Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden


It was late at night before Blois was reached, and having alighted at the Aigle d’Or they engaged a private room.

“Even the Duke of Chateaurouge will be satisfied,” Ronald said, “that his schemes have failed, and that no more can be done just at present. It will be a bitter blow to him when those scoundrels, on their return to Paris, report their utter failure, for he must have considered it impossible that we could escape from the toils he had laid for us. I only wish that we had clear evidence that he is the author of these attempts.

If so, I would go straight with Marshal Saxe and lay an accusation against him before the king; but however certain we may feel about it, we have really nothing to connect him with the affair, and it would be madness to accuse a king’s favourite unless one could prove absolutely the truth of what one says. However, I hope some day that I shall get even with him. It will not be my fault if I do not.”

That night Ronald and his mother debated what would be the best way to proceed in the morning, and finally they agreed that Malcolm should present himself at the prison with the order of release, and that they should remain at the hotel, to which Malcolm should bring Colonel Leslie, after breaking to him the news that his wife and son were both awaiting him. The shock, in any case, of sudden liberty, would be a severe one, and the meeting with his attached comrade would act as a preparation for that with his wife.

Mother and son sat hand in hand after hearing the carriage drive off with Malcolm next morning. In the hours they had spent together they had come to know each other, and the relationship had become a real one. They had scarce been able to make out each other’s features at their midnight meeting on the terrace, and at that meeting, rejoiced as they both were, there was still a feeling of strangeness between them. Now they knew each other as they were, and both were well satisfied. The countess was less strange to Ronald than he was to her. Malcolm had already described her to him as he knew her eighteen years before, and the reality agreed closely with the ideal that Ronald had pictured to himself, except that she was younger and brighter. For in thinking of her he had told himself over and over again that she would have grown much older, that her hair might have turned gray with grief and trouble, and her spirit been altogether broken.

She on her part had been able to form no idea as to what the infant she had last seen would have grown up, and was not even sure that he was in existence. She had hoped that if he had lived he would have grown up like his father, and although she now saw but slight resemblance between them, she was indeed well satisfied with her son.

He was not, she thought, as handsome as his father, but he bade fair to surpass him in strength and stature. She was delighted with his manly bearing; and when he laughed he reminded her of her husband, and she thought that she read in his gray eye and firm mouth a steadfastness and depth of character equal to his. They spoke but little now. Both were too anxious, Ronald for his mother’s sake rather than his own. He was prepared to find this unknown father a man broken down by his years of captivity; but although his mother said that she too was prepared for great changes, he could not but think that the reality would be a sad shock to her. In little over an hour the carriage drove into the courtyard.

“Be brave, mother,” Ronald said, as he felt the hand he held in his own tremble violently. “You must be calm for his sake.”

Steps were heard approaching. The door opened, and Malcolm entered with a man leaning on his arm. The countess with a cry of joy sprang forward, and the next moment was clasped in her husband’s arms.

“At last, my love, at last!” she said.

Ronald drew aside to the window to leave his father and mother to enjoy the first rapture of their meeting undisturbed, while Malcolm slipped quietly from the room again.

“Why, Amelie,” Leslie said at last, holding her at arms’ length that he might look the better at her, “you are scarce changed. It does not seem to me that you are five years older than when I saw you last, and yet Malcolm tells me that you too have been a prisoner. How much my love has cost you, dear! No, you are scarce changed, while I have become an old man — my hair is as white as snow, and I am so crippled with rheumatism I can scarce move my limbs.”

“You are not so much changed, Angus. Your hair is white and your face is very pale; but you are not so much changed. If I have suffered for your love, dear, what have you suffered for mine! I have been a prisoner in a way, but I had a certain amount of freedom in my cage, while you –” And she stopped.

“Yes, it has been hard,” he said; “but I kept up my spirits, Amelie. I never lost the hope that some day we should be reunited.”

“And now, Angus, here is our boy, to whom we owe our liberty and the joy of this meeting. You may well be proud of such a son.”

“I am proud,” Leslie said as Ronald advanced, and he took him in his arms. “God bless you, my boy. You have performed well nigh a miracle.

Malcolm has been telling me of you. Call him in again. It is right that he to whom you owe so much should share in our happiness.”

Ronald at once fetched Malcolm, and until late at night they talked of all that had happened during so many years. Colonel Leslie had passed the first three years of his confinement in the Chatelet. “It was well it was no longer,” he said; “for even I, hard as I was with years of soldiering, could not have stood that much longer. My cell there was below the level of the river. The walls were damp, and it was there I got the rheumatism which has crippled me ever since. Then they moved me to Blois, and there my cell was in one of the turrets, and the sun shone in through the window slit for half an hour a day; besides for an hour once a week I was allowed to take what they called exercise on the wall between my turret and the next. The governor was not a bad fellow, and did not try to pocket the best part of the money allowed for the keep of the prisoners.

Fortunately I never lost hope. Had I done so I would have thrown myself over the parapet and ended it at once. I felt sure that you too were shut up, Amelie, and I pictured to myself how they would try to make you give me up; but I never thought they would succeed, dear. I knew you too well for that. Sometimes for months I lay as if paralysed by rheumatism, and I think I should have died if I had not known how my enemies would have rejoiced at the news of my death. So I held on stoutly, and I have got my reward.”

But the hardships had told their tale. Although but the same age as Malcolm Anderson, Colonel Leslie looked fully ten years older. His long confinement had taken every tinge of colour out of his face, and left it almost ghastly in its whiteness. He could with difficulty lift his hands to his head, and he walked as stiffly as if his legs had been jointless.

His voice only had not lost the cheery ring his wife remembered.

“No, Amelie,” he said when she remarked this. “I kept my tongue in practice; it was the one member that was free. After I had been confined a few months it struck me that I was rapidly losing the power of speech, and I determined that if I could not talk for want of someone to answer me, I could at least sing, and having a good store of songs, Scottish and French, I sang for hours together, at first somewhat to the uneasiness of the prison authorities, who thought that I could not be so merry unless I had some communication from without, or was planning an escape; but at last they grew accustomed to it, and as my voice could not travel through the thick walls of my cells, it annoyed no one.”

“And did you never think of escaping, father?”

“The first few years of my confinement I was always thinking of it, Ronald, but nothing ever came of my thought. I had no tools to burrow through a four foot wall, and if I could have done so I should have tried if it had only been to give me something to do, had it not been that I hoped some day to obtain my release, and that any attempt at escape would, if discovered, as it was almost certain to be, decrease my chances.”

Not a word was said that evening as to their future plans, all their thoughts being in the past; but the next morning Colonel Leslie said at breakfast:

“And now what are we going to do next? How do we stand?”

“I know no more than you do, Angus. I do not know whether the king has gifted my mother’s estate to others, as assuredly he has done my father’s lands. If he has, I have been thinking that the best plan will be to ask the king’s permission to leave the kingdom and return to your native Scotland.”

“I am very fond of Scotland, Amelie; but I have also a fondness for living, and how I should live in Scotland I have not the most remote idea. My estate there was but a small one, and was forfeited thirty years ago; so unless I become a gaberlunzie and sit on the steps of St. Andrews asking for alms, I don’t see how we should get porridge, to say nothing of anything else. No, Amelie, it seems to me that we must stop in France.

For very shame they cannot let the daughter of the Marquis de Recambours starve, and they must at least restore you a corner of your parents estates, if it be but a farm. How are we off for funds at present?” he asked with a laugh. “I hope at least we have enough to pay our hotel bill.”

“We have forty louis in cash, father; the remains of the hundred you committed to Malcolm with me.”

“Is that so?” he exclaimed. “All I can say is that that money has lasted longer than any that ever passed through my fingers before.”

“We have plenty of money,” the countess said quietly. “I have all the jewels which came to me from my mother, and their sale will keep us for years, either in Scotland or France.”

“That is good indeed,” the colonel said cheerily.

“Yes; I took them all with me when I was sent to the convent, and have parted with none save the diamond necklet which I gave to the girl who brought Ronald and me together, as a parting keepsake, and a brooch with which I rewarded the men who aided us in the forest; but seriously, Angus, we must settle upon something.”

“I quite agree with you, Amelie; but what is that something to be?”

“I should think, Angus, that the proper thing would be for me to write to the king thanking him for our release, asking his commands, and petitioning him that my mother’s estates may be restored to me. I will also ask permission to retire to some southern town where there are waters which may do good to your rheumatism.”

Colonel Leslie frowned.

“I suppose that is the right thing to do, Amelie; though, for my part, I cannot thank a sovereign whom I have served well after such treatment as I have received. I would rather beg my bread from door to door.”

“No, I would not ask you, Angus, and of course you are differently placed; but I have my rights as a peeress of France; besides I have on my own account no complaint against the king. It was my father who shut me up in the convent, not the king.”

“By the way, Amelie,” her husband said, “you are not yet in mourning.”

“Nor do I intend to be,” she said firmly; “unless I have to go to court no thread of mourning do I put on. My father behaved like a tyrant to me, and I will not feign a grief at an event which has brought us happiness.

Well, Ronald, what do you think had best be done? You and Malcolm have managed so well that we had best leave it for you to decide.”

“I think what you propose, mother, is best. I think you had better travel down to some place near where your mother’s estates lay, and then write your petition to the king. I will leave you there and return with it to Paris, and will there consult Colonel Hume and Marshal Saxe as to how it should be delivered to the king.”

This plan was carried out. The party journeyed together to Poitiers, and there having seen his parents comfortably settled in a small house near the town, and remained with them a few days, Ronald with Malcolm returned to Paris, bearing with him his mother’s memorial to the king.

Ronald was glad to find that Colonel Hume was now recovered from his wound. Marshal Saxe too was better; the latter at once took charge of the petition, and said that he would hand it to the king on the first opportunity. Ronald accompanied the marquis several times to Versailles, but the latter had no private audience with the king, and thought it better not to present the memorial in public. One day, however, he was called into the king’s closet.

When he emerged with the king, Ronald thought from his expression of countenance that things had not gone well. On leaving the palace he mounted his horse — for he was now well enough to ride — and as he set out he called Ronald, who with other gentlemen had accompanied him to ride beside him.

“Things have not gone well,” he said. “Your father’s enemies have evidently been at work, and have been poisoning the king’s mind. He read the memorial, and then said harshly, ‘The Countess of Recambours has forfeited all rights to her mother’s estates by marrying an alien. The lands of France are for the King of France’s subjects, not for soldiers of fortune.’ This touched me, and I said, ‘Your majesty may recollect that I am an alien and a soldier of fortune, and methinks that in time of war the swords of our soldiers of fortune have done such things for France that they have earned some right to gratitude. In a hundred battles our Scottish troops have fought in the front ranks, and had it not been for the Irish Brigade we should not have had to write Fontenoy down among the list of French victories.”

“You are bold, marshal,” the king said angrily.

“I am bold, sire,” I replied, “because I am in the right: and I humbly submit that a brave soldier like Colonel Leslie deserves better treatment than he has received at the hands of France.”

The king rose at once.

“An answer to the petition will be sent to you tomorrow, marshal.”

“I bowed, and without another word the king left his closet and entered the room of audience. However, lad, you must not look so downcast. We could perhaps expect no more the first time. Of course every man who has a hope, or who has a relation who has a hope, of obtaining the grant of your mother’s estates is interested in exciting the king’s displeasure against her; besides which there is, as you have told me, the Duc de Chateaurouge, who may be regarded as a personal enemy of your father, and who has the king’s ear as much as anyone about him. However, we must have courage. I consider my personal honour is touched in the matter now, and I will not let the matter drop till justice is done.”

At the appointed time Ronald again called at Marshal Saxe’s hotel, and watched the gay crowd of officers and nobles who were gathered in his reception rooms. An hour later a royal attendant entered and handed a document to the marshal. The latter glanced at it and looked around. As soon as his eye fell upon Ronald he nodded to him.

“Here is the judgement,” he said in a low tone, as he handed him the paper. “You see it is directed to the countess, to my care. I suppose you will start with it at once.”

“Yes, marshal; the horses are saddled and we shall leave immediately.”

“Don’t hurry your horses,” the marshal said with a slight smile; “from the king’s manner I think that the contents are such that a few hours’ delay in the delivery will cause the countess no pain. However, I do not anticipate anything very harsh. In the first place, although the king is swayed by favourites who work on his prejudices, his intention is always to be just; and in the second place, after granting the release of your parents as a boon to me he can scarcely annul the boon by any severe sentence. Will you tell the countess from me that I am wholly at her service, and that, should any opportunity offer, she may be sure that I will do what I can to incline the king favourably towards her. Lastly, Leslie, take care of yourself. The change in the king’s manner shows that you have powerful enemies, and now that you have succeeded in obtaining your parents’ freedom you have become dangerous. Remember the attack that was made upon you before, when there seemed but little chance that you would ever succeed in obtaining their release or in seriously threatening the interests of those who were looking forward to the reversion of the family estates. Their enmity now, when it only needs a change in the king’s mood to do justice to your parents, will be far greater than before.

“Bid your father, too, to have a care for himself and your mother.

Remember that violence is common enough, and there are few inquiries made. An attack upon a lonely house and the murder of those within it is naturally put down as the act of some party of discharged soldiers or other ruffians. Tell him therefore he had best get a few trusty men around him, and be on guard night and day against a treacherous attack.

Those who stand in the way of powerful men in France seldom live long, so he cannot be too careful.”

A quarter of an hour later Ronald was on horseback. He had already provided himself with a pass to leave the city after the usual hour of closing the gates, and he and Malcolm were soon in the open country. As they rode along Ronald repeated the warning that the marshal had given him.

“He is quite right, Ronald, and you cannot be too careful. We have against us, first, this vindictive Duc de Chateaurouge, who, no doubt, has poisoned the king’s mind. In all France there is no one whom I would not rather have as a foe. He is powerful, unscrupulous, and vindictive; he would hesitate at nothing to carry out anything on which he had set his mind, and would think no more of obtaining the removal of one whom he considered to stand in his way than of crushing a worm. Even as a young man he had a villainous reputation, and was regarded as one of the most dangerous men about the court. To do him justice, he is brave and a fine swordsman, and for choice he would rather slay with his own hands those who offend him than by other means. Though he was but three-and-twenty at the time I first left France he had fought half a dozen duels and killed as many men, and several others who were known to have offended him died suddenly. Some were killed in street brawls, returning home at night, one or two were suspected of having been poisoned. Altogether the man was feared and hated in those days, although, of course, none spoke their suspicions openly.

“From what I have heard those suspicions have stuck to him ever since. He has not been engaged in many duels, because in the first place edicts against duelling are very strict, and in the second because his reputation as a swordsman is so great that few would risk their lives against him. Still all who stood in his way have somehow or other come to a sudden end. We must therefore be on our guard night and day. He is, of course, your most dangerous foe; but besides him must be numbered all those who hope to obtain your mother’s estates. The heirs of the marquis doubtless feel perfectly safe from interference. There is no chance whatever of the king dispossessing them in favour of a foreigner, so we need not count them among your foes.

“It is just as well, Ronald, that we started tonight instead of waiting till tomorrow. The duke is pretty certain to learn that the king’s answer will be sent this evening, and may possibly have made preparations for you on the road; but he will hardly expect that you will start before the morning. However, in order to be on the safe side I propose that we shall presently turn off from the main road and avoid all large towns on our way down to Poitiers.”

“Do you think the danger is as great as that, Malcolm?”

“I do not think there is much danger, Ronald, just at present, though I do in the future.”

Travelling by byways Ronald and Malcolm arrived at Poitiers without adventure.

“I have brought you the king’s answer, mother,” Ronald said as he alighted; “but before you open it I may tell you that it is unfavourable, though I am ignorant of the precise nature of its contents. But you must not be disappointed. Marshal Saxe bade me tell you that he considers his honour engaged in seeing you righted, and that whenever an opportunity occurs he will endeavour to move the king’s mind in your favour. How is my father?”

“He suffers grievously from rheumatism, Ronald, and can scarce move from his couch.”

As soon as they joined the colonel the countess opened the king’s letter.

It was brief. “The Countess Amelie de Recambours is hereby ordered to withdraw at once to her estate of La Grenouille and there to await the king’s pleasure concerning her.”

The king’s signature was affixed.

“Well, that is not so very bad,” the countess said. “At any rate my right to one of my mother’s estates is recognized. La Grenouille is the smallest of them, and contains but three or four farms. Still that will suffice for our wants, and as it lies but twenty miles from Bordeaux the air will be warm and soft for you, Angus.”

“Is there a chateau on it, mother?”

“Yes, there is a small chateau. I was there once as a girl. It has never been modernized, but is still a castle such as it was two hundred years ago.”

“All the better,” Ronald said; and he then gave Malcolm’s reasons for their being on the watch against any sudden attack.

“He is quite right, Ronald,” Colonel Leslie said. “The duke is capable of anything. However, we will be on our guard, and if, as your mother says, it is a fortified house, we need have no fear of any sudden attack.”

“I would suggest, colonel, that I should ride to Tours,” Malcolm said,

“and hire two of the men who escorted madame’s carriage. They have served in the wars and can be relied upon. They would not need high wages, for most of the discharged soldiers have trouble enough to keep body and soul together. With a couple of men of this kind, and two or three of the men on the estate, I think, colonel, you need fear no sudden attack.”

The colonel approved of the suggestion, and a week later, Malcolm having returned with the two men, a carriage was hired to convey the colonel and his wife, and so they journeyed quietly down to La Grenouille. On arriving there they found that they were expected, the old steward in charge having received a letter from the royal chancellor, saying that he was to receive the countess as the owner of the estate.

The old man, who had known her mother well and remembered her visits as a child, received the countess with respectful joy. The chateau was, as Amelie had said, really a castle. It was surrounded by a moat filled with water, from which the walls rose abruptly, with no windows in the lower stories and only small loopholes in those above. Although the steward was ignorant when his mistress might be expected, he had already caused great fires to be lighted in all the rooms and had temporarily engaged two of the farmer’s daughters to wait upon the countess, and three stout men as servitors.

“What are the revenues of the estate?” the countess asked the steward that evening. “My mother’s other estates have not been restored to me as yet, and I have only this to depend upon, and I do not know what establishment I can afford to keep up.”

“The revenue amounts to twelve thousand francs,” he said. “There are three large farms and four small ones. Twelve thousand francs are not much, countess, for your mother’s daughter; but they go a long way here, where one can live for next to nothing. We have a garden which will provide all the fruit and vegetables you require, and your poultry will cost you nothing. The vineyard attached to the chateau furnishes more than enough wine, and the cellars are well filled, for every year I have put aside a few barrels, so that in fact it will be only meat you have to buy.”

“So that you think I can keep the two men I have brought with me and the servants you have engaged?”

“Easily, madam, and more if you wished it.”

“Do you think five men will be sufficient?” the countess said. “I ask because I have powerful enemies, and in these lawless times an attack upon a lonely house might well be carried out.”

“With the drawbridge drawn up, madam, five men could hold the chateau against a score, and the sound of the alarm bell would bring all the tenants and their men down to your assistance. I will answer for them all. There were great rejoicings last week when I sent round the news that you were expected. The memory of your mother, who once resided here for a year, is very dear to all of us, and there is not a man on the estate but would take up arms in your defence. The sound of the alarm bell would bring thirty stout fellows, at least, to your aid.”

“Then we need not trouble on that score, Amelie,” the colonel said cheerfully. “Malcolm will see to the drawbridge tomorrow; probably it has not been raised for years.”

“I have already been examining it,” Malcolm — who had just entered the room — said. “It only needs a little oil and a bolt or two. I will have it raised tonight. Things look better than I expected, colonel, and I shall be able to return to Paris without having any anxiety upon your score.”

“But you are not thinking of going back, Ronald?” the countess asked anxiously. “If there is danger here for us, there must be surely danger for you in Paris. And I want you here with us.”

“I will stop for a few days, mother, and then Malcolm and I will be off.

As I have Marshal Saxe’s protection I need fear no open enmity from anyone, and as I shall be with the regiment I shall be safe from the secret attacks; besides, my sword can guard my head.”

“You have taught him to defend himself — eh, Malcolm?” Colonel Leslie said.

“I,” Malcolm repeated — “I can use my sword in a melee, colonel, as you know, and hold my own against Dutchman or German when I meet them on the field; but Ronald is a different blade altogether. He was well taught in Glasgow, and has practised under the best maitres d’armes in Paris since, and I am proud to say that I do not think there are ten men in France against whom he could not hold his own.”

“That is good, that is good, indeed,” the colonel said, delighted.

“Malcolm, I feel my obligations to you more and more every day. Truly I had never even hoped that if my son were ever to be restored to me, I should have such cause to be proud of him.”

“But why do you think you had better return to Paris, Ronald?” his mother inquired.

“Because, mother, it will not do to let your enemies have entirely their own way now that you have been so far restored. Doubtless your family will be the more inclined to aid you with their influence, but there must be somebody to urge them to do so.”

“Besides, Amelie,” the colonel put in, “we must not cage the lad here at your apron strings. He has already won Saxe’s regard and protection by his conduct in the field, and can now accept a commission in the old regiment. He has begun well, and may yet live to command it. No, no, my love. I should like to keep him here as much as you would, but in every way it is better that he should go out and take his place in the world.

To you and me, after our long imprisonment, this place is life, freedom, and happiness, and we are together; but for him it is a dreary little country chateau, and he would soon long for a life among men.”

And so, after three weeks’ stay at the chateau, Ronald and Malcolm rode back to Paris, and the former received a week later a commission through Marshal Saxe in the Scottish Dragoons. That regiment had returned from the frontier, and Ronald at once took his place in its ranks, and was heartily received by all the officers, to whom he was formally introduced by Colonel Hume as the son of their former commanding officer.

A short time afterwards it became the turn of duty of the Scottish Dragoons to furnish guards for a week at Versailles, and Colonel Hume took down two troops for that purpose. That to which Ronald belonged was one of them. Ronald, knowing that for the present he was not in favour with the king, begged the colonel to put him on duty as often as possible, so that he might avoid the necessity of being present at the king’s audiences with the other officers.

He was one day walking with the colonel and several other officers in the grounds at a distance from the palace, when they came, at the turn of the walk, upon the Duc de Chateaurouge and three other gentlemen of the court. The former stopped abruptly before Colonel Hume.

“I had the honour, Colonel Hume, to speak to you some time since of a volunteer in your regiment who chose to call himself the name of Leslie.

I understand he is now an officer. I see by the lists in the courtyard that a Cornet Leslie is now on duty here. Where does he hide himself, for I have been seeking in vain to meet him?”

“Cornet Leslie is not one to balk any man’s desire that way,” Colonel Hume said gravely. “This is Cornet Leslie.”

Ronald stepped forward and looked the duke calmly in the face.

“So this is the young cockerel,” the duke said contemptuously. “A worthy son of a worthy father, I doubt not.”

“At any rate, my lord duke,” Ronald said quietly, “I do not rid myself of my foes by getting those I am afraid to meet as man to man thrown into prison, nor by setting midnight assassins upon them. Nor do I rely upon my skill as a swordsman to be a bully and a coward.”

The duke started as if struck.

“I had made up my mind to kill you, young sir,” he said, “sooner or later; but you have brought it on yourself now. Draw, sir!” And the duke drew his sword.

Colonel Hume and several others threw themselves before Ronald.

“Put up your sword, sir. Duelling is forbidden, and you know the consequence of drawing within the precincts of the palace.”

“What care I for ordinances!” the duke said furiously. “Stand aside, gentlemen, lest I do you harm!”

“Harm or no harm,” Colonel Hume said sternly, “my young friend shall not fight in the palace grounds. I protest against his being forced into a duel at all; but at any rate he shall not fight here.”

The duke looked for a moment as if he was about to spring upon Colonel Hume, but he saw by their faces that his companions also were against him. For the consequences of drawing a sword within the precincts of a palace were so serious, that even the most powerful nobles shrank from braving them.

“Very well,” he said at last, thrusting his sword back into its scabbard.

“It is but ten minutes’ walk to the boundary wall, I will let him live till then.”

So saying he started off with rapid strides down the walk, followed at a slower pace by the rest.

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