WHEN Redgauntlet left the room, in haste and discomposure, the first person he met on the stair, and indeed so close by the door of the apartment that Darsie thought he must have been listening there, was his attendant Nixon.
“What the devil do you here?” he said, abruptly and sternly.
“I wait your orders,” said Nixon. “I hope all’s right!—excuse my zeal.”
“All is wrong, sir. Where is the seafaring fellow—Ewart—what do you call him?”
“Nanty Ewart, sir. I will carry your commands,” said Nixon.
“I will deliver them myself to him,” said Redgauntlet; “call him hither.”
“But should your honour leave the presence?” said Nixon, still lingering.
“’Sdeath, sir, do you prate to me?” said Redgauntlet, bending his brows. “I, sir, transact my own business; you, I am told, act by a ragged deputy.”
Without further answer, Nixon departed, rather disconcerted, as it seemed to Darsie.
“That dog turns insolent and lazy,” said Redgauntlet; “but I must bear with him for a while.”
A moment after, Nixon returned with Ewart.
“Is this the smuggling fellow?” demanded Redgauntlet. Nixon nodded.
“Is he sober now? he was brawling anon.”
“Sober enough for business,” said Nixon.
“Well then, hark ye, Ewart;—man your boat with your best hands, and have her by the pier—get your other fellows on board the brig—if you have any cargo left, throw it overboard; it shall be all paid, five times over—and be ready for a start to Wales or the Hebrides, or perhaps for Sweden or Norway.”
Ewart answered sullenly enough, “Aye, aye, sir.”
“Go with him, Nixon,” said Redgauntlet, forcing himself to speak with some appearance of cordiality to the servant with whom he was offended; “see he does his duty.”
Ewart left the house sullenly, followed by Nixon. The sailor was just in that species of drunken humour which made him jealous, passionate, and troublesome, without showing any other disorder than that of irritability. As he walked towards the beach he kept muttering to himself, but in such a tone that his companion lost not a word, “Smuggling fellow—Aye, smuggler—and, start your cargo into the sea—and be ready to start for the Hebrides, or Sweden—or the devil, I suppose. Well, and what if I said in answer—Rebel, Jacobite—traitor; I’ll make you and your d——d confederates walk the plank—I have seen better men do it—half a score of a morning—when I was across the Line.”
“D—d unhandsome terms those Redgauntlet used to you, brother.” said Nixon.
“Which do you mean?” said Ewart, starting, and recollecting himself. “I have been at my old trade of thinking aloud, have I?”
“No matter,” answered Nixon, “none but a friend heard you. You cannot have forgotten how Redgauntlet disarmed you this morning.”
“Why, I would bear no malice about that—only he is so cursedly high and saucy,” said Ewart.
“And then,” said Nixon, “I know you for a true-hearted Protestant.”
“That I am, by G—,” said Ewart. “No, the Spaniards could never get my religion from me.”
“And a friend to King George, and the Hanover line of succession,” said Nixon, still walking and speaking very slow.
“You may swear I am, excepting in the way of business, as Turnpenny says. I like King George, but I can’t afford to pay duties.”
“You are outlawed, I believe,” said Nixon.
“Am I?—faith, I believe I am,” said Ewart. “I wish I were inlawed again with all my heart. But come along, we must get all ready for our peremptory gentleman, I suppose.”
“I will teach you a better trick,” said Nixon. “There is a bloody pack of rebels yonder.”
“Aye, we all know that,” said the smuggler; “but the snowball’s melting, I think.”
“There is some one yonder, whose head is worth—thirty thousand—pounds—of sterling money,” said Nixon, pausing between each word, as if to enforce the magnificence of the sum.
“And what of that?” said Ewart, quickly.
“Only that, instead of lying by the pier with your men on their oars, if you will just carry your boat on board just now, and take no notice of any signal from the shore, by G—d, Nanty Ewart. I will make a man of you for life!”
“Oh ho! then the Jacobite gentry are not so safe as they think themselves?” said Nanty.
“In an hour or two,” replied Nixon, “they will be made safer in Carlisle Castle.”
“The devil they will!” said Ewart; “and you have been the informer, I suppose?”
“Yes; I have been ill paid for my service among the Redgauntlets—have scarce got dog’s wages—and been treated worse than ever dog was used. I have the old fox and his cubs in the same trap now, Nanty; and we’ll see how a certain young lady will look then. You see I am frank with you, Nanty.”
“And I will be as frank with you,” said the smuggler. “You are a d—d old scoundrel—traitor to the man whose bread you eat! Me help to betray poor devils, that have been so often betrayed myself! Not if they were a hundred Popes, Devils, and Pretenders. I will back and tell them their danger—they are part of cargo—regularly invoiced—put under my charge by the owners—I’ll back——”
“You are not stark mad?” said Nixon, who now saw he had miscalculated in supposing Nanty’s wild ideas of honour and fidelity could be shaken even by resentment, or by his Protestant partialities. “You shall not go back—it is all a joke.”
“I’ll back to Redgauntlet, and see whether it is a joke he will laugh at.”
“My life is lost if you do,” said Nixon—“hear reason.”
They were in a clump or cluster of tall furze at the moment they were speaking, about half-way between the pier and the house, but not in a direct line, from which Nixon, whose object it was to gain time, had induced Ewart to diverge insensibly.
He now saw the necessity of taking a desperate resolution. “Hear reason,” he said; and added, as Nanty still endeavoured to pass him, “Or else hear this!” discharging a pocket-pistol into the unfortunate man’s body.
Nanty staggered, but kept his feet. “It has cut my back-bone asunder,” he said; “you have done me the last good office, and I will not die ungrateful.”
As he uttered the last words, he collected his remaining strength, stood firm for an instant, drew his hanger, and, fetching a stroke with both hands, cut Cristal Nixon down. The blow, struck with all the energy of a desperate and dying man, exhibited a force to which Ewart’s exhausted frame might have seemed inadequate;—it cleft the hat which the wretch wore, though secured by a plate of iron within the lining, bit deep into his skull, and there left a fragment of the weapon, which was broke by the fury of the blow.
One of the seamen of the lugger, who strolled up attracted by the firing of the pistol, though being a small one the report was very trifling, found both the unfortunate men stark dead. Alarmed at what he saw, which he conceived to have been the consequence of some unsuccessful engagement betwixt his late commander and a revenue officer (for Nixon chanced not to be personally known to him) the sailor hastened back to the boat, in order to apprise his comrades of Nanty’s fate, and to advise them to take off themselves and the vessel.
Meantime Redgauntlet, having, as we have seen, dispatched Nixon for the purpose of securing a retreat for the unfortunate Charles, in case of extremity, returned to the apartment where he had left the Wanderer. He now found him alone.
“Sir Richard Glendale,” said the unfortunate prince, “with his young friend, has gone to consult their adherents now in the house. Redgauntlet, my friend, I will not blame you for the circumstances in which I find myself, though I am at once placed in danger, and rendered contemptible. But you ought to have stated to me more strongly the weight which these gentlemen attached to their insolent proposition. You should have told me that no compromise would have any effect—that they desire not a prince to govern them, but one, on the contrary, over whom they were to exercise restraint on all occasions, from the highest affairs of the state, down to the most intimate and private concerns of his own privacy, which the most ordinary men desire to keep secret and sacred from interference.”
“God knows,” said Redgauntlet, in much agitation, “I acted for the best when I pressed your Majesty to come hither—I never thought that your Majesty, at such a crisis, would have scrupled, when a kingdom was in view, to sacrifice an attachment, which——”
“Peace, sir!” said Charles; “it is not for you to estimate my feelings upon such a subject.”
Redgauntlet coloured high, and bowed profoundly. “At least,” he resumed, “I hoped that some middle way might be found, and it shall—and must.—Come with me, nephew. We will to these gentlemen, and I am confident I will bring back heart-stirring tidings.”
“I will do much to comply with them, Redgauntlet. I am loath, having again set my foot on British land, to quit it without a blow for my right. But this which they demand of me is a degradation, and compliance is impossible.”
Redgauntlet, followed by his nephew, the unwilling spectator of this extraordinary scene, left once more the apartment of the adventurous Wanderer, and was met on the top of the stairs by Joe Crackenthorp. “Where are the other gentlemen?” he said.
“Yonder, in the west barrack,” answered Joe; “but Master Ingoldsby,”—that was the name by which Redgauntlet was most generally known in Cumberland,—“I wish to say to you that I must put yonder folk together in one room.”
“What folk?” said Redgauntlet, impatiently.
“Why, them prisoner stranger folk, as you bid Cristal Nixon look after. Lord love you! this is a large house enow, but we cannot have separate lock-ups for folk, as they have in Newgate or in Bedlam. Yonder’s a mad beggar, that is to be a great man when he wins a lawsuit, Lord help him!—Yonder’s a Quaker and a lawyer charged with a riot; and, ecod, I must make one key and one lock keep them, for we are chokeful, and you have sent off old Nixon that could have given one some help in this confusion. Besides, they take up every one a room, and call for naughts on earth,—excepting the old man, who calls lustily enough,—but he has not a penny to pay shot.”
“Do as thou wilt with them,” said Redgauntlet, who had listened impatiently to his statement; “so thou dost but keep them from getting out and making some alarm in the country, I care not.”
“A Quaker and a lawyer!” said Darsie. “This must be Fairford and Geddes.—Uncle, I must request of you——”
“Nay, nephew,” interrupted Redgauntlet, “this is no time for asking questions. You shall yourself decide upon their fate in the course of an hour—no harm whatever is designed them.”
So saying, he hurried towards the place where the Jacobite gentlemen were holding their council, and Darsie followed him, in the hope that the obstacle which had arisen to the prosecution of their desperate adventure would prove insurmountable and spare him the necessity of a dangerous and violent rupture with his uncle. The discussions among them were very eager; the more daring part of the conspirators, who had little but life to lose, being desirous to proceed at all hazards; while the others, whom a sense of honour and a hesitation to disavow long-cherished principles had brought forward, were perhaps not ill satisfied to have a fair apology for declining an adventure, into which they had entered with more of reluctance than zeal.
Meanwhile Joe Crackenthorp, availing himself of the hasty permission attained from Redgauntlet, proceeded to assemble in one apartment those whose safe custody had been thought necessary; and, without much considering the propriety of the matter, he selected for the common place of confinement, the room which Lilias had, since her brother’s departure, occupied alone. It had a strong lock, and was double-hinged, which probably led to the preference assigned to it, as a place of security.
Into this, Joe, with little ceremony, and a good deal of noise, introduced the Quaker and Fairford; the first descanting on the immorality, the other on the illegality, of his proceedings; and he turned a deaf ear both to the one and the other. Next he pushed in, almost in headlong fashion, the unfortunate litigant, who, having made some resistance at the threshold, had received a violent thrust in consequence, and came rushing forward, like a ram in the act of charging, with such impetus as must have carried him to the top of the room, and struck the cocked hat which sat perched on the top of his tow wig against Miss Redgauntlet’s person, had not the honest Quaker interrupted his career by seizing him by the collar, and bringing him to a stand. “Friend,” said he, with the real good-breeding which so often subsists independently of ceremony, “thou art no company for that young person; she is, thou seest, frightened at our being so suddenly thrust in hither; and although that be no fault of ours, yet it will become us to behave civilly towards her. Wherefore come thou with me to this window, and I will tell thee what it concerns thee to know.”
“And what for should I no speak to the Leddy, friend?” said Peter, who was now about half seas over. “I have spoke to leddies before now, man. What for should she be frightened at me? I am nae bogle, I ween. What are ye pooin’ me that gate for? Ye will rive my coat, and I will have a good action for having myself made sartum atque tectum at your expenses.”
Notwithstanding this threat, Mr. Geddes, whose muscles were as strong as his judgement was sound and his temper sedate, led Poor Peter under the sense of a control against which he could not struggle, to the farther corner of the apartment, where, placing him, whether he would or no, in a chair, he sat down beside him, and effectually prevented his annoying the young lady, upon whom he had seemed bent upon conferring the delights of his society.
If Peter had immediately recognized his counsel learned in the law, it is probable that not even the benevolent efforts of the Quaker could have kept him in a state of restraint; but Fairford’s back was turned towards his client, whose optics, besides being somewhat dazzled with ale and brandy, were speedily engaged in contemplating a half-crown which Joshua held between his finger and his thumb, saying, at the same time, “Friend, thou art indigent and improvident. This will, well employed, procure thee sustentation of nature for more than a single day; and I will bestow it on thee if thou wilt sit here and keep me company; for neither thou nor I, friend, are fit company for ladies.”
“Speak for yourself, friend,” said Peter, scornfully; “I was ay kend to be agreeable to the fair sex; and when I was in business I served the ladies wi’ anither sort of decorum than Plainstanes, the d—d awkward scoundrel! It was one of the articles of dittay between us.”
“Well, but, friend,” said the Quaker, who observed that the young lady still seemed to fear Peter’s intrusion, “I wish to hear thee speak about this great lawsuit of thine, which has been matter of such celebrity.”
“Celebrity! Ye may swear that,” said Peter, for the string was touched to which his crazy imagination always vibrated. “And I dinna wonder that folk that judge things by their outward grandeur, should think me something worth their envying. It’s very true that it is grandeur upon earth to hear ane’s name thunnered out along the long-arched roof of the Outer House,— ‘Poor Peter Peebles against Plainstanes et per contra;’ a’ the best lawyers in the house fleeing like eagles to the prey; some because they are in the cause, and some because they want to be thought engaged (for there are tricks in other trades by selling muslins)—to see the reporters mending their pens to take down the debate—the Lords themselves pooin’ in their chairs, like folk sitting down to a gude dinner, and crying on the clerks for parts and pendicles of the process, who, puir bodies, can do little mair than cry on their closet-keepers to help them. To see a’ this,” continued Peter, in a tone of sustained rapture, “and to ken that naething will be said or dune amang a’ thae grand folk, for maybe the feck of three hours, saving what concerns you and your business—Oh, man, nae wonder that ye judge this to be earthly glory! And yet, neighbour, as I was saying, there be unco drawbacks—I whiles think of my bit house, where dinner, and supper, and breakfast, used to come without the crying for, just as if fairies had brought it—and the gude bed at e’en—and the needfu’ penny in the pouch. And then to see a’ ane’s warldly substance capering in the air in a pair of weighbauks, now up, now down, as the breath of judge or counsel inclines it for pursuer or defender,—troth, man, there are times I rue having ever begun the plea wark, though, maybe, when ye consider the renown and credit I have by it, ye will hardly believe what I am saying.”
“Indeed, friend,” said Joshua, with a sigh, “I am glad thou hast found anything in the legal contention which compensates thee for poverty and hunger; but I believe, were other human objects of ambition looked upon as closely, their advantages would be found as chimerical as those attending thy protracted litigation.”
“But never mind, friend,” said Peter, “I’ll tell you the exact state of the conjunct processes, and make you sensible that I can bring mysell round with a wet finger, now I have my finger and my thumb on this loup-the-dike loon, the lad Fairford.”
Alan Fairford was in the act of speaking to the masked lady (for Miss Redgauntlet had retained her riding vizard) endeavouring to assure her, as he perceived her anxiety, of such protection as he could afford, when his own name, pronounced in a loud tone, attracted his attention. He looked round, and seeing Peter Peebles, as hastily turned to avoid his notice, in which he succeeded, so earnest was Peter upon his colloquy with one of the most respectable auditors whose attention he had ever been able to engage. And by this little motion, momentary as it was, Alan gained an unexpected advantage; for while he looked round, Miss Lilias, I could never ascertain why, took the moment to adjust her mask, and did it so awkwardly, that when her companion again turned his head, he recognized as much of her features as authorized him to address her as his fair client, and to press his offers of protection and assistance with the boldness of a former acquaintance.
Lilias Redgauntlet withdrew the mask from her crimsoned cheek. “Mr. Fairford,” she said, