MoboReader> Literature > A Daughter of Raasay

   Chapter 4 OF LOVE AND WAR

A Daughter of Raasay By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 48438

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

All day the rain had splashed down with an unusual persistence, but now there was a rising wind and a dash of clear sky over to the south which promised fairer weather. I was blithe to see it, for we had our night's work cut out for us and a driving storm would not add to our comfort.

From my hat, from the elbows of my riding-coat, and from my boot-heels constant rivulets ran; but I took pains to keep the pistols under my doublet dry as toast. At the courtyard of the inn I flung myself from my horse and strode to the taproom where my companions awaited me. In truth they were making the best of their circumstances. A hot water jug steamed in front of the hearth where Creagh lolled in a big armchair. At the table Captain Macdonald was compounding a brew by the aid of lemons, spices, and brandy. They looked the picture of content, and I stood streaming in the doorway a moment to admire the scene.

"What luck, Montagu?" asked Creagh.

"They're at 'The Jolly Soldier' all right en route for Epsom," I told him. "Arrived a half hour before I left. Hamish Gorm is hanging about there to let us know when they start. Volney has given orders for a fresh relay of horses, so they are to continue their journey to-night."

"And the lady?"

"The child looks like an angel of grief. She is quite out of hope. Faith, her despair took me by the heart."

"My certes! I dare swear it," returned Donald Roy dryly. "And did you make yourself known to her?"

"No, she went straight to her room. Volney has given it out that the lady is his wife and is demented. His man Watkins spreads the report broadcast to forestall any appeal she may make for help. I talked with the valet in the stables. He had much to say about how dearly his master and his mistress loved each other, and what a pity 'twas that the lady has lately fallen out of her mind by reason of illness. 'Twas the one thing that spoilt the life of Mr. Armitage, who fairly dotes on his sweet lady. Lud, yes! And one of her worst delusions is that he is not really her husband and that he wishes to harm her. Oh, they have contrived well their precious story to avoid outside interference."

I found more than one cause to doubt the fortunate issue of the enterprise upon which we were engaged. Volney might take the other road; or he might postpone his journey on account of the foul weather. Still other contingencies rose to my mind, but Donald Roy and Creagh made light of them.

"Havers! If he is the man you have drawn for me he will never be letting a smirr of rain interfere with his plans; and as for the other road, it will be a river in spate by this time," the Highlander reassured me.

"Sure, I'll give you four to one in ponies the thing does not miscarry," cried Creagh in his rollicking way. "After the King comes home I'll dance at your wedding, me boy; and here's to Mrs. Montagu that is to be, bedad!"

My wildest dreams had never carried me so far as this yet, and I flushed to my wig at his words; but the wild Irishman only laughed at my remonstrance.

"Faith man, 'tis you or I! 'Twould never do for three jolly blades like us to steal the lady from her lover and not offer another in exchange. No, no! Castle Creagh is crying for a mistress, and if you don't spunk up to the lady Tony Creagh will."

To his humour of daffing I succumbed, and fell into an extraordinary ease with the world. Here I sat in a snug little tavern with the two most taking comrades in the world drinking a hot punch brewed to a nicety, while outside the devil of a storm roared and screamed.

As for my companions, they were old campaigners, not to be ruffled by the slings of envious fortune. Captain Donald Roy was wont to bear with composure good luck and ill, content to sit him down whistling on the sodden heath to eat his mouthful of sour brose with the same good humour he would have displayed at a gathering of his clan gentlemen where the table groaned with usquebaugh, mountain trout, and Highland venison. Creagh's philosophy too was all for taking what the gods sent and leaving uncrossed bridges till the morrow. Was the weather foul? Sure, the sun would soon shine, and what was a cloak for but to keep out the rain? I never knew him lose his light gay spirits, and I have seen him at many an evil pass.

The clatter of a horse's hoofs in the courtyard put a period to our festivities. Presently rug-headed Hamish Gorm entered, a splash of mud from brogues to bonnet.

"What news, Hamish? Has Volney started?" I cried.

"She would be leaving directly. Ta Sassenach iss in ta carriage with ta daughter of Macleod, and he will be a fery goot man to stick a dirk in whatefer," fumed the gillie.

I caught him roughly by the shoulder. "There will be no dirk play this night, Hamish Gorm. Do you hear that? It will be left for your betters to settle with this man, and if you cannot remember that you will just stay here."

He muttered sullenly that he would remember, but it was a great pity if Hamish Gorm could not avenge the wrongs of the daughter of his chief.

We rode for some miles along a cross country path where the mud was so deep that the horses sank to their fetlocks. The wind had driven away the rain and the night had cleared overhead. There were still scudding clouds scouring across the face of the moon, but the promise was for a clear night. We reached the Surrey road and followed it along the heath till we came to the shadow of three great oaks. Many a Dick Turpin of the road had lurked under the drooping boughs of these same trees and sallied out to the hilltop with his ominous cry of "Stand and deliver!" Many a jolly grazier and fat squire had yielded up his purse at this turn of the road. For a change we meant to rum-pad a baronet, and I flatter myself we made as dashing a trio of cullies as any gentlemen of the heath among them all.

It might have been a half hour after we had taken our stand that the rumbling of a coach came to our ears. The horses were splashing through the mud, plainly making no great speed. Long before we saw the chaise, the cries of the postilions urging on the horses were to be heard. After an interminable period the carriage swung round the turn of the road and began to take the rise. We caught the postilion at disadvantage as he was flogging the weary animals up the brow of the hill. He looked up and caught sight of us.

"Out of the way, fellows," he cried testily. Next instant he slipped to the ground and disappeared in the darkness, crying "'Ware highwaymen!" In the shine of the coach lamps he had seen Creagh's mask and pistol. The valet Watkins, sitting on the box, tried to lash up the leaders, but Macdonald blocked the way with his horse, what time the Irishman and I gave our attention to the occupants of the chaise.

At the first cry of the postilion a bewigged powdered head had been thrust from the window and immediately withdrawn. Now I dismounted and went forward to open the door. From the corner of the coach into which Aileen Macleod had withdrawn a pair of bright eager eyes looked into my face, but no Volney was to be seen. The open door opposite explained his disappearance. I raised the mask a moment from my face, and the girl gave a cry of joy.

"Did you think I had deserted you?" I asked.

"Oh, I did not know. I wass thinking that perhaps he had killed you. I will be thanking God that you are alive," she cried, with a sweet little lift and tremble to her voice that told me tears were near.

A shot rang out, and then another.

"Excuse me for a moment. I had forgot the gentleman," I said, hastily withdrawing my head.

As I ran round the back of the coach I came plump into Volney. Though dressed to make love and not war, I'll do him the justice to say that one was as welcome to him as the other. He was shining in silver satin and blue silk and gold lace, but in each hand he carried a great horse pistol, one of which was still smoking at the barrel. The other he pointed at me, but with my sword I thrust up the point and it went off harmlessly in the air. Then I flung him from me and covered him with my barker. Creagh also was there to emphasize the wisdom of discretion. Sir Robert Volney was as daring a man as ever lived, but he was no fool neither. He looked at my weapon shining on him in the moonlight and quietly conceded to himself that the game was against him for the moment. From his fingers he slipped the rings, and the watch from his pocket-coat. To carry out our pretension I took them and filled my pockets with his jewelry.

"A black night, my cullies," said Volney as easy as you please.

"The colour of your business," I retorted thoughtlessly.

He started, looking at me very sharp.

"Else you would not be travelling on such a night," I explained lamely.

"Ah! I think we will not discuss my business. As it happens, the lady has no jewelry with her. If you are quite through with us, my good fellows, we'll wish you a pleasant evening. Watkins, where's that d-d postilion?"

"Softly, Sir Robert! The night's young yet. Will you not spare us fifteen minutes while the horses rest?" proposed Creagh.

"Oh, if you put it that way," he answered negligently, his agile mind busy with the problem before him. I think he began to put two and two together. My words might have been a chance shot, but when on the heel of them Creagh let slip his name Volney did not need to be told that we were not regular fly-by-nights. His eyes and his ears were intent to pierce our disguises.

"Faith, my bullies, you deserve success if you operate on such nights as this. An honest living were easier come by, but Lard! not so enticing by a deal. Your enterprise is worthy of commendation, and I would wager a pony against a pinch of snuff that some day you'll be raised to a high position by reason of it. How is it the old catch runs?

"'And three merry men, and three merry men,

And three merry men are we,

As ever did sing three parts in a string,

All under the gallows tree.'

"If I have to get up in the milkman hours, begad, when that day comes I'll make it a point to be at Tyburn to see your promotion over the heads of humdrum honest folks," he drawled, and at the tail of his speech yawned in our faces.

"We'll send you cards to the entertainment when that happy day arrives," laughed Creagh, delighted of course at the aplomb of the Macaroni.

Donald Roy came up to ask what should be done with Watkins. It appeared that Volney had mistaken him for one of us and let fly at him. The fellow lay groaning on the ground as if he were on the edge of expiration. I stooped and examined him. 'Twas a mere flesh scratch.

"Nothing the matter but a punctured wing. All he needs is a kerchief round his arm," I said.

Captain Macdonald looked disgusted and a little relieved.

"'Fore God, he deaved (deafened) me with his yammering till I thought him about to ship for the other world. These Englishers make a geyan work about nothing."

For the moment remembrance of Volney had slipped from our minds. As I rose to my feet he stepped forward. Out flashed his sword and ripped the mask from my face.

"Egad, I thought so," he chuckled. "My young friend Montagu repairing his fallen fortunes on the road! Won't you introduce me to the other gentlemen, or would they rather remain incog? Captain Claude Duval, your most obedient! Sir Dick Turpin, yours to command! Delighted, 'pon my word, to be rum-padded by such distinguished-er-knights of the road."

"The honour is ours," answered Creagh gravely, returning his bow, but the Irishman's devil-may-care eyes were dancing.

"A strange fortuity, in faith, that our paths have crossed so often of late, Montagu. Now I would lay something good that our life lines will not cross more than once more."

"Why should we meet at all again?" I cried. "Here is a piece of good turf under the moonlight. 'Twere a pity to lose it."

He appeared to consider. "As you say, the turf is all that is to be desired and the light will suffice. Why not? We get in each other's way confoundedly, and out of doubt will some day have to settle our little difference. Well then, if 'twere done 'twere well done quickly. Faith, Mr. Montagu, y'are a man after my own heart, and it gives me a vast deal of pleasure to accept your proposal. Consider me your most obedient to command and prodigiously at your service."

Raffish and flamboyant, he lounged forward to the window of the carriage.

"I beg a thousand pardons, sweet, for leaving you a few minutes alone," he said with his most silken irony. "I am desolated at the necessity, but this gentleman has a claim that cannot be ignored. Believe me, I shall make the absence very short. Dear my life, every instant that I am from you is snatched from Paradise. Fain would I be with you alway, but stern duty"-the villain stopped to draw a plaintive and theatric sigh-"calls me to attend once for all to a matter of small moment. Anon I shall be with you, life of my life."

She looked at him as if he were the dirt beneath her feet, and still he smiled his winsome smile, carrying on the mock pretense that she was devoted to him.

"Ah, sweet my heart!" he murmured. "'Twere cheap to die for such a loving look from thee. All Heaven lies in it. 'Tis better far to live for many more of such."

There was a rush of feet and a flash of steel. Donald Roy leaped forward just in time, and next moment Hamish Gorm lay stretched on the turf, muttering Gaelic oaths and tearing at the sod with his dirk in an impotent rage. Sir Robert looked down at the prostrate man with his inscrutable smile.

"Your friend from the Highlands is in a vast hurry, Montagu. He can't even wait till you have had your chance to carve me. Well, are you ready to begin the argument?"

"Quite at your command. There is a bit of firm turf beyond the oaks. If you will lead the way I shall be with you anon."

"Lud! I had forgot. You have your adieux to make to the lady. Pray do not let me hurry you," he said urbanely, as he picked his way daintily through the mud.

When he had gone I turned to the girl.

"You shall be quit of him," I told her. "You may rely on my friends if-if the worst happens. They will take you to Montagu Grange, and my brother Charles will push on with you to Scotland. In this country you would not be safe from him while he lives."

Her face was like the snow.

"Iss there no other way whatever?" she cried. "Must you be fighting with this man for me, and you only a boy? Oh, I could be wishing for my brother Malcolm or some of the good claymores on the braes of Raasay!"

The vanity in me was stung by her words.

"I'm not such a boy neither, and Angelo judged me a good pupil. You might find a worse champion."

"Oh, it iss the good friend you are to me, and I am loving you for it, but I think of what may happen to you."

My pulse leaped and my eyes burned, but I answered lightly,

"For a change think of what may happen to him, and maybe to pass the time you might put up a bit prayer for me."

"Believe me, I will be doing that same," she cried with shining eyes, and before I divined her intent had stooped to kiss my hand that rested on the coach door.

My heart lilted as I crossed the heath to where the others were waiting for me beyond the dip of the hillock.

"Faith, I began to think you had forgotten me and gone off with the lady yourself," laughed Volney.

I flung off my cloak and my inner coat, for though the night was chill I knew I should be warm enough when once we got to work. Then, strangely enough, an unaccountable reluctance to engage came over me, and I stood tracing figures on the heath with the point of my small sword.

"Are you ready?" asked the baronet.

I broke out impetuously. "Sir Robert, you have ruined many. Your victims are to be counted by the score. I myself am one. But this girl shall not be added to the list. I have sworn it; so have my friends. There is still time for you to leave unhurt if you desire it, but if we once cross swords one of us must die."

"And, prithee, Mr. Montagu, why came we here?"

"Yet even now if you will desist--"

His caustic insolent laugh rang out gaily as he mouthed the speech of Tybalt in actor fashion.

"'What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word,

As I hate hell, all Montagus, and thee;

Have at thee, coward.'"

I drew back from his playful lunge.

"Very well. Have it your own way. But you must have some one to act for you. Perhaps Captain Mac-er-the gentleman on your right-will second you."

Donald Roy drew himself up haughtily. "Feint a bit of it! I'm on the other side of the dyke. Man, Montagu! I'm wondering at you, and him wronging a Hieland lassie. Gin he waits till I stand back of him he'll go wantin', ye may lippen (trust) to that."

"Then it'll have to be you, Tony," I said, turning to Creagh. "Guard, Sir Robert!"

"'Sdeath! You're getting in a hurry, Mr. Montagu. I see you're keen after that 'Hic Jacet' I promised you. Lard! I vow you shall have it."

Under the shifting moonlight we fell to work on the dripping heath. We were not unevenly matched considering the time and the circumstances. I had in my favour youth, an active life, and a wrist of steel. At least I was a strong swordsman, even though I could not pretend to anything like the mastery of the weapon which he possessed. To some extent his superior skill was neutralized by the dim light. He had been used to win his fights as much with his head as with his hand, to read his opponent's intention in advance from the eyes while he concealed his own; but the darkness, combined with my wooden face, made this impossible now. Every turn and trick of the game he knew, but the shifting shine and shadow disconcerted him. More than once I heard him curse softly when at a critical moment the scudding clouds drifted across the moon in time to save me.

He had the better of me throughout, but somehow I blundered through without letting him find the chance for which he looked. I kept my head, and parried by sheer luck his brilliant lunges. I broke ground and won free-if but barely-from his incessant attack. More than once he pricked me. A high thrust which I diverted too late with the parade of tierce drew blood freely. He fleshed me again on the riposte by a one-two feint in tierce and a thrust in carte.

"'L'art de donner et de ne pas recevoir,'" he quoted, as he parried my counter-thrust with debonair ease.

Try as I would I could not get behind that wonderful guard of his. It was easy, graceful, careless almost, but it was sure. His point was a gleaming flash of light, but it never wavered from my body line.

A darker cloud obscured the moon, and by common consent we rested.

"Three minutes for good-byes," said Volney, suggestively.

"Oh, my friends need not order the hearse yet-at least for me. Of course, if it would be any convenience--"

He laughed. "Faith, you improve on acquaintance, Mr. Montagu, like good wine or-to stick to the same colour-the taste of the lady's lips."

I looked blackly at him. "Do you pretend--?"

"Oh, I pretend nothing. Kiss and never tell, egad! Too bad they're not for you too, Montagu."

"I see that Sir Robert Volney has added another accomplishment to his vices."

"And that is--?"

"He can couple a woman's name with the hint of a slanderous lie."

Sir Robert turned to Creagh and waved a hand at me, shaking his head sorrowfully. "The country boor in evidence again. Curious how it will crop out. Ah, Mr. Montagu! The moon shines bright again. Shall we have the pleasure of renewing our little debate?"

I nodded curtly. He stopped a moment to say:

"You have a strong wrist and a prodigious good fence, Mr. Montagu, but if you will pardon a word of criticism I think your guard too high."

"Y'are not here to instruct me, Sir Robert, but--"

"To kill you. Quite so!" he interrupted jauntily. "Still, a friendly word of caution-and the guard is overhigh! 'Tis the same fault my third had. I ran under it, and--" He shrugged his shoulders.

"Was that the boy you killed for defending his sister?" I asked insolently.

Apparently my hit did not pierce the skin. "No. I've forgot the nomination of the gentleman. What matter? He has long been food for worms. Pardon me, I see blood trickling down your sword arm. Allow me to offer my kerchief."

"Thanks! 'Twill do as it is. Art ready?"

"Lard, yes! And guard lower, an you love me. The high guard is the one fault- Well parried, Montagu!-I find in Angelo's pupils. Correcting that, you would have made a rare swordsman in time."

His use of the subjunctive did not escape me. "I'm not dead yet," I panted.

I parried a feint une-deux, in carte, with the parade in semicircle, and he came over my blade, thrusting low in carte. His laugh rang out clear as a boy's, and the great eyes of the man blazed with the joy of fight.

"Gad, you're quick to take my meaning! Ah! You nearly began the long journey that time, my friend."

He had broken ground apparently in disorder, and by the feel of his sword I made sure he had in mind to parry; but the man was as full of tricks as the French King Louis and with incredible swiftness he sent a straight thrust in high tierce-a thrust which sharply stung my ribs only, since I had flung myself aside in time to save my vitals.

After that came the end. He caught me full and fair in the side of the neck. A moist stifling filled my throat and the turf whirled up to meet the sky. I knew nothing but a mad surge of rage that he had cut me to pieces and I had never touched him once. As I went down I flung myself forward at him wildly. It is to be supposed that he was off guard for the moment, supposing me a man already dead. My blade slipped along his, lurched farther forward, at last struck something soft and ripped down. A hundred crimson points zigzagged before my eyes, and I dropped down into unconsciousness in a heap.

* * *



Languidly I came back to a world that faded and grew clear again most puzzlingly, that danced and jerked to and fro in oddly irresponsible fashion. At first too deadly weary to explain the situation to myself, I presently made out that I was in a coach which lurched prodigiously and filled me with sharp pains. Fronting me was the apparently lifeless body of a man propped in the corner with the head against the cushions, the white face grinning horridly at me. 'Twas the face of Volney. I stirred to get it out of my line of vision, and a soft, firm hand restrained me gently.

"You are not to be stirring," a sweet voice said. Then to herself its owner added, ever so softly and so happily, "Thaing do Dhia (Thank God.) He iss alive-he iss alive!"

I pointed feebly a leaden finger at the white face over against me with the shine of the moon on it.


"No. He hass just fainted. You are not to talk!"

"And Donald Roy--?"

The imperious little hand slipped down to cover my mouth, and Kenneth Montagu kissed it where it lay. For a minute she did not lift the hand, what time I lay in a dream of warm happiness. A chuckle from the opposite seat aroused me. The eyes in the colourless face had opened, and Volney sat looking at us with an ironic smile.

"I must have fallen asleep-and before a lady. A thousand apologies! And for awaking so inopportunely, ten thousand more!"

He changed his position that he might look the easier at her, a half-humorous admiration in his eyes. "Sweet, you beggar my vocabulary. As the goddess of healing you are divine."

The flush of alarmed maiden modesty flooded her cheek.

"You are to lie still, else the wound will break out again," she said sharply.

"Faith, it has broken out," he feebly laughed, pretending to misunderstand. Then, "Oh, you mean the sword cut. 'Twould never open after it has been dressed by so fair a leech."

The girl looked studiously out of the coach window and made no answer. Now, weak as I was-in pain and near to death, my head on her lap with her dear hand to cool my fevered brow-yet was I fool enough to grow insanely jealous t

hat she had used her kerchief to bind his wound. His pale, handsome face was so winning and his eyes so beautiful that they thrust me through the heart as his sword had been unable to do.

He looked at me with an odd sort of friendliness, the respect one man has for another who has faced death without flinching.

"Egad, Montagu, had either of us driven but a finger's breadth to left we had made sure work and saved the doctors a vast deal of pother. I doubt 'twill be all to do over again one day. Where did you learn that mad lunge of yours? I vow 'tis none of Angelo's teaching. No defense would avail against such a fortuitous stroke. Methought I had you speeding to kingdom come, and Lard! you skewered me bravely. 'Slife, 'tis an uncertain world, this! Here we ride back together to the inn and no man can say which of us has more than he can carry."

All this with his easy dare-devil smile, though his voice was faint from weakness. An odd compound of virtues and vices this man! I learnt afterwards that he had insisted on my wounds being dressed before he would let them touch him, though he was bleeding greatly.

But I had no mind for badinage, and I turned my face from him sullenly. Silence fell till we jolted into the courtyard of "The Jolly Soldier," where Creagh, Macdonald, and Hamish Gorm, having dismounted from their horses, waited to carry us into the house. We were got to bed at once, and our wounds looked to more carefully. By an odd chance Volney and I were put in the same room, the inn being full, and the Macdonald nursed us both, Creagh being for the most part absent in London on business connected with the rising.

Lying there day after day, the baronet and I came in time to an odd liking for each other, discussing our affairs frankly with certain reservations. Once he commented on the strangeness of it.

"A singular creature is man, Montagu! Here are we two as friendly as-as brothers I had almost said, but most brothers hate each other with good cause. At all events here we lie with nothing but good-will; we are too weak to get at each other's throats and so perforce must endure each the other's presence, and from mere sufferance come to a mutual-shall I say esteem? A while since we were for slaying; naught but cold steel would let out our heat; and now-I swear I have for you a vast liking. Will it last, think you?"

"Till we are on our feet again. No longer," I answered.

"I suppose you are right," he replied, with the first touch of despondency I had ever heard in his voice. "The devil of it is that when I want a thing I never rest till I get it, and after I have won it I don't care any more for it."

"I'm an obstinate man myself," I said.

"Yes, I know. And when I say I'll do a thing and you say I sha'n't nothing on earth can keep us from the small sword."

"Did you never spare a victim-never draw back before the evil was done?" I asked curiously.

"Many a time, but never when the incentive to the chase was so great as now. 'Tis the overcoming of obstacles I cannot resist. In this case-to pass by the acknowledged charms of the lady-I find two powerful reasons for continuing: her proud coyness and your defense of her. Be sure I shall not fail."

"I think you will," I answered quietly.

Out of doubt the man had a subtle fascination for me, even though I hated his principles in the same breath. When he turned the batteries of his fine winning eyes and sparkling smile on me I was under impulse to capitulate unconditionally; 'twas at remembrance of Aileen that my jaws set like a vice again.

But as the days passed I observed a gradual change in Volney's attitude toward the Highland lass. Macdonald had found a temporary home for her at the house of a kind-hearted widow woman who lived in the neighbourhood, and so long as we were in danger the girl and her grey-haired friend came often to offer their services in nursing. Aileen treated the baronet with such shy gentle womanliness, her girlish pity struggling through the Highland pride, forgetting in the suffering man the dastard who had wronged her, that he was moved not a little from his cynical ironic gayety. She was in a peculiar relation toward us, one lacking the sanction of society and yet quite natural. I had fought for her, and her warm heart forbade her to go her way and leave me to live or die as chance might will. As she would move about the room ministering to our wants, wrapped in her sweet purity and grace, more than once I caught on his face a pain of wistfulness that told me of another man beneath the polished heartless Macaroni. For the moment I knew he repented him of his attempted wrong, though I could not know that a day of manly reparation would come to blot out his sin against her.

As we grew better Aileen's visits became shorter and less frequent, so that our only temptation to linger over our illness was removed. One day Sir Robert limped slowly across the floor on the arm of Creagh while I watched him enviously. From that time his improvement was rapid and within a week he came to make his adieux to me. Dressed point-devise, he was once more every inch a fop.

"I sha'n't say good-bye, Montagu, to either you or the lady, because I expect to see you both again soon. I have a shot in my locker that will bring you to mighty short one of these days. Tony Creagh is going to London with me in my coach. Sorry you and the lady won't take the other two seats. Well, au revoir. Hope you'll be quite fit when you come up for the next round." And waving a hand airily at me he went limping down the stairs, devoid of grace yet every motion eloquent of it, to me a living paradox.

Nor was it long before I too was able to crawl out into the sunshine with Aileen Macleod and Captain Macdonald as my crutches. Not far from the inn was a grove of trees, and in it a rustic seat or two. Hither we three repaired for many a quiet hour of talk. Long ago Donald had established his relationship with Aileen. It appeared that he was a cousin about eight degrees removed. None but a Highlander would have counted it at all, but for them it sufficed. Donald Roy had an extraordinary taking way with women, and he got on with the girl much more easily than I did. Indeed, to hear them daffing with each other one would have said they had been brought up together instead of being acquaintances of less than three weeks standing.

Yet Donald was so clever with it all that I was never the least jealous of him. He was forever taking pains to show me off well before her, making as much of my small attainments as a hen with one chick. Like many of the West country Highlanders he was something of a scholar. French he could speak like a native, and he had dabbled in the humanities; but he would drag forth my smattering of learning with so much glee that one might have thought him ignorant of the plainest A B C of the matter. More than once I have known him blunder in a Latin quotation that I might correct him. Aileen and he had a hundred topics in common from which I was excluded by reason of my ignorance of the Highlands, but the Macdonald was as sly as a fox on my behalf. He would draw out the girl about the dear Northland they both loved and then would suddenly remember that his pistols needed cleaning or that, he had promised to "crack" with some chance gentleman stopping at the inn, and away he would go, leaving us two alone. While I lay on the grass and looked at her Aileen would tell me in her eager, impulsive way about her own kindly country, of tinkling, murmuring burns, of hills burnt red with the heather, of a hundred wild flowers that blossomed on the braes of Raasay, and as she talked of them her blue eyes sparkled like the sun-kissed lochs themselves.

Ah! Those were the good days, when the wine of life was creeping back into my blood and I was falling forty fathoms deep in love. Despite myself she was for making a hero of me, and my leal-hearted friend, Macdonald, was not a whit behind, though the droll look in his eyes suggested sometimes an ulterior motive. We talked of many things, but in the end we always got back to the one subject that burned like a flame in their hearts-the rising of the clans that was to bring back the Stuarts to their own. Their pure zeal shamed my cold English caution. I found myself growing keen for the arbitrament of battle.

No earthly Paradise endures forever. Into those days of peace the serpent of my Eden projected his sting. We were all sitting in the grove one morning when a rider dashed up to the inn and flung himself from his horse. 'Twas Tony Creagh, and he carried with him a placard which offered a reward of a hundred guineas for the arrest of one Kenneth Montagu, Esquire, who had, with other parties unknown, on the night of July first, robbed Sir Robert Volney of certain jewelry therein described.

"Highwayman it says," quoth I in frowning perplexity. "But Volney knows I had no mind to rob him. Zounds! What does he mean?"

"Mean? Why, to get rid of you! I tore this down from a tavern wall in London just after 'twas pasted. It seems you forgot to return the gentleman his jewelry."

I turned mighty red and pleaded guilty.

"I thought so. Gad! You're like to keep sheep by moonlight," chuckled Creagh.

"Nonsense! They would never hang me," I cried.

"Wouldn't, eh! Deed, and I'm not so sure. The hue and cry is out for you."

"Havers, man!" interrupted Macdonald sharply. "You're frightening the lady with your fairy tales, Creagh. Don't you be believing him, my dear. The hemp is not grown that will hang Kenneth."

But for all his cheery manner we were mightily taken aback, especially when another rider came in a few minutes later with a letter to me from town. It ran:-

Dear Montagu,

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends." Our pleasant little game is renewed. The first trick was, I believe, mine; the second yours. The third I trump by lodging an information against you for highway robbery. Tony I shall not implicate, of course, nor Mac-What's-His-Name. Take wings, my Fly-by-night, for the runners are on your heels, and if you don't, as I live, you'll wear hemp. Give my devoted love to the lady. I am,

Your most obedt servt to command,

Robt Volney.

In imagination I could see him seated at his table, pushing aside a score of dainty notes from Phyllis indiscreet or passionate Diana, that he might dash off his warning to me, a whimsical smile half-blown on his face, a gleam of sardonic humour in his eyes. Remorseless he was by choice, but he would play the game with an English sportsman's love of fair play. Eliminating his unscrupulous morals and his acquired insolence of manner, Sir Robert Volney would have been one to esteem; by impulse he was one of the finest gentlemen I have known.

Though Creagh had come to warn me of Volney's latest move, he was also the bearer of a budget of news which gravely affected the State at large and the cause on which we were embarked. The French fleet of transports, delayed again and again by trivial causes, had at length received orders to postpone indefinitely the invasion of England. Yet in spite of this fatal blow to the cause it was almost certain that Prince Charles Edward Stuart with only seven companions, of whom one was the ubiquitous O'Sullivan, had slipped from Belleisle on the Doutelle and escaping the British fleet had landed on the coast of Scotland. The emotions which animated us on hearing of the gallant young Prince's daring and romantic attempt to win a Kingdom with seven swords, trusting sublimely in the loyalty of his devoted Highlanders, may better be imagined than described. Donald Roy flung up his bonnet in a wild hurrah, Aileen beamed pride and happiness, and Creagh's volatile Irish heart was in the hilltops. If I had any doubts of the issue I knew better than to express them.

But we were shortly recalled to our more immediate affairs. Before we got back to the inn one of those cursed placards offering a reward for my arrest adorned the wall, and in front of it a dozen open-mouthed yokels were spelling out its purport. Clearly there was no time to be lost in taking Volney's advice. We hired a chaise and set out for London within the hour. 'Twas arranged that Captain Macdonald and Hamish Gorm should push on at once to Montagu Grange with Aileen, while I should lie in hiding at the lodgings of Creagh until my wounds permitted of my travelling without danger. That Volney would not rest without attempting to discover the whereabouts of Miss Macleod I was well assured, and no place of greater safety for the present occurred to me than the seclusion of the Grange with my brother Charles and the family servants to watch over her. As for myself, I was not afraid of their hanging me, but I was not minded to play into the hands of Volney by letting myself get cooped up in prison for many weeks pending a trial while he renewed his cavalier wooing of the maid.

Never have I spent a more doleful time than that which followed. For one thing my wounds healed badly, causing me a good deal of trouble. Then too I was a prisoner no less than if I had been in The Tower itself. If occasionally at night I ventured forth the fear of discovery was always with me. Tony Creagh was the best companion in the world, at once tender as a mother and gay as a schoolboy, but he could not be at home all day and night, and as he was agog to be joining the Prince in the North he might leave any day. Meanwhile he brought me the news of the town from the coffee-houses: how Sir Robert Walpole was dead; how the Camerons under Lochiel, the Macdonalds under Young Clanranald, and the Macphersons under Cluny had rallied to the side of the Prince and were expected soon to be defeated by Sir John Cope, the Commander-in-Chief of the Government army in Scotland; how Balmerino and Leath had already shipped for Edinburgh to join the insurgent army; how Beauclerc had bet Lord March a hundred guineas that the stockings worn by Lady Di Faulkner at the last Assembly ball were not mates, and had won. It appeared that unconsciously I had been a source of entertainment to the club loungers.

"Sure 'tis pity you're mewed up here, Kenn, for you're the lion of the hour. None can roar like you. The betting books at White's are filled with wagers about you," Creagh told me.

"About me?" I exclaimed.

"Faith, who else? 'Lord Pam bets Mr. Conway three ponies against a hundred pounds that Mr. Kenneth Montagu of Montagu Grange falls by the hand of justice before three months from date,'" he quoted with a great deal of gusto. "Does your neck ache, Kenn?"

"Oh, the odds are in my favour yet. What else?" I asked calmly.

"'Mr. James Haddon gives ten pounds each to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and to Sir Robert Volney and is to receive from each twenty guineas if Mr. K. Montagu is alive twelve months from date.' Egad, you're a topic of interest in high quarters!"

"Honoured, I'm sure! I'll make it a point to see that his Royal Highness and my dear friend Volney lose. Anything else?"

"At the coffee-house they were talking about raising a subscription to you because they hear you're devilish hard up and because you made such a plucky fight against Volney. Some one mentioned that you had a temper and were proud as Lucifer. 'He's such a hothead. How'll he take it?' asks Beauclerc. 'Why, quarterly, to be sure!' cries Selwyn. And that reminds me: George has written an epigram that is going the rounds. Out of some queer whim-to keep them warm I suppose-Madame Bellevue took her slippers to bed with her. Some one told it at the club, so Selwyn sat down and wrote these verses:

"'Well may Suspicion shake its head-

Well may Clorinda's spouse be jealous,

When the dear wanton takes to bed

Her very shoes-because they're fellows.'"

Creagh's merry laugh was a source of healing in itself, and his departure to join the Prince put an edge to the zest of my desire to get back into the world. Just before leaving he fished a letter from his pocket and tossed it across the room to me.

"Egad, and you are the lucky man, Kenn," he said. "The ladies pester us with praises of your valour. This morning one of the fair creatures gave me this to deliver, swearing I knew your whereabouts."

'Twas a gay little note from my former playmate Antoinette Westerleigh, and inclosed was a letter to her from my sister. How eagerly I devoured Cloe's letter for news of Aileen may be guessed.

My Dearest 'Toinette:-

Since last I saw you (so the letter ran) seems a century, and of course I am dying to come to town. No doubt the country is very healthy, but Lud! 'tis monstrous dull after a London season. I vow I am already a lifetime behind the fashions. Is't true that prodigious bustles are the rage? And while I think of it I wish you would call at Madame Ronald's and get the lylack lute-string scirt she is making for me.

Also at Duprez's for the butifull little hat I ordered. Please have them sent by carrier. I know I am a vast nuisance; 'tis the penalty, my dear, for having a country mawkin as your best friend.

Of course you know what that grate brother of mine has been at. Gaming I hear, playing ducks and drakes with his money, and fighting duels with your lover. For a time we were dreadfully anxious about him. What do you think he has sent me down to take care of for him? But you would never guess. My love, a Scotch girl, shy as one of her own mountain deer. I suppose when he is recovert of his wounds he will be down here to philander with her. Aileen Macleod is her name, and really I do not blame him. I like her purely myself. In a way quite new she is very taking; speaks the prettiest broken English, is very simple, sweet, and grateful. At a word the pink and white comes and goes in her cheeks as it never does in ours. I wish I could acquire her manner, but Alack! 'tis not to be learnt though I took lessons forever. The gracefull creature dances the Scottish flings divinely. She is not exactly butifull, but-well, I can see why the men think so and fall down in worship! By the way, she is very nearly in love-tho she does not know it-with that blundering brother of mine; says that "her heart iss always thanking him at all events." If he knew how to play his cards-but there, the oaf will put his grate foot in it.

She came here with a shag-headed gillie of a servant, under the protection of a Captain Macdonald who is a very fine figure of a man. He was going to stay only an hour or two, but Charles persuaded him to stop three days. Charles teases me about him, swears the Captain is already my slave, but you may depend on't there is nothing in it. Last night we diverted ourselves with playing Hide the Thimble, and the others lost the Scotch Captain and me in the

armory. He is a peck of fun. This morning he left for the North, and do you think the grate Mr. Impudence did not buss us both; Aileen because she is his cousin a hundred times removed and me because (what a reason!) "my eyes dared him." Of course I was in a vast rage, which seemed to hily delight Captain Impudence. I don't see how he dared take so grate a preaviledge. Do you?

Aileen is almost drest, and I must go smart myself. My dear, an you love me, write to

Your own Cloe.

P. S.-Lard, I clear forgot! 'Tis a secret that the Scotch enchantress is here. You must be sure not to mention it, my dear, to your Sir Robert, But la! I have the utmost confidence in your discretion.

Conceive my dismay! Discretion and Antoinette Westerleigh were as far apart as the poles. What more likely than that the dashing little minx would undertake to rally her lover about Aileen, and that the adroit baronet would worm out of her the information he desired? The letter crystallized my desire to set out at once for Montagu Grange, and from there to take the road with Miss Macleod hotspur for Scotland. It appeared to me that the sooner we were out of England the better it would be for both of us.

I made the journey to the Grange by easy stages, following so far as I could little used roads and lanes on account of a modest desire to avoid publicity. 'Twas early morning when I reached the Grange. I remember the birds were twittering a chorus as I rode under the great oaks to the house. Early as it was, Cloe and Aileen were already walking in the garden with their arms entwined about each other's waists in girl fashion. They made a picture taking enough to have satisfied a jaded connoisseur of beauty: the fair tall Highland lass, jimp as a willow wand, with the long-lashed blue eyes that looked out so shyly and yet so frankly on those she liked, and the merry brown-eyed English girl so ready of saucy tongue, so worldly wise and yet so innocent of heart.

Cloe came running to meet me in a flutter of excitement and Mistress Aileen followed more demurely down the path, though there was a Highland welcome in her frank face not to be denied. I slid from the horse and kissed Cloe. Miss Macleod gave me her hand.

"We are hoping you are quite well from your wounds," she said.

"Quite," I answered. "Better much for hearing your kind voices and seeing your bright faces."

I dare say I looked over-long into one of the bright faces, and for a punishment was snatched into confusion by my malapert sister.

"I didn't know you had heard my kind voice yet," mimicked Miss Madcap. "And are you thinking of holding Aileen's hand all day?"

My hand plumped to my side like a shot. Both of us flamed, I stammering apologies the while Cloe no doubt enjoyed hugely my embarrassment. 'Tis a sister's prerogative to teach her older brothers humility, and Cloe for one did not let it fall into neglect.

"To be sure I do not know the Highland custom in the matter," she was continuing complacently when Aileen hoist her with her own petard.

"I wass thinking that perhaps Captain Macdonald had taught you in the armory," she said quietly; and Cloe, to be in the fashion, ran up the red flag too.

It appeared that my plan for an immediate departure from England jumped with the inclination of Miss Macleod. She had received a letter from her brother, now in Scotland, whose plans in regard to her had been upset by the unexpected arrival of the Prince. He was extremely solicitous on her behalf, but could only suggest for her an acceptance of a long-standing invitation to visit Lady Strathmuir, a distant relative living in Surrey, until times grew more settled. To Aileen the thought of throwing herself upon the hospitality of one she had never met was extremely distasteful, and she hailed my proposal as an alternative much to be desired.

The disagreeable duty of laying before my lawyer the involved condition of my affairs had to be endured, and I sent for him at once to get it over with the sooner. He pulled a prodigious long face at my statement of the gaming debts I had managed to contract during my three months' experiment as the prodigal son in London, but though he was extraordinarily severe with me I made out in the end that affairs were not so bad as I had thought. The estate would have to be plastered with a mortgage, but some years of stiff economy and retrenchment, together with a ruthless pruning of the fine timber, would suffice to put me on my feet again. The expenditures of the household would have to be cut down, but Mr. Brief thought that a modest establishment befitting my rank might still be maintained. If I thought of marrying--

A ripple of laughter from the lawn, where Aileen and Charles were arranging fishing tackle, was wafted through the open window and cut athwart the dry speech of the lawyer. My eyes found her and lingered on the soft curves, the rose-leaf colouring, the eager face framed in a sunlit aureola of radiant hair. Already my mind had a trick of imagining her the mistress of the Grange. Did she sit for a moment in the seat that had been my mother's my heart sang; did she pluck a posy or pour a cup of tea 'twas the same. "If I thought of marrying--" Well, 'twas a thing to be considered one day-when I came back from the wars.

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