Изображения страниц
PDF

“My bonnie Scotland is not so kind to me as she might be,” went on the stranger. “I love the Highlands best in sunny weather.” “Scotland '' exclaimed Roger, in a tone that sounded as though he thought his companion must be dreaming. “Aye, bonnie Scotland,” repeated the other. “We are not so very far from Perth, and if the snow were not so thick, you might see Kinnoul Hill. I must reach Perth before the dawn, but if the wind shift—” He broke off, and threw out his hands to show how he felt as to what might happen then. Roger thought they ought by now to be near his father's house, but he did not say so. He walked on silently, save for the crunching of the snow under his heavy-shod boots. “Don’t you know who I am P” asked his companion presently, turning toward him. “I know you. Your name is Roger Miltoun.” Roger had been thinking hard. This man must be the last of the Knights of the Golden Spur, the slender man with the deep, dark eyes and the smiling lips, who had kept turning a great sealring upon his finger. “I do remember you,” he said finally. “You had a hat with a feather, and a blue coat under your cloak, and a seal-ring on your finger. I've been wondering who you are.” The man pulled his coat-collar a little away from his face, and Roger could see that he was very handsome, although very pale and thin. “My name is Charles Stuart,” said he, “and by right I should be King of England and of Scotland, as my fathers were before me. But, instead, I am only called Prince Charlie, and the English troops are hunting me through Scotland like a common thief.” “Bonnie Prince Charlie" exclaimed Roger. “Why, I've heard lots of songs about you !” But Prince Charlie's lips had lost their smile, and he was staring very soberly ahead of him. “Tracked like a thief in my own Scotland,” he murmured, “and driven back again to France. Roger, if it were not for the love some of these good people of the Highlands bear me, I had almost as soon sink into one of these great drifts and never rise again as to fight on.” Then, very abruptly, he threw back his shoulders, and his eyes took on a new light. “Shame on you, Charlie lad,” said he. “The heir of the Stuarts to whine because he 's whipped Nay, not so. Courage and a smile will always set doubts packing !” Then he broke into a light laugh. “What a chase those Hanoverian soldiers have had after me! Once I was hid in the trunk of a tree as they shot past in full cry, and many a day I 've

