Bonnie Prince Charlie; A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden


After Ronald had been removed from the court the woman was questioned.

She asserted that her master was away, and was, she believed, in France, and that in his absence she often let lodgings to strangers. That two days before, a man whom she knew not came and hired a room for a few days. That on the evening before, hearing a noise in the attic, she went up with him, and met Ronald coming down stairs. That when Ronald said there were strange men outside the house, and when immediately afterwards there was a great knocking at the door, the man drew his sword and ordered her to come up stairs with him. That he then made her assist him to pull up a plank, and thrust it from the attic to the wall, and ordered her to replace it when he had gone. She supposed he was a thief flying from justice, but was afraid to refuse to do his bidding.

“And why did you not tell us all this, woman, when we came in?” Mr.

M’Whirtle asked sternly. “Had ye told us we might have overtaken him.”

“I was too much frightened,” the woman answered. “There were swords out and blood running, and men using words contrary both to the law and Scripture. I was frighted enough before, and I just put my apron over my head and sat down till the hubbub was over. And then as no one asked me any questions, and I feared I might have done wrong in aiding a thief to escape, I just held my tongue.”

No cross questioning could elicit anything further from the woman, who indeed seemed frightened almost out of her senses, and the magistrate at last ordered her to return to the house and remain there under the supervision of the constable until again sent for.

Andrew Anderson returned home sorely disturbed in his mind. Hitherto he had told none, even of his intimates, that the boy living in his house was the son of Colonel Leslie, but had spoken of him as the child of an old acquaintance who had left him to his care. The open announcement of Ronald that he was the son of one of the leaders in the last rebellion, coming just as it did when the air was thick with rumours of another rising, troubled him greatly; and there was the fact that the boy had, unknown to him, been learning fencing; and lastly this interference, which had enabled a notorious emissary of the Pretender to escape arrest.

“The boy’s story may be true as far as it goes,” he said to his wife when relating to her the circumstances, “for I have never known him to tell a lie; but I cannot think it was all the truth. A boy does not take such a dreadful leap as that, and risk breaking his neck, simply because he sees two men near the house. He must somehow have known that man was there, and went to give him warning. Now I think of it, he passed through the shop when Peter M’Whirtle was talking to me about it, though, indeed, he did not know then where the loon was in hiding. The boy went out soon afterwards, and must somehow have learned, if indeed he did not know before. Janet, I fear that you and I have been like two blind owls with regard to the boy, and I dread sorely that my brother Malcolm is at the bottom of all this mischief.”

This Mrs. Anderson was ready enough to credit, but she was too much bewildered and horrified to do more than to shake her head and weep.

“Will they cut off his head, Andrew?” she asked at last.

“No, there’s no fear of that; but they may imprison him for a bit, and perhaps give him a good flogging — the young rascal. But there, don’t fret over it, Janet. I will do all I can for him. And in truth I think Malcolm is more to blame than he is; and we have been to blame too for letting the lad be so much with him, seeing that we might be sure he would put all sorts of notions in the boy’s head.”

“But what is to be done, Andrew? We cannot let the poor lad remain in prison.”

“We have no choice in the matter, Janet. In prison he is, and in prison he has to remain until he is let out, and I see no chance of that. If it had only been a brawl with the watch it could have been got over easily enough; but this is an affair of high treason — aiding and abetting the king’s enemies, and the rest of it. If it were in the old times they would put the thumb screws on him to find out all he knew about it, for they will never believe he risked his life in the plot; and the fact that his father before him was in arms for the Chevalier tells that way. I should not be surprised if an order comes for him to be sent to London to be examined by the king’s councillors; but I will go round now and ask the justices what they think of the matter.”

His tidings when he returned were not encouraging; the general opinion of the magistrates being that Ronald was certainly mixed up in the Jacobite plot, that the matter was altogether too serious to be disposed of by them, being of the nature of high treason, and that nothing could be done until instructions were received from London. No clue had been obtained as to the whereabouts of the man who had escaped, and it was thought probable that he had at once dropped beyond the walls and made for the west.

Malcolm arrived ten days later from a journey in Lancashire, and there was a serious quarrel between him and Andrew on his presenting himself at the house.

“It is not only that you led the lad into mischief, Malcolm, but that you taught him to do it behind my back.”

“You may look at it in that way if you will, Andrew, and it’s natural enough from your point of view; but I take no blame to myself You treated the boy as if he had been your son, and I thank you with all my heart for your kindness to him; but I could not forget Leslie of Glenlyon, and I do not blame myself that I have kept the same alive in his mind also. It was my duty to see that the young eagle was not turned into a barn door fowl; but I never thought he was going to use his beak and his claws so soon.”

