Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden

CHAPTER XX: Happy Days.

On arriving in London, after ten days’ voyage, Ronald and Malcolm obtained garments of the ordinary cut. The one attired himself as an English gentleman, the other in a garb suitable to a confidential attendant or steward, and after a stay of two or three days they made their way by coach down to Southampton.

Here they remained for a week, and then effected a bargain with the captain of a fishing lugger to set them on shore in France. As the two countries were at war this could only be done by landing them at night at some quiet spot on the French coast. The lugger cruised about a couple of days, and then, choosing a quiet night when there was a mist on the water, she ran in as closely as she dared, then the boat was lowered, and Malcolm and Ronald were rowed to shore and landed a few miles south of Boulogne.

When it was light they made their way to a village; here but few questions were asked them, for many refugees from Scotland and England were crossing to France. As they had been well provided with funds by Andrew they posted to Paris, and on arriving there put up at the inn where they had stopped on the occasion of their first visit.

“We must be careful,” Malcolm said, “how we stir out until we know how things stand. The first thing to do is to find out whether the regiment is still in Paris.”

This they were not long in doing, as their host was able to inform them at once that it had left the capital several months before, and on comparing dates they found that its departure had followed within a day or two that of their own flight from Paris.

“It was no doubt meant as a punishment,” Ronald said, “on Colonel Hume for acting as my second in that affair with the duke. I hope that no further ill befell him.”

His mind was set easy on this score by the news that Colonel Hume had accompanied his regiment. On asking after Marshal Saxe they learned that he was away on the frontier, where he had been carrying on the war with great success, Antwerp, Mons, Namur, and Charleroi all having been captured.

The king was in person with the army. This being the case Ronald saw that it was of no use remaining in Paris, as he was without friend or protector there, and he dared not rejoin his regiment until he learned whether the king’s anger was as hot as ever. He therefore started at once with Malcolm and travelled down to La Grenouille.

It was a joyful meeting between him and his parents, who were in the greatest anxiety respecting him, for although he had written several times, communication was uncertain owing to the war, the only chance of sending letters being by such French vessels as arrived at Scottish ports after running the gauntlet with English cruisers. Some of these had been captured on the way back, and only two of Ronald’s letters had arrived safely. The last of these had been written a few days after the battle of Falkirk, and Ronald had then stated that he no longer had any hope of the final success of the expedition. They had received the news of the defeat at Culloden, and had since passed nearly three months of painful suspense, relieved only by the arrival of Ronald himself. He found his mother looking well and happy; his father had somewhat recovered from his rheumatism, and looked a younger man by some years than when he saw him last.

“He will recover fast now,” the countess said; “but he has worried about you night and day, Ronald. I hope that you will stay with us for a time.

We have seen so little of you yet.”

Ronald learned that a few days after his flight an officer had appeared at the chateau with the royal order for his arrest, and it was from him that his parents had first learned the news of his duel with the Duke of Chateaurouge and its result.

“I could hardly believe my ears, Ronald,” his father said; “to think that my son, scarce a man yet, should have killed in fair fight one of the first duellists in France. It seemed almost incredible. Malcolm told me that you were a first rate swordsman, but this seemed extraordinary indeed. The officer remained here for three days, and then, convinced that you had not made in this direction, left us. A day or two afterwards we received the letter you wrote us from Nantes, saying that you were starting for Scotland with the prince. I grumbled sorely over my rheumatism, I can tell you, which prevented my drawing my sword once more for the Stuarts; but it was no use my thinking of it.”

“No, indeed,” the countess said; “and I can tell you, Ronald, that had he been ever so well I should not have let him go. After being separated from one’s husband for sixteen years one is not going to let him run off to figure as a knight errant at his pleasure.”

“Your friend Colonel Hume wrote to us,” the colonel said with a smile at his wife’s word, “giving us details of the duel, and speaking of your conduct in the highest terms. He said that at present the king was furious; but that he hoped in time he would get over it. Colonel Hume had seen Marshal Saxe, who had promised on the first opportunity to speak to the king, and to open his eyes to the character of his late favourite, and to tell him of the attempts which the duke had made to prevent the royal orders for our release being carried out, and to remove you by assassination. Two months ago he wrote again to us from Antwerp, which had just fallen, saying that Marshal Saxe had bid him tell us that the king was in a much more favourable disposition, and that he had taken the opportunity when his majesty was in a good humour to tell him the whole circumstances of your journey with the orders for our release, and that in consequence the king had made other inquiries respecting the late duke, and had acknowledged that he had been greatly deceived as to his character. At the same time, as your name had been by the king’s order removed from the list of officers of the Scottish Dragoons immediately after the duel, he recommended that should you return to France you should not put yourself in the king’s way or appear at all in public for the present.

“‘The marshal,’ Colonel Hume wrote, ‘has made your affair a personal matter, and he, as is his habit in war, will persevere until he succeeds.

His reputation and influence are higher than ever, and are daily rising; be assured that when the campaign is over, and he reaps all the honours to which he is entitled, he will push your claim as before.'”

In the first week in October the suspense from which they had suffered as to the fate of Prince Charles was relieved by the news that on the 29th of September he had safely landed at the little port of Roscoff near Morlaix. He made his way to Paris, and Ronald, accompanied by Malcolm, took horse at once and rode there to pay his respects to the prince, and congratulate him on his escape. The prince received him with great warmth and cordiality, and from his own lips Ronald learned the story of his adventures.

He had, eight days after Culloden, embarked for the cluster of islets to which the common name of Long Island is applied. After wandering from place to place and suffering greatly from hunger, he gained South Uist, where his wants were relieved by Clanranald. The English, suspecting or learning that he was there, landed two thousand men on the island, and commenced an active search for him. He must have been detected had not Flora Macdonald — stepdaughter of a captain in a militia regiment which formed part of the troops who had landed — upon being appealed to by Lady Clanranald, nobly undertaken to save him.

She obtained from her stepfather a passport to proceed to Skye with a manservant and a maid. Charles was dressed in female clothes, and passed as Betty Bourk, while a faithful Highlander, Neil M’Eachan, acted as her servant. They started at night in an open boat, and disembarked in Skye.

Skye was ever a hostile country, as its chief, Sir Alexander Macdonald, who had at first wavered, was now a warm supporter of the Hanoverians, and was with the Duke of Cumberland. Nevertheless Flora appealed to his wife, Lady Margaret, a daughter of the Earl of Eglinton, and informed her that her attendant was Prince Charles in disguise. Lady Margaret nobly responded to her appeal. Her own house was full of militia officers, and she intrusted Charles to the charge of Macdonald of Kingsburgh, her husband’s kinsman and factor, who took the party to his house.

The next day Charles took leave of Flora Macdonald with warm expressions of gratitude, and passed over to the Isle of Rasay, in the disguise of a male servant. Thence he made his way to the mainland, where on landing he was compelled to lie in concealment for two days cooped up within a line of sentries. After many dangers he took refuge in a mountain cave inhabited by seven robbers, who treated him with the greatest kindness, and supplied his wants for the three weeks he remained with them. After many other adventures he joined his faithful adherents Cluny and Locheil, who were in hiding in a retreat on the side of Mount Benalder, and here he lived in comparative comfort until he heard that two French vessels under the direction of Colonel Warren of Dillon’s regiment had anchored in Lochnanuagh.

Travelling by night he made his way to that place, and embarked on the 20th of September, attended by Locheil, Colonel Roy Stuart, and about a hundred other fugitives who had learned of the arrival of the French vessels. It was almost precisely the spot at which he had disembarked fourteen months before. A fog concealed the vessel as she passed through the British fleet lying to intercept her, and they reached Roscoff after a nine days’ voyage.

Such was the tale which Prince Charles told to Ronald. He had after Culloden entirely recovered his high spirits, and had borne all his fatigues and hardships with the greatest cheerfulness and good humour, making light of hunger, fatigue, and danger. Ronald only remained two days in Paris, and then returned home.

In October the campaign of Flanders ended with the complete defeat of Prince Charles of Lorraine at Rancaux, and Marshal Saxe returned to Paris, where he was received with enthusiasm by the population. The royal residence of Chambord was granted him for life, and he was proclaimed marshal general of the king’s armies. A fortnight later Colonel Leslie received a letter from him, saying that he had received his majesty’s command that he with the countess and his son should present themselves in Paris, and that he was happy to say that the king’s disposition was most favourable. They set off at once. On their arrival there they called upon Marshal Saxe, who greeted the colonel as an old friend, and refused to listen to the warm expression of gratitude of Leslie and the countess.

“Say nothing about it, madam,” he exclaimed. “Your son won my heart, and I was only too glad to be of service to him and my old comrade here. What is the use of a man winning victories if he cannot lend a helping hand to his friends!”

The next day they went down to Versailles, where Marshal Saxe presented them to the king in a private audience. Louis received them graciously.

“I fear, countess, that you and your husband have been treated with some harshness; but our royal ear was deceived by one in whom we had confidence. Your husband and yourself were wrong in marrying without the consent and against the will of your father, and such marriages cannot be permitted; but at the request of Marshal Saxe, who has done so much for France that I cannot refuse anything he asks, I have now consented to pardon and overlook the past, and have ordered my chancellor to prepare an order reinstating you in all the possessions and estates of the countess, your mother. I hope that I shall often see you together with your husband and son, both of whom have done good service as soldiers of France, at my court; and now that I see you,” he said with a gracious smile, “I cannot but feel how great a loss our court has suffered by your long absence from it.”

Upon leaving the king’s private chamber and entering the great audience hall Colonel Hume came up and grasped the hand of his old friend, and was introduced by him to his wife; while many of the courtiers, who were either connections or friends of the family of the countess, also gathered round them, for the news that she was restored to royal favour had spread quickly. The countess knew how small was the real value of such advances, but she felt that it was best for her husband and son’s sake to receive them amicably. For a few weeks they remained in Paris, taking part in the brilliant fetes which celebrated the success of the French arms, and they then retired to the handsome chateau which was now the property of the countess.

Here they lived quietly for two years, making occasional visits to Paris.

At the end of that time Ronald received a letter from Andrew Anderson, to whom he had written several times since his return to France. He told him that he had just heard that Glenlyon and the rest of the property which had been confiscated after the rising of 1715 was for sale. It had been bestowed upon a neighbouring chief, who had been active in the Hanoverian cause. He was now dead without leaving issue, and his wife, an English lady, was anxious to dispose of the property and return to England.

“I do not know whether your father is disposed to buy back his estates,”

Andrew wrote, “but I hear that a general amnesty will very shortly be issued to all who took part in the insurrection, saving only certain notorious persons. The public are sick of bloodshed. There have been upwards of eighty trials and executions, besides the hundreds who were slaughtered in the Highlands. Besides this, thousands have been transported. But public opinion is now so strong, and persons of all shades of politics are so disgusted with the brutal ferocity which has been shown, that it is certain government will ere long be compelled to pass an act of amnesty. In the meantime, if it should be your father’s wish to purchase the property, I can buy it in my name. The priced asked is very low. The income arising from it is stated to be about four hundred a year, and four thousand pounds will be accepted for it. I understand that as the late owner took no part in the insurrection, and joined the Duke of Cumberland when he came north, the property is in good condition and the clansmen have escaped the harrying which befell all those who sided with Charles Stuart.”

Ronald at once laid the letter before his father, who, after reading it through, passed it, without a word, to the countess.

“You would like to return to Scotland?” she asked quietly, when she read it. “Do not hesitate to tell me, dear, if you would. It is no matter to me whether we live there or here, so long as I have you and Ronald with me.”

Colonel Leslie was silent.

“For Ronald’s sake,” she went on, “perhaps it would be better so. You are both of opinion that the cause of the Stuarts is lost for ever, and he is determined that he will never again take part in any rising. He does not care again to enter the French army, nor, indeed, is there any reason why Scotchmen should do so, now that they no longer look for the aid of the King of France to set the Stuarts on the English throne. I myself have no ties here. My fifteen years of seclusion have separated me altogether from my family, and although they are willing enough to be civil now, I cannot forget that all those years they did nothing towards procuring our liberty. The king has so far given way that he has restored me my mother’s estates, but it was only because he could not refuse Marshal Saxe, and he does not like French lands to be held by strangers; therefore I feel sure, that were I to ask his permission to sell my estates and to retire with you to Scotland he would at once grant my request.”

“No, Amelie, it would not be fair to accept your generous offer.”

“But it would be no sacrifice,” she urged. “I have little reason to love France, and I can assure you I should be just as happy in your country as in my own.”

“But it would be exile,” the colonel said.

“No more exile than you and Ronald are suffering here. Besides, I suppose we should get as many comforts in Scotland as here in France. Of course our estates here will fetch a sum many times larger than that which would purchase Glenlyon, and we need not live all our time among the mountains you tell me of, but can go sometimes to Edinburgh or even to London. Even if you did not wish it, I should say it would be far better to do so for Ronald’s sake. You have lived so long in France that you may have become a Frenchman; but it is not so with Ronald.”

It was not until two or three days later that the discussion came to an end and the countess had her way. Colonel Leslie had resisted stoutly, but his heart beat at the thought of returning to the home of his youth and ending his days among the clansmen who had followed him and his fathers before him. Ronald had taken no part whatever in the debate, but his mother read in his eyes the delight which the thought of returning to Scotland occasioned him. As soon as this was settled they went to Paris, and as the countess had foreseen, the king was pleased at once to give his consent to her disposing of her lands on his approval of the purchaser.

No difficulty was experienced on this score, as a noble whose lands adjoined her own offered at once to purchase them. As soon as this was arranged instructions were sent to Andrew to purchase not only the Glenlyon property, but the other estates of its late owner.

In due time a letter was received from Andrew saying that he had arranged for the purchase of the whole for the sum of thirteen thousand pounds, and the money was at once sent over through a Dutch banking house. Very shortly afterwards, at the end of 1747, the act of general amnesty was passed, and as Ronald’s name was not among those excluded from its benefits they at once prepared to return to Scotland. The journey was facilitated by the fact that shortly after the passing of the act, peace was concluded between England and France.

Accompanied by Malcolm, Colonel Leslie, the countess, and Ronald sailed for Scotland. The colonel and his wife remained in Edinburgh while Ronald and Malcolm went to Glasgow, where Andrew had in readiness all the papers transferring the estates purchased in his name to Colonel Leslie, who shortly afterwards journeyed north with his wife and son and took possession of his ancestral home amid the enthusiastic delight of the clansmen, who had never ceased to regret the absence of him whom they considered as their rightful chief.

There is little more to tell. Colonel Leslie lived but a few years after returning home, and Ronald then succeeded him as Leslie of Glenlyon. He had before this married the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman, and passed his time between Glenlyon and Edinburgh, varied by an occasional visit to London.

The countess never regretted her native land, but, happy in the affection of her son and daughter in law and their children, lived happily with them until nearly the end of the century. Malcolm remained the faithful and trusty friend of the family; and his brother and his wife were occasionally persuaded to pay a visit to Glenlyon, where their kindness to Ronald as a child was never forgotten. Happily the rising of ’45 was the last effort on behalf of the Stuarts. Scotland accepted the decision as final, and the union between the two countries became close and complete. Henceforth Scotchmen went no longer to fight in the armies of France, but took service in that of their own country, and more than one of Ronald’s grandsons fought stoutly in Spain under Wellington.

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