lain in a cave in the rocks with a few faithful friends, waiting for the cover of a dark night to steal away. But traveling in company became too dangerous, and so we scattered. And now I must reach the house of one Tammas Campbell, a gunsmith who lives just this side of Perth, for to-night I will find there men who will smuggle me on board the French ship that waits for me. It should not be a long way to this Campbell's but for this storm.” By this time, Roger thoroughly realized that they were not in the neighborhood of Westover House, but in a rough and hilly country. They were going uphill, and a new and piercing wind blew straight in their faces as if from a gap in the hills. So they tramped on for what seemed like miles, through a white desert. They could see scarcely a yard in front of them, and it was only the banks that rose on either side that kept them in the road. Roger was chilled through, and every muscle ached, but he knew that he must go on fighting through the storm beside Prince Charlie. Every little while he glanced at the man beside him, whose broad-brimmed hat and shoulders were covered with drifts of snow, while now and then he would fling his arms about to warm them. Soon Roger found himself stumbling and almost falling, and needed all his wits to keep his feet moving on the road. They were in very bad plight in all seriousness. Night had come and ringed them in, and the darkness added its fear to that of the cold and their ebbing strength. Then the road dipped, and he wondered if they could be coming down from the hills. Suddenly the wind veered and struck them from the left. It brought a great, whirling mass of snow that hit them with terrific force. It seemed as if they could not take another step forward, but must either be blown back or fall prone on the ground. Roger felt Prince Charlie's arm around his shoulders, and so they stood, holding to each other, while the sudden whirlwind beat mercilessly against them. Then it slackened a little, and Roger heard his companion shouting at him, “I thought I heard a dog's bark on the right. We must climb up the bank.” Roger had a remnant of strength left, and with it he fought his way beside the prince up the slippery ground at the side of the road. Then they stumbled on. Suddenly in the darkness they struck a wooden wall. Roger now heard the dog barking, and felt himself being pulled to the left. Then he heard the prince beating on wood with his feet, and, before he knew what was happening, the darkness opened, and he lurched forward into a lighted room. He felt a sudden, sharp pain, as of fire, shoot through him, and then, in spite of his struggles, his eyelids closed. When he opened his eyes again, he could not, at first, imagine where he was. He was lying on a couch covered with skins. His boots and his fur cap and coat were gone. Great logs were blazing in a fireplace, a table was set with plates and glasses in the center of the room, and a girl was pouring something steaming hot from a stone pitcher into a great bowl that stood upon the hearth. A young man sat in front of the fire, swinging one leg slowly over the knee of the other. He wore a dark blue suit, but although Roger had only seen him in his cloak and high boots, he knew it was Prince Charlie. In a chair on the other side of the hearth sat an older man, of heavy build, with shaggy, gray hair. A boy, a little older than Roger, had just come into the room, and laid some logs of fire-wood on the hearth. “I 've drawn nae sword mysel this last year,” the gray-haired man was saying, “for my right arm has lost its cunning and wull na bend. But my brothers and all the clan MacGregor followed the beacon light, and my little lad Angus here begged sae hard that I could na keep him hame. But I should beg your pardon, young sir,” the man went on. “It may be ye are nae Jacobite yoursel, but hereabouts 't is hard to speak of anything but King Charles and the war.” “Poor King Charlie,” said the girl. night we say a prayer for him.” “An' hope he be safe and sound,” added Angus, “and na skirling aboot the Hielands in despair.” The man in blue turned toward the girl. “Those prayers of yours will save him yet,” said he. “Say them still after he goes to France, and he 'll come back again.” “Oh, do ye think sae?” said she, taking a few steps forward. “Will he come back? Will Charlie cross the water?” exclaimed the old man in excited tones. The young man rose and stood with his back to the fire. “Aye, he will come back,” said he, “sae lang as Scotch hearts beat sae true to him.” “How d'ye ken?” asked the man, sitting forward in his chair. The young man twisted the signet-ring about on his finger. “I should know,” said he, “for my name is Charles Stuart, and I sail for France at dawn.” There was absolute silence for a moment, then the Scotchman rose from his chair and dropped on his knees before the man in blue, and the boy and girl knelt on either side of him. “Sae it is Your Majesty in vera truth !” the Scotchman exVol. XXXIX.-8o.

[ocr errors]

claimed. familiar.” “Forgive you for taking me in from the storm and saving my life?” said the young man, with a smile. “No, I shall never forgive that, nor forget it.” “I saw Your Majesty once—in battle,” said Angus, “an' I was doubtin' just afore ye spoke—” “And I too,” said the girl. “I 've a picture in my locket o' Prince Charlie.” “Of King Charles, Elspeth,” corrected her father. “No,” said the young man, “not King, but only Prince Charlie. I love the name, for those who call me by it are fond of me.” “And weel they may be, sir,” said the Scotchman, rising from his bended knee. “And when ye come again, I'll draw the claymore, right arm or nae right arm.” “And that will surely help to win the day for me,” answered Prince Charlie. He spoke so frankly and so courteously that his very words seemed to make people love him. “But until that day comes, I must go back to France,” he added, “and to do that I must reach before dawn the house of a gunsmith, named Campbell, on the edge of Perth.” “'T is na sae far to Campbell's hoose,” said the Scotchman. “A mile straight doon the road. But ye 'll na be gangin' just yet. 'T is an honor my bairns and I will ne'er be forgettin' if we micht hae our bonnie Prince Charlie to sup on Christmas elen.” “And Charlie would like that supper,” said the prince, “for the scones smell very good, and so does that bowl of punch. Aha! see the lad on the couch prick up his ears at the naming of hot things to eat.” It was true. Even the comfort of the bed of skins was not so strong as Roger's appetite just then. He sat up, and soon, rising, stepped over to the fire. “Is n’t this a merry change, Roger?” asked the prince. “Instead of raging snow and biting wind, blazing logs, a stout roof, and a steaming supper. Come, let 's to table.” Prince Charlie took the chair at the head. None of the othèrs would have sat down, but he insisted. Elspeth had set all the dishes out, so that now she had little to do in waiting on them. The prince and Roger were so hungry that their Scotch host was kept busy cutting slices of venison to fill their plates. It was a real Christmas eve feast, and it ended with Elspeth's pride—a fine plum-pudding. When the last of that had vanished, Prince Charlie pushed his chair back from the table, and told

“Forgi'e the likes o' us for being sae them some of the strange adventures that had befallen him in the last few weeks. Then he asked Elspeth if she would not sing for him, and, with a flushed face, she stood up and sang the old Jacobite song of “The Young Chevalier,” her sweet voice trembling as she looked at the prince. The song ended, and the prince clapped his hands, crying, “Brava, brava, Elspeth !” But the words were scarcely out of his mouth before there was a loud knocking at the door, and a voice cried, “Open open in the king's name !” Then, before any one had time to think, the door broke inward, and an officer in English uniform stood in the room with sword drawn. And behind him came others, all with muskets. The first man cast his eye over the startled group, and singled out the young man in blue. “My orders are to hold you, sir,” said he, with a bow, “until the captain-general comes out from Perth.” The Scotchman sprang forward, throwing himself between the prince and the English officer. “This mon bides wi' me, and ye maun e'en kill me afore ye can tak him.” “Nay, friend,” said the prince. “This good soldier has made a mistake. He takes me for some other person than the simple man I am.” “Your pardon, sir, but I take you for Charles Stuart,” answered the officer. “My men have been on your track since early day. There 's no use fighting,” he added, looking at the Scotchman. “It would only be good blood spilled.” The Scotchman looked as if he were about to throw himself on the officer, but Prince Charlie put a hand on his shoulder. “There is a time for everything,” said he, gently but firmly, “and this is none for fighting.” The prince sat down again in his seat by the fire, and the officer bade certain of his men to guard the doors of the house. Then he helped himself to a glass of the punch. “Sit here with me, captain,” said the prince, invitingly, pointing to a chair near him. “Friends are much better gear than enemies.” All this time Roger had been watching everything, but saying nothing. Two of the soldiers sat down by the supper-table, and another was talking with the Scotchman and his son Angus in a corner. One stood, musket on shoulder, outside the front door, and another had gone to watch the door at the back of the house. Elspeth had slipped out of the room, and now Roger stole out of the room also. He found Elspeth in the little dark hall, crying as if broken-hearted. “Where are my boots and coat?” asked Roger, in a low voice. “Oh, the puir prince,” sobbed Elspeth, seeing it was Roger. “And he sae bonnie, too.”

"Get me my boots and cap and coat,” said Roger. “Then if you can draw the soldier away from the kitchen door a minute, I 'll slip out. Call him over to the fire for a dish of broth.” Elspeth returned in a moment, and Roger pulled on his boots and struggled into his fur coat and cap. “Now go back and get that soldier over by the fire,” said he. Again Elspeth did as she was told. Then, very cautiously, Roger looked in at the kitchen door. The only light in the room was what came from the fire. The soldier was standing beside Elspeth, watching her ladle hot broth into a big cup. Roger waited until the sosdier took the cup in his hand and held it up to drink. Then he slipped around the edge of the room, keeping in the shadow, until he came to the door. The soldier had left this unlatched, and he could open it without making any noise. He crept out, and pulled the door shut after him. The storm had ended. Before him lay a great white field of snow, and beyond were the lights of a good-sized town. Roger knew that must be Perth, so he turned up his collar, pulled his cap down over his ears, and headed for the road that Prince Charlie and he had left. Luckily there was enough starlight now for him to see his way.

