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   Chapter 3 DEOCH SLAINT AN RIGH!

A Daughter of Raasay By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 24298

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"You're late, Kenn," was Balmerino's greeting to me.

"Faith, my Lord, I'm earlier than I might have been. I found it hard to part from a dear friend who was loathe to let me out of his sight," I laughed.

The Scotchman buckled on his sword and disappeared into the next room. When he returned a pair of huge cavalry pistols peeped from under his cloak.

"Going to the wars, my Lord?" I quizzed gaily.

"Perhaps. Will you join me?"

"Maybe yes and maybe no. Is the cause good?"

"The best in the world."

"And the chances of success?"

"Fortune beckons with both hands."

"Hm! Has she by any chance a halter in her hands for Kenn Montagu and an axe for Balmerino since he is a peer?"

"Better the sharp edge of an axe than the dull edge of hunger for those we love," he answered with a touch of bitterness.

His rooms supplied the sermon to his text. Gaunt poverty stared at me on every hand. The floor was bare and the two ragged chairs were rickety. I knew now why the white-haired peer was so keen to try a hazard of new fortunes for the sake of the wife in the North.

"Where may you be taking me?" I asked presently, as we hurried through Piccadilly.

"If you ask no questions--" he began dryly.

"--You'll tell me no lies. Very good. Odd's my life, I'm not caring! Any direction is good enough for me-unless it leads to Tyburn. But I warn you that I hold myself unpledged."

"I shall remember."

I was in the gayest spirits imaginable. The task I had set myself of thwarting Volney and the present uncertainty of my position had combined to lend a new zest to life. I felt the wine of youth bubble in my veins, and I was ready for whatever fortune had in store.

Shortly we arrived at one of those streets of unimpeachable respectability that may be duplicated a hundred times in London. Its characteristics are monotony and dull mediocrity; a dead sameness makes all the houses appear alike. Before one of these we stopped.

Lord Balmerino knocked, A man came to the door and thrust out a head suspiciously. There was a short whispered colloquy between him and the Scotch lord, after which he beckoned me to enter. For an instant I hung back.

"What are you afraid of, man?" asked Balmerino roughly.

I answered to the spur and pressed forward at once. He led the way along a dark passage and down a flight of stone steps into a cellar fitted up as a drinking room. There was another low-toned consultation before we were admitted. I surmised that Balmerino stood sponsor for me, and though I was a little disturbed at my equivocal position, yet I was strangely glad to be where I was. For here was a promise of adventure to stimulate a jaded appetite. I assured myself that at least I should not suffer dulness.

There were in the room a scant dozen of men, and as I ran them over with my eye the best I could say for their quality in life was that they had not troubled the tailor of late. Most of them were threadbare at elbow and would have looked the better of a good dinner. There were two or three exceptions, but for the most part these broken gentlemen bore the marks of recklessness and dissipation. Two I knew: the O'Sullivan that had assisted at the plucking of a certain pigeon on the previous night, and Mr. James Brown, alias Mac-something or other, of the supple sword and the Highland slogan.

Along with another Irishman named Anthony Creagh the fellow O'Sullivan rushed up to my Lord, eyes snapping with excitement. He gave me a nod and a "How d'ye do, Montagu? Didn't know you were of the honest party," then broke out with-

"Great news, Balmerino! The French fleet has sailed with transports for fifteen thousand men. I have advices direct from the Prince. Marshal Saxe commands, and the Prince himself is with them. London will be ours within the week. Sure the good day is coming at last. The King-God bless him!-will have his own again; and a certain Dutch beer tub that we know of will go scuttling back to his beloved Hanover, glory be the day!"

Balmerino's eyes flashed.

"They have sailed then at last. I have been expecting it a week. If they once reach the Thames there is no force in England that can stop them," he said quietly.

"Surely the small fleet of Norris will prove no barrier?" asked another dubiously.

"Poof! They weel eat heem up jus' like one leetle mouse, my frien'," boasted a rat-faced Frenchman with a snap of his fingers. "Haf they not two sheeps to his one?"

"Egad, I hope they don't eat the mutton then and let Norris go," laughed Creagh. He was a devil-may-care Irishman, brimful of the virtues and the vices of his race.

I had stumbled into a hornet's nest with a vengeance. They were mad as March hares, most of them. For five minutes I sat amazed, listening to the wildest talk it had ever been my lot to hear. The Guelphs would be driven out. The good old days would be restored; there would be no more whiggery and Walpolism; with much more of the same kind of talk. There was drinking of wine and pledging of toasts to the King across the water, and all the while I sat by the side of Balmerino with a face like whey. For I was simmering with anger. I foresaw the moment when discovery was inevitable, and in those few minutes while I hung back in the shadow and wished myself a thousand miles away hard things were thought of Arthur Elphinstone Lord Balmerino. He had hoped to fling me out of my depths and sweep me away with the current, but I resolved to show him another ending to it.

Presently Mr. James Brown came up and offered me a frank hand of welcome. Balmerino introduced him as Captain Donald Roy Macdonald. I let my countenance express surprise.

"Surely you are mistaken, my Lord. This gentleman and I have met before, and I think his name is Brown."

Macdonald laughed a little sheepishly. "The air of London is not just exactly healthy for Highland Jacobite gentlemen at present. I wouldna wonder but one might catch the scarlet fever gin he werena carefu', so I just took a change of names for a bit while."

"You did not disguise the Highland slogan you flung out last night," I laughed.

"Did I cry it?" he asked. "It would be just from habit then. I didna ken that I opened my mouth." Then he turned to my affairs. "And I suppose you will be for striking a blow for the cause like the rest of us. Well then, the sooner the better. I am fair wearying for a certain day that is near at hand."

With which he began to hum "The King shall have his own again."

I flushed, and boggled at the "No!" that stuck in my throat. Creagh, standing near, slewed round his head at the word.

"Eh, what's that? Say that again, Montagu!"

I took the bull by the horns and answered bluntly, "There has been a mistake made. George is a good enough king for me."

I saw Macdonald stiffen, and angry amazement leap to the eyes of the two Irishmen.

"'Sblood! What the devil! Why are you here then?" cried Creagh.

His words, and the excitement in his raised voice, rang the bell for a hush over the noisy room. Men dropped their talk and turned to us. A score of fierce suspicious eyes burnt into me. My heart thumped against my ribs like a thing alive, but I answered-steadily and quietly enough, I dare say-"You will have to ask Lord Balmerino that. I did not know where he was bringing me."

"Damnation!" cried one Leath. "What cock and bull tale is this? Not know where he was bringing you! 'Slife, I do not like it!"

I sat on the table negligently dangling one foot in air. For that matter I didn't like it myself, but I was not going to tell him so. Brushing a speck of mud from my coat I answered carelessly,

"Like it or mislike it, devil a bit I care!"

"Ha, ha! I theenk you will find a leetle reason for caring," said the Frenchman ominously.

"Stab me, if I understand," cried Creagh. "Balmerino did not kidnap you here, did he? Devil take me if it's at all clear to me!"

O'Sullivan pushed to the front with an evil laugh.

"'T is clear enough to me," he said bluntly. "It's the old story of one too many trusted. He hears our plans and then the smug-faced villain peaches. Next week he sees us all scragged at Tyburn. But he's made a little mistake this time, sink me! He won't live to see the Chevalier O'Sullivan walk off the cart. If you'll give me leave, I'll put a name to the gentleman. He's what they call a spy, and stap my vitals! he doesn't leave this room alive."

At his words a fierce cry leaped from tense throats. A circle of white furious faces girdled me about. Rapiers hung balanced at my throat and death looked itchingly at me from many an eye.

As for me, I lazed against the table with a strange odd contraction of the heart, a sudden standing still and then a fierce pounding of the blood. Yet I was quite master of myself. Indeed I smiled at them, carelessly, as one that deprecated so much ado about nothing. And while I smiled, the wonder was passing through my mind whether the smile would still be there after they had carved the life out of me. I looked death in the face, and I found myself copying unconsciously the smirking manners of the Macaronis. Faith, 't was a leaf from Volney's life I was rehearsing for them.

This but while one might blink an eye, then Lord Balmerino interrupted. "God's my life! Here's a feery-farry about nothing. Put up your toasting fork, De Vallery! The lad will not bite."

"Warranted to be of gentle manners," I murmured, brushing again at the Mechlin lace of my coat.

"Gentlemen are requested not to tease the animals," laughed Creagh. He was as full of heat as a pepper castor, but he had the redeeming humour of his race.

Macdonald beat down the swords. "Are you a' daft, gentlemen? The lad came with Balmerino. He is no spy. Put up, put up, Chevalier! Don't glower at me like that, man! Hap-weel rap-weel, the lad shall have his chance to explain. I will see no man's cattle hurried."

"Peste! Let him explain then, and not summer and winter over the story," retorted O'Sullivan sourly.

Lord Balmerino slipped an arm through mine. "If you are quite through with your play acting, gentlemen, we will back to reason and common sense again. Mr. Montagu may not be precisely a pronounced Jack, but then he doesn't give a pinch of snuff for the Whigs either. I think we shall find him open to argument."

"He'd better be-if he knows what's good for him," growled O'Sullivan.

At once I grew obstinate. "I do not take my politics under compulsion, Mr. O'Sullivan," I flung out.

"Then you shouldn't have come here. You've drawn the wine, and by God! you shall drink it."

"Shall I? We'll see."

"No, no, Kenn! I promise you there shall be no compulsion," cried the old Lord. Then to O'Sullivan in a stern whisper, "Let be, you blundering Irish man! You're setting him against us."

Balmerino was right. Every moment I grew colder and stiffer. If they wanted me for a recruit they were going about it the wrong way. I would not be frightened into joining them.

"Like the rest of us y' are a ruined man. Come, better your fortune. Duty and pleasure jump together. James Montagu's son is not afraid to take a chance," urged the Scotch Lord.

Donald Roy's eyes had fastened on me from the first like the grip-of steel. He had neither moved nor spoken, but I knew that he was weighing me in the balance.

"I suppose you will not be exactly in love with the wamey Dutchmen, Mr. Montagu?" he asked now.

I smiled. "If you put it that way I don't care one jack straw for the whole clamjamfry of them."

"I was thinking so. They are a different race from the Stuarts."

"They are indeed," I acquiesced dryly. Then the devil of mischief stirred in me to plague him. "There's all the difference of bad and a vast deal worse between them. It's a matter of comparisons," I concluded easily.

"You are pleased to be facetious," returned O'Sullivan sourly. "But I would ask you to remember that you are not yet out of the woods, Mr. Montagu. My Lord seems satisfied, but here are some more of us waiting a plain answer to this riddle."

"And what may the riddle be?" I a

sked.

"Just this. What are you doing here?"

"Faith, that's easy answered," I told him jauntily. "I'm here by invitation of Lord Balmerino, and it seems I'm not overwelcome."

Elphinstone interrupted impatiently.

"Gentlemen, we're at cross purposes. You're trying to drive Mr. Montagu, and I'm all for leading him. I warn you he's not to be driven. Let us talk it over reasonably."

"Very well," returned O'Sullivan sulkily. "Talk as long as you please, but he doesn't get out of this room till I'm satisfied."

"We are engaged on a glorious enterprise to restore to these islands their ancient line of sovereigns. You say you do not care for the Hanoverians. Why not then strike a blow for the right cause?" asked Leath.

"Right and wrong are not to be divided by so clean a cut," I told him. "I am no believer in the divine inheritance of kings. In the last analysis the people shall be the judge."

"Of course; and we are going to put it to the test."

"You want to set the clock back sixty years. It will not do."

"We think it will. We are resolved at least to try," said Balmerino.

I shrugged my shoulders. "The times are against you. The Stuarts have dropped out of the race. The mill cannot grind with the water that is past."

"And if the water be not past?" asked Leath fiercely.

"Mar found it so in the '15, and many honest gentlemen paid for his mistake with their heads. My father's brother for one."

"Mar bungled it from start to finish. He had the game in his own hands and dribbled away his chances like a coward and a fool."

"Perhaps, but even so, much water has passed under London Bridge since then. It is sixty years since the Stuarts were driven out. Two generations have slept on it."

"Then the third generation of sleepers shall be wakened. The stream is coming down in spate," said Balmerino.

"I hear you say it," I answered dryly.

"And you shall live to see us do it, Mr. Montagu. The heather's in a blaze already. The fiery cross will be speeding from Badenoch to the Braes of Balwhidder. The clans will all rise whatever," cried Donald Roy.

"I'm not so sure about Mr. Montagu living to see it. My friends O'Sullivan and De Vallery seem to think not," said Creagh, giving me his odd smile. "Now, I'll wager a crown that--"

"Whose crown did you say?" I asked politely, handing him back his smile.

"The government cannot stand out against us," argued Balmerino. "The Duke of Newcastle is almost an imbecile. The Dutch usurper himself is over in Hanover courting a new mistress. His troops are all engaged in foreign war. There are not ten thousand soldiers on the island. At this very moment the King of France is sending fifteen thousand across in transports. He will have no difficulty in landing them and London cannot hold out."

"Faith, he might get his army here. I'm not denying that. But I'll promise him trouble in getting it away again."

"The Highlands are ready to fling away the scabbard for King James III," said Donald Roy simply.

"It is in my mind that you have done that more than once before and that because of it misguided heads louped from sturdy shoulders," I answered.

"Wales too is full of loyal gentlemen. What can the Hanoverians do if they march across the border to join the Highlanders rolling down from the North and Marshal Saxe with his French army?"

"My imagination halts," I answered dryly. "You will be telling me next that England is wearying for a change back to the race of Kings she has twice driven out."

"I do say it," cried Leath. "Bolingbroke is already negotiating with the royal family. Newcastle is a broken reed. Hervey will not stand out. Walpole is a dying man. In whom can the Dutchman trust? The nation is tired of them, their mistresses and their German brood."

"When we had them we found these same Stuarts a dangerous and troublesome race. We could not in any manner get along with them. We drove them out, and then nothing would satisfy us but we must have them back again. Well, they had their second chance, and we found them worse than before. They had not learnt the lesson of the age. They--"

"Split me, y'are not here to lecture us, Mr. Montagu," cried Leath with angry eye. "Damme, we don't care a rap for your opinions, but you have heard too much. To be short, the question is, will you join us or won't you?"

"To be short then, Mr. Leath, not on compulsion."

"There's no compulsion about it, Kenn. If you join it is of your own free will," said Balmerino.

"I think not. Mr. Montagu has no option in the matter," cried O'Sullivan. "He forfeited his right to decide for himself when he blundered in and heard our plans. Willy nilly, he must join us!"

"And if I don't?"

His smile was like curdled milk. "Have you made your will, Mr. Montagu?"

"I made it at the gaming table last night, and the Chevalier O'Sullivan was one of the legatees," I answered like a flash.

"Touché, Sully," laughed Creagh. "Ecod, I like our young cockerel's spirit."

"And I don't," returned O'Sullivan. "He shall join us, or damme--" He stopped, but his meaning was plain to be read.

I answered dourly. "You may blow the coals, but I will not be het."

"Faith, you're full of epigrams to-night, Mr. Montagu," Anthony Creagh was good enough to say. "You'll make a fine stage exit-granting that Sully has his way. I wouldn't miss it for a good deal."

"If the house is crowded you may have my seat for nothing," was my reply. Strange to say my spirits were rising. This was the first perilous adventure of my life, and my heart sang. Besides, I had confidence enough in Balmerino to know that he would never stand aside and let me suffer for his indiscretion if he could help it.

The old Lord's troubled eyes looked into mine. I think he was beginning to regret this impulsive experiment of his. He tried a new tack with me.

"Of course there is a risk. We may not win. Perhaps you do well to think of the consequences. As you say, heads may fall because of the rising."

The dye flooded my cheeks.

"You might have spared me that, my Lord. I am thinking of the blood of innocent people that must be spilled."

"Your joining us will neither help nor hinder that."

"And your not joining us will have deucedly unpleasant effects for you," suggested O'Sullivan pleasantly.

Lord Balmerino flung round on him angrily, his hand on sword hilt. "I think you have forgotten one thing, Mr. O'Sullivan."

"And that is--?"

"That Mr. Montagu came here as my guest. If he does not care to join us he shall be free as air to depart."

O'Sullivan laughed hardily. "Shall he? Gadzooks! The Chevalier O'Sullivan will have a word to say with him first. He did not come as any guest of mine. What the devil! If you were not sure of him, why did you bring him?"

Balmerino fumed, but he had no answer for that. He could only say,-

"I thought him sure to join, but I can answer for his silence with my life."

"'T will be more to the point that we do not answer for his speech with our lives," grumbled Leath.

The Frenchman leaned forward eagerly. "You thought heem to be at heart of us, and you were meestaken; you theenk heem sure to keep our secret, but how are we to know you are not again meestaken?"

"Sure, that's easy," broke out O'Sullivan scornfully. "We'll know when the rope is round our gullets."

"Oh, he won't peach, Sully. He isn't that kind. Stap me, you never know a gentleman when you see one," put in Creagh carelessly.

The young Highlander Macdonald spoke up. "Gentlemen, I'm all for making an end to this collieshangie. By your leave, Lord Balmerino, Mr. Creagh and myself will step up-stairs with this gentleman and come to some composition on the matter. Mr. Montagu saved my life last night, but I give you the word of Donald Roy Macdonald that if I am not satisfied in the end I will plant six inches of steel in his wame for him to digest, and there's gumption for you at all events."

He said it as composedly as if he had been proposing a stroll down the Row with me, and I knew him to be just the man who would keep his word. The others knew it too, and presently we four found ourselves alone together in a room above.

"Is your mind so set against joining us, Kenn? I have got myself into a pickle, and I wish you would just get me out," Balmerino began.

"If they had asked me civilly I dare say I should have said 'Yes!' an hour ago, but I'll not be forced in."

"Quite right, too. You're a broth of a boy. I wouldn't in your place, Montagu, and I take off my hat to your spirit," said Creagh. "Now let's begin again."-He went to the door and threw it open.-"The way is clear for you to leave if you want to go, but I would be most happy to have you stay with us. It's men like you we're looking for, and- Won't you strike a blow for the King o'er the sea, Montagu?"

"He is of the line of our ancient monarchs. He and his race have ruled us a thousand years," urged Balmerino. "They have had their faults perhaps--"

"Perhaps," I smiled.

"Well, and if they have," cried Donald Roy hotly in the impetuous Highland way. "Is this a time to be remembering them? For my part, I will be forgetting their past faults and minding only their present distresses."

"It appears as easy for a Highlander to forget the faults of the Stuarts as it is for them to forget his services," I told him.

"Oh, you harp on their faults. Have you none of your own?" cried Elphinstone impatiently. "I have seen and talked with the young Prince. He is one to follow to the death. I have never met the marrow of him."

"I think of the thousands who will lose their lives for him."

"Well, and that's a driech subject, too, but Donald Roy would a hantle rather die with claymore in hand and the whiddering steel aboot his head than be always fearing to pay the piper," said the young Highlander blithely.

"Your father was out for the King in the '15," said Balmerino gently.

Oh, Arthur Elphinstone had the guile for all his rough ways. I was moved more than I cared to own. Many a time I had sat at my father's knee and listened to the tale of "the '15." The Highland blood in me raced the quicker through my veins. All the music of the heather hills and the wimpling burns wooed me to join my kinsmen in the North. My father's example, his brother's blood, loyalty to the traditions of my family, my empty purse, the friendship of Balmerino and Captain Macdonald, all tugged at my will; but none of them were so potent as the light that shone in the eyes of a Highland lassie I had never met till one short hour before. I tossed aside all my scruples and took the leap.

"Come!" I cried. "Lend yourselves to me on a mission of some danger for one night and I will pledge myself a partner in your enterprise. I can promise you that the help I ask of you may be honourably given. A fair exchange is no robbery. What say you?"

"Gad's life, I cry agreed. You're cheap at the price, Mr. Montagu. I'm yours, Rip me, if you want me to help rum-pad a bishop's coach," exclaimed the Irishman.

"Mr. Creagh has just taken the words out of my mouth," cried Donald Roy. "If you're wanting to lift a lassie or to carry the war to a foe I'll be blithe to stand at your back. You may trust Red Donald for that whatever."

"You put your finger on my ambitions, Captain Macdonald. I'm wanting to do just those two things. You come to scratch so readily that I hope you have had some practice of your own," I laughed.

There was wine on the table and I filled the glasses.

"If no other sword leaves scabbard mine shall," I cried in a flame of new-born enthusiasm. "Gentlemen, I give you the King over the water."

"King James! God bless him," echoed Balmerino and Creagh.

"Deoch slaint an Righ! (The King's Drink). And win or lose, we shall have a beautiful time of it whatever," cried Donald gaily.

An hour later Kenneth Montagu, Jacobite, walked home arm in arm with Anthony Creagh and Donald Roy Macdonald. He was setting forth to them a tale of an imprisoned maid and a plan for the rescue of that same lady.

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