Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden

CHAPTER XIX: Fugitives.

For three weeks Ronald and Malcolm remained in hiding in the hut among the hills. Every two or three days Malcolm went down to the village and brought back food. He learned that the remains of the army at Ruthven had entirely dispersed, the prince himself seeing the hopelessness of any longer continuing the struggle. Terrible tales of slaughter and devastation by Cumberland’s troops circulated through the hills. The duke had fixed his headquarters at Fort Augustus, and thence his troops ravaged the whole country of the clans lately in insurrection. Villages were burned, cattle slaughtered, women subjected to the grossest insult and ill treatment, and often wantonly slain, and the fugitives among the mountains hunted like wild beasts, and slain as pitilessly whenever overtaken.

Ronald’s arm was healing fast. Youth and a good constitution, and the care and attention of Malcolm, aided perhaps by the pure mountain air, did wonders for him. The splints had proved efficacious, and although they had not yet been taken off, Malcolm was confident that the injury would be completely repaired. One morning Malcolm had left but half an hour for the village when he returned.

“The enemy are in the village,” he said. “I can see clouds of smoke rising in that direction. We had better be off at once. They will be scouring all the hills here, as they have done elsewhere, and we had better get out of the neighbourhood.”

There was no packing to be done, and taking with them what remained of the food Malcolm had last brought, they started on their way. They made first for the spring from which they had drawn their water, and then followed the little stream on its way down the hill, as it flowed in the opposite direction to the village. An hour’s walking took them into the forest.

“Before we go further let us have a consultation,” Malcolm said. “We are safe now from pursuit, and had better settle upon what course we intend to adopt. Shall we make for Glasgow, and lie hid there until things blow over a little; or make for the isles, and stay there until we get a chance of being taken off by some French ship? That is what they say the prince has done; and indeed as there would be no chance of his getting a ship on the east coast, and all the Lowlands are against them, he is certain to have made for the isles. The Clanranalds and most of the other islemen are loyal to him, and would receive and shelter him. Skye is hostile, but elsewhere he will be safe, and would move from island to island or get across to the mainland by night if the pursuit became too hot. What do you say, Ronald?”

“I would not try Glasgow unless as a last resource, Malcolm; you are known to many there, and as I was there as one of the prince’s officers on two occasions I might easily be recognized. You may be sure that there is a very strict lookout for fugitives, and every stranger who enters a town will be closely examined. After some time, when Prince Charles and the principal chiefs and the leaders will either have escaped across the water or been hunted down, things will calm down; but at present we must not try to pass through the Lowlands.”

“At any rate we cannot try to do so till your shoulder is completely healed, and you can use your arm naturally; but I do not think that we had better try and cross to the isles just at present. If Prince Charles is there, or is believed by the English to be there, the search will be so keen that every stranger would be hunted down; and although the Highlanders might risk imprisonment and death for the prince himself, they could not be expected to run the same risk for anyone else. If the prince escapes it will be because the whole population are with him, and every man, woman, and child is trying to throw the pursuers off the scent. No, I think we should be safer in Edinburgh itself than in the isles. We will make a shift to live as we can for a month or so; by that time I hope you will be able to use one arm as well as the other, and we will then boldly go down into the Lowlands in our old characters as two drovers.”

“That will be the best plan, no doubt,” Ronald agreed; “the difficulty will be the getting over the next month.”

“We shall manage that,” Malcolm said; “fortunately you have still got some money left.”

“Yes, I have over fifty pounds; it was lucky I was able to draw it, as we returned north, from the man I left it with at Carlisle.”

“Yes, and you wanted to give it back to the treasury,” Malcolm said, “and would have done it if I had not almost quarrelled with you about it, saying that it had been given you for a certain purpose, that you had carried out that purpose, and had, therefore, a right to it, and that you would be only looked upon as a fool if you offered to pay it back.

However, there it is now, and lucky it is you have got it. However hard the times, however great the danger, a man will hardly starve in Scotland with fifty pounds in his pocket; so now we will turn our faces west, and make for the head of one of the lochs; there are plenty of fish to be had for catching, and with them and a little oatmeal and a bottle or two of whiskey we can live like lords.”

They walked for some hours, and stopped for the night in the hut of a shepherd, who received them hospitably, but could give them but little food, his scanty supplies being almost exhausted, for, as he told them,

“the hills are full of fugitives, and those who come all cry for meal; as for meat, there is no want of it. Men won’t starve as long as there are sheep and cattle to be had for lifting them, and at present there are more of these than usual in the hills, for they have all been driven up from the villages lest they should fall into the hands of the troopers; but meal is scarce, for men dare not go down to the villages to buy, and we only get it when the women bring it up as they have a chance.”

In the morning the shepherd gave them directions as to the way they should take, and a few hours later they came down upon the head of one of the many deep inlets on the western coast. A small fishing boat stood on the shore, but they dared not descend into this, but made their way to the point where, as the shepherd had told them, a stream which flowed from a mountain tarn some miles inland made its way down into the sea.

The banks were thickly wooded for some two miles from its outlet; beyond that was a moorland covered with heather. They determined to encamp near the upper edge of the wood, and at once set to with their swords to cut down branches and construct a hut. This was completed before dusk, and Malcolm then started for the village on the seashore. Ronald besought him to be most careful.

“There is likely,” he said, “to be a party of soldiers in every village round the coast, for they will know that all the chiefs and officers would be making for the sea. The clansmen have only to remain in the hills until this persecution dies out, and then go quietly home again; but for the leaders the only hope is escape by sea.”

“I will be careful, lad,” Malcolm said. “I shall not enter the village, but will hang about in its outskirts until I come across someone, and with plenty of money in my pocket it is hard if I cannot manage to get a bag of meal and a net, even if the place is full of English soldiers.”

Three hours later Malcolm returned laden with a sack containing forty pounds of meal, a jar with two gallons of whiskey, and a net.

“There,” he said as he entered; “we can do for a month now, if needs be.

There is a party of militia in the village, and I hear the whole coast is closely watched, and there are a number of English cruisers among the islands.”

“How did you get the things?”

“I waited till a woman came down with a bundle of faggots, and told her what I wanted. She said at first it was impossible; but when I said I was prepared to pay well she altered her tone, and said she would send her husband out to me. He soon came, and after some bargaining he agreed to bring me out the things I wanted for three pounds, and here they are. I see you have got a fire alight, so we will make some cakes at once. I have brought a griddle and two horns with me.”

The next morning they set to work to fish. The net was stretched across the lower end of a pool, and they then stripped and waded in, splashing and throwing stones as they went. It was just up to their necks in the deepest parts, shallowing to two feet below. When they reached the net they found two fine salmon caught there, and carrying these ashore they split one and placed it above the fire. The net was then removed, and in half an hour they were sitting down to a breakfast of grilled salmon and hot oatmeal cakes, which Ronald thought the most delicious repast he had ever tasted.

For three weeks they remained at this spot. They were not always alone, being sometimes joined for a day or two by other fugitives, who, like themselves, were wandering near the sea coast seeking escape. These seldom stayed long, for it was felt unsafe to keep in parties of more than two or three at the utmost. Some of the fugitives were in wretched condition, having been wandering among the moors and forests for weeks, and as the fishing was very successful, Ronald and Malcolm were able to give them at parting a good supply of smoked salmon, and a portion of meal, of which Malcolm from time to time brought a fresh supply up from the village.

The people there knew little of what was passing in the outer world; but from the conversation of the soldiers they were sure that Prince Charles had so far escaped capture, and an opinion began to prevail that he had succeeded in making his escape by sea, in spite of the vigilance of the English cruisers.

By the end of the three weeks even Malcolm admitted that Ronald’s wound was completely cured. Two large blue scars showed where the bullet had passed through, and beneath this could be felt a lump where the broken bone had knitted together, and this would in time become as strong as the rest of the shoulder. Malcolm’s splints had done their duty, and the eye could detect no difference between the level or width of the two shoulders. Ronald could move his arm freely in all directions, and, except that he could not at present venture to put any strain upon the arm, he might be considered as perfectly cured. They determined, therefore, to continue their way. In the first place, however, it was necessary to procure other clothes, for Ronald was still in uniform, and although Malcolm’s attire was not wholly military, it yet differed materially from that of a countryman.

“We shall have to get other clothes when we get south,” Malcolm said;

“for a Highlander’s dress would be looked upon with as much suspicion in Glasgow as would that uniform of yours. But until we get down to the Lowlands the native garb will be the best.”

Accordingly he paid another visit to the village, and with the utmost difficulty persuaded the man he had before dealt with to bring him two suits of clothes, such as were worn by the fishermen there. In these, although Malcolm’s small stock of Gaelic would betray them at once for other than they seemed to the first clansman who might address them, they could pass muster with any body of English troops they might meet by the way.

Before starting they caught and smoked as many salmon as they could carry, as the fishermen of the coast were in the habit of exchanging fish for sheep with their inland neighbours. They cut each a short pole, and slung some fish at each end, and then placing it on their shoulder, started on their way. They kept along the hillside until they struck the track — for it could scarcely be called a road — leading from the village into the interior, and then boldly followed this; for the difficulty of travelling across the hilly and broken country was so great that they preferred to run the slight extra risk of keeping to the road, feeling certain that for the first day’s march at least their appearance and the fish they carried would answer for themselves with any body of troops they might meet.

Of this, however, they did not think there was much chance. The authorities would have long since learned the futility of hunting the fugitives among the hills, and would be confining their efforts to the sea coast. They were now at a considerable distance from the scene of the bloody persecutions of Cumberland and Hawley, and although in other parts of Scotland severe measures might be adopted against known adherents of the Stuarts, it was among the Highland clans only that savage and wholesale massacres were being carried into effect.

Occasionally in the course of the day’s walk they met with clansmen passing along the road. These generally passed with a brief word of greeting in Gaelic. One or two who stopped to speak recognized at once by Malcolm’s accent that the wayfarers were not what they pretended to be; but they asked no questions, and with a significant smile and an expression of good wishes went on their way.

At the village where they stopped, after a long day’s journey, the same line of conduct was observed towards them. The inhabitants guessed at once that they were in disguise; but the edicts against those who assisted fugitive insurgents were so severe that none made any open sign of their recognition. They paid for their night’s lodging and food with a portion of their fish, which they were indeed glad to get rid of.

The next day they resumed their journey, and towards sunset arrived at a village where they saw a party of English cavalry, who had apparently but just arrived. The men were cleaning their horses, and an officer was sitting on a bench in front of the principal house in the village; for he had already made a close inspection of every house in the village, and the angry faces of the women and the sullen looks of a few men there were about showed how they resented the disturbance of their households.

It was too late to retreat, and Malcolm and Ronald walked boldly to the public house in the centre of the village. The officer at once rose and walked across to him.

“Who are you?” he asked; “and where do you come from?”

Malcolm shook his head and said in Gaelic:

“I do not understand English.”

“What fools these people are!” the officer exclaimed. “Ho, within there!”

The landlady came to the door.

“Do you speak English?”

“I speak a little,” the woman said.

“Just ask these men who they are and where they come from.”

The woman asked the question in Gaelic, and Malcolm replied:

“We are, as you see, fishermen, and we come from Huish.”

As he spoke there was a slight change in the woman’s face; but it passed away, and she translated Malcolm’s answer to the officer.

“But that is forty miles away,” the officer said. “What do they do with their fish at this distance from their home?”

The question being put in Gaelic by the woman, Malcolm replied that owing to the boats being seized by the soldiers, and trade being at a standstill, they could no longer make a living at home, and were therefore on their way to Glasgow to ship as sailors. They were carrying their fish with them to pay for their food and lodging on the way.

The story was probable enough, and the officer’s suspicion was allayed.

“They are fine looking fellows, both of them,” he said to himself as he returned to his bench. “Father and son, I suppose. The young one would make a strapping soldier. Like enough he was at Culloden. However, thank goodness, I have no grounds for suspecting or detaining them. I am sick of this brutal business of fugitive hunting. We are officers and not butchers, and this slaying of brave men who have met us fairly in battle is a disgrace to the British name.”

Ronald and Malcolm followed the woman into the house.

“I am ready to buy some of your fish,” she said in a loud tone of voice in Gaelic, “for there will be many to feed this evening; as my house is full of soldiers I cannot take you in, but if you like you can sleep in that shed over there. I can cook one of your fish for you, and let you have some black bread; but that is all I can do. Now, how much do you want for the fish?”

Malcolm named a low price, and the woman took three or four of the largest. For these she offered him the price he had asked. He glanced round, and seeing that they were not overlooked, he shook his head.

“We don’t want money,” he said. “We are well provided. Many thanks for keeping our secret.”

The woman nodded, and without another word the two went out and sat down on a stone bench outside until the landlady brought out a platter with a fish and some black bread. This they ate where they sat. Malcolm then went in to get some tobacco, and returned with his pipe alight, and sat with Ronald watching with apparent interest the operations of the soldiers until night closed in. Then they retired to the shed the landlady had pointed out, and found that a large bundle of freshly gathered rushes had been shaken out to form a bed. Carrying in their poles with their now diminished load of fish, they closed the door and threw themselves down upon the rushes.

“That has passed off well,” Malcolm said. “Tomorrow we will only go a mile or so out of the village, and stop in the first wood we come to, and go on at night. Thirty miles will take us close down to Dumbarton, and there we must manage to get some fresh clothes.”

“We shall be able to leave our poles behind us,” Ronald said, “and that will be a comfort. Although my load of fish was not nearly as heavy as yours, still carrying it on one shoulder was no joke, and I shall be heartily glad to get rid of it.”

“I shall not be sorry myself,” Malcolm said; “but there will be no occasion to waste the fish. We shall be up and away long before the soldiers are stirring, and we may as well hand them over as a present to the landlady.”

This was done, and at an early hour in the morning they were upon the road again. After an hour’s walking they stopped in a wood till evening and then continued on their way until they reached Dumbarton, where they threw themselves down beside some boats drawn up upon the shore, and slept till the morning.

They then boldly entered the town, and as their garb was similar to that of the men who brought down the fish caught at the villages on the coast, no attention whatever was paid to them. They had no difficulty in purchasing the clothes they required, and carrying them out of the town they changed in the first retired spot they reached, and, as two Lowland drovers, tramped on to Glasgow. With their bonnets pulled well down over their eyes they entered the town. They had little fear of discovery, for none would be likely to recognize in Ronald the gaily dressed young officer of Prince Charles.

As to Malcolm, he felt safe from molestation. He was, of course, known to many drovers and others, but they would not concern themselves with what he had been doing since they last saw him, and even had they noticed him when he was there with Ronald, would not denounce an old comrade. He went, therefore, boldly to the little inn where he had been in the habit of staying when in the city.

“Ah, Malcolm, is that you, man?” the landlord said as he entered. “I didna think o’ seeing you again. I thought it likely ye were laying stiff and stark somewhere out on the muirs. Eh, man, you are a foolish fellow to be mixing yourself up in the affairs of ithers.”

“I have done with it now, Jock, for good and all,” Malcolm said, “and am going back to my old trade again.”

“I think you are a fule to come back here so soon. There’s mony a one marked ye as ye rode in behind that young officer of the prince’s, and if they denounce you now they would soon clap you in between four walls.”

“Hoots, man!” Malcolm laughed; “who would trouble themselves about a body like me!”

“There are bleudy doings up i’ the Highlands,” the landlord said gravely,

“if a’ they say is true.”

“It is true, Jock, more shame to them; but they wouldn’t do in Glasgow what they are doing there. They are hunting down the clansmen like wild beasts; but here in the Lowlands they will not trouble themselves to ask who was for King George and who was against him, except among those who have got estates they can confiscate.”

“May be no,” the landlord replied. “Still, Malcolm, if you will take my advice you won’t show yourself much in the streets, nor your friend either,” he added significantly. “You may be safe, but the citizens are smarting yet over the requisitions that were made upon them, and your friend had best keep in his room as long as ye stay here.”

Malcolm nodded.

“He will be careful, Jock, never fear. We shall be off again as soon as we get a chance. I will leave him here while I go down the town and find whether there is a herd starting for England. If there is we will go with it; if not, I shall try and get a passage by sea.”

Malcolm could not hear of any drove of cattle going south. The troubles had, for the time, entirely put a stop to the trade. After it was dark he went to Andrew’s. His brother’s face expressed both pleasure and dismay at seeing him.

“Right glad I am to see you have got safely through it all, Malcolm, but you must be mad to show yourself here again at present. But how is the boy? We have troubled sorely over him. I trust that he too has come safely through it?”

“Safe and sound, Andrew, save that he had a bullet through his shoulder at Culloden; but he is tight enough again now.”

“And what have you been doing ever since?”

“Curing his shoulder and fishing;” Malcolm briefly related their adventures since Culloden.

“And is he with you here in Glasgow, Malcolm? Surely you are not mad enough to bring him here, where he is known to scores of people as one of the rebel officers!”

“He is here, sure enough,” Malcolm said, “and safer than he has been for some time. It is nearly two months since Culloden, and people are beginning to think of other things, except in the Highlands, where those fiends Cumberland and Hawley are burning and slaying. Ronald is dressed like a drover, and no one is likely to recognize him. However, he will remain within doors. And now, brother, I want you to take us a passage in the next vessel sailing for London. If I go to a shipper he may ask questions, and like enough it may be necessary to get passes signed before we can go on board.”

“Certainly it is,” Andrew said. “A strict lookout is kept to prevent the rebel leaders from escaping, and no captain of a ship is permitted to take a passenger unless he is provided with a pass, signed by a magistrate, saying that he is a peaceable and well known person.”

“But just at present we are both peaceable persons, Andrew, and we can certainly claim to be well known citizens.”

“It is no joking matter, Malcolm, I can tell you,” Andrew said irritably;

“but of course I will see what I can do. And now I will put on my bonnet and come with you and have a chat with Ronald. It will not do to bring him here tonight, but we must arrange for him to come and see Janet before he sails. I shall not tell her anything about it till he is ready to start, for you know she is very particular, and I am afraid I shall have to say what is not quite true to get the order. I can sign it myself, but it must have the signature of the provost too.”

So saying he took his cap and accompanied Malcolm to the lodging.

“Stay here a moment, Andrew,” Malcolm said when he arrived within a few yards of the little inn. “I will see that there is no one drinking within. It wouldna look well to see a decent bailie of the city going into a liquor shop after dark. It will be best for me to fetch him out here, for I doubt there’s any room where you could talk without fear of being overheard.”

Ronald, who was sitting with his cap pulled down over his eyes as if asleep, in a corner of the room, where three or four drovers were smoking and talking, was called out by Malcolm.

“I am right glad to see you again,” Andrew Anderson said heartily. “Janet and I have passed an ill time since the battle was fought. Elspeth has kept up our hopes all along. She said she was sure that you were alive, quite downright sure; and though neither Janet nor I have much faith in superstitions, the old woman’s assertions that she should assuredly know it if you were dead did somehow keep up our spirits. Besides, I had faith in Malcolm’s knowledge of the country, and knew you were both famous for getting into scrapes and out of them, so I thought that if neither bullet nor sabre had stretched you on the moor of Culloden you would manage to win your way out of the trouble somehow. However, I think you are pretty safe here. The bloody doings of Cumberland have shocked every Scotchman, and even those who were strongest against the Stuarts now cry shame, and so strong is the feeling that were the prince to appear now with a handful of followers I believe the whole country would rise in his favour. So deep is the wrath and grief at the red slaughter among the Highlands there would not be many Scotchmen found who would betray a fellow Scot into the hands of these butchers. I will make inquiry tomorrow as to what ships are sailing, and will get you a passage in the first. There may be some difficulty about the permit; but if I can’t get over it we must smuggle you on board as sailors. However, I don’t think the provost will ask me any questions when I lay the permit before him for his signature. He is heart and soul for the king, but, like us all, he is sick at heart at the news from the North, and would, I think, shut an eye if he saw a Jacobite making his escape. And now, lad, I must be going back, for the hour is getting late and Janet does not know why I am away. Come to us tomorrow evening as soon as the shop closes. Janet and Elspeth will be delighted to see you, and we will have a long talk over all that you have gone through.”

On the following evening Ronald and Malcolm presented themselves at Andrew’s and were received with delight by Elspeth and Mrs. Anderson. The latter had, while the rebellion appeared to have a chance of success, been its bitter opponent, and had spoken often and wrathfully against her husband’s brother and Ronald embarking in such an enterprise; but with its overthrow all her enmity had expired, and she would have been ready to give assistance not only to them, but to any other fugitive trying to escape.

“I have good news for you,” Andrew said, when the first greetings were over. “A vessel sails in the morning, and I have taken passages for you in it; and what is more, have brought your permits. I went to the provost and said to him, ‘Provost, I want you to sign these permits for two friends of mine who are wanting to go up to London.’

“‘Who are they?’ said he.

“‘They are just two drover bodies,’ I said. He looked at me hard.

“‘One question, Andrew. I know how you feel just at present. You are a loyal man like myself, but we all feel the same. I will sign your permit for any save one. Give me your word that neither of these men is Charles Stuart. I care not who they may be beside, but as a loyal subject of King George I cannot aid his arch enemy to escape.’

“‘I give you my word, provost,’ I said. ‘One is –‘

“‘I don’t want to know who they are,’ he interrupted. ‘I had rather not know. It is enough for me that you give me your word that neither of them is Charles Stuart,’ and he took the pen and signed the permit. ‘Between ourselves,’ he went on, ‘I shall be glad to hear that the misguided young man is safe across the water, but as Provost of Glasgow I could lend him no help to go.’

“‘They say he has got safe away already,’ I said.

“‘I think not, Andrew; the coast has been too closely watched for that.

The young man is hiding somewhere among the isles, among the Clanranalds or Macdonalds. I fear they will have him yet. I dread every day to get the news; but I hope beyond all things, that if they do lay hands on him it will be through the treachery of no Scot.’

“‘I hope not, provost,’ I said. ‘They haven’t got over throwing it in our teeth that we sold King Charles to Cromwell.’ So we just shook hands and said goodbye, and here is the permit.”

They spent a long evening talking over the past.

“I wonder if I shall ever see you again, Ronald!” Mrs. Anderson said, with tears in her eyes, as they rose to say goodbye.

“You need nor fear about that, Janet, woman,” her husband said. “Ronald and Malcolm aye fall on their legs, and we shall see them back again like two bad pennies. Besides,” he went on more seriously, “there will be an end of these savage doings in the north before long. Loyal men in Scotland are crying out everywhere against them, and the feeling in England will be just as strong when the truth is known there, and you will see that before long there will be a general pardon granted to all except the leaders. Fortunately Ronald and Malcolm are not likely to be in the list of exceptions, and before a year is up they will be able to come back if they will without fear of being tapped on the shoulder by a king’s officer.”

“I shall come back again if I can, you may be sure,” Ronald said. “Of course I do not know yet what my father and mother’s plans may be; but for myself I shall always look upon Scotland as my home, and come back to it as soon as I have an opportunity.”

“You do not intend to stay in the French army?”

“Certainly not. After the treatment my father has received I have no inclination to serve France. The chief reason why Scotchmen have entered her service has been that they were driven from home, and that they looked to France for aid to place the Stuarts on the throne again. Now that the time has come, France has done nothing to aid, and has seen the Stuart cause go down without striking a blow to assist it. I consider that cause is lost for ever, and shall never again draw my sword against the House of Hanover. Nor have I had any reason for loving France. After living in a free country like Scotland, who could wish to live in a country where one man’s will is all powerful — where the people are still no better than serfs — where the nobles treat the law as made only for them — where, as in my father’s case, a man may not even marry according to his own will without incurring the risk of a life’s imprisonment? No, I have had enough of France; and if ever I get the opportunity I shall return to Scotland to live.”

The next morning early Ronald and Malcolm embarked on board a ship. Their permits were closely scrutinized before the vessel started, and a thorough search was made before she was allowed to sail. When the officers were satisfied that no fugitives were concealed on board they returned to shore, and the vessel started on her voyage for London.

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