ugh!" said the lad.
That night a cargo was to be run into the Abbey Burnfoot Bay, close by the house of Julian Wemyss. The King's ships had settled themselves, one in Belfast Lough, and the sloop-of-war well round the point into Loch Ryan. The Good Intent might therefore discharge her cargo in peace, and the boats were ready on the beach of the Water Cave to put the Inch Ryan refugees in charge of the pack horses which were to carry the stuff inland, distributing as they went.
The lads were riotous to be off, and Stair had to exercise his authority, backed by Godfrey McCulloch's experience and influence over the eastern men, to keep them quiet in the cove till the time should come for the Good Intent to cast anchor in the bay.
The chastisement of the Rathlin man had cowed the wildest spirits, and, still more than the fear of Stair, the acquiescence of the company in the justice of the punishment. Nevertheless, those in the cave were restless and uneasy, setting their heads out to sniff the salt of the sea beneath, and craning their necks through the spy-hole to watch the sand-pipers wheeling as if dancing new-fangled waltzes, or probing the sands after little shellfish and sea worms, never getting in each other's way, but each working quietly along, like a minister in his own parish.
Stair Garland was lost in admiration of the glory of the sea and sand at sunset. The crying of the island curlews coming down each in long plane flight eased his mind. Willy-wha—willy-wha! they called in long diminuendo, before they settled.
Presently the mist began to rise out of the hollows and hung out over the sea from Inch Ryan to the mainland crags like the stretched awning of a tent. Stair gave the lads leave to go on the balcony while he himself started on a tour of inspection. He would have liked to take Godfrey McCulloch with him. But he knew that his own following would be jealous and resent his passing them over, so he contented himself with saying, "Attend to what Godfrey says, boys. He has seen more than all of us put together. Fergus" (this to his elder brother), "knock the heads of any men who make a noise. No one shall come with us to-night who does not obey now!"
Stair went out by the little passage, spoken of in other chronicles, which opened into the inner towers of the ancient castle of the Herons. He found himself among rugged, heathy ground, the hollow palm of the island, now suffused with milky opalescence, for the sun was setting. Hardly could Stair see from one tuft to another, but out of the tinted mist swooped first two and then three birds like angels appearing out of a white heaven. Magnified by the mist Stair hardly recognized the green and black summer uniform of the golden plover, but he heard their softly wistful cries everywhere.
And as the mist shifted and flowed everywhere more and more were revealed, doing sentry duty each on his tussock of bent-grass, while behind his mate effaced herself upon her four eggs or led her little flock into the deepest of the growing heather and among the white meadows of cotton-grass which blew about them, more downy than even the youngest nestling.
Stair made his way to the most easterly point of the isle—that nearest to the Burnfoot Bay. Already the fog was bunching and billowing uneasily. He noted that it was losing its steady, even pour over the island. "It will lift," he muttered.
And from far away there came the sound of a schooner's mainsail being brought down as her head came to the wind, the plunge of an anchor, and then, through a gap in the gloom, the tall, bare mast of a ship in the direction of the new house of Abbey Burnfoot.
"The Good Intent!" he muttered. "She must be very sure of herself to come to anchor like that. Still that is Captain Penman's business. If he can discharge his cargo, I can put it out of harm's way. We shall have two hundred lads on the beach by midnight, and whatever force they may bring against us, we can go through them with the strong hand!"
Patsy had said nothing at home about her race over the moors to save the Glenanmays lads from the press-gang, and when her Uncle Julian, having talked to Captain Laurence, approached her on the subject, my lady replied that she was at the Bothy of Blairmore to help her friend Jean Garland.
"And where was Jean when the 'press' found you there alone?" said Julian Wemyss, smiling.
"She was outside, keeping watch for her brothers," said Patsy, looking at him with bright, clear eyes that could not be other than truthful.
But Uncle Julian had had much experience, and he only smiled more knowingly than ever.
"And the famous costume which so witched the men of war?" he asked.
"Oh, that," said Patsy, "I had to run, and you can't run fast in a frieze coat with many capes!"
"No." Uncle Julian nodded his head; "sandals cross-gartered, a bathing dress and a sash! I would that I had been one of His Majesty's officers to see you."
"I shall dress up for you some time," affirmed Patsy soothingly, "if you will give me the yellow sandals for my very own."
"Ah," said Uncle Julian, "of that I am not sure. They recall something which makes them precious to me."
The girl clasped her hands delightedly.
"Oh, a story at last," she cried, nestling against him. "I shall not tell a soul. You shall see how I can keep a secret."
"But I shall see still better if I do not tell it you!"
"Oh, how abominable of you, Uncle Julian! And I thought you loved me."
"The yellow sandals remind me of a time when I was young—young as you, and a great deal more foolish!"
"But they are a girl's sandals, Uncle Julian—you said so yourself when you lent them to me."
"Indeed, both of them would hardly cover a man's foot!"
"Who was she? Oh, where did you meet her? Did you love her very much?"
"I met her on a little coasting boat belonging to her father, on which I had taken passage from Chios to Smyrna. She knew no English. I knew only one sentence of modern Greek, and I was not sure of the meaning even of that. So I had to be careful. I had it from a poem which was making a noise at the time."
"Oh, I know," cried Patsy, "Louis is always saying it over to me: Zoe mou, sas agapo! What does it mean?"
"That I did not know at the time, but I know what I meant the words to mean."
"Was she very lovely?"
"Very," said Uncle Julian. "I see you want a description, but I can only indicate. She had great dark eyes into which every sort of languid delight seemed to have been melted and concentrated, and eyelashes like the fringed awnings of a tent. When she lowered them they swept the ground, and when she lifted them it was slowly, as if their very weight fought against her will!"
"Oh-o-o-h!" said Patsy, feeling with her fingers, "I have regular scrubs. You won't ever love me when you think of her, Uncle Julian."
"I might," he answered, "if you had only the yellow sandals—"
"No, no, tell me about her! What did you say to her?"
"I said 'Zoe mou' half a dozen times, sitting closer to her every time. I spoke lower and lower, till the last 'Zoe mou' was whispered into her ear.
"Then I risked the other part, 'sas agapo'—and expected a box on the ear, or perhaps an appeal to her father, but instead she turned and kissed me!"
"Hurrah, Uncle Julian, I'm sure so should I—if any one had the sense to talk to me like that, low and in my ear (that tickles anyway) and in an unknown tongue."
"But you see the point was that the tongue was not unknown to her. She was a Greek girl and—"
"But what, after all, did it mean? She told you afterwards, of course."
"Well," said Uncle Julian, meditating, "not exactly. I found out. I had said, 'Zoe mine, I love you!"
"But what does 'Zoe' mean?"
"Life of mine, I love you!" Patsy repeated, trying various tones. "Uncle Julian, you must have made love like an archangel. Without knowing it, you had said about all that there was to say, and changing your voice like that—oh, I do wish I had been that girl. I don't wonder you don't want to give me the yellow sandals. I should not even have lent them for five minutes. You must not. I shall bring them back to you. It would be a sacrilege!"
"No," said Uncle Julian, "you are the brightest thing in my world, the likest the Greek girl and all the young things I once loved. It is your turn now, you small, black-headed Pictish woman!"
"I am not 'small.' I am taller than you, Uncle Julian!"
"I daresay, but you are slim as a willow branch. I could take you up between my finger and thumb."
"If you could catch me, Uncle Julian; but, see—you could not!"
With a swift spring she threw herself out of the low French window and stood on the lawn, ready poised for flight.
A brightness came into her uncle's eyes.
"I have known many and learned much," he thought, "but I have missed the best."
"Come, Uncle," she said, tapping the grass with her shoe, "I can't run as well as in kilt and sandals, or like the girl who played ball on the sands, but I can beat you—yes, I could run in circles about you!"
"I know, I know, you swallow!" proclaimed an admiring uncle. "But the day is past when I ran after agreeable young women. Generally they have to pocket their pride and come to see me—you do every day, you know!"
"Yes," said Patsy, "but do not think it is to see you, even if you are my mother's brother—"
"My mother's brother, I say," persisted Patsy. "It is because you teach me to speak French and to read Latin books, and the mathematic (though that I love not so well), and also chiefly because you lend me many books to read up in dull old Cairn Ferris."
"Do not blaspheme the habitation of your fathers," said Julian Wemyss. "Here is a house all ready for you when you marry. If it were not for the table of affinities in the beginning of the Bible, and if I were twenty years younger, I should ask you myself!"
"Oh," said Patsy, "that would be splendid. You are far the nicest man and the most interesting I ever talked to. Don't ask me, for I should say 'yes' in a minute."
* * * * *
Usually Patsy Ferris and her father had not much to say to one another.
"Good morning, daughter!" quoth Adam, coming in from his early inspection; "whither away with such skip-jack grace, habited in yellow and black like a wasp?"
"I have done my work, father," Patsy would answer. "I promised to go help Jean at Glenanmays. The lads are all in the heather and the maids have to do the heavy work of the field."
"But not you—I cannot have you handling the hoe and rake like a field worker!"
"No, no, father; Jean is always indoors or at the dairy."
Adam Ferris looked thoughtful and his dark brows drew together. He detested the press-gang and all it meant to the young men of the parish.
"I could send over a man or two, but my grieve or I myself would require to accompany them for protection against seizure."
"No need," said his daughter, hastily. "Diarmid would not wish to draw you into his sons' quarrels and, I think, Stair's band ran a big cargo last night from the Burnfoot Bay. There were twenty preventive men there, they say. Yet they stood aside and let the pack horses go by like men in a dream!"
Adam grew a little paler. He did not like this open defiance of the forces of law and order.
"How was that?" he demanded, "where was the military?"
"There were two hundred lads, all masked and all armed, a hundred pack horses and another hundred to ride upon. What could twenty customs men do with the like of these? Stair Garland left enough good lads to herd them close under the cliff till the Good Intent had her anchor up and the caravan was out of all reach of danger."
This was by far the most serious news Adam Ferris had received for a long time, but there was worse still to come.
"Uncle Julian says I ought to tell you, father," Patsy began with quite unusual gravity, "that when the press-gang went to the Bothy of Blairmore to take the lads of Glenanmays, they found me. I could run much faster than Jean, so I got there first."
Her father grew grey under the olive of his skin. "The men were not insolent?" he asked, for he knew the manners and customs of his Majesty's press in lonely shielings.
"I only saw the officers—Captain Laurence and a naval lieutenant—besides that smooth rascal McClure from Stonykirk!"
Even then Patsy hardly dared tell her father how unconventionally she had been clad, but she plucked up heart and went through with it.
"I ran from the Maidens' Cove at the foot of the Mays glen along the sands, and through the heather. I had Uncle Julian's yellow sandals on my feet and I got there in time for the lads to scatter, though I had started after the boat had passed out of sight round the Black Point."
"They knew who you were?" her father asked.
"Certainly, I told them," said Patsy, eagerly. "I said also that they had no right on my father's land. We had no sailors or fisher folk on Cairn Ferris."
"Right enough," said her father, "but I hope you were not hasty with the men. Laurence is an honest enough fellow, doing an unpleasant duty, and the others—well, they are apt to find ways of revenging themselves."
"Oh," said Patsy, suddenly radiant, poising her small black head, "I think they rather liked talking to me. I had Jean's dress kilted below the knee. It was blue, and went well with the yellow cross leathers of the sandals. I had a broad sash about my waist, too."
"What difference did that make?" her father asked.
"Oh, none to you, father," Patsy answered saucily, "but to them it seemed to make quite a lot of difference."
Adam Ferris shook his head in reproof.
"You grow reckless, Patsy," he said, "either I must send you away where you will have ladies of your own position to look after you, or we must marry you out of hand and let your husband be responsible for you!"
"If you want me to run away, dad, just keep on talking to me like that. I won't have any old 'camel' women to rule over me. I am not going to leave home, but when I want to get married I shall make my own arrangements and then—tell you afterwards."
"Surely you will ask my permission?"
"The same sort of permission you asked when you ran away with my mother from the door of the Edinburgh Assembly rooms!"
Adam Ferris smiled grimly.
"What is allowable for a man does not always become a woman," he said.
"But what holds for one Ferris becomes another," his daughter retorted.
"Jeddart justice," said her father, still smiling; "then you will marry first, and ask permission afterwards."
"Exactly," said Patsy, cheerfully. "I knew I could make you understand."
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
In spite of her black, close-clustering hair Patsy had the dark blue eyes of her Uncle Julian. Young men and older ones also (who ought to have known better) were in the habit of calling them violet when they walked with Patsy in the twilight, when many unforeseen things happen.
Then Patsy knew exactly what to think. For her Uncle Julian had told her that when a man is in love, he becomes colour blind. When asked how he knew, Julian said that once on a time he had friends who used to confide their love affairs to him. But he smiled as he said it—the believe-as-much-of-that-as-you-like smile which was Patsy's own, and was her heritage from a less grave race than the Ferrises of Cairn Ferris.
Julian had the same smile when he condemned the Free Trade as an interference with the financial policy of King George, and at the same time drew a jug from a jar of "special" Hollands, or from such an anker of cognac as could not be found elsewhere in Scotland. He had found both, as it were dropped from heaven, in a corner of his stable, but Tam Eident, whom he had carefully catechized, knew nothing about the matter. He had, he averred, been asleep at the time in his bed in the stable-loft.
Doubtless the Free Traders thought they were paying for some complaisance on the part of the master of Abbey Burnfoot. But his light burned steadily up in his study window. He had never looked down on the flitting torches, the turmoil of the loading, the black figures crossing and recrossing the glimmering strips of sand, the clinking of shod feet on the banks of pebble, the jingling of the chains of the pack saddles. He had been wisely deaf and had carried his lamp upstairs to the little turret chamber, where he chose to sleep on wild nights, that he might the better hear the wind swirl about him, the wind thresh and the sea roar and churn on the beaches and snore in the spouting-crags of the Burnfoot.
So on nights when strange noises came from without, and the wild birds keckled with a sound that might be mistaken for the neighing of horses, Julian Wemyss betook himself to his strong tower, and, locking the door at the top of the stone staircase, went peacefully to sleep, till the morrow showed up wide wet sands, whipped by the wind, many tracks of horses among the dunes, and, dipping far down the channel towards St. Bees, the top-sails of a schooner, which might be the much-sought-for Good Intent, or, again, might not.
Julian Wemyss was not so old as you might expect from a man so learned and so apart from the world. Various reasons had been given for his retirement to this lonely spot when, during the truce, an appointment as ambassador extraordinary to Paris was within his grasp. He had acquitted himself highly on several "missions" already, and there was no doubt that Vienna was only a step to a permanency in Paris, so soon as the war should cease. But suddenly Julian Wemyss resigned all his appointments into the King's hands, and it was whispered that he had done so on account of a lady so highly placed that even to name her was something like high treason. This was already years ago and even the memory of it had grown dim.
Now, Julian Wemyss might be somewhere near fifty years of age, but did not look a day more than forty, and with certain lights on his face and that kindly smile of his, wise and tolerant, he looked younger still.
He was erect and slender, not very tall beside Adam, his brother-in-law, but moving with a light, easy carriage something between that of an athlete and a favourite of drawing-rooms.
He had the noticeable dark blue eyes that twinkled merrily, yet with something gloomy in their darkness, as of hyacinths in a woodland glade, drifting and smoky, like the kind of smoke that comes from weed-burning or a peat-fire lit on a still day.
His niece, who had heard from Jean Garland some of the talk of the country, for long dared not ask her uncle point-blank if it were true about the princess, but she showed such continual curiosity about his love affairs, that he would keep her waiting while he made an entry in his diary, or other book of written notes, and then declare solemnly that the only girl he had ever loved was named Patsy, and was a thankless brat, unworthy of the care and affection of the best of uncles.
"Nonsense," his niece would cry, happy, however, all the same to have him say so.
"A girl named Patsy," he would continue, "who was put into my arms an hour old to take what care I could of, her father being ill-suited for the task! I am the only relative she has on her mother's side, and Adam Ferris is equally solitary on the other. So we must take good care of the minx, Adam and I. She is all we have, little as she deserves that we should waste a thought on her—though she threatens to run away with the first gipsy that comes to the yett, as did the Countess of Cassillis in the ballad."
"My father has been telling tales—oh, shame of him!" cried Patsy, reddening. "I said that I would run away with you, if you were not my uncle, but then I did not know about—"
She stopped suddenly. Her tongue had betrayed her.
"About what? Out with it," said Julian.
"About the princess!" Patsy answered, her eyes in his.
"Who has been listening to gossip now?" said Julian Wemyss.
"I—I," cried Patsy, "and I would give all I have to know what is true and what is clatter of the country."
"There is little to hide," said Julian quietly, looking past his niece out of the windows giving on the sea; "but that little is not my own to tell. If some day I am at liberty to speak, I promise that little Patsy Ferris shall be the first to hear."
Then he patted her head reproachfully. "Little Curiosity," he said with tenderness, "it is not good for girls to be told everything. Old fellows like me ought to know, so as to keep their wards out of mischief. The world is a strange and dangerous place, full of traps and quicksands, and for this reason see that you always come to me with your troubles. Do not bother Adam Ferris with them. He has never ventured beyond the Plainstones of Dumfries on a cattle-fair day. Besides many women have told me their sorrows."