“A nice thing you will have to tell his father, that owing to your teachings his son is a prisoner in the Tower, maybe for life. But there — there’s no fear of that. You will never have to render that account, for there’s no more chance of your ever hearing more of him than there is of my becoming king of Scotland. It’s bad enough that you have always been a ne’er do well yourself without training that unfortunate boy to his ruin.”

“Well, well, Andrew, I will not argue with you, and I don’t blame you at being sore and angry over the matter; nor do I deny what you have said about myself; it’s true enough, and you might say worse things against me without my quarreling with ye over it. However, the less said the better.

I will take myself off and think over what’s to be done.”

“You had better come up and have your supper with us,” Andrew said, mollified by his brother’s humility.

“Not for twenty golden guineas, Andrew, would I face Mistress Janet. She has borne with me well, though I know in her heart she disapproves of me altogether; but after this scrape into which I have got the boy I daren’t face her. She might not say much, but to eat with her eye upon me would choke me.”

Malcolm proceeded at once to the establishment of his friend Macklewain.

“This is a nice kettle of fish, Malcolm, about young Leslie. I have had the justices down here, asking me all sorts of questions, and they have got into their minds that I taught him not only swordplay but treason, and they have been threatening to put me in the stocks as a vagabond; but I snapped my fingers in their faces, saying I earned my money as honestly as they did, and that I concern myself in no way in politics, but teach English officers and the sons of Glasgow tradesmen as well as those of Highland gentlemen. They were nicely put out, I can tell you; but I didn’t care for that, for I knew I was in the right of it. But what on earth made the young cock meddle in this matter? How came he to be mixed up in a Jacobite plot? Have you got your finger in it?”

“Not I, James; and how it happens that he is concerned in it is more than I can guess. I know, of course, his heart is with the king over the water; but how he came to get his hand into the pie is altogether beyond me.”

“The people here are well nigh mad about it. I know not who the gallant who has escaped is; but it is certain that his capture was considered a very important one, and that the justices here expected to have gained no small credit by his arrest, whereas now they will be regarded as fools for letting him slip through their fingers.”

“I cannot for the life of me make out how he came to be mixed up in such a matter. No one but you and I could have known that he was a lad of mettle, who might be trusted in such a business. It can hardly be that they would have confided any secrets to him; still, the fact that he was in the house with the man they are in search of, and that he drew and risked his life and certain imprisonment to secure his escape, shows that he must have been heart and soul in the plot.”

“And what do you think of doing, Malcolm?”

“I shall get him out somehow. I can lay hands on a score or two or more of our old comrades here in Glasgow, and I doubt not that they will all strike a blow with me for Leslie’s son, to say nothing of his being a follower of the Stuarts.”

“You are not thinking, man, of attacking the jail! That would be a serious matter. The doors are strong, and you would have the soldiers, to say nought of the town guard and the citizens, upon you before you had reached him.”

“No, no, James, I am thinking of no such foolishness. I guess that they will not be trying him for withstanding the watch, that’s but a small matter; they will be sending him south for the king’s ministers to get out of him what he knows about the Jacobite plot and the names of all concerned, and it’s upon the road that we must get him out of their hands. Like enough they will only send four troopers with him, and we can easily master them somewhere in the dales.”

“It’s more like, Malcolm, they will send him by ship. They will know well enough that if the lad knows aught there will be plenty whose interest it is to get him out of their hands. I think they will take the safer way of putting him on board ship.”

“Like enough they will,” Malcolm agreed, “and in that case it will be a harder job than I deemed it. But at any rate I mean to try. Ronald’s not the lad to turn traitor; he will say nothing whatever they do to him, you may be sure, and he may lie for years in an English prison if we do not get him out of their hands before he gets there. At any rate what we have got to do now is to mark every ship in the port sailing for London, and to find out whether passages are taken for a prisoner and his guard in any of them. I will make that my business, and between times get a score of trusty fellows together in readiness to start if they should send him by land; but I doubt not that you are right, and that he will be taken off by ship.”

The days of waiting passed slowly to Ronald, and Andrew Anderson once or twice obtained permission to see him. The bailie wisely abstained from any reproaches, and sought only to persuade him to make a clean breast of the business, and to tell all he knew about a plot which could but end in failure and ruin to all concerned. Although his belief in Ronald’s truthfulness was great he could not credit that the story which he had told contained all the facts of the matter. To the bailie it seemed incredible that merely from an abstract feeling in favour of the Stuarts Ronald would have risked his life and liberty in aiding the escape of a Jacobite agent, unless he was in some way deeply involved in the plot; and he regarded Ronald’s assurances to the contrary as the outcome of what he considered an entirely mistaken sense of loyalty to the Stuart cause.

“It’s all very well, Ronald,” he said, shaking his head sadly; “but when they get you to London they will find means to make you open your mouth.

They have done away with the thumb screws and the rack, but there are other ways of making a prisoner speak, and it would be far better for you to make a clean breast of it at once. Janet is grieving for you as if you were her own son, and I cannot myself attend to my business. Who would have thought that so young a lad should have got himself mixed up in such sair trouble!”

“I have really told you all, bailie, though you will not believe me, and I am sorry indeed for the trouble I have brought upon you and my aunt” — for Ronald had from the first been taught to address the bailie and his wife as if Malcolm Anderson had been his real father; “anyhow I wish they would settle it. I would rather know the worst than go on from day to day expecting something that never happens.”

“You have to wait, Ronald, till word comes from London. If they write from there that your case can be dealt with merely for the assault upon the watch I can promise you that a few weeks in jail are all that you are like to have; but I fear that there is little chance of that. They are sure to send for you to London, and whether you will ever come back alive the gude Lord only knows. We know what came of treason thirty years ago, and like enough they will be even more severe now, seeing that they will hold that folks have all the less right to try and disturb matters so long settled.”

“Have you seen Malcolm?” Ronald asked, to change the conversation.

“Ay, lad, I have seen him, and the meeting was not altogether a pleasant one for either of us.”

“I hope you have not quarrelled with him on my account!” Ronald said eagerly.

“We have not exactly quarrelled, but we have had words. I could not but tell him my opinion as to his learning you to take such courses, but we parted friends; but I doubt it will be long before Janet can see him with patience.”

The jailer, who was present at the interview, here notified that the bailie’s time was up.

“I shall see you again, Ronald, before they take you south. I would that I could do more to help you besides just coming to see you.”

“I know you cannot, uncle. I have got into the scrape and must take the consequences; but if I were placed in the same position I should do it again.”

A few days afterwards, as he was eating his ration of prison bread, Ronald found in it a small pellet of paper, and on opening it read the words: “Keep up your courage, friends are at work for you. You will hear more yet of M. A.”

Ronald was glad to know that his old friend was thinking of him, but, knowing how strong was the prison, he had little hopes that Malcolm would be able to effect anything to help him. Still the note gave him comfort.

Three days later Andrew called again to bid him goodbye, telling him that orders had been received from London that he was to be sent thither by ship.

“I should like to have seen Malcolm before I went, if I could,” Ronald said.

“I have not seen him for several days,” the bailie said. “I have sent down several times to the house where he lodges, but he is always away; but, whether or no, there would be no chance of your seeing him. I myself had difficulty in getting leave to see you, though a bailie and known to be a loyal citizen. But Malcolm knows that there would be no chance of one with such a character as his getting to see you, and that it would draw attention to him even to ask such a thing, which, if he has a hand in this mad brain plot, he would not wish.”

“Malcolm would not mind a straw whether they kept a watch on him or not,”

Ronald said. “Will you tell him, when you see him next, that I got his message?”

“What message? I have given you no message that I know of.”

“He will know what I mean. Tell him, whether aught comes of it or not I thank him, and for all his kindness to me, as I do you and Aunt Janet.”

At the same time with the order that Ronald should be sent to London the authorities of Glasgow received an intimation that the ministers felt great surprise at the lukewarmness which had been shown in allowing so notorious and important an enemy of his majesty to escape, and that the king himself had expressed marked displeasure at the conduct of the city authorities in the matter. Greatly mortified at the upshot of an affair from which they had hoped to obtain much credit from government, and believing it certain that there were many greatly interested in getting Ronald out of the hands of his captors, the authorities took every precaution to prevent it. He was taken down to the river side under a strong escort, and in addition to the four warders who were to be in charge of the prisoner as far as London, they put on board twelve men of the city guard. These were to remain with the ship until she was well out at sea, and then to return in a boat which the vessel was to row behind her.

Ronald could not but smile when he saw all these formidable preparations for his safety. At the same time he felt that any hope he had entertained that Malcolm might, as the message hinted, make an attempt at rescue were blighted. The vessel dropped down with the tide. The orders of the justices had been so strict and urgent that the whole of the men placed on board kept a vigilant watch.

Just as they were abreast of Dumbarton the sound of oars was heard, and presently a boat was seen approaching. As it got nearer two men were seen to be rowing, and two others seated in the stern; but as the craft was a large one there was room for others to be lying in the bottom. The constable in charge shouted to the boat to keep them off.

“Stop rowing,” he cried, “and come no nearer. If you do we fire, and as I don’t want to shed your blood I warn you that I have sixteen armed men here.”

As his words were emphasized by the row of men, who with levelled muskets ranged themselves along at the side of the ship, the boat ceased rowing.

“What are you afraid of?” one of the men in the stern shouted. “Cannot a fisherman’s boat row out without being threatened with shooting? What are you and your sixteen armed men doing on board? Are you expecting a French fleet off the coast? And do you think you will beat them off if they board you? How long have the Glasgow traders taken to man their ships with fighting men?”

Ronald was in the cabin under the poop; it opened on to the waist, and received its light from an opening in the door, at which two armed men had stationed themselves when the boat was heard approaching. Had the cabin possessed a porthole through which he could have squeezed himself he would long before have jumped overboard and tried to make his escape by swimming under cover of the darkness. He now strove to force the door open, for he recognized Malcolm’s voice, and doubted not that his friend had spoken in order to let him know that he was there, that he might if possible leap over and swim to the boat; but it was fastened strongly without, and the guards outside shouted that they would fire unless he remained quiet.

No reply was made to the taunts of the man in the boat, and slowly, for the wind was but just filling her sails, the vessel dropped down the river, and the boat was presently lost sight of.

In the morning the breeze freshened. It was not till the ship was eight miles beyond the mouth of the river that the boat was pulled up alongside, and the guard, taking their places on board, hoisted sail and started on their return to Glasgow.

Once fairly at sea Ronald was allowed to leave his cabin. Now that he was enjoying the fresh air his spirits soon recovered the tone which they had lost somewhat during his three weeks’ confinement in prison, and he thoroughly enjoyed his voyage. The man who was in charge of the guard had at first wished to place some restriction on his going about on board as he chose; but the crew sided with the young prisoner, and threw such ridicule on the idea that four warders and a head constable were afraid, even for a moment, to lose sight of a boy on board a ship at sea, that he gave way, and allowed Ronald free liberty of action, although he warned his subordinates that they must nor relax their caution for a moment.

“The crew are all with him. They think it a shame that a lad like this should be hauled to London as a prisoner charged with treasonable practices; and sailors, when they once get an idea into their head, are as obstinate as Highland cattle. I have told them that he drew a sword and held the staircase against us all while a noted traitor made his escape, and that he ran one of us through the shoulder, and they only shouted with laughter, and said he was a brave young cock. Like as not, if they had a chance, these men would aid him to escape, and then we should have to answer for it, and heavily too; loss of place and imprisonment would be the least of what we might expect; so though, while at sea and in full daylight he can do as he pleases, we must be doubly vigilant at night, or in port if the vessel should have to put in.”

Accordingly, to the great disgust of the sailors the watch by turns stood sentry outside Ronald’s door at night, thereby defeating a plan which the sailors had formed of lowering a boat the first night they passed near land, and letting Ronald make his escape to shore.

The wind was favourable until the vessel rounded the Land’s End. After that it became baffling and fickle, and it was more than three weeks after the date of her sailing from Glasgow that the vessel entered the mouth of the Thames. By this time Ronald’s boyish spirits had allayed all suspicion on the part of his guards. He joked with the sailors, climbed about the rigging like a cat, and was so little affected by his position that the guards were convinced that he was free from the burden of any state secret, and that no apprehension of any serious consequence to himself was weighing upon him.

“Poor lad!” the head warder said; “he will need all his spirits. He will have hard work to make the king’s council believe that he interfered in such a matter as this from pure love of adventure. He will have many a weary month to pass in prison before they free him, I reckon. It goes against my heart to hand over such a mere laddie as a prisoner; still it is no matter of mine. I have my duty to do, and it’s not for me to question the orders I have received, or to argue whether a prisoner is innocent or guilty.”

As the vessel anchored off Gravesend to wait for the turn of the tide to take her up, a boat rowed by a waterman, and with a man sitting in the stern, passed close by the ship. The head warder had now redoubled his vigilance, and one of the guards with loaded musket was standing on the deck not far from Ronald, who was standing on the taffrail. As the boat passed some twenty yards astern of the ship the man who was not rowing turned round for a moment and looked up at Ronald. It was but a momentary glance that the lad caught of his face, and he suppressed with difficulty a cry of surprise, for he recognized Malcolm Anderson. The rower continued steadily to ply his oars, and continued his course towards another ship anchored lower down the river. Ronald stood watching the boat, and saw that after making a wide sweep it was rowed back again to Gravesend.

Ronald had no doubt that Malcolm had come south in hopes of effecting his escape, and guessed that he had taken up his post at Gravesend with the intention of examining every ship as she passed up until the one in which he knew he had sailed made its appearance. What his next step would be he could not tell; but he determined to keep a vigilant lookout, and to avail himself instantly of any opportunity which might offer.

As the captain did nor care about proceeding up the river after dark it was not until the tide turned, just as morning broke, that the anchor was weighed. There was a light breeze which just sufficed to give the vessel steerage way, and a mist hung on the water. Ronald took his favourite seat on the taffrail, and kept a vigilant watch upon every craft which seemed likely to come near the vessel.

Greenwich was passed, and the vessel presently approached the crowded part of the Pool. It was near high tide now, and the captain was congratulating himself that he should just reach a berth opposite the Tower before it turned. Presently a boat with two rowers shot out from behind a tier of vessels and passed close under the stern of the Glasgow Lass. A man was steering whom Ronald instantly recognized.

“Jump!” he cried, and Ronald without a moment’s hesitation leaped from the taffrail.

He came up close to the boat, and was instantly hauled on board by Malcolm. Just at that moment the guard, who had stood stupefied by Ronald’s sudden action, gave a shout of alarm and discharged his piece.

The ball struck the boat close to Ronald. It was already in motion; the men bent to their oars, and the boat glided towards the Surrey side of the river. Loud shouts arose from on board the vessel, and four bullets cut the water round the boar; but before the muskets could be reloaded Malcolm had steered the boat through a tier of vessels, whose crews, attracted by the firing, cheered the fugitives lustily.

A minute later they had reached some landing steps. Malcolm tossed some money to the rowers, and then sprang ashore with Ronald, and handed the latter a long coat which would reach to his heels and conceal the drenched state of his clothing from notice.

“We have tricked them nicely, dear boy,” he said; “we are safe now. Long before they can lower a boat and get here we shall be safe in shelter, and our five Glasgow bodies will have something to do to look for us here.”

Moderating his pace so as to avoid attracting attention, Malcolm proceeded along several streets and lanes, and presently stopped at the door of a little shop.

“I am lodging here,” he said, “and have told the people of the house that I am expecting a nephew back from a cruise in the Mediterranean.”

As he passed through the shop he said to the woman behind the counter:

“Here he is safe and sound. He’s been some days longer than I expected, but I was nor so very far wrong in my calculations. The young scamp has had enough of the sea, and has agreed to go back again with me to his own people.”

“That’s right,” the woman said. “My own boy ran away two years ago, and I hope he will have come to his senses by the time he gets back again.”

When they were together in their room up stairs Malcolm threw his arms round Ronald’s neck.

“Thank God, my dear boy, I have got you our of the clutches of the law! You do not know how I have been fretting since I heard you were caught, and thought that if ill came to you it would be all my fault. And now tell me how you got into this scrape, for it has been puzzling me ever since I heard it. Surely when I saw you last you knew nothing about any Jacobite goings on?”

Ronald related the whole particulars of his adventure, and said that even now he was absolutely ignorant who was the man whom he had aided to escape.

“I know no more than you do, Ronald, but they must have thought his capture an important one by the fuss they made over his escape. And now, to think that you have slipped out of their hands too!” and Malcolm broke into a loud laugh. “I would give a month’s earnings to see the faces of the guard as they make their report that they have arrived empty handed.

I was right glad when I saw you. I was afraid you might have given them the slip on the way, and then there would have been no saying when we might have found each other again.”

“The sailors would have lowered a boat at night and let me make for the land,” Ronald said, “but there was a good guard kept over me. The door was locked and a sentry always on watch, and I had quite given up all hope until I saw you at Gravesend. And now, what do you intend to do? Make our way back to Scotland?”

“No, no, lad, that would never do. There will be a hue and cry after you, and all the northern routes will be watched. No, I shall make a bargain with some Dutch skipper to take us across the water, and then we will make our way to Paris.”

“But have you got money, Malcolm?”

“I have got your purse, lad. I went to Andrew and said that I wanted it for you, but that he was to ask no questions, so that whatever came of it he could say that he knew nothing. He gave it me at once, saying only:

“‘Remember, Malcolm, you have done the boy some harm already with your teaching, see that you do him no further harm. I guess you are bent on some hare brained plan, but whatever it be I wish you success.'”

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