Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden

CHAPTER II: The Jacobite Agent.

So twelve years passed. Ronald Leslie grew up a sturdy lad, full of fun and mischief in spite of the sober atmosphere of the bailie’s house; and neither flogging at school nor lecturing at home appeared to have the slightest effect in reducing him to that state of sober tranquillity which was in Mrs. Anderson’s eyes the thing to be most desired in boys.

Andrew was less deeply shocked than his wife at the discovery of Ronald’s various delinquencies, but his sense of order and punctuality was constantly outraged. He was, however, really fond of the lad; and even Mrs. Anderson, greatly as the boy’s ways constantly disturbed and ruffled her, was at heart as fond of him as was her husband. She considered, and not altogether wrongly, that his wilderness, as she called it, was in no slight degree due to his association with her husband’s brother.

Ronald looked forward to the periodical visits of the drover with intense longing. He was sure of a sympathetic listener in Malcolm, who listened with approval to the tales of the various scrapes into which he had got since his last visit; of how, instead of going to school, he had played truant and with another boy his own age had embarked in a fisherman’s boat and gone down the river and had not been able to get back until next day; how he had played tricks upon his dominie, and had conquered in single combat the son of Councillor Duff, the butcher, who had spoken scoffing words at the Stuarts. Malcolm was, in fact, delighted to find, that in spite of repression and lectures his young charge was growing up a lad of spirit. He still hoped that some day Leslie might return, and he knew how horrified he would be were he to find that his son was becoming a smug and well conducted citizen. No small portion of his time on each of his visits to Glasgow Malcolm spent in training the boy in the use of arms.

“Your father was a gentleman,” he would say to him, “and it is fitting that you should know how to handle a gentleman’s arms. Clubs are well enough for citizens’ apprentices, but I would have you handle rapier and broadsword as well as any of the young lairds. When you get old enough, Ronald, you and I will cross the seas, and together we will try and get to the bottom of the mystery of your father’s fate, and if we find that the worst has come to the worst, we will seek our your mother. She will most likely have married again. They will be sure to have forced her into it; but even if she dare not acknowledge you as her son, her influence may obtain for you a commission in one of the king’s regiments, and even if they think I’m too old for a trooper I will go as your follower. There are plenty of occasions at the court of France when a sharp sword and a stout arm, even if it be somewhat stiffened by age, can do good service.”

The lessons began as soon as Ronald was old enough to hold a light blade, and as between the pauses of exercise Malcolm was always ready to tell stories of his adventures in the wars of France, the days were full of delight to Ronald. When the latter reached the age of fourteen Malcolm was not satisfied with the amount of proficiency which the lad was able to gain during his occasional visits, and therefore took him for further instruction to a comrade who had, like himself, served in France, and had returned and settled down in Glasgow, where he opened a fencing school, having been a maitre d’armes among the Scotch regiments.

The arrangement was, however, kept a profound secret from Andrew and his wife; but on half holidays, and on any other days when he could manage to slip away for an hour, Ronald went to his instructor and worked hard and steadily with the rapier. Had Mrs. Anderson had an idea of the manner in which he spent his time she would have been horrified, and would certainly have spared her encomiums on his improved conduct and the absence of the unsatisfactory reports which had before been so common.

The cloud of uncertainty which hung over his father’s fate could not but have an influence upon the boy’s character, and the happy carelessness and gaiety which were its natural characteristics were modified by the thought that his father might be languishing in a dungeon. Sometimes he would refuse to accompany his school fellows on their rambles or fishing expeditions, and would sit for hours thinking over all sorts of wild plans by which he might penetrate to him and aid him to escape. He was never tired of questioning Malcolm Anderson as to the prisons in which, if still alive, his father would be likely to be confined. He would ask as to their appearance, the height of their walls, whether they were moated or not, and whether other houses abutted closely upon them. One day Malcolm asked him the reason of these questions, and he replied, “Of course I want to see how it will be possible to get my father out.” And although Malcolm tried to impress upon him that it would be an almost impossible task even to discover in which prison his father was kept, he would not allow himself to be discouraged.

“There must be some way of finding out, Malcolm. You tell me that prisoners are not even known by their name to the warders, but only under a number. Still someone must know — there must be lists kept of those in prison, and I shall trust to my mother to find out for me. A great lady as she is must be able to get at people if she sets about it, and as certainly she must have loved my father very very much, or she never would have married him secretly, and got into such trouble for it. I am sure she will do her best when she finds that you and I have come over to get him out. When we know that, I think we ought to be able to manage.

You could get employment as a warder, or I could go disguised as a woman, or as a priest, or somehow. I feel sure we shall succeed if we do but find out that he is alive and where he is.”

Malcolm knew too much about the strong and well guarded prisons of France to share in the boy’s sanguine hopes, but he did not try to discourage him. He thought that with such an object in life before him the boy would devote himself all the more eagerly to exercises which would strengthen his arm, increase his skill with weapons, and render him a brave and gallant officer, and in this he was right. As the time went on Ronald became more and more serious. He took no part whatever in the school boy games and frolics in which he had been once a leader. He worked hard at his school tasks the sooner to be done with them, and above all devoted himself to acquiring a mastery of the sword with a perseverance and enthusiasm which quite surprised his instructor.

“I tell you, Malcolm, man,” he said one day to his old comrade, after Ronald had been for upwards of two years his pupil, “if I had known, when you first asked me to teach the lad to handle a sword, how much of my time he was going to occupy, I should have laughed in your face, for ten times the sum you agreed to pay me would not have been enough; but, having begun it for your sake, I have gone on for the lad’s. It has been a pleasure to teach him, so eager was he to learn — so ready to work heart and soul to improve. The boy’s wrist is as strong as mine and his eye as quick. I have long since taught him all I know, and it is practice now, and not teaching, that we have every day. I tell you I have work to hold my own with him; he knows every trick and turn as well as I do, and is quicker with his lunge and riposte. Were it not that I have my extra length of arm in my favour I could not hold my own. As you know, I have many of the officers of the garrison among my pupils, and some of them have learned in good schools, but there is not one of them could defend himself for a minute against that boy. If it were not that the matter has to be kept secret I would set him in front of some of them, and you would see what short work he would make of them. Have you heard the rumours, Malcolm, that the young Chevalier is likely to follow the example of his father, thirty years back, and to make a landing in Scotland?”

“I have heard some such rumours,” Malcolm replied, “though whether there be aught in them I know not. I hope that if he does so he will at any rate follow the example of his father no further. As you know, I hold to the Stuarts, but I must own they are but poor hands at fighting. Charles the First ruined his cause; James the Second threw away the crown of Ireland by galloping away from the battle of the Boyne; the Chevalier showed here in `15 that he was no leader of men; and unless this lad is made of very different stuff to his forefathers he had best stay in France.”

“But if he should come, Malcolm, I suppose you will join him? I am afraid I shall be fool enough to do so, even with my fifty years on my head. And you?”

“I suppose I shall be a fool too,” Malcolm said. “The Stuarts are Scotch, you see, and with all their faults I would rather a thousand times have a Scottish king than these Germans who govern us from London. If the English like them let them keep them, and let us have a king of our own.

However, nought may come of it; it may be but a rumour. It is a card which Louis has threatened to play a score of times, whenever he wishes to annoy England. It is more than likely that it will come to nought, as it has so often done before.”

“But they tell me that there are agents travelling about among the Highland clans, and that this time something is really to be done.”

“They have said so over and over again, and nothing has come of it. For my part, I don’t care which way it goes. After the muddle that was made of it thirty years ago it does not seem to me more likely that we shall get rid of the Hanoverians now. Besides, the hangings and slaughterings then, would, I should think, make the nobles and the heads of clans think twice ere they risked everything again.”

“That is true, but when men’s blood is up they do not count the cost; besides, the Highland clans are always ready to fight. If Prince Charles comes you will see there will not be much hanging back whatever the consequences may be. Well, you and I have not much to lose, except our lives.”

“That is true enough, old friend; and I would rather die that way than any other. Still, to tell you the truth, I would rather keep my head on my shoulders for a few years if I can.”

“Well, nothing may come of it; but if it does I shall strike a blow again for the old cause.”

At home Ronald heard nothing but expressions of loyalty to the crown. The mere fact that the Highlanders espoused the cause of the Stuarts was sufficient in itself to make the Lowlanders take the opposite side. The religious feeling, which had always counted for so much in the Lowlands, and had caused Scotland to side with the Parliament against King Charles, had not lost its force. The leanings of the Stuarts were, it was known, still strongly in favour of the Catholic religion, and although Prince Charles Edward was reported to be more Protestant in feelings than the rest of his race, this was not sufficient to counterbalance the effect of the hereditary Catholic tendency. Otherwise there was no feeling of active loyalty towards the reigning king in Scotland. The first and second Georges had none of the attributes which attract loyal affection.

The first could with difficulty speak the language of the people over whom he ruled. Their feelings and sympathies were Hanoverian rather than English, and all court favours were bestowed as fast as possible upon their countrymen. They had neither the bearing nor manner which men associate with royalty, nor the graces and power of attraction which distinguished the Stuarts. Commonplace and homely in manner, in figure, and in bearing, they were not men whom their fellows could look up to or respect; their very vices were coarse, and the Hanoverian men and women they gathered round them were hated by the English people.

Thus neither in England nor Scotland was there any warm feeling of loyalty for the reigning house; and though it was possible that but few would adventure life and property in the cause of the Stuarts, it was equally certain that outside the army there were still fewer who would draw sword for the Hanoverian king. Among the people of the Lowland cities of Scotland the loyalty which existed was religious rather than civil, and rested upon the fact that their forefathers had fought against the Stuarts, while the Highlanders had always supported their cause.

Thus, although in the household and in kirk Ronald had heard King George prayed for regularly, he had heard no word concerning him calculated to waken a boyish feeling of loyalty, still less of enthusiasm. Upon the other hand he knew that his father had fought and suffered for the Stuarts and was an exile in their cause, and that Hanoverians had handed over the estate of which he himself would now be the heir to one of their adherents.

“It is no use talking of these matters to Andrew,” Malcolm impressed upon him; “it would do no good. When he was a young man he took the side of the Hanoverians, and he won’t change now; while, did Mistress Janet guess that your heart was with the Stuarts, she would say that I was ruining you, and should bring you to a gallows. She is not fond of me now, though she does her best to be civil to her husband’s brother; but did she know that you had become a Jacobite, like enough she would move Andrew to put a stop to your being with me, and there would be all sorts of trouble.”

“But they could nor prevent my being with you,” Ronald said indignantly.

“My father gave me into your charge, not into theirs.”

“That’s true enough, laddie; but it is they who have cared for you and brought you up. When you are a man you can no doubt go which way it pleases you; but till then you owe your duty and respect to them, and not to me, who have done nought for you but just carry you over here in my cloak.”

“I know they have done everything for me,” Ronald said penitently. “They have been very good and kind, and I love them both; but for all that it is only natural that my father should be first, and that my heart should be in the cause that he fought for.”

“That is right enough, Ronald, and I would not have it otherwise, and I have striven to do my best to make you as he would like to see you. Did he never come back again I should be sorry indeed to see Colonel Leslie’s son growing up a Glasgow tradesman, as my brother no doubt intends you to be, for I know he has long since given up any thought of hearing from your father; but in that you and I will have a say when the time comes.

Until then you must treat Andrew as your natural guardian, and there is no need to anger him by letting him know that your heart is with the king over the water, any more than that you can wield a sword like a gentleman. Let us have peace as long as we can. You are getting on for sixteen now; another two years and we will think about going to Paris together. I am off again tomorrow, Ronald; it will not be a long trip this time, but maybe before I get back we shall have news from France which will set the land on fire.”

A short time after this conversation, as Ronald on his return from college (for he was now entered at the university) passed through the shop, the bailie was in conversation with one of the city magistrates, and Ronald caught the words:

“He is somewhere in the city. He came down from the Highlands, where he has been going to and fro, two days since. I have a warrant out against him, and the constables are on the lookout. I hope to have him in jail before tonight. These pestilent rogues are a curse to the land, though I cannot think the clans would be fools enough to rise again, even though Charles Stuart did come.”

Ronald went straight up to his room, and for a few minutes sat in thought. The man of whom they spoke was doubtless an emissary of Prince Charles, and his arrest might have serious consequences, perhaps bring ruin on all with whom he had been in communication. Who he was or what he was like Ronald knew not; but he determined at any rate to endeavour to defeat the intentions of the magistrate to lay hands on him. Accordingly a few minutes later, while the magistrate was still talking with Andrew, he again went out.

Ronald waited about outside the door till he left, and then followed him at a short distance. The magistrate spoke to several acquaintances on the way, and then went to the council chamber. Waiting outside, Ronald saw two or three of the magistrates enter. An hour later the magistrate he was watching came out; but he had gone but a few paces when a man hurrying up approached him. They talked earnestly for a minute or two.

The magistrate then re-entered the building, remained there a few minutes, and then joined the man who was waiting outside. Ronald had stolen up and taken his stand close by.

“It is all arranged,” the magistrate said; “as soon as night has fallen a party will go down, surround the house, and arrest him. It is better not to do it in daylight. I shall lead the party, which will come round to my house, so if the men you have left on watch bring you news that he has changed his hiding place, let me know at once.

The magistrate walked on. Ronald stood irresolute. He had obtained no clue as to the residence of the person of whom they were in search, and after a moment’s thought he determined to keep an eye upon the constable, who would most likely join his comrade on the watch. This, however, he did not do immediately. He had probably been for some time at work, and now took the opportunity of going home for a meal, for he at once made his way to a quiet part of the city, and entered a small house.

It was half an hour before he came out again, and Ronald fidgeted with impatience, for it was already growing dusk. When he issued out Ronald saw that he was armed with a heavy cudgel. He walked quickly now, and Ronald, following at a distance, passed nearly across the town, and down a quiet street which terminated against the old wall running from the Castle Port to a small tower. When he got near the bottom of the street a man came out from an archway, and the two spoke together. From their gestures Ronald felt sure that it was the last house on the left hand side of the street that was being watched. He had not ventured to follow far down the street, for as there was no thoroughfare he would at once be regarded with suspicion. The question now was how to warn the man of his danger. He knew several men were on the watch, and as only one was in the street, doubtless the others were behind the house. If anything was to be done there was no time to be lost, for the darkness was fast closing in.

After a minute’s thought he went quickly up the street, and then started at a run, and then came down upon a place where he could ascend the wall, which was at many points in bad repair. With some difficulty he climbed up, and found that he was exactly opposite the house he wished to reach.

It was dark now. Even in the principal streets the town was only lit by oil lamps here and there, and there was no attempt at illumination in the quiet quarters, persons who went abroad after nightfall always carrying a lantern with them. There was still sufficient light to show Ronald that the house stood at a distance of some fourteen feet from the wall. The roof sloped too steeply for him to maintain his holding upon it; but halfway along the house was a dormer window about three feet above the gutter. It was unglazed, and doubtless gave light to a granary or store room.

Ronald saw that his only chance was to alight on the roof close enough to this window to be able to grasp the woodwork. At any other moment he would have hesitated before attempting such a leap. The wall was only a few feet wide, and he could therefore get but little run for a spring.

His blood was, however, up, and having taken his resolution he did not hesitate. Drawing back as far as he could he took three steps, and then sprang for the window. Its sill was some three feet higher than the edge of the wall from which he sprang.

The leap was successful; his feet struck just upon the gutter, and the impetus threw forward his body, and his hands grasped the woodwork of the window. In a moment he had dragged himself inside. It was quite dark within the room. He moved carefully, for the floor was piled with disused furniture, boxes, sacking, and rubbish. He was some time finding the door, but although he moved as carefully as he could he knocked over a heavy chest which was placed on a rickety chair, the two falling with a crash on the floor. At last he found the door and opened it. As he did so a light met his eyes, and he saw ascending the staircase a man with a drawn sword, and a woman holding a light above her head following closely. The man uttered an exclamation on seeing Ronald appear.

“A thief!” he said. “Surrender, or I will run you through at once.”

“I am no thief,” Ronald replied. “My name is Ronald Leslie, and I am a student at the university. I have come here to warn someone, whom I know not, in this house that it is watched, and that in a few minutes at the outside a band of the city watch will be here to capture him.”

The man dropped the point of his sword, and taking the light from the woman held it closer to Ronald’s face.

“How came you here?” he asked. “How did you learn this news?”

“The house is watched both sides below,” Ronald said, “and I leapt from the wall through the dormer window. I heard a magistrate arranging with one of the constables for a capture, and gathered that he of whom they were in search was a Jacobite, and as I come of a stock which has always been faithful to the Stuarts, I hastened to warn him.”

The woman uttered a cry of alarm.

“I thank you with all my heart, young sir. I am he for whom they are in search, and if I get free you will render a service indeed to our cause; but there is no time to talk now, if what you tell me be true. You say the house is watched from both sides?”

“Yes; there are two men in the lane below, one or more, I know not how many, behind.”

“There is no escape behind,” the man said; “the walls are high, and other houses abut upon them. I will sally out and fight through the men in front.”

“I can handle the sword,” Ronald put in; “and if you will provide me with a weapon I will do my best by your side.”

“You are a brave lad,” the man said, “and I accept your aid.”

He led the way down stairs and entered a room, took down a sword from over the fireplace, and gave it to Ronald.

As he took it in his hand there was a loud knocking at the door.

“Too late!” the man exclaimed. “Quick, the light, Mary! At any rate I must burn my papers.”

He drew some letters from his pocket, lit them at the lamp, and threw them on the hearth; then opening a cabinet he drew forth a number of other papers and crumpling them up added them to the blaze.

“Thank God that is safe!” he said; “the worst evil is averted.”

“Can you not escape by the way by which I came hither?” Ronald said. “The distance is too great to leap; but if you have got a plank, or can pull up a board from the floor, you could put it across to the wall and make your escape that way. I will try to hold the stairs till you are away.”

“I will try at least,” the man said. “Mary, bring the light, and aid me while our brave friend does his best to give us time.”

So saying he sprang upstairs, while Ronald made his way down to the door.

“Who is making such a noise at the door of a quiet house at this time of night?” he shouted.

“Open in the king’s name,” was the reply; “we have a warrant to arrest one who is concealed here.”

“There is no one concealed here,” Ronald replied, “and I doubt that you are, as you say, officers of the peace; but if so, pass your warrant through the grill, and if it be signed and in due form I will open to you.”

“I will show my warrant when need be,” the voice answered. “Once more, open the door or we will break it in.”

“Do it at your peril,” Ronald replied. “How can I tell you are not thieves who seek to ransack the house, and that your warrant is a pretence? I warn you that the first who enters I will run him through the body.”

The reply was a shower of blows on the door, and a similar attack was begun by a party behind the house. The door was strong, and after a minute or two the hammering ceased, and then there was a creaking, straining noise, and Ronald knew they were applying a crowbar to force it open. He retreated to a landing halfway up the stairs, placed a lamp behind him so that it would show its light full on the faces of those ascending the stairs, and waited. A minute later there was a crash; the lock had yielded, but the bar still held the door in its place. Then the blows redoubled, mingled with the crashing of wood; then there was the sound of a heavy fall, and a body of men burst in.

There was a rush at the stairs, but the foremost halted at the sight of Ronald with his drawn sword.

“Keep back,” he shouted, “or beware! The watch will be here in a few minutes, and then you will all be laid by the heels.”

“Fools! We are the watch,” one of the men exclaimed, and, dashing up the stairs, aimed a blow at Ronald. He guarded it and ran the man through the shoulder. He dropped his sword and fell back with a curse.

At this moment the woman ran down stairs from above and nodded to Ronald to signify that the fugitive had escaped.

“You see I hold to my word,” Ronald said in a loud voice. “If ye be the watch, which I doubt, show me the warrant, or if ye have one in authority with you let him proclaim himself.”

“Here is the warrant, and here am I, James M’Whirtle, a magistrate of this city.”

“Why did you not say so before?” Ronald exclaimed, lowering his sword.

“If it be truly the worshipful Mr. M’Whirtle let him show himself, for surely I know him well, having seen him often in the house of my guardian, Bailie Anderson.”

Mr. M’Whirtle, who had been keeping well in the rear, now came forward.

“It is himself.” Ronald said. “Why did you not say you were here at once, Mr. M’Whirtle, instead of setting your men to break down the door, as if they were Highland caterans on a foray?”

“We bade you open in the king’s name,” the magistrate said, “and you withstood us, and it will be hanging matter for you, for you have aided the king’s enemies.”

“The king’s enemies!” Ronald said in a tone of surprise. “How can there be any enemies of the king here, seeing there are only myself and the good woman up stairs? You will find no others.”

“Search the house,” the magistrate said furiously, “and take this malapert lad into custody on the charge of assisting the king’s enemies, of impeding the course of justice, of withstanding by force of arms the issue of a lawful writ, and with grievously wounding one of the city watch.”

Ronald laughed.

“It is a grievous list, worshipful sir; but mark you, as soon as you showed your warrant and declared yourself I gave way to you. I only resisted so long as it seemed to me you were evildoers breaking into a peaceful house.”

Two of the watch remained as guard over Ronald; one of the others searched the house from top to bottom. No signs of the fugitive were discovered.

“He must be here somewhere,” the magistrate said, “since he was seen to enter, and the house has been closely watched ever since. See, there are a pile of ashes on the hearth as if papers had been recently burned.

Sound the floors and the walls.”

The investigation was particularly sharp in the attic, for a board was here found to be loose, and there were signs of its being recently wrenched out of its place, but as the room below was unceiled this discovery led to nothing. At last the magistrate was convinced that the fugitive was not concealed in the house, and, after placing his seals on the doors of all the rooms and leaving four men in charge, he left the place, Ronald, under the charge of four men, accompanying him.

On the arrival at the city Tolbooth Ronald was thrust into a cell and there left until morning. He was then brought before Mr. M’Whirtle and two other of the city magistrates. Andrew Anderson was in attendance, having been notified the night before of what had befallen Ronald. The bailie and his wife had at first been unable to credit the news, and were convinced that some mistake had been made. Andrew had tried to obtain his release on his promise to bring him up in the morning, but Mr. M’Whirtle and his colleagues, who had been hastily summoned together, would not hear of it.

“It’s a case of treason, man. Treason against his gracious majesty; aiding and abetting one of the king’s enemies, to say nought of brawling and assaulting the city watch.”

The woman found in the house had also been brought up, but no precise charge was made against her. The court was crowded, for Andrew, in his wrath at being unable to obtain Ronald’s release, had not been backward in publishing his grievance, and many of his neighbours were present to hear this strange charge against Ronald Leslie.

The wounded constable and another first gave their evidence.

“I myself can confirm what has been said,” Mr. M’Whirtle remarked,

“seeing that I was present with the watch to see the arrest of a person against whom a warrant had been issued.”

“Who is that person?” Ronald asked. “Seeing that I am charged with aiding and abetting his escape it seems to me that I have a right to know who he is.”

The magistrates looked astounded at the effrontery of the question, but after a moment’s consultation together Mr. M’Whirtle said that in the interest of justice it was unadvisable at the present moment to state the name of the person concerned.

“What have you to say, prisoner, to the charge made against you? In consideration of our good friend Bailie Anderson, known to be a worthy citizen and loyal subject of his majesty, we would be glad to hear what you have to say anent this charge.”

“I have nothing to say,” Ronald replied quietly. “Being in the house when it was attacked, with as much noise as if a band of Border ruffians were at the gate, I stood on the defence. I demanded to see what warrant they had for forcing an entry, and as they would show me none, I did my best to protect the house; but the moment Mr. M’Whirtle proclaimed who he was I lowered my sword and gave them passage.”

There was a smile in the court at the boy’s coolness.

“But how came ye there, young sir? How came ye to be in the house at all, if ye were there for a good motive?”

“That I decline to say,” Ronald answered. “It seems to me that any one may be in a house by the consent of its owners, without having to give his reasons therefor.”

“It will be the worse for you if you defy the court. I ask you again how came you there?”

“I have no objection to tell you how I came there,” Ronald said. “I was walking on the old wall, which, as you know, runs close by the house, when I saw an ill looking loon hiding himself as if watching the house, looking behind I saw another ruffianly looking man there.” Two gasps of indignation were heard from the porch at the back of the court. “Thinking that there was mischief on hand I leapt from the wall to the dormer window to warn the people of the house that there were ill doers who had designs upon the place, and then remained to see what came of it. That is the simple fact.”

There was an exclamation of incredulity from the magistrates.

“If you doubt me,” Ronald said, “you can send a man to the wall. I felt my feet loosen a tile and it slid down into the gutter.”

One of the magistrates gave an order, and two of the watch left the court.

“And who did you find in the house?”

“I found this good woman, and sorely frightened she was when I told her what kind of folk were lurking outside.”

“And was there anyone else there?”

“There was a man there,” Ronald said quietly, “and he seemed alarmed too.”

“What became of him?”

“I cannot say for certain,” Ronald replied; “but if you ask my opinion I should say, that having no stomach for meeting people outside, he just went out the way I came in, especially as I heard the worshipful magistrate say that a board in the attic had been lifted.”

The magistrates looked at each other in astonishment; the mode of escape had not occurred to any, and the disappearance of the fugitive was now explained.

“I never heard such a tale,” one of the magistrates said after a pause.

“It passes belief that a lad, belonging to the family of a worthy and respectable citizen, a bailie of the city and one who stands well with his fellow townsmen, should take a desperate leap from the wall through a window of a house where a traitor was in hiding, warn him that the house was watched, and give him time to escape while he defended the stairs.

Such a tale, sure, was never told in a court. What say you, bailie?”

“I can say nought,” Andrew said. “The boy is a good boy and a quiet one; given to mischief like other boys of his age, doubtless, but always amenable. What can have possessed him to behave in such a wild manner I cannot conceive, but it seems to me that it was but a boy’s freak.”

“It was no freak when he ran his sword through Peter Muir’s shoulder,”

Mr. M’Whirtle said. “Ye will allow that, neighbour Anderson.”

“The man must have run against the sword,” the bailie said, “seeing the boy scarce knows one end of a weapon from another.”

“You are wrong there, bailie,” one of the constables said; “for I have seen him many a time going into the school of James Macklewain, and I have heard a comrade say, who knows James, that the lad can handle a sword with the best of them.”

“I will admit at once,” Ronald said, “that I have gone to Macklewain’s school and learned fencing of him. My father, Colonel Leslie of Glenlyon, was a gentleman, and it was right that I should wield a sword, and James Macklewain, who had fought in the French wars and knew my father, was good enough to teach me. I may say that my guardian knew nothing of this.”

“No, indeed,” Andrew said. “I never so much as dreamt of it. If I had done so he and I would have talked together to a purpose.”

“Leslie of Glenlyon was concerned in the ’15, was he not?” Mr. M’Whirtle said; “and had to fly the country; and his son seems to be treading in his steps, bailie. I doubt ye have been nourishing a viper in your bosom.”

At this moment the two constables returned, and reported that certainly a tile was loose as the prisoner had described, and there were scratches as if of the feet of someone entering the window, but the leap was one that very few men would undertake.

“Your story is so far confirmed, prisoner; but it does not seem to us that even had you seen two men watching a house it would be reasonable that you would risk your neck in this way without cause. Clearly you have aided and abetted a traitor to escape justice, and you will be remanded.

I hope, before you are brought before us again, you will make up your mind to make a clean breast of it, and throw yourself on the king’s mercy.”

Ronald was accordingly led back to the cell, the bailie being too much overwhelmed with surprise at what he had heard to utter any remonstrance.

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