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Title: The Romance of War (Sequel to Volumes 1-3) - or, The Highlanders in France and Belgium
Author: Grant, James, archaeologist
Language: English
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VOLUMES 1-3) ***



                         *THE ROMANCE OF WAR:*


                            THE HIGHLANDERS

                         IN FRANCE AND BELGIUM.


                              A SEQUEL TO

                       THE HIGHLANDERS IN SPAIN.


                                   BY

                           JAMES GRANT, ESQ.

                         _Late 62nd Regiment._



          "In the garb of old Gaul, with the fire of old Rome,
          From the heath-covered mountains of Scotia we come;
        Our loud-sounding pipe breathes the true martial strain,
         And our hearts still the old Scottish valour retain."
                          _Lt.-Gen. Erskine._



                           IN THREE VOLUMES.

                                VOL. I.



                                LONDON:
                       HENRY COLBURN, PUBLISHER,
                       GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.
                                 1847.



                                LONDON:
             PRINTED BY MAURICE AND CO., HOWFORD BUILDINGS,
                           FENCHURCH STREET.



                               *CONTENTS*

Chapter

      I. Toulouse
     II. Adventures
    III. The Lady of Elizondo
     IV. Cifuentes
      V. Home
     VI. The Torre de Los Frayles
    VII. Spanish Law
   VIII. An Acquaintance, and "Old England on the Lee"
     IX. Flanders
      X. Cameron of Fassifern
     XI. The 17th June, 1815
    XII. The 18th of June
   XIII. The Sister of Charity
    XIV. France
     XV. The Château de Marielle
    XVI. Paris, De Mesmai, and the Hôtel de Clugny
   XVII. A Catastrophe
  XVIII. The Homeward March
    XIX. Edinburgh
     XX. Lochisla
    XXI. Alice
   XXII. News from Afar
  XXIII. Conclusion



                               *PREFACE.*

Numerous inquiries having been made for the conclusion of "The Romance
of War," it is now presented to the Public, whom the Author has to thank
for the favourable reception given to the first three volumes of his
Work.

In following out the adventures of the Highlanders, he has been obliged
to lead them through the often-described field of Waterloo.  But the
reader will perceive that he has touched on the subject briefly; and,
avoiding all general history, has confined himself, as much as possible,
to the movements of Sir Dennis Pack’s brigade.

Notwithstanding that so many able military narratives have of late years
issued from the press, the Author believes that the present work is _the
first_ which has been almost exclusively dedicated to the adventures of
a Highland regiment during the last war; the survivors of which he has
to congratulate on their prospect of obtaining the long-withheld, but
well-deserved, _medal_.

Few—few indeed of the old corps are now alive; yet these all remember,
with equal pride and sorrow,

    "How, upon bloody Quatre Bras,
    Brave CAMERON heard the wild hurra
    Of conquest as he fell;"

and, lest any reader may suppose that in these volumes the national
enthusiasm of the Highlanders has been over-drawn, I shall state one
striking incident which occurred at Waterloo.

On the advance of a heavy column of French infantry to attack La Haye
Sainte, a number of the Highlanders sang the stirring verses of "Bruce’s
Address to his Army," which, at such a time, had a most powerful effect
on their comrades; and long may such sentiments animate their
representatives, as they are the best incentives to heroism, and to
honest emulation!

EDINBURGH,
       _June_ 1847.



                          *THE ROMANCE OF WAR*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                              *TOULOUSE.*


    "One crowded hour of glorious life,
    Is worth an age without a name!"


The long and bloody war of the Peninsula had now been brought to a final
close, and the troops looked forward with impatience to the day of
embarkation for their homes.  The presence of the allied army was no
longer necessary in France; but the British forces yet lingered about
the Garonne, expecting the long-wished and long-looked for route for
Britain.  The Gordon Highlanders were quartered at Muret, a small town
on the banks of the Garonne, and a few miles from Toulouse. One evening,
while the mess were discussing, over their wine, the everlasting theme
of the probable chances of the corps being ordered to Scotland, the
sound of galloping hoofs and the clank of accoutrements were heard in
the street of the village.  A serjeant of the First Dragoons, with the
foam-bells hanging on his horse’s bridle, reined up at the door of the
inn where the officers of the Highlanders had established a temporary
mess-house.  Old Dugald Cameron was standing at the door, displaying his
buirdly person to a group of staring villagers, with whom he was
attempting to converse in a singular mixture of broad northern Scots,
Spanish, and French, all of which his hearers found not very
intelligible.

The horseman dashed up to the door with the splendid air of the true
English dragoon, and with an importance which caused the villagers to
shrink back.  Inquiring for Colonel Cameron, he handed to Dugald two
long official packets; and after draining a deep hornful of liquor which
the Celt brought him, he wheeled his charger round, and rode slowly
away.

"Letters frae the toon o’ Toulouse, sir," said Dugald, as, with his flat
bonnet under his arm, and smoothing down his white hair, he advanced to
Fassifern’s elbow, and laid the despatches before him; after which he
retired a few paces, and waited to hear the contents, in which he
considered he had as much interest as any one present.  The clamour and
laughter of the mess-room were instantly hushed, and every face grew
grave, from the ample visage of Campbell, who was seated on the
colonel’s right hand, down to the fair-cheeked ensigns, (or Johny
Newcomes,) who always ensconced themselves at the foot of the table, to
be as far away as possible from the colonel and seniors.

"Fill your glasses, gentlemen," said Cameron, as he broke the seal of
the first despatch; "fill a bumper, and drink ’to a fair wind.’  My life
on’t ’tis the route, and we shall soon have Old England on our lee!"

"Praise Heaven ’tis come at last!" said Campbell, filling up his glass
with bright sparkling sherry. "I never hailed it with greater joy, even
in Egypt. But what says Sir Arthur—the marquis, I mean?"

"’Tis the route!" replied Cameron, draining his glass.  "To-morrow, at
daybreak, we march for Toulouse."

"Hurrah!" said the major.  "We shall have the purple heather under our
brogues in a week more. Hoigh!  Here’s to the Highlandmen, shoulder to
shoulder!"  Every glass was reversed, while a round of applause shook
the room.

"We embark on the Garonne," continued Cameron, consulting the document.
"Flat-bottomed boats will convey us down the river, and we shall sail in
transports for Cork."

"Hech! how, sirs!  Cork?" exclaimed Campbell, in a tone of
disappointment.  "_Demonios!_ as the dons say; and are we not going home
to our own country,—to the land of the bannock and bonnet?"

"Ireland is our destination.  A famous place to soldier in, as I know
from experience, major."

"I love poor Paddy well enough," said Campbell: "who is there that would
not, that has seen a charge of the Connaught Rangers, or the 87th?
Regular devils they are for righting.  But we were sent home to braid
Scotland after Egypt; and we saw service there, gentlemen.  Old Ludovick
Lisle, and Cameron there, could tell you that.  But the other paper,
colonel; what is it about?"

"A despatch for General the Condé Penne Villamur, at Elizondo.  It is to
be forwarded instantly by the first officer for duty: who is he?"

"Stuart," said the adjutant.

"The deuce take your memory!" said Stuart testily, as this announcement
fell like a thunderbolt upon him; "you seem to have the roster all by
heart.  Colonel, is it possible that I am really to travel nearly a
hundred miles, and to cross those abominable Pyrenees again, after
fighting my way to Toulouse?"

"Without doubt," replied Fassifern, drily.  "You will have the pleasure
of seeing Spain once more, and again paying your respects to the
gazelle-eyed señoritas and pompous señores."

"I would readily dispense with these pleasures. But might not Wellington
have sent an aide or a dragoon with this despatch?"

"_He_ seems not to think so.  There is no help, Ronald, my man.  You
would not throw your duty on another.  Obedience is the first—You know
the adage: ’tis enough.  You can rejoin us at Toulouse, where we embark
in eight days from this."

"Eight days?"

"Make good use of your nag; you will require one, of course.  Campbell
will lend you his spare charger ’Egypt,’ as he styles it."

"With the utmost pleasure," said the major, filling up his glass.  "But
look well to him by the way, for he is an especial good piece of
horse-flesh as ever was foaled, or any man found for nothing on that
memorable day of June, on the plains of Vittoria.  But when I remember
the airing you took with my steed at Almarez, I cannot lend you Egypt
without entertaining some secret fears of never beholding him again."

"Have no fears for Egypt, major," said Ronald, laughing.  "I will
restore him without turning a hair of his glossy coat."

"Then, Stuart, you must march forthwith," said Cameron; "the marquis’s
despatch must be carried onward without delay.  You must reach St.
Gaudens by sunrise."

Dugald was despatched to desire Jock Pentland, the major’s bat-man, to
caparison Egypt; and mean while Stuart hurried to his billet, where he
hastily selected a few necessaries for his journey, and packed them in a
horse valise.  In case of accidents, he indited a hasty letter for
Lochisla; but, for reasons which will be given in another chapter, it
never reached those for whom it was destined.

To his servant, Allan Warristoun, poor Evan’s successor, he abandoned
the care of his baggage, desiring him to have it all in readiness
against the hour of march on the morrow.  He belted his sword and dirk
tightly to his waist, and examined the holsters, to see if the pistols
were freshly flinted and in good order; after which he examined his
ammunition, well knowing that the more lead bullets and the less loose
cash he had about him, the better for travelling on such unsafe ground
as the Lower Pyrenees.  He remembered that the whole of these waste
places were infested by hordes of lawless banditti, composed of all the
rascal crew of Spain,—guerillas, whose trade was at at end, broken or
deserted soldiers, unfrocked monks, fugitive _presidiarios_ or convicts,
bravoes, _valientes_, and vagabonds of every kind, with which the long
war, the absence of order and law, together with the loose state of
Spanish morals, had peopled every part of the country.  While the
remembrance of these gentlemen passed through his mind, Stuart again
examined his arms and horse-equipage carefully, and mounting, rode forth
along the dark, straggling street of Muret.  From the mess-room window
there was handed to him a parting bumper of sherry, which he drank in
his saddle.

"Good-bye, Lisle!" said he, waving his hand; "bid Virginia adieu for me.
And now good-bye, lads; good-bye to ye all;" and, striking spurs into
Egypt, he galloped off.

"He is a fine fellow, and keeps his seat as well as any cavalier of the
_Prado_ at Madrid," said the major, watching Stuart’s retreating figure
as long as he could see it by the star-light.  "He is a fine fellow; and
I wish he was safe back again among us. He has a long and a perilous
path before him, over these d—d Pyrenees; and ten to one he never
returns again from among those black-browed and uncanny dons.  We all
know Spanish ingratitude, sirs!"  The worthy major knew not how
prophetically he spoke.

Next morning the regiment marched to Toulouse and remained eight days,
awaiting the arrival of the boats and other small craft to convey them
down the Garonne, which becomes navigable at a short distance from the
city.

The eight days passed away, and Ronald Stuart did not return.  The
eventful day arrived,—the day of embarkation for home, and the regiment
paraded on the river side without him.  The officers glanced darkly at
each other, and the colonel shook his head sorrowfully, as if he deemed
that all was not right; and a murmured curse on the Spaniards was
muttered among the soldiers.  The whole regiment, from Fassifern down to
the youngest drum-boy, regretted his absence, which gave room for so
many disagreeable constructions and surmises.  Other corps were parading
at the same time, and in the stir, bustle, and confusion of embarking
men and horses, baggage, women, and children, his absence was forgotten
for a time.  The cheers of the soldiers and the din of various bands
were heard everywhere.  The time was one of high excitement, and joy
shone on every bronzed face as boat after boat got under way, and, with
its freight, moved slowly down the Garonne,—"the silvery Garonne," the
windings of which soon hid the bridge, the spires, the grey old
university, and the beautiful forests of Toulouse.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                             *ADVENTURES.*


    ————— "Turn thy horse;
    Death besets thy onward track.
    Come no further,—quickly back!"
      _Aikin’s Poems_, 1791.


Stuart departed from Muret in no pleasant mood, having a conviction that
he was the most unfortunate fellow in the army; because, when any
disagreeable duty was to be performed, by some strange fatality the lot
always fell upon him.  But his displeasure evaporated as the distance
between Muret and himself increased.  It was a clear and beautiful
night.  Millions of sparklers studded the firmament, and, although no
moon was visible, the scenery around was distinctly discernible.  Afar
off lay Toulouse, the direction of which was marked only by the hazy
halo of light around it, arising from amidst the bosky forests, which
extend over nearly a hundred thousand acres of ground.

Before him spread a clear and open country, over which his horse was now
carrying him at a rapid pace.  It was midnight before the lights of
Muret vanished behind him.  The road became more lonely, and no sound
broke upon the silence of the way, save the clang of Egypt’s hoofs,
ringing with a sharp iron sound on the hard-trodden road.

After riding nearly twenty miles, he found himself becoming tired and
drowsy; and dismounting, he led his horse into a copse by the road-side,
where, fastening the bridle to a tree, he lay down on the dewy sward,
and, placing his claymore under his head, fell fast asleep.  Before
sunrise he was again in his saddle, and, without breaking his fast,
reached the town of Saint Gaudens, on the Garonne, forty-four miles from
Toulouse.  Unwilling to waste farther the strength of the noble animal
which had borne him so far, and with such speed, he halted at Saint
Gaudens for twelve hours, and again set forward on the direct road for
the province of Beam.

The well-known chain of the Pyrenees, the scene of so many a recent
contest, began to rise before him, and as he proceeded, every object
which met his view became more familiar.

On nearing the Pass of Roncesvalles, he reached the block-house which
his light company had garrisoned and defended so stoutly.  It was now
falling into ruin, and the skeletons of the French were lying around it,
with the rank dog-grass sprouting among their mouldering bones.  A
ghastly sight!—but many such occurred as he journeyed among the
mountains.  Near the block-house he fell in with an encampment of
_gitanos_, or gipsies, a people whose ferocity is equalled only by their
cunning and roguery.  They were at dinner, and bade him welcome to the
feast, which consisted of broiled rabbits, olives, rice, and _bacalao_,
with wine—stolen of course—to wash it down.  He took his share of the
viands seated by a fire, around which the ragged wayfarers crowded, male
and female; but he was very well pleased when he took his departure from
these singular people, who would not accept of a single maravedi for his
entertainment.

Near midnight he arrived at the village of Roncesvalles, which consists
of one straggling street, closed by an arched gateway at each end.  The
barriers were shut, and no admittance was given. He thundered loudly,
first at one gate and then at the other; but he was unheard or uncared
for by the drowsy porters, who occupied the houses above the arches.  He
therefore prepared to pass the night in the open air, which, although
nothing new to a campaigner, was sufficiently provoking on that
occasion, especially as a shower was beginning to descend, and sheet
lightning, red and flaming, shot at times across the distant sky,
revealing the peaks of the mountains, and the moaning voice of the wind
announced a tempestuous night.  Wishing the warders of Roncesvalles in a
hotter climate than Spain, he looked about for some place of shelter,
and perceived, not far off, a solitary little chapel, or oratory, which
was revealed by the pale altar-lights twinkling through its tinted
windows and open doorway.

In this rude edifice he resolved to take shelter, rather than pass the
night in the open air; and just as he gained its arched porch, the
storm, which had long been threatening, burst forth with sudden and
appalling fury.  The wind howled in the pass, and swept over the
mountains like a tornado, and with a terrible sound, as if, in the words
of a Gaelic bard, the spirits of the storm were shrieking to each other.
The forked lightning shot athwart the sky, cleaving the masses of cloud,
and the rattling rain thundered furiously on the chapel roof and
windows, as if to beat the little fabric to the earth.  His horse was
startled by the uproar of the elements, and snorted, grew restive, and
shot fire from his prominent eyes as the passing gleams illuminated the
porch, within which Stuart had stabled him by fastening the bridle to
the figure of an old saint or apostle that presided over a stone font,
from which the old troop-horse soon sucked up the holy water.  Ronald
wrapped a cloak round him, and flung himself on the stone pavement of
the chapel, to rest his aching limbs, which were beginning to stiffen
with so long a journey on horseback.

The building was totally destitute of ornament, and its rude
construction gave evidence of its great antiquity.  There were several
shrines around it, with wax tapers flickering before them, revealing the
strange little monsters in wood or stone which represented certain
saints.  In front of one of these knelt a stout, but wild-looking
Spanish peasant, devoutly praying and telling over his chaplet.  The
entrance of Stuart caused him hurriedly to start,—to snatch his
broad-leaved hat from the floor, to grasp the haft of his dagger, and
glance round him with frowning brow and eyes gleaming with apprehension.
But on perceiving the uniform of the intruder, his dark features relaxed
into a smile; he bowed his head politely, and resumed his orisons, which
Stuart never interrupted, although they lasted for a weary hour.  There
was something very grotesque in the aspect of one particular image,
which appeared to be thrust unceremoniously into a dark niche, where no
taper burned; from which Ronald inferred that the saint had no
worshippers, or was not a favourite in the neighbourhood of
Roncesvalles. The appearance of the image was calculated to excite
laughter and derision, rather than piety or awe.  It resembled the
figure of Johnny Wilkes or Guy Fawkes, rather than a grim and ghostly
saint. The effigy was upwards of six feet high, and had a painted mask,
well be-whiskered, and surmounted by a cocked hat.  It was arrayed in
leather breeches and jack-boots, a blue uniform coat, and tarnished
epaulets.  A sash encircled its waist, and in it were stuck a pair of
pistols and a sabre.  Its _tout ensemble_ was quite ludicrous, as it
stood erect in the gloomy niche of the solemn little chapel, and was
seen by the "dim religious light" of distant tapers.

With the hilt of his broad-sword under his head for a pillow, Stuart lay
on the pavement, and viewed this singular apparition with considerable
amusement; and if he restrained a violent inclination to laugh, it was
only from a reluctance to offend the peasant, who was praying before an
image which, by its long robe and bunch of rusty keys, seemed meant for
a representation of San Pedro.

From the devotee, who, when his prayers were ended, seated himself by
his side, Stuart learned that the strange image represented St. Anthony
of Portugal, one of those redoubtable seven champions whose "history"
has made such a noise in the world from time immemorial.
Notwithstanding the mist which ignorance, superstition, and priestcraft
had cast over his mind, the sturdy _paisano_ laughed till the chapel
rang again at the appearance of the Portuguese patron, and acquainted
Stuart with some pleasant facts, which accounted for the military garb
of the saint.  By virtue of a decree in that behalf on the part of his
Holiness, St. Anthony was, in 1706, formally _enlisted_ into the
Portuguese army; and in the same year received the rank of captain,—so
rapid was his promotion.  His image was always clad in successive
uniforms as he was hurried through the different grades, until he
reached the rank of Marshal-general of the armies of Portugal and
Algarve,—a post which, I believe, he yet holds, with a pension of one
hundred and fifty ducats per annum, which every year is punctually
deposited, in a splendid purse, in the Chapel-Royal, by the Portuguese
sovereign.  Awful was the wrath, and terrible were the denunciations and
holy indignation, when a cannon-ball carried off the head and cocked hat
of the unfortunate image, which had been placed in an open carriage on
one occasion, when _commanding_ the Portuguese army in battle.

The image in the chapel at Roncesvalles had been placed there by the
soldiers of the condé d’Amarante’s brigade, the condé himself furnishing
the saint with some of his cast uniform; but, since the departure of the
Portuguese, the shrine had been totally deserted, as no true Spaniard
would bend his knee to a Lusitanian saint.  Such was the account given
by the peasant, and it illustrates rather oddly the religious feelings
of the Portuguese.  After sharing together the contents of a flask of
brandy, with which Ronald had learned to provide himself, they composed
themselves to sleep.  The peasant, who had also been shut out of
Roncesvalles, drew his broad _sombrero_ over his dusky visage, and,
wrapping his brown mantle around him, laid his head against the base of
a column, and fell fast asleep.  Those suspicions which a long
intercourse with Spaniards had taught Stuart to entertain of every
casual acquaintance, kept him for some time from sleep.  He narrowly
watched his olive-cheeked companion, and it was not until, from his hard
breathing, he was sure he slept, that he too resigned himself to the
drowsy deity.  He awoke about sunrise, and found that his companion had
departed. A sudden misgiving shot across his mind, and he sprang to the
porch to look for his horse, which stood there, fair and sleek, as he
left him on the preceding evening.  He took him by the bridle, and
advanced towards Roncesvalles.

The storm, and all traces of it, had passed away. The sky was clear and
sunny, and the distant mountains mingled with its azure.  The air was
laden with rich perfume from little shrubs, of which I know not the
name, but which flourish everywhere over the Peninsula; and every bush
and blade of grass glittered like silver with the moisture which bedewed
them.  The gates of Roncesvalles stood open, and, passing through one of
the archways, Ronald asked the first person he met whether there was an
inn, café, _taberna_, or any house of entertainment, where he could
procure refreshment for himself and horse, but was informed that the
wretched mountain-village could boast of none.  The man to whom he spoke
was a miserably-clad peasant, and, like most Spanish villagers, appeared
to belong to no trade or profession.  He was returning from the public
fountain with water, which he carried on his head, in a huge brown jug.
He seemed both surprised and pleased to be accosted by a British
officer, and said that if the noble _caballero_ would honour him by
coming to his house, he would do his best to provide refreshment.  This
offer Stuart at once accepted, and placing a dollar in the hand of the
_aguadore_, desired him to lead the way.  After seeing his horse fed and
watered, and after discussing breakfast, which consisted of a miserable
mess of milk, peas, goats’-flesh, and roasted _castanos_, he mounted,
and again went forth on his mission, glad to leave Roncesvalles far
behind him.  He expected to reach Elizondo before night; but soon found
that his horse had become so jaded and worn out, that the hope was vain.
The pace of the animal had become languid and slow; his eyes had lost
their fire, and his neck and ears began to droop.

That he might advance faster, Stuart was fain to lead him by the bridle
up the steep and winding tracks by which his journey lay.  Once only
Egypt showed some signs of his former spirit.  In a narrow dell between
two hills, in a rugged gorge like the bed of a departed river, an iron
howitzer and a few shells lay rusting and half sunk in the earth: close
by lay the skeletons of a man and a horse, adding sadly to the effect of
the naked and silent wilderness around.  At the sudden sight of these
ghastly objects lying among the weeds and long grass, the steed snorted,
shyed, and then sprung away at a speed which soon left the dell, and
what it contained, miles behind.

As he rode through a solitary place, Stuart was startled on perceiving a
party of men, to the number of fifteen or twenty, all well armed and on
horseback, rising as it seemed from the earth, or appearing suddenly
above the surface successively, as spectres rise through the stage.  The
fellows were all gaily attired in gaudy jackets, red sashes, and
high-crowned hats; but the appearance of their arms, a long Spanish gun
slung over the back, a cutlass, and double brace of pistols, together
with various packages of goods with which their horses were laden, gave
them the aspect of a band of robbers.  Stuart thought of the gang of
Captain Rolando, as he saw them appearing from the bowels of the earth,
within about twenty paces of where he stopped his horse.  He next
thought of his own safety, and had drawn forth his pistols, when one of
the strangers perceiving him, waved his hat, crying, "_Amigos, señor,
amigos!_" and, to put a bold face on the matter, Ronald rode straight
towards him.  They proved to be a party of _contrabandistas_, travelling
to Vittoria with a store of chocolate, soap, butter, cigars, &c., which
they had been purchasing in France.  A sort of hatchway, or trap-door,
of turf was laid over the mouth of the cavern from which they arose;
after which they set off at full speed for Errazu.

Ronald was very well pleased to see them depart, as _contrabandistas_
are, at best, but indifferent characters, although few travellers are
more welcome at Spanish inns, where they may generally be seen at the
door, or in the yard, recounting to their laughing auditors strange
tales of adventures which they had encountered in the course of their
roving and romantic life; and, as they are always gaily attired, they
are generally favourites with the peasant-girls on the different roads
they frequent.  Their cavern, which Ronald felt a strong wish to
explore, was probably some deserted mine, or one of those subterranean
abodes dug by the Spaniards in the days of the Moors, and now
appropriated by these land-smugglers as a place for holding their wares.
Had Ronald worn any other garb than that of a British officer, the
contraband gentry might, by an ounce bullet, have secured for ever his
silence regarding their retreat, but they well knew that it mattered not
to him: so, after an interchange of a few civilities and cigars, they
rode off at a gallop, without once looking behind them.

As he proceeded on his way, the scenery became more interesting, the
landscape being interspersed with all that can render it beautiful.  A
ruined chapel towered on a green eminence above a tufted grove, through
which swept a brawling mountain torrent, spanned by a pointed arch;
while a cascade appeared below, where the stream, grappling and jarring
with the rocks that interrupted its course, rushed in a sheet of foam to
a cleft in the earth many feet beneath.  Around were groves of the
olive-tree, with its soft green leaves and bright yellow flowers; and
beyond was Errazu, with its vine-covered cottages, its larger mansions
of brick and plaster, with heavy-tiled roofs and broad projecting eaves,
its great old monastery and its church spire, the vane of which was
gleaming in the light of the setting sun.  As he was travelling on duty,
Stuart was entitled to billets; he therefore set about procuring one.
The alcalde was at confession, and the _escrivano_, to whom he applied,
gave him orders for a quarter in the house of a solitary widow lady,
who, with her daughter, resided in a lonely house at the end of the
town.

Considering their circumstances, this was the last house upon which a
billet should have been given; but the escrivano had a piece of revenge
to gratify.  The old lady was a widow of a syndic,—a magistrate chosen
by the people, like the Roman tribunes,—who, during his whole life, had
been at feud with him, and the escrivano hoped that Stuart’s being
billeted there would give rise to some pleasant piece of scandal, for
the benefit of the gossiping old maids and duennas of Errazu.

The appearance of the widow’s mansion did not prepossess Ronald much in
its favour.  The French had not left Errazu unscathed on their retreat
through it; and, like many others, the domicile of Donna Aminta della
Ronda showed signs of their vindictive feeling.  One half had suffered
from fire, and was in ruins; but two apartments were yet habitable, and
into one of these Stuart was shown by an aged and saffron-coloured
female domestic, to whom he presented the billet-order, by which he was
entitled to occupy the best room and best bed in the house. The chamber,
which was paved with tiles, was on the ground-floor; the window was
glazed, but the walls were in a deplorable state of dilapidation; and
many choice pieces of French wit appeared scribbled on various parts of
the plaster.  Among other things was a copy of verses addressed to Donna
Aminta, written in rather indelicate French, and signed "M. de Mesmai,
10th Cuirassiers, or Devil’s Own," which informed Stuart that his former
acquaintance had once occupied that apartment.

Two antique chairs, high-backed and richly carved, a massive oak table,
and a brass candlestick, composed the furniture.  A chamber, containing
an old-fashioned bed, with crimson feathers and hangings, opened out of
this apartment, with which it communicated by means of an arch, from
which the French had torn the door, probably for fuel.  But this snug
couch did not appear destined for Stuart, as the old domestic laid a
paillasse upon the tiled floor for his use; and placing wine, cigars,
and a light upon the table, laid the poker and shovel crosswise, and
withdrew, leaving him to his own reflections.

He was somewhat displeased at not being received by the ladies in
person, especially as the escrivano had informed him, with a sly look,
that the youngest possessed considerable attractions; but, consoling
himself with the wine and cigars, he resolved to care not a jot about
their discourtesy.  After he had amused himself by thoroughly inspecting
every nook and corner of the room, and grown weary of conning over the
"History of the famous Preacher, Friar Gerund de Campazas," which he
found when ransacking the bed-closet, he began to think of retiring to
rest.  He debated with himself for a moment which berth to take
possession of, because by his billet he was entitled to the best bed the
house contained; and the four-post and paillasse seemed the very
antipodes of each other.  But his doubts were resolved at once by the
sudden entrance of the ladies, who sailed into the room with their long
trains and flowing veils, and bowing, coldly bid him "_Buena noche,
señor!_" as they retired to their bed-room.  Ye gods! a bed-room
destitute of door, and a foreign _oficial_ to sleep in the next room!
Stuart was puzzled, dumb-foundered in fact, and his Scottish modesty was
quite shocked.  But, lighting another cigar, he affected to read very
attentively "Friar Gerund de Campazas," and wondered how all this was to
end; while the ladies, favoured by the gloom of the chamber, undressed
and betook themselves to their couch, around which they drew the dark
and massive folds of the drapery.  Ronald laid down the book, and stared
about him.  There was something very peculiar in the affair, and it
outdid the most singular Spanish stories he had ever heard related, even
at the mess.

The elder lady had nothing very enchanting about her, certainly; but
Ronald’s keen eye had observed that the young donna had a melting black
Spanish eye, a cherry lip, and white hand.  He thought of these things
and glanced furtively towards the mysterious closet, where the black
outline of the couch, surmounted by its plumage, seemed like that of a
hearse or mausoleum.  Not a sound came from it after Donna Aminta had
mumbled her _ave_; but the trampling of heavy feet arrested Stuart’s
attention; the door opened, and two tall and muscular Spaniards entered.
One wore a broad hat, with a sprig of romero stuck in the band of it, as
a guard against evil spirits and danger.  The other wore a long cap of
yellow cotton.  They were shirtless and shoeless, and their ragged
cotton breeches and _zamarra_ jackets displayed, through various holes,
their dark and swarthy skin, giving them a wild and savage appearance,
which their brown bull-like necks and ferocious visages, fringed with
masses of dark hair, did not belie.  As usual, each was girt about the
middle by a yellow sash; but, stuck in it, each had a dagger and brace
of pistols.  They were beetle-browed and most cut-throat looking
fellows.  At first sight Ronald knew them to be _valientes_,—villains
whose poniards are ever at the service of any base employer who pays
well.  He started up on their entering and drew his sword an inch or so
from the sheath. The fellows smiled grimly at the demonstration; upon
which, he inquired sternly the reason of their intrusion, and why thus
armed?

"Donna Aminta can best answer your questions," answered one fellow with
surly impudence, as they swaggered into the bed-chamber.  With his hand
on his claymore Ronald strode towards them.

"Stand, señor cavalier!" said the one who had spoken; "stand!  We seek
not to quarrel with you; but life is sweet, and if we are set upon—  You
understand us: the good lady shall see that we are worthy of our wages.
We mount guard on her chamber: cross this line," added he, drawing one
on the tiles with his poniard; "cross this line, and, _Santo demonio!_
we will whet our daggers on your backbone."

Insolent as this reply was, Stuart resolved to put up with the affront
rather than come to blows with two desperadoes, whose fire-arms gave
them such advantage.  He deeply regretted that he had left his loaded
pistols in the holsters of the saddle, and remembering that he was
alone, and among jealous strangers, he thought that a brawl would be
well avoided.  The bravoes seated themselves on the floor within the
ladies’ chamber, and remained perfectly quiet, without stirring or
speaking; but their fierce dark eyes seemed to be watching the stranger
keenly.  Ronald retired to his paillasse, and laid his drawn dirk and
claymore beside him, ready to grasp them on the least alarm.  He
remained watching the intruders by the light of the candle, until it
flickered down in the socket and expired, leaving the place involved in
deep gloom.  The silence of the chamber was broken only by the real or
pretended snoring of these modern Cids, who had so suddenly become the
guardians of the ladies’ bower.  When he first committed himself to his
miserable couch, Ronald had determined to lie awake; but, growing weary
of listening and watching in the dark, he dropped insensibly asleep, and
did not awaken until the morning was far advanced.  The instant sleep
departed from his eyelids, the remembrance of last night flashed upon
his memory.  He rose and looked about him.  The bravoes had withdrawn;
the ladies also were gone, and the couch was tenantless.  Sheathing his
weapons, he drained the wine-jar; and snatching up his bonnet, he
departed from the house unseen by its inmates, whom he bequeathed to the
devil for their discourtesy.

Fetching his horse from the stable of the _escrivano_, where he had left
it overnight, he again resumed his journey, feeling heartily tired of
Spain, and wishing himself again at Toulouse, where his comrades were
awaiting the order to embark.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                        *THE LADY OF ELIZONDO.*


    "A love devoid of guile and sin;
    A love for ever kind and pure,—
    A love to suffer and endure;
    Unalterably firm and great,
    Amid the angry storms of fate;
    For ever young, for ever new,
    For ever passionate and true."
      _The Salamandrine._


A ride of a few leagues brought Stuart to Elizondo. On entering the
market-place, two Spanish soldiers, placed as sentinels before the door
of a large mansion-house, attracted his attention.  He was informed that
it was the residence of the Condé Penne Villamur.  It stood at the
corner of the old marketplace, to which one of its fronts looked; the
other faced the _Puerta del Sol_, where the superior classes of the
inhabitants met to promenade and converse, between ten and twelve in the
forenoon.

He dismounted, and, ascending a splendid staircase, was ushered into a
handsome apartment, the lofty ceiling of which was covered with antique
carving and gilding.  As usual in Spanish houses, the furniture was very
antique, and the chairs and hangings were of damask cloth.  The condé, a
grim old fellow, whose grey wiry moustaches were turned up to the tops
of his ears, lay back in an easy chair, with his legs stretched out
lazily at full length under the table, upon which stood wine-decanters,
and fruit, &c. &c.  A young lady, either his wife or daughter, sat in
that part of the room where the floor was raised, as if for a throne,
about a foot above the rest. She sat working at a new mantilla, which
she was embroidering on a frame.  Her feet were placed on the wooden
rail of a _brasero_ or pan filled with charcoal, which rendered the
atmosphere of the room very unpleasant to one unaccustomed to such an
uncomfortable contrivance.  When Stuart entered, the señora merely
bowed, and continued her work, blushing as young ladies generally do
when a handsome young officer appears unexpectedly.  The count snatched
from his face the handkerchief which during his siesta had covered it,
and bowed twice or thrice with the most formal gravity of an old
Castilian, stooping until the bullion epaulets of his brown regimentals
became reversed.  Stuart delivered the despatch with which he had ridden
so far, wondering what it might contain.  The condé handed him a chair,
and a glass of Malaga; after which he begged pardon, and proceeded to
con over the papers, without communicating their contents.  But in
consequence of the complacent smile which overspread and unbent his grim
features, Ronald supposed that the envelope contained only some
complimentary address to the Spanish forces.  And he was right in his
conjecture, as, six months afterwards, he had the pleasure, or rather
displeasure, of perusing it in a number of the _Gaceta de la Regencia_.

"_Diavolo!_" thought he, as he bowed to _la señora_, and emptied his
glass; "have I ridden from the Garonne to the Pyrenees with a paper full
of staff-office nonsense!"

Villamur read over the document two or three times, often begging pardon
for the liberty he took; and after inquiring about the health of Lord
Wellington, and discussing the probabilities of having a continuance of
fine weather, as if he kept a score of barometers and thermometers, he
ended by a few other common-place observations, and covering up his face
with his handkerchief, began to relapse insensibly into the dozing and
dreamy state from which Stuart had roused him.  Irritated at treatment
so different from what he expected, and which an officer of the most
trusty ally of Spain deserved, Ronald at once rose, and bowing haughtily
to the lady, withdrew; the condé coolly permitting him to do so, saying,
that Micer Bartolmé, the alcalde, who kept the faro-table opposite,
would give him an order for a billet.

"Confound his Spanish pride, his insolence, presumption, and
ingratitude!" thought Stuart, bitterly.  "’Tis a pretty display of
hospitality this,—to one who has looked on the slaughter of Vittoria, of
Orthes, and Toulouse!  But my duty is over, thank Heaven! and to-morrow
my horse’s tail will be turned on this most grateful soil of Spain."

Micer Bartolmé expressed much joy at the sight of the red coat, and
would have invited the wearer to remain in his own house, probably for
the purpose of fleecing him at faro; but it so happened that, at the
moment, he was not exactly master of his own premises.  His good lady
had just brought him a son and heir, ten minutes before Ronald’s
arrival, and the mansion had been taken violent possession of by all the
female gossips, wise women, and duennas of Elizondo, by whom the worthy
alcalde was treated as a mere intruder, being pushed, ordered, and
browbeaten, until he was fain to quit the field and take up his quarters
with his neighbour, an escrivano. An order for a billet was therefore
given on the mansion of a cavalier, who bore the sounding name of Don
Alvarado de Castellon de la Plana, so styled from the place of his
birth, the ’castle on the plain,’ an old Moorish town of Valencia.

He received Ronald with all due courtesy, and directed servants to look
after the wants of his jaded horse.  He was a dissipated but
handsome-looking man, about thirty years of age.  He wore his hair in
long flowing locks, and two short black tufts curled on his upper lip.
In its cut, his dress closely resembled that of an English gentleman;
but his surtout of green cloth was braided with gold lace, adorned with
a profusion of jingling bell-buttons, and girt about the waist by a
broad belt, which was clasped by a large buckle, and sustained a short
ivory-hilted and silver-sheathed stiletto.  A broad shirt-collar, edged
with jagged lace, spread over his shoulder, and when his high-flapped
Spanish hat was withdrawn, a broad and noble forehead was displayed; but
there was an expression in its contracted lines, which told of a heart
stern, proud, and daring.  His dark eyebrows were habitually knit, and
formed a continued but curved line above his nose; and there was a
certain bold and boisterous swagger in his demeanour, which Ronald
supposed he had acquired while serving as a cavalier of fortune in the
guerilla band of the ferocious Don Julian Sanchez.

In every thing the reverse of him appeared his wife, a lady so gentle,
so timid, that she scarcely ever raised her soft dark eyes when Ronald
addressed her.  She was very pale; her soft cheek was whiter than her
hand, and contrasted strongly with the hue of her ringlets; and in her
beautiful but evidently withering features, there was such an expression
of heart-broken sadness, that she at once won all the sympathy and
compassion which Stuart’s gallant heart was capable of yielding.  Her
husband, for some reasons known only to himself, treated her with a
marked coldness and even harshness, which he cared not to conceal, even
before their military guest.

The poor timid woman seemed to shrink within herself whenever she found
the keen stern eye of Alvarado turned upon her.  Often during the
evening repast, which had been hastily prepared for Ronald, and with
which, in consequence of the host’s behaviour, he was disgusted,—often
did he feel inclined to smite him on the mouth, for the unkind things
which he addressed to his drooping wife.

In truth, they were a singular couple as it had ever been his fortune to
meet with.  Although there was no duenna about the establishment, thus
affording a rare example of love and fidelity in the lady, yet her
husband seemed to take a strange and most unmanly pleasure in mortifying
her, and endeavouring to render her contemptible in the estimation of
the stranger. The latter, although he felt very uncomfortable, affected
not to be conscious of Alvarado’s conduct, and conversed with ease on
various topics, and generally of the long war which had been so
successfully terminated.  When the meal was ended, Donna Ximena bowed,
and faltering out "_Addios, señores! buena noche!_" withdrew, leaving
her ungracious husband and his guest over their wine.

Over his flasks of rich _Ciudad Real_ the don grew animated, and
retailed many anecdotes of scenes he had witnessed, and adventures in
which he had borne a part, while serving with Don Julian Sanchez.  Some
of these stories he would have done well to have suppressed, as they
would have baffled even the imagination of the most bloody-minded
romancer to conceive.  But a revengeful and hot-brained Spaniard
surpasses every other man in cruelty.  He said that, like the parents of
Julian Sanchez, his father, mother, and sister had been murdered by the
French, and on their graves he had sworn by cross and dagger to revenge
them; and terribly had he kept his formidable vow.  During the whole of
the war of independence, he had never yielded quarter or mercy, but put
the wounded and captives to that death which he said their atrocities
deserved.  He boasted that his stiletto had drunk the blood of a hundred
hearts, and in support of many avowals of instances of particular
ferocity, he cited the _Gaceta de Valencia_, in the columns of which, he
said, his deeds and patriotism had all been duly extolled. Disgusted
with his host, and the strange tenour of his conversation, Ronald soon
withdrew to rest, pleading as an excuse for so doing, his desire to
commence his journey to Toulouse early on the morrow, which he must
needs do, if he would be in time for the embarkation of his regiment.

The furniture and ornaments of his sleeping apartment were richer and
more beautiful than he could have expected them to be on the southern
side of the Pyrenees; but the plunder of Gascon châteaux, when guerilla
bands made occasional descents to the North, served to replenish many of
the mansions that had been ravaged and ruined by the troops of France
when retreating.  The bed-hangings were of white satin, fringed with
silver; the chairs were covered with crimson velvet, and yet bore on the
back the gilded coat-armorial of some French family.  A splendid clock,
covered by a glass, ticked upon an antique mantel-piece of carved cedar;
and several gloomy portraits of severe-looking old cavaliers, in the
slashed doublets, high ruffs, and peaked beards worn in Spain a hundred
years before, hung around the walls.  The tall casemented windows came
down to the tiles of the floor, and through the half-open hangings were
seen the bright stars, the blue sky, the long dark vistas of the tiled
roofs, and the church-spire of Elizondo.

On the table stood a showy Parisian lamp, surmounted by the Eagle of the
emperor, which spread its gilt wings over a rose-coloured glass globe,
from which a soft light was diffused through the apartment.  Throwing
himself into an easy chair with a most _nonchalant_ manner, Stuart made
a careless survey of the place.

"Well, Ronald Stuart; truly this is a snug billet!" he soliloquized, as
he placed his feet on the rail of the charcoal _brasero_, which
smouldered and glowed on the hearth.  "Rich in the plunder of France,
’tis as splendid a billet as Campbell’s could have been, when quartered
in the harem of Alexandria.  But assuredly this Alvarado de—de Castellon
de la Plana is, by his own account, one of the most savage rascals
unhung in Spain; and yet I am his guest, and am to sleep beneath his
roof for this night.  And then Donna Ximena,—by Jove! was that gentle
creature mine, how I would love and cherish her!  Her rogue of a husband
deserves to be flogged, and pickled afterward!"

His eye fell on the timepiece, the hour-hand of which pointed to eleven,
and he began to think of retiring.  Unbuckling his weapons, he laid them
on a chair at the bed-side, to be at hand in case of any alarm; and
then, with the caution of an old soldier, he turned to examine the means
of securing the door, which was furnished with a strong but rude iron
bolt, which he shot into its place.

Two persons, whom for some time past he had heard conversing in an
adjoining room, now suddenly raised their voices.

"It shall be so.  I tell you, Señor Don Alvarado—"

"Peace!  Would you awaken the cavalier in the next room?"

"And who is he?" cried the other furiously; "this cavalier, of whom you
have spoken thrice, who is _he_?  But it matters not: let him keep his
ears to himself, if he is given to lie awake.  Listeners seldom hear
aught that is pleasant for themselves. Said you an officer of
Wellington’s army?  He, too, shall die, if he ventures to cross my path
this night!"

"Carlos!  Madman!  Let me beseech you not to raise your voice thus!"
intreated Alvarado in a whisper.

But Stuart had heard more than enough to whet his curiosity.  Indeed,
owing to the tenor of those observations,—of which he had been an
involuntary listener,—he considered himself entitled to sift the matter
to the utmost.  Examining the partition, which consisted only of lath
and plaster, he discovered, near the ceiling, a small hole in the stucco
cornice which surrounded the top of the wall.

"Stratagems are fair in war," thought he, as he mounted upon a side
table and placed his eye to the orifice, through which he obtained a
complete survey of the next apartment.  A lustre hung from the roof, and
its light revealed Alvarado and Don Carlos Avallo,—a young cavalier,
about three-and-twenty years of age, whom he remembered to have met at
Aranjuez and other places.  Alvarado, who was intreating him to lower
his voice, was standing half undrest,—at least without his vest,
doublet, and girdle, as if he had been preparing for rest when disturbed
by the visit of Avallo, who appeared to have entered by the window,
which stood half open. A short but graceful Spanish mantle enveloped the
left side of this young cavalier, who wore his broad hat pulled over his
face; but his fierce dark eyes flashed and gleamed brightly beneath its
shade, like those of a tiger in the dark; and when at times the rays of
light fell on his swarthy cheek, it seemed inflamed with rage, while his
teeth were clenched, and his lips pale and quivering.  He kept his left
hand free from the folds of his velvet mantle, but his fingers grasped
tremblingly the hilt of a poniard, which appeared with a brace of
pistols in his embroidered girdle.  A gold crucifix glittered on his
breast, and a long black feather, fastened in the band of his hat,
floated gracefully over his left shoulder.  He appeared a striking and
romantic figure as he stood confronting Alvarado, with his proud head
drawn back and his right foot placed forward, while he surveyed the
proprietor of the mansion with eyes keen and fiery, and with rage and
unutterable scorn bristling on every hair of his smart moustaches.

"Look you, Alvarado," said he, after a very long pause; "I will not be
trifled with!  _Santos!_ my dagger is likely to punch an unhappy hole in
the old friendship we have so often vowed to each other over our cups at
Salamanca, if we come not to some terms this very night.  Beard o’ the
Pope, señor! I am not now the simple student I was then. Alvarado! you
know me.  This night, then—"

"There is but one hour of it to run," observed the other in a
deprecating tone.  "There is but one hour—"

"Time enough, and to spare, then, thou base juggler!"

"What would you have, insolent?" said Alvarado fiercely, as he closed
the casement with violence. "To-morrow I will meet you in the pass of
Lanz, and there, with pistols, with sword, or with dagger, I will yield
you that satisfaction for which you have such a craving."

The other laughed scornfully.  "No, no, my blustering guerilla! such a
meeting will not suit my purpose.  Every drop of blood in the veins of
your body would not wash away the insult you are likely to cast upon the
name of Avallo by means of this poor sister of mine.  Hear me, Don
Alvarado! and hear me for the last time!  I tell you that my sister has
been wronged,—basely wronged and betrayed by you!  I want not your
blood; but do my sister justice, or, by the bones of Rodrigo!  I will
make all Spain ring with the tidings of Avallo’s vengeance!"

"How!" said the other sullenly; "do her justice?"

"Wed her,—ay, before this week is out!"

"A week is a short time, Señor Carlos; and you forget that Ximena is
likely to live for many months yet," said the other with a grim smile.
"Marry Elvira?  Fool! the cursed trammels of one unhappy marriage are
wound around me already."

"You are a Spaniard, señor,—my friend," replied Avallo scornfully, "and
can easily find some means to break these trammels you speak of.  Thanks
to our sunny clime, the yoke of blessed matrimony sits lightly on our
necks.  This little chit of Asturia, your wife, shall not long be a bar
in the way of righting my sister’s honour."

"Ximena—"

"Let her die!" said the young desperado, with a thick voice of
concentrated passion; "let her die this very night—this very hour!  She
is a desolate woman.  Should her death be suspected, who shall avenge
her?  All her kindred perished when the French sacked Madrid.  Shall she
take her departure to a better place to-night, then?"

"Villain!" exclaimed Alvarado, flinging away from him; "speak again of
that, and I will slay you where you stand!"

"Pooh!" replied the other with contempt.  "I have three trusty mates
within cry, whose daggers would slash to ribbons every human being your
house contains; so talk gently of slaying, señor. By _Santiago!_ if it
needs must be, all Spain shall know that Don Carlos Avallo is a cavalier
as jealous of his sister’s honour and of his own name, as any hidalgo
between Portugal and the Pyrenees. Do you still scruple?  See the hand
of the clock approaches to the twelfth hour."

"Hush, devil and tempter!  I tell you you are the veriest villain in
Spain!"

"Hah!  I now remember.  Most worthy Don Alvarado, I suppose I must
acquaint my uncle the prime-minister with the name of the traitor who
betrayed to the savage Mazzachelli, the Italian follower of Buonaparte,
the long-defended town of Hostalrich, that he might obtain revenge by
meanly destroying its governor, the brave Don Julian de Estrada.  I have
to say but two words of this matter to the minister at Madrid, and,
Alvarado, thou art a lost man!"

Alvarado’s large eyes gleamed with vindictive fury, while his olive
cheek grew pale as death.

"A craven cavalier, truly!" continued the ferocious Avallo, regarding
him with a countenance expressive of stern curiosity, and cool, but
triumphant derision. "_Hombre!_ you know that I have heard of that
misdeed of yours; and should I breathe but a word abroad about the
unpleasant fact, your ample estates will be pressed into the royal
purse, and your neck in the ring of the _garrote_, as surely as my name
is Avallo.  Choose, then," said he, in a deliberate tone; "choose, then,
between utter destruction and the death of this pale-faced Ximena.  The
beauty of Elvira will make you ample amends.  Her beauty—  But you have
already judged of that, Señor Triaquero," he added bitterly.

"Wine, or something else, has made you mad," said the other, with an
attempt to be bold.  "Think not that I will permit you to lord it over
me thus. And as for that affair you spoke of—Hostalrich—something more
will be requisite than the mere assertion of a subaltern of the Castel
Blazo regiment, to destroy the hard-won honour and doubloons of such a
cavalier as myself."

"Perfectly reasonable," said the other, scornfully. "Three different
letters, written by you to Mazzachelli, and dated from Hostalrich, are
abundant proof.  I found them on the road-side near Vittoria, amidst a
wilderness of papers; and now they are in the safe strong box of a
certain lawyer, subtle as the devil himself."

Alvarado sunk into a chair, and covered his face with his hands, to hide
the rage and mortification which distorted it.

"Hostalrich!  Hah! ’twas a brave siege that!" said his tormentor,
contemplating his dismay with a triumphant smile.  "And then poor Don
Julian to be so basely betrayed, after all his chivalric defence and
deeds of arms!  But to return.  Ximena,—is not her chamber at the end of
the gallery?"

"It is," faltered the other.

"’Tis well," replied Avallo, striking his hand on the casement.  The
dark figure of a stranger appeared in the balcony outside the window.
After a few moments’ conference, he withdrew.

"Let us only keep quiet," said he, turning a little pale, as he
extinguished the lights in the lustre. "Retire to bed, Señor Alvarado,
who is soon to become the husband of Elvira Avallo.  Sleep sound, for
Ximena will be found cold in the morning: and see that, in the critical
hour of discovery, your wonted cunning fails you not.  Show grief, and
rage, and tears: you understand me?  _Diavolo_!  I hope your walls are
built substantially.  Should the guest who occupies the next room have
overheard us, all is lost. But I have arranged for him.  To make sure of
his silence, Narvaez Cifuentes shall waylay him among the mountains at
Roncesvalles, where even the sword of Roland would fail to aid him
now-a-days."

While the cavalier, probably to keep up the courage of his companion,
continued to speak away in loud and incautious tones, Stuart descended
from his eminence, where, with considerable repugnance, he had acted the
eaves-dropper so long; and drawing his sword, advanced to the room-door.
In his eagerness to unfasten it, the handle of the bolt broke, leaving
it still in its place; and the door remained shut and immovable.  A cold
perspiration burst over Ronald’s brow.  The life of the poor lady seemed
to hang but by a hair.

"What evil spirit crosses me now!" he muttered. "A moment like this may
cause the repentance of a life-time.  Ah, assassins!  I shall mar you
yet."  Unsheathing his dirk, he applied it to the iron plate on which
the bolt ran in a groove.  He attempted to wrench it off: the thick
blade of the long dagger bent like whalebone, and threatened every
instant to snap, while the envious and obstinate bolt remained firm as a
rock.

A cry—a shrill and wailing cry, which was succeeded by a gurgling groan,
arose from the end of the corridor.  The fate of Ximena was sealed!
Grown desperate, Stuart rushed against the door, and applying his foot,
sent frame, panels, and every thing flying along the passage in fifty
fragments.  A lustre of coloured lamps, which hung from the ceiling,
revealed to him Donna Ximena in her night-dress, rushing from an
opposite door.  Her long black hair was unbound, and streamed down her
uncovered back and bosom, the pure white of which was stained with
blood, that had also drenched her linen vest and wrapper.  These were
her only attire. A villain, wearing a dark dress, and having his face
concealed by a black velvet mask, was in pursuit; and, catching her by
her long flowing hair, at the very moment of her escape from the door,
dashed her shrieking to the earth with his left hand, while the short
stiletto which armed his right was twice buried in her neck and bosom.
Almost at the same moment the long double-edged broad-sword of the
Highlander was driven through his body, and, wallowing in blood, the
stricken bravo sunk beside the warm and yet quivering corpse of his
victim.  His comrade escaped, and Ronald, disdaining again to strike,
withdrew slowly his dripping blade, and placed his foot upon his neck.

"Hah!  Señor Narvaez!" said he.  "Devil incarnate! the murder of Donna
Catalina and the wound at Merida are revenged now; and ’tis happily from
my hand you have received the earthly punishment due to your crimes."

He tore the visor from the face of the bleeding man, and, to his equal
disappointment and surprise, beheld, not the rascal visage of Cifuentes,
but the fierce and forbidding countenance of one that might well have
passed for his brother.  Death and malice were glaring in his yellow
eyes, and his features were horribly distorted by the agony he endured.
By this time the whole household were alarmed, and servants, male and
female, came rushing to the place with consternation and horror
imprinted on their features.  The aged _contador_ of the mansion
appeared in his trunk-breeches and nightcap, armed with a dagger and
ferule; the fat old bearded butler came to the scene of action clad only
in his doublet and shirt, and grasping, for defence, a couple of pewter
flasks by the neck: the other servants bore knives, stilettoes, pikes,
spits, and whatever weapons chance had thrown in their way.

On beholding their lady dead on the floor, a man dying beside her, and
Stuart standing over them with a crimson weapon in his hand, they
uttered a shout, and prepared for a general assault.  A bloody
engagement might have commenced, when the villanous Don Alvarado
appeared, with dismay and grief so strongly imprinted on his
countenance, that Stuart was almost inclined to doubt the evidence of
his own senses, and to believe the conversation with Carlos Avallo must
have been a dream.  He looked around for that worthy hidalgo; but, on
the first alarm, he had vanished through the window of Alvarado’s room.
The last-named gentleman seemed inclined to impute the whole affair to
Stuart, and a serious tumult would unquestionably have ensued, had not a
party of the Alava regiment, who formed the guard on the Condé
Villamur’s house, arrived with fixed bayonets, and carried off all the
inmates prisoners.  Perceiving Ronald’s uniform, the serjeant commanding
the escort desired him to retain his sword, and seemed disposed to allow
him to depart; but a syndic, with a band of alguazils, burst in with
their staves and halberts, and insisted on the whole party being taken
to the house of Micer Bartolmé, the alcalde, on the opposite side of the
Plaza.

The magistrate was clamorously roused from bed, and forced to take his
seat and hear the case.  He was very sulky at being disturbed, and,
seated in his easy chair, wrapped a blanket around him, and frowned with
legal dignity on all in the crowded apartment.  Ronald felt considerable
anxiety for the issue of the affair, as all present seemed disposed to
consider him guilty; and he certainly had no ambition to die a martyr to
their opinions.  The dead body of Ximena de Morla was deposited on the
floor. Her cheek was yet of a pale olive colour; but all her skin that
was bare,—her neck, bosom, arms, and ankles, were white as the
new-fallen snow, and beautifully delicate.  A mass of dark curls and
braids fell from her head, and lay almost beneath the feet of the pale
group around her.

A flickering lamp threw its changeful gleams upon the company, and by
its light a clerk sat, pen in hand, to note the proceedings.  Every
person present being sworn across the blades of two poniards, the
examination commenced, each witness stating what he knew in presence of
the others.  The bravo, having declared that he was dying, called
eagerly for a priest, that he might be confessed.  Accordingly, a
_padre_ belonging to a mountain-convent, who happened to be that night
in the house, approached slowly, and in no very agreeable mood, for his
brain was yet reeling with the fumes of his debauch overnight with the
alcalde, who had stripped him of every maravedi at faro.  The moaning
ruffian lay upon the floor, still and motionless; but the blood fell
pattering from his undressed wound upon the damp tiles, while his thick
beard and matted hair were clotted with the perspiration which agony had
wrung from his frame.

A dead silence was maintained by all in the apartment while the padre
knelt over the assassin, and, in the dark corner where he lay, heard his
low-muttered confession of crimes, that would have made the hairs on his
scalp—had there been any—bristle with horror.  Dreadful was the anxiety
of the dying wretch, whose coward soul was now recoiling at the prospect
of death, and with desperation he clung to the hopes given him by his
superstitious faith. Ever and anon he grasped the dark robe, the knotted
cord, or the bare feet of the Franciscan, beseeching him to pity, to
save, to forgive him; and the accents in which he spoke were terrible to
hear. The clerk sat smoking a paper cigar and scraping away assiduously
at a quill, while the alcalde nodded in his chair and fell fast asleep.
The alguazils leant on their halberts, and coolly surveyed the company.
A murder, which would have filled all Scotland with horror, in Elizondo
scarcely created surprise.  But the halberdiers were accustomed almost
daily to brawls and deeds of blood, so that their apathy could scarcely
be wondered at.

The half-clad servants crowded together in fear, and Ronald stood aloof,
regarding with the utmost commiseration the form of the poor Spanish
lady, exposed thus in its half-clad state to the gaze of the rude and
vulgar.  He kept a watchful eye on Alvarado, that he might not, by sign
or bribe, cause the padre to put any false colouring on the statements
whispered to him by the dying man, when he would have to recapitulate
them to the alcalde.  The cavalier never dared to look in the direction
where his murdered wife lay; but, turning his back upon it, maintained a
sulky dignity, and continued to polish with his glove the hilt of his
stiletto, seeming, in that futile occupation, to be wholly abstracted
from worldly matters, while he muttered scarcely audible threats against
the alcalde, the syndic, and their followers for their interference.
The bravo, having handed over to the confessor all his loose change,
received in return an assurance of the forgiveness of mother church for
all his misdeeds, which seemed to console him mightily.  The padre
mumbled a little Latin, and assuring him he might die in peace, buttoned
his pouch, containing the ill-gotten cash, with a very self-satisfied
air.  It almost reimbursed the last night’s losses at faro.
Nevertheless, the terrors of the guilty wretch returned; he moaned
heavily, and grasping the skirt of the Franciscan’s cassock, besought
him earnestly not to leave him in so terrible a moment.  He often
pressed the friar’s crucifix to his lips, and the groans of mental and
bodily agony which escaped from them were such as Ronald Stuart had
never heard before,—and he had stood on many a battle-field.  The bravo
believed himself dying, and, at his request, the Franciscan repeated
aloud his confession, in which he declared himself guilty of the lady’s
murder, and exculpated every one, save his comrade Cifuentes, who gave
the first stroke, and Don Carlos Avallo, who, for twenty dollars, had
secured the service of their daggers,—but for what reason, he knew not.
He ended by a bitter curse on Stuart, whom he ceased not to revile; and
he vowed that, if he could rise from the grave, he would haunt him to
the latest day of his existence.  Ronald heard the ravings of the wretch
with pity, and was very thankful that, in the extremity of his agony and
hatred, he had not declared him guilty of the murder of both.

"_Santa Maria de Dios!_" muttered the servants, signing the cross, and
shrinking back aghast at the ravings of the wounded man.

"Base scullion!" cried the sleepy magistrate, addressing the assassin,
"I will make you pay dearly for disturbing me of my night’s rest.  Vile
_ladron!_ the screw of the _garrote_ will compress your filthy weasand
tighter than you will find agreeable.  Take your pen, _señor escrivano_,
and write to our dictation a warrant to apprehend, in the king’s name, a
certain noble cavalier, by name Don Carlos Avallo, for causing the death
of this honourable lady.  And further—"

He was interrupted by Alvarado, who desired imperiously that he would
leave Avallo to be dealt with otherwise; and tossing his purse, which
seemed heavy, into the alcalde’s lap, he requested him to close this
disagreeable business at once.

"_Paix!_ as we say at faro,—double or quits; a very noble cavalier!"
muttered the partly-tipsy, and partly-sleepy alcalde, pocketing the cash
without betraying the least emotion.  "Ho, señor scribe! give thy
warrant to the devil to light his cigar with. _Bueno!_ ’tis a drawn
game.  Dismiss the señors,—the court is broken up."

Bestowing a menacing glance on Stuart, Alvarado withdrew; the alguazils
departed, taking the bravo with them, to get his wounds dressed before
they hanged him; and the corse of Ximena was borne off by her female
servants, who were loudly bewailing the loss of so good a mistress.

Day had dawned upon this extraordinary court, and its pale light was
struggling for mastery with the flame of the lamp, ere the magistrate so
abruptly closed the strange investigation.  After all that had happened,
Ronald could not return to the mansion of Alvarado; but, sending for his
horse, at the invitation of the alcalde, and with the permission of the
alcalde’s lady, he remained that day at their house, as he was too much
wearied by the want of sleep to commence his journey at the time he had
intended.  To Micer Bartolmé he related the conversation he had
overheard, and insisted on Don Alvarado’s villany being punished,
threatening, for that purpose, to wait upon the Condé Penne Villamur,
and state to him all that he knew of the matter.

"By doing so, you would not gain any thing equal to what you stake,—your
life," replied the magistrate quietly, puffing away at a long Cuba the
while.  "Hark you, _señor oficial_; I wish you no harm, but beware how
you cross the path or purposes of Castellon de la Plana.  He is a fierce
hidalgo, and never spared man or woman in his hate or vengeance; and his
gossip, Don Carlos Avallo, is a born devil, a very imp of _Satanas_!  I
know them both of old, and would fain keep the peace with them, or my
place of alcalde would not be worth a rotten _castano_.  Think not that
I deal with you falsely in saying these things.  Heaven knows how many
daggers Alvarado’s gold may have sharpened against you ere this.  His
look, as he departed, boded you no good.  You are a stranger in the
land, and if you will take sound advice, keep close within my house
until to-morrow, when you can depart with the padre Giuseppe.  He goes
by the way of the Maya rock to his convent, and will show you the road
to France."

Ronald felt the force of this advice, which was so cunningly imparted,
that he never suspected a hidden meaning.  But the alcalde, with a
treachery not uncommon in Spain, was in communication with Alvarado, who
bribed him to detain the stranger until a plan was completed for his
ensnarement among the mountains.

Notwithstanding Bartolmé’s advice, Stuart often wished, during that
irksome day, to enjoy a ramble about Elizondo, but was as often warned
that ill-looking picaros were evidently watching the house. This
information served only to set his blood on fire, and he fretted and
fumed like a caged lion, and would have sallied out in spite of the
solemn warnings and injunctions; but the magistrate, with a cunning air
of affectionate and paternal solicitude, barred his way, and in so kind
a manner, that it was impossible to be angry.  All this was mere acting.
Old Micer Bartolmé and the Franciscan brother were two arrant sharpers
and knaves; but Ronald resisted firmly all their attempts to engage him
in gambling, and the day was passed without a card or dice being
produced, greatly to the chagrin of the friends, who, after having sold
the stranger to Alvarado, were desirous to strip him of his last peseta.

Next morning, at the old marching time, an hour before day-break, he
quitted Elizondo.  He departed at that early hour for the double purpose
of "stealing a march" on Alvarado’s spies, if any were really planted
upon him, and of proceeding expeditiously on his journey.  His horse was
well refreshed by the delay at Elizondo, and carried him along at a
rapid trot.  The padre Giuseppe, with whose presence and conversation he
could very well have dispensed, jogged on by his side, mounted uneasily
upon the hindmost part of a stout ass,—an animal not so much despised in
Spain as among us, by whom the large black cross borne by every donkey
on its back, is neither remarked nor reverenced.  As they passed from
the Calle Mayor into the Plaza, Giuseppe pointed out, jocularly, the
body of the dead bravo, still seated upright on the chair of the
_garrote_, which was elevated on a scaffold about four feet above the
street; and his reverence increased the disgust of his companion by
passing several very unfriarly jokes upon the appearance of the corpse.

On quitting Elizondo, they took the direct road for Maya.  Stuart made
this circuit for the purpose of avoiding any snare laid for him among
the mountains by Don Carlos or Alvarado, who well knew how to employ and
communicate with those villains who infest every part of Spain.  Evil
was impending, and he might have escaped it by taking the Roncesvalles
road, or had his deceitful companion, the Franciscan, warned him; but
for the bribe of a few dollars, Micer Bartolmé had purchased his
silence. A few miles from Elizondo they passed a ruinous chapel where
some French prisoners had been confined, and, by a strange refinement of
cruelty, starved to death by their guards,—the guerillas of old Salvodar
de Zagala.  The floor was yet strewed with the bones of these
unfortunates, who fell victims to a savage spirit of retaliation, and
almost within sight of the fertile plains of their native country.  The
Franciscan continued to mutter prayers and make the sign of the cross
with affected devotion, while Stuart surveyed the ghastly place with
surprise and indignation.

"_La Caza de Dios_," said he, reading the legend on the lintel of the
door.  "Alas! how it has been desecrated!"

The priest made no reply, but moved onward, kicking with his spurless
heels the sounding sides of his _borrica_, leaving Ronald to follow as
he pleased.

After riding a few miles further, they stopped at a _quinta_, or
country-house, an unusual thing in Spain; and had not the proprietor
been a well-known contrabandista, it would soon have been sacked and
burned by the banditti in the neighbourhood.  The owner was absent, but
the _patrona_ spread before her guests a tolerable repast of _bacallao_,
bread of _milho_ or Indian corn flour, delightful fresh butter named
_manteca_, and garlic, onions, lupines, wine and cider in abundance; for
all of which she would receive nothing but the padre’s blessing and a
kiss of peace, which the reverend Giuseppe bestowed upon her plump olive
cheek with a hearty good will, of which her husband might not have
approved had he been consulted.

At Maya, Stuart dined with the monks of the Franciscan convent.  He had
an excellent repast, composed of all the good things which the district
could afford.  The clergy of every country are certainly ardent lovers
of all the good things of this life, however much they may preach and
declaim against them.  Poor though Spain may be generally, it is within
the stout old walls of the gloomy and spacious _convento_ that the
richest wines, the most delicate fruits, the most tempting viands, and
the most massive plate, are ever to be found.  Quite the reverse of the
humble, dejected, and mortifying begging friars, from whom they took
their name, Ronald found the Franciscans of Maya all very jovial
fellows, who could laugh until they almost choked, and could push the
can about, and give vent at times to a most unclerical oath.  Most of
them had been serving in the guerilla bands, and at the peace had
resumed the cassock and cope, the mass-book and rosary; but the
blustering manners acquired under such leaders as Mina and Julian
Sanchez, together with the coarse sentiments of the dissolute and
irregular lives they had led, appeared continually through their
hypocritical airs and the sombre disguise of the cloister.  And such as
these are the men who are welcomed to every hearth and home in Spain!
who are the advisers of the young, the companions of the old, and the
confessors and the spiritual consolers of all, and into whose ears many
a female pours the inmost secrets of her heart,—secrets which, perhaps,
she would have revealed to no other mortal living!

To pay for his entertainment, Stuart deposited a handful of _pesetas_ at
the shrine of the Virgin, whose portrait in the niche, padre Giuseppe
informed him, was that of the _querida_ of the padre abbot.  The fairest
dame in Maya had sat for it, to please the superior, who now never
prayed before any other image.  Complimenting the abbot on his taste,
Stuart mounted and bade the holy fathers adieu, tired alike of their
manners and their cloister-scandal.

He was now riding straight on the road for France.  After he passed the
rock of Maya, every rood of ground became as familiar to him as the
scenery of his native glen.  The sun was setting as he entered the pass,
and as its light waxed more dim and sombre, his thoughts grew sadder and
more gloomy; for all the excitement of war had now passed away, and the
kindlier feelings had begun to resume their sway in the heart.  He felt
an unaccountable melancholy stealing over him, but whether it was caused
by a presentiment—a prophetic sense of hidden danger, or by
recollections awakened by the surrounding scenery, I know not: probably
by the latter.

Poor Alister Macdonald was with him the last time he trod that way so
merrily to the strain of the pipe.  He was now within a few feet of his
tomb, and all the memory of their past friendship came gushing upon his
remembrance.  He stayed his horse, for a short space, to gaze upon the
scene of that contest, so fierce and so bloody, where his brave brigade
had fought with a spirit of gallantry and chivalric devotion equalling
that of Leonidas and his Spartans.  Where the roar of so many thousand
muskets had once rung like thunder among the hills all was now silent.
The stillness was broken only by the scream of the wild bird, as, warned
by the falling dew and deepening shadows, it winged its way to its eyrie
among the rocks.

"Well may the flowerets bloom, and the grass be verdant here!" thought
Stuart.  "Every foot of ground has been drenched in the blood of the
brave!"

The place presented the appearance of an old church-yard which had been
shaken by an earthquake.  In some places skeletons lay uncovered, and in
others the grass grew long and rank above the mounds.

A green stone, with its head of moss, marked the resting-place of
Alister, that looked like one of those solitary old graves which, on the
Scottish moors, mark the resting-place of a covenanting warrior.  The
earth which Evan’s hands had heaped over it was now covered with long
weeds and nettles, waving sadly in the wind as it whistled down the
pass.  The remnants of uniform, broken weapons, ammunition-paper, and
all the usual appurtenances of an old battle-field, lay strewn about.
The great cairn raised by the Gordon Highlanders to mark where their
officers were buried, cast a long spectral shadow across the ground, for
now the broad disk of the sun was just dipping behind the mountains.
The scene was gloomy and terrible, and Stuart was scarcely able to
repress a shudder as the recollections of the dead came crowding fast
and thick upon him.  But, bestowing a last look on romantic Spain, the
land of bright eyes, of the mantilla, of the dagger and the guitar, he
turned, and rode down the narrow mountain-path to the northward.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                              *CIFUENTES.*


      "Let Death come on;
    Guilt, guilt alone shrinks back appall’d.  The brave
    And honest still defy his dart; the wise
    Calmly can eye his frown, and Misery
    Invokes his friendly aid to end her woes."
        _The Orphan of China._


The night was approaching, and Ronald being anxious to reach Los
Alduides, Cambo, or any other village on the route for Toulouse, rode as
rapidly as the rough and steep nature of the mountain path would permit.
As he descended towards the Lower Pyrenees the ground became more
irregular, and the road at times wound below beetling crags and through
narrow gorges, which were scarcely illuminated by the red light from the
westward.

Twice or thrice Ronald beheld, or imagined that he beheld, a head,
surmounted by a high-crowned and broad-leaved hat, observing his
progress from the summit of the rocks skirting a narrow dell through
which he rode.  This kept him on the alert, and the threatening words of
Don Carlos Avallo recurred to him.  He halted, drew his saddle-girths
tighter, and looked to his pistols, leaving unstrapped the bear-skin
which covered the holsters.  At the very moment when he was putting his
foot in the stirrup to remount, a musket was discharged from the top of
a neighbouring cliff, and the ball fell flattened from a rock within a
yard of his head.  The white smoke was floating upwards through the
still air, but no person was visible.

"_Banditti_, by Heaven!" exclaimed the startled and enraged Highlander,
as he sprang on the snorting steed.  "Farewell, Spain! and may all
mischief attend you, from the Pillars of Hercules to these infernal
Pyrenees!  I wish the Nive rolled between them and me!  But if swift
hoofs and a stout blade will serve me in peril, I shall be in broad
Gascony to-night."

Onward went Egypt at a full gallop, which was soon brought to a stop on
his turning an angle of the rocks.  Across the narrow pathway a number
of men were busily raising a barricade of turf, branches, and earth; but
on Ronald’s appearance they snatched up their carbines, and leaping up
the rocks with the agility of monkeys, disappeared.

"There is an ambush here," muttered Stuart. "Oh! could we but meet on
the mountain-side to-night, Señor Avallo, I would teach you a sharp
lesson for the time to come.  On now! on, for death or life!"

He had very little practice in the true scientific mode of clearing a
five-barred gate, but he feared not to leap with any man who ever held a
rein; and when riding a Highland shelty at home, had leapt from rock to
rock, and from cliff to cliff, over roaring linns, yawning chasms, and
gloomy corries, which would have caused the heart of a Lowlander even to
thrill with fear.  Grasping a steel pistol in each hand, he came
furiously down the path, with his belted plaid and ostrich feathers
streaming far behind him.

"On, Egypt, on! brave and noble horse!" said he, encouraging the fine
old trooper with words of cheer, at the same time goring his flanks with
the sharp iron rowels.  The steed bounded onward to the desperate leap;
and when within a few yards of the barrier, straining every sinew and
fibre until they became like iron, he bounded into the air with such
velocity, that the rider almost lost his breath, yet sat gallantly, with
his head up and his reins low.  At that very moment a deadly volley—a
cross-fire from more than a dozen muskets—flashed from the dark rocks
around.  Several balls pierced the body of the horse, which uttered a
snorting cry of pain, and Ronald felt it writhe beneath him in the air.
Instead of alighting on its hoofs, down it came, thundering with its
forehead on the earth, to the imminent peril of the rider, who adroitly
disengaged himself from the stirrups and alighted on his feet, confused,
breathless, and almost stunned with the shock, while the noble steed
rolled over on its back, and never moved again.

Ronald was now in deadly jeopardy.  Headed by Narvaez Cifuentes, a
well-armed gang of Spanish desperadoes, nearly forty in number,
surrounded him. Although Narvaez took the most active part in their
proceedings, he did not appear to be their leader; and Stuart, when he
knew that his life was forfeited by his falling into such hands,
resolved that they should gain it dearly.  He had broken his claymore
and lost a pistol in the leap; but with the other he shot dead one
assailant, and drawing his long dirk, struck fearlessly amongst them,
right and left.  He buried the steel claw of his Highland pistol in the
head of one fellow, whose only defence was a red cotton _montero_, or
cap; and he drove his left-handed weapon so far into the shoulder of
another, that it remained as fast as if driven into a log of wood.  All
this was the work of a moment; but he was, immediately after these
exploits, beaten to the earth with the butts of their fire-arms; and a
Portuguese dealt him a blow on the head with a _cajado_, (a long staff,
armed with a knob,) which deprived him of all sensation.

When consciousness returned, he found himself lying on the same spot
where he had fallen; but the moon was shining brightly, and the banditti
were still grouped around him.  He had been rifled of his epaulets, his
gold cross, and every thing of value, save the miniature of Alice Lisle,
which, being concealed, had escaped their hands.  The contents of the
portmanteau lay strewed about, and a Spaniard, in whom he recognised the
ferocious young Juan de la Roca, once Mina’s follower, was busily
occupied in relieving poor Egypt of the encumbrance of his hide, which
he did in a most scientific and tanner-like manner.  Ronald had presence
of mind enough to lie still, fearing that they might destroy him at once
if he stirred; but, from what passed among them, he soon discovered that
they were well aware he was only stunned when stricken down.  Gaspar
Alosegui, the powerful Spaniard who had been vanquished in feats of
dexterity at Aranjuez by Campbell and Dugald Mhor, was present among the
banditti, and, by the deference which was paid to every thing he said,
appeared to be their _capitan_.

He wore several feathers in his hat, a costly mantle hung on his left
shoulder, and several rich daggers and pistols glittered in his sash.
His followers were variously attired and armed, but all had their strong
muscular feet nearly bare, while their tawny legs, destitute of hose,
were exposed to the knee.

Ronald gazed on the detestable Cifuentes with a fiery eye.  He
remembered all that Catalina had suffered from his barbarity; he
remembered, too, the vow he had sworn to Alvaro to revenge her, and his
heart beat quick, while he longed to fall upon him and slay him on the
instant, and in the midst of his companions in crime.

"I will not now permit him to be slain, since he has fallen alive into
our hands," said Alosegui, addressing Narvaez in a decided tone.  "He is
a gallant soldier, and truly he has fought well for Spain. We have done
enough for the doubloons of Avallo; so stand back, Micer Narvaez!  He
who would smite at the stranger, must do so only through my body!"

"_Angeles y Demonios!_" exclaimed the desperado hoarsely; "I tell you I
will have his blood,—ay, and drink it too, even as I would water!  We
have long been enemies; and ’tis not Gaspar Alosegui that shall rob me
of the revenge so dear to every true Spaniard."

"A mad _borrico_, by our Lady de’l Pilar!" exclaimed Gaspar, interposing
his bulky form.  "Speak softly, Cifuentes; and remember that you have
proved the weight of my hand, which has been thrice on your throat ere
now, I believe."

The robber shrunk back, and, grasping his stiletto, gave one of those
formidable scowls of rage and malice which so well became his villanous
front, his beetling brows and matted hair.

"Vincentio, the cripple, lies shot in the ditch yonder," said Juan de la
Roca.  "He fell by the hand of the Briton: his crooked joints will no
longer afford us a laugh in our den among the cliffs.  We have lost our
prime fool, señores, and I say blood for blood."

"Viva!" shouted the banditti; "blood for blood! ’Tis guerilla law: his
life for Vincentio’s."

"To the dogs with the cripple!" exclaimed Gaspar. "I tell you, comrades,
that while I can strike a blow in his defence, he shall not die!  By the
beard of Satanas, the first man that whispers aught of this again, shall
feel my knife between his ribs. Look you, _señores camarados_; we have
all more to gain by his life than his death.  Narvaez tells us that the
cavalier is a very great friend of Alvaro of Villa Franca, whom the new
government have raised to the rank of count, and to whom they have
granted doubloons enough to pave the highway from Zagala to Merida.  Don
Alvaro will ransom his friend, and a fair sum will thus fall into our
pockets.  If not, the laws we have formed shall take their course, and
the stranger must die."

But Cifuentes was still clamorous for his blood, and insisted on slaying
him with his _own hand_.  The rising storm increased when Ronald
staggered up and stood among them.  Many of the banditti began to prime
and handle their fire-arms; and Stuart felt considerable anxiety for the
end of the matter.  He endeavoured to second the efforts of Alosegui by
a long and bitter address, in which he upbraided them for their
ingratitude in thus maltreating one who had served Spain so well, and
had so often faced her enemies.  He tore open his jacket and displayed
his scars, but he appealed to them in vain.  His voice was drowned in
peals of savage laughter, with groans and yells which roused his rage to
an almost ungovernable pitch.  His cheek burned with indignation as if a
flame was scorching it, and his blood came and went through his pulses
like lightning. How he longed to behold the effect of a sweeping volley
of grape among these brutal desperadoes, could such have been discharged
upon them at that moment!  He watched eagerly the war of words carried
on between Narvaez, Gaspar, and their adherents, and he earnestly hoped
that blows would soon follow; to the end that, by arming himself, he
might slay some more, perhaps cut his way through them and escape, or
perishing, sell his life dearly as ever a brave man did who died sword
in hand.  Eyes began to kindle, and poniards were drawn,—oaths and
invectives were used unsparingly on both sides, and a sharp conflict
would probably have decided the matter, had not Juan de la Roca proposed
to end the contest quietly by two throws of dice,—producing, while he
spoke, a box and dice from his pocket.  This motion was at once acceded
to. Indeed these wretches seemed to have no mind of their own, but to be
swayed by the opinions of others, as the wind agitates the boughs of a
tree.

Brows were smoothed, and weapons sheathed; the oath and threat gave
place to the equally brutal jest, and the gang crowded about their tall
leader and his amiable lieutenant.

The fate of Ronald Stuart was to be in the power of him who should throw
the highest number; and all swore on their crucifixes, or on the
cross-guard of their poniards, to abide by the decision so obtained.
Ronald, with sensations almost amounting to frenzy, beheld Gaspar and
his opponent retire to a flat stone, and rattle the fatal dice-box which
was to determine whether or not he should be a living man in ten
minutes.  What a moment was this! Rage and hate mingled with sorrow and
bitterness, dread and regret,—the regret that a brave man feels who
finds himself at the mercy of those whom he despises.  Almost trembling
with the feelings of malice and fury which agitated him, Cifuentes
unsheathed his poniard, and after carefully examining the point and
edge, laid it on the stone, to be ready for instant use if he won.

The moon was now shining in all her silver splendour down the narrow
dell, and the stars, gleaming in the studded firmament, like diamonds
and rubies, sparkled as they do in the skies of Spain alone when the
atmosphere is pure and calm.  Stuart beheld the blade of Narvaez
glancing in the moonlight, and never had he looked with such dread on a
weapon as he did upon that deadly stiletto; yet he had never shrunk from
a line of charged bayonets,—which, as the reader knows, he had faced
fearlessly more than once: but it is another affair to be slaughtered
like a lamb or a child.  The green swelling mountains and the dark
defile were silent; no aid was near, and in every eye he read the glance
of a foe.  Narvaez rattled the box aloft, and cast down the dice on the
stone, and his adherents bent over him earnestly.

"Four and five—nine!" cried the ruffian.  "Nine onzas out of my first
plunder will be laid on the shrine of our Lady of the Rock if I win.
Throw, Gaspar—and may the devil so direct, that you throw less!"  He
took up his poniard with a very decided air, while Gaspar in turn
quietly rattled the box.

"Five and five—_ten_!" said he with cool triumph, looking around him;
"one has saved him."

"Stay! let us look at them," cried Cifuentes, in a voice almost
amounting to a shriek.  "Ten, indeed!  _Par Diez!_ he has escaped me
just now. But a time may yet come—"

"Silence!" roared Gaspar.  "Señor," said he, advancing towards Ronald,
who now began to breathe more freely, "I have saved your life,—for this
time at least.  You are now to consider yourself as our prisoner.  We
seldom keep any unless they are likely to pay well; for the rest, we
generally find a stab six inches below the shoulder the best method for
getting rid of them.  But remember, señor, that we are not people to be
trifled with; therefore attempt not to escape unransomed, for death
would be the penalty: you have heard our oaths. If you have any interest
here in Spain, your captivity will not be of long duration; and if you
choose to take a turn of service with us among the mountains, we may be
inclined to treat you as if you had the honour to be our comrade.  We
shall part friends, I trust.  Many an alcalde and padre we have had,
whose ransom has made us merry for months. I tell you the truth, señor:
we are men of courage and honour, in spite of slander and unpleasant
appearances.  We are true cavaliers of fortune, and are wont to be
somewhat delicate on points of honour; therefore you must neither use
threat nor taunt while among us, as our daggers lie somewhat loosely in
their scabbards.  And I must add, _señor oficial_, that if the Condé de
Villa Franca refuses to ransom you for the sum we name, the laws of our
society,—laws we have formed and solemnly sworn to,—must take their
course."

"Well, Señor Gaspar," said Stuart, who had listened coolly to all this
preamble with folded arms, "and your law; what is it on that particular
head?"

"Death!"

"And the ransom?"

"Why, señor, we must arrange that.  A cavalier is well worth a prior, or
four alcaldes; but, as you are a soldier, and soldiers are seldom
overburdened by the weight of their purses, we will not be severe."

"But Don Alvaro is rich," said Juan de la Roca. "Remember, my friends,
that he married a rich dame of Truxillo, whose estates, when joined to
his own, will be ample enough for a princedom—ay, for a kingdom larger
than ever was Algarve."

"And bethink ye of the rich ores," said Narvaez; "ores dug for him from
the bowels of the mountains at Alcocer, at Guadalcanal, and Cazella in
Estremadura, dug for him by the hands of wretched slaves condemned to
his service for petty or pretended crimes by the accursed _regidores_,
the _escrivanos del numero_, the alcaldes, the syndics, the military
commanders, and the devil knows who more!"

"Cazella?" observed Gaspar; "right! there is silver and gold dug there."

"Yes, and have been so ever since the days of the infidel Moors," said
Juan.  "And Alvaro has mines of silver and copper at Logrosen, and in
the Sierra de Guadaloupe.  _Diavolo!_ señores, a heavy fine! The
cavalier of Estremadura is rich, and will redeem his friend from death.
He has but to dig when he wants gold."

"_Carajo!_" said a robber; "I well know that.  I was condemned to dig in
the mine of Logrosen for robbing a priest of his mule; and I slaved away
in those horrible pits until my bones well nigh parted company, and my
back was flayed by the thongs of the cursed overseer.  But one day I
dashed out his brains with a shovel, and fled to the guerillas of
Salvador de Zagala.  A heavy ransom from Alvaro!"

"Two hundred golden _onzas_!" cried Juan de la Roca; "and if Villa
Franca refuses, give his friend the Briton to feast the wolf and the
raven!"

"Viva!  Juan has spoken like a prince!" cried the banditti, while they
made hill and valley ring with their boisterous applause.

Two, with their muskets loaded, had particular orders to escort Stuart,
and to shoot him dead if he attempted to escape; after which, the whole
band got in motion and advanced up the mountains, seeking the most steep
and dangerous paths, which often wound along the edge of beetling and
precipitous cliffs, where Stuart, although a Scotsman and a mountaineer,
had considerable trouble in threading his way.

Their journey ended when they reached a little square tower, which in
size and form was not unlike the old fortalice of a lesser Scottish
baron.  It was perched on the summit of a steep rock, amid a wild and
savage solitude, which appeared more dreary, at the time that Ronald
viewed it, by the light of the waning moon.

This mountain fortress had been for centuries a ruin; and the little
village, which had once been clustered near it, (according to the usual
fashion in Spain,) had ages ago disappeared.  But the outlaws, whom the
feeble and crippled power of the Spanish authorities could not suppress,
had thoroughly repaired it, and made it their principal stronghold; and
from it, as their head-quarters, their lines and posts of communication
were maintained through all the Basque provinces.  Tradition said that
it was erected by a petty prince of Navarre, and that the origin of its
name was the murder of a priest within its walls.  It was called the
_Torre de los Frayles_ (or Friars’ tower); and the Guipuzcoan muleteer
was careful to time his journey so that this ill-omened spot should be a
few leagues in his rear before night fell.

On entering, a temporary drawbridge, crossing a deep fosse or chasm in
the rocks, and forming the sole communication with the cliff, on a
projection of which the tower was perched, was withdrawn, and Stuart,
for the first time, felt his heart sink, as he entered the walls of the
dreary abode of crime, and heard the strong door shut and barricaded
behind him.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                                *HOME.*


    "He came not.  Still, at fall of night,
    She burned her solitary light,
      By love enkindled,—love attended;
    And still her brother chid her care.
      * * * *
    Thus pass away the weary weeks,
    And dim her eyes, and pale her cheeks."
        _The Salamandrine._


During the spring of 1814, while Ronald Stuart was serving with Lord
Wellington’s army in the South of France, the pecuniary affairs of his
father came to a complete crisis.  The net woven around him by legal
chicanery, by his own unwariness in plunging headlong into law-suits,
and by prodigality of his money otherwise, he was ruined.  "A true
Highlander cannot refuse his sword or his purse to a friend," and the
laird of Lochisla had been involved to the amount of several thousands
in an affair of "caution," every farthing of which he had to pay. At the
same time bills and bonds became due, and on his making an application
for cash to Messrs. Caption and Horning, W.S., Macquirk’s successors,
they acquainted him, in a very short letter, composed in that peculiar
style for which these gentlemen are so famous, "that Lochisla was
already dipped—that is, mortgaged—to the utmost bearing, and that not a
bodle more could be raised."  The unfortunate laird found that every
diabolical engine of "the profession" was in requisition against him,
and that the estate which had descended to him through a long and
martial line of Celtic ancestors, was passing away from him for ever.
In the midst of his affliction he received tidings of the deeds of his
brave son Ronald, who was mentioned with all honour by Sir Rowland Hill
in the despatch which contained the account of the successful passage of
the Nive, and of the storming of the château.

"Heaven bless my brave boy!" said the laird; "I shall see him no more.
It would rejoice me to behold his fair face and buirdly figure once
again, before my eyes are closed for ever: but it may not be; he will
never behold my tomb!  It will be far distant from the dark pines that
shade the resting-place of my forefathers in the islet of the Loch."

And the old laird spoke truly.  Ere long he saw the hall of his fathers
in possession of the minions of the law: the broad lands of Lochisla
became the prey of the stranger; and, with the trusty auld Donald
Iverach and a faithful band of followers, the feeble remnant of his
people, who yet, with true Highland devotion, insisted on following
their chieftain to the far-off shores of Canada, he bade adieu for ever
to his father-land.

Ere yet he had departed, however, there came one who had heard of his
misfortunes and of his contemplated exile, to offer him his hand in
peace and affection.  It was the Lord of Inchavon.

"I will be a friend to your noble boy," he said. The Stuart answered
only "Heaven bless you, Lisle! but the lad has his sword, and a fearless
heart."

They parted; and the clan Stuart of Lochisla, with its venerable leader,
was soon on its way across the western wave.

At the time these events were occurring at home, Ronald was in the
neighbourhood of Orthes with his regiment, which, in the battle that
took place there, came in for its usual share of the slaughter and
honour.

The long-awaited and eagerly wished-for peace arrived at last.
Regiments were disbanded, and ships paid off; and in every part of
Europe soldiers and sailors were returning to their homes in thousands,
to take up the plough and spade, which they had abandoned for the musket
and cutlass.  The Peninsular part of our army were all embarked at
Toulouse, and the inmates of Inchavon watched anxiously the daily post
and daily papers for some notice of the arrival of the transports
containing Fassifern and his Highlanders, whose destination was the Cove
of Cork.

One evening, a bright and sunny one in June, when Lord Lisle had pushed
from him the sparkling decanters across the elaborately-polished table,
and sunk back in his well-cushioned easy chair to enjoy a comfortable
nap, and when Alice had tossed aside successively all the newspapers,
(she read only the marriages, fashionable news, and the Gazette,) and
taken up the last novel, which in her restlessness she resigned for
_Marmion_, her favourite work, she was suddenly aroused from its glowing
numbers by the noise of wheels, and the tramp of carriage-horses
treading shortly and rapidly in the birchen lane, between the walls and
trees of which the sound rung deep and hollow.  The book fell from her
hand; she started and listened, while her bosom rose, and a blush
gathered on her soft girlish cheek. The sound increased: now the
travellers had quitted the lane, and their carriage was rattling up the
avenue, where the noise of the horses’ feet came ringing across the wide
and open lawn.

Alice shook the dark curls from her animated face, which became flushed
with expectation.  She moved to the window and beheld a
travelling-chariot, drawn by a pair of stout bays, with the great-coated
driver on the saddle.  The whole equipage appeared only at intervals
between the trees and clumps of the lawn, as the driver made the horses
traverse the long and intricate windings of the avenue, which had as
many turnings as the Forth, before the house was reached.

"O papa! papa!" she exclaimed, clapping her white dimpled hands
together, and leaping to his side to kiss him and shake sturdily the
huge knobby arms of his old easy chair, and again skipping back to the
windows with all the wild buoyancy of her age, "dear papa, do waken!
Here comes Louis!"

"Eh! what! eh!  Louis, did you say?" cried the old lord, bolting up like
a harlequin.  "Is the girl mad, that she frisks about so?"

"O dear papa! ’tis my brother Louis!" and she began to weep with joy and
excitement.

"It must be he," replied her father, looking from a window; "it must be
Louis!  I don’t think we expect any visitors.  But to come thus!  I
always thought he would ride up from Perth on horseback. On my honour
’tis a smart turn-out that!  A double imperial on the roof, and—how!
there is a female, a lady’s maid behind, and the rogue of a footman with
his arm around her waist, according to the usual wont and practice.  A
lady inside, too!  See, she is bowing to us.  Well; I would rather have
seen Louis, but I wonder who these can be!"  He rang a bell violently.

"’Tis our own Louis, indeed!  O my dear brother!" exclaimed Alice,
trembling with delight. "Hold me up, papa; I am almost fainting.  Ah!"
added she inwardly, "when Louis is so near, Ronald Stuart cannot be far
off."

"Louis, indeed!" replied her father pettishly, for he thought she had
disappointed him.  "Tut, girl! do you not see the lady in the vehicle?"

"O papa! that is a great secret,—the affair of the lady; we meant to
surprise you;" and without saying more, she bounded away from his side.

The chaise was brought up at a gallop to the steps of the portico, and
the smart postilion wheeled it skilfully round, backing and spurring
with an air of speed and importance, scattering the gravel in showers
right and left, and causing the chaise to rock from side to side like a
ship in a storm.  This was for effect.  A postilion always brings his
cattle up at a sharp pace; but the chaise was well hung on its springs,
and the moment the panting horses halted, it became motionless and
steady.  At that instant Alice, with her masses of curls streaming
behind her, rushed down the splendid staircase, through the lofty
saloon, and reached the portico just as the footman sprang from the
dickey and threw down the iron steps with a bang as he opened the door.
An officer, muffled in a large blue cloak lined with red, leaped out
upon the gravel walk; Alice threw her arms around her brother, and hung
sobbing on his breast.

"Alie, my merry little Alie, has become a tall and beautiful woman!"
exclaimed Louis, holding her from him for a moment while he gazed upon
her face, and then pressed her again to his breast. "Upon my honour you
have grown quite a tall lady," he added, laughing.  "Our father—"

"Is well, Louis, well; and waiting for you."

"Good!  This is my—this is our Virginia," said Louis, handing out his
Spanish wife.  "This is the dear girl I have always mentioned in my
letters for two years past, Alice; her friends have all perished in the
Peninsular war, and I have brought her far from her native land, to a
foreign country.  You must be a kind sister to her, Alie, as you have
ever been to me."

"I will always love her, Louis; I will indeed," murmured the agitated
girl, who, never having beheld a Spaniard before, expected something
very different from the beautiful creature around whose neck she fondly
twined an arm.  "I am your sister: kiss me, Virginia dear!" said she,
and two most young-lady-like salutes were exchanged.  The fair face of
Alice Lisle blushed with pleasure.  The darker cheek of the Castilian
glowed likewise, and her bright hazel eyes flashed and sparkled with all
the fire and vivacity of her _nacion_.

"Louis," whispered Alice, blushing crimson as she spoke, and as they
ascended the sixteen steps of variegated Portsoy marble which led to the
house; "Louis, is not Ronald Stuart with you?":

"Alas! no, Alice," replied Lisle, changing colour.

"Poor dear Ronald!" said his sister sorrowfully, "could he not procure
leave too?  Papa must apply to the colonel—to your proud Fassifern, for
it."

"Virginia will inform you of what has happened," said Louis, with so sad
a tone that all the pleasant visions which were dancing in the mind of
the joyous girl were instantly destroyed, and she grew deadly pale;
"Virginia will tell you all about it, Alie. Ladies manage these matters
of explanation better than gentlemen."

"Matters!" reiterated the affrighted Alice involuntarily; "matters!
Heaven guide me!  I thought all the terrors of these four years were
passed for ever. But what has misfortune in store for me now?"

Her father, whose feet and limbs were somewhat less nimble and flexible
than hers, and had thus been longer in descending the stair and
traversing the long lobbies, now approached, and embraced his son with
open arms; while, _en masse_, the servants of the mansion crowded round,
offering their good wishes and congratulatory welcome to _the Master_,
as Louis was styled by them, being the son of a Scottish baron. He was
now the Master of Lisle, or Lysle, as it is spelt in the Peerage.  The
stately figure of the fair Castilian, who, embarrassed and confused,
clung to the arm of the scarcely less agitated Alice, puzzled the old
lord a good deal.  She yet wore her graceful mantilla and tightly
fitting Spanish frock of black satin.  The latter was open at the bosom,
to show her embroidered vest and collar, but was laced zig-zag across
with a silver cord.  The thick clusters of her hair were gathered in a
_redecilla_, or net-work bag, behind, all save the glossy brown curls
escaping from beneath a smart English bonnet, which although it fully
displayed her noble and beautiful features, contrasted or consorted
strangely with the rest of her attire.

The old lord appeared astonished and displeased for a moment.  He bowed,
smiled, and then stared, and bowed and smiled again, while Virginia
coloured crimson, and her large Spanish eyes began to sparkle in a very
alarming manner; but beginning to suspect who the fair stranger was, the
frank old lord took both her hands in his, kissed her on each cheek,
begged pardon, and then asked whom he had the honour of addressing.

"How!" exclaimed Louis in astonishment; "is it possible that you do not
know?"

"Not I, upon my honour!" replied his father, equally amazed; "how should
I?"

"Were my letters from Orthes and Toulouse relative to my marriage never
received?"

"Marriage!" exclaimed his father, almost pausing as they crossed the
saloon.  "By Jove!  Master Louis, you might have condescended to consult
me in such a matter!"

"My dear father," replied Louis, laughing, for he saw that his parent
was more astonished than displeased, "you cannot be aware of the
circumstances under—  But you know the proverb, all is fair in war; and
my letters—"

"Were all received,—at least, Alice received them all."

"Ah! you cunning little fairy," said Louis turning towards his pale
sister; "you have played us all this trick to surprise your good papa,
when he heard of his new daughter."

"A wonderful girl! to be the repository of so important a secret so
long," said her father, evidently in high glee.  "But she always loved
to produce a commotion, and to study effect.  I will hear all your
stories by-and-by, and sentence you each according to your demerits; but
we must not stand here, with all the household gaping at us.  Lead your
naughty sun-burnt brother up-stairs, Alice—he seems to have forgotten
the way,—and I will escort your new sister."

He gave his arm to Virginia, and conducted her up the broad staircase
which led to the upper part of the mansion, where the splendour and
elegance of the furniture, the size of the windows, the hangings, the
height of the ceilings, the rich cornices, the carving, the gilding, the
paintings, statues, lustres, the loftiness, lightness, and beauty of
everything architectural and decorative, struck the stranger forcibly
when she remembered the sombre gloom and clumsiness, both of fabric and
fashion, to which she had been accustomed in the dwellings of her native
country.  Indeed, the mansion of the richest Spanish grandee was not so
snug by one-half as the coachman’s apartment above the stables at
Inchavon-house.

Alice was in an agony of expectation to hear what Louis had to say about
Ronald Stuart; but she was doomed to be kept cruelly on the mental rack
for some time, while all her brother’s humble but old and respected
friends among the household appeared in succession, to tender their
regards and bid him welcome, expressing their pleasure to "see him safe
home again among decent, discreet, and responsible folk," as the jolly
old butler, who acted as spokesman, said.  There was the bluff
game-keeper, in his tartan jacket, broad bonnet, and leather spats, or
leggings, long Louis’s rival shot, and master of the sports; there was
the pinched and demure old housekeeper, with her rusty silk gown, keys,
and scissors, and huge pouch, which was seldom untenanted by a small
Bible and big brandy flask; the fat, flushed and greasy cook, whose
ample circumference proclaimed her the priestess and picture of good
living; the smart and rosy housemaids all ribands and smiles,—Jessie
Cavers in particular; and there was Jock, and Tom, and Patie, laced and
liveried chevaliers of the cockade and shoulder-knot, who were all
introduced at the levee in their turn, while confusion, bustle, and
uproar reigned supreme through the whole of the usually quiet and
well-ordered mansion of Inchavon.

Every one was glad and joyful to behold again the handsome young Master
of Lisle; but then his lady! she was termed ’_an unco body_,’ and about
her there were two conflicting opinions.  The men praised her beauty,
"her glossy hair, and her hawk’s een," the women her sweetness and
affability; but almost all had observed the crucifix that hung at her
neck, and whispered fearful surmises of her being a Papist.

"My dear sir," said Louis, after they had become tolerably composed in a
sort of snug library, termed by the servants, ’my lord’s chaumer,’—"can
it be possible, or true, that Alice has never informed you of my
marriage with Donna Virginia de Alba?"

"I concealed it to surprise dear papa," replied Alice, making a sickly
attempt to smile.

"You always loved effect, Alie," said her father; "but really I could
have dispensed with so sudden a surprise on this occasion.  How
fortunate I am in having such a beauty for a daughter!"  He passed his
hand gently over the thick brown curls of the Spaniard.  "Look up at me,
Virginia; a pretty name, too!  On my honour, my girl, you have beautiful
eyes!  I ever thought Alie’s were splendid, but she will find hers
eclipsed.  Your father—"

"Was the Duke of Alba de T——," interrupted Louis, who was now anxious to
produce an effect of a different kind in his bride’s favour.  "He was a
Buonapartist—"

"Ah! his name is familiar to me.  He—"

"Was unfortunately slain when the fort, or château, where I was
confined, was so bravely stormed by Ronald Stuart’s light company."

"I heard of all that, when the news arrived in London.  Our Virginia
comes of a proud, but a—a—an unfortunate race."  He could not find a
more gentle word.

"Spain boasts not of a nobler name than that of Alba; but, save a sister
in a convent in Galicia, my dear Virginia is its only representative.
All the cavaliers of her house have fallen in battle; and lastly the
duke, by the hands of Evan Iverach and Macrone, a serjeant, who attacked
him with his pike. Poor Stuart, though in peril himself, did all he
could to save him; but the hot blood of the Gaël was up, and the fierce
Spaniard perished.  But Virginia is weeping: we are only recalling her
sorrows, and must say no more of these matters just now.  Ronald
Stuart—"

"Ah! by-the-by, what of him?  A brave fellow! See how Alice blushes.
Faith!  I shall never forget the day the dauntless young Highlandman
pulled me out of Corrie-avon.  Has the good lad returned with you to
Perthshire?"

"No," answered Louis with hesitation, glancing uneasily at Alice while
he spoke.  "He has not returned yet."

"’Tis well," continued his father.  "Poor Stuart! he will have no
home—no kind friends to return to, as you have, Louis, after all his
toil and bloodshed. Not a hand is there now in the green glen of the
Isla to grasp his in welcome!"

"I read in the Perthshire papers that the estate had been sold, and that
his father, with all the Stuarts of the glen, had emigrated to Canada.
Dreadful intelligence it will be for him when he hears it! He will be
wounded most deeply in those points where the true Highlander is
assuredly most vulnerable.  He will be almost driven mad; and I would
scarcely trust other lips than yours, Alice, to reveal the sad tidings
to him.  I read them at Toulouse. Stuart was not with us then.  He has
been—he has been—six weeks missing from the regiment."

"Six weeks missing!" cried Lord Lisle, while a cry of horror died away
on the pallid lips of Alice, who drooped her head on the shoulder of
Virginia.

"Keep a brave heart, Alie dear!" said Louis, clasping her waist
affectionately.  "I have no fears for your knight of Santiago, as the
mess call him. He will swim where another man would sink.  Had you seen
him, as I often have, skirmishing in advance, charging at the head of
his company, or leading the forlorn hope at Almarez on the Tagus, or the
château on the Nive, you would suppose he had a charmed life, and was
invulnerable to steel and lead, as men supposed Dundee to be until the
field of Killiecrankie.  Perhaps he has joined by this time.  I procured
six months’ leave, and left the Highlanders the instant the anchor was
dropped at Cove.  My next letters from the regiment may have some
intelligence.  Campbell, I know, will write to me instantly, if he hears
aught."

"But how comes it to pass, that Stuart is missing? what happened?" asked
his father, while Alice listened in breathless agony to the reply.

"We were quartered at Muret, a town on the Garonne, eight or nine miles
distant from Toulouse. We had lain there ever since the decisive battle
gained over Soult; and in the church-yard of Muret Stuart buried his
servant, a brave lad from Lochisla, who had received a death-shot on
that memorable Easter Sunday.  Ronald mourned his loss deeply; for the
lad had become a soldier for his sake, and they were old
schoolfellows—old companions and playmates.  He was a gallant and
devoted fellow. You remember him, Alice?  Many a love-letter he has
carried to and fro, between this and Lochisla; and often, bonnet in
hand, he has led your pony among the steepest cliffs of Craigonan, by
ways and crooks where I should tremble to venture now."

"And he is dead?" said Alice, giving vent to her feelings by a plentiful
shower of tears.

"He was shot by a Frenchman’s bullet, Alie."

"Poor dear Evan!" replied his sister, wringing her white hands; "I shall
never forget him.  He was ever so respectful and so obliging."

"Jessie Cavers has lost her handsome sweetheart. He was buried close by
the old church of Muret, and Ronald’s hand laid his head in the grave.
He received a deeper—a better—yet not less hallowed tomb than the many
thousands who were covered up in ditches, in the fields, and by the
way-sides, just wherever they were found lying dead.  At Muret, one
night, a despatch arrived from Lord Wellington by an orderly dragoon.
It was to be forwarded to the Condé de Penne Villamur, at Elizondo, a
town on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees; and, as its bearer, Stuart
departed about midnight, on horseback. Sufficient time for his return
elapsed before our embarkation at Toulouse.  The eventful day came; but
no Stuart appeared, and we embarked without him.  Some unlooked-for
circumstance must have caused delay,—perhaps his horse becoming lame, or
his cash running short: but we shall probably hear of him from Toulouse,
or Passages, in a fortnight at the furthest.  I have no fears for Ronald
Stuart.  He will cut his way, scatheless, through perils which a score
of men would sink under."

"I trust in Heaven that it may be so," said Lord Lisle fervently.
"Truly, I wish the lad well; he is the last stem of an old tree, that
has fallen to the earth at last."

Although Louis spoke cheerfully to comfort his agitated sister, he
nevertheless felt considerable anxiety regarding the fate of his friend.
He knew too well the disorderly state of the country through the wild
frontiers of which he had to pass; and his imagination pictured a
hundred perils, against which Ronald’s courage and tact would be
unavailing.  He besought Virginia to comfort Alice, by putting the best
possible face upon matters; but her unwary relative made circumstances
worse, by letting truths slip out which had been better concealed, and
which, although they seemed quite common-place matters to a Castilian,
presented a frightful picture of Spain to a young Scottish lady.

The unhappy Alice became a prey to a thousand anxious fears and
apprehensions, which prepared her mind to expect the worst.  A month
passed away—a weary month of misery, of sad and thrilling expectation,
and no tidings were heard of Stuart.  By Louis’s letters from the
regiment, it seemed that his brother-officers had given him up for lost.
The newspapers were searched with sickening anxiety, but nothing
transpired; and the family at Inchavon beheld, with deep uneasiness, the
cheek of Alice growing pale day after day, and her bright eyes losing
their wonted lustre.  About six weeks after Louis’s arrival, Lord Lisle
communicated with the military authorities in London regarding the young
soldier, in whose fate his family were so greatly interested.  All were
in a state of great expectation when the long, formidable letter,
covered with franks, initials, and stamps, arrived.  To support herself
Alice clung to Virginia, and hid her face in her bosom, for she trembled
excessively while her father read the cold and official reply to his
anxious letter.


"_Horse Guards_,
* * * 1814.

"My Lord,

In reply to your Lordship’s letter of the 25th instant, I have the
honour to acquaint you, by the direction of His Royal Highness the
Commander-in-chief, that nothing has transpired, further than what the
public journals contain, respecting the fate of Captain Ronald Stuart,
of the Gordon Highlanders.  But, if that unfortunate officer does not
rejoin his regiment at Cork before the next muster-day, he must be
superseded.

I have the honour to be,
       My Lord, &c. &c.
              HENRY TORRENS,
                     _Mil Sec._"

"Right Hon. Lord Lisle,
       of Inchavon."


Alice wrung her hands, and wept in all the abandonment of woe.  The last
reed she had leant on had snapped—her last hope was gone, and she knew
that she should never behold Ronald more. The next muster-day (then the
24th of every month) arrived; and, as being still "absent without
leave," he was superseded, and his name appeared no longer on the list
of the regiment.  It was sad intelligence for his friends in Perthshire;
but it was upon one gentle-loving and timid heart, that this sudden
stroke fell most heavily.  Poor Alice! she grew very sad, and long
refused to be comforted.  As a drowning man clings to straws, so clung
Alice to every hope and chance of Ronald’s return, until the letter of
Sir Henry Torrens drove her from her last stronghold.

Days rolled on and became weeks, and weeks rolled on to months, and in
her own heart the poor girl was compelled to acknowledge or believe,
what her friends had long concluded, that Ronald Stuart was numbered
with the dead.  It was a sad blow to one whose joyous heart had been but
a short time before full almost to overflowing with giddy and romantic
visions of love and happiness.  Under this severe mental shock she
neither sickened nor died, and yet she felt as deeply and poignantly as
mortal woman could suffer.

Few or none, perhaps, die of love or of sorrow, whatever poets and
interested romancers may say to the contrary.  But as this is not the
work of the one or the other, but a true memoir or narrative, the facts
must be told, however contrary to rule, or to the expectation of my dear
readers.

In course of time the sorrow of Alice Lisle became more subdued, the
bloom returned to her faded cheek, and she used to laugh and smile,—but
not as of old.  She was never now heard to sing, and the sound of her
harp or piano no more awoke the echoes of the house.  She was content,
but far from being happy.  When riding or rambling about with Virginia
or Louis, she could never look down from the mountains on the lonely
tower and desert glen of Isla without symptoms of the deepest emotion,
and she avoided every path that led towards the patrimony of the
Stuarts.

But a good example of philosophy and resignation under woe was set
before her by her servant, Jessie Cavers.  That young damsel, finding
that she had lost Evan Iverach beyond the hope of recovery, instead of
spoiling her bright eyes in weeping for his death, employed them
successfully in looking for a successor to his vacant place.  She
accordingly accepted the offers of Jock Nevermiss, the gamekeeper, whose
coarse shooting-jacket and leather spats had been for a time completely
eclipsed by the idea of Iverach’s scarlet coat and gartered hose.

The old Earl of Hyndford came down again in the shooting season, and
renewed his attentions to Alice; but with no better success than
before,—much to his amazement.  He deemed that her heart, being softened
by grief, would the more readily receive a new impression.  He quitted
Inchavon-house, and, in a fit of spleen and disappointment, set off on a
continental ramble, acting the disconsolate lover with all his might.

Louis, leaving Virginia at Inchavon with his sister, rejoined the
Highlanders at Fermoy, and in a week thereafter had the pleasure to
obtain a "company."

The Highlanders were daily expecting the route for their native country,
but were again doomed to be disappointed.  They were ordered to
Flanders,—to the "Lowlands of Holland," where Scottish valour has been
so often triumphant in the times of old, for the flames of war had
broken forth again with renewed fury.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                      *THE TORRE DE LOS FRAYLES.*


      "Thought’s fantastic brood
    Alone is waking; present, past, and future,
    Wild mis-shaped hope and horrible rememb’rings,
    Now rise a hideous and half-viewless chaos
    To fancy’s vision, till the stout heart fails
    At its own prospect."
        _The Hermit of Roselva._


When Ronald found himself helplessly and, as he thought, irrecoverably
immured in the _Torre de los Frayles_, and surrounded by a band of the
most merciless and desperate ruffians conceivable,—defenceless, in their
power, and secluded among the wildest fastnesses of the Spanish
Pyrenees, his heart sickened at the hopelessness of his prospects.  His
life depended entirely on the will and pleasure of his captors, and he
felt all that acute agony of spirit of which a brave man is susceptible
when reflecting that he might perish like a child in their hands,
helpless and unrevenged.  He was conducted to a desolate apartment, to
which light was admitted by a couple of loop-holes, which, being
destitute of glass, gave free admittance to the cold air of the
mountains.

Excepting an antique table and chair, the room was destitute of
furniture, and Ronald was compelled to repose on the stone-flagged
floor, with no other couch than a large ragged mantle, which a renegade
priest, one of thousands whom the war had unfrocked, lent him, offering,
at the same time, indulgently to hear his confession.  Ronald glanced at
the long dagger and brass-barrelled pistols which garnished the belt of
the _ci-devant_ padre, and, smiling sourly, begged to be excused, saying
that he had nothing to confess, saving his disgust for his captors, and
the sense he felt of Spanish ingratitude.

"_Morte de Dios!_" swore the incensed priest as he departed, "you are an
incorrigible heretic. Feeding you, is feeding what ought to be burned;
and I would roast you like a kid, but for that meddling ape Gaspar!"

By order of the last-named worthy, who appeared to be the acknowledged
leader, a sentinel was placed at the door of the apartment, which was
well secured on the outside to prevent Ronald’s escape. At the same time
Alosegui, who said he wished to be friendly to a _brother capitan_, gave
him a screw of a peculiar construction, with which he could strongly
secure his door on the inside—a necessary precaution when so formidable
an enemy as Narvaez Cifuentes was within a few feet of him.  Having
secured the entrance as directed, he rolled himself up in the cloak of
the pious father,—but not to sleep, for dawn of day found him yet awake,
cursing his untoward fortune, and revolving, forming, and rejecting a
thousand desperate plans to escape.  Even when, at last, he did drop
into an uneasy sleep or dreamy doze, he was quickly aroused by the
twangling of guitars and uproar of a drunken chorus in the next
apartment, where the padre was trolling forth a ditty, which, a few
years before, would have procured him a lodging for life in the dungeons
of the terrible Inquisition.

To Stuart, his present situation appeared now almost insupportable.  He
sprang to the narrow loop-holes, and made a long and acute reconnoisance
of the country round about, especially in the neighbourhood of the
robbers’ den, and he became aware that escape, without the concurrence
of Alosegui or some of his followers, was utterly impracticable. The
tower was perched, like an eagle’s nest, on the very verge of a
perpendicular cliff, some hundred yards in height, and a chasm, dark and
apparently bottomless, separated the tower from the other parts of the
mountain, or, I may say, the _land_, as it hung almost in the air.  At
every pass of the hills leading to the narrow vale where it was
situated, a well-armed and keen-eyed scout kept watchful guard, for the
double purpose of giving alarm in case of danger, or warning when any
booty appeared in sight. The bottom of the valley which the tower
overlooked was covered with rich copse-wood, among which wound, like a
narrow stripe of crystal, a mountain stream, a tributary of the
Bidassoa,—the way to the West.

About noon he was visited by Gaspar Alosegui, with whom he was
ceremoniously invited to take breakfast; and yielding to the cravings of
appetite, he unhesitatingly accepted the proposal, and sat down at the
same table with four fellows, who, Gaspar told him, were the greatest
cut-throats and most expert bravoes in Spain.  The apartment in which
they sat was a dilapidated hall, which bore no distant resemblance to
the one at Lochisla, save that its roof was covered with carved stone
pendants and grim Gothic faces, among which hung branches of grapes or
raisins, nets of Portugal onions, bags of Indian corn, and other
provender; and the floor was strewed with mule-pannels, saddles, arms of
all sorts, towards which Ronald glanced furtively from time to time, and
countless bales, barrels, wineskins, &c. like a merchant’s storehouse.

Ronald got through his repast without offending any of the
dagger-grasping rogues; but he was so much disgusted with their language
and brutality of manner, that in future he resolved to eat by himself,
at all risks.  Narvaez, with a strong party under his command, was
absent, to watch for a train of mules in the neighbourhood of
Roncesvalles, and Ronald was therefore relieved from his hateful
presence.  Gaspar assembled the remainder of the band in solemn
conclave, to consult about the ransom of Stuart.  When the latter, who
stood near Alosegui’s chair, looked around him upon the ruffian
assemblage, and beheld so many dark, ferocious, and black-bearded faces,
he _felt_ that, among such men, his life was not worth a _quarto_.

The amount of the ransom had been fixed on the preceding evening.  When
Alosegui inquired where the Condé de Villa Franca then resided, no one
could say any thing with certainty about it, but all supposed him to be
at Madrid.  In support of this supposition, the _soi-disant_ padre
produced, from the crown of his sugar-loaf hat, a ragged number of "_El
Español_," at least three months old, well worn and frayed, and which he
carried about him for gun-wadding.  In one of the columns, the arrival
of Don Alvaro and his countess appeared among the fashionable
intelligence.  To Madrid, therefore, it was resolved that Ronald should
despatch a letter, the bearer of which should be Juan de la Roca, who,
for cunning and knavery, was equal, if not infinitely superior, to
Lazarillo de Tormes, of happy memory. His travelling expenses were also
to be defrayed, fully and amply, before the captive would be released.
To save time, for it was a long way to Madrid, Ronald proposed to
communicate with the British consuls at Passages or Bayonne; but the
proposition was at once negatived by a storm of curses and a yell of
dissatisfaction from the banditti, while, waving his hand, Alosegui
acquainted him sternly, that it was inconsistent with their safety or
intentions to permit his corresponding with the consul at either of
these places, as some strenuous and unpleasant means might be taken to
release him unransomed.  And before they would proceed farther in the
business, the wily _bandidos_ compelled him to pledge his solemn word of
honour as a cavalier and soldier, that he would not attempt to escape,—a
pledge which, it may be imagined, he gave with the utmost reluctance.
While his bosom was swelling with rage and regret, Ronald seated himself
at the table and wrote to Alvaro, praying that he would lend him the sum
the thieves required, and setting forth that his life was forfeited in
case of a refusal. Seldom has a letter been indited under such
circumstances.  While he wrote, a Babel of tongues resounded in his
ear,—all swearing and quarrelling about the delay, and proposing that
cold steel or a swing over the rocks should cut the matter short, as it
was very doubtful whether the Count de Villa Franca would ever send so
large a sum of money.  But Gaspar’s voice of thunder silenced their
murmurs.

"I will drink the heart’s blood of any man who opposes or disobeys my
orders," cried he, striking the rude table with his mighty fist.  "I am
a man of honour, and must keep my word, _par Diez_!  Hark you, my
comrades; again I tell you, that for three months the life of the
prisoner is as sacred as if he were an abbot."

"Three months!" thought Ronald bitterly.  "In three months, but for this
cursed misfortune, I might have been the husband of Alice Lisle."

The letter to Don Alvaro was sealed by Ronald’s own seal, (which one of
the band was so obliging as to lend him for the occasion,) and placed in
the hand of Juan de la Roca.

"_Adios, señor! adios, vaga!_" said the young thief with an impudent
leer, and presenting his hand to Ronald at his departure.  "Remember,
señor, that for your sake, I lose the chance of winning one of the
sweetest prizes in Spain."

"How, Señor Juan?" replied Stuart, bestowing on him a keen glance of
contempt.

"A girl, to be sure, a fair girl we captured near Maya," said Juan
sulkily; "and I am half tempted to cast your despatch to the winds."

"Come, Juan, we must part friends at least," said Ronald, willing to
dissemble when he remembered how much his fate lay in the power of this
young rascal.  He gave him his hand, and they parted with a show of
urbanity, which was probably affected on both sides.

In a few minutes he beheld him quit the Friars’ Tower, and depart on his
journey mounted on a stout mule, and so much disguised that he scarcely
knew him.  His ragged apparel had been replaced by the smart attire of a
student, and was all of becoming black velvet.  A large portfolio was
slung on his back, to disguise him more, and support the character which
he resolved to bear as a travelling _artista_.  He was a very handsome
young fellow, and his features were set off by his broad sombrero and
the black feathers which vanity had prompted him to don.  A black silk
mantle dangled for ornament from his shoulders, while one more coarse
and ample was strapped to the bow of his mule’s pannel.  He had a pair
of holsters before him, and wore a long poniard in his sash: altogether,
he had very much the air of a smart student of Salamanca or Alcala. From
a window Ronald anxiously watched the lessening form of this messenger
of his fate, as he urged his mule down the steep windings of the pathway
to the valley; and a thousand anxieties, and alternate hopes and doubts
distracted him, as he thought of the dangers that beset the path of his
ambassador, of the lengthened duration and possible result of his
expedition.

In no country save Spain could the dreadful atrocities perpetrated by
the wretches into whose hands Ronald had fallen, have been permitted in
the nineteenth century.  A day never passed without the occurrence of
some new outrage, and many were acted under his own observation.  On one
occasion the band captured an aged syndic of Maya, who had made himself
particularly obnoxious by executing some of the gang.  His captors, to
refine on cruelty, tore out his eyes and turned him away on the
mountains in a tempestuous night, desiring him to return to his
magistracy, and be more merciful to cavaliers of fortune in future.

An unfortunate _medico_ of Huarte, who was journeying on a mule across
the mountains from St. Juan de Luz, where he had been purchasing a store
of medicines, fell into their clutches somewhere near the rock of Maya.
He could procure no ransom: many who owed him long bills, and whom he
rescued from the jaws of death by the exercise of his art, and to whom
his messenger applied, would send him no answer, being very well
pleased, probably, to be rid of a troublesome creditor.  One of the band
being seriously ill, the life of the _medico_ was to be spared if he
cured him.  The bandit unluckily died, and the doom of his physician was
sealed.  It was abruptly announced to him that he must die, and by his
own weapons, as Gaspar informed him.  The unhappy son of Esculapius
prayed hard that his life might be spared, and promised that he would
dwell for the remainder of his days in the Torre de los Frayles,—to
spare him, for he was a very old man, and had many things to repent of.
But his tyrants were inexorable.  After being confessed with mock
religious solemnity by Gorgorza de la Puente, he was compelled to
swallow every one of his own drugs, which he did with hideous grimaces
and trembling limbs, amidst the uproarious laughter and cruel jests of
his destroyers, who beheld him expire almost immediately after finishing
the nauseous dose they had compounded, and then consigned his body to
that charnel-house, the chasm before the doorway of their pandemonium.

Several months elapsed—months which to Ronald appeared like so many
centuries, for he had awaited in almost hourly expectation the arrival
of some intelligence from Madrid; but the dreary days lagged on, and his
heart began to lose hope.  Juan de la Roca appeared to have travelled
slowly.  Letters were received from him by Alosegui, at different times,
by the hands of certain muleteers and _contrabandistas_, who, on passing
the mountains, always paid a regular sum as toll to the banditti, whom,
for their own sakes, they were glad to conciliate so easily.  These
despatches informed the thieves of Juan’s progress; but they often
cursed the young rascal, and threatened vengeance for his tardiness and
delay.  But Juan, by exercising his ingenuity as a cut-purse,
pick-pocket, cloak-snatcher, and gambler, contrived to keep himself in a
constant supply of cash; and he seemed determined to enjoy to the utmost
the short term of liberty allowed him.  At last he disappeared.  His
companions in crime heard of him no more; but whether he had been
poniarded in some brawl, sent to the galleys, or made off with Stuart’s
ransom-money, remained a mystery.  The last appeared to the banditti to
be the most probable cause for his non-appearance, and their curses were
loud and deep.

Stuart now found that his life was in greater jeopardy than before.
Alosegui proposed to him to take the vows, and join the banditti as a
volunteer in their next marauding expedition; and added, that if he
would take pains to conciliate the good-will of the lieutenant, the
Señor Narvaez, and distinguish himself, he might be promoted in the
band.  Alosegui made this proposal with his usual dry sarcastic manner;
and although Ronald, who was in no humour to be trifled with, rejected
the strange offer of service with as much scorn and contempt as he could
muster, he saw, on second thoughts, that for his own safety a little
duplicity was absolutely necessary. He affected to have doubts, and
craved time to think of the matter, intending, if once well-armed, free
of the tower, and with his feet on the free mountainside, to fight his
way off, or to die sword in hand.

But he was saved from the dishonour of even pretending to be their
comrade for a single hour, because, in a very short space of time, a
most unlooked-for change of politics took place at Torre de los Frayles.

A train of muleteers about to depart from Elizondo for France or the
lower part of the Pyrenees, sent forward one of their number to the
robbers’ den to pay the toll.  The mule-driver was made right welcome.
The banditti found it necessary to cultivate to the utmost the
friendship of these travelling merchants, with whom they trafficked and
bartered, exchanging goods and valuables for money, clothing, arms, and
ammunition, supplies of which were regularly brought them, and accounts
were balanced in the most exact and business-like manner.

The envoy from Elizondo had transacted his business, and been furnished
with Alosegui’s receipt and pass, formally signed and marked with a
cross; but he seemed in no hurry to depart, and remaining, drank and
played at chess and dominoes for some hours with the thieves, who were,
scouts excepted, generally all within their garrison in the day-time.

Ronald knew that a messenger from a train of mules was in his place of
confinement; but as visits of this kind in no way concerned him, he had
ascended to the summit of the tower, and there paced to and fro,
watching anxiously as usual the long dim vista of the valley, with the
expectation of seeing Juan de la Roca, on his grey mule, wending his way
towards the Tower of the Friars.  He would have hailed with joy the
return of this young rogue as a delivering angel; but such a length of
time had now elapsed since his disappearance that, in Ronald’s breast,
hope began gradually to give way to despair; and when he remembered
Alice, his home, and his forfeited commission, his brain almost reeled
with madness.  Shading his eyes from the hot glare of the noon-day sun,
he was looking intently down the long misty vale which stretched away to
the westward, when he was roused by some one touching him on the
shoulder.

He turned about, and beheld the round and good-humoured face of Lazaro
Gomez, fringed, as of old, with its matted whiskers and thick scrub
beard.

"Lazaro Gomez, my trusty muleteer of Merida! how sorry I am to see you
in this devil’s den."

"Señor, indeed you have much reason to be very happy, if you knew all."

"How, Gomez?"

"Hush, señor!  Speak softly: you will know all in good time.  I came
hither to pay the toll for my comrades, who at present keep themselves
close in Elizondo for fear of our friends in this damnable tower; and
there they must remain until I return. By our Lady of Majorga, but I am
glad to see you, señor!  As I say now to my brother Pedro, _Señor
Caballero_, allow me to have the honour of shaking hands with you?"

Stuart grasped the huge horny hand of the honest muleteer and shook it
heartily, feeling a sensation so closely akin to rapture and delight,
that he could almost have shed tears.  It was long since he had shaken
the hand of an honest man, or looked on other visages than those of
dogged, sullen, and scowling ruffians.  At that moment Stuart felt
happy; it was so agreeable to have kind intercourse, even with so humble
a friend, after the five months he had passed in the dreary abode of
brutality and crime.

"And why, Lazaro, do you address your brother, the sergeant, so
formally?"

"Ah, señor!  Pedro is a great man now!  He is no longer a humble
trooper, to pipe-clay his belts and hold his captain’s bridle.  By his
sword he has carved out a fair name for himself, and a fair fortune
likewise.  He led three assaults against Pampeluna, like a very valiant
fool as he is, and was three times shot through the body for his
trouble.  Don Carlos de España, a right noble cavalier, embraced him
before the whole line of the Spanish army, and appointed him a cornet in
Don Alvaro’s troop of lancers.  The next skirmish with the enemy made
him a lieutenant, knight of Santiago, and of the most valiant order of
"the Band."  Don Alvaro has also procured him a patent of nobility,
which he always carries in his sash, lest any one should unpleasantly
remind his nobleness that he is the eldest son of old Sancho Gomez the
alguazil, who dwelt by the bridge of Merida."

"I rejoice at his good fortune."

"But I have not told you all, señor," continued the gossiping muleteer.
"A rich young widow of Aranjuez, the Condéssa de Estramera, fell in love
with him, when one day he commanded a guard at the palace of Madrid.  An
old duenna was employed—letters were carried to and fro—meetings held in
solitary places; and the upshot was, that the condessa bestowed her fair
hand, with a fortune of—of—the holy Virgin knows how many thousand
ducats, upon my most happy rogue of a brother. Lieutenant Don Pedro
Gomez, of the lancers of Merida; and now they live like a prince and
princess."

"Happy Pedro!  The condessa is beautiful; I have seen her, Lazaro."

"Plump Ignesa, the chamber-maid at the posada of Majorga, is more to my
mind.  I never could relish your stately donnas, with their high combs
and long trains.  This condessa is niece of that prince of rogues, the
Duke of Alba de T——, who was killed in the service of Buonaparte: but
Pedro cares not for that."

"In the history of his good fortune you see the advantage of being a
soldier, Lazaro."

"With all due respect to your honourable uniform, which I am sorry to
see so tattered, señor, I can perceive no advantage in being a
soldier—none at all, _par Diez_!  I envy Pedro not the value of a
maravedi.  He has served and toiled, starved and bled, in the war of
independence, like any slave, rather than a soldier."

"So have I, Lazaro," said Stuart; "and these rags, and confinement here
for five months, have been my reward."

The muleteer snapped his fingers, then gave a very knowing wink, and was
about to whisper something; but, observing one of the banditti watching,
he continued talking about his brother.

"Ay, like any poor slave, señor; and has more shot-holes in his skin
than I have bell buttons on my jacket.  And now, when the war is over,
he has still a troublesome game to play in striving to please his
hot-headed commanding-officer and lady wife, whom it would be considered
a mortal sin to baste with a buff strap, as I may do Ignesa when she
becomes my helpmate and better half.  Pedro’s honours weigh heavily upon
him, and he has many folks to please; whereas I have none to humour save
myself, and perhaps that stubborn jade _Capitana_, my leading mule, or
Ignesa of Majorga, who gets restive, too, sometimes, and refuses to obey
either spur or bridle.  But my long whip, and a smart rap from my
_cajado_, soothe the mule, and my sweet guitar and merry madrigal, the
maiden.  I am a thousand times happier than Pedro!  I never could endure
either domestic or military control, and would rather be Lazaro Gomez,
with his whip and his mules, than the stately king of the Spanish
nation.  I have the bright sun, the purple wine, my cigar, and the
red-cheeked peasant-girls to kiss and dance with,—and what would mortal
man have more?  _Bueno_!"

He concluded by throwing himself into an attitude, and flourishing his
sombrero round his head with a theatrical air.  Ronald smiled; but he
thought that, notwithstanding all this display, and Lazaro’s frequent
assertions that he was happier than Pedro, a little envy continued to
lurk in a corner of his merry and honest heart.

"But has Pedro never done aught for you, Lazaro, in all his good
fortune?" asked Ronald.

"Oh, señor! his lady wife, disliking that her brother-in-law should be
treading a-foot over sierra and plain at a mule’s tail, gave me the post
of _Escrivano del Numero_ at Truxillo, which I kept for somewhere about
eight weeks.  But I always grew sad when I heard the merry jangle of
mules’ bells; and one morning, unable to restrain myself longer, I
tossed my Escrivano’s cope and rod to _Satanas_, seized my whip and
sombrero, and once more took to the road as a merry-hearted muleteer of
Merida, and neither Pedro nor the condessa have been able to catch me
since."

"I am happy to find you are such a philosopher," said Ronald, with a
sigh, which was not unnoticed by the muleteer.

"I could say that, _Señor Caballero_, which would make you far happier,"
said he, with a glance of deep meaning.  "But," he added, pointing to
the armed bandit, who kept a look-out on the bartizan near them, "but
there are unfriendly ears near us."

"Speak fearlessly, Lazaro!" said Ronald eagerly, while his heart bounded
with expectation.  "I know that rascal to be a Guipuscoan, who
understands as little of pure Castilian as of Greek.  In heaven’s name,
Lazaro, what have you to tell me?  I implore you to speak!"

"Señor," said the muleteer, lowering his voice to a whisper, "you have
thrice asked me about Don Alvaro, and I have thrice delayed to tell you
what I know: good news should be divulged cautiously. Well, señor, the
famous cavalier of Estremadura has encamped three hundred horse and foot
among the mountains near Elizondo.  He comes armed with a commission
from the king, and his minister Don Diego de Avallo, to root out and
utterly destroy this nest of wasps, or _cientipedoros_.  The place is to
be assailed about midnight; so look well to yourself, señor, that the
villains do not poniard you in the fray; and, if you have any
opportunity to aid us, I need not ask you to do so.  I am to be Don
Alvaro’s guide, as I know every foot of ground hereabout as well as I do
at Merida, having paid toll here twenty times.  But this will be my last
visit of the kind; and I came hither only to reconnoitre and learn their
pass-word, in case it should be needed. Keep a brave spirit in your
breast for a few hours longer, señor, and perhaps, when the morning sun
shines down the long valley yonder, Alosegui and his comrades will be
hanging round the battlement, like beads on a chaplet.  I pray to the
Santa Gadea of Burgos that the night be dark, that we may the more
easily take the rogues by surprise."

Ronald’s astonishment and joy at the sudden prospect of liberation
revealed to him by Lazaro Gomez, deprived him of the power of utterance
for a time.  He was about to display some extravagant signs of pleasure,
and to embrace the muleteer, when the keen cold glance of the Guipuscoan
bandit, who was watching them narrowly, recalled him to a sense of his
danger.  He almost doubted the reality of the story, and narrowly
examined the broad countenance of the burly muleteer; but truth and
honesty were stamped on every line of it.  The horizon of Ronald’s
fortune was about to clear up again.  He felt giddy—almost stunned with
the suddenness of the intelligence, and his heart bounded with the
wildest exultation at the prospect of speedy liberty, and of vengeance
for the thousands of insults to which he had been subjected while a
prisoner in the Torre de los Frayles.

When Lazaro departed, Stuart gave him the only token he could send to
Don Alvaro,—a button of his coat, bearing a thistle and the number "92."
He desired him to acquaint the cavalier that it would be requisite to
provide planks to cross the chasm before the tower, otherwise the troops
would fail to take its inmates by surprise.

This advice was the means of saving Stuart’s life at a very critical
juncture.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                             *SPANISH LAW.*


    "Hard the strife, and sore the slaughter,
      But I won the victory,—
    Thanks to God, and to the valour
      Of Castilian chivalry."
        _The Cid Rodrigo._


As nearly as Ronald could judge by the position of the sun,—being
without a watch,—it was about the hour of three in the afternoon when
Lazaro departed.

It was yet nine hours to midnight, and although that time seemed an age
to look forward to, yet so full was his mind of joy, and crowding
thoughts of gladness, hopes, and fears, that evening surprised him long
before he imagined it to be near; and he had much ado in preserving his
usual cold and serene look, and concealing the tumult of new ideas which
excited him from the insolent bravoes, who were continually swaggering
about, and, according to their usual wont, jostling him rudely at every
corner and place where he encountered them.  To remonstrate would have
been folly, and to these petty annoyances he always submitted quietly.

On this last eventful evening he submitted to the penance of dining at
the same table with the banditti, and even condescended to ’trouble’ his
friend the padre for a piece of broiled kid; but, as soon as the repast
was ended, he withdrew to the tower-head. He preferred to be alone,
almost dreading that his important secret might be read by Alosegui,
Cifuentes, or any other who bent his scowling and lack-lustre eyes upon
him.

At times, too, there came into his mind a doubt of the truth of Lazaro’s
story; but that idea was too sickening to bear, and he dismissed it
immediately.

The sun had set.  Masses of dun clouds covered the whole sky, which
gradually became streaked with crimson and gold to the westward, where
the rays of the sun yet illumined and coloured the huge mountains of
vapour, although his light was fast leaving the earth.

The appearance of the sky and aspect of the scenery were wonderful and
glorious.  The whole landscape was covered with a red hue, as if it had
been deluged by a red shower.  The mountain streamlet wound through the
valley of the Torre de los Frayles, like a long gilded snake, towards
the base of a dark mountain, where appeared part of the Bidassoa,
gleaming under the warm sky like a river of liquid fire.  Beautiful as
the scene was, Ronald seemed too much occupied with his own stirring
thoughts to admire it, or to survey any part with curiosity, save that
which, by gradually assuming a more sombre hue, announced the approach
of night. It was not easy for him to observe a landscape with an
artist’s eye, while placed in the predicament in which he then found
himself.

He remembered, with peculiar bitterness, the countless mortifications
and insults which he had received from Alosegui, the padre, and many
others, and he contemplated with gloomy pleasure the display which these
master-rogues would make when receiving, by the cord or the bullet, the
just reward of all their enormities.  He remembered with pleasure that
he had never broken the parole of honour he had pledged to these
miscreants,—and truly he had been sorely tempted.  Owing to their
irregular and dissipated course of life, more than one opportunity of
escape and flight had presented itself.

"I expect a storm to-night, señor," said Gaspar, breaking in abruptly on
his meditations.

"Indeed, señor!"

The other swore a mighty oath, which I choose not to repeat.  "_San
Stephana el Martir! si, señor_,—and no ordinary storm either.  We shall
miss our prize of a rich hidalgo of Alava, who, with an escort of twenty
armed men, would have departed to-night from a posada a few miles from
this, and meant to bivouac at a place on the hill-side, of which the
inn-keeper, who is an old friend of mine, sent us all due notice.  Look
you: _hombre!_ the sky grows dark almost while we look upon it, and the
clouds, in masses of black and red, descend on every side, like gloomy
curtains, to shut out the sun from our view, and the wind, which blows
against our faces, seems like the very breath of hell!  Pooh! this is
just such a night as one might expect to see our very good friend the
devil abroad."

"He is no friend of mine, Señor Alosegui, although he may be a
particular one of yours," said Ronald with a smile.

"By the holy house of Nazareth!" swore the bandit, "you may come to a
close acquaintance with him after you have served for a time, as I
expect you shall, in our honourable company."

"Well; but what of the storm?" asked Ronald, more interested about that,
and unwilling to quarrel with his captor when there was so near a
prospect of release.  "What leads you to suppose there will be one
to-night?"

"These few rain-drops now falling are large and round; hark, how they
splash on the battlement! The valley, the sierra, the tower, the river,
and every thing bear a deep saffron tint, partaking of the hue of the
troubled sky.  _Santos!_ we shall have a storm roaring among the
mountains and leaping along the valleys to-night, which will cause the
old droning monks at Maya to grow pale as they look upon each other’s
fat faces, and while they mumble their _aves_, count their beads, and
bring forth the morsel of the true cross to scare away _Satanas_ and his
imps of evil.  By-the-by, speaking of Maya reminds me of your case,
señor.  A train of mules, which crossed the Pyrenees without paying us
our customary toll, are on their return homeward from Bayonne to Maya,
laden with the very best of all the good things this world affords for
the use of the pious and abstaining fathers of the convent of Saint
Francis.  Forty men, commanded by Narvaez Cifuentes, will set out
to-morrow to meet our friends in the Pass of Maya, and a sharp
engagement will probably take place.  A priest is with them; on his
shoulder he bears the banner of Saint Francis of Assissi, but if they
imagine that we hidalgos of fortune will respect it, the holy fathers
are wofully mistaken. The mules are escorted by a party of armed
peasants, commanded by an old acquaintance of Gorgorza, the padre Porko,
who is as brave as the Cid, and has served with honour in the guerilla
bands during the war of independence.  The muleteers are all stout
fellows, too, and being well armed with _cajados, trabucas_, and long
knives, will likely show fight,—and, truly, Narvaez will see some sharp
work. Now, hark you, señor; if you are willing to join him and his brave
companions, you will have an opportunity of making your first essay as a
cavalier of fortune under a very distinguished commander.  Do this,
señor, and you will live among us honoured and respected, as an equal, a
friend, and a brave comrade. If you fall in conflict, all is at an end;
but if taken by the authorities, to suffer martyrdom by the law on the
gallows, the _garrote_, or the wheel, then you will have the glory of
dying amid a vast multitude, upon whose sympathy the fame of your
exploits will draw largely.  You like not my proposition?  Well, _señor
caballero_, I have to acquaint you that I shall not be able to resist
the fierce importunities of Narvaez Cifuentes, and those who are his
particular friends.  Their poniards are ready to leap from their
scabbards against you now,—now that all chance of your being ransomed
has failed. I have a sort of friendship for you, señor, because, instead
of supplicating for life, you have rather seemed to defy fearlessly the
terrors of death; the which stubborness of soul, if it wins not the
pity, certainly excites the admiration of the jovial _picaros_, my
comrades.  You are a fine fellow over the chessboard or wine-cup, and
your bearing would be complete if you would follow the example of
Cifuentes, and swear and swagger a little at times.  But you will
acknowledge that the flowing ease of action and expression which
distinguishes that accomplished cavalier, are difficult of imitation."

"I must confess they are, Señor Gaspar," replied Ronald, who could
scarcely help smiling at the other’s manner, which had in it a strange
mixture of impudence, and part serious, part banter.  "But I have really
no desire to become the pupil of your friend."

"As you please, _amigo mio_; as you please," replied Alosegui, speaking
slowly as he puffed at his cigar; for, like a true Spaniard, he smoked
from the time he opened his eyes in the morning till he closed them
again at night.  "I once saw you perform the bandit to the very life in
the* Posada de los Representes* at Aranjuez, when the British officers
acted _La Gitana_, and some of Lope de Vega’s pieces, for the amusement
of themselves and the ladies of the city.  You are a superb imitator,
and, under the tuition of Narvaez, would, I doubt not, fulfil my utmost
expectations."

"The devil take Narvaez!" muttered Ronald, who was getting impatient of
Gaspar’s style of speech.

"All in good time," said the other quietly.  "You have been enemies of
old, I believe; some affair of rivalry, in which Cifuentes was
successful.  I understand perfectly; but in our community among the
Pyrenees here, we have no such petty feelings of dislike.  However,
señor," continued the robber, suddenly changing his satirical tone for a
stern and bullying one; "however, I would have you to think well of all
I have said, as I should be sorry to see your bones cast into the vast
depth of the chasm, to swell the grisly company there.  So give me a
definite answer to-morrow, señor, before Narvaez departs for Maya, or
fatal results may ensue."

He flourished the paper cigar which he held between two fingers and
withdrew, nodding significantly as his tall and bulky figure descended
the narrow staircase leading down from the paved roof of the tower.

Ronald, who was glad of his strange friend’s departure, turned again to
watch the long vista of the valley, which was now involved in darkness.
He would probably have remained there till midnight, but he was soon
compelled to follow Alosegui, as the storm, which had long been
threatening, now descended in all its fury.

The atmosphere became dense and close, while the sky grew rapidly darker
and darker, till it assumed the dreary blackness of a winter night, and
an ocean of rain descended on the earth with such violence, that it was
a wonder the little tower was not levelled beneath it like a house of
cards.  The thunder-peals were grand and sublime: louder and louder than
a thousand broadsides, they roared as if heaven and earth were coming
together.

The banditti grew pale as they viewed each other’s grim visages in the
blue glare of the lightning.  They grew pale as death, and their "felon
souls" quaked within them, for there is a terrible something in the
sound of thunder, which appals most men.  It seems like God’s own voice
speaking in the firmament.

But Alosegui called for lights and for liquor, and pig-skins and jars
were speedily set abroach; the half-ruined hall was soon illuminated by
candles of all sorts and sizes, which streamed and guttered, untrimmed
and unheeded, in the currents of air that passed freely through the
place, although the crazy windows were covered up with boards, and
stuffed with cloaks, bags of straw, &c. to keep out the wind and rain.

Assembled in the dilapidated hall, if it deserved such a name, the
banditti withdrew their guards and scouts, and forgot the storm without
amid the laughter and brutal uproar of their carousal.  Wine and the
strong heady _aguadiente_—a liquor not unlike Scottish whisky,—were
flowing like water, and the noise within the Torre de los Frayles almost
equalled the uproar of the elements without.

Ronald’s spirits fell, and he grew sad; he expected that there would be
no attack that night, and he pitied the unfortunate soldiers who were
exposed on a night-march to such a storm.  From old experience he well
knew the misery of such a duty.  He withdrew from the scene of bandit
merriment, and seeking a solitary place, watched the elemental war
without, and gazed with mingled awe and pleasure on the bright streaks
of forked lightning as they darted through the sky, lighting up the
shattered cliffs, the mountain tops, the deep valley, and the swollen
river,—displaying them vividly, tinging them all over with a pale
sulphurous blue, and causing the whole scene to assume a wild and
ghastly appearance.  Again the thunder roared, then died away, and
nought could be heard but the howling wind, and the rain rushing
fiercely down from the parted clouds.

After continuing for about two hours, the storm at last began to abate,
and Stuart’s hopes of freedom revived.  It yet wanted some hours of
midnight, but he greatly feared that the fury of such a tempest would
scatter Don Alvaro’s command of horse and foot, drench them to the skin,
and destroy their arms and ammunition.  Yet he still continued at the
loophole, watching the dispersion of the clouds, the appearance of the
stars, and the increasing light of the moon as the successive shrouds of
gauze-like vapour withdrew from her shining face.

While thus engaged, he was aroused by the sound of some one standing
behind him.  He turned sharply round, and beheld Cifuentes, flushed with
his potations and ripe for brawl and uproar, reeling about with a horn
of liquor in one hand and a drawn stiletto in the other.  In his drunken
insolence he dashed the cup, which was full of the rich wine of Ciudad
Real, in Ronald’s face, and he was for a moment almost blinded by the
liquor.  Full of fury at the insult, he rushed upon the robber, and
grasping him by his strong and bull-like neck, tripped up his heels and
hurled him to the floor in a twinkling, He dashed the head of the
aggressor twice on the pavement to stun him, and wresting the poniard
from his grasp, would inevitably have slain him with it, had he not been
prevented by the interference of the _ci-devant_ padre Gorgorza and
others.  He was grasped from behind and drawn away from his antagonist,
who had very little breath left in his body after such a knock down.
Drawn daggers were gleaming on every side; but the ruffians stood so
much in awe of Alosegui’s formidable strength and vengeance, that they
longed yet feared to strike Stuart with their weapons.  In the grasp of
so many, his arms were pinioned fast, so that his rage could only be
indicated by the heaving of his breast, by the fire which glared in his
eyes, and by the swollen veins of his forehead.

A short pause ensued, until Narvaez staggered up from the floor,
completely sobered, but at the same time completely infuriated by the
assault which he had sustained.  He at first howled like a wild beast,
and sprang upon his helpless prisoner with the intention of poniarding
him on the spot; but suddenly changing his mind, he laughed wildly, and
swore and muttered while pointing to a rope which, unhappily, was at
that time dangling from the stone mullion of a window, about twelve feet
from the floor, and he proposed to hang Stuart here.  The idea was
greeted with a perfect storm of yells and applause.

A cold perspiration burst over the form of the captive, and he struggled
with a strength and determination of which hitherto he had believed
himself incapable; but his efforts were as those of a child, in the
hands of so many.  He had to contend with forty devils incarnate, well
armed, and flushed with rage and wine.

How eagerly at that moment Stuart longed for the appearance of Alvaro,
and how deeply he deplored his having given loose to passion, when, by
restraining it, another hour had perhaps seen him free!  But he longed
in vain, for Alvaro came not, and his regrets were fruitless.  He was to
die now, and by the ignominious cord!

As they dragged him across the apartment, he called frantically on
Alosegui; but that worthy lay on the floor in a corner insensible,—or
perhaps pretending to be so,—from the quantity of liquor he had imbibed.
In this dreadful extremity, when hovering on the very verge of death,
Ronald condescended to remind Cifuentes that he saved his life at
Merida, when Don Alvaro was about to hang him like a cur in the
chapter-house of a convent there.

But Narvaez only grinned, as, with the assistance of his great row of
teeth, he knotted a loop on the cord, and said that it was by the rope,
the bullet, or the dagger he always paid his debts, and that he had
permitted Stuart to live too long to satisfy his scruples as an
honourable Spaniard.

"Up with him, _amigos mios_!" cried he, flourishing the hateful noose.
"_Carajo!_ pull, and with a strong hand!"

At that moment Ronald uttered a cry of triumphant joy; Narvaez dropped
the cord, and the banditti started back, cowering with alarm.  The
stairs and the doorway of the apartment were filled with soldiers, the
sight of whose bristling bayonets, with the shout of "Death to the
_bandidos_!  _Viva el Rey_!" struck terror on the recreant garrison of
the Torre de los Frayles.  Several officers rushed forward with their
swords drawn, and in the tall cavalier with the steel helmet, corslet,
and cavalry uniform, Ronald recognised his old friend Alvaro de Villa
Franca.

"Dogs and villains!" he exclaimed, "surrender! But expect no mercy; for
I swear to you, by the head of the king, that ye shall all die, and
before another day dawns,—ay, every man of you!"

By this time the hall was crowded by about fifty infantry, while a
number of dismounted dragoons, armed with their swords and carbines,
occupied the stair and adjacent passages.  The cowards whose den had
been so suddenly surprised, forgetting to use the weapons with which
they were so well equipped, fell upon their knees, every man excepting
Narvaez.  They cried for mercy in the most abject terms, but the
cavalier turned a deaf ear to their entreaties, as they had done to
hundreds before.

"Señor Don Ronald!" said he, embracing Stuart, "our Lady has been
singularly favourable to us to-night.  We toiled our way over these
rocky mountains, notwithstanding the storm, and have truly arrived at a
most critical moment.  Our friends of the Friars’, or rather the
Thieves’ Tower, shall find that I have not made a fruitless journey from
Madrid.  But first allow me to introduce an old friend, Don Pedro
Gomez."

A number of ceremonious Castilian bows were exchanged, after which the
cavalier continued,—

"Immediately on receiving your letter, and obtaining all the information
requisite about this den of the devil, I ordered the bearer, Juan—Juan—I
forget his name, to be hanged; and, waiting on Diego de Avallo, our
secretary for home affairs, I procured a commission under the great seal
to proceed as I chose in the duty of rooting out this nest of ruffians,
who have so long been the terror of the country hereabout, and by the
sacred shrine of the Virgin del Pilar!  I will avenge your captivity and
their crimes most signally. Guard well the staircase and doorway with
our own troopers, Don Pedro."

The _ci-devant_ sergeant was garbed and equipped like Alvaro, and had
evidently acquired very much the air of a well-bred cavalier.

Excepting Alosegui, who stared about him with an air of drunken
stupidity, the robbers were completely sobered, and remained on their
knees, crying for mercy,—mercy in the name of the Holy Virgin, of her
Son, of the Saints, and in the name of Heaven; but stern looks and
charged bayonets were the only, and certainly fitting reply, and one by
one they were stripped of their poniards and pistols, which were broken
and destroyed by the soldiers.  Narvaez alone scorned to kneel, but he
stood scowling around him with a dogged, sullen, and pale visage, while
his knees quaked and trembled violently.

"Alvaro," said Stuart, "look upon this sulky ruffian, who is too proud,
or perhaps too frightened, to kneel."

"Cifuentes of Albuquerque!" cried the stern cavalier, in a tone almost
rising into a shriek.  "_Dios mio!_ the destroyer of Catalina, of my
poor sister! Ah, master-fiend! most daring of villains!  Heaven has at
last delivered you to me, that you may receive the reward of your long
life of crime.  At last you shall die by my hand!"  He was about to run
him through the heart, but checked the half-given thrust.

"No!" he continued, "you shall _not_ die thus. To fall by my sword is a
death fit for a hidalgo or cavalier.  Thou shalt pass otherwise from
this earth to hell, and die like a dog as thou art!"

Taking his heavy Toledo sabre by the blade, he aimed a blow at Narvaez,
which demolished his lower jaw, and laid him on the floor.  Upon the
throat of the writhing robber he placed the heel of his heavy jack-boot,
and watched, without the slightest feeling of compunction or remorse,
the horrible distortions and death-agonies exhibited in his visage, and
from his compressed throat withdrew not his foot till he had completely
strangled him, and he lay a blackened, bloated, and disfigured corse on
the floor.

"At length Catalina is avenged!" exclaimed the cavalier, turning with
fierce exultation to Stuart, who had witnessed without regret or
interference the retribution which had so suddenly hurled the
once-formidable Narvaez to the shades.

The fears of the banditti were renewed on beholding this terrible scene,
and again they implored piteously to be spared, offering to become
Alvaro’s slaves, imploring that they might be sent to dig in his mines
in Estremadura, or sent to the galleys, or any where,—but, oh! to spare
their wretched lives, and they would offend against God and man no more.
The stern cavalier listened as if he heard them not.  He ordered them to
be pinioned; and Lazaro Gomez appearing with a huge bundle of the cords
with which he bound his mules’ packages, tied the ladrones in pairs,
binding them hard and fast back to back.

Meanwhile some of the soldiers were ransacking the tower "from turret to
foundation-stone," expecting to find vaults and strong rooms piled with
vast heaps of treasure.  But the _soldados_ were wofully disappointed;
not a cross or coin fell into their hands, save what they obtained in
the pouches of the thieves, whom they pricked remorselessly with their
bayonets and otherwise maltreated, to force them to reveal where their
plunder was deposited.

Whether the wretches were obstinate, or had nothing to conceal, I know
not; but the exasperation of the soldiers was greatly increased when
they discovered that they should return without the gold, the jewellery,
and the consecrated images, with which they hoped to have stuffed their
havresacks.

"This is well," said Alvaro, watching with grim satisfaction the adroit
manner in which Lazaro linked the rogues together.  "On my honour,
Lazaro, you should have been a general instead of a mule-driver. But
what is wisdom in the former, the world stigmatizes as mere cunning in
the latter.  Believe me, Señor Stuart, the entire success of this
expedition is principally owing to this sturdy rogue of Merida, on whom
I would bestow a cherry-cheeked bride and a thousand hard ducats, if he
would only quit mule-driving, and settle quietly down within the sound
of the bells of San Juan.  He was our guide to-night during the whole of
the tempest, and notwithstanding its fury and the darkness, which was so
intense that I could scarcely see my horse’s ears, he conducted us up
the mountains, by some chasm or gorge, safely and surely, horse and
foot, as only the devil—"

"Or a muleteer of Merida, señor."

"Ay, Lazaro, or a muleteer of Merida, could have done.  He provided
planks for us to cross the chasm here, which otherwise must have brought
us to a dead halt; and it was entirely owing to his tact and observation
that we were enabled to surprise the villains at so critical a time.  A
sore penance you must have endured, my friend, in spending so many
months in such company; but it might be the less regretted, as it will
probably go to your account of time in purgatory.  You shall have most
ample satisfaction, however, before the night is much older, for all the
injuries you have suffered from them."

Ronald was so much overjoyed at his deliverance, that he could scarcely
find words to express his feelings, and the obligations which he owed to
Don Alvaro; but, with a spirit of forgiveness highly honourable, he
began to intercede for the lives of some of the banditti, who had not
made themselves quite so obnoxious as the rest while he was kept in
durance among them: but Alvaro replied, that the commands of Don Diego
de Avallo, the Spanish minister, expressly enjoined that no quarter
should be given, as it was the intention of government to strike a
general terror into the banditti which infested every part of the
country, and that they must be cut off, root and branch.  Ronald then
proposed that they should be marched down the mountains to Vittoria, or
any other town, and there delivered over to the civil authorities; but
Villa Franca said that he had no time to spare, and the horde of the
Torre de los Frayles must be instantly disposed of.

"We settle these matters quicker in Spain than you do in Britain, where
the military are so simple as to permit themselves to be ruled by
alcaldes and lawyers," said the cavalier, smiling and waving his hand
with a decided air.  "So we will leave these humbled bravoes to the
tender care of Don Pedro Gomez, and then take our departure for the town
of Maya, to which our horses will convey us in a few hours.  Thank
Heaven, the storm has completely passed away, and the appearance of the
moon gives promise of a glorious night.  Without her assistance we
should assuredly break our necks in descending from this cursed eagle’s
nest."

The soldiers fell back respectfully, as Ronald and Alvaro left the
crowded hall.  Ronald’s heart was dancing with delight as they descended
the worn and dilapidated stair, upon the steps of which he had not
trodden for five months since the unhappy night on which he first
entered this Pyrenean prison-house.  Pausing a moment, to direct that
the head of Cifuentes should be struck off, according to the Spanish
custom, and placed upon a pole in the Pass of Maya, the cavalier
descended after Stuart.  But the despairing cries and fervent
supplications of the prisoners followed them; and some, on finding that
their last moment was come, began to shriek for a priest in the most
heart-rending accents of superstitious terror and despair: but no priest
was there, to hear their horrible confessions.

"_A padre, a padre, O noble señores!  A padre, por amor de Santa Maria,
el Madre de Dios!_" howled the despairing Gorgorza de la Puente, as the
soldiers dragged him forth.  "Noble cavalier! valiant soldiers! destroy
me not, body and soul!  I am a holy priest, señores!  Oh!  I was one
once.  Hear me, for the love of Heaven!  I have much to repent of, and
terrible things to confess.  I poniarded a monk in San Sebastian, and
stole the holy vessels from his altar.  I—I—"

"Quick with the rope!" cried Pedro.  "Twist it about his neck, and stop
his mouth before he raises his master the devil, by speaking thus."

"Mercy! mercy!" shrieked the other, struggling furiously, as three stout
soldiers dragged him to the summit of the tower.  "Mercy yet a little
while! I carried off a lady of Subijana de Alava, and robbed her of life
and honour among the mountains. I robbed—holy saints! good soldiers!
will no one hear my confession?  Can no one hear me?—can no man forgive
me?  Accursed may ye be! bloody wolves and pitiless—  _O misericordia,
mio Dios! O Santissima Maria!_" and he was launched into eternity.

Nearly twenty men were pouring forth rhapsodies like the above, and the
tower became filled with sounds of lamentation, shrieks, and
cries,—groans, prayers, and the wildest blasphemy mingled with the most
pious ejaculations; but it was a just retribution which had fallen upon
these wicked men.

Ronald’s heart beat lightly as he crossed the terrible chasm, where so
many unfortunates had found a tomb.  He had been a captive—on the very
verge of death, and now he was free, and "himself again."

The bright moon was shining aloft like a globe of silver, and the dewy
sides of the hills, the rivulets which trickled from the rocks, the
sleepy stream at the bottom of the valley, and every violet-cup and
blade of grass were gleaming in its radiant light.

At a little distance from the chasm were a party of Alvaro’s cavalry,
escorting the horses of those who were engaged in the tower, and their
tall lance-heads, bright helmets and cuirasses, were flashing and
glittering in the moonlight.  Their caparisoned war-horses were
sleek-skinned and long-tailed Andalusians, and were cropping the grass
with their bridles loose.

"Pedro is a rough dog," said the cavalier, looking complacently back.
"He is stringing a fair chaplet for the devil in the merry moonlight.
In ten minutes he will have the _ladrones_ all dangling over the
battlement.  _Santos!_ ’tis not work for soldiers’ hands; but the dogs
deserve not to die by military weapons, for they are as arrant cowards
as ever blanched before the eye of a brave man.  Look back, just now,
Don Ronald!"

Ronald turned round, and beheld with disgust the Spanish soldiers
forcing the pinioned banditti over the walls, where they hung by the
neck, dangling and writhing in couples.  Although he was at some
distance from the tower, he could distinctly perceive their convulsions,
and heard their heels rattling against the walls, from the ruinous
battlement of which the stones were tumbling every instant into the
chasm with a thundering sound, which caused the horses of the lancers to
snort and rear.  It was a ghastly sight.

"Now, then, ho for Maya!  I believe we shall find our way across the
mountains without the aid of Lazaro, now the bright moon is shining with
such splendour," was the exclamation of Alvaro as they mounted and set
forth.  Stuart rode beside him on the horse of an orderly, and four
Spanish lancers followed as an escort.  They descended towards the
valley by the steep and perilous path-way, which was so narrow as to
admit but one horseman at a time, and often overhung the abyss, passing
so close to the edge of the beetling craigs, that the eye scarcely dared
to scan the depth below.  It was well for the riders that the horses
they rode had been accustomed to stand fire, otherwise some lives might
have been lost as they descended the rocks.  Before they were half-way
down, a sudden glare shot across the sky from the mountains above them.
A terrific shock and explosion followed, and the rock of the Torre de
los Frayles was seen enveloped in a cloud of black smoke, which, after
curling upwards, floated away through the clear blue sky.

"Keep your horses tight by the head!" cried Alvaro, as his mettlesome
steed kicked and plunged in the narrow path, whilst Ronald expected to
see him vanish over the rocks every second.  "Draw well on the curb,
señors; or, _diavolo!_ some of us will be in the other world presently!"

Their cattle, however, were soon quieted, and Stuart again looked
towards the place where the Torre de los Frayles had stood, but no trace
of the tower was visible.  The smoke had dispersed, and the rock was
bare.  The sound of a cavalry trumpet, calling ’to mount,’ was heard
soon afterwards, and the roll of an infantry drum echoed away among the
mountains.

"Pedro has put powder in the vaults and blown up the place, that it may
never again become a nest for such birds of prey," said Alvaro.  "’Tis a
tower of friars or thieves no longer, but in one moment has been dashed
into fifty thousand fragments of stone.  Here comes Pedro on our rear;
the troop are descending the hill."

As he spoke, a long line of glittering casques and spears, moving in
single file, appeared descending the rocks, and vanishing in succession
under the shadow of the impending cliff, behind which the moon was
shining, and casting long gigantic shadows across the valley below.  The
soldiers brought with them the now crest-fallen and dejected Alosegui,
who, as Ronald’s former preserver and defender, was, at his earnest
intercession, alone permitted to escape the terrible retribution so
successfully wrought on his guilty confreres.

On inquiring about Carlos de Avallo, to whose evil influence Ronald
believed his captivity to have been mainly owing, Villa Franca informed
him that a duel had taken place between that violent young cavalier and
Don Alvarado.  It had been fought on the _Puerta del Sol_ of Elizondo,
about mid-day four months previously, and ended by Carlos being run
through the body by Alvarado, who, to escape the vengeance of his
victim’s uncle, Don Diego, had absconded to South America, and had not
been since heard of.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

            *AN ACQUAINTANCE, AND "OLD ENGLAND ON THE LEE."*


      "Spain! farewell for ever!
    These banished eyes shall view thy courts no more:
    A mournful presage tells my heart, that never
    Gonsalva’s steps again shall press thy shore."
        _M. G. Lewis._


"Pho!" said the count, as they rode into Maya, "amid all the things of
which we have been talking, I had quite forgotten to say that there is a
countryman of yours here in this town, one who takes the utmost interest
in your concerns—why, I know not; he said he was no relative.  We became
acquainted at Madrid, and, on hearing of your story, he proposed at once
to accompany me in this expedition against the robbers in the Pyrenees
and other places. He is a spirited, but rather impetuous old cavalier.
He has seen service, too, in the Low Countries and other parts, but
appears of late to have become somewhat addicted to ease and good
living, which has enlarged the circumference of his stomach more than he
wishes, and has rendered him subject to a disease we know little of in
Spain,—the gout.  A sudden fit of it seized him when we were marching en
route to your rescue, and the worthy old hidalgo was compelled, much
against his will, to quarter himself in Maya till our return.  He awaits
us yonder in the _Posada de los Caballeros_, opposite to the convent of
Saint Francis."

This being nearly the whole of the information respecting "his
countryman," with which Alvaro was able to furnish his companion, Ronald
was not a little surprised, on alighting at the miserable posada, to
find reclining, in dressing-gown and slippers, in an easy chair, with
one leg, swollen and swathed in flannel, resting on a foot-stool, and
with a heap of newspapers, guide-books, decanters, cigars, a brace of
pistols, and a light-dragoon sabre displayed upon a table before him, no
less a person than his noble competitor the Earl of Hyndford.  The earl
received his young rival kindly, displayed much generous feeling towards
him as a brother soldier, laughed heartily at his scarecrow
appearance,—for his long residence in the tower had told immensely upon
Ronald’s rather scanty wardrobe,—and finally, after having heard his
story, and repeatedly and energetically d—d the banditti, the
Horse-Guards, the gout, and the Peninsula, and having assured his young
friend that though there might have been a little weeping, and so forth,
on his account at home, there were no broken hearts nor any symptoms of
forgetfulness, he promised him—on behalf of his friend ’York,’ with whom
he had formerly served as aide-de-camp, and his friend Hal Torrens, who,
though a war-office man and a staff officer, was a good fellow
enough—the immediate restoration of his forfeited commission, and
letters to the parties named that should put all right with respect to
it.

While a prisoner in the Torre de los Frayles, Ronald had remained in
total ignorance of several events of some importance; and, though he was
by no means astonished to learn from the earl that his name had
disappeared from the army list, and that he was superseded, it did
occasion him some slight surprise to learn that Buonaparte had escaped
from Elba, that he had entered Paris in triumph, and was once more at
the head of the French army, surrounded by many of his old marshals, and
supported by the old enthusiasm of his devoted soldiers.  His own
regiment, Ronald heard, had been ordered to Flanders, where some sharp
fighting was expected to occur forthwith.

Three days afterwards he found himself on board the packet at Passages,
bound for London.

On his parting with Alvaro, that cavalier presented him with his own
gold cross of St. Jago, begging him to wear it as a token of
remembrance. It was not without feelings of the deepest regret that he
bade adieu to this noble and chivalric Spaniard; and he felt all that
depression of spirit which a frank and honest heart unavoidably suffers
after a leave-taking.  Hyndford he expected to meet again, but the
cavalier of Merida never.  However, such sensations of regret were
transitory; he had followed the drum too long to find parting with a
brave or merry companion a new matter.

The vessel cast anchor in the Downs at night.  It had "come to blow a
sodger’s wind," as the skipper said,—that is, a foul one; and there was
no getting up the river at that time, when the goodly invention of
steam-tugs was as yet unknown.

Next morning he landed with his baggage at Deal, and started in a
post-chaise for London.  Immediately on his arrival there, he despatched
letters to Colonel Cameron, to Inchavon, and Lochisla, giving an account
of the perils attendant on his detention in Spain, and safe arrival in
England. In the fulness of his joy he also wrote to Sir Colquhoun
Menteith of Cairntowis, a near relation, with whom his family had ever
been at variance, and maintained a petty personal feud.  But the old
baronet never acknowledged the receipt of his letter, which caused
Ronald to regret deeply that he had ever written to him or his son, who
was then serving with the army in Flanders.  The letter addressed to the
old laird lay long at the post-house of Strathfillan, and turned from
white to saffron in the window, among tape and needles, pins and
thread-reels, until at last it was torn up and destroyed.

The others were received in due course by those to whom they were
addressed, and all, save that to Sir Colquhoun, caused joy and
congratulation; and so long did the mess continue discussing his
adventures, in all their various lights and shades, through the medium
of the sixth, seventh, and eighth allowances, that it is credibly
reported that only a third of the officers appeared on parade in the
Park of Brussels next morning.

On the day after his arrival Stuart repaired to the Horse-Guards, to
wait on the Duke of York, the commander-in-chief.  He had no doubt that
his case would be heard favourably by the good duke, whose well-known
kindness and fellow-feeling for his brothers of the sword gained him the
appropriate sobriquet of the "soldier’s friend;" and he was one to whom
the wife, the widow, or the child of a soldier, in their sorrow or
destitution, never made an appeal in vain.  His Royal Highness was not
at the Horse-Guards that day, and Ronald was received by Sir Henry
Torrens, a plump little man, whom he imagined at first to be the very
personification of staff-office hauteur; but found, on further
acquaintance, to be all that Hyndford painted him, and a deuced good
fellow besides.

He received Stuart kindly, inquired after many of his old friends,
opened his eyes widely at what he called the audacity of the brigands in
detaining a British officer, read attentively the letters of Alvaro and
Hyndford, appeared to take great interest in the affair, and gave the
ominous official promise ’to see what could be done.’

Three days afterwards, however, an orderly of the Life Guards brought
Ronald an official packet from Sir Henry, notifying his re-appointment,
and containing two orders,—one to proceed forthwith to join in Flanders,
"where his services were much required;" and the other on the
Paymaster-general for all his arrears of pay, and other sums due to him
by Government, £400 "blood money" for wounds, and eighty guineas as
compensation for the loss of his baggage when the Pass of Maya was
forced by Marshal Soult two years before.

Ronald blessed the liberality of John Bull, who had not forgotten the
fright of Napoleon’s threatened invasion, and was more inclined to be
grateful to his sons then, than now.  The money-orders were very
acceptable things, as they relieved Ronald from the necessity of drawing
upon his father, whose involvements and expenses he supposed to be
sufficient already.

"This is excellent," thought he.  "I can now repay Hyndford, and travel
comfortably post to Brussels.  But yet, ’tis vexatious to proceed
forthwith.  I held out hopes to Alice, and the people in Perthshire, of
seeing them all soon.  Well, ’tis the fortune of war, and repining is
worse than useless."

So he thought, as he elbowed his way along the crowded Strand towards
the office of Mr. Bruce, the regimental agent, humming gaily as he went
the old song—

    "Oh, the Lowlands of Holland
    Have parted my love and me," &c.


Most willingly, however, would he have applied for a short leave of
absence, now so eminently his due, to enable him to pay a brief visit to
his Perthshire friends, and see once again his beloved Alice before
encountering anew the perils and hardships of war; but the exigencies of
the service were pressing, his orders peremptory, and the fear of
missing the glory of a new campaign reconciled him to the necessity of a
speedy departure.  He applied himself diligently to the business of
instant preparation, and found relief for his excited feelings in the
bustle attendant on acquiring a new outfit.  A short time sufficed to
procure him the necessary equipage for camp and field, and he was soon
ready to resume active military duties.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                              *FLANDERS.*


    "At length I made my option to take service
    In that same legion of Auxiliaries,
    In which we lately served the Belgian."
      _The Ayrshire Tragedy._


A few days afterwards he was on his way, hastening to join the army in
Belgium.  His orders were to travel with speed, as hostilities were
expected daily.  All Europe was alarmed, great events were expected, and
mail and telegraph arrivals were watched with the most feverish anxiety.

On landing at Ostend, Stuart heard that Buonaparte had joined the French
army, and had issued a proclamation calling to mind their former
victories, and telling them that fresh dangers were to be dared and
battles won; but he felt assured their familiarity with hardship and
death, their steadiness, discipline, and inherent bravery, would make
them, in every encounter, most signally victorious.

"Time will prove all this," thought Ronald, as, seated on an inverted
keg, he was deciphering this proclamation in a French paper, while
travelling on the canal of Ostend in a flat-bottomed boat for Bruges.

The broad and waveless surface of the long yellow canal was gleaming
under the meridian sun like polished metal; and, when standing erect on
the roof or upper deck of the barge, he could see it for miles winding
away through the country, which on every side was verdant and flat, like
a vast bowling-green. The monotony of the scenery struck Stuart the more
forcibly, because, as a Highlander, he could not help drawing
comparisons between it and the tremendous hills, the solemn valleys, and
the majestic rivers of his native Scotland.  At times, a few
bulbous-shaped boors, in steeple-crowned hats, or fur caps, and enormous
breeches, appeared on the canal bank, singly or in groups, smoking their
long pipes, and staring hard with their great lack-lustre eyes on the
passing boat, the slow motion of which they would watch for miles,
standing on the same spot, immovable as a milestone.  Very plump and
very red-cheeked country girls, wearing short petticoats, and making an
unusual display of legs, which were more substantial than elegant,
appeared tripping along the banks, bearing jars of milk or butter on
their heads, where they were poised with miraculous exactness. Sometimes
a party of these rustic fair ones passed in a gaudily-painted cart or
waggon, all laughing and talking merrily,—their noisy vivacity forming a
strange contrast with the sulky demeanour of the silent and phlegmatic
boor, who sat smoking and driving on the tram of the car, keeping his
seat there with the same lurching motion that a bag of oats would have
done.  There is little disposition in Dutch or German blood to be
gallant or cavalier-like.

Afar in the distance, where the landscape stretched away as level as the
sea, were seen great squares of light green or bright yellow, showing
where lay the fields of golden corn and other grain, waving, ripe and
tall, everywhere ready for the sickle.  In some places appeared a
cluster of pretty little cottages, their walls white as alabaster and
roofed with bright yellow thatch, embosomed among a grove of light
willow trees, from the midst of which arose the tall and slender church
spire, surmounted by a clumsy vane, around which flew scores of cawing
rooks, fluttering and contesting for footing on the gilded weathercock.
Sometimes the canal barge passed through the very midst of a farm and
close to the mansion, with its deep, thatched roof, having walls of
glaring white or yellow, and gaudy red or blue streaks six inches broad
painted round each door and window,—the brass knocker on the green door,
the burnished windows, the gilt vanes, and painted walls, all gleaming
in the light of the sun. Contrasting with the rural dwelling, the
parterres before it, the stack-yard behind, the ducks, the geese, the
pigs, and the children in the yard, or among the reeds by the canal
bank, appeared, perhaps close by a vessel of two hundred tons or so,
laid up in ordinary, or high and dry in the farm-yard, with hens
roosting beside her keel.  In some places these craft lay in small docks
having a flood-gate, with their top-masts struck, their rigging and
spars all dismantled, and stowed away below or on deck. Most of the
Dutch and Belgian farmers are also ship-owners; and by means of those
great and beautiful canals, which like veins intersect the whole
country, they bring their craft to their farm-yards, perhaps fifty or
eighty miles inland, and there keep them during the winter.  They can
thus the more readily load or provision them with their own farm
produce, before they are again sent to sea.

As Ronald was totally ignorant of Dutch, and knew very little of French,
he could neither converse with the boatmen nor the dull Flemish boors
who happened to be passengers; and he passed his time monotonously
enough, yawning over a few London newspapers, or watching every
_schuytje_ sculled along by its "twenty-breeched" boatmen.

In the evening, he arrived at the busy and opulent, but smoky town of
Bruges; and hence, passing the night at an hotel, and rising next
morning with the lark, he proceeded to Ghent, that city of bustle and
bridges.  On landing at one of the quays, he was surprised to observe a
French soldier on sentry, walking briskly about before his box. When
passing, monsieur came smartly to ’his front,’ and presented arms.  In
traversing the streets, he met many French officers in undress, all of
whom politely touched their caps on passing.  They all wore their swords
and belts, and were to be seen promenading every where, singly or in
parties, in the streets, on the bridges, on the quays, or flirting with
the girls who kept the booths and fancy warehouses in the great square.

At the portal of a large and handsome mansion a British soldier of the
line, and a Frenchman in the uniform of the garde-du-corps, were on duty
together as sentinels.  It was the residence of Louis XVIII., who, on
the landing of Buonaparte, had accepted the asylum offered him by the
King of the Netherlands, and now resided in Ghent, spending his time
like some plodding citizen, when he should have been in the field aiding
his allies, and heading the few soldiers of France who still remained
true to him.  A British guard was mounted at his residence, in addition
to the garde-du-corps; and the officers dined every day at the royal
table.

Of the French army, about seven hundred officers and a thousand soldiers
remained staunch to Louis, when the whole of their comrades joined
Napoleon _en masse_.  The privates were are all quartered at Alost, but
the officers he kept near his own person.

Warlike preparations were manifest every where around Ghent.  Nearly
eight thousand men were employed in repairing the ancient fortifications
and raising new, digging ditches, mounting cannon, erecting bulwarks,
forts, and gates; for rumours of the coming strife, and of this invasion
of Flanders by Buonaparte and his furious Frenchmen, were compelling the
drowsy people to lay aside their phlegm, and show some courage, energy,
and activity.

In the evening Ronald was roused by the ringing of the church bells, as
for an alarm.  A commotion and noise arose in the city, as if the people
of Ghent had suddenly cast off their apathy, and set all their tongues
to work.  Above the increasing din he heard the officers and soldiers of
the garde-du-corps crying _Vive le Roi!  Vive Louis!_ in that true
turn-coat style, for which the French had become so notorious.
Conceiving it to be some unlooked-for attack, he clasped on his belt,
and repaired to a neighbouring _table d’hôte_, where a French officer
informed him that the uproar was caused by the arrival of a courier,
bearing intelligence that the entire French army was in motion, and
headed by the Emperor,—while he spoke, a flush crossed his cheek,
betraying the enthusiasm he could not conceal,—led by their Emperor, had
crossed the Sambre, and were marching on Charleroi.

Anxious to join his regiment before hostilities began, and being
heartily tired of the slow and chilly mode of travelling by canal
barges, Stuart purchased a horse at Ghent, as no Belgian would lend one
for hire.  It was a poor-looking hack, and he paid for it thrice its
real value.  Leaving his baggage to be sent after him, he set off on the
spur for Brussels, among whose plodding citizens the advance of the
French had stricken a terror beyond description.  But two alternatives
were before them in case of Wellington’s defeat,—flight, or to remain
and encounter, sack and slaughter; for well they knew that Napoleon
would fearfully avenge the abandonment of his standard.

Ronald departed from Ghent at day-break, and halted for breakfast at
Alost.  He repaired to an hotel, where his uniform procured him every
attention, but there was consternation pre-eminently visible in every
Belgian face.  Here he was informed that the first corps of the Prussian
army, posted at Charleroi under the command of General Zeithen, had been
attacked, and, after a sharp contest, compelled to retreat towards
Fleurs.  Notwithstanding their fears, the people boasted much of the
Belgian troops, and declared that, when the strife was fairly begun,
they would do wonders.

"Ah, why should we fear?" they repeated continually.  "Lord Wellington
has the Belgians with him."

Having been misdirected and sent far out of his way by one of the
terrified natives, it was dark before the young soldier arrived at
Brussels, where confusion, fear, and uproar reigned supreme.  He was
permitted to pass the fortifications and barriers only, after a great
deal of troublesome altercation with the Belgic and German sentries and
guards, who scrupled to admit an armed man without the parole. After
entering, he found his poor horse in a state of the utmost exhaustion.
He had ridden nearly forty miles that day, and stood greatly in need of
refreshment himself; but he was determined to travel on without halting,
and to join the regiment at all risk and expense.  He went straight to
an hotel, and hired another horse, leaving twice its value, together
with the Bucephalus he had purchased at Ghent, which was to be restored
him on his return—when that should take place.

The French army were still pressing impetuously forward.  Marshal Ney,
in command of the left, had proceeded along the road for Brussels, and
attacking the Prince of Saxe Weimar, drove him back from Frasnes to the
famous position named _Les Quatre Bras_; while Napoleon, with his own
immediate command, the right and centre, followed the retreating
Prussians towards Brie and Sombref.

At half-past three on that morning (the 16th June), the British had
marched out of Brussels towards the enemy.  Fear was impressed on every
heart and visible on every face after their departure.

The bells were tolling mournfully, and many persons were lamenting in
the streets as if the day of universal doom was at hand.  The churches
were lighted for night service when Stuart entered the city.  From the
tall Gothic windows of the church of St. Gudule, vivid flakes of
variously-tinted light streamed on the groups of anxious and gossiping
citizens, who were assembled in knots and crowds in the great Sablon
square, or on the magnificent flight of steps ascending to the doorway,
through which streams of radiance, and strains of choral music, came
gushing into the streets below.  The bells in the two great towers were
booming away in concert with others, and flinging their deep hollow
tones to the midnight wind.  Business of every kind was suspended; the
shops were shut; and the paunchy magistrates were all in the _Hôtel de
Ville_, assembled in solemn conclave, consulting, not about the best
means of defence, but the best mode,—to use a homely phrase,—"of cutting
their stick," and without beat of drum.



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                        *CAMERON OF FASSIFERN.*


    "Soldier, rest! thy warfare o’er,
    Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking;
    Dream of battled fields no more,
    Days of danger, nights of waking."
      _Lady of the Lake._


As soon as the military traveller presented himself before the cathedral
of St. Gudule, the lustre streaming from the sixteen illuminated chapels
of which filled the surrounding streets with a light rivalling that of
day, a dense crowd gathered around him, barring his passage on every
side, and clamorously demanding, "What news from the army?"

It was with the utmost difficulty that he could make these terrified
cits understand he was bound for the field, and wished to know which way
the British troops had marched.  His only reply from them was, "The
French—the French are coming on!"  Fear had besotted them.  He told them
they would serve Belgium better by getting arms and joining her allies,
than by thronging the streets like frightened sheep.  This was answered
by a groan, and the feeble cry of "_vivat!_"

Cursing them for cowards, in his impatience to get on he spurred his
horse upon the crowd, and drove them back.  By their increasing number,
an officer of the Brunswick-Oels corps, who was riding down the street
at full speed, was likewise stopped; and having a little knowledge of
the English language, he learned Ronald’s dilemma, and invited him to be
his companion, as he was following the route of the army.  They galloped
through the Namur gate, and in five minutes Bruxelles, with its lights
and din, fear and uproar, was far behind them. They were pressing at
full speed along the road leading to the then obscure village of
Waterloo.  It wound through the dark forest of Soignies; the oak, the
ash, and the elm were in full foliage, and, for many miles of the way,
their deep shadows rendered the road as dreary as can be conceived.

The speed at which the travellers rode completely marred any attempt at
conversation, and the only sounds which broke the silence were their
horses’ hoofs echoing in the green glades around them. When at intervals
the moonlight streamed between the clouds and the trees, Ronald turned
to survey his companion, whose singular equipment added greatly to the
gloomy effect produced by the dark forest, which stretched around them
for many miles in every direction.

The cavalry officer belonged to the Brunswick troops, who, with their
duke, had made a vow to wear mourning until the death of their late
prince and leader should be avenged.  His horse, his harness, his
accoutrements and uniform, were all of the deepest black, and a
horse-hair plume of the same sable hue floated above the plate of his
schako, which was ornamented by a large silver skull and cross-bones,
similar to the badge worn by our 17th Lancers.  A death’s-head was
grinning on his sabre-tasche, on his holsters, his horse’s forehead and
breastplate, and the same grim badge looked out of every button on his
coat.  He was rather stately in figure for a German, and a tall and
sombre-looking fellow, with large dark eyes, lank moustaches, and a
solemn visage.  His _tout ensemble_ rendered him altogether as ghastly
and melancholy a companion, as the most morbid or romantic mind could
wish to ride with through a gloomy wood at midnight, with strange paths
and darkness behind, and a battle-field in front.

After riding for about six miles in silence, a muttered ejaculation from
both announced their observation of a flash which illuminated the sky.
It was "the red artillery," and every instant other flashes shot vividly
athwart the firmament, like sheet lightning; and soon afterwards the
sound of firing was heard, but faint and distant.  It was a dropping
fire, and caused, probably, by some encounter of stragglers or outposts.

At day-break, on approaching the village of Waterloo, they met a horse
and cart, driven along the road at a rapid trot by a country boor, clad
in a leathern cap and blue frock, having his shoes and garters adorned
with gigantic rosettes of yellow and red tape.  His car contained the
bloody remains of the brave Duke of Brunswick, who at four in the
evening had been mortally wounded, when heroically charging at the head
of his cavalry in front of Les Quatre Bras.  The hay-cart of a Flemish
clod-pole was now his funeral bier.  The bottom was covered with the red
stream, forced by the rough motion of the car from the wound, which,
being in the breast, was distinctly visible, and a heavy mass of
coagulated blood was plastered around the starred bosom and laced lapels
of the uniform coat.  An escort of Black Brunswickers, sorrowing,
sullen, and war-worn, surrounded it with their fixed bayonets.  The boor
cracked his whip and whistled to his horse, replacing his pipe
philosophically, and apparently not caring a straw whether it was the
corse of a chivalric prince or a bag of Dutch turf that his conveyance
contained.

Ronald reined up his horse, and touched his bonnet in salute to the
Brunswick escort; but the rage and sorrow of the cavalry officer, on
beholding the lifeless body of his sovereign and leader, were such as
his companion never beheld before.  He muttered deep oaths and bitter
execrations in German, and holding aloft his sabre, he swore that he
would revenge him or perish.  At least from his actions Stuart
interpreted his language thus.  He jerked his heavy sabre into its steel
scabbard, and touching his cap as a parting salute, drove spurs into his
horse and, dashing along the forest pathway, disappeared. Ronald
followed him for a little way, but finding that he was careering forward
like a madman, abandoned the idea of attempting to overtake him.

Daylight was increasing rapidly, but he felt that dreamy and drowsy
sensation which is always caused by want of sleep for an entire night.
He endeavoured to shake off these feelings of weariness and oppression,
for every thing around announced that he was approaching the arena of a
deadly and terrible conflict.  His heart beat louder and his pulses
quickened as he advanced.  Dense clouds of smoke, from the contest of
the preceding evening, yet mingled with the morning mist, overhung the
position of Quatre Bras, and, pressed down by the heavy atmosphere,
rolled over the level surface of the country. At every step he found a
dead or a dying man, and crowds of wounded stragglers, officers,
rank-and-file, on horse and on foot, were pouring along in pain and
misery to Brussels, bedewing every part of the road with the dark
crimson which trickled from their undressed wounds.  These were all
sufferers in the fierce contest at Quatre Bras on the preceding evening.
The village of Waterloo was deserted by its inhabitants, for, like a
pestilence, war spread desolation with death in its path, and the
fearful Flemings had fled, scared by the roar of the distant artillery.

The wounded were unable to give any account of the engagement, save that
Brunswick was slain, and the British had not yet lost the day.  He was
informed that his regiment was in the ninth brigade of infantry,
commanded by Major-general Sir Dennis Pack; and that he would find them,
with their kilted comrades the 42nd, and 44th English regiment,
somewhere near the farm of Les Quatre Bras, bivouacked in a corn-field.

The speaker was an officer of the 1st regiment, or Royal Scots.  He was
severely wounded on the head and arm, and was making his way to Brussels
on foot, bleeding and in great agony, as his scars had no other bandages
than two hastily adjusted handkerchiefs.  He leant for support on the
arm of a soldier of the 44th, who was also suffering from a wound.  The
Royal Scot begged of Stuart to lend him a few shillings, adding that he
had spent all his money at Brussels, and would be totally destitute when
he returned thither, as he had not a farthing to procure even a mouthful
of food.

Stuart gave him a few guineas, nearly all the loose change in his purse,
but rendered a greater service in lending his horse, which could be of
no further use to himself, as he was now close to the arena of
operations.  The officer mounted with many thanks, and promised to
return the animal to the head-quarters of the Highlanders,—a promise
which he did not live to fulfil; and the steed probably became the prey
of some greedy boor of Soignies.  By his accent he knew the officer to
be his countryman, and he looked back for a short time, watching him as
his horse, led by the honest Yorkshireman of the 44th, threaded its way
among the straggling crowd that covered the road.

There was an indescribable something in the face of this officer which
seemed like part of a long forgotten dream, that some casual incident
may suddenly call to remembrance.  He surely had never seen him before,
and yet his voice and features seemed like those of an old friend, and
he felt well pleased with himself for the attention he had shown him.
He inquired his name among the wounded soldiers of the Royals.

"He’s Ensign Menteith of ours, sir," said one, saluting with the only
hand that war had left him.

"We’ve many Menteiths," said another, who lay by the road-side.  "Cluny
is his Christian name, sir."

It was, then, his cousin, the son of Sir Colquhoun Menteith, that he had
so singularly encountered and befriended.  They had not met for eighteen
years, since they were little children, and now beheld each other, for
the last time, on the field of Waterloo.  He was about to turn and make
himself known, but Menteith had proceeded so far, that his figure was
lost amid the crowd which accompanied him; but he hoped to meet him
again,—a hope which was never realized, for he expired by the wayside,
close to the entrance of the forest of Soignies. Feeling his heart
saddened and softened by a thousand recollections of his childhood,
which this interview had awakened, Ronald turned his face towards Quatre
Bras, taking a solitary path among some thickets, to avoid the
disagreeable sights of human pain and misery which he encountered on
every yard of the main road.

The morning was hazy, and every where dense clouds of vapour were
curling upward from the earth, exhaled by the heat of the sun, which, as
the day advanced, became intense, while the air was oppressive and
sultry; but a great change came over the face of nature about twelve
o’clock at noon.

While passing through the copsewood which bordered the highway beyond
the village of Waterloo, Ronald heard the wail of a bagpipe, arising up
from the woodlands, and wildly floating through the still air of the
summer morning.  He stopped and listened breathlessly, while the stirred
blood within him mounted to his cheek.  The last time he heard that
instrument, it was awakening the echoes in the woods of Toulouse.  But
the strain was different now.  It was played sadly and slowly, with all
the feeling of which its wild reeds are capable; and the air was an
ancient dirge from the Isle of the Mist—_Oran au Aiog_, or ’the Song of
Death,’ and Stuart’s breast became filled with soft melancholy, and with
wonder to hear this solemn measure of the Highland isles played in such
a place, and at such a time. The cause was soon revealed.

On suddenly turning a point of the road, which was lined on each side by
thick thorns and tall poplars, he beheld Æneas or Angus Macvurich, a
piper of the 92nd, stalking, with the slow and stately air peculiar to
his profession, before a rudely-formed waggon, in which lay a wounded
officer, over whom a cloak was cast to defend him from the fierce rays
of the sun.  Stuart, the assistant-surgeon, rode behind, and beside it
came old Dugald Mhor Cameron, with his head bare and his silver tresses
floating on the wind, while he hid his face in the end of his tartan
plaid.  A Highland soldier led by the bridle the horse which drew the
vehicle,—a rough country car of the clumsiest construction, and a
wretched jolting conveyance it must have been for a man enduring the
agony of a complicated gun-shot wound.  Anxiety and woe were depicted in
every face of the advancing group, and the Highlander who led the horse
turned round every moment to look upon the sufferer in the car.

Ronald knew all the sad truth at once.  On his meeting it, the cavalcade
halted, the lament ceased, and a murmur of greeting arose from the
Highlanders,—all except old Dugald, who stared at him with eyes of
wonder and vacancy.

It was the colonel, brave Cameron, whom they were bearing away,—as many
of his ancestors had been borne, from his last battle-field to his long
home.  He was not dead, but lay motionless on his back, pale and bloody,
with his sword (rolled up in a plaid for a pillow) placed under his
head. His eyes were closed, his cheeks were sunken and ghastly, and the
thick curls of his brown hair were dabbled with blood and soiled with
clay.  Notwithstanding his familiarity with scenes of blood, Ronald
could not help shrinking on beholding the leader whom he loved so
dearly, and whom so many brave men had followed, stretched thus
helplessly, with the hand of the grim king upon him.

"Stuart, this is a sorrowful meeting," said Ronald in a low voice, as he
pressed the hand of his old friend the _medico_.  "Our good and gallant
colonel—"

"Aich! ay,—the cornel—the cornel—the cornel," muttered Dugald in a
whimpering voice.  He seemed besotted with grief.  "I kent, this time
yesterday, that it was to happen ere the nicht fell.  The lift was blue,
and the sun was bricht; but a wreath descended on my auld een, and a red
cloud was before me wherever I turned,—aboon me when I looked up, and
below me when I looked doon; and I kent that death was near my heart,
for the power of the _taisch_ was upon me.  Aich! ay!  Lie you there,
John Cameron?  Few there were like you,—few indeed!"  And the old man
bowed down his wrinkled face between his bare knees, and wept bitterly.

"Poor Fassifern!" whispered the surgeon; "he will never draw sword
again."

"Is he mortally wounded?" asked Ronald, in the same low tone.

"Yes.  Ere noon he will have departed to a better place.  But in this
world he has been amply avenged."

This was spoken in a hasty whisper.  The doctor’s breast was too full of
regret to have much room for astonishment at his suddenly meeting his
brother-officer, but he inquired from whence he had now come.

"I have come on the spur from Ostend," answered Ronald, "outstripping
many detachments on the march; for I have been very impatient to be with
the old corps again.  But this is sad news after my long absence.  And
what of the rest of the regiment?  Have there been many casualties?"

"We have suffered severely,—lost nearly as many as at Alba de Tormes;
but I know not the exact number.  Return with me a few yards, and aid us
in procuring a comfortable place for the colonel, and I will tell you
all the regimental news in time.  The corps is bivouacked in front of
Les Quatre Bras, over yonder, and they will not likely get under arms
for some hours yet.  You can join, and report your arrival in the course
of the day."

The sound of their voices caused Cameron to open his heavy eyes, and on
beholding Ronald, a ray of their old fire sparkled in them.  He
stretched out his hand, and Ronald grasped it gently, but
affectionately.  Cameron attempted to speak, but his tongue failed in
its office, and on his lips the half-formed words died away in faint
mutterings.

As they entered the village of Waterloo, the surgeon related that, on
the preceding evening, a battalion of the enemy had taken possession of
a large two-storied house on the Charleroi road.  From the windows and
garden walls of this place they kept up an incessant fire of musketry on
the British troops in its vicinity, until Lord Wellington ordered
Fassifern, with his Highlanders, to dislodge them with the bayonet.

After a sharp contest, the place was taken by storm; but Cameron, while
leading the assault, was shot through the body by a bullet from a
barricaded window in the upper story, fired by a chasseur, who, however,
ultimately gained nothing by the exploit.  The eagle eye of Cameron’s
revengeful follower, Dugald Mhor, had marked the slayer; and when the
house was entered, and the garrison were rushing from room to room and
from passage to stair, combating for death and life, he dragged him from
amid the bristling bayonets of his comrades, and twice plunged his long
dirk into his bosom, sending it home, till the double-edged blade
protruded through his goat-skin knapsack behind; and the Highlanders
were so infuriated by the loss of their leader, that butt and bayonet
were used freely, until scarcely a man was left alive in the place.

"Nae quarter!  Remember the colonel!  Death an’ dule to every man o’
them!" were cries with which they encouraged each other during the
conflict.

The best house in Waterloo being selected, the colonel was borne into
it, and placed in an apartment, which seemed to be a sort of parlour,
facing the Brussels road.  It was a snug little cottage, with walls of
bright red brick, a thatched roof, and yellow door and shutters, with
red panels.  Numerous arbours and rails of trellis-work, painted green
and white, encircled it; and a forest of tall hollyhocks, peonies,
roses, and other large and glaring flowers were blooming about it, and
glistening gaily in the meridian sun; while gorgeous tulips and anenomes
were waving in thousands from plots and parterres, arrayed in all the
summer glory of a Dutch garden.  But these were miserably trod down, as
the Highlanders bore the colonel up the narrow pebbled walk to the door,
which being locked, was opened by the rough application of a stone from
the highway.  The inmates had fled, and the mansion was empty.

The colonel was laid upon the floor,—there was not a bed in the place,
all the furniture having been carried off.  His sorrowing old follower
knelt down on his bare knees beside him, supporting his head, while he
poured forth interjections and prayers in Gaëlic.

"I can do nothing more for his wound; it is already dressed," whispered
the surgeon to Ronald, who was eager to perform some office by which he
might serve the invalid, or assuage some of his torments; but nothing
could be done, and he was compelled to stand, by an idle spectator,
while the brave spirit of his friend hovered between life and eternity.
"He is sinking fast," continued the doctor in the same whispering voice.
"Alas! the regiment will never see his like again."

"Where is Angus Macvurich?" asked the colonel in a low voice, but a firm
one, and as if all his energies were returning.

The piper answered by a loud snifter, or half-stifled sob.

"Oich! he’s speakin’ like himsel again.  Ye’ll no dee just this
time,—will ye, no?  O say ye’ll no!" said old Dugald, bending over him
in an agony of sorrow, and gazing on his face as a father would have
done.  "We’ll baith gang hame,—ay, gang hame thegithir yet to Fassifern,
among the green hills of the bonnie north country.  Ochone! woe to the
day we ever left it,—woe!"

"No, Dugald, my good, my dear old man; I shall never behold the fair
Highland-hills again.  My hour is come, and death is creeping into my
heart, slowly but surely.  Oh, that I might die among my kindred!  It is
a sad and desolate feeling to know that one must be buried in a distant
land, and unheeding strangers will tread on the place of our repose.
’Tis sad to die here, and to find a grave so far away from home, from
the land of the long yellow broom and the purple heather.  Tell me,
gentlemen, did my Highlanders storm the house on the Charleroi road?"

"Ay, please your honour," said the piper, "an’ sticket every man they
fand below the riggin o’t."

"Those excepted who laid down their arms," added the surgeon.  "But the
house was gallantly stormed, colonel."

"Well done the Gaël!  Well done, my good and brave soldiers!" cried the
invalid.

There was a long pause, which nothing broke, save the loud breathing of
the wounded Highlander, until, in feeble accents, he said,

"Come near me, Macvurich; I would hear the blast of the pipe once more
ere I die.  Play the ancient death-song of the Skye-men; my forefathers
have often heard it without shrinking."

"_Oran au Aiog?_" said the piper, raising his drones.

The colonel moved his hand, and Macvurich began to screw the pipes and
sound a prelude on the reeds, whose notes, even in this harsh and
discordant way, caused the eyes of the Highlander to flash and glare, as
it roused the fierce northern spirit in his bosom.

"He ordered that strange old tune to be played from the first moment I
declared his wound to be mortal," said the surgeon in a low voice.  "It
is one of the saddest and wildest I ever heard."

"Hold me up, Dugald; I would say something," muttered Cameron.  "Ah!
Stuart—I mean Ronald Stuart, I have much to say and to ask you; but my
voice fails me, and my tongue falters,—and—and—" utterance failed him
for a moment.  "But tell me, gentlemen, what news from the front?  Alas!
I should have asked that before.  But tell me, while I can hear your
voices,—have the enemy been defeated?"

"They have been driven from the position at Les Quatre Bras," replied
Doctor Stuart; "our troops are every where victorious."

"Then Cameron can die in happiness," said he firmly, as he sunk back.
"Oh!  I hope my dear country will think that I have served her
faithfully!"[*]


[*] These were his dying words.  In recompense for his great services a
baronetcy was granted to his family.  In 1815 his aged father received
the title of Sir Evan Cameron, Bart., of Fassifern.


His lips quivered as if twitched by a spasm, and he muttered some
imaginary order to keep shoulder to shoulder, to prepare to charge; and,
drooping his head upon the shoulder of Dugald Mhor, expired at about one
o’clock in the afternoon.

A cry of agony, sharp and shrill, like that of a girl rather than of an
old man of eighty, burst from the lips of Dugald, who bent his wrinkled
and sun-burnt visage over the face of the colonel until he touched it;
and he wept and sobbed bitterly, uttering uncouth ejaculations and
saying strange things, such as only an aged Highlander (whose mind was
filled with all the deep impressions of mountain manners and past ages)
would have said.

Anon he drew himself up erect, cast his disordered plaid about his
towering figure, and gazed around him with eyes, in which there gleamed
a strange light and unsettled expression.  He seemed the very _beau
ideal_ of a Gaëlic seer, and Macvurich, who imagined that he beheld some
dark vision of the second sight, drew back with respect and awe, not
unmingled with a slight degree of fear.

What wild vision crossed the disordered brain of the aged vassal I know
not, but he tossed his arms towards it, and a torrent of blood gushed
forth from his mouth and nostrils; he tottered towards the corse of
Cameron, and sunk on the floor beside it, a dying man.  Ronald sprang
forward and lifted him up, but he never spoke again, and expired, making
several ineffectual signs to Macvurich to play; but the piper was
kneeling on the floor near the corse of his leader, and beheld them not.

Angus Macvurich was a stern old Highlander from Brae-Mar, browned with
the sun of Egypt and the Peninsula.  He had gained scars in Denmark,
Holland, France, Spain, and Portugal.  Since Cameron had joined the
regiment as a young ensign they had served together, and he had seen
blood enough shed to harden his heart; but now he was kneeling down near
the dead body, covering his brown face with his hands, to conceal tears,
of which, perhaps, he felt ashamed.  The memory of days long passed
away—of some old acts of kindness, or of his colonel’s worth, were
crowding thick and full upon his mind, and the veteran was weeping like
a girl.

Stuart was deeply moved with this scene of death and woe.  Not having
been in the action, his heart had not been roused, or its fibres strung
to that pitch of callousness or excitement requisite to enable one to
look coolly on such scenes.  He shrouded the remains of Cameron in the
ample plaid of his faithful and departed follower, and, after covering
them decently but hastily up, he prepared to retire. Yet, ere he went,
he returned again to lift the tartan screen, and

    "To gaze once more on that commanding clay,
    Which for the last, but not the first, time bled."

His breast became heated, and he felt strange vindictive longings for
battle and revenge, such as are seldom felt until one has been engaged
for at least half an hour.  Desiring Macvurich to remain by the bodies
until they could be prepared for interment, he quitted the cottage, and,
accompanied by his namesake the surgeon, set out on the way to the
bivouacks of the army.

Each was occupied with his own sad reflections on the scene they had
just witnessed, and they walked forward for some time in silence.  After
awhile, Stuart recapitulated his adventures and the story of his
disappearance, which afforded ample scope for conversation until they
drew near Quatre Bras, when the miserable objects they encountered at
every step rendered it impossible to converse longer with ease or
pleasure.  The whole road was covered and blocked up with the
unfortunate wounded travelling towards Brussels, some in the waggons of
the Train, hundreds on foot, and hundreds crawling along the earth,
covered with dust and blood, dragging their miserable bodies past like
crushed worms; while their cries and ejaculations to God for mercy, and
to man for aid and for water, formed a horrible medley, surpassing the
power of description.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                         *THE 17TH JUNE, 1815.*


      "Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
      Dewy with Nature’s tear-drop as they pass,
    Grieving—if aught inanimate e’er grieves—
      Over the unreturning brave,—alas!
      Ere evening to be trodden like the grass."
        _Byron._


"That is Quatre Bras," said the surgeon, pointing to a little village
close at hand.  "The Highlanders are in bivouac behind it;" and, adding
that his services were now required in another direction, the military
Esculapius rode off, while Ronald walked hastily forward to the village.

On nearing the spot where the regiment was in position, a
strange-looking little hut, composed of turf and the boughs of trees,
apparently hastily reared up by the wayside, attracted his attention.
Curiosity prompted him to enter this wig-wam by pushing open the door,
which consisted of nothing more than a large oaken branch, torn from the
neighbouring forest.  An officer clad in a blue surtout, white
pantaloons, Hessian boots tasselled and spurred, and wearing around his
neck a _white cravat_ or neckcloth, started up from the examination of a
large map of Flanders, over which he had been bending, and raising his
cocked hat, bent his keen bright eye on the intruder with a stern and
inquiring expression of anger and surprise.  To use a Scotticism—Stuart
was _dumbfoundered_ to find that he had interrupted the cogitations and
anxious deliberations of Wellington.

He muttered something—he knew not what—by way of apology, and withdrew
as abruptly as he had entered, with the unpleasant consciousness that he
must have looked very foolish.

On gaining the rear of the village, and approaching the Highlanders, he
found them forming under arms, while the pipers, strutting to and fro on
the highway, made all Quatre Bras and the Bois de Bossu ring to the
’gathering of the Gordons.’  The regiment was formed in line behind a
thick garden hedge, favoured by which he was enabled to advance close
upon them unseen; and the astonishment of the officers and soldiers may
be imagined, when, by leaping over the barrier, he appeared suddenly
among them.  A half stifled exclamation ran along the line, and there
was a pause in the ceremonious formation of the parade.

The officers clustered round him, and many of the soldiers, pressing in
with a forwardness which was easily forgiven, greeted him in their
’hamely Scots tongue,’ but with an affection, joy, and earnestness which
he never forgot.  Campbell, who now commanded the regiment, leaped from
his horse, and with his ample hand grasped Stuart’s so tightly as to
give him some pain.  One seldom shakes the hand of such a Celtic giant.

"Well, Ronald, my lad! this is astonishing—almost beyond belief.  Do we
look upon you, or your wraith?"

"Myself, major, myself I hope,—sound, wind and limb," answered Stuart
laughing.

"I thought wraiths were not in fashion, in this flat country at least.
Faith! this has quite the air of a romance, with the accompaniments of
astonishment, mystery, and all that sort of thing.  Did you come down
from the clouds? or spring out of the earth like a Shetland dwarf?"

"Queer modes, both, of joining a regiment.  No, major; I just leaped the
hedge,—unromantically enough.  But, how d’ye do, Chisholm?  How are you,
Macildhui?  Ah!  Douglas, my boy! and Lisle!  Dear Louis, how much I
have to ask and to tell!  Your hand."

And thus he greeted them all in succession, from the pot-bellied
field-officer to the slender ensign, raw from the college or nursery.  A
truly national shaking of hands ensued, and such, I may safely assert,
as Quatre Bras had never witnessed before.  Then came the light company,
with their humble but hearty wishes of joy; and the whole regiment,
giving martial discipline to the winds, cheered and waved their bonnets,
while the pipers blew as if their lives depended on it, until
Wellington, confounded by the uproar which had so suddenly broken forth
in his immediate vicinity, was seen looking from his wigwam in no
pleasant mood; but not even the appearance of that portentous white
cravat,—the glories of which are still sung by the Spanish muleteer, the
Flemish boatman, and the Portuguese gipsy,—could still the clamour.

Although Ronald’s letters written from London had informed his military
friends of his existence and safe arrival in England, they were by no
means prepared for his sudden appearance among them in Flanders, and he
had to endure a thick cross-fire of questions and eager inquiries, which
at that moment there was not time to answer; but he promised the
rehearsal of his story at full length on the first opportunity, and for
the present considerably repressed their joy by announcing the death of
Cameron, and of his follower, poor old Dugald, who had been a man of no
small dignity and importance among those who filled the ranks of the
Gordon Highlanders.

The troops had been ordered to fall back upon the position of Waterloo,
which was next day to be the scene of that "king-making victory,"—the
most important ever fought and won in Europe, and one which has fixed
for ever the fame of the great duke and the British army.

When the bustle created by his arrival had a little subsided, Ronald
requested a few words apart with Louis; but before he could speak, the
voice of Campbell was heard in command.

"Fall in, gentlemen; fall in!"

"Alice?" whispered Stuart.

"She is well and happy, Ronald; and never once has her love wandered
from _you_," said Louis, pressing his hand.

The bugle sounded, and they separated to join their respective
companies; and next moment the adjutant was flying along the line at
full gallop, to collect the reports.  Then riding up to Campbell, he
lowered the point of his sword, and, acquainting him with the
casualties, returned to his post in the line, while the regiment broke
into open column of sections, with the right in front; and the pioneers,
with their saws, axes, &c., and their leather aprons strapped to their
bare knees, went off double-quick in advance.  "Quick march!" was now
the order repeated by a hundred commanding officers, varying in cadence
and distance.  The trumpet brayed, the cymbal clashed, the drum
rebounded, the war-pipe yelled forth its notes of defiance and pride,
and the whole army was in motion _en route_ for Waterloo.

By the suddenness of the order to "fall in," Stuart lost an opportunity
(which never again occurred) of learning from Louis,—that of which he
was still ignorant,—the wreck of his father’s affairs, and his
emigration to a strange country.

Gloom and doubt were apparent in the faces of both officers and
privates, as the army began its march to the rear, upon Waterloo.  Any
thing like retreating is so unusual to British troops, that a chill
seemed to have fallen on every heart as they moved from Quatre Bras,
before which the third and fifth divisions were left to cover the
rear,—or at least to deceive Napoleon by remaining in sight till the
artillery and the main body of the army were far on the Waterloo road.
As Lord Wellington had foreseen, Napoleon was long kept in ignorance of
our retreat by this measure; but as soon as he perceived it, he
despatched immense bodies of cavalry to press and harass the rear-guard.
On looking back, just before the _Bois de Soignies_ began to throw its
foliage over the line of march, Stuart saw several dashing charges made
by the British heavy dragoons, who rode right through and through the
massive columns of the enemy, breaking their order, sabring them in
hundreds, and compelling the rest to recoil, and repress the fierce
feeling of triumph with which they beheld the British army retreating
before them.  Scarcely a shot was fired, as the carbines and pistols
were rarely resorted to. Their conflicts were all maintained with the
sword, and some thousand blades were seen flashing at once in the light
of the sun, as they were whirled aloft like gleams of lightning, and
descended like flashes of fire on the polished helmets of the French,
and on the tall and varied caps of the British cavalry.

During the greater part of this march, Ronald moved with a group of the
officers about him, listening to that which he was heartily tired of
relating,—"a full, true and particular history" of his detention among
the Spaniards, his release and his restoration to the regiment.  The men
of the neighbouring sections, who were all listening attentively with
eager ears, circulated the story through the ranks with various
additions and alterations, to suit that taste for the marvellous and
wonderful which exists so much among soldiers—Highlanders especially; so
that by the time it had travelled along the line of march, from the
mouths of the light company to the grenadiers at the head of the column,
Ronald’s narrative might have vied with that true history, the ’Life of
Prince Arthur,’ ’Jack the Giant Queller,’ or any other hero of ancient
times.

"Well, Stuart, my man!" said Campbell, riding up to Ronald; "I am happy
to see you again at the head of the light bobs."

"I thank you, major; but truly none can rejoice more than myself,"
answered Ronald.  "Faith! a century seems to have elapsed since I saw
the old colours with the silver thistles and the sphinxes,—your
favourite badge, major, waving above the blue bonnets.  There was a
time, when I thought never to have beheld them again."

"When you so narrowly escaped hanging by those rascally thieves, I
suppose?  Don Alvaro gave you ample reparation, so far as he could do,
by drawing fifty human necks, like the thraws of so many muir-hens.  A
fine fellow, that Alvaro! only rather lank and sombre in visage.  Faith!
I shall never forget the supper his pretty sister gave us the first
night we halted at Merida.  Every dish had garlic, olive oil, and onions
in it!"

"Hooch, deevils and warlocks!" said Sergeant Macrone, grasping the
truncheon of his pike.  "Oh! had I peen there peside you, sir, whan thae
reiver loons spake o’ a tow to you, many a sair croon wad hae peen among
them!"

"I’m much obliged to you, Macrone; but, with a dozen of our blue
bonnets, I would soon have made a clear house of them."

"Oich!" continued the sergeant, growing eloquent in his indignation, "it
wad hae peen a fera tammed unpleasant thing to pe hanget, especially an
officer and shentleman.  But wad the reivers no hae shot yer honour,
kindly and discreetly, just if ye had asked them as a favour, ye ken?"

"I never thought of that, Macrone," replied Ronald, laughing heartily;
"both modes were equally unpleasant, though not equally honourable."

"Poor Cameron! and so we have lost him at last," observed Campbell, in a
half-musing tone, while his eyes glistened.  "I often look at the head
of the column, and half imagine I see him riding along there, on his
tall black horse, as of old; his figure erect and stately, and his long
feathers drooping down on his right shoulder.  Many a day I have watched
him with pleasure, as he led the line of march over the long plains of
Spain, when we have been moving from sunrise to sunset, on the tall
spire of some distant city.  I shall obtain the command, but He who
reads the human heart knows that I would rather have remained always
major, that Cameron might have lived."

"Brave Fassifern! we were always proud of him, but more so now than
ever," said Stuart, and his eyes glittered with enthusiasm while he
spoke. "’Tis but two hours since I beheld him expire in Waterloo
yonder."

"That d—ned old house near Quatre Bras!" exclaimed Campbell; "I am sorry
we left one stone of it standing on another.  Poor Fassifern fell at the
head of the grenadiers, while assaulting it in front. I carried it in
rear, beating down the back door with my own hand, and scarcely a man
was left alive in it.  Our men fought like furies after the colonel
fell. Ay," he continued, emphatically, "John Cameron was a true Highland
gentleman, and possessed the heart of a hero."

"Och!" muttered Macrone, "he was a pretty man, and a prave man, and
nefer flinched in ta front o’ the enemy."

"And never did one of his name, Duncan," whispered a comrade, in Gaëlic.
"I myself am a Cameron—"

"Ha, major! what is that?" asked Ronald, as something like a distant
discharge of artillery sounded through the hot and still atmosphere.
"Can the Prussians be at it again?"

"We shall hear no more of the Prussians, after what befell them at Ligny
yesterday.  ’Tis said that they have lost twenty thousand men; and old
Blucher himself narrowly escaped being trodden to death by the French
cavalry charging over him, as he lay unhorsed and wounded on the ground.
They repassed him in retreat, but the old fox lay close. There is the
sound again!"

"What the devil can it be?" said an officer.

"The French flying artillery must have come up with our rear guard."

"No, no, Ronald; look at the sky, man!  We shall have a tremendous storm
in five minutes."

While he spoke, the sky, which had been bright and sunny, became
suddenly darkened by masses of murky clouds, the flying shadows of which
were seen moving over the wide corn-fields and green woodlands.
Scudding and gathering, these gloomy precursors of a storm came hurrying
across the sky, until they closed over every part of it, obscuring the
face of heaven, and rendering the earth dark as when viewed by the grey
light of a winter day at three o’clock, and the spirits of the
retreating soldiers became more saddened and depressed as the black
shadows of the forest of Soignies deepened around them.  Red, blue, and
yellow streaks of lightning, vivid and hot, flashed across the whole
sky, lighting it up like a fiery dome from the eastern to the western
horizon, and the stunning peals of thunder roared every instant as if to
rend the world asunder. Rain and hail descended in torrents, while the
tempests of wind, which arose in angry gusts, tore through the forest of
Soignies like the spirit of destruction, scattering leaves, branches,
trees, and the affrighted birds in every direction.  Oh! the miseries of
the 17th of June!  The oldest soldiers in the army declared that the
storm of that day surpassed any thing they had ever suffered or beheld.

The whole army, from the front to the rear-guard, were drenched to the
skin.  The roads, in some places, were flooded with water, till they
looked like winding canals, with their surface broken into countless
wrinkles by the splashing rain; in other places the mud was so deep,
that the soldiers, loaded with their heavy accoutrements, sank above the
ankles at every step, and the weight of the thick clay which adhered to
their feet, added greatly to their misery. Hundreds of those in the
Highland regiments lost their shoes on withdrawing their feet from the
soil, and as no time was given to take others from their knapsacks, if
they had any there, they were obliged to tread out the rest of the march
in their red-striped hose.  Many of the officers wore their thin-soled
dress boots, their white kid gloves, &c., having been suddenly summoned
to the field from the gaiety of the ball at Brussels, and some were
almost bare-footed before the order was given to halt.  Their boots, of
French kid, wore away like brown paper in the mud and rain.

Without tents or any covering, save their greatcoats or cloaks, the
troops passed the miserable night of the 17th June in bivouac,—exposed,
unsheltered, to all the fury of the storm, which lasted until eight
o’clock next morning.  For nearly four-and-twenty hours the wind had
blown and the rain fallen without intermission.

Though their spirits were considerably depressed, the officers and their
soldiers bore all with that perfect patience and endurance, which the
British army possesses in a greater degree than any other in Europe.
They can bear stoically alike the fury of the elements, and the
exasperating insults of a petulant mob.

Not a murmur of discontent was heard that night in the British bivouac;
no man repined, as the utmost confidence and reliance were placed in the
great leader, under whom, on the morrow, they were to engage in such a
struggle as the world has rarely witnessed.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                          *THE 18TH OF JUNE.*


      "And wild and high the Cameron’s gathering rose!
      The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn’s hills
      Have heard—and heard, too, have her Saxon foes.
      How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills,
      Savage and shrill!  But with the breath which fills
      Their mountain pipe, so fill the mountaineers
      With their fierce native daring, which instils
      The stirring memory of a thousand years;
    And Evan’s, Donald’s fame, rings in each clansman’s ears."
        _Lord Byron._


About eight o’clock on the morning of the 18th the storm suddenly
abated, the rain ceased, the wind died away, the grey clouds began to
disperse, and the sun broke forth in his glory.  His warm glow was
delightful after the chill of such a tempestuous night; and the wan
faces of the soldiers brightened as they watched the dispersion of the
vapoury masses, and beheld the morning sky assuming a pure and serene
blue.  Alas! it was a morning sun which thousands were doomed never to
behold setting at eve.

Immense masses of white mist were rising on all sides,—from the green
woodlands of the Bois de Soignies,—from the swamps, the fields, and the
puddles formed in the night; and as the vapour became exhaled, and
floated away to mingle with the clouds, the grass grew more green, and
the fields of flattened corn rose, and waved their yellow harvest to and
fro in the morning breeze.  Fires were lighted by the soldiers, to dry
their clothes and cook a ration of beef, which had been hastily supplied
to some corps of the army.  An allowance of grog was also served out by
the commissariat to every man, without distinction.  It was swallowed
gladly and thankfully, and the former cheerfulness of the troops began
to revive, and they became as merry as men could be who had marched so
far, passed such a night, and had yet their shirts sticking to their
backs.

This was the morning of the eventful 18th of June, 1815.

Sir Dennis Pack’s brigade had scarcely finished their wretched meal of
beef, broiled on bayonets and ramrods amid the smoky embers of green
wood, before the pipers of the Royal Highlanders, who were bivouacked on
the right, were heard blowing their regimental gathering with might and
main, summoning the old _Black Watch_ to battle.

"Stand to your arms!  The enemy are coming on!" was the cry on every
side; and aides-de-camp, majors of brigade, and other officers were seen
galloping in every direction, clearing hedge and wall at the risk of
their necks.  The trumpets of the cavalry, the drums and bugles of the
infantry, were soon heard sounding in concert over every part of the
position, as the army got under arms to meet their old hereditary foe.

"_Vive l’Empereur!_"  A hundred thousand soldiers,—brave men as France
ever sent forth, loaded the morning wind with the cry; and the hum of
their voices, sounding from afar over the level country, was heard—like
the low roar of a distant sea—murmuring and chafing, long before they
came within range of musket shot.

The soldiers of the allied army stood to their arms with their usual
willingness and alacrity, but with that degree of gravity and calmness
which always pervades a body of men before an engagement.  It is a
serious reflection that one may be in eternity in five minutes, and one
feels rather sedate in consequence,—till the blood is up, and the true
British mettle fairly roused.  A battle was about to be fought, and that
it would be a bloody one was evident; for it was between two splendid
armies, equal in arms, in discipline, and in courage, and led by two of
the greatest generals the world ever produced. But it is not my
intention to recount a history of the battle of Waterloo.  Generally, I
will confine myself to the motions of the 9th brigade, commanded by the
brave Sir Dennis Pack.

It consisted of four regiments; namely, the third battalion of the 1st
Royal Scots, the 42nd or Royal Highlanders, the 2nd battalion of the
44th or East Essex regiment, and the 92nd or Gordon Highlanders, with
whom, I trust, the reader is tolerably well acquainted.  The fighting at
Quatre Bras on the 16th had considerably thinned their ranks, but they
yet mustered five hundred bayonets.

Aides-de-camp, general and other staff-officers, were seen galloping on
the spur over banks and ditches, through copse-wood and corn fields,
bearing orders, instructions, and hasty despatches to those commanding
corps and brigades; the cavalry looked to their girths and bridles, the
infantry to their locks and pouches; the artillery-guns, tumbrils, and
caissons were dragged at full gallop among ripe fields of wheat and
barley, through hedges and slough ditches, with matches smoking, the
gunners on the boxes, the drivers on the saddle, rammers and sponges
rattling and clanking, and the cavalry escort galloping in front and
rear.  Bustle and noise, but with perfect steadiness and coolness,
prevailed, as the army of Lord Wellington formed in position on that
memorable field, and awaited the approach of their enemy, who came on
flushed with the success of the recent battle of Ligny.

"There goes Buonaparte!" cried Ronald to his friend Louis Lisle, who at
that moment came up to him.

"There goes Napoleon! the Emperor and all his staff!" burst from many a
tongue.

The whole attention of the British line was attracted by the appearance
of Buonaparte, who rode along the ridge occupied by the French army.  He
wore his great-coat unbuttoned, and thrown back to display his epaulets
and green uniform, and had on his head the little cocked hat by which
all statues of him are so well known.  A staff, brilliant and numerous,
composed of officers wearing a hundred different uniforms, followed him,
but at the distance of seventy or eighty paces, riding like a confused
mob of cavalry. He passed rapidly along the French line towards La Belle
Alliance; but the fire of a few twelve-pound field-pieces, which had
been brought to bear upon his person, compelled him to retire to the
rear.

The right of the allied army rested on Braine la Leude, the left on the
farm of Ter la Haye, and the centre on Mont St. Jean, thus extending
along a ridge from which the ground descended gently to a sort of vale;
on the other side of which, at the distance of about twelve hundred
yards from the allies, the long-extended lines of the French army were
formed in battle array, with eagles glittering, colours waving, and
bayonets gleaming above the dark battalions of infantry.

The celebrated château of Hougoumont was in front of the right centre of
the allies; the woods, the orchard, and the house were full of troops.
Arms glanced at every window, bayonets bristled everywhere around it,
and the tall grenadier-caps of the Coldstream Guards, and the schakoes
of the Belgians and Brunswickers, were visible above the green hedges of
the garden, and the parapet walls which enclosed the park and orchard.
The farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, on the Charleroi road at the foot of
the eminence, had also been converted into a garrison, loop-holed and
barricaded, with brass-muzzled field-pieces peeping through the
honey-suckle and the rails of the garden around it.

All around the spot where these dire preparations had been made the land
was in a beautiful state of cultivation, and the bright yellow corn
waved ripe in every field; but the passage of cavalry, brigades of
artillery, and sometimes dense masses of infantry in close column of
companies or sub-divisions of five-and-twenty men abreast, the continual
deploying on point and pivot as new alignements were taken up, made sad
havoc among the hopes of the husbandman and farmer.

The Belgian and Hanoverian battalions were checkered as equally as
possible with the British, and thus many different uniforms varied the
long perspective of the allied line; while the French army presented one
long array of dark uniforms, blue, green, or the grey great-coat, an
upper garment worn almost invariably, in all weathers, by the French
troops when on service.

Near a tree, which grew on a bank above the Charleroi road, and which
formed, or denoted, the very centre of the British position, Lord
Wellington could be seen sitting motionless on horseback, observing,
with his acute and practised eye, the motions of his mighty antagonist.
His cavalry were, generally, posted in rear of the right, the centre,
and left of the position, the artillery behind a hedge on a ridge which
rises near Ter la Haye; and this screen of foliage concealed them from
the enemy, who commenced the battle about half-past eleven o’clock.

A movement was seen taking place among the French, and in a few minutes
the division commanded by Jerome Buonaparte attacked the château of
Hougoumont.  As they advanced upon it, Lord Wellington’s artillery
opened on them, and did considerable execution; but they pressed
heedlessly on and assaulted the ancient château, which was resolutely
defended, and soon became shrouded in a cloud of smoke as the volleying
musketry blazed away from hedge and wall, barricade and window. Every
bullet bore the fate of a human being; the French were strewed in heaps,
and the château, into which they showered grape and musketry with
unsparing diligence, seemed not likely to surrender soon.  The foreign
troops gave way, but the brave Guards maintained the defence of the
house and garden alone, and with the unflinching determination and
courage of British soldiers.

Under cover of a formidable cannonade, which Napoleon’s artillery opened
from the crest of the ridge where his line was formed, three dense
masses of infantry, consisting each of four battalions, moving in solid
squares, poured impetuously down on the left and centre of the allied
line.  They rent the air with cries of "_Vive la France!  Vive
l’Empereur!_" and on they came double-quick, with their sloped arms
glittering in the sun.  They were enthusiastically encouraged by their
officers, whose voices were heard above even the mingled din of the
battle-cry, cheering them on as they waved their eagles and brandished
their sabres aloft.  One of these columns poured its strength on La Haye
Sainte, where it experienced a warm and deadly welcome; while the other
two attacked that part of the position which was occupied by Sir Dennis
Pack’s brigade.

As they advanced, Campbell made a signal with his sword, and the eight
pipes of the regiment commenced the wild pibroch of Donald-dhu,—the
march of the Islesmen to Lochaber in 1431.  It was echoed back by the
pipes of the Royals and 42nd on the right, and the well-known effect of
that instrument was instantly visible in the flushing cheeks of the
brigade.  Its music never falls in vain on the ear of a Scotsman, for he
alone can understand its wild melody and stirring associations.  The
ranks, which before had exhibited all that stillness and gravity which
troops always observe—in fact, which their feelings compel them to
observe—before being engaged, for fighting is a serious matter, became
animated, and the soldiers began to cheer and handle their muskets long
before the order was given to fire. A brigade of Belgians, formed in
line before a hedge, was attacked furiously by the French columns, who
were eager for vengeance on these troops, whom they considered as
deserters from the cause of the "great Emperor," whose uniform they
still wore. The impetuosity of the attack compelled the Belgians to
retire in rear of the hedge, over which they received and returned a
spirited fire.

Pack’s brigade now opened upon the foe, and the roar of cannon and
musketry increased on every side as the battle became general along the
extended parallel lines of the British and French.  The fire of the
latter on Pack’s brigade was hot and rapid, for in numerical force they
outnumbered them, many to one, and made dreadful havoc.  The men were
falling—to use the common phrase—in heaps, and the danger, smoke,
uproar, and slaughter, with all the terrible concomitants of a great
battle, increased on every side; the blood of the combatants grew
hotter, and their national feelings of hatred and hostility, which
previously had lain dormant, were now fully awakened, and increased
apace with the slaughter around them.  Many of the Highlanders seemed
animated by a perfect fury,—a terrible eagerness to grapple with their
antagonists.  Captain Grant, an officer of the Gordon Highlanders,
became so much excited, that he quitted the ranks, and rushing to the
front, brandished his long broad sword aloft, and defied the enemy to
charge or approach further. Then, calling upon the regiment to follow
him, he threw up his bonnet, and flinging himself headlong on the
bayonets of the enemy, was instantly slain. Poor fellow! he left a young
wife at home to lament him, and his loss was much regretted by the
regiment.

"This is hot work, Chisholm," said Ronald with a grim smile to his smart
young sub, who came towards him jerking his head about in that nervous
manner which the eternal whistling of musket shot will cause many a
brave fellow to assume.

"Hot work,—devilish!" answered the other with a blunt carelessness
which, perhaps, was half affected. "But I have something good to
communicate."

"What?"

"Blucher, with forty thousand Prussians, is advancing from Wavre.  Bony
knows nothing of this, and the first news he hears of it will be the
twelve-pounders of the Prussians administering a dose of cold iron to
his left flank, upon the extremity of the ridge yonder."

"Good! but is the intelligence true?"

"Ay, true as Gospel.  I heard an aide-de-camp, a rather excited but
exquisite young fellow of the 7th Hussars, tell old Sir Dennis so this
moment."

"Would to God we saw them!—the Prussians I mean.  We are suffering
dreadfully from the fire of these columns."

"Ay, faith!" replied the other, coolly adjusting his bonnet, which a
ball had knocked awry, and turning towards the left flank of the
company, before he had gone three paces, he was stretched prostrate on
the turf.

He never stirred again.  A ball had pierced his heart; and the bonnet,
which a moment before he had arranged so jauntily over his fair hair,
rolled to the feet of Ronald Stuart.

"I kent he was _fey_!  Puir young gentleman!" said a soldier.

"I will add a stone to his cairn," observed another, figuratively; "and
give this to revenge him," he added, dropping upon his knee and firing
among the smoke of the opposite line.

Stuart would have examined the body of his friend, to find if any spark
of life yet lingered in it, but his attention was attracted by other
matters.

The Belgians at the hedge gave way, after receiving and returning a most
destructive fire for nearly an hour.  The 3rd battalion of the Scots
Royals, and a battalion of the 44th, (the same regiment which lately
distinguished itself at Cabul,) took up the ground of the vanquished men
of _Gallia Belgica_, and after maintaining the same conflict against an
overwhelming majority of numbers, and keeping staunch to their post till
the unlucky hedge was piled breast high with killed and wounded, they
were compelled also to retire, leaving it in possession of the enemy,
who seized upon it with a fierce shout of triumph, as if it had been the
fallen capital of a conquered country instead of the rural boundary of a
field of rye.

It was now three o’clock in the afternoon.  The strife had lasted
incessantly for four hours, and no word was yet heard of the Prussians.
For miles around, the plains were involved in smoke; and whether they
were approaching or not no man knew, for a thick war-cloud enshrouded
the vale of Waterloo. Three thousand of the allies had been put to the
rout, and the dense mob-like columns of the enemy came rolling on from
the ridge opposite to Lord Wellington’s position, apparently with the
determination of bearing all before them.

When they gained possession of the hedge before mentioned, Sir Dennis
Pack, who had been with its defenders till the moment they gave way,
galloped at full speed up to the Gordon Highlanders,—a corps reduced now
to a mere skeleton, and barely mustering two hundred efficient bayonets.

"Highlanders!" cried the general, who was evidently labouring under no
ordinary degree of excitement and anxiety, "you must charge!  Upon them
with the bayonet or the heights are lost, for all the troops in your
front have given way!"

"Highlandmen! shoulder to shoulder," cried Campbell, as the regiment
began to advance with their muskets at the long trail, and in silence,
with clenched teeth and bent brows, for their hearts were burning to
avenge the fall of their comrades.  "Shoulder to shoulder, lads! close
together, like a wall!" continued the major, as, spurring his horse to
the front, he waved his sword and bonnet aloft, and the corps moved down
the hill.  "Remember Egypt and Corunna,—and remember Cameron, though
he’s gone, for his eye may be upon us yet at this very moment!
Forward—double quick!"

The column they were about to charge presented a front, more than equal
to their own, on _four_ faces, and formed a dense mass of three thousand
infantry. Heedless of their numbers, with that free and fearless
impetuosity which they have ever displayed, and which has always been
attended with the most signal success, the bonneted clansmen rushed on
with the fury of a torrent from their native hills, equally regardless
of the charged bayonets of the French front ranks, the murderous fire of
the rear, and of ten pieces of cannon sent by Napoleon to assist in
gaining the height occupied by Pack’s shattered brigade.

It was a desperate crisis, and the regiment knew that they must be
victorious or be annihilated.

A body of cuirassiers were coming on to the assistance of the vast mass
of infantry,—all splendid troops, glittering in a panoply of brass and
steel; and the slanting rays of the sun gleamed beautifully on their
long lines of polished helms and corslets and the forest of swords,
which they brandished aloft above the curls of eddying smoke, as they
came sweeping over the level plain at full gallop. The advance of the
little band of Highlanders made them seem like a few mice attacking a
lion,—the very acme of madness or of courage.  Their comrades were all
defeated, themselves were threatened by cavalry, galled by ten pieces of
cannon, and opposed to three thousand infantry; and yet they went on
with the heedless impetuosity of the heroes of Killiecrankie, Falkirk,
and Gladsmuir.

The front rank of the enemy’s column remained with their long muskets
and bayonets at the charge, while the rear kept up a hot and destructive
fire, in unison with the sweeping discharges from the field-pieces
placed at a little distance on their flanks.

The moment was indeed a critical one to these two hundred eagle hearts.
They were in the proportion of one man to fifteen; and notwithstanding
this overwhelming majority, when the steady line of the Highlanders came
rushing on, with their bayonets levelled before them, and had reached
within a few yards of the enemy, the latter turned and fled!  The huge
mass, which might with ease have eaten them, broke away in a confusion
almost laughable, the front ranks overthrowing the rear, and every man
tossing away musket, knapsack, and accoutrements.  The Highlanders still
continued pressing forward with the charged bayonet, yet totally unable
to comprehend what had stricken the foe with so disgraceful a panic.

"Halt!" cried Campbell.  "Fire on the cowards! D—n them, give them a
volley!" and a hasty fire was poured upon the confused mob.

A cry arose of "Here come the cavalry!"

"Hoigh! hurrah!" cried the Highlanders.  "The Greys—the Greys—the Scots
Greys!  Hoigh! our ain folk—hurrah!"  And a tremendous cheer burst from
the little band as they beheld, emerging from the wreaths of smoke, the
squadrons of their countrymen, who came thundering over the
corpse-strewed field, where drums, colours, arms, cannon and
cannon-shot, killed and wounded men, covered every foot of ground.

The grey horses—"those beautiful grey horses," as the anxious Napoleon
called them while watching this movement through his glass,—came on,
snorting and prancing with dilated nostrils and eyes of fire, exhibiting
all the pride of our superb dragoon chargers, while the long
broad-swords and tall bear-skin caps of the riders were seen towering
above the battle-clouds which rolled along the surface of the plain.

They formed part of the heavy brigade of the gallant Sir William
Ponsonby, who, sabre in hand, led them on, with the First Royal English
dragoons, and the Sixth, who came roaring tremendously, and shouting
strange things in the deep brogue of merry "ould Ireland."

From the weight of the men, the mettle of their horses, and their fine
equipment, a charge of British cavalry is a splendid sight; I say
British, for our own are the finest-looking as well as the best troops
in the world,—an assertion which few can dispute when we speak of
Waterloo.  Those who witnessed the charge of Ponsonby’s brigade will
never forget it.  The Highlanders halted, and the dragoons swept on past
their flank, towards the confused masses of the enemy.  The Greys, on
passing the little band of their countrymen, sent up the well-known cry
of "Scotland for ever!"

"Scotland for ever!"  At such a moment this was indeed a cry that roused
"the stirring memory of a thousand years."  It touched a chord in every
Scottish heart.  It seemed like a voice from their home, from the
tongues of those they had left behind, and served to stimulate them to
fresh exertions in honour of the land of the rock and the eagle.

"Cheer, my blue bonnets!" cried Campbell, leaping in his saddle in
perfect ecstasy.  "Oh! the gallant fellows! how bravely they ride.  God
and victory be with them this day!"

"Scotland for ever!" echoed the Highlanders, as they waved their black
plumage on the gale.  The Royals, the 42nd, the Cameron Highlanders, and
every Scots regiment within hearing took up the battle-cry and tossed it
to the wind; and even the feeble voices of the wounded were added to the
general shout while the chivalrous Greys plunged into the column of the
enemy, sabring them in scores, and riding them down like a field of
corn.  The cries of the panic-stricken French were appalling; they were
like the last despairing shrieks of drowning men, rather than the
clamour of men-at-arms upon a battle-field.  Colours, drums, arms, and
every thing were abandoned in their eagerness to escape, and even while
retreating double quick, some failed not to shout _Vive l’Empereur!
Vive la Gloire!_ as vociferously as if they had been the victors instead
of the vanquished.

An unlucky random shot struck Lisle’s left arm, and fractured the bone
just above the elbow.  He uttered a sudden cry of anguish, and reeled
backward several paces, but propped himself upon his sword.  Ronald
Stuart rushed towards him, but almost at the same moment a half-spent
cannon shot (one of the last fired by the train sent to dislodge the
ninth brigade) struck him on the left side, doubled him up like a cloak,
and dashed him to the earth, where he lay totally deprived of sense and
motion.  When struck, a consciousness flashed upon his mind that his
ribs were broken to pieces, and that he was dying; then the darkness of
night seemed to descend on his eyes, and he felt as if his soul was
passing away from his body.  That feeling, which seemed the reverse of a
terrible one, existed for a space of time scarcely divisible.  There was
a rushing sound in his ears, flashes of red fire seemed to go out from
his eyes, and then every sensation of life left him for a time.  The
regiment thought him dead, as few escape a knock from a cannon-shot, and
no one considered it worth while to go towards him, save Louis Lisle.
All were too intently watching the flashing weapons of the cavalry as
they charged again and again, each squadron wheeling to the right and
left to allow the others to come up, and the work of slaying and
capturing proceeded in glorious style.  Poor Ronald’s loss was never
thought of by his comrades.

"Stuart’s knocked on the head, poor fellow!" was his only elegy.  One
life is valued less than a straw, when thousands are breathing their
last on the awful arena of a battle-field.

Louis, whose left arm hung bleeding and motionless by his side, turned
Ronald on his back with the right, and saw that he was pale and
breathless.  He placed his hand on the heart, but it was still.  He felt
no vibration.

"Great Heaven! what a blow this will be for my poor sister!  Farewell,
Ronald!  I look upon your face for the last time!"  He groaned deeply
with mental and bodily agony as he bent his steps to the rear,—a long
and perilous way, for shot of every size and sort were falling like hail
around, whizzing and whistling through the air, or tearing the turf to
pieces when they alighted.  Hundreds of riderless horses, many of them
greys, snorting and crying with pain or terror, were galloping madly
about in every direction, trampling upon the bodies of the dead and the
wounded, and finishing with their ponderous hoofs the work which many a
bullet had begun.

The slaughter among the French at that part of the field was immense,
but their case might have been very different had they stood firm and
shown front, as British infantry would have done.

One thousand were literally sabred, ridden down, or cut to pieces, two
thousand taken prisoners, with two eagles, one by a sergeant of the
Greys, and all the drums and colours; a catastrophe which scarcely
occupied five minutes’ time, and which Napoleon beheld from his post
near La Belle Alliance with sensations which may easily be conceived,
for these troops were the flower of his numerous army.

This was about half-past four in the afternoon, and over the whole plain
of Waterloo the battle was yet raging with as much fury as ever.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                        *THE SISTER OF CHARITY.*


    "O woman! in our hours of ease
    Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
    And variable as the shade
    By the light quivering aspen made;
    When pain and anguish wring the brow,
    A ministering angel thou!"
      _Marmion._


When Ronald again became conscious that he was yet in the land of the
living, he found himself in a waggon, the uneasy jolting of which
occasioned him great agony.  It was driven by two sturdy Flemish
peasants, clad in blue blouses and red caps, as he could perceive by the
light of the moon: they sang merrily some uncouth song, and appeared to
be in a happy state of intoxication.

The Flemings were driving furiously, at a rate which threatened every
moment to overturn the vehicle, and it was incessantly bumped against a
wall on one side of the highway, or a high foot-path which bordered the
other.  Ronald often implored and commanded them to drive slower, but
they heeded him no more than the wind.  However, they were compelled to
slacken their speed on approaching Waterloo, where, in a short time,
they were brought to a halt altogether, the road being completely choked
up with the wounded,—thousands upon thousands of whom were on their way
to Brussels on foot, a few on horseback, and many in waggons.  It was
now midnight, as the toll of a distant church clock announced.  A
horrible medley filled the air around the place where Stuart’s waggon
stopped.  The cries of the wounded were piercing. In their agony, strong
men were screaming like women, and the appeals for water from their
parched tongues were piteous in the extreme.  Some of them were men who
had been wounded on the 16th at Quatre Bras, but hundreds of the
sufferers who were maimed on that occasion, perished under the fury of
the next day’s storm in the forest of Soignies, whither they had fled
for shelter on the temporary advance of Napoleon.

The highway was as much crowded as the field with dead and dying, and
the waggons of the train, the baggage-carts, the commissariat caissons,
&c., were every moment increasing in number, all pressing to get along
the choked up road.  The hubbub was increased by foreign and British
cavalry, and mounted officers riding, some to the front and some to the
rear, as their duty led them, and threatening to sabre any one who
opposed their passage.  Oaths, threats, and execrations, in English,
French, Belgic, and German, resounded every where.  It was a medley of
horror and confusion, such as few men have ever looked upon.

The boors who drove the waggon in which Stuart lay, abandoned it and
left him to his fate.  He was utterly heedless of what it might be.  He
had never felt so weary of life, when suffering under any disaster, as
he did at that moment; and he sincerely envied the dead who lay around
him.  The pain of his bruised side was intense, and he would gladly have
given mountains of gold, if he had them, for a single drop of water to
moisten his parched and swollen tongue, His head felt hot and heavy, but
there was no one near to raise it.

He sunk again into a stupor, and all that passed during the remainder of
that dismal night seemed like a dream.  He was still sensible of acute
pain, but the jolting of the rumbling waggon, when again in motion,
seemed like the motion of a ship at sea, and he thought himself once
more in the Bay of Biscay, on board the Diana of London.

From his feverish slumber he was roused by feeling his forehead bathed
with some cool and refreshing liquid, by hands soft and gentle, like
those of a female; but this, too, he deemed imagination, and his eyes
remained closed.  But the bathing continued, and became too palpable to
be mistaken. When he looked around, he found himself in an airy and
elegant room, with white flowing drapery hanging gracefully from the
windows, and from the roof of the French couch upon which he lay.
Instinctively he raised his hand to his neck, to feel for the portrait
of Alice Lisle.  It hung no longer there, but was placed in his hands by
the kind fairy who had taken upon herself the office of being his nurse.
He turned to look upon her, but she glided away.

"I am dreaming," murmured he, and closed his eyes; but on opening them
again, the same scene met his view.  The room was richly carpeted, the
furniture was costly and elegant, the ceiling was lofty, and covered
with painted birds and angels, flying among fleecy clouds and azure
skies.  The pictures on the wall were large Dutch cattle-pieces and
glaring prints of Oudenarde and other battles, and a most agreeable
perfume was wafted through the apartment from several Delft vases filled
with fresh flowers, which adorned the polished side-tables and lofty
marble mantel-piece.  Ronald looked from one thing to another in silent
wonder,—he could not imagine whither he had been conveyed; but that
which most attracted his attention was the figure of a female,—a nun he
supposed her to be,—whose face was turned from him, and who seemed to be
kneeling in a meek and graceful attitude of prayer, so he had an
opportunity of observing her particularly.

Her costume was very simple, but, from its shape, amply displayed her
very beautiful bust and whole figure.  It consisted of a tight body and
wide skirt of black serge, girt round her slender waist by a white
fillet.  She wore a hood of white silk, from beneath which one bright
ringlet fell over her shoulder.  There was something very bewitching and
coquettish in that stray love-lock, and it gave fair promise that there
was much more worth seeing under the same little hood.  Her hands were
very small, and very white; but they were clasped in prayer, and her
face seemed to be turned upwards.

"Heavens!" thought Stuart, "I am back again in the land of guitars and
pig-skins.  This is witchcraft, and Waterloo is all a dream.  Bah! my
wound says no!  Where am I?" said he aloud.  "_Buenos dias, gentil
señora_," he added in his most bland Spanish.

"Ah, monsieur!" said the lady, springing towards him, "you have awakened
at last."

"French, by Jove!" thought the invalid.  "Napoleon has beaten us, and I
am a prisoner."

"Ah!  I have prayed for you very earnestly, and Heaven has heard me."

"What!" said Ronald in astonishment, "have you really been praying for
me?"

"For you, monsieur," replied the young damsel, seating herself by his
side.

"How very good of you, mademoiselle!  But to what do I owe such
happiness,—I mean, that you should take any interest in me?"

"Monsieur," said she pouting, "I pray for all,—the good Christian and
the heretic alike."

Her face was very pretty, almost beautiful, indeed; rather pale,
perhaps, but there was a girlishness, a pure innocence of expression in
her soft dove-like hazel eyes, which made her extremely attractive. She
seemed somewhere about sixteen,—a mature age on the Continent,—and had
all the air of a lively French girl turned prematurely into a nun.

"I am extremely fortunate that you should interest yourself so much
about me, mademoiselle," said Ronald in a tone sufficiently doleful,
although he attempted to assume a gallant air.  "But will you please to
tell me where I am just now?"

"In Brussels, monsieur."

"Brussels?  Good."

"See," continued the fair girl, drawing back the curtains; "there is the
gay Sablon-square, and yonder the good old church of holy Saint Gudule,
with its two huge towers and beautiful window."

"And this splendid house?"

"Belongs to the widow of Mynheer Vandergroot."

"And you, my pretty mademoiselle,—pray who are you?"

"You must not call me mademoiselle," said she demurely.

"What then?"

"Sister."

"Sister?"

"_Oui, monsieur_.  I am called Sister Antoinette de la Misericorde."

"A strange name!"

"I think it very pretty, monsieur: I am called so among the _Soeurs de
la Charité_.  But never mind my name, monsieur; you speak too much, and
disturb yourself.  How glad I am to see you looking so well, after being
in so deep a sleep all yesterday."

Ronald put his hand to his head, and strove to recollect himself.

"Was I not at Waterloo yesterday?"

"No, monsieur; the day before.  Alas, what a day it was!  But you must
not speak any more,—and _must_ obey me in all things.  I am your nurse."

"_You!_" exclaimed Stuart in a tone of pleasure and surprise, while he
attempted to take her hand; but she easily eluded him.  "Ah, what a
happiness for me, mademoiselle!"

"Sister!" said she, holding up her tiny finger. "I am your only nurse,
and I have six other officers on my list.  Poor creatures!" she added,
while her fine eyes became suffused with tears.  "Alas! they are
dreadfully wounded, and I experience great horror in being their
attendant, but my vows must be fulfilled.  ’Tis the work of Heaven, and
the poor Sister Antoinette must neither shrink nor repine. But your
wound, monsieur; you were struck in the side, but there is no blood."

"But I am bruised to death, Antoinette."

"_Mon Dieu! mon ami;_ so the medical officer said. But here he comes,
and I must be gone, for a time at least."

At that moment the door opened, and the assistant-surgeon entered.  He
made a profound bow to the lady,—imitating a style he had picked up in
Castile, and causing the black plumage of his regimental bonnet to
describe a circle in the air.

"Well, my dear Mademoiselle Antoinette," said he, taking her hand, "how
is our patient this morning?"

"Indeed, monsieur, I know not," replied the girl with confusion, and
attempting to withdraw her hand.

"I fear, Antoinette, if the troops are all provided with such nurses,
they will be in no hurry to quit the sick list, which it is our interest
to keep as empty as possible; but—"

Here mademoiselle broke away from him, and, snatching up a little basket
of phials, fled from the apartment.

"Well, Ronald, my man," said the _medico_, unbuckling his broad-sword
and seating himself by the bed; "how do you find yourself this morning?"

"Having ended your flirtation, ’tis time to ask, Dick," replied the
invalid pettishly.

"What! are you turning jealous of a girl that nurses half the regiment?
Let me see your knocks,—how are they?"

"Confoundedly sore!  My ribs are all broken to pieces, I think."

"Scarcely," replied the doctor, passing his hand over the injured part;
"they are all as sound as ever they were.  Do you find _that_ sore?"
said he, deliberately poking his finger on particular places with the
most medical _nonchalance_.

"The devil, Dick! to be sure I do," said Ronald, wincing, and
suppressing a violent inclination to cry out, or punch the other’s head.

"Sore, eh?"

"Very," said the other sulkily.

"Ah!  I thought you would."

"I suppose you mean to follow up this attack, by prescribing bleeding
and hot water?"

"The first, certainly; the last, as may be required," said Stuart, the
doctor in his turn getting a little piqued.

"I have dozed away a whole day," said Ronald.

"You find yourself all the better for it now.  We will have you on your
legs next week."

"But the battle!  You have kept up such a gabble, Dick, I have not had
time to ask you if we won it."

"Who else could win it?  But I will tell you all, after I have looked to
your hurts."

"No; tell me first of the battle, and be as brief as possible."

"Well, then, Buonaparte was soundly beaten on the 18th, and is flying
towards Paris, I believe. Wellington and old Blucher are after him,
double quick."

"Our loss?"

"I have not heard."

"How is Lisle, and all the rest of ours?"

"I have not yet learned where Louis is billeted, but I fear his arm is
lost.  Captain Little was killed close by me, after you were struck.
Fifteen officers are wounded, and eight killed; but you shall hear not
another word till I have seen your wound more particularly, and have
applied some dressing."

The cannon-shot had bruised his side severely. It was frightfully
discoloured, and he was almost unable to move in consequence of the
intense pain which he suffered.

The doctor, producing a silver case of lancets, proposed bleeding, a
course to which Ronald stoutly objected, saying that he felt weak enough
already. He was therefore fain to content himself with leaving
directions for the preparation of an enormous poultice, and a diet of
broth and barley-water.  He then took his leave, saying that he had more
than a hundred patients on his list, and should be totally unable to
call for two days at least; but desired Allan Warristoun, Ronald’s
servant, to come every evening, and report how his master was.  The
doctor’s prescription gave Ronald considerable relief, notwithstanding
the throwing out of window of a considerable portion of the ingredients,
and the discussion, with infinite relish, of certain delicacies which,
after a few days, were brought to his bedside by the kind old widow
Vandergroot.

Converting Warristoun’s knapsack into a desk, Ronald sat, propped up in
bed, writing a letter for Alice, and another for Lochisla, for he was
still ignorant of the change which had taken place there, when Sister
Antoinette, entering lightly and softly, stole to his side.  Her gentle
hand was on his shoulder, and her soft eyes were beaming on his, almost
before he was aware of her presence.  Her silken hood had fallen back,
and revealed her fine glossy hair,—all, save the long stray ringlet,
beautifully braided like a coronet around her head.  Her order were not
robbed of their flowing tresses on taking their vow upon them.

Ronald tossed the knapsack upon the carpet, and caught her hand with an
exclamation of pleasure. She permitted him to retain his hold for a
moment. He would have spoken, but she placed her finger on his lips, and
again told him that she was his nurse, and that he "must not speak."
The finger belonged to a very pretty hand, though it was unadorned by
ring or bracelet; and, taking it again within his own, he ventured to
kiss it.  The sister drew back instantly, and blushed crimson; but not
with displeasure, for she seemed too amiable and gentle a creature to be
easily offended.

"I have brought you three books, monsieur."

"A thousand thanks, my dear little sister!" said he, as she produced the
volumes from a small reticule, which she carried under the skirt of her
long cape.  "How very attentive of you!  I am always so dull when you
are absent."

"I had them, monsieur, from an aged _Reposante_ of our order, who in
time has amassed quite a little library of her own."

"A French Bible," said Ronald, laying aside the first with an air of
disappointment.  "What next? ’The holy Doings of the good Sisters of St.
Martha.’  And the next?  ’Rules of the _Servantes des Pauvres de
Charité_!  By Jove! my dear Antoinette, these books won’t do for me, I
fear."

"They are very good books, monsieur," said she modestly.  "I am sorry
you are displeased."

"_Ma belle Antoinette_, I thank you not the less, believe me; but if any
of my brother-officers were to pop in and find me reading them, I should
never hear the end of it, and two or three duels would scarcely keep the
mess in order."

"I am sorry for it.  But if you will not read them yourself, I will; and
if any of your wild Scottish officers come in, let them laugh at me if
they dare."

"They will take care how they do that in my chamber, Antoinette," said
Stuart with a peculiar smile, while the girl threw back her hood and
prepared to read, displaying, as she did so, a neck and hands of perfect
beauty and lady-like whiteness. She read, in a low, earnest, and very
pleasing voice, the story of the good Samaritan, to which Ronald, who
was quite enraptured with her appearance and manner, paid very little
attention.  She read on without ceasing for nearly half an hour, and
imagined that the young officer was a very attentive listener. But, in
truth, he was too much occupied in observing the admirable contour of
her face, her downcast lashes and fine hair, the motion of her little
cherry lips and swelling bosom, to attend to the various chapters which
she was so good-natured as to select for his edification.

After administering certain drugs, which perhaps neither Widow
Vandergroot nor Doctor Stuart, with all their eloquence, could have
prevailed on Ronald to swallow, she withdrew, notwithstanding his
entreaties that she would remain a little longer.

He felt rather jealous of the attentions she might bestow on others; but
this selfish feeling lasted only for awhile.  She had several
Highlanders, three hussars, and two artillery officers on her list: some
of the latter were minus legs and arms.  Next day when she visited
Stuart she was weeping, for three of her patients had died of their
wounds.

The whole of Brussels had been converted into a vast hospital: every
house, without distinction, was crowded with wounded and sick.  The
officers and soldiers, in some places, were lying side by side on the
same floor; and the humanity, kindness, and solicitude displayed towards
these unfortunates by the ladies, and other females of every class, are
worthy of the highest praise.  They were to be seen hourly in the
hospitals, distributing cordials and other little comforts to the
wounded soldiers of all nations,—friend and foe alike.  They were
blessed on every side as they moved along, for the poor fellows found
sisters and mothers in them all.

Ronald took a deep and, perhaps for so young a man, a dangerous interest
in the fair Antoinette de la Misericorde.  He deplored that so charming
a creature should be condemned to dwell in a dreary cloister,—her fine
features shaded and lost beneath the hideous lawn veil and mis-shapen
hood of the sisters; and that her existence was doomed to be one of
everlasting prayer, penance, fast, humiliation, and slavery in
hospitals, surrounded continually by the fetid breath of the sick, by
distempers and epidemics, scenes of want, woe, and misery, and in the
hearing sometimes of sorrow, blasphemy, and horrid imprecations,—for her
duty led her into the dens and prisons of the police, and the inmost
recesses of the infamous _Rasp-haus_.  Whether her own wish, or her
parents’ tyranny and superstition, had consigned her to this miserable
profession, he never discovered; but the life of a galley-slave or a
London sempstress would have been preferable.

Antoinette was evidently a lady by manner, appearance, and birth.  None
but a lady could have owned so beautiful a hand.  She had all the
natural vivacity and buoyant spirits of a French girl, and, at times,
her sallies and clear ringing laughter contrasted oddly with the sombre
garb and her half real, half affected demureness.

Ronald formed a hundred plans for her emancipation, but always rejected
them as impracticable.  To persuade her to elope from Brussels, and go
home with him to be a companion for Alice Lisle, would never do.
Scandal would be busy, and even should he escape the wrath of the
Belgian police, the _mess_ would quiz him out of the service.

"What the deuce can be done to save this fair creature from such
slavery?" thought he.  "I would to Heaven somebody would run away with
her! There’s Macildhui of ours, and Dick Stuart, our senior Esculapius,
handsome fellows both, and both quite well aware of it.  Who knows what
may come about?  The medico is evidently smitten with her, and Macildhui
is on her sick list.  Since poor Grant was knocked on the head, we have
not a married man, except Louis, among us, and Antoinette would be an
honour to the regiment."

The combined attention of the interesting little _fille de convent_, of
the widow, of Doctor Stuart, and of Allan his servant, soon placed
Ronald on his feet again; and in the course of a week or two he was able
to move about the room, and enjoy a cup of chocolate at the window
overlooking the square, where a host of crippled soldiers, leaning on
sticks and crutches, were seen hobbling about among fresh-coloured
Flemish girls with plump figures and large white caps, bulbous-shaped
citizens, and pipe-smoking Dutchmen in high-crowned hats and mighty
inexpressibles.

Two days after he became convalescent, the sister informed him that now
her visits must cease.

"And will you not come to me sometimes, Antoinette?"

"I am sorry, monsieur; no, I cannot."

"Then I will visit you."

"That must not be either: a man never passes our threshold.  I must bid
you farewell."

"Ah, you do not mean to be so cruel, Antoinette?"

"There is no cruelty," said she, pouting; "but I mean what I say."

"Our acquaintance must not cease, however," said Ronald, taking her hand
and seating her beside him near the window which overlooked the bustling
_Rue Haute_.  "Must we never see each other more, and only because there
are no more confounded drugs to be swallowed and pillows to be
smoothed?"

"It must be so, my friend; and I—I hope you have been satisfied with
me."

"Antoinette! satisfied? and with _you_?  Ah! how can you speak so
coldly?  My dear little girl, you know not the deep interest I take in
you.  But, tell me, would you wish to leave Brussels?  It cannot be your
native place."

"Monsieur, I do not understand—"

"Would not you wish to leave the dull convent of the sisterhood to live
in the midst of the gay and the great world,—to live in a barrack,
perhaps, and be awakened every morning by the merry reveillé or the bold
pibroch, or to—"

He paused, for the last observation had been misunderstood.  The eyes of
the French girl flashed fire, and her pouting lips curled so haughtily
and so prettily, that, yielding only to the impulse of the moment,
Ronald was tempted to carry on the war with greater vigour.

"Pardon me, Antoinette; I did not mean to offend you," said Stuart,
drawing her nearer to him by the little unresisting hand which he still
held captive.

"O monsieur! what do you mean?" cried the poor girl, trembling
violently, while a deep blush covered her whole face and neck; her
sparkling eyes were cast languidly down, and the palpitations of her
heart could be distinctly seen beneath the tight serge vest or boddice
which encased her noble bust. "_Oh, mon Dieu!_" she added, "what is the
matter with me?  I feel very ill and giddy."  Yet she made but feeble
struggles to release herself.

"Promise you will come again and see me, Antoinette," said Ronald,
drawing her very decidedly on his knee.

"Oh, let me go, monsieur.  I must have the honour to wish you a good
morning."  She made a motion to go, but his arm had encircled her.  "My
vows! Oh, pray, for the love of Heaven, let me go. Unhand me, I implore
you!"

"One kiss, then, Antoinette,—only one kiss; and in sisterly love, you
know?" and his lips were pressed to her hot cheek ere she was aware.
"But one more, dear Antoinette!" but she burst from his grasp and
covered her burning face with her robe, weeping as if her heart would
break.

"Holy Virgin, look down upon me!" she exclaimed. "How shall I ever atone
for this deadly sin? I _must_ confess it, and to the stern dean of Saint
Gudule, that the lips of a man have touched mine. Me! a Sister of
Charity, a nun, a miserable woman, sworn and devoted to the service of
Heaven!  Oh, monsieur, you have done me a great wrong; but may Heaven
forgive you as readily as _I_ do! Adieu! we shall never meet again."

Ronald made an attempt to catch her, but nimbly and gracefully as a fawn
she eluded his grasp, and fled down stairs like an arrow, leaving the
discomfited soldado more charmed than ever with her simplicity and
modesty.  And it may easily be supposed that the interest she had
excited in his bosom was increased when he discovered that, in spite of
her vows and veil of lawn, he was not indifferent to the little French
nun.

"Still," he reflected, "it is better that we should meet no more.
Antoinette is wise: yet I hope she may look up here to-morrow, if it’s
only to see me for the last time."

To-morrow came and passed away, but the Sister of Charity came not to
visit him as usual, and he regretted that he had frightened her away.
"However," thought he, "she may yet come to-morrow: the little fairy
loves me better than she dares to acknowledge."

Three days elapsed without her visiting him, and it was evident that she
would come no more.  He grew very impatient and uneasy, and spent most
of his time in watching alternately the square and the Rue Haute, with
the hope of seeing her pass.  Once he saw a Sister of Charity coming
from the church of Saint Gudule.  Her figure seemed light and graceful
as she tripped down the immense flight of steps at the entrance: it was
Antoinette, without doubt. Regardless of distance and the crowded street
below, Ronald called aloud to her; but she was too far off to hear, and
turned a corner down the Rue de Shaerbeck without bestowing one glance
on the mansion of widow Vandergroot, which was sufficiently conspicuous
by its large yellow gables, its green Venetian blinds, and red streaks
round the windows.  If the little figure which glided along the street
were Antoinette’s, he never beheld it again.

One day, about a fortnight afterwards, while seated reading a despatch
of Wellington’s, he heard footsteps, much lighter than those of the
substantial widow Vandergroot, ascending the wooden staircase. "She has
come at last," said he, as the cigar fell from his mouth: he threw down
the paper, and half rose.  The door opened, and Lisle entered.

"Louis!" he exclaimed, leaping up with astonishment. "Gracious powers!
how changed you are."

"I may observe the same of you!  Faith, man! you are wasted to a mummy,"
replied Lisle, smiling sadly.  "I have been winged at last," he added,
pointing to his left sleeve, which was empty, and hung, attached by a
loop, to a button at his breast. "It is now doing very well," he
continued, "but the sight of my empty sleeve and stump will scare the
ladies at Inchavon: _that_, though, is the least part of the affair.  My
soldiering is now ended: the Gordon Highlanders and Louis Lisle must
part at last!  ’Every bullet’—you know the adage."

"I am glad you bear with your loss so easily."

"Your own escape was a narrow one."

"Very.  Had I been a few yards nearer the ridge, where the enemy’s guns
were in position, that unlucky twelve-pound shot would have cut me into
halves like a fishing-rod.  But how are all the rest of ours?  I have
not been abroad yet."

"All doing famously, and ready to swear that the ladies of Brussels are
angels upon earth,—the Sisters of Charity especially."  This was said
unwittingly, but Stuart felt the blood mounting to his temples.  "As yet
there have been no more amputations, but Macildhui is in a worse
predicament than any of us."

"How, pray?";

"He has been deeply smitten with the charms of a certain little French
Sister of Charity, by whom he has been, luckily or unluckily, nursed;
but his romantic ladye-love has deserted him, without warning, for the
last few days, and poor Mac is very sorrowful, sentimental, and all
that.  He poured all his sorrows in my ear one evening, being thrown
completely off his guard by the mellow influence of a glass of _vin
ordinaire_ at sixteen sous per bottle. But the Sister—"

"Never mind her," said Ronald, colouring very perceptibly again; "tell
me about the army.  What’s the news from head-quarters?"

"Oh, glorious! the power of France and of Buonaparte has been completely
laid prostrate.  The army pressed forward into the enemy’s country; and
Marshal Davoust sent the Marquis of Wellington a flag of truce, craving
a suspension of hostilities, and offering to yield up Paris.  It was
surrendered on the 4th of this month (July), and the marshal commenced
his retreat beyond the Loire.  Our troops are all in Paris by this time;
so make haste and get well, my dear fellow, that you may rejoin.  Only
think how the rogues will be enjoying themselves in Paris!"

"There are few of ours left to rejoice."

"About one hundred and fifty bayonets are with Campbell, and we have
nearly five hundred wounded here in Brussels.  That cursed affair at
Quatre Bras mauled us sadly.  Before the engagement, we marched out of
Brussels exactly one thousand and ten strong, and more than one-half lay
on the sod ere sunset. Poor Cameron! the corps will feel his loss.
By-the-by, I forgot to mention that Campbell has got the
lieutenant-colonelcy.  Our romantic friend Macildhui gets the majority,
and you are now senior captain.  I hope you will win your spurs ere I
see you again.  I set out for Scotland to-morrow."

"So soon?"

"Yes.  My letters from Virginia and Alice are very importunate; and I
shall either sell, or go upon half-pay.  I leave Flanders on sick leave,
in the first instance."

"Well, I shall soon rejoin you in Perthshire.  I have seen enough blood
shed and battles won, and long to see the old peak of Benmore, and hear
the leaves rustling pleasantly in the woods of Oich and Lochisla again."

Next day Lisle took his departure from Brussels. He still singularly
left Ronald in ignorance of what had occurred at home.  A thousand times
he was on the point of adverting to the subject, but always refrained.
In a letter to Alice, he said that he would leave to _her_ "the
disagreeable task of conveying to Stuart the information of his father’s
ruin, and the emigration of the Lochisla men; because," continued the
letter, "so great is Ronald’s veneration for his parent, and such his
Highland pride and his love of the old ancestral tower, with all its
feudal and family associations, that I verily believe he would shoot
himself in the first gust of his passion, were I to acquaint him with
what has happened at Lochisla."

Scarcely had Lisle left Brussels, when Ronald found that his thoughts
were beginning to revert to Antoinette de la Misericorde; and longing to
see her again, he determined to sally forth the next day and take an
airing, in the hope of meeting her in the streets.  There were many
hobbling about in the sunshine, on the Boulevard de l’Este and the
Boulevard du Nord, who had been more severely wounded than himself.

On the morrow, therefore, immediately after discussing his
breakfast,—chocolate and a cigar,—he went forth into the streets of
Brussels for the first time since he passed through them in a waggon.
The noise, whirl, and din of the passengers and vehicles of every kind,
caused such a spinning sensation in his head, that he nearly fell to the
ground.  He moved along the crowded streets, scarcely knowing whether
his head or heels were uppermost.  The glare of the noon-day sun seemed
hot and strange, and every thing—the houses, the lamp-posts, the church
spires, seemed waving and in motion.  With the aid of a patriarchal
staff, which erst belonged to Mynheer Vandergroot, he made his way
through Brussels, and reached the long shady walk of the Boulevard de
l’Este, where, in thankfulness, he seated himself for some minutes on a
stone sofa.

The convent of the Sisters of Charity bordered somewhere on the
Boulevard.  He had been directed thither, not by verbal instructions,
but by signs, of which every Fleming seems to be a professor, as it
saves the mighty labour of using his tongue.  Each mynheer whom he
accosted, being too lazy to use his mouth, generally replied by pointing
with his long pipe, or by jerking the summit of his steeple-crowned hat
in the direction inquired for.

The streets were thickly crowded with military convalescents, of every
rank and of many nations. The regimentals were numerous.  The English,
the Prussian, the Highland, the Belgian, and the Hanoverian, were
creeping about every where, supporting themselves on sticks and
crutches; and in the sunny public areas, long ranks of them might be
seen basking on the ground, or propped against the wall on stilts and
wooden legs, yet all laughing and smoking, as merrily as crickets.

After a great deal of trouble, Ronald discovered the convent of the
Sisters of Charity, somewhere near the end of the Boulevard, at the
corner of the Rue aux Laines.  It was a huge, desolate-looking building,
and might very well have passed for the military prison, which is not
far from it.  Its windows were small,—grated and far between; and the
whole place looked not the less sombre because the morning sun shone
cheerily on its masses of grey wall, lighting up some projections
vividly, and throwing others into the deepest shadow.  He heard a bell
tolling sadly somewhere close by, and a strain of choral voices mingled
with its iron tones.  It rung a knell, and a dismal foreboding fell upon
Stuart as he listened.  He struck gently with the gigantic knocker which
ornamented the iron-studded gate, and immediately a panel was pulled
aside, and the grim wrinkled visage of the _portière_ appeared within.
He solicited admittance.

"No man can ever pass this threshold, monsieur," replied the other, who
was a little woman of French Flanders, and clad in the garb of the
order.

"How is the sister Antoinette de la Misericorde?"

"Well,—I hope."

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed Ronald.  "But can I not see her,
Mademoiselle?"

"Oh, monsieur! that is impossible," replied the portiere sadly.  "When I
tell you she is gone to—"

"To where, Mademoiselle?"

"Heaven!" replied the little woman tartly; and being offended probably
at Ronald’s impetuosity, she closed the panel in his face without
ceremony.

The fragile and delicate creature,—how utterly unsuited for the life to
which she had been doomed—had fallen a victim to the vile and stupid
superstition that had consigned her to a Convent.  While attending, in
her mild and gentle innocency, on the sick in one of the military
hospitals, she had been attacked with a violent fever that raged there,
and wasted quickly away under its fiery power.

Stuart reeled against the iron-studded door as the words of the portière
fell upon his ear, for at that moment he felt sick at heart, and his
knees tottered with weakness; but he walked away as quickly as he could,
till the requiem of the sisterhood and the iron clang of the bell could
no longer be heard amidst the bustle of the Rue aux Laines.

"Poor Antoinette!" thought he, as he turned down the Rue Royale and,
skirting the famous park, made straight for his billet—"fair and gentle
as she was, she deserved a better fate than to perish in such a den of
gloomy superstition and of blind devotion."

The poor girl’s death made him very sad for some days; but the
impression which her beauty and artlessness had made upon him wore away
as he grew better, and became able to frequent the _cafés_, the park,
the Rue Bellevue, and other public places of resort at Brussels.  There
the important events following the great victory at Waterloo,—the
capture of Paris, the public entry of Louis XVIII., the flight of
Buonaparte, and his surrender to Captain Maitland of the Bellerophon,
were all canvassed fully and freely, amidst the boasts of the Belgians
about the wonders performed by their countrymen on the glorious 18th of
June!

After residing in Brussels about two months, Stuart reported himself
"well," and was appointed to take command of three hundred
convalescents, who were declared fit for service by a medical board, and
were to rejoin the Highlanders at Paris "forthwith."

Early on the morning of his departure, just as Ronald was getting on his
harness, a man who brought the widow’s letters from the _Hôtel des
Postes_, placed in his hand one addressed to himself.  He tore it open:
it was from Lisle, dated "Edinburgh," and ran thus:—


"Dear Stuart,

I have merely written a short note to announce my arrival in Scotland,
and that all are well at Inchavon.  Your uncle, old Sir Colquhoun
Monteith of Cairntowis, has taken his departure to a better world; and,
as we cannot regret his death, allow me to congratulate you on becoming
possessed of seven thousand a-year, with one of the finest estates in
Scotland for shooting and coursing. Messrs. Diddle and Fleece, W.S.,
Edinr., will send you further intelligence.  I have since seen, by the
Gazette, that Cluny Monteith, your cousin, died of his wound somewhere
on the Brussels road.

Yours, &c."



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                               *FRANCE.*


    "These six years past I have been used to stir
    When the reveille rung; and that, believe me,
    Chooses the hours for rousing me at random,
    And having giving its summons, yields no license
    To indulge a second slumber."
      _Auchindrane._


It was on the morning of the 16th September that Ronald quitted
Brussels, having under his command three hundred rank and file of the
Gordon Highlanders, as many more of the 42nd, and fifty men of the
Coldstream Guards.  Three other officers were with him, but he was their
senior both by rank and standing.  They paraded in the park before the
king’s palace, in heavy marching order, about six o’clock in the
morning, and, moving round the corner of the palace of the Prince of
Orange, they proceeded along the Boulevard, after passing through the
Namur gate.  As they quitted the city, with bayonets fixed and pipes
playing before the fifty Coldstreams, who of course marched in front,
they elicited shouts of applause from the Belgians, many of whom
followed them for many miles on the Waterloo road, and several young
women went much farther, so that they never returned at all.  Stuart had
a very affectionate leave-taking with Widow Vandergroot, whose fat oily
face was bedewed with tears at his departure.

Their route, for part of the way, lay through the forest of Soignies; on
quitting which, they entered the plains of Waterloo, so lately the scene
of that fierce contest in which the greatest empire in Europe had been
lost and won.  They were now treading on the hallowed ground of the
field, and the murmur of conversation, which had arisen among the
detachment the moment command to "march at ease" had been given, now
died away, and the soldiers trod on in silence, or spoke to each other
only at intervals, and in whispers, for there was something in the
appearance of the vast grave-yard around them which caused strange
feelings of sadness to damp the military pride that burned in every
breast.

The morning was remarkably fine, with a pure air and almost cloudless
sky.  All nature looked bright and beautiful, and the rising sun cast
the long shadows of every house and tree far across the level landscape,
where every thing was beginning to assume a warm autumnal tint.

The farm of La Haye Sainte, the fine old château of Hougoumont, and
other houses, were all roofless and ruined, the walls breached and
battered by cannon-shot, the parterres, the shrubberies, and orchards
destroyed; but on these wrecks of the strife they scarcely bestowed a
look.  As they marched over the ridge where the British infantry formed
line, the sights which greeted them there caused the
Highlanders—naturally thoughtful at all times—to become more so.

"No display of carnage, violence, and devastation could have had so
pathetic an effect as the quiet orderly look of its fields, brightened
with the sunshine, but thickly strewed with little heaps of upturned
earth, which no _sunshine could brighten_.  On these the eye instantly
fell; and the heart, having but a slight call made upon it from without,
pronounced with more solemnity the dreadful thing that lay below,
scarcely covered with a sprinkling of mould.  In some spots they lay
thick in clusters and long ranks: in others, one would present itself
alone; betwixt these, a black scathed circle told that fire had been
employed to consume, as worthless refuse, what parents cherished,
friends esteemed, and women loved.  The summer wind, that shook the
branches of the trees and waved the clover and gaudy heads of the
thistles, brought along with it a foul stench, still more hideous to the
mind than to the offended sense.  The foot that startled the small bird
from its nest among the grass, disturbed at the same time some poor
remnant of a human being,—either a bit of the showy habiliments in which
he took pride, or of the war-like accoutrements which were his glory, or
of the framework of his body itself, which he felt as comeliness and
strength the instant before it became a mass of senseless matter."

The ideas which appear to have pervaded the mind of the writer quoted,
were those of every man of that detachment; such, indeed, as the objects
in their path, and the mournful scenes by which they were surrounded,
could scarcely fail to inspire.

Marching by easy stages, they entered Mons, the strongly-fortified
capital of Hainault.  During the halt of two days here, most of the
officers one evening attended the theatre, a visit which nearly cost
some of them their lives.  The play was "The Fall of Zutphen," and the
dresses of the actors were as ridiculous as their acting.  The ferocious
Duke of Alba was represented by a little fat Fleming, clad in a cocked
hat and old red coat; Frederick, his son, by a boor, _en blouse_, who
smoked a pipe composedly during the performance.  The Dutch troops were
represented by a party of Belgian chasseurs, and the Spanish by a strong
brigade of motley-garbed scene-shifters and candle-snuffers.  At a part
of the play where Frederick storms Zutphen, and orders his soldiers to
give it to the flames, sparing neither sex nor age in the sack, some
ashes dropped from the bowl of this ferocious commander’s pipe, and,
lighting among some sulphur and other ingredients kept for stage
purposes, set the whole scenery in a blaze. Zutphen was in flames in
earnest.  The players rushed about in every direction, crying for help
like distracted people; but the audience, supposing the conflagration to
be a part of the play, applauded with increasing vehemence, till the
flames of Zutphen began to extend from the stage to the other parts of
the house, and the blazing wood tumbling about their ears, warned the
Flemings of their danger.  A tremendous rush was made for the door.
Stuart was thrown over by the press, and trod under their feet; and had
not the officer who commanded a party of the Coldstream Guards menaced
the citizens with his sword and rescued him, my narrative would probably
have ended here.  He dragged him out from the crowd, and they gained the
street in safety.

The next stage was Bavay, in France.  It is a little, but very ancient
town of French Hainault; and the inhabitants, either actuated by loyalty
to Louis XVIII., or by some remnant of that old friendship which the
French had, or rather, pretended to have had for the Scots, received the
Highland detachment with loud acclamations, and the entire population of
the little city followed them through its gloomy old streets, till
Ronald halted before the Hôtel de Ville, where the magistrates
distributed the billet orders. The soldiers were treated with the utmost
attention and kindness by the citizens, and this was the more pleasant,
because quite unexpected on entering the enemy’s country.  It was
Ronald’s lot to be quartered upon a manufacturer of those woollen
commodities which, with iron plate, are the principal commerce of Bavay.
This worthy had a splendid residence outside the city, where his ample
garden, orchard, &c. furnished every luxury that the delightful climate
and fruitful soil of France could yield him.  He received Stuart coldly,
for he was one of those thorough-paced business mortals who consider the
soldier a burden, a bore, a useless and unnecessary animal.  His wife, a
plump old dame, in a large French cap and ample petticoat, and
mademoiselle her daughter, a lively and good-looking girl about twenty,
seemed to think otherwise, and made all the preparations in their power
to receive the soldier with attention.  There is a mysterious something
in the scarlet coat which, to the feminine portion of this world, is
quite irresistible.

The young lady made arrangements to give a little _fête_ that evening,
and all her female companions—everybody that was anybody in and about
Bavay, were to be there, and the whole house was turned topsy-turvy; but
she was wofully disappointed.

She had been singing and tinkling with the guitar and piano to Ronald
for the greater part of the day, and he amused himself by sitting beside
her, turning over the leaves of music-books and albums, saying soft
little nothings all the while.  Madame the mother often sang in
accompaniment, and they had become quite like old acquaintances.  But
the gruff manufacturer of cotton hose and shirts had watched their
proceedings with a louring eye, and towards evening he took up a new
position, which cut short the preparations for the _fête_.  He placed
both mother and daughter in durance vile, by locking them up in some
retired room; after which he rode off with the key in his pocket.
Whether he was influenced by jealousy, or by national dislike, it is
impossible to say, but the first is rather unlikely.  Mademoiselle was
tolerably agreeable, and had a very white hand for the daughter of a
plebeian; but her mother was ugly enough to have frightened an old
troop-horse, and Monsieur, the cotton manufacturer of Bavay, need have
given himself no uneasiness on her account.  But the awkward affair made
a great noise in the town, and the story was related with various
pleasant additions and variations by the officers of the _forty-twa_, on
their arrival at Clichy camp, and there was many a hearty laugh at
Ronald’s expense in the mess-rooms of the ninth brigade.

Next morning, while the ladies were still under lock and key, the
detachments quitted the ancient capital of the Nervii, and marched for
La Coteau.

They were now in France; the boasted, "the beautiful, the invincible,
the sacred France," marching over it, treading upon its soil,—with
bayonets fixed, drums beating, and all the pomp of war,—unobstructed and
free, as conquerors.  The proud and triumphant feelings attendant on
such circumstances conflicted in their breasts with the sentiments of
Lord Wellington’s order, desiring that the allied army were "to remember
that their respective sovereigns were the allies of his Majesty the king
of France, and that therefore France must be considered as a _friendly_
country."  The inhabitants of the towns, and the rural districts also,
beheld them march on with apparent apathy; whatever their secret
feelings might have been, they were admirably concealed.  A few old
friends of the Bourbons may be excepted, and these were chiefly old men
and women, living in remote parts of the country. In some little
villages they were received with shouts of welcome: in large towns,
their drums and pipes gave forth the only sounds heard in the streets.

At Cambray, Stuart was agreeably surprised to find that, by certain
changes which had taken place in the regiment, he had, as Lisle
predicted, gained his "spurs," and was now regimental major.

"You may thank your lucky stars for this rapid promotion, Stuart," said
the Guardsman who had saved his life at Mons.

"I may thank death,—the slaughter of Maya, Vittoria, Orthes, Toulouse,
and Waterloo rather," replied Ronald.  "Certes!  I have no reason to
complain, though I have seen work, both hard and hot, while _roughing
it_ in the Peninsula."

"But a major!" continued the other, "and only three-and-twenty!  Major!
a rank ever associated with ease and good living, the gout, and six
allowances of wine at the mess, with a belt of greater girth than that
of any other man in the regiment! I congratulate you, my friend, and
propose that we wet the commission."  And it was ’wetted’ forthwith
accordingly, in some excellent _eau-de-vie_.

This promotion made Ronald completely happy; it was the more agreeable
because, like his accession to the property of his uncle, it was quite
unlooked-for. As for the death of the latter, he had neither reason to
be glad nor very sorry; but he felt as merry as a man can be who has
suddenly succeeded to a handsome fortune, and he demonstrated the fact
by tossing his bonnet a dozen of times to the ceiling, at which strange
employment his friend of the Coldstream surprised him in his billet at
Brussels.

They continued their route by Peronne, Saint Quentin, by the handsome
town of Compiegne on the Oise, and through Senlis.  The beauty and
fertility of the country through which they marched, formed a continual
theme of conversation and wonder. Often, for the space of thirty miles,
their line of march would be overshadowed by a profusion of apple and
pear trees, bordering the highway like one long and matchless avenue.
The trees were laden with ripe and tempting fruit; and, in those places
where the harvest had commenced, all the inhabitants of the district,
men, women, and children, were employed in beating the golden produce
from the trees with long poles, and gathering it into vast heaps, which
were borne off in carts or baskets to the cider presses.  Every where
Nature seemed in her richest bloom and beauty, and the hawthorn flower,
the day-flower, the woodbine, and the honeysuckle filled the air with
the most fragrant perfumes. The march from Brussels to Paris was perhaps
the most agreeable that the soldiers had ever performed.

On the 26th of September the detachment arrived at Clichy, a village
about two or three miles from Paris.  Behind it the British camp was
formed, and the long lines or streets of white canvas bell-tents pitched
on the grassy bank sloping down to the Seine, all shining white as snow
in the sun and with ’the union’ floating over them, formed an agreeable
prospect amid the universal green of the scenery around.  Guards and
sentries were posted round the encampment at regular distances.  The
regiments were on their several evening parades, and a loud but somewhat
confused medley of martial music was swelling from amid the tents, and
floated away through the still evening air.  On the smooth green banks,
and by the sandy margin of the clear blue river, hundreds of soldiers’
wives were engaged in the homely occupation of washing and bleaching for
the troops; while swarms of healthy but ragged-looking children,
belonging to the camp, gambolled and scampered about the green, sailed
little ships on the river, played at hide-and-seek among the tubs,
around the tents and sentries, as they made the welkin ring with shouts
of hearty English merriment. Beyond the camp was seen the snug French
village, with its picturesque and old-fashioned houses and still older
trees, which had survived many generations of men.  There was something
very pleasing in the aspect of some of the ancient mansions, the high
bevelled roofs, with the upper stories projecting far above the
lower,—the walls displaying a quantity of planks running up and down,
and cross-ways, and the gables ornamented with a variety of gilt finials
and weathercocks,—all showing the grotesque taste of a remote age.
Still farther beyond Clichy rose the smoke and spires of Paris, which
spread afar off like a wilderness of stone and lime, from which rose a
murmur like that from a beehive,—the strange mingling but musical hum of
a vast and distant city.

Ronald soon ’handed over’ his detachment, and joined the group of his
comrades on the evening parade.  By them he was congratulated on his
promotion and recovery, and received such an account of the delights of
Paris and the neighbourhood of Clichy, that he regretted having been
compelled to tarry so long at Brussels.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                       *THE CHÂTEAU DE MARIELLE.*


Immediately after parade next day, Ronald departed from Clichy on a
visit to Paris, "the City of delights," as an enthusiastic French author
has termed it,—the famous Paris of which so much has been said, sung,
and written.  But Ronald was, to a certain degree, disappointed.  The
look of every man was sad and louring.  The armed sentinels of the
allies were in every street, their guards on every barrier; cannon were
planted to rake every thoroughfare and avenue, and the artillery-men
were around them, match in hand, by day and night. The soldier slept
with his accoutrements on, and the horse in his harness; and to ensure
the peace of the capital, the whole of the troops were ready to act on a
moment’s notice.  The banner of Blucher waved over Paris, and his
advance was in front of it, in position on the Orleans road; a brigade
of British occupied the Champs Elysées, and the union jack and the white
standard of Austria waved over the summit of Montmartre.  Proud Gaul was
completely humbled, and the Parisian had lost all his swagger, his
laughter, and lightness of head and heart.  Many of the British officers
were insulted, abused,—I believe were spit upon by the lower classes,
when the allies first entered the French metropolis.  The people had no
other means of giving loose to the sentiments of rage, hatred, and
hostility which boiled within them.  A resort to open violence in arms
would only have ended in the destruction of Paris, and the annihilation
of its inhabitants.  The defeat on the plains of Waterloo will not be
soon forgotten in France.  Like the murder of Joan of Arc, it will be
handed down from parent to child; and thus, from one generation to
another, the hereditary hatred to "perfidious Albion" will increase
rather than diminish.

In Paris, and in France generally, the Highland garb attracted more
attention, and perhaps respect, than that of any other nation.
Notwithstanding the bitter hatred which the French avowedly bear to the
whole Isle of Britain, they sometimes make a distinction between the
Scot and his southern neighbour, as if they were now, as of old,
politically aliens to each other.  At the cafés, the restaurateurs, the
concerts, theatres, promenades, the Boulevards, the Jardin des
Tuileries, the Champ de Mars, the Bois de Boulogne, and public places of
every kind, the officers who wore the Celtic garb found themselves
treated with the utmost respect, attention, and even kindness, when
their countrymen belonging to regiments ’in breeks’ experienced marked
coldness and aversion.  The figure of a Highland officer passing a
milliner’s shop, invariably brought all the girls in it rushing to the
door.  "An officer of the Scots!" was the cry, and all the pretty
grisettes were in the street in a moment, to stare at and talk of the
stranger until he was out of sight.

Although Ronald had no acquaintances in Paris, excepting those made by
frequenting public places, yet he was well pleased with the Parisians,
and as long as he had money to spare and to spend, he enjoyed himself in
a manner that he had never done before.  Through his banker in London,
he drew many a cool hundred on his Scotch agents, Messrs. Diddle and
Fleece; and, for a time, he wasted among grisettes, Frenchmen, and
fools, rather more than was quite prudent.  Being junior major, he had
of course nothing to do but to amuse himself, appear on parade once
a-day, and ride round the guards and posts when on duty: he spent the
whole day in Paris, and generally returned to camp when the _reveille_
was beating, so that his hours were rather _early_ than late.

One evening, when making up a party for the next day, the hard visage of
Sergeant Macrone appeared at the door of the tent, announcing that his
round of pleasure was closed.  The orderly-book—that tome of ill omen,
with its brass clasps and parchment boards, was handed in, while the
non-commissioned officer, raising his hand to his sunburned and wrinkled
forehead, conveyed the unpleasant intelligence "that her honour was for
tuty,—no the tay pefore the morn, put the fera neist."

"To-morrow?  The devil, Macrone! do you say so?" cried the impatient
major, snatching the book from the hand of the Celt, and scanning over
the brigade orders.  "’Major Ronald Stuart, of the Gordon Highlanders,
will take command of the detachment ordered to proceed to—’ to where?  A
cursed cramped hand this!  Who wrote these orders, Macrone?"

"The orderly sergeant, sir."

"Who is orderly?"

"Just my ainsel, sir.  Hoomh!"

"Stupid!  Could you not have said so at once.  ’—Command of the
detachment proceeding to the Château de Marielle, to relieve the
Hanoverian regiment of Kloster Zeven.’  Does anybody know where the
Château de Marielle is?"

"Two days’ march from this," said Macildhui; "near Melun.  I know the
place.  Archy Douglas and I have shot and coursed over it for a whole
week, without leave or license.  ’Tis the property of the Marquis of
Laurieston."

"What!" exclaimed one, "old Clappourknuis’s brother?"

"The same.  You remember him at Merida."

"And what do the wiseacres at head-quarters mean, in sending a
detachment there?"

"I suppose they scarcely know themselves.  But obedience—  We all know
the adage."

"Wellington is the man to keep us in mind of that; and old Pack too,
with his drills for five hours every Sunday after divine service."

"And so," said Stuart, "we must forego all the gay scenes of Paris to
live in an old château among rooks and ancient elms.  Country quarters
spoil many a gay fellow: we had better leave our razors at Clichy."

"Wellington has ordered you on this service as a change, and to cure you
of dangling after actresses and grisettes; for in Paris they quite spoil
decent Highlandmen like ourselves."

"There will be neither the first nor the last at Melun,—nothing but
brown-visaged and red-haired dairy-maids.  I hope the château contains
Laurieston’s family—some agreeable young ladies especially, to make us
amends for the loss we sustain in being ordered so far from Paris and
this agreeable camp of Clichy, where we have always dry canvas, soft
grass, and plenty of sunshine and _vin ordinaire_."

"Ladies!  I hope so," added Macildhui.  "Pretty faces, guitars, and
pianos enliven country quarters amazingly."

Ronald and the four officers who accompanied him were doomed to be
disappointed, for the château was occupied only by the regiment of
Kloster Zeven, and a few aged servants.  The old marchioness and her
daughters had retreated to Paris on the first arrival of the lads in
scarlet and buff. The Hanoverians marched out of the court of the
château, with their bugles playing one of those splendid marches for the
production of which Germany is so famous: the Highlanders marched in at
the same moment, with carried arms, and their pipes playing "The wee
German Lairdie," a tune which Macvurich, the leading piper, adopted for
the occasion.

The château stood close to the margin of the Seine, not far from the
quiet and pretty little town of Melun, embowered among aged chesnuts,
and surrounded by orchards and groves.  It was a large irregular
building of the days of Louis XII., and was said to have once been
honoured as the residence of the celebrated Lady de Beaujeu.  It was
covered with carved work in wood and stone, and was surmounted by
numerous turrets, vanes, and high roofs, covered with singular round
slates jointed over each other like the scales of a serpent.  It was in
every respect a mansion of the old school, and would have been the
permanent residence of some respectable ghost of the olden time, had it
stood in England, or more especially in Scotland.

The soldiers were billeted at free quarters on the tenants, while the
officers took up their residence in the château, to the servants of
which orders had been given by the proprietor to provide them with every
thing they required.  Here they enjoyed themselves much more than at
Clichy, and the rickety old house was kept in an uproar the whole day,
and sometimes the whole night too, by their merriment, pranks, and
folly.  Its splendid chambers, saloons, and galleries were a good
exchange for a turf floor and canvas tent, which, in rainy weather, was
never water-tight till it was thoroughly soaked through. The beds, with
hangings of silk, ostrich plumes, and silver fringes, for camp
shake-downs, and the white satin chairs, stuffed with down, were also a
good exchange for stone seats, trunks, cap-cases, knapsacks, ammunition
barrels, or whatever else could be had in the encampment.  The mornings
were spent in riding, the days in shooting, till the preserves were
ruined and the game exterminated; and the evenings were devoted to chess
and cigars, moistened with a few bottles of _Volnay_, _Pomard_,
_Lafitte_, _champagne_, port, or sherry, for all the cellars were at
their absolute command.  A bull-reel generally concluded their orgies,
or the sword-dance, performed on the dining-tables; after which they
were all carried off to bed by their servants, who, on one occasion,
required the aid of a fatigue party.

France is a glorious country in which to live at free quarters, and the
Highlanders remained till the end of October completely their own
masters, away from old Sir Dennis, from Wellington, and staff-office
surveillance, amid merriment and jollity, spending their days and nights
as they had never spent them before in country-quarters, which are
generally so dull and lifeless.  In the frolic and festivity of their
superiors the privates fully participated, and many a merry though
rather confused dance did they enjoy with the cottagers by moonlight on
the grassy lawn, where the slender peasant girl, the agile husbandman,
and the strong thickset clansman mingled together, leaping and skipping,
with better will than grace, to the stirring sounds of the warlike
bagpipes.

There was one subject alone which kept Ronald in a certain state of
uneasiness,—the non-arrival of letters from his father, although he had
regular despatches from Alice and her brother, which were brought him
every fortnight from the _Hôtel de Postes_ at Melun by Macvurich, who
acted as postman for the château.  He concluded that all were well at
the old tower, but that by some strange fatality his father’s letters
were always destined to miscarry.

On the 26th of October they took a sad adieu of the venerable Château de
Marielle, of its saloons, its parks, its emptied cellars and rifled
preserves. Right glad was old Chambertin, the butler, to behold them
depart; and I dare say he thanked Providence devoutly, when the last
gleam of their bayonets flashed down the old gloomy chestnut avenue.
Late on the night of the 25th, an aide-de-camp (Lieut. D—— of 22nd
Dragoons) brought Stuart an order, directing him to remove his
detachment to Clichy, from which the regiment was about to march _en
route_ for Calais.  It was eleven at night when the order arrived; and
by daybreak next morning they were all on the road, with bag and
baggage, and had left Melun far behind them.  The soldiers were
overjoyed at the prospect of returning home, and they cheered and
huzzaed lustily as they marched along, and displayed their handkerchiefs
on ramrods, and their bonnets on their bayonets, in the extravagance of
their delight.  So eager were they to rejoin, that they marched back the
twenty-eight miles in one day, and arrived in the camp at Clichy just as
the bugles were proclaiming sunset.

On the tented ground all were in a state of commotion and preparation.
Many regiments were under orders for England; the brigades were broken
up, and many alterations were made regarding those troops that were to
remain in France, to form the ’Army of Occupation,’ for three years.
Next day Ronald mounted and set off for Paris, to pay some of his old
haunts a last visit, and to avoid the bustle of the camp, where he left
entirely to the care of Warristoun, his servant, the task of packing and
arranging his baggage for the cars.



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

              *PARIS, DE MESMAI, AND THE HÔTEL DE CLUGNY.*


    "A light heart and a thin pair of breeches
    Go through the world, my boys."
      _Old Song._


While riding slowly along the Boulevard de la Madeline, Ronald saw
before him an officer,—a Frenchman, but one with whose figure he
imagined he was acquainted.  He was a tall and handsome man, and wore
the scarlet uniform of Louis the Eighteenth’s garde-du-corps.

"I’ll bet a hundred to one that is De Mesmai," said Stuart, communing
with himself.  "The rogue has changed sides; but I think I should know
him by that inconceivable swagger of his."

There was no doubt of his being the cuirassier; and, as he presently
stopped to speak at the door of a shop in the Rue Royale, Stuart touched
him on the shoulder.

"Monsieur de Mesmai," said he, holding out his hand, "I hope you are
quite well.  You have not forgotten me, surely: we had some odd
adventures together in Spain.  You remember the _cura_ of?—"

"Monsieur—monsieur—  _Diable_!  I have quite forgotten your name."

"Stuart, of the Gordon Highlanders."

"Stuart?  I remember now.  A thousand pardons,—and as many welcomes to
Paris!" exclaimed the Frenchman, grasping his hand and breaking into a
profusion of bows, every one of which threatened to jerk to the other
side of the Boulevard the little red cap which surmounted his large
curly head.

"You have been very little about Paris, surely, Monsieur Stuart, very
little indeed since the—" he paused and smiled bitterly, "since the
allies came to it."

"I have been for two months in country quarters at the Château de
Marielle, near Melun."

"Delightful place: I know it well.  Fine horse that of yours; very like
my old cuirassier."

"And so you have changed sides, I see; like Soult and many others."

"No, by the name of the bomb!" cried the Frenchman, his cheek flushing
while he spoke. "No, faith! compare me not with Soult!  I was one of the
last who quitted the great Emperor, and my honour is spotless.  But what
could I do, Monsieur Stuart?  He has been hurried on by his destiny, his
evil genius, or some such villainous agent, to wreck the fame and
fortune of himself, his soldiers, and of France, by delivering himself
up—_sacre!_ to the British.  What was I then to do? I had been a soldier
from my youth upwards.  I had interest to procure a commission as
captain in the guards of Louis, who is pleased, _sacre nom de_—bah! to
array us in scarlet; and I’ve been in Paris ever since Waterloo, where I
received a severe wound.  I have had hard work to get back from King
Louis’ ministers the poor remnant that dice, wine, and women have left
of mine ancient patrimony, which has descended to my worshipful self
through as long a line of respectable ancestors as ever wore bag-wigs,
steel doublets, and long swords. I lost my château of Quinsay when I
went with the Emperor to Elba—that dismal isle, which the devil
confound!  I gained it again on his happy return to France,—lost it at
Waterloo; but regained it when I donned the scarlet in the guards of the
most worshipful Louis, our dread lord and sovereign. _Peste_!  After
all, I am a lucky dog."

It may be imagined that Ronald, having once fallen in with this veteran
scapegrace, would have found it by no means easy to escape from his
society, even had he felt disposed to venture on attempting the feat.
So well was the young Highlander acquainted with the probabilities in
this particular, that he resolved to leave it unattempted; and having,
by especial and all but unhoped-for good luck, managed, though in
company with his unhesitating friend, to pass two days and nights
without coming to any serious bodily harm, he began to feel it incumbent
on him to return thanks for his preservation, and to prepare for his
approaching departure from the "City of delights."

Before De Mesmai could be induced to allow himself to be persuaded of
the necessity of even the last of these proceedings, he insisted on a
visit to the Baron de Clappourknuis, who, he averred, had made his peace
with the new ministry, kissed the hand of Louis XVIII., burned his
commission from Napoleon, and resided quietly at the venerable Hôtel de
Clugny.

"This cunning old grey-beard and I took different sides in the last
uproar," said the captain, as they walked along.  "He went with Louis to
Ghent; while I, as in duty bound, joined—  But I had better say nothing
more.  We are now in the streets of Paris, where every second man is
either a jack-booted gendarme or a villainous government spy. Monsieur
le Baron saved his dirty acres by this policy, while I narrowly lost
mine and the old house of Quinsay, with its ruined hall, where a colony
of rooks, bats, and owls have been comfortably quartered for more than
twenty years.  Clappourknuis is as little enamoured of campaigning, as I
am of his crack-jaw name.  No, by the bomb! had he loved the flash of
bright steel and the clank of accoutrements, he would have joined the
Emperor on his quitting Elba.  And yet I once beheld him charge bravely
at the head of a regiment of Polish lancers. They were attacking a solid
square of the regiment of Segovia; and it was a splendid sight to behold
them, as they swept past the flank of the cuirassiers in line.  At the
first blast of the trumpet their thousand lances sunk at once to the
rest, their bright heads flashing like a shower of falling stars; and
the next moment they were riding into the mass of terrified Spaniards,
as one would ride through a river. But he has hung his sabre on the
wall, and now reposes in the ancient hôtel, basking in the smiles of the
fair Diane, and snugly ensconced under the shadow of his laurels, which,
by-the-by, are very likely to grow into other ornaments less agreeable
to his martial brow, if he does not look a little sharper after Madame."

"I told you of my adventure with her on the Pyrenees."

"Yes; you will be a welcome friend, unless the story has roused some
unpleasant surmises in the mind of the baron, who is rather inclined to
be suspicious, although his pate is so thick that we considered it
sabre-proof in the ’Devil’s Own.’  I know that he looks upon me with
eyes the reverse of friendly.  _Parbleu!_ what care I?  Madame Diane
behaves to me with remarkable attention.  Ha! my friend, you see what it
is to have a name: all the women of Paris either love or fear me.  While
Monsieur le Baron sits in a corner moping and growling over his swaddled
and gouty leg, I draw my chair beside Madame at the harp, and sit
turning over the leaves of her music, exchanging soft glances, and
saying things quite as soft between.  She is an amazingly fine creature,
although she jilted so cruelly poor Victor d’Estouville of the Imperial
Guard."

"If this is the footing on which you visit the Hôtel de Clugny, I think
I could scarcely have chosen a more unlucky companion for my morning
call."

"_Pardieu_!  Monsieur, this is Paris, where no husband of sense makes
himself in the least uneasy about the intrigues of his wife, and I
should wish to teach old Clappourknuis a lesson.  He was twelve months a
prisoner in England, where he picked up some of the strangest notions in
the world about conjugal fidelity and other matters, which, in France,
we know only by name.  He must now pay the penalty of marrying a giddy
creature, young enough to be his grand-daughter.  We have a proverb
among us, mon ami, which says, ’Beware of women, of fire, of water, and
the regiment de Sault.’  Now I am ready to demonstrate to you logically,
that the first part of that proverb—  But, poh! here is the residence of
Monsieur le Baron.  _Pardieu!_ a strange old rookery it is; and yet he
admires it, because it is the oldest house in Paris."

Passing through an archway, they found themselves in an irregular sort
of quadrangle, formed by buildings in a very ancient style of
architecture, with mullioned windows, Gothic cusps and pinnacles,
casements on the roof, two octagon towers projecting into the court, and
one circular turret, which was built out from the wall, and shot up to a
great height above the others.  Numerous coats of arms and initial
letters appeared above the doors and windows, and an antique fountain
sparkled and murmured in a corner of the court, with a drooping tree
spreading its branches over the stone basin into which the water fell.
There was an appearance of picturesque and gloomy grandeur about the
place, but there was likewise an air of desolation and decay without,
which did not correspond with the rich hangings and furniture that
appeared through the open windows; while the bustle which pervaded the
court and passages, showed that the house was occupied by a large
establishment.

"A strange old place, this."

"_Diable!_ yes; a gloomy old bomb-house, fit only for the bat and the
owl.  And yet ’tis here the baron keeps Madame Diane, one of the gayest
women within the gay and glorious circle of the Boulevards.  ’Tis the
Château de Clugny; but for Heaven’s sake and our own, do not say any
thing about it to the baron, who has of late been seized by a fit of
antiquarianism, or we shall probably have the whole history of it
rehearsed, from the time of Noah down to the present day."

The baron was at home, and a servant announced their names.

He was not much changed in appearance since Ronald had seen him in
Estremadura; he looked as rough and weather-beaten as ever, and sat in a
gilded easy chair, rolled in a rich brocaded dressing-gown, with one of
his legs swaddled up in a multitude of bandages, and resting upon a
cushion. A small velvet forage-cap covered his grey hair, and half
revealed a deep scar from a sabre-cut across the forehead.

The apartment into which the visitors were shown, was a splendid old
chamber fitted up as a library; and a softened light, which stole
through between the thick mullions and twisted tracery of two large
windows, cast the varied tints of the stained glass upon the long
shelves of richly gilt but musty old books, on globes, on antique swords
and fragments of steel armour, on ancient chairs and deep-red hangings,
on spurs and helmets, and on rolls and bundles of papers, heaped and in
confusion.  The ceiling was covered with stucco fret-work and gilding.
Three large portraits were in the room: these were likenesses of the
famous Mississippi Law—as he was styled; of Beau Law, shot at the siege
of Pondichery, fighting against the British; and of the Marquis of
Laurieston, in his uniform as a General of the Empire, covered with gold
oak-leaves and Orders.

The Baron, whom they found immersed in the pages of a huge and antique
tome, threw it aside on their entrance, and bowed with an air of
politeness so constrained, that it was evident Captain de Mesmai was far
from being considered a welcome visitor. The consciousness that he had
such an introducer made Stuart feel rather uncomfortable, but De
Mesmai’s consummate effrontery caused him to value the baron’s coldness
not a rush.  A piano, which stood at one end of the room, was closed.
The young baroness was not then at home.

"_Monsieur le Baron_," said the captain, placing his cap under his arm,
and leading forward Stuart, "allow me to introduce Major Stuart, an
officer of a Scots regiment, and a very particular friend of mine, who
has come to pay you a visit before marching for Calais to-morrow."

"_Eh bien!_" said the baron, extending his hand, and raising his
eyebrows.  "I am very happy to see Monsieur Stuart; his name is one for
which I have a very great respect.  But," he added with a smile, "you
give him a bad recommendation in saying he is a ’particular friend’ of
yours.  Remember, you are considered the greatest _roué_ and libertine
that Paris contains,—between the Champ de Mars and La Roquette."

"_Pardieu!_"

"In truth you are a very sad fellow," continued the baron, while a
servant placed chairs for the visitors.  "Your name is on every man’s
tongue."

"And woman’s too."

"Worse still.  Ay, Maurice, in Massena’s corps we considered you no
apostle.  But draw your chairs nearer to the fire; ’tis cold this
morning. And here, you Monsieur Jacques," addressing the servant; "bring
a couple of logs for the fire, and place the glasses and decanters on
the table."

A smoky wood fire blazed in a large basket or grate of brass and
iron-work placed on the hearthstone: above it rose the arch of an
antique mantelpiece. The square space around the grate was covered with
small diamond-shaped pieces of Delft ware, which were neatly joined
together, and reflected the light and heat.

"Monsieur le Baron will remember that I have not had the pleasure of
seeing him since we were last together in Spanish Estremadura," said
Ronald; "at Almendralejo, or Villa Franca, I think."

"Indeed, monsieur!" replied the old man, bowing. "Ah, _misericorde_!  I
was a prisoner then.  You must excuse me; but I have seen so many places
and faces, that if I do not exactly remember—"

"I am the officer who shared his ration-biscuit with you one morning at
Merida, when the troops were so scant of provisions."

"What!  _Mon Dieu!_" cried the old soldier, grasping him energetically
by both hands, "are you that officer?"

"I am the same, monsieur."

"How happy I am to have you here in Paris,—in my own house, that I may
repay you—at least, as far as hospitality can—for the bestowal of that
half biscuit, wet and mouldy as it was from being carried—"

"A forty miles’ march in a wet havresack.  I was about to take command
of an out-lying picquet, and the biscuit was my first ration for three
consecutive days."

"Ay, my friends," said De Mesmai with unusual gravity, while he filled
up the glasses, "those were stirring times, when one might see true
soldiering."

"I well remember the morning," continued the baron; "and very
disconsolate fellows your picquet seemed, as they marched by the light
of the grey dawn along the muddy Plaza, with their muskets slung, and
their feathers and great coats soaked in water, for the rain was pouring
down like a second deluge.  On my honour, monsieur!  I have often
thought of the generous Scottish officer and the wet biscuit.  I had
been famishing for eight and forty hours.  Ah! ’twas an interesting
adventure that."

"Not so interesting by one half," said De Mesmai slowly, while a wicked
smile lurked on his moustached mouth; "not so singular by one half as my
friend’s adventure with the baroness on the Pyrenees, after King
Joseph’s misfortunes at Vittoria.  There is something very unique, quite
romantic, in that story."

"Monsieur, was it you who—"

Stuart began to murmur something about having "had the pleasure to be of
some service to the baroness—"

"I have heard of it," said the baron.  "Oh, monsieur, you quite
overpower me with your services. How shall we ever repay you!"

"I was merely instrumental.  The officer who had the honour to escort
the baroness to Gazan’s outposts was killed soon afterwards, when Soult
forced the passes."

"On the 25th.  Twenty devils!  I was there," said the baron, turning up
his eyes.  "Bloody work it was, and your mountaineers defended the hills
with a valour bordering on madness.  Your health! monsieur.  ’Tis plain
_vin ordinaire_, this; I am restricted to its use, but the decanter next
you contains _Lafitte_."

"I will take Lafitte, with your permission."

The baron bowed.

"_Vive l’Empereur_," muttered De Mesmai as he raised his glass, while
the baron held up one finger warningly, and cast a furtive glance at the
door.  "I pray to Heaven," continued the captain, whom some old
recollections had excited, "that the _violet_ may return to France in
the spring."  He drank enthusiastically.  The baron emptied his glass in
silence, and Ronald did the same, although he knew that _the violet_
meant Napoleon, who was known by that name among his friends and
adherents.

"Well, Maurice; I heard you were about to be married to a widow with
three streets,—old Madame Berthollet, of the Rue de Rivoli," said the
baron. "Or perhaps you are already married?"

"Diable!  monsieur," said De Mesmai, indignantly; "do _I_ look like a
married man!"

"I know not, Maurice; but I imagine that the gay old lady would have
little reason to rejoice in her domestic speculation.  You are the best
man in Paris to make her golden Louis and Napoleons vanish like frost in
the sunshine.  And so, monsieur," addressing Stuart, "your regiment
marches to-morrow?"

"For Calais, _viá_ Montfort, where we shall be joined by two other
Scottish regiments, which are also under orders for home."

"A good voyage to the gallant Scots! as our fashionable song says,"
replied the baron, emptying his glass.

"Excellent!" cried De Mesmai, before Stuart could thank the baron; "and
I hope that Madame will soon return, as I wish very much to hear her
perform that piece on the piano.  Madame Berthollet—"

"Of the Rue de Rivoli?" interrupted the baron.

"—Informed me that her style excels the most celebrated masters in
Paris."

"Indeed!" said the baron coldly, but bowing to De Mesmai, whom he
heartily wished at the bottom of the sea, or any other place than the
Château de Clugny, where his visit had now extended to twice the usual
time of a morning call.

"By the bomb! here comes Madame!" said the _ci-devant_ cuirassier, as a
carriage drove into the court.  "Monsieur le Baron must allow me the
honour—"

He snatched up his cap, and vanished from the room, while the features
of the invalid assumed a most vinegar aspect of anger and uneasiness,
which he attempted to conceal from Ronald by conversing about the
weather and other trivial matters.  Meanwhile the captain, with all the
air of a true French gallant, assisted the baroness to alight, and led
her into the house.  They were long in ascending the staircase, and the
baron’s face grew alternately red and white, while he fidgeted strangely
in his easy chair.  At last a servant opened the door of the room, and
the handsome captain, with his right hand ungloved, led forward Madame,
who, as she swept in with her long rustling skirt, and with the feathers
of her bonnet drooping over a rich shawl, appeared a very dashing
figure, quite a woman of _ton_, and possessing all that indescribable
_je ne sais quoi_ of face and figure, which are wholly the attributes of
what the Scots call ’gentle blood,’ and which never can be attained by
the vulgar.  Her morning drive on the Boulevards, the exercise of
ascending the steep old stairs of the hotel, and perhaps a sensation of
pleasure at meeting with De Mesmai, had heightened the glow of her
cheeks, and a rich bloom suffused them.  Her eyes were sparkling with
French vivacity, and she looked radiantly beautiful.

"Eh! monsieur, my dear friend!" cried she, springing towards Stuart with
the bird-like step of a Parisian lady.  "How happy, oh! how very happy I
am to see you here!  I would give you a pretty kiss, if I dared.  But
pray, monsieur, be seated; and here, De Mesmai, help me off with my
things."

"How, madame, do you recognise me after so long a lapse of time, and
after such, a very short interview?  One at night,—by a picquet fire,
too?"

"De Mesmai told me you were here," said she, as that adroit cavalier
removed her bonnet and shawl, and even adjusted her hair, which was
braided above her forehead and fastened behind with a pearl-studded comb
_à la Grec_.  The soldier laid aside the bonnet, arranged the veil, and
folded the collar and shawl with so much the air of a _femme de
chambre_, that Stuart could with difficulty repress a smile; but to the
lady and her husband it appeared nothing unusual.

"The baroness is a fashionable beauty, certainly," thought the wondering
Scot; "but my wife will not be a French woman, thank Heaven!"

"That will do, Maurice," said the lady, freely and easily; "that will
do, I thank you.  _Mon Dieu!_  I shall never wear that horrid shawl any
more; mantelets of satin, laced and furred, are becoming all the rage.
Maurice, I know you have quite the eye of a _modiste_; tell me, don’t
you think that a mantelet will become me?"

"Madame would appear superb in any thing," replied the other without
hesitation, but bowing low while he spoke.

"Oh, Maurice, you are getting quite commonplace. But I suppose it will
become me as well as the venerable Berthollet of the Rue de Rivoli."

"Doubtless, madame," replied the Guardsman composedly; while, without
noticing her roguish look, he handed her a glass of wine.

"And here, this dear naughty husband of mine asks me not a single
question about my morning airing," said Madame, as she sprang up and
arranged the cushions at the old man’s back.  "Maurice, help me to punch
these pillows.  Monsieur the baron has been poring over some musty old
book till he has been quite overcome with _ennui_, I suppose.  _Mon
Dieu!_ what a horrid thing it is to become an antiquary!" she continued,
as she turned up her fine eyes, and shrugged her fair shoulders. "Do you
know, Monsieur Stuart, that ever since the baron became a member of the
_Comité Historique des Arts et Monumens_, he has been like a man
bewitched!"

The attention of his beautiful wife restored the old man’s urbanity and
good humour, and when the baroness pressed the visitors to remain to
dinner, he seconded her invitation, and they stayed.

Stuart had reason to regret that they did so, for De Mesmai’s folly
brought about a very disagreeable termination to the visit.

After much common-place conversation, he requested the baroness to
favour them with the fashionable air then so much in vogue, and she at
once acceded.  The old baron was quite charmed with his wife’s
performance, and, closing his eyes, beat time with his fingers on a
worm-eaten volume of Pierre de Maimbourg; but his triumph was somewhat
soured by the presence of De Mesmai, who seated himself close by Diane
for the purpose of turning over the leaves, and he seemed quite in
raptures with her.  Stuart likewise was much pleased, for the soft tones
of her voice were delightful to hear, and his patriotism was roused and
his pride flattered by the words of the song,—’A good Voyage to the
gallant Scots.’  It was a quick and lively air, and had been first
adopted by the garde-du-corps and other troops of Louis XVIII., after
which it rapidly became popular: the ladies sounded it forth from their
harps and pianos, the dandies hummed it on the Boulevards, the boys
whistled it in the streets, and the grisettes sung it at their work;
and, from reveillé till tattoo, scarcely any other tune was heard in the
camps, barracks, and cantonments.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                            *A CATASTROPHE.*


"Ah, madame!" exclaimed De Mesmai, whom experience among his
countrywomen had taught that the dose of flattery could never be too
strong for them, "how much we are indebted to you! Such brilliancy of
instrumental execution, and such a voice!  My friend, Major Stuart, will
allow—or rather will be compelled to admit—that you far excel any other
singer he has ever heard in Paris, Lisbon, or Madrid?"

Although this was not strictly true, Ronald of course replied in the
affirmative.  There is no flattery which can be too pointed for a
_Parisienne_, who can hear, as mere matters of course, such observations
as would bring the red blood rushing into the fair face of an English
lady.

De Mesmai engrossed to himself nearly the whole conversation of the
baroness, and they chatted away, with amazing volubility and merriment,
on such light matters as the marriages, intrigues, and flirtations of
one half of Paris,—the fashionable part at least,—while the petulant
baron, after various ineffectual attempts to interrupt their interesting
_tête-à-tête_, abandoned the idea of doing so; and, while reconnoitring
their position with watchful eyes, and listening with open ears, he gave
Stuart a very long and very tiresome account of the learned society, to
the affairs of which, since the peace of 1814, he had devoted his whole
attention.

De Mesmai and the lady, or, to speak more correctly, the lady and De
Mesmai, were seated on an opposite sofa, and so close, that their dark
hair almost mingled together,—this, too, before the eyes of the baron.
They conversed in a low tone, which every instant swelled out into a
laugh; and such glances of deep and hidden meaning were exchanged, that,
had they been observed, they would have entirely discomposed old
Clappourknuis’s antiquarian discussions about ruins, medals, coins,
MSS., &c. &c. Stuart thought his friend a very odd fellow, and certainly
the free manners of the baroness did not heighten his opinion of
Parisian wives.

Dinner was served up in excellent style, but what it consisted of has
nothing to do with this history. There were enough and to spare of
wonderful French dishes, which the Highlander had never seen before, and
probably has never heard of since.  Stuart having led the baroness to
the dining-room, De Mesmai led her back again to the library, falling
into the rear of the baron, who was borne thither in his arm-chair by
six stout valets, with his gouty leg projecting like a bowsprit.  In
this trim, as host, he led the way from the table.  Coffee and wine were
awaiting them in the library, which was lighted up by wax candles placed
in antique candelabras.  The crimson curtains were drawn, and a cheerful
fire blazed on the hearth and roared up the wide chimney. The old gilt
volumes on the shelves, the steel arms and armour, the splendid
picture-frames, the wine-decanters, the silver coffee equipage, and
every thing else of metal or crystal, glittered in the ruddy light, and
the baron’s library appeared the most snug place imaginable.

Stuart, who had been accustomed to sit long at the mess-table,—rather a
failing; with the valiant ninety-_twa_,—was unable to adopt the foreign
custom of taking coffee immediately after dinner.  He therefore joined
the baron in paying attention to a decanter of light French wine; but De
Mesmai sipped the simple beverage, seated by Madame at a side-table
where the coffee was served up, and his attentions became so very
particular and decided, that in any house in Britain they must have
ensured his exit by the window instead of the door.  But the baron,
although a very jealous husband, was a Frenchman, and consequently did
not perceive any thing very heinous in the attention paid to his wife by
the gay guardsman; yet he would rather have seen him lying at full
length in the _morgue_, than seated at the little side-table with the
baroness.

But Monsieur le Baron having dined to his entire satisfaction, was
rather inclined to be in a good humour, and, after a time, he was
obliging enough to place the high stuffed back of his easy chair between
himself and the _tête-à-tête_ which his gay lady enjoyed with her still
gayer cavalier.

Finding that Stuart was conversant with _Père d’Orleans_; the _Histoire
des Croisades_ of Pierre de Maimbourg, and other old authors,—thanks to
the tawse of his dominie, the old minister of Lochisla,—the baron
resolved to make a victim of him for the remainder of the evening, and
bored him most unmercifully with long antiquarian and archaeological
disquisitions, which were varied only by still more tedious accounts of
his campaigns under Napoleon.

He spent an hour in detailing enthusiastically the services and deeds of
the Scots Guards[*] in France, from the time that Alexander III. sent
them to Saint Lewis for service in the Holy Land down to the battle of
Pavia, where the Scottish corps threw themselves into a circle around
Francis I., and he was not captured by the enemy till only four of that
brave band were left alive.


[*] Now the 1st regiment of the line, or Royal Scots, the oldest corps
in Europe.


"And we are told in this book," continued the prosy baron, laying his
hand on a mighty tome of Philip de Comines; "we are told in this book
that the life of Louis XI., when he was attacked by the rebellious
Burgundians at Liege, was saved solely by the valour of the Scots
Guards, who formed a rampart around him till the Burgundians were
defeated."

"_Morbleu!_ monsieur," said De Mesmai, who now joined them, as the
baroness had withdrawn, "the story of the duel between the Sieur de
Vivancourt of the regiment of Picardie and the Scots Royal, is worth all
that you will find in Philip—Philip—_peste_! I have forgotten his name.
But I will wager a hundred Napoleons to one, that he does not relate a
story by one half so good as that which I have heard from you, of the
unpleasant manner in which the English widow of Monsieur of France,
Louis XII., was surprised in a _tête-à-tête_ with the Duke of Suffolk,
in this very apartment, by the furious Duke de Valois, who compelled her
to marry Suffolk upon the very instant,—ay, _pardieu!_ at the very
drumhead, as the saying is."

Certain associations occurring to the baron’s mind made him colour, as
he raised his eyes from his flannel-cased legs, to the tall, erect, and
soldier-like figure of De Mesmai.  He glanced furtively at the chair of
the baroness, but it was empty.

"Ay, Maurice, ’twas a strange affair that; but Monsieur of Valois should
have given the English duke a year or two’s residence in the Bastile for
his presumption.  The stone cages of Louis XI. were then in good
condition, and should always have been tenanted by such blades as
Monsieur of Suffolk."

"You are very savage in disposition, monsieur, to talk of punishing so
slight a _faux pas_ so severely. But you will allow that a little
gallantry is excusable here in our sunny clime of France."  The old man
glanced keenly at the swaggering guardsman, and saw a strange smile on
his face.  "A comfortable place this, faith!" he continued; "and if
these old walls could speak, they would tell strange tales of hatred and
sorrow, joy and grief.  Many a fair one’s scruples have been routed by
the _coup-de-main_ of the stout gallants of the olden time.  Monsieur le
Baron must know that our friend Stuart admires this old house of Clugny
amazingly.  You cannot conceive the sensations of pleasure with which he
viewed that gloomy court."

These last observations were made by De Mesmai to serve an end of his
own.  It was the baron’s hobby to have his house praised, and in return
he invariably bored his visitors with a prolix account of it.  Having,
as he supposed, set fire to the train, De Mesmai retired to promenade in
the garden with Madame, while her husband plunged at once into the
history of the Hôtel de Clugny.  He began with the time when its site
was occupied by the palace of the Roman emperors in Gaul, the _Palatium
Thermarum_, erected A.D. 300, from which date he traced its history down
to Clovis, the founder of the French monarchy, thence to the time of
Philip Augustus, who in 1218 bestowed it on one of his chamberlains. On
the site of the Palatium Thermarum the Abbot of Clugny built the present
hotel, which was finished and completed, as it stands at present, by
Jacques d’Amboise in 1505.  James V. of Scotland resided in it for some
months after his marriage with the beautiful and unfortunate Madeline of
France.  From that period the indefatigable baron related its
vicissitudes, and those of its several occupants, down to the days of
the Revolution.  He was just describing a celebrated conclave of that
revolutionary body, the section Marat, who met in the apartment where
they were then conversing, when, on looking round, he became suddenly
aware that the baroness and De Mesmai were both absent. He changed
colour, stopped in his history, and became much disturbed.

"_Mon ami!_" said he, "where is the Captain de Mesmai?"

"I know not," said Stuart, looking round with surprise, and missing him
for the first time.  "He was here a moment since, and I did not see him
leave the room."

"_Diable!_" growled the baron, grinding his teeth.

"He is probably in the garden enjoying a cigar. I observed him take from
his pocket the silver case which he carries."

"A silver case?  Pooh! he got that from the baroness."

"A handsome present."

"Ah! she gained it at some lottery in the Palais Royal," said the poor
baron, making a desperate attempt to converse freely, while he rung a
small hand-bell.  "_Attendez, Jacques_: tell Madame we should be glad to
have the honour of her company, because Monsieur Stuart marches
to-morrow, and—  Ha! ha! what am I saying?  You understand—be quick,
Jacques," he cried to the valet, who had appeared at his summons.  "She
is either in her own apartment, or in some of the lower drawing-rooms."

His suspicions were still further aroused.  Jacques returned in three
minutes, saying that Madame could not be found; that she must have left
the hotel, or be promenading in the garden.

"_Mon Dieu!_" roared the impetuous baron, gnashing his teeth at the
astonished valet.  "Leave the room, rascal!  What are you staring at?  I
am undone!  Hand the case, monsieur; these pistols—they are loaded.
They are together—I knew it—in the garden.  _Sacre_!  I have long
expected something of this kind.  An assignation! the base minion! the
worthless _ribaud_!  I will have his blood! I will rip him up with my
sabre!  _Tête Dieu!_ am I to be disgraced in my own house?  Ha, ha! ho,
ho!" and he laughed like a madman.

Stuart rose, feeling all the confusion and astonishment which a visitor
might be supposed to experience at such a juncture.  The baron seemed
bursting with rage, and rolled about among the pillows of his easy
chair, making fruitless efforts to raise himself upon his gouty limbs;
and he raved and swore in the mean time like a maniac.  At last, in the
extremity of his distress, he implored Ronald to see if they were in the
garden.

"How very foolish he is making himself appear," thought Ronald, as he
descended the lighted stair, laughing at the ludicrous aspect of the
baron in his cap, gown, and bandaged legs, and his red weather-beaten
visage flaming with the fury and exasperation into which he had lashed
himself.  Descending a stair in one of the octagon towers, he found
himself in the garden.  The night was very dark, the air was cold, and
the trees, shrubbery, and bowers appeared to be involved in the deepest
gloom.  The darkness seemed greater, in consequence of his having just
left the brilliantly-illuminated library, where old Clappourknuis sat
growling like a bear with pain and anger.  A curtain was drawn back from
one of "the windows of the hotel, and a stream of light falling across a
walk of the garden, revealed the figure of a female.  It was the
baroness, and Stuart advanced to meet her, feeling considerable
reluctance to announce the rage, or hint at the suspicions, of her
husband.  His cogitations were cut short by the lady springing forward,
and throwing herself into his arms.

"_Maurice, mon cher ami!_ how long you have kept me waiting," she
exclaimed, in a loud whisper. "I have been here on this dreary walk
nearly five minutes; and indeed—but one kiss, dear Maurice! and then—
Oh! what is this?  You have no moustaches.  _Ah, mon Dieu!_ what have I
done?"

She had, when too late, discovered her mistake. At that moment a window
of the library was dashed open, and the strange figure of the
unfortunate archaeologist appeared with a pistol in each hand,
threatening death and destruction to all.  The light which shone into
the garden revealed the scene on the walk,—the baroness hanging on the
breast of Stuart, whom, as he was without his bonnet and plaid, she had
mistaken for De Mesmai in the scarlet uniform of the garde-du-corps.
Clappourknuis muttered a tremendous malediction, and fired both pistols
into the walk.  Ronald escaped death as narrowly as ever he did, even on
any occasion in Spain, and the lady was in equal peril.  One ball struck
from her head the high comb which confined her hair, and the other
whistled within an inch of Stuart’s nose; after which it shattered a
gigantic flower-pot close by.  Diane uttered a shriek, and fled like a
startled hare from the garden; and, gaining her own apartment, shut
herself up, and Stuart never beheld her again.

"_Morbleu!_" said the incorrigible De Mesmai, whom the destruction of
the jar, and the consequent prostration of an immense American aloe, had
revealed, "I was just looking for the baroness on the other side of the
garden.  _Sacre!_ ’tis a most unlucky assignation this, and broken heads
must follow! Ha! ha! how now, my most virtuous Scot, who will not dance
with grisettes on Sunday, and yet makes an assignation with a married
lady in a garden, and at night!  Where are all your precepts and fine
sayings?  Ho! ho! ho!  Hark! how the baron storms and blasphemes, like
any Cossack or Pagan!"

"The fierce old madman!" exclaimed Ronald, enraged at his narrow escape.
"He was within a hair’s-breadth of shooting me through the head!"

"Rather unpleasant, after all your campaigning, to be shot in this way,
like a crow," replied the other, who was laughing so heartily that he
clung to an apple-tree for support.  "How romantic!  A touching
interview in the dark,—the lady all sighs, and the gentleman all
animation!  By the bomb, ’tis superb!  What a pity there was no moon!  A
silvery moon would have made the whole affair just as it should have
been.  But then this unpleasant discharge of small arms—"

"Dare you attempt to lay the blame of this matter on me?" asked Ronald,
indignantly.  "You are alone the cause of all this uproar.  The baron
has mistaken me for you."

"And the baroness has done the same.  _Diable!_"

"What is to be done now?":

"Retreat without beat of drum, I suppose."

"That would show but poor spirit, I think."

"_Eh bien!_ you are right.  I will show face.  The baron is only a man,
and a man five feet high by six round the waist.  I will brazen it out,
and swear by a caisson of devils ’tis all a mistake.  I will, by the
bomb! and could do so in the presence of his Jolliness the Pope.  _Vive
la joie_!  Come with me, my friend, and I will explain all the uproar to
this outrageous baron.  I am used to squabbles of this kind, and will
soothe his vivacity.  _Peste!_ what a hideous noise he makes!"

The baron had roared himself hoarse, and Jacques, with five other stout
servants, had been barely able to keep him fast in his arm-chair, where
he panted, kicked, and bellowed, swearing by every thing in heaven and
on earth that he would pistol De Mesmai, slay his wife, and murder them
all.  He would get a _lettre de cachet_,—forgetting that the days of
such matters had happily passed away,—and immure them all in the
dungeons of the Bastile.  He would rouse the powers of darkness to
revenge him!  At last a terrible fit of the gout fairly stopped his
clamour, and he was borne off to bed, speechless and in imminent danger.
The baroness appeared no more, and De Mesmai, the cause of the whole
disturbance, sat with perfect nonchalance, with his legs stretched out
before the library fire, a glass of wine in one hand and twirling a
moustache with the other, while swearing to Stuart by the bomb that he
had never heard such an outcry before!

"Positively, my friend," said he, "had I carried off the baroness in a
chaise and four, en route for Calais or Brussels, he could not have made
a greater noise.  _Peste_!  I believe I am entitled to demand
satisfaction for this annoyance.  I shall certainly consult some of ours
to-morrow, and hear what ought to be done."

It was evident that they would see the baroness no more that night, and
the domestics of the establishment eyed them with strange looks; for
though they were accustomed to the irascible temper of the baron, they
were puzzled to account for such a sudden disturbance.

Stuart urged the impropriety of remaining longer, and they rose to
withdraw.  He looked at his watch; it was verging on midnight, and it
was requisite that he should return to Clichy forthwith, if he would be
with the regiment when under arms at daylight. On leaving, they walked
for some time along one of the Boulevards, talking over the affair of
the Hôtel de Clugny.  De Mesmai did not attempt to exculpate himself,
but laughed without ceremony at Stuart, who made some animadversions on
his conduct.

"’Tis all a matter of opinion," said he, shrugging his shoulders, "all;
and you must know the proverb—_L’opinion est la reine du monde_.  ’Tis
very true; so let us say no more, my friend."

When near the Place Victoire, they parted.  De Mesmai had lodgings in
one of the handsomest houses of the Place, although his company of the
garde-du-corps was always quartered at the château. On taking leave,
they shook hands heartily, and then parted, but without exhibiting much
concern, although each knew that he would never meet the other again.
But as soldiers, accustomed for years to march from town to town, they
were used to partings, and so bade each other adieu with happy _sang
froid_.

Ronald never heard of De Mesmai again, and I am therefore unable to
acquaint the reader how he settled matters with the baron, or if he
married the fashionable widow of the Rue de Rivoli.

The streets were silent, and the night was dark. A cold and high wind
swept along the desolate thoroughfares, and had extinguished many of the
oil lamps, leaving many places involved in obscurity and gloom.  It is
not surprising, therefore, that Stuart should have mistaken his way.
The dawn surprised him somewhere on the skirts of the town, and he had,
consequently, to traverse nearly the whole of Paris to find the Champs
Elysées.  There he got his horse from the bat-man, in whose charge it
had been left, and in three minutes he was away at full gallop for
Clichy.  He dashed along the Boulevard de la Madeline, the Rue de la
Martin, of St. Croix and Clichy, and soon the fields were around him,
bordering the road, while the spires and the streets of Paris were far
behind, sinking in the distance.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                         *THE HOMEWARD MARCH.*


    "Adieu to the wars, with their slashes and scars,
    The march and the storm and the battle!
    There are some of us maimed, and some that are lamed,
      And some of old aches are complaining;
    But we’ll take up the tools, which we flung by like fools,
    ’Gainst Don Spaniard to go a-campaigning."
        _Scott._


Fatigued with want of sleep, and almost nodding in his saddle, Ronald
reached the camp a little after sunrise.  The Highlanders were under
arms, formed in line on the green sward between the long streets of
tents and the margin of the Seine.  The ensigns had uncased the yellow
silk colours, the drummers were bracing up their instruments, and
Campbell sat motionless on horseback at about a hundred yards from the
centre of the line, which he was surveying with a watchful eye.  He was
looking very cross, so Stuart prepared to be _rowed_.

"A pretty fellow you are, Ronald, to keep the whole regiment waiting in
this manner!  We were just about to march without you."

Ronald made no reply, but dashed up at full gallop, raised his hand to
his bonnet, and then wheeling his charger round, backed him upon his
haunches, causing him to curvet and rear that the rider might display a
little horsemanship, as he galloped round the flank of the grenadiers
and came up in his place on the left of the line with his sword drawn.
As the band struck up, and the battalion broke into sections of threes
and moved off, a cheer burst from the lips of every man, as a parting
call to those comrades whom they were to leave behind them.

Saint Germains was the first stage.  They were quartered for the night
in the ancient palace, which had long been uninhabited and empty, and
was consequently hastening to decay.  Eighty years before, who could
have imagined that the residence of the exiled Stuarts would have become
the quarters of a Scottish regiment in the British service, and plaided
and plumed in the garb of the Gaël!  Who could have imagined that those
desolate chambers, which had been the scene of so many sorrows and
troubles to the royal exiles, would re-echo the strains of the
heart-stirring pibroch!  But the place was dreary, damp, and desolate.
The court-yard was overgrown with grass, the gardens had become a
wilderness, and the fountains and ornamental statues were in ruins, and
covered with the moss of years.  Strange and old associations connected
with the palace and its inhabitants were awakened in the hearts of the
Highlanders, and Ronald-dhu, when the pipers played the retreat in the
quadrangle, desired that it should be the ’Prince’s Lament,’ one of the
most difficult pieces of our pipe music.

To the officers and soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders, being generally
men from the most remote parts of the Highlands, the empty palace of
Saint Germains formed a scene of no common interest. It was intimately
connected with the misfortunes of that illustrious race, "of which (says
a modern writer) no man can trace the beginning, and of which no
Scotsman can bear to contemplate the end;" and the kilted sons of the
North, as they wandered about its desolate chambers, made many
observations which would have startled honest old George III., and have
caused the Horse-Guards authorities to stand quite aghast, had they
heard them.  Although time, as it rolls on, is changing the manners of
the Highlander and of his Lowland neighbour, the same chivalric feeling
which brought forth the host of 1745 exists in the bosom of the former,
and a spark yet lingers there which little might fan into a flame.

Mereville was the next halt.  At the gate of the town they were received
by a French regiment of royal volunteers, who had no uniform, but wore
their cross-belts, &c. over their peasant’s blouses of blue or white
linen.  They paid the compliments of war in very good style, while their
band played the national anthem of Britain, and the burghers of
Mereville rent the air with shouts of applause.  At the barrier appeared
the _maire_, arrayed in the garb of a past age,—a wide waistcoat and
old-fashioned coat, with a silver-hilted sword and ruffles, and a wig
and queue.  He invited the officers to a _déjeûné_ in the Hôtel de
Ville, where he made a long and flourishing speech, descriptive of
veneration for the British king and for the Scottish people.  He spoke
of the field of Vernuil, where the Scot and the Frenchman, drawing their
swords side by side, as brothers and allies, had tamed the pride of
England.  _La belle Marie_!  He laid his hand on his heart, and became
quite eloquent on the subject of her wrongs and woes.  He spoke of the
alliances between the houses of Stuart and Bourbon, and of the many
years of exile which the descendants from these marriages had spent in
each other’s territories.

The worthy old fellow was so much in earnest, and so enthusiastic on the
occasion, that he even shed tears, struck himself a thousand times on
the breast, and shrugged his shoulders and turned up his eyes quite as
often.

Campbell replied in a short speech, which he had prepared during the
long oration of Monsieur le Maire; but the good-will he gained by the
first part of his address, was entirely lost by some unlucky
after-allusion to the plains of Egypt and Sir Ralph Abercrombie.

From Mereville they marched to Montfort l’Amaury, a town twenty-eight
miles west of Paris, where they were to join the 4th battalion of the
Royals, and the 42nd Highlanders, also under orders for England.

At Beauvais, styled—because it has never been taken by force of arms—La
Pucelle, the 92nd, to their no small joy, received intelligence that, on
landing in England, their destination was to be the capital of their
native country, where they were to be quartered for the ensuing winter.

Within four days afterwards, the streets of Calais rang to the notes of
the pipe and drum, as the Scots brigade, on its homeward march, passed
through the city to the harbour, where a fleet of small craft, provided
by the authorities, lay in readiness to carry them over the Passage of
Calais, as the straits are named by the French.  The Cour de Guise,
formerly the ancient English mint, was pointed out to Stuart by a French
staff-officer, who rode beside him part of the way.  He also showed him
the statue of the patriotic Saint Pierre, which stands above the
entrance of the town-hall, with its neck encircled by a rope,—the emblem
of Saint Pierre’s heroism, and of the obduracy of an English king.  Many
other places he pointed out which would have been interesting to the
mind of a South-Tweeder, for often had the bluff English yeoman in his
steel breast-plate, and the strong-handed archer in his doublet of
Lincoln-green, kept watch and ward on the walls and towers of Calais.

As the three Scots regiments marched along the spacious quay, a
tremendous cheer burst from them at the sight of the opposite shore.
The first view of Old England, after a long absence, is worth a myriad
of the common-place adventures of life.  The land of promise lay before
them, but its shore seemed low and distant; and its chalky cliffs were
shining white as snow in the morning sun, so pale and dim, that they
seemed more like the edge of a vast field of ice than firm land.  Every
man strained his eyes towards it, and pointed out to his comrades the
spires and villages, which he imagined he could trace through the dim
haze that floated on the waters of the Channel.  Some gazed long and
fixedly, with moistened eyes and silent tongues.  They thought of the
land which lay five or six hundred miles beyond the shore before
them,—the land of the rock and the cataract, the broom and the
heather,—the land of their love and best affections, which had never
been once absent from their minds during all the danger, the toil, and
the glory of the great Peninsular war.

Poor Scotland! although she has lost her name and her place among
nations, she is not the less dear to her sons.

The harbour of Calais presented a very animated scene.  The frost had
passed away: it was a warm, sunny morning, and every thing was bright
and glistening.  From the great quay two long wooden piers jutted out
into the water, which tossed and foamed around the green and
sea-weed-covered piles which compose them.

These piers were lined by two or three battalions of French infantry,
and behind them were dense crowds of spectators.  The French flag was
flying on the _beffroi_, or watch-tower, of the Hôtel de Ville, and on
the bastions of all the little forts which defended the harbour.  The
basin was crowded with the boats and craft for the conveyance of the
British troops, whom the French authorities were, no doubt, very glad to
get rid of.  Several British man-o’-war boats were pulling about in
different directions. These had been sent by some of our Channel
cruisers to superintend the embarkation.

As Ronald rode down towards a flight of steps, to clear the way for the
regiment, a man-of-war’s boat, manned by eight oars, came sheering
alongside the jetty.  Stuart dismounted to speak with the officer, who
stepped forward from the stern, and, abandoning the tiller-ropes, shook
him heartily by the hand; while the crew, and the crews of the other
boats, pulled off their tarpaulin hats, and gave three hearty cheers of
welcome to the red-coats.  The cheer was taken up by the populace, and
resounded along the quays: the French bands struck up the favourite air,
’A good Voyage to the gallant Scots,’ while the troops presented arms,
and the officers saluted with their swords.  As older regiments than the
Gordon Highlanders, the Royal Scots and 42nd embarked first.  About two
hundred men were in each barge, and, as they moved from the shore by the
aid of sail and sweep, their bands played the ’Downfall of Paris,’ an
air which could not have been very pleasant to French ears.  With better
taste, the band of the other regiment played ’_Vive Henri Quatre_,’ the
notes of which mingled oddly with those of the bagpipes.  The pipers of
the whole brigade were seated in the bows of the boats, blowing a
perfect storm of wild and discordant sounds.

The harbour, the shore, the crowded quays, receded and lessened; the
cheers of the people died away, but the sharp rattle of the brass drums
was still heard, and arms were seen glittering on the beach.  The French
troops were wheeling into open column, and marching through the gate of
Calais, which faced the water.  As the last section filed through,
Ronald looked back for an instant.  He saw the flash of French steel for
the last time.  Save himself, scarcely one had cast a look astern: it
was to the increasing shores of England that every eye was directed.

They were soon far out in the Channel, amid fleets of merchantmen and
stately ships of war. There is nothing which brings the power, the
might, and the majesty of Britain so vividly before the mind, as the
splendid appearance of her ships of war.  There is a something in the
aspect of the formidable row of cannon frowning from the red ports, and
the flag that waves above them, which a Briton never can behold without
pride, and a foreigner without terror, chagrin, and humiliation.

On clearing the harbour of Calais, and getting fairly out into the
straits of Dover among the shipping, the French airs gave place to
’Hearts of Oak’ and other national strains; and the cheers with which
the crew of every vessel they passed, merchantman or ship of war,
greeted the homeward-bound fleet of decked boats with their military
freight, afforded the utmost delight to the latter. These hearty
welcomes from their countrymen on the sea, were but an earnest of what
they were to receive on the land.

The long and glorious struggle in the Peninsula, the victorious
termination of the short but most decisive campaign in Flanders, and the
results, so important to Europe, of the victory at Waterloo, were yet
fresh in every man’s mind, and the people of Britain yearned to show
their love for their countrymen who were now returning, after having
proved themselves the first troops in the world.

It was lucky for this brigade of Scots that they returned so soon after
Waterloo.  Had those three thousand men fought and gained the battle
alone, it is impossible that greater admiration or applause could have
been lavished upon them.

The shore increased in magnitude, seeming to rise from the water, and
objects became more distinct. The wide extent of yellow sandy beach, the
chalky cliffs, the light-houses, the buoys, were seen distinctly, and
the flags of all the world were flying around them.  The little fleet of
galleys moved bravely; a light breeze bore them onward, and every stitch
of canvas was set.  The shore soon seemed close at hand.  The old
village spires, overhung with ivy, the lawns, the castles, the seats,
and every thing, from the black old towers of Dover to the boats on the
golden beach below, were all remarked and observed as objects of wonder.

"First on the shore!  Hoigh!" cried a Highlander, plunging into the
water as the boats, containing some of the 42nd, grounded near the
beach. "Hurrah!" was the cry, and a hundred eager fellows leaped
overboard, knapsacks, accoutrements, and every thing; and, with their
kilts and sporrons floating on the surface of the water, waded ashore,
while shouts of welcome rose from a crowd of the Dover people collected
on the sands.  The boats containing the Royals and part of the Gordon
Highlanders, took the matter more "cannily," and, entering the harbour,
landed their military passengers on the pier, where a gentleman stepped
forth from the immense concourse assembled to witness the
disembarkation, and formally welcomed them to England; he then waved his
hat as a signal to the people, and three hearty cheers were given, with
one more for the Duke of Wellington.

All the craft in the harbour were decorated with flags and boughs of
trees; standards and ribbons waved from every house-top and window.  The
Waterloo medal, glancing on the breast of every purple coat, attracted
universal attention; the people were excited to the utmost pitch of
enthusiasm and loyalty, and every proud feeling that is truly British
was at its height.  Each man vied with the other in the endeavour to
show the esteem he felt for those whose deeds had been attracting the
attention of the whole civilized world, and whose arms had arrested a
torrent which once threatened to subvert every State in Europe.  The
brigade was billeted for that night in Dover.

"Now then, gentlemen, here we are, at last, in merry old England," cried
Campbell, in boisterous glee, as, with his officers, he ascended the
well-carpeted staircase of a handsome hotel in Dover. "Welcome roast
beef and plum-pudding, with other substantials, and a long farewell to
_castanos_ and garlic, to soup-maigre, _potage au choux_, and the
devil’s broth.  If the people would only grow wise and hang up all the
limbs of the law, England would be the happiest land on earth.  Look
around you, gentlemen; here is comfort!  Think on the wet tent, and the
wetter bivouac!  But good-by to them all! for awhile at least."

The master of the hotel ushered them into a splendid drawing-room, where
the appearance of the rich carpet, and the coal-fire blazing in the
polished grate, attracted so much attention, and drew forth such
encomiums, that mine host of the St. George marvelled in what part of
the earth they had been campaigning.  He knew not that a coal-fire and a
carpet are almost unknown on the Continent.

"We have been for some time strangers to this kind of luxury, landlord,"
said Ronald, observing his wonder.  "Our couch and our carpet has long
been the green sod, and our covering the sky for many a year."

"England! merry old England!" exclaimed Campbell, throwing himself into
a chair, and stretching his long legs across the hearth-rug.  "In spite
of all that demagogues may say to the contrary, I will uphold that it is
the happiest country in Europe; and, as we have seen the most of them,
we should be good judges.  This is excellent!  It reminds me of our
return from Egypt.  Now then, monsieur,—pardon me, landlord; I forgot I
was out of the land of Johnny Crapaud.  Ay, landlord, there is something
truly British and hospitable in that.  Let us have the best dinner you
can get ready on the shortest notice; and tell the cooks they need not
be very particular, as we have not tasted a decent dinner since we
landed below the castle of Beleni in 1809, a few months in Paddy’s land
excepted. Let it be prepared forthwith, and remember to provide lots of
pudding for the ensigns."

After dinner, the inhabitants of the hotel were astounded by the
ceremony of piping round the table, a practice which, since dinners had
become common with them, the Gordon Highlanders had revived in full
force.  As soon as the dessert was removed, tall Ronald-dhu, the
piper-major, and eight pipers, entered the mess or dining-room, and
marched thrice round the table, and then down stairs, blowing with all
their force and power the tune usual on the occasion:

    "Our ancient forefaithers agreed wi’ the laird,
    To buy a bit grundie to mak’ a kail-yaud," &c.

and the reader may imagine the effect of seven and twenty drones of the
great Highland war-pipe on English ears, to which, for many reasons, its
strains are so discordant.

The hotel was surrounded by a dense crowd, who kept up an incessant
cheering, and in the streets the Highlanders were absolutely mobbed.
Perhaps it was the first time the Scottish garb had been seen so far
south in England, so that, as the London papers said, "the excitement
was tremendous."

In every town and village through which they marched on the long route
from Dover to Edinburgh, their reception was the same: they were
followed by mobs of shouting men and boys, while laurel boughs, and
flags adorned with complimentary mottoes, waved from the houses and
church steeples.  Every inn or hotel at which the officers dined was
decorated with streamers and evergreens, and wreaths of laurel encircled
every plate and dish on the tables.  Each day, during dinner, they were
regaled by a concert of thousands of tongues, shouting and screaming,
while the bells in every spire rang as for some great national jubilee.

At Lincoln was erected a triumphal arch, which spanned the highway at
the entrance of the city.  It was composed of the usual
materials—evergreens, and such flowers as could be procured at that
season of the year,—and was surmounted by the arms of Scotland, of
England, and of the famous old ecclesiastical city, merry Lincoln
itself.  St. George’s red cross was waving from the summit of the
ruinous castle, and great Tom of Lincoln was sending forth his
tremendous ding-dong, deep, hoarse, and solemn, from the Gothic spire of
the cathedral, drowning the mingled din of every other bell in the city.
The streets were full of enthusiastic people; the windows were full of
faces, flags, and the branches of trees. All were in a state of
merriment and uproar, while the shrill fifes and hoarse brattling drums,
succeeding the fine brass band, made the streets re-echo with ’the
British Grenadiers,’ the most inspiriting of all our national quick
steps.

Immediately within the triumphal arch stood a carriage filled with
ladies, two of whom, very beautiful girls, the perfect personification
of young English belles, with the cherry lips, and merry, bright blue
eyes of the south, held aloft bouquets of roses, procured probably from
some hot-house, for at that season of the year they could not have been
reared elsewhere.  At the moment the ensigns were passing with the
colours, the ladies made some sign to Campbell, who lowered the point of
his sword in salute, and desired his orderly bugler to sound a halt.
Each of the fair English girls, with a white riband bound her roses to
the tops of the colour-poles, just below the spear-heads, but not
without blushes and hesitation, for the eyes of thousands were turned
upon them, and the hearts of the unshaven ensigns were captured on the
instant.  The ladies managed to say part of some address prepared for
the occasion, "regretting that they had not a wreath of thistles to
offer, and requesting that the soldiers would carry the flowers home to
their own country."

Campbell returned thanks.  The ensigns, who, luckily for the regiment,
were both very handsome fellows, bore each on his breast the Waterloo
medal. They raised their bonnets, and retired to their places in the
centre; the music struck up again, and the Highlanders moved forward
with the badge of England adorning the shot-splintered poles of their
colours.

Of the latter, nothing was left save the gold tassels and that part of
the silk which was stitched round the pole, with a few shreds and
remnants of embroidery.  The rest had all been shot away, or torn to
pieces by the rain and wind, by the battles and storms of twenty-one
years of continual warfare, in which the corps had borne a distinguished
part, since it had been embodied by the Duchess of Gordon in 1794.  The
appearance of the bare poles attracted universal attention in every town
and hamlet.  The people were heard to exclaim with wonder, "Look at the
colours! look at the colours!" which perhaps they supposed had been
reduced by a single volley to the condition in which they then appeared.

The bouquets of the Lincoln ladies remained long attached to the poles,
but the first frosty day completed their destruction, and nothing but
the stalks were left; yet these still remained when the regiment, after
a march of many hundred miles, came in sight of their native country.

Who can describe the wild delight of the Highlandmen, when, from the
hills of Northumberland, they beheld afar off the snow-clad summits of
the Cheviots, whose sides have been the scene of so many gallant
conflicts?  A thousand bonnets rose at once into the air, and the
"Hoigh, hurrah!" from a thousand tongues made the welkin ring.  What a
joyous march had been theirs through all merry England!  How different
in appearance were its cities, its villages, its vast extent of
cultivated land when compared with the ruined _pueblas_ and desolate
cities of Portugal, or the barren hills and desert plains of Spanish
Estremadura.  In the former country the soldiers of Massena had scarcely
left one stone standing upon another.  What a change to these scenes and
places seemed the comforts, the luxuries, the happiness of England,
especially to those who had been enduring the starvation, the toil, the
yearly, daily, hourly danger and misery of continental service!  Truly
it was a merry march that from Dover to Scotland, and never did private
soldiers trudge with their burden of seventy-five pounds weight more
contentedly, than the Gordon Highlanders on that long but happy route.



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                              *EDINBURGH.*


    "Edina!  Scotia’s darling seat,
      All hail thy palaces and towers!
    Where once, beneath a monarch’s feet,
      Sat legislation’s sovereign powers."


At Musselburgh, on approaching the old Roman bridge, the venerable
arches of which have so often rung to the tread of a Scottish host, the
Highlanders, as they marched down the brae which ascends to the kirk of
Inveresk, perceived that some preparations had been made for their
reception by the men of the "honest toon,"—the honourable title
conferred by Earl Randolph on that ancient burgh. Between the parapet
walls of the bridge, on the spot where once stood an antique barrier
gate, a triumphal arch was erected, and on its summit sat a bluff old
tar in his tarpaulin hat and frieze coat, bearing aloft the standard of
the ancient town of Fisherow, of which he was no bad representative.
With a voice, which had grown hoarse and loud in outroaring the waves
and blasts of the German ocean, he welcomed them in the deep Doric
language of Scotia, which had so long been a stranger to their ears.

"The song sings truly, ’There’s nae folk like our ain folk,’" said
Campbell, as he rode along the bridge at the head of the column.  "We
are home at last, God be praised!  This is our third day’s march on
Scottish ground.  Scotland for ever!  Shout, my lads!  Three cheers for
her people!  They seem to vie with the English in giving us a kindly
reception."

Their cheers were answered with three-fold heartiness from the other
side of the Esk, where the crowd was immense; and the interest and
excitement which prevailed may be imagined from the fact, that the whole
line of road between the Esk and Edinburgh, a distance of seven miles,
was so densely crowded as to be almost impassable; and when the regiment
entered the street of Fisherow the cheers and uproar were deafening.
The pressure of the people forward was so great, that the march was
stopped, the ranks were broken, and the music ceased.  Hearty greetings
and shakings of hands ensued between men who had never met before, and
strapping fish-women, in their picturesque blue jackets and yellow
petticoats, were seen clinging round the necks of the soldiers; while a
crowd of fishermen and peasantry, every man of them with a bottle in his
hand, had hemmed in Campbell against the wall of a house, shouting
vociferously, each one, that he must drink with them.  The colonel
abandoned in despair any attempt to proceed, or to urge forward his
horse, and sinking back on his saddle, he burst into a hearty roar of
laughter at the confused appearance of his men, and the mirth, jollity,
and happiness which beamed so radiantly in every face.  Stuart was in a
similar predicament.  The people pressed close around his horse, to
every leg of which an urchin was clinging fearlessly, while the rabble
shook both hands of the rider without cessation.

After the first wild burst of welcome was over, some order was regained,
and the march was resumed; but four hours elapsed before the regiment
gained entrance into the High-street of Edinburgh, by crushing through
the dense masses which occupied the Abbey-hill and Watergate, where they
were again brought almost to a halt.  The crowd had followed them in
from Musselburgh and increased as it rolled along, and one might have
supposed that the entire population of the three Lothians was wedged
into the High-street of Edinburgh.  Every window of all those lofty
houses, which shoot up on both sides of the way, and have been for five
centuries a theme of wonder to every traveller, was crowded with eager
faces: every lamp-post, every sign-board and door-head bore its load of
shouting urchins, and the whole street, from the castle to the palace,
was crowded to an excess never before witnessed.

The colonel, who always loved to produce an effect, had sent forward, a
mile or two in advance of the regiment, a young drum-boy, who having
lost a leg at Waterloo, had had its place supplied by a wooden one; and
the appearance of the little fellow, stumping along in his bonnet and
kilt, drew immensely on the sympathy of the women of all ranks, from the
ladies of _ton_ down to the poor vender of edibles.

"Eh, sirs!  Gude guide us!  Look at the drummer-laddie! the puir bairn
wi’ the tree leg!" was the cry on all sides, as the tambour of Waterloo
limped along.  "Eh! saw ye ever the maik o’ that? Oh, wae to the wars,
and dule to them that wrocht them!  What will his puir mither think at
the sicht o’ her sodger laddie?"

It was a cunning stroke of policy, sending the mutilated boy forward as
an advanced guard.  His appearance increased the enthusiasm of the
modern Athenians; and when the long line of dark-plumed bonnets appeared
above the advancing masses, pressing slowly into the street at the foot
of the Canongate, the cries and cheers resembled, as Campbell said,
nothing he had ever heard before, except the ’roar of the cannon and
musketry at the battle of Alexandria, in Egypt.’  So many open mouths,
so many arms, heads, hands, and hats in motion at once, presented a very
odd appearance, and Stuart, in consequence of being elevated on
horseback above the dense masses which crowded the way from wall to
wall, had a full view of the whole assemblage, and thus possessed an
advantage over the officers and soldiers who marched on foot.  In some
places there might be seen a plumed bonnet floating above a sea of
heads, where some solitary Highlander, separated far from the rest of
his comrades, was struggling in vain to get forward,—a girl, perhaps,
hanging around his neck, two men grasping his hands, a third shouldering
his musket, while a fourth held a pint-stoup to his mouth, calling upon
him to ’drink to the health o’ his ain folk.’

In other places appeared the long bayonets, the Lochaber axes and cocked
hats of the town guard. That ancient civic corps had been ordered to
line the streets, but being completely routed by the pressure of the
people, they had abandoned their posts and sought shelter behind the
long lines of carriages which were drawn up on each side of the street
as closely as they may be seen at a race-course.

Never before had Edinburgh witnessed such enthusiasm, such merriment,
noise, laughter, hubbub, such shaking of hands, such pressing, crushing,
and tumult, as that with which its hospitable inhabitants welcomed the
first-returning regiment of their countrymen; and even Campbell
himself—with many regrets that poor Fassifern was not there to share in
it—declared that he’d never met with any thing like it, ’even in Egypt!’

To show their respect for their victorious countrymen, even the honest
Baillies of Edinburgh, headed by the Lord Provost, turned out in state
to welcome them; and upon this occasion, contrary to their usual wont,
they arrived on the ground—almost—in time.  The Provost had prepared a
set speech, and would have delivered it, probably, if he hadn’t been
frightened almost out of his wits at the outset, and forgotten it
besides.  So a bold Baillie, in scarlet robe and beaver, got upon his
legs to welcome home the Highlandmen; and it is to be regretted that the
only part of his speech which has been preserved consists merely of an
apology on behalf of the Provost,—an assertion that all Scotland was
well assured ’no a rajment in the haill service had done sae muckle
mischief as the ninety-twa during the wars,’ and an offer of an
unlimited pinch of snuff from a very handsome gold box which the Baillie
carried with him, and which the colonel took it for granted contained
the freedom of the city at the very least.  To all of which Campbell
replied in a speech, which to this day may be seen, printed in small
capitals, in the _Edinburgh Journal_.

The bows, the sweet smiles, and pretty wreaths of real or artificial
flowers which the ladies tossed from the carriages lining the streets,
were far more agreeable tokens of admiration than the address of Baillie
Mucklewham; and those wounded officers who still bore their arms in
slings, found that such honourable badges of war attracted the utmost
attention and interest.

Having thus piloted back Ronald Stuart to the Scottish capital, the
place in which his military career began, and having brought him thither
safe and sound, wind and limb,—with the rank of major, and a moderate
fortune besides, the reader may suppose that his adventures are
finished.  But pause awhile, dear reader! one or two of the most
interesting—to him at least—are yet to come.  The regiment halted in the
gloomy old quadrangle of the castle, where they were wheeled into line
and closely inspected by the commander-in-chief, who complimented
Lieutenant-colonel Campbell, in the usual phraseology, on the efficiency
and discipline, &c. &c. &c. of the regiment.  Campbell replied, that he
believed they were in as good trim as when they returned from Egypt,
some sixteen years before.

The moment this tedious ceremony was over, Ronald, who had been wishing
the whole North British staff at the bottom of the draw-well, found
himself seated in the ’Rob Roy’ Perth stage, without having doffed his
trappings, and with no other encumbrances than his plaid and claymore.
In ten minutes Edinburgh, the city of the seven hills, was far behind
him, and the stage was bounding along the Queensferry road, past the
hills and woods of Corstorphin, as fast as four blood-horses and four
flying wheels could bear it.  The heart of the gallant young Scot was
leaping with feelings of gladness and delight, which none can imagine
save those who have experienced the pleasure of returning home after a
long and weary absence.  Five years had elapsed since he had travelled
that road before, and it seemed a very long time to look back upon.  He
had seen so many strange scenes, places, and persons in that time, that
it seemed like a century.

"Five years ago!  Alice was quite a girl then," he repeated to himself.
"Ah!  Alice will be quite a woman now; but she is my beloved Alice
still."  At times there flitted across his mind anticipations of
something unpleasant occurring, in consequence of his father’s obstinate
and old-fashioned hostility to the Inchavon family; and he remembered,
with peculiar pain, his resentment when his passion for Alice Lisle
first became known to him.

It was nearly midnight when he alighted at the George Inn, and he had
yet a considerable distance to travel before he should reach Lochisla.
Having a stout saddle-horse, he took the road which led to Lochearn, and
as he perfectly remembered every by-way and sheep-track, he struck
across the mountains, taking a nearer way to Lochisla than the high
road; and as there was neither hedge, ditch, wall, or enclosure of any
kind, the way was free and open, and he galloped on by beetling craigs,
by corrie and rock, over ground from which the most heedless fox-hunter
would have recoiled with dismay.



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                              *LOCHISLA.*


    "They are gone! they are gone! the redoubted, the brave!
      The sea breezes lone o’er their relics are sighing;
    Dark weeds of oblivion shroud many a grave,
      Where the unconquered foes of the Campbell are lying."
        _The Stuarts of Appin._


The bright moon was shedding her lustre over hill and valley, and the
traveller soon saw the mountain Isla gleaming beneath her beams as
brightly as ever he had seen the Ebro or the Douro, and he listened with
delight to the murmur of its falling waters as they poured over the
shelving linn at Corrie-avon,—a fortunate ducking in the pool of which
had so suddenly changed the sentiments of Alice’s father towards him.

Now he was on the old familiar road to his home. It was long past
midnight.  "Such a joyful surprise they will have!" said he, communing
with himself, "and a merry new year it will be in the glen; but poor old
Donald Iverach, he will look in vain for his fair-haired Evan."

The road was closely bordered by pine and birch trees.  The latter were
bare and leafless, and their stems and branches gleamed like a fairy
shrubbery of silver in the moonlight; but the former, the solemn black
pines of Caledonia, remained in all their rough unfading foliage, and
cast around them a gloomy horror.  Steep rocks, where the bright-eyed
eagle and the giant glede looked forth from their eyrie, echoing caves,
whilom the residence of wild and wondrous beings, the cairns of
long-departed chiefs, rough obelisks, marking the ground of ancient
battles and covered with mossy figures grim and terrible, bordered the
devious way; but he hailed them all with delight, for they were the
well-known haunts of his childhood, and his terror of the mysterious
beings that were said to guard them had long since passed away.  He set
up his old hunting halloo as he galloped along, to hear if they
re-echoed as of old, and in his glee he shouted fearlessly into a
yawning chasm called the Uamhachoralaich, an uncouth name, which means
’the cavern of the strange spirit.’  He hallooed again and again, to
hear the voluminous echo which had so often stricken awe and horror into
his heart when he was a child; and anon he dashed up the glen, scaring
the deer in the thicket and the eagle on the rock, and causing the
colleys on the distant hills and moors to hearken and howl in alarm.

Now, Lochisla lay before him!  The whole scene burst upon his view at
once, as his horse bounded up from the narrow gorge through which the
road-way wound.  The lonely Highland lake lay sleeping at the foot of
the dark and wooded hills, which descended abruptly on all sides towards
it.  Tall and spectral on its rock, with one side covered with dark ivy
and the other gleaming grey in the moonlight, the tower overhung the
loch.  Far beyond rose Ben-more, dim and distant.  The declining moon
was verging towards his ridgy back, behind which it would soon
disappear.  In the tower, or the clachan beneath it, no light was
visible.  Every loophole and window was dark.

"They are all a-bed; and the poor old watch-dog must be dead, or I
should have heard his honest bark before this," said Ronald aloud, as he
rode on towards the gate in the outer wall of the fortalice.

There seemed a stillness, an utter absence of life around him, which
occasioned dark forebodings of evil, and he felt a strange sadness
sinking on his heart.  He longed to hear even the crow of a cock or the
bark of a dog, but no sound could he detect, save the hoofs of his horse
ringing on the frozen pathway which led from the clachan, or onsteading,
to the tower.  For a moment he became quite breathless with agitation,
and clung to the mane of his horse.

"God be praised, there is no scutcheon over the gate!" he exclaimed;
"but they lack somewhat of their usual care in leaving it open at this
hour."

The gate of the barbican, or outer wall, was lying off its hinges on the
earth.  Janet’s turret was dark. Her light, which she was wont to burn
the whole night, gleamed there no longer, and a deadly terror chilled
the heart of Ronald.  He trembled, apprehending he knew not what, and
for some minutes surveyed the court and keep before he dismounted and
approached the door.  Every thing was mournfully silent and desolate.
Part of the barbican wall had fallen down; the wall-flower had sprung up
between the stones; the moss and grass grew upon the cope, in the
loop-holes, and between the pavement of the court-yard.  The byres and
stables were empty, and midnight depredators had torn away the doors and
windows; the once noisy dog-kennel was silent, and the ancient tower was
dark and desolate.  The watch-dog’s mansion was untenanted, and his
chain lay rusting on the grassy ground.

All was as still as the tomb, and the soul of the soldier died within
him.  The flagstaff was yet on the mossy battlement, but the halliard
waved wide on the wind.  The old rusty carron gun was yet peeping
through its embrasure, but a tuft of knotted grass hung down from its
muzzle.

His heart, which so lately bounded with pleasure, now throbbed with
apprehension and fear, for the silence around him seemed oppressive and
terrible, when contrasted with the bustle he had witnessed in the
capital a few hours before.

He struck with the hilt of his dirk on the door, knocking long and loud,
and the building echoed like a huge drum, or some vast tomb.  Again and
again he knocked, but there was no answer save the mocking echoes.  He
attempted to force an entrance, but the door was locked and bolted fast,
and he was compelled to retire.  He looked up to the key-stone of the
arched doorway, but the armorial bearings, of which his father was so
proud, the antique crown, and initial letters R.n.R. (ROBERTUS n. REX)
were there no longer.  The stone remained, but the ancient sculpture was
demolished.  He muttered some incoherent things, for the memory of the
past came swelling up in his breast, and his tongue clove to the roof of
his mouth.  He looked across the moonlit lake towards the islet, where
the ruins of the church tower cast a long deep shadow on the graves of
his martial ancestors, and their once numerous brave and devoted
vassals.

It was a time of the deepest mental agony.  A century seemed to have
elapsed since the morning. His thoughts were all chaos and confusion,
save one, which was terrible and distinct enough,—that he stood by the
threshold of his father’s house, a stranger, a wanderer, and there was
no hand to grasp his, no voice to bid him welcome.  After lingering
long, he turned sorrowfully from the tower, to awaken some of the
peasantry at the clachan.  On re-passing the ruined gate, he saw, what
had before escaped his observation,—a large ticket or board nailed to
the grass-grown wall of the barbican.  He approached, and by the light
of the moon read the following—


                                "NOTICE.

"Any person or persons found trespassing on the lands of Rosemount
Tower, will be punished with the utmost rigour of the law, by the
Proprietor, Zachary Macquabester, Esq., of Rosemount.

"N.B.—Informers will be handsomely rewarded, on applying to Mr.
Macquibble, writer, Spy-gate, Perth."


The place swam around him.

"Rosemount Tower!  The Proprietor, confound him!" exclaimed Ronald,
bursting into fury, "and is it come to this?"

With a heart sick and sore with disappointment, grief, and mortified
pride, he descended to the little street of thatched cottages named the
Clachan.  Here all was silence and desolation too.  In some places the
roofs had fallen in, and rafters stuck through the thatch, like ribs
through the skin of a skeleton: the chimneys had fallen down, and the
doors and windows were gone.  The hamlet was in ruins.  The household
fires had been quenched; and as he surveyed the deserted place, he
became painfully aware that his people—those among whom his race had
moved as demi-gods—were gone forth, and that the place of their birth,
and which held the bones of their forefathers, knew them no longer.

The glen, which in his boyhood had maintained two hundred men in what
seemed ease and competence to a people so primitive, was now desert and
waste.  The mountains, the wood, and the water were still there, as they
had been in the days of Fingal; but the people had passed away, and
Ronald Stuart, to whom the Gaëlic _sobriquet,—Ronald an deigh nam finn_,
might now be truly applied, departed slowly and sadly from Lochisla.

He did not weep—he was too tough a soldier for that,—and therefore could
not experience the calm feeling of resignation and relief given to an
overcharged bosom by a gush of hot, salt tears; but, with a heart
bursting with fierce feelings and sad remembrances, he departed from the
valley just as the waning moon sank behind the darkening mountains. He
rode slowly at first; but anon he drove his sharp spurs into the flanks
of his horse, and rode towards Inchavon at break-neck speed, as if he
would flee from his own thoughts, and leave his sorrows far behind him.
But the first gush of gloom and disappointment having somewhat subsided,
he strove to calm his agitated spirit, and he derived some consolation
in the timely recollection that, although Lowland innovation might have
expatriated the people of Lochisla, his father might yet be alive.
Eager to learn some tidings, he galloped along with the speed of the
wind, outstripping the gathering storm.

"Ha! here is Inchavon at last!  Dear Alice will explain to me all this
strange mystery."

Forward he went at a hunting pace, and, keeping his body well back and
bridle-hand low, he cleared the wall of the park at a bound, and
galloped over the whitening lawn towards the portico, under which he
reined up his panting steed.  The whole mansion was involved in silence
and darkness; and as he looked upon its closed windows and gloomy
façade, new apprehensions and terrors began to arise before him.

He rang the lobby-bell with fury, and waited long, but without receiving
an answer.  Again and again he rang, yet no one came.  He walked round
the house, but every window was closed and dark.  The stables were shut
up, and the vane on the clock-tower creaked dismally.  Neither dogs nor
fowls appeared about the kitchen offices; not a bat was stirring, and no
sign of life was visible anywhere. Ronald thought that he was bewitched,
that there was a glamour over him, or that the land had been deserted by
its inhabitants.

The chill snow-flakes were descending thick and fast, and he trembled as
much with cold as with apprehension.  It was quite a relief when a large
mastiff dog bounded forth suddenly, to the full extent of his chain,
from his kennel in a corner, and barked furiously; and standing erect on
his hind legs, yelled till the house and the surrounding plantations
echoed far and near to the sound.  At that moment a light flashed out
upon the snow, and a man, half dressed, appeared at an upper window with
a gun in his hand.  Ronald was so white with snow, that it was
impossible to recognise what or who he was, and consequently his
reception was rather rougher than he expected.

"Wha may you be, frien’, that come prowlin’ aboot honest men’s doors at
this time o’ the nicht—or mornin’ rather, eh?"

"Hah!" exclaimed Ronald, "are you Jock Nevermiss,—roaring Jock the
game-keeper?"

"What the better wad ye be for kennin’?" asked the other, cautiously.

"Come, come, Jock; you must remember me, surely?  We have had many a
merry day’s sport together.  Is it possible that you do not know me?"

"Possible eneuch, chield.  But its ower cauld the nicht to hae ony mair
giff-gaff; sae come back i’ the morning, and then well see what like ye
are.  I like none o’ yer Southland-tongued folk."

Ronald was enraged at the fellow’s pertinacity, but his fierce reply was
interrupted by the soft voice of a female.

"Gude sake! surely I should ken his voice!  O Jock!  Jock! what hae ye
been sayin’?  It’s the young captain o’ Lochisla.  It’s maister Ronald
Stuart o’ the tower—Miss Alice’s Joe, come home frae the wars!  Haud
awa, ye muckle gowk Jock!  Oh, I ken ye weel, sir; for many a blithe
kiss ye’ve gi’en me to carry to Miss Alice."

In a twinkling the hall door was opened, and pretty Jessie Cavers, now
Mrs. J. Nevermiss, stood palpitating and trembling, with her night-cap
on and her feet unshod, by the side of her stout and buirdly helpmate,
whose confusion and earnest apologies Ronald at once cut short, for he
well knew that honest Jock had been labouring under a mistake, for the
unpleasant effect of which he endeavoured to make amends by a hearty but
respectful welcome. Ronald shook the snow-flakes from his dress, and
from the ample plumage of his bonnet, as they lighted him through a cold
but splendid lobby into the library, where a fire was hastily prepared
by the nimble little hands of Jessie.

Ronald experienced another disappointment.  Lord Lisle and the family
were in Edinburgh, where they always spent the winter season.  In his
hurry to reach the North, he had quite forgotten that; but he was now
informed that they were all "as weel as he could wuss them to be," and
Jock, while he stood near the door twirling his bonnet, assured him with
a sly look, that Miss Alice "was a bonnier and a grander young leddy
noo, and had turned the heads o’ hauf the country side.  Young
Corrieoich, and many mair, were gone clean wud aboot her."

Old Mrs. Kantweel, the housekeeper, next appeared to bid him welcome.

"O sir!" said she, "ye seem sair distressed and unsettled.  Ye’ll hae
been up the glen, whar there are nane noo, alake! to greet ye at your
homecomin’."

"Would to Heaven I had been shot at Waterloo, or any where else, rather
than have lived till now!" exclaimed he bitterly, flinging away his
bonnet and sword, and sinking into a chair.  It stung him to the soul to
be pitied by servants, however well and kindly they might mean.

"Dinna tak’ on sae deeply, sir," continued the matron; "it’s sair to
bide, but—"

"Enough of this!  You mean kindly, Mrs. Kantweel, but I am unused to
such consolation," replied Stuart, with that native _hauteur_ which he
had resumed now that he had again trod upon Highland heather.  "I am
very sorry for disturbing you all at so untimely an hour; but I request
that the whole household will retire to bed, except my old comrade of
the muirs, Jock the gamekeeper, with whom I wish to have a few minutes’
conversation, after he has seen my nag stabled for the night, or rather
the remainder of the morning."

In a few minutes the servants were all in their nests, except Jock, who
was invited to seat himself at the opposite side of the library-table,
on which Jessie had placed decanters of wine and brandy, with a cold
repast, which was, however, left untouched by Ronald.

From Jock he learned the completion of the story of his father’s
involvement by Macquirk and others, of the sequestration of the effects,
the sale of the estate, and of the laird’s departure for Canada with his
followers; since which nothing had been heard of him.  His grief, during
the recital, was excessive; but, since fortune had put it in his power
to undo all that misfortune had done, he resolved to bear his temporary
distress with resignation: it was, too, with a kind of grim satisfaction
that he now remembered having caught a momentary glimpse of a
countenance—which it flashed on his mind was that of Æneas
Macquirk—pressed against the bars of a loop-hole of the ancient Tolbooth
of the Cannongate, on the day the regiment entered Edinburgh so
joyously.  The worthy Writer having contrived, by his too sharp
practice, to secure himself accommodation in the building, and seeing
little prospect of release save by the assistance of the finisher of the
law, usurped the functions of that personage, and finished himself, by
means of a noose of his own tying.

With the first gleam of dawn Ronald quitted Inchavon, rode back to
Perth, and returned to Edinburgh as fast as a chaise-and-four could take
him; but his spirits were oppressed, and his heart saddened and seared,
by the adventures of the preceding night.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                                *ALICE.*


    "Oh! peace to the ashes of those that have bled
    For the land where the proud thistle raises its head!
      * * * *
    Though their lives are extinguished their spirit remains,
    And swells in their blood that still runs in our veins;
    Still their deathless achievements our ardour awakes,
    For the honour and weal of the dear land of cakes."
        _William Knox._


At night he was again in Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish science,
industry, hospitality, eccentricity, and learning; Edinburgh, equally
celebrated for the beauty of its ladies, and the most profound cunning
of its lawyers.

It was after drum-beat, that is, eight o’clock in the evening, when he
arrived at the castle.  The place seemed empty and deserted: save the
sentinels on the batteries, not a soul was to be seen.  The mess-room
was dark and silent, a sure sign of something extraordinary, as the
officers were stanch votaries of Bacchus, and seldom roosted before
twelve. It immediately occurred to Stuart that some great conflagration,
or other cause of disturbance, had happened, and that the magistrates
had ordered the regiment into the city.  To ascertain the truth, he
descended the citadel stairs to the main guard-house, a building
situated under the brow of the rock on which the chapel stands, and from
the crowning parapet of which Mons Meg overlooks the city and
surrounding country.

"Well, Douglas, you seem commandant here," said Ronald to the officer on
duty, as he entered.

"How! back already, Stuart?  I understood you had leave for six months."

"Never mind; you’ll hear all by-and-bye.  I hope I may need it yet; but
you seem to have the place to yourself, and to be very sulky too.  I
heard you swearing roundly at the drummer just now."

"The little rascal allowed the fire to go out; and as to being sulky, in
truth it would vex an apostle, or Job himself, to be left here in
command of this dismal post, when all our fellows are enjoying
themselves so famously in the city.  Yesterday there was a splendid
dinner, a regular banquet given to the sergeants and soldiers by the
inhabitants of Edinburgh.  It was served up in the assembly-rooms; the
great poet, Walter Scott, in the chair, supported by the sergeant-major
on his right hand, and grim-visaged Ronald-dhu on the left.  A jovial
night they had of it!  Every cart and other vehicle in Edinburgh was put
in requisition to convey our men home, as their legs had somehow failed
them. To-night the entire battalion was marched down to the theatre,
free tickets to which have been given to every man, from wing to wing.
The officers all went off about an hour ago to a splendid ball, to which
they have been invited by the _élite_ of Edinburgh. It has been got up
on a scale never witnessed here before; our ball at Aranjuez is nothing
to it.  The first people in Scotland will be there,—beauty, fashion, and
all that; while here am I, cooped up in this d—ned guard-room!  I have a
dozen minds to slip down and mingle with the crowd: Campbell will be too
much mystified about Egypt, by this time, to know me, and I believe I
might pass unnoticed."

"Very disagreeable, certainly; but not so bad as a wet bivouac on the
Sierra de Guadaloupe.  Your medal, too; you lose an opportunity of
displaying it before some of the brightest eyes in Scotland.  But the
service—"

"Deuce take the service!" exclaimed the other, pettishly.  "If ever I am
victimized in this way again, I will sell out, or resign,—upon my honour
I will!"

"Alice will be at the ball," thought Ronald, as he returned to his
quarters, striding up the citadel stairs, taking three steps at a bound,
resolving to attend the assembly-rooms without delay.  Notwithstanding
the perturbation of his spirits, he was dandy enough to take more than
usual care with his toilet, and he found a world of trouble in getting
his sash and plaid to hang gracefully, and arranging the heavy folding
of the latter to display the large-studded brooch, four inches in
diameter, which fastened it,—a jewel that, from its brightness and size,
completely eclipsed his handsome cross of St. James and modest Waterloo
medal.  Of the two last-named badges he felt not a little vain, a
sentiment excusable in so young a man.  As a field-officer, he no longer
wore the kilt and tasselled purse.  For these, the tartan truis and gilt
spurs were substituted; but they became him not the less, for the tight
truis of the Celtic garb display a handsome figure nearly as well as the
warlike filleadhbeg.

From the lofty windows of the assembly-rooms a blaze of light was shed
across George-street, and fell in broad yellow flakes on the crowd of
carriages of every kind, glittering with liveries and harness, and on
the upturned faces of a mob of idlers collected around the porches, the
piazzas and portico, watching the flitting figures of the dancers as
they passed and repassed the curtained windows.  Within, every part of
the building was gorgeously lighted, and the soft music of the quadrille
band, playing the airs then most in vogue, floated along the lofty
ceilings and illuminated corridors.  Crowds of gentlemen in full dress,
or in uniforms, with ladies sparkling with jewels and radiant with
beauty, were gliding in every direction to cool themselves after
dancing, or to admire the tasteful decorations which met the eye
wherever it turned; and conspicuous among these, Ronald, with the
greatest delight, beheld the splintered poles and tattered colours which
he had so often borne on many a weary march and dangerous occasion.

He looked eagerly around him for Alice, and examined the figure of every
lady he passed.  Near the door of the hall, where the dancers were, he,
almost unconsciously, addressed a lady and gentleman regarding the cause
of his anxiety.

"Will you please to tell me if Miss Lisle is here?"

The lady and gentleman smiled, and exchanged glances of surprise.

"Oh, undoubtedly she is," replied the latter.  "She is never absent on
such a night as this."

"But she never comes till near eleven," added the lady.

Stuart found that he had been saying something foolish, but he bowed
with a good grace, and mingled with the crowd to conceal his confusion,
for his face was turning as red as his coat.

The appearance of the quadrille parties was splendid.  The room was
crowded with all that were gay, beautiful, or fashionable in Edinburgh;
more than one-half of the gentlemen were in uniform, or in the tartan of
their respective clans.  The ladies wore a profusion of lofty feathers,
and the effect of so many rich costumes was striking and brilliant
beyond conception.

Eagerly as Ronald’s heart throbbed to meet Alice, he had no intention of
getting up a melo-dramatic scene in the ball-room by accosting her
abruptly; he therefore made a reconnoissance of the dancers, keeping
aloof, and observing the company in the room from amidst a group of
gentlemen who were, as usual in such places, clustered around the door.
He felt a light touch upon his arm, and two soft dark eyes were beaming
pleasantly and fondly upon his.

"Ah, _señor!_ ah, Major Stuart!" said the fair owner with astonishment.

"Hah!  Ronald my boy!" added another well-known voice, and his hands
were grasped by those of Lisle and his beautiful Spanish wife, who was
now a fashionable belle, with nothing of old Castile about her, except
her "wild dark eyes," upon which few could look without pleasure and
admiration. Her superb figure gave additional beauty to a rich dress of
white satin trimmed with the richest lace. A diamond circlet sparkled
around her forehead. Virginia had the air of a queen.  The time when he
had first beheld her, as the half demure, half coquettish Abbess of
Santa Cruz, flitted across Ronald’s mind; but it seemed more like a
dream than a reality.  Although on the retired list, Lisle wore his
uniform, with his empty sleeve hooked up under the folds of his green
plaid, over which hung his medal and Waterloo ribbon.

"How happy I am to see you!" exclaimed Ronald. "I have been looking for
you every where amid this gay wilderness of people.  And you are all
well?"

"As well as you could wish us.  Alice is here."

"Would to Heaven I could see her!" said Ronald.

"You shall have your wish instantly," replied Louis.  "’Tis a splendid
affair, this!"

"Our fellows seem to be quite the lions of the night."

"The ball surpasses even ours in the palace of Aranjuez," observed
Louis, glancing fondly at Virginia.  "But where is Alice?"

"I saw her but a moment ago," replied the donna, whose accent had become
much improved by her residence in Edinburgh.  "Oh, how happy, how very
happy she will be to see you!"

Ronald’s heart beat more joyously than ever, and his impatience
increased.

"Your sash hides the cross of dear St. James," continued the fair
Castilian.  "Show it fully, _amigo_; such a badge sparkles well on the
breast of a soldier.  Alice will love to look upon it; and so shall I,
for it will remind me of brave old Spain.  We have had many a long
conversation about you, for a year past."

"Lord Lisle is here, of course?"

"In one of the ante-rooms, with Campbell and some of the seniors.  But
we must discover Alice," said Louis; "she is very angry with her
field-officer."

"How have I been so unhappy?"

"The carriage was in the High-street yesterday when the regiment marched
in, and for nearly half an hour Alice sat in it, watching you unseen."

"Watching me?"

"Yes."

"Good heavens!  I never saw her."

"Your horse was jammed by the crowd within a few yards of us; and there
you remained as fast as King Charles’s statue close by, and looking in
every direction except towards us.  Poor Alie was very much agitated;
and you kept your back turned upon her, with very happy _nonchalance_,
during the whole of the Baillie’s speech, and the rest of the foolery
performed in front of the Exchange."

"How unfortunate!"

"The moment the crowd had dispersed sufficiently we drove to the castle;
but you were off no one knew where, and Alice was sorely displeased."

"I was away to Lochisla," replied Ronald, while his brow became clouded.

The band of the Highlanders commenced at that moment ’_el Morillo_,’ a
well-known Spanish waltz which they had learned abroad.

"Oh, the gay, the graceful waltz!  Let me look upon it," said Virginia,
bending forward, while her eyes flashed with delight.  "Ah!  I am dying
to have a waltz.  ’Tis _el Morillo_!"

"May I have the honour?"!  said Ronald, taking her hand and leading her
forward.

"Stay but a moment—there is Alice."

"Where?—ah! tell me."

"How gracefully she steps!  Beautiful! beautiful!"

Stuart looked in vain for the Alice he had known in Perthshire.

"I shall show you afterwards," said the cruel donna.  "You will have
quite enough of her by-and-by; but we shall be late just now for the
waltz."  Away they flew into the brilliant maze of the waltzers, Ronald
clanking his massive spurs at every turn, in a manner he had acquired
among the Spaniards.  Notwithstanding his practice among the donnas of
Spain, he acquitted himself but indifferently. Imagining that every lady
who whirled past in succession might be Alice Lisle, he looked
everywhere but to the figure of the dance, and various unpleasant shocks
took place, which excessively annoyed the Castilian precision of
Virginia.

"Stay, stay!" said she; "I will take pity on you. You are too excited to
dance.  Let us withdraw, and I will show you your fairy queen."

They left the giddy whirl, and after hanging half breathless on Ronald’s
arm for a moment, "There is Alice!" said Virginia.

"Where?  On my honour!  I know her not.  I cannot recognise her."

"Heavens! do you not know her when she is before you?  Oh, for the eyes
of a Spanish cavalier! That is Alice in the spangled dress, with the
white ostrich feathers in her hair."

"Waltzing with the tall fellow in the uniform of the Archer Guard—the
green and gold," added Louis, who had joined them.  "Now they leave the
dance. The archer is young Home of Ravenspur.  He has dangled after
Alice for three or four weeks, but I will make the fellow quite jealous
in three minutes. Retire to one of the lobbies, and I will bring her to
you.  She does not know that you are here; but there must be no
screaming or fainting, or nonsense of that kind.  I believe that,
whatever she may feel, Alie will conduct herself admirably."

"For three winters past Alice has been the reigning belle in Edinburgh,"
said Virginia as she led forth Ronald, who had become considerably
bewildered.  "She is never absent from a single _fête_, assembly, or
promenade; and indeed you have great reason to be proud of her, for she
causes more envy among the women, and admiration among the men, than
ever woman did before."

"Indeed—indeed!" murmured Ronald, scarcely knowing what he said, for
Virginia’s information gave him little satisfaction.  He had no
objection that Alice should be a belle, but he should be grieved to find
her a coquette.  The merry laughing Alice of Inchavon woods and braes,
the slender girl of seventeen, with her curls flowing wide and free, had
become a stately young lady of two-and-twenty, with her hair braided and
tortured by a fashionable dresser, surmounted by a floating plume of
feathers. Her cheek was paler, and the bloom of rustic health had given
place to the graceful air of a young lady of _ton_.  Her form was taller
and rounder, and—

"Here she comes!" said Virginia, cutting short Ronald’s reflections.  He
became agitated and confused when he saw Louis approaching with a lady
in a bright dress leaning on his arm.  "She is more beautiful and more
devoted to you than ever; so, _amigo_, take courage," said Virginia,
pressing his hand.  "She knows nothing of what I saw in the convent of
Jarciejo, and never shall.  Believe me, Ronald, her heart has never in
the slightest thought wandered from its love to you."

"Alice! dearest Alice!" said Ronald, springing forward, and throwing an
arm around her, while she sank upon his breast, too much agitated to
speak. But immediately she disengaged herself, and a deep blush suffused
her face and neck, rendering her beauty still more striking.  Timidly
and hurriedly she looked around, to see whether others than her brother
and Virginia had observed this scene.

"Be brave, Alie!" said Louis; "there are none here but friends."

"Pho—such a bashful couple!" exclaimed Virginia. "What! not a single
kiss to give and exchange, after being separate so long?"

"Ronald, love!" faltered Alice, trembling violently, while she tendered
her flushed cheek.  He then drew her arm through his, and led her
towards some of the cool passages, that she might recover from her
agitation, and that the tumult of her spirits might pass away.  How
supreme was their delight! Every thing and every one were forgotten in
the rapture of that meeting, and there were two hearts, pure and
happy—wondrously happy, in the midst of all that gay and dissipated
crowd.

"How delighted dear papa will be to see you!" said Alice, after the
first outpouring of their joy and affection had subsided,—an affection
which had surmounted all the perils of a long separation, the
temptations of the gay world, and the dangers of a furious war.  They
had not looked upon each other’s faces for five years—years of grief,
doubt, and anxiety; and now, how happy! to find themselves united again,
never to separate while on earth.  "How happy papa will be to see you!"

"Not more than I shall be to see him, Alice."

"Papa is here somewhere.  I saw him only ten minutes ago, with that
Celtic goliath your colonel. They will be looking at the dancers."

"You must dance the next quadrille with me, Alice?"

"I am engaged a dozen deep.  I am engaged for every dance the night
before a ball; and that goose in green, young Home,—heavens! what shall
I do?"

"Dance with me, and apologize.  I am determined to keep you for the
remainder of the night, in spite of Home and all these holiday
guardsmen;" and he led her towards the dancers.

How many old and fond recollections were awakened by the sound of her
gentle voice!  Ronald hung with the purest delight upon every word she
uttered.  With the same emotions Alice listened to him, wondering that
the slender youth whose fair unshaven cheek had been so often pressed to
her own, had become the perfect model of a soldier,—stout and well-knit
in figure, accustomed to his arms and harness, and rendered swarth in
visage by continued exposure to a continental sun.  They felt an honest
pride in each other as they moved through the crowded rooms, and many
eyes followed them; for the badges sparkling on Ronald’s breast, and a
slight scar on his sunburned face, declared that he had acquitted
himself well in the field, while Alice was the leading star, the
reigning queen, of the fashionable world in Edinburgh.

Ronald’s welcome by the old lord was as hearty and kind as he could have
wished.  He introduced him to Mr. (afterwards Sir Walter) Scott, to
Jeffrey, Christopher North, and some other leading characters, who were
assembled in one of the ante-rooms.  The striking figure of Christopher,
with his lank hair hanging over his shoulders like a water-god’s,
attracted his attention particularly.  Campbell was seated in a snug
arm-chair, and was detailing sundry anecdotes of Sir Ralph to Scott, who
listened to his prosing with his usual politeness and good nature.
Except in a foursome reel, Campbell had not been dancing that night.
For all fashionable measures he entertained a supreme contempt; the
strathspey, or the sword dance, was his delight and his forte.  At the
other end of the supper-table, ladling hot punch, sat the celebrated
Johnnie Clerk (Lord Eldin,) to whom Lisle introduced Stuart, who was
rather surprised by the oddity of his language and observations.

On his saying something complimentary about the society of Edinburgh,
Johnnie replied, "The lassies were weel aneuch; but as for the society,
it’s no just as it was in my young days, when I first soopit the
parliament-house wi’ the tails o’ my goon."

"How so?" asked Scott.

"Because Edinburgh is just like a muckle kailpot,—a’ the scum is coming
to the top."

Lord Lisle, Scott and Christopher, Johnnie Clerk and Campbell, had been
sitting beside the decanters for some time, and had contrived to get
considerably merry.  As usual, Scott was the life of the party, and none
enjoyed more than he did the queer stories told him by Campbell about
the Highlanders, the adventure with old Mahommed Djedda, the march to
Grand Cairo, the campaign in Corsica, and Heaven knows all what more.

Stuart, with Alice, returned to the ball-room, where they danced
together nearly the remainder of the night; Alice braving the
displeasure of certain beaux, who, although they were sorely displeased
at being jilted, were too well bred, or perhaps too wary, to take any
unpleasant notice of it. Meanwhile, the little party in the ante-room
became quite convivial, and Campbell, in the midst of his glee, proposed
to give the company a song.  This offer being applauded, he commenced at
once, while Clerk beat time with his ladle and bowl.

    "When Abercrombie, gallant Scot!
      Made Britain’s foes to tack again,
    To fight by him it was my lot;
      But now I’m safe come back again."

With a brimming glass in one hand, and a decanter of sherry in the
other, he sung the nine verses of this patriotic song in a style
peculiarly his own, but as loud as it was out of place; and Ronald, when
dancing in the ball-room, heard the tones of his stentorian voice above
even the music of the band.  The colonel insisted upon Scott singing in
turn, although he protested that he was no singer. However, as it was
usual in such cases, he gave them a few staves of the old ditty, "Tarry
woo," his only song, and one which he very much admired for its old
style of verse and quaintness of expression. More songs succeeded, and
they enjoyed themselves as much as men could do amid good company and
good wine.  Christopher at last set the example of speech-making,
because it was an art in which he particularly excelled: he proposed
"The health of Major Stuart, the hero of Almarez, &c."

Doctor Stuart returned thanks in the name of his clansmen; but the wine
having slightly obscured his perceptions, his speech, somehow, went off
into a dissertation upon gun-shot wounds, and the treatment of
fractures, simple and compound.

It was five in the morning before this splendid fête concluded.  How
many head-aches or heart-aches ensued next day, and how many loves were
lost and won, has nothing to do with my story; but several gentlemen
flirts—the tall archer especially—went home breathing war and defiance,
hair-triggers and rifle-balls, against Stuart, who was too much of a
soldier to value their resentment a rush, although he received some
distant hints of it.

Other balls and gaieties succeeded, and during the whole of that happy
winter the officers of the Highlanders were the lions of Edinburgh.  The
78th, the brave Ross-shire Buffs, who arrived soon after, came in for a
share of the general attention and festivities. The mess-room tables
were covered every morning with invitation cards.  The young ladies had
all caught the scarlet fever, and would certainly have pulled each
other’s caps had they worn any; and even the match-making mammas had
work enough upon their hands, and were half worried to death—as they
deserved.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                           *NEWS FROM AFAR.*


Meanwhile, the arrangements for the marriage of a certain lady and
gentleman were proceeding in the most agreeable manner imaginable, and
the ceremony was only delayed until some definite information could be
procured concerning the fate of the old laird and his followers.  Even
the day was fixed; for three months had elapsed, and no tidings had been
heard from Canada.

The Glasgow manufacturer who had purchased Lochisla, established a
splendid household and equipage in Edinburgh.  By the marriage of one of
his daughters with some retired naval captain, who, like most naval
captains, was not very particular in his taste, the Macquabester family
continued to squeeze themselves into the assembly-rooms now and then,
and to give large routes at home, where they carried on—as the saying
is—’at hack and manger;’ and, one way and another, the poor man
squandered away his hard-earned thousands, the gains of many a long
industrious year, so successfully, that in a short time he was compelled
to betake himself to the loom, while his property was pounced upon
ravenously by his creditors.  His affairs were managed by Messrs. Diddle
and Fleece, clerks to the signet, and they transacted matters so
effectually, that Macquabester was soon without a stiver, and his
creditors did not find themselves "muckle the better" either.  Under its
new name of Rosemount, Lochisla was advertised for sale, at a small
upset price, and all applications were to be made to Messrs. Diddle and
Fleece, at their office in Queen-street.  Fifty thousand pounds was the
sum required; and Ronald, when he read the advertisement one morning in
the mess-room, resolved to become the purchaser, but knew not where to
raise the money.  While revolving the matter in his mind, without being
able to form any definite plan, a servant brought a note from Lord
Lisle, requesting to see him immediately.  After a consultation with
Alice’s father, Ronald found himself able to treat with Messrs. Diddle
and Fleece, on whom he called in the forenoon at their chambers; and he
found them, there being money in the way, the most smooth-faced,
obsequious, and polite men of the quill that Edinburgh possessed.  After
a delay of some weeks, and a mighty deal of fuss, burrowing and
searching among the musty records of the Register-house, and after all
sort of doubts, difficulties, delays, replies and duplies, duplicates
and repetitions, amplifications and expenses had been disinterred or
created, brought forward and demolished, the affair was settled, and
Stuart found Lochisla his own.

One forenoon he sat in the front drawing-room of Lisle’s house, lounging
on a very comfortable sofa, and occupied in detailing some of his
Peninsular adventures to a bright circle of six young ladies, whose fair
fingers were plying the needle, with great assiduity, at two large
pieces of yellow silk.  Several handsome work-baskets lay on the floor,
filled with embroidery, gold fringe, silver thistles, letters for battle
and achievement, and above all a sphinx, weighty and large enough to
please even Campbell, the colonel.  The end of the drawing-room, at
which the fair workers sat, was covered with shreds and patches like the
floor of a milliner’s shop.  Alice and five of her most intimate
companions were busy working a new pair of colours for the Highlanders;
and the rolls of silk, upon which the ladies were embroidering, spread
from the knee of one to another like some great piece of ancient
tapestry.  The ladies were all fair and of noble birth, and Master
Ronald, who lay with so much Spanish nonchalance on the sofa, had the
happiness to act as their director; and as the damsels were all anxious
to attract the attention of the handsome officer, although they knew him
to be engaged to their friend, they were continually asking him
questions, where such a badge, such a motto, or the name of such a
battle should be placed.

A chubby little rogue, with fair hair and merry hazel eyes, who bore the
name of Ronald Lisle, was clambering at his namesake’s back, and
twisting his curly black locks with dimpled little hands, and crowing
and laughing aloud to Alice and the ladies, with whom he was "an angel,
a sweet pet, a dear love," &c. &c.  He was the very picture of a plump
little Cupid; and the ladies bestowed so many kisses and caresses upon
him, that Ronald became quite envious, and told the fair givers so.

He was just in the middle of a very animated detail of his adventures
with Cifuentes in the wood of La Nava, when the shrill blast of the
well-known war-pipe made him stop so suddenly in his narrative, that all
the girls looked up with surprise, for the pipe may be heard at all
times in every part of Edinburgh.

The performer came nearer and nearer, and the notes of his instrument
were making the great square, the lofty dome and portico of St.
George’s,—even the very sky, ring to the warlike blast.  It was a great
Highland pipe, of the largest size, and Ronald’s blood came and went in
his changing face while he listened.

"That is the ’Prince’s Lament!’" said he.

"Surely I have heard that pipe and tune before," said Alice, throwing
aside the standard and her needle, and going to a window.  She uttered
an exclamation of surprise, and started back.

"’Tis either Donald Iverach or the devil!" cried Ronald impetuously, as
he sprung to her side.

"It is indeed poor old Iverach!" replied Alice, piteously.

"My father’s piper a beggar in the streets of Edinburgh!—a mendicant in
his old age!" muttered Ronald through his clenched teeth, striking the
floor with his heel till a spur tore the carpet, while the ladies
crowded round him with timidity and astonishment.  "What cursed
misfortune can have brought this about!"

"Dear Ronald! be composed a little," said Alice, taking his hands within
her own; "you must obey me just now, and I will obey you by-and-by.  I
will desire Iverach to be looked after."  She rang the bell violently.

The piper was now in front of the house.  He stood at the curb-stone and
paused a moment,—supposing, probably, that he should not play long in
vain before so splendid a mansion.  He was clad in the royal tartan;
having come of a broken clan, he had always worn the family colours of
the house under which his ancestors had been vassals.  His kilt, plaid,
and coat were worn to rags, and the once bright scarlet checks of the
tartan were faded and dark; yet the dirk and claymore were swinging as
of old at his nut-brown thigh.  He was pale and wan, and evidently
broken down with age, want, and sorrow.  His silvery hairs were almost
destitute of covering, and his feet were in the same condition.  The
proud expression of his eye was gone: he rarely raised it from the
pavement, and when a coin was thrown from a window or the hand of a
passer-by, his cheek grew red, and he picked up the gift with such
confusion, that he forgot to thank the donor.

"Oh, Alice!" groaned Stuart; "now indeed I know that my father is no
more.  Death alone could separate Iverach from him; but I have long been
prepared to expect the worst.  Let some one take care of the old man,
and bring him here."

While he was speaking, the piper was ushered in and stood near the door,
bowing, bonnet in hand, to the ladies successively, with that native
dignity and pride, mingled with respect, which a Highlander never, under
any circumstances, loses.  He bowed profoundly to Ronald, and his keen
eyes wandered restlessly over his uniform.  Then, as if some sudden
recollection flashed upon his mind, the piob mhor fell from his grasp;
he sprang forward, and bursting into tears, clasped Stuart round the
neck.

"It’s my ain pairn!  It’s Maister Ronald!  Oich! oich! Got tam!  I’m
creetin’ mair like a bit giglet o’ a lassie, than a teuch auld carle
that’s come through sae muckle!  Gude pe thankit we hae met at last,
Maister Ronald!  I have been wandering to meet ye through many a queer
place; but sair and sad are the news I hae to tell ye,—sad and sair
indeed!  So joost prepare yersel for the warst!"

"I suppose you would speak of my father?" said Ronald with a quivering
lip.

"Aich, ay! ta laird, ta laird!  Aich, ay!  Got pless us!" replied the
vassal, bursting again into tears, which he endeavoured in vain to hide
by burying his head in the folds of his tattered plaid; while Stuart
half reclined on Alice’s shoulder, and turned aside, deeply touched with
the old man’s sorrow,—for grief, like joy, is infectious.  "Ay; I wad
speak o’ the laird, puir man! an’ prood he wad hae peen to see his only
son coming home frae the wars an’ devildoms a stoot an’ handsome chield,
wi’ a proon face, and a hand hardened wi’ the hilt o’ the proad-sword.
But, ochone-aree! he’s low aneuch the day, an’ mony a pretty man tat
followed him far awa’ ower the wide and trackless seas to the stranger’s
cauld an’ meeserable country!"

"Poor, dear old man!" said Alice, while she pressed Ronald’s hand to
compose him, as the piper was speaking.

"I have sad news to tell you, too, Iverach," said he.  "Poor Evan
Bean,—Evan with the fair hair, is no more!  I find this is to be a
sorrowful meeting, Donald; for I have lost my father, and you your only
son."

The old man smote himself on the forehead, and reeled back giddily as if
struck, by a blow; but he almost immediately recovered.  He stared
wildly at the speaker for a moment, and then said, with strange
calmness,

"I never again expeckit to pehauld him, for auld Shanet tauld me his
weird; and Shanet never spoke in vain, nor tauld an untrue tale.  Her
father was a taischatr.  She said he wad return nae mair,—that he was
doomed!  The words were hard to pelieve; put I mourned for him then as
one that was deid and awa’.  Oich!  I thought the pang was ower.
Put—put, O Maister Ronald! my puir Evan,—and whar was he killed?"

"At Toulouse, Donald—at Toulouse, where we gained a signal victory over
France.  He died bravely, like his comrades, for all were brave alike: I
laid him with my own hands in the church-yard of Muret.  But for pity’s
sake, Donald, tell me of my father, and the fate of the Lochisla people,
and then I will tell you more of your son, who, as a token of
remembrance, has sent you the clasp which fastened the green feather of
his bonnet.  Miss Lisle will give it when you are more composed.  Come;
take courage, Donald, and tell us your story.  There are none here but
old friends, who have often danced to the sound of your pipes, and shall
yet again,—ay, next month, and in the old hall of Lochisla too!"

Alice blushed, and her companions smiled.  The old man’s eyes flashed a
red light through their tears.  He looked from one fair face to another,
and, as he read nothing but innocence and happiness in them all, he
smiled, and appeared to become happy too.  After being comforted with a
few mouthfuls of mountain-dew, filled from a decanter into an ancient
quaigh that he carried, and from which he drank every thing, he became
quite composed, and commenced his story.

After leaving the Clyde, the vessel containing the emigrants encountered
a continuance of adverse winds, and was driven from her course far to
the northward of the Canadas, upon the coast of Newfoundland,—the most
barbarous and desolate of all the British colonies.  Having lost their
rudder, and had their compass washed overboard in a gale, the vessel
was, while surrounded by a dense fog, carried into Baboul Bay, or, as it
is commonly called, the Bay of Bulls, by the strong current which there
runs in shore.  Finding that the brig was drifting among the breakers,
and that she was quite unmanageable, the master ordered out the boats to
tow her off, but the order was given too late.  The boats were swamped
among the surf, and a few moments afterwards the vessel grounded on a
reef, where the boiling sea made clean breaches over her every instant.
She heeled over on her beam-ends, and the fore-mast went away by the
board, carrying with it the maintop-mast and all the rigging above the
top.  The vessel thus became a total wreck in five minutes.

"At the time the ship struck," continued the piper, "the laird was lying
sick in the cabin, unco unwell in mind and body, for he had lang been
pining awa’ wi’ dule and sorrow for leaving you, and the heathery hills
o’ Albyn, and to find himsel so far awa’ frae his tower and glen, and
the graves o’ his kindred and forbears.  When I found that a’ was ower,
I determined to save him or to dee wi’ him.  Drawing our dirks, and
vowing we would slay to the death ony man that opposed us, Alpin Oig and
mysel rushed into the cabin, and bore him therefrae in our arms upon the
deck, and frae there into a boat, the last ane that was left.  The
sailors tried to crowd in, but our bare blades keepit them off.  Nae
man, woman, or bairn frae Lochisla, though death was staring them in the
face, wad hae thocht their ain lives worth savin’ if the laird’s was
lost; and sae a’ helpit us into the boat, where we solemnly swore, on
the blades of our dirks, to return and take as many frae the wreck as we
could, and a line was thrown us to make fast to the shore.  The laird
lay as if he was dead at the bottom o’ the boat, wi’ naething on but his
dressing-gown, and the saut sea pouring like rain ower him.  Ochone! it
was an awsome time for me!  Puir gentleman! he was helpless as a wean in
our hands."

Owing to the denseness of the fog there was no shore to be seen but the
beach; or what they supposed to be the beach could be discerned through
the unnatural mid-day gloom by the white foam of the breakers, towards
which the two brave and determined Celts, who had never been on rougher
water than the loch of the Isla, urged their frail bark with all the
strength of bending oars and muscular arms.  They soon lost sight of the
water-logged wreck, which the fog enveloped like a shroud; but the
shrieks and prayers of those on board were heard ringing above the roar
of the wrathful breakers, which hurl their crested heads with such
tremendous fury on the desert beach of Baboul Bay.

When within a few feet of the shore, their attention was arrested by a
loud splitting sound, a crash as if a mighty oak was rending asunder,
and a tremendous cry rose from the face of the waters to heaven.  They
looked back in dismay.  The sea was covered with pieces of the floating
wreck, and human heads and hands appeared at times above the white surf,
beneath which they were all engulphed in succession.  At the same moment
nearly that the ship went to pieces, a wave like a mountain rolled
against the stern of the boat, with a shock like that of an earthquake.
Iverach was stunned by its weight and fury; the light seemed to go out
from his eyes, and he heard a horrible hissing in his ears, as he sank
into the abyss,—the trough of the sea.  Darkness was around him, and
agony was in his heart, as he groped about in the sinking boat.  He was
grasped convulsively in the strong arms of his terrified companion, and
down they went together,—down, down, he knew not how deep, for he became
senseless, and could feel no more.

When life returned, he found himself lying upon the beach, drenched with
the bitter surf, and covered with shells and sea-weed.  It was evening,
and the sun, setting behind the hills, cast a long line of radiance
across the glassy sea.  All traces of the brig, save those that lay
scattered on the shore, had disappeared.  Corpses were strewed upon the
sand,—the cold and wet remains of men, women, and children, once the
poor but happy cottiers of Lochisla.

Night was closing around him; he was alone, upon the desert shore of a
strange country, and the heart of the aged and superstitious Highlander
died away as he looked around him.  In front lay the hateful sea, which
had destroyed his companions, and behind was a homeless, howling
wilderness, a savage solitude, which he shuddered to look upon. He saw
every where rocks, mountains, bogs, and thickets of stunted firs, which
grew to the very edge of the cliffs and overhung the water; but there
were no signs of any human habitation, and he strained his eyes until
they grew stiff in the sockets watching the vast wilderness to the
westward,—yet no wreath of smoke rose from it.  Save the whistle and
whir of the plover and curlew, or the splash of the seals that were
sporting and floating among the shattered ruins of an iceberg, no signs
of life manifested themselves around him.

Donald gazed at the last-named animals with awe, not unmingled with
fear, when they rose from the water and looked steadily at him with
their great black eyes.  The Highlanders used to consider these animals
enchanted beings, and some old and troublesome legends of the Ebudæ came
thronging upon Donald’s mind as he watched their movements among the
ice.  Beside him lay the unconscious remains of his leader; but he was
joyful rather than grieved to find that he was dead, for he knew that he
was now in a better place, and that all his troubles were at an end.  To
have lived, would only have been a continuance of misery, and Donald
upbraided the sea for having spared himself.

He sat on the point of a rock, at the foot of which rolled the surf, and
he watched its advance and retreat, careless of whether he died or
lived, until night descended on the sea and land, and then his northern
superstitions began to prove more terrible enemies than any he had yet
encountered.  At last it became quite dark, and he knelt down by the
corse of the laird to pray; but when, by the light of the stars, he
beheld the bleached and ghastly face of the dead man, a sudden and
unaccountable terror seized him, and he fled from the sea-shore into the
wilderness, where he could no longer hear the dull boom of the ocean, as
its eternal waves came rolling; on in monotonous succession on the
lonely beach.

At sunrise he again sought the shore, and, digging a grave with his
weapon, gently placed the body of Mr. Stuart in the earth, rolling it
first in his plaid and a piece of old sail-cloth.  He covered the grave
with the greenest sods he could find, and toiled the whole day, carrying
stones from the shore to pile a cairn above it, and on its summit he
placed a rough wooden crucifix; for old Iverach had more of the Catholic
than the Protestant in his creed, and he looked upon the cross with
reverence and awe. Having performed this last sad duty to the man whom,
since they were boys, he had revered and loved with all the devotion of
a Highland vassal, he sat down by the grave, and, regardless of his
fate, heeded not a ship which was rounding a point of land, and hove in
sight about four miles off. But the appearance of other things roused
him from this state of apathy.  His eye fell upon a gold signet ring
which had fallen from the hand of Mr. Stuart, and lay on the turf beside
a splendidly-jewelled dirk, which he was wont to wear on the 19th of
August,[*] and other days which are considered gay anniversaries in the
Highlands.  There was likewise an antique iron casket, containing family
relics, bracelets, rings, lockets, and brooches; and the piper resolved
that he would return to his own country, if God spared and protected
him, that he might place these trinkets in the hands of Ronald Stuart or
Miss Lisle, with whom he knew they would be in safe keeping.


[*] The raising of Prince Charles’s standard, &c. &c.


With this intention he quitted the beach, ascended a promontory, and
made signals to the ship; but they were unseen, and he toiled along the
shore from one headland to another, clambering ocean-cliffs, tearing
asunder thicket and jungle, till his strength began to fail, and
darkness again descended and he could see the ship no longer.

As a last resort, by means of the hard flinty stones, with which the
island abounds, being the only crop it ever produces, he struck a light,
and raised a beacon-fire on a rocky peak.  Piling driftwood, fallen
trees, and turpentine branches upon it, he raised a giant flame, which
lighted the sea and land for miles around, revealing the caverns in the
far-off capes and headlands, the barren hills and rocks, the rippling
ocean, and the distant sail, which glimmered white and wavering.

This scheme succeeded.  A boat was despatched to ascertain the meaning
of this strange illumination, and the vessel, which proved to be a
Quebec ship bound for Saint John’s, the capital of the island, took
Iverach on board.  He was treated with the utmost kindness by the crew,
and was carried to the town of Saint John’s, whence he procured a
passage in a Greenock ship,—disposing of his brooch, pistols, and some
other appointments with which the Highlanders are so fond of adorning
their garb, to defray his expenses.

After his return he visited Lochisla, and then traversed the west
country for some time, till a recruiting sergeant of the Gordon
Highlanders informed him that the regiment had returned to Scotland;
upon which he set out on his way to meet them, and having that morning
entered Edinburgh, he had screwed up his pipes in Charlotte Square to
play for a breakfast, for he had tasted nothing that day.

As he concluded his narrative, he unstrapped a leather dorlach, which he
carried on his back, and taking from it the iron casket, the signet ring
and the jewelled poniard, placed them in Ronald’s hand, glad to be rid
of them, after having brought them so far and preserved them as sacred
relics, even when compelled by poverty to seek shelter in the haunts of
infamy and crime, where he had preserved them untouched, though nearly
perishing of want.

He had often been totally without food for four or five days, while at
the same time he carried about him jewels worth four hundred pounds.

"But they werna my ain," said he; "and what could I do, though hunger is
hard to thole?  But a’s past noo, and oich!  I’ll be happy yet, even in
my auld and childless days; and I will end them beneath the roof-tree o’
the auld tower whan the time comes, and come it must, some day
sune,—oich! oich!"



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                             *CONCLUSION.*


    "We dinna ken what was intended,—
      We may be for this o’t were born;
    And now, folk, my song maun be ended,
      For I’m to be married the morn."
        _Edward Polin._


Ronald’s grief at the intelligence so suddenly brought him by Iverach
was of long continuance. It was the more poignant, because his father
had found his tomb in a desert place and in a strange country; for it is
ever the wish of a Highlander to be buried among the ashes of his
ancestors. When he looked upon the blade of the poniard Donald had
brought home, and saw with the thistle—the badge of his family and
clan—the motto _Omne solum forti patria_, it recalled the memory of his
father’s pride and wrath when his boyish passion for Alice Lisle was
first revealed to him, and of that moment of anger when he ordered him
to quit his presence, and for ever.

The sight of the family jewels which Iverach, like a pilgrim of old, had
so sacredly preserved in all his wanderings, awakened many deep regrets
and dear associations.  There were lockets which contained the hair of
his father and mother interwoven, cut from their brows in youth, when
their ringlets were glossy and brown; and there were brooches which had
clasped the plaids of brothers, and rings and bracelets which had once
adorned the white hands of sisters, all of whom were now gone, and above
whose graves the grass had grown and withered for years.

Despite the romance-like appearance the procedure will bestow upon the
story, we may not bid adieu to the hero in the midst of his grief, but
must leave him what is styled, in common phraseology, "the happiest of
men."  After a lapse of time his sorrow passed away, and the
preparations for his marriage were renewed.

On the forenoon of the 16th of July,—one must be particular on such an
occasion,—an unusual bustle was apparent in and about Lord Lisle’s
mansion in Charlotte Square, one side of which was lined by carriages,
while a crowd of women and children were collected around the door.
Boys were clinging to rails and lamp-posts, and cheering and yelling
with might and main, in a manner which would better have become a
wedding in a country village than in the "modern Athens."  The servants
were all smiles and white ribbons, and clad in their gayest apparel.  A
flag was flying on the top of the house, and, at Campbell’s particular
request, the great stone sphynxes, which overlook the sides of the
square, were adorned with coronets and garlands of flowers on this
auspicious occasion.  St. George’s bells rang merrily, and the splendid
band of the Highlanders were making the northern gardens of the square
re-echo, as they played the old Scottish air, "Fy! let us a’ to the
bridal!" while the crowd sang and laughed, and the rabble of boys
cheered long and lustily, like a nuisance as they were.

Ladies and gentlemen in full dress appeared at times at the windows of
the front drawing-room, but they immediately retired when a shout arose
from the gaping crowd, among whom the servants scattered basketsful of
white favours.  To these Allan Warristoun added, now and then, a shower
of red-hot penny-pieces, which he heated on a shovel, and threw over the
area railings.  These burned the fingers of those who caught them; the
laughter became mingled with screams, and "the fun grew fast and
furious."

Drawn by four fine bays at a trot, a smart new travelling-carriage fresh
from the finishing hands of Crichton, came up to the door, and the
people fell back on the right and left; but again rushed forwardas the
door was opened, and the clanking steps thrown down by the servant, who,
like the smart postilions on the saddle, wore a white favour of giant
size on his breast.  On the dickey sat our friend old Donald Iverach,
superbly garbed and armed, with his pipes under his arm, and his bonnet
cocked over his grey hairs; while he screwed away at his drones, and
looked more happy than ever he had done in his life.

Double imperials, all new and shining, were strapped on the top of the
carriage, and a regimental bonnet-case surmounted them both.  A sword
and shoulder-belt, with various guns and fishing-rods, hung in the
slings behind, while shooting-bags and band-boxes were piled up in the
rumble, into which the servant handed a spruce little maid, cloaked and
bonneted for the road.

Encircled by the collar of Saint James of Spain, the arms of Stuart and
Lisle quarterly, appeared blazoned on the panels, glittering on the
harness, on the carriage top, and sparkling on the ample buttons of the
footman.

"Now then, John; is all right?" cried the jovial butler, appearing at
the front door.

"All right, sir!" cried the postilion; and the crowd began to cheer.

Stuart came forth, with Alice leaning on his arm, and the eyes that
peeped in at the door discerned a crowd of glittering dresses and happy
faces behind them.  Ronald was in full dress, and certainly appeared a
little nervous.  Alice leant on his arm, trembling and blushing
desperately, but looking so pretty in her little marriage bonnet, and so
interesting in all the splendour of white satin, orange-buds,
virgin-lace, smiles and blushes, that the crowd in their admiration
forgot to cheer, greatly to her relief.  Ronald handed her into the
carriage, and sprang in after her.  Up went the steps, and the door was
closed.

"Good bye!  God bless you, my lad!" cried Campbell, flinging an old shoe
after them for luck. "Remember the old Gordon Highlanders; for it will
be long before they forget you!"

"Good bye, colonel!" said Ronald.  "Say the same for me to all the rest
of ours."

"Adieu!" faltered Alice, kissing her little hand, and the glasses were
drawn up.  John leaped into his seat behind, and placed his arm round
the waist of the maid-servant.  Donald cried "Hoigh!" and waved his
bonnet; the pipes struck up; "crack went the whip, round went the
wheels," and they were off at the rate of twelve miles an hour for
Lochisla.



                                THE END.



             Printed by Maurice and Co., Fenchurch-street.





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