CHAPTER XIII WHAT HAPPENED TO PRINCE CHARLIE

Roger knew that he must hurry if he was to aid Prince Charlie. The captain and the five men who were guarding him now were likely to be relieved at any moment by the arrival of others from the castle at Perth. His business was to get to Tammas Campbell at once. So he ran and slid and hurried down the highroad as fast as he could, until he could make out the blur of many houses, and could see spirals of smoke floating from chimneys across the starlit sky. Several cottages stood on either side of the road, and he stopped in front of each one and looked for a sign. They all seemed to be small farmers' houses, so he kept on along the road until he reached one that stood farther back from the highway. Following a path made by recent footprints, he came to the door, and peered up at a sign-board that hung creaking in the wind. He could make out two crossed muskets on it, and the words, “T. Campbell, Gunsmith.” Roger knocked boldly upon the door. No one answered him, so he knocked again, and then, after a little wait, a third time. He stepped back, and looked the house over. It was small, with a thatched roof, and all the windows were covered with wooden shutters. He was certain that this must be the place that the prince had been aiming for, so he gave the door a stout kick with his foot. Almost instantly it opened, and a man looked out at him. “De'il tak ye! Why be ye

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

"THE SOLDIER WAS WATCHING ELsPETH LADLE Hot BRoth into a cup."

knockin' up honest folk this time o’ nicht?” said the man, angrily. “There 's a man up the road needs help,” said Roger. “A man who wants to go to France.” The man at the door stared at him for a moment. Then he said, “I thought ye waur a troop o' horse by the racket ye made, but syne ye be only a lad, ye may e'en come indoors.” The gunsmith's main room was a strange-looking place. A peat fire burned on the hearth and filled the room with smoke. All about were the parts of guns, and odds and ends of old metal. The fire gave the only light, but it was enough to show Roger that there were a number of men on the far side of the room, a rough, weather-beaten lot, who looked like sailors or smugglers. Tammas Campbell shut the door and bolted it. "What was that ye said aboot a man bound to

[ocr errors]

France?” he asked, turning around to Roger. “Ye seem to hae part o' a countersign I ken, but na the rap at the door. What is 't ye’d say to me?” Roger glanced at the men half hidden by the haze of peat-smoke. “I 'd rather speak to you alone,” said he ; and added, “that is if you are Tammas Campbell.” “Aye, lad, I be Tammas Campbell right enow. An' these be good friends o' mine wha ken all my secrets.” Then, as if he understood the reason for Roger's hesitation, he said: “If there 's a man wha 's gangin' aff to France the morn, they be anxious to hear o' him.” Roger realized that this was no time for distrust. “I came through the hills with a man this afternoon,” said he. “We were caught in a storm and had to stop at a cottage about a mile from here. Some English soldiers broke into the house after supper, and took him prisoner.” “An' why did they do that?” demanded Campbell. “They said he was Prince Charles Stuart.” “Prince Charles Stuart l” echoed the gunsmith. He turned toward the group of men. “Now what think ye o' that? 'T is ill news the lad brings.” “An' was he Charlie himself” one of the men demanded. “Yes,” said Roger, “it was really he.” “Then by the blessed Saint Andrew 1" exclaimed the gunsmith, “I 'll na be sittin' here. Lads, will ye leave him trapped in the hands o' yon English butchers?” In a trice, they were all up, stamping, growling at the English, blessing Prince Charlie, feeling for their dirks, and making ready to set out at once. “Every mon tak a gun,” said the smith, pointing to a rack of muskets. “Noo, lad, lead us to yon cot.” Roger glanced at the crowd. There were a dozen of them, strapping big fellows, who looked as if they would rather fight than eat. “Come!”

[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

he cried, and, unbolting the door, led the way out into the road. It was harder work toiling uphill than it had been sliding down, but at last Roger could point out the cottage to Campbell. The gunsmith went first to reconnoiter, leaving the others crouched behind the bank at the side of the road. When he came back, he gave his orders, and the band of Scots crept forward. Two were told off to the front of the house, and these two came so suddenly and so fiercely upon the soldier on guard there, that, the first thing he knew, he was flung forward into a snowdrift, and so stunned that he could give no cry. Then these two stood by the door, and the others went to the windows. Roger, one of the gunsmith's muskets in his hand, stood his place with the rest, ready to break the window in front of him and fire as soon as he got the word of command. He could see Prince Charlie and the English captain talking by the fire, and the soldiers sitting at the supper-table. Then suddenly the door was burst open, and Tammas Campbell stood on the threshold, a leveled musket at his shoulder. “Hands up !” he roared in a voice of thunder. Without waiting, he cried, “Fire" Musket barrels broke the glass of every window in the room, and muskets, aimed at the ceiling, sent out a round of shot. Then, while the English soldiers were almost blinded by the smoke and dazed by the roar, the Scots sprang forward, dirks in hand, following Tammas through the open door. The captain, leaping from his chair by the fire, was sent sprawling by a blow from Campbell's fist. The soldiers at the table threw up their hands when the steel of the dirks danced before their eyes. There came a cry of warning from the kitchen, and then the noise of a heavy man falling to the floor. Two Scots had taken charge of the guard at the rear, and handled him with the same skill and despatch their mates had showed with the soldier at the front. Roger dashed into the room just in time to see the enemy's complete defeat. Campbell gave his orders sharply. The captain's sword and his men's muskets were secured, and their arms bound. Not until he had seen them made absolutely secure did he turn to the man in blue. Then he pulled off his woolen cap and bowed low to him. “Heaven save Your Majesty 1" said he, “Trust a Scottish mon to tak an English !” “You 've done it as neatly as ever hunter trapped a boar,” answered Prince Charlie. “I’ll never forget this night's work of you and your men. The boy brought you the tidings?” “Aye, the lad here,” said Tammas, nodding.

“Come here, Roger,” said Prince Charlie. “Do you know that all the time I sat by the fire with the English captain, I had a hope that you ’d be winning down to Campbell's P” “He 's a clever lad,” said Tammas. “When he rappit at the door, he did na give the countersign agreed to, so I e'en let him rap. But he did na go away, but kept on poundin', so I took a look at him.” “Angus, my coat and hat and boots,” said Prince Charlie. “They should be well warmed by now. We must be making for the French ship, or there 'll be another rescue party climbing the hill.” Angus brought the prince's outer garments from the kitchen, and now helped him on with them. Prince Charlie shook hands with the boy and his father. “Keep those claymores sharp,” said he, “for I shall be coming back soon, and if you two do not join me, my cause is as good as lost. But where is Elspeth? I must be hastening, but I want to say good-by to her first.” Elspeth, when she heard her name spoken, came into the room. The prince put out his hand and took hers. “No matter what happens to me,” said he, “I’ll never forget how you sang, ‘Charlie is my darling.’” She flushed, her eyes misty with tears. “And I 'll never forget Prince Charlie,” said she ; and before he could stop her, she had bent and kissed his hand. Leaving the English soldiers in the Scotchman's care, the gunsmith called his men together and placed Prince Charlie and Roger in the center of the square they formed. “So if we meet any soldier men,” he explained, “they 'll na see who we hae wi' us, but tak us for a band o' country loons singin' Christmas carols to the neighbors.” But they looked like anything but carol singers as they shouldered their muskets and started down the road. Tammas led the march, and turned off by a path to the right before they reached Perth. The snow was deeper here, but the men in front made a trail which provided easier going for the prince and Roger. At last they paused upon a slope and saw where just in front of them a lantern on a ship made a rippling path of light upon the water. “Yon 's the French brig,” said Tammas, pointing to the rocking light. A hundred yards more brought them to a small inlet, and there lay a long rowboat half hidden in beach-grasses. The Scotchmen stepped on board and took their places at the oars, Prince Charlie and Roger sat in the stern seat, and Tammas crouched in front of them. A man in the bow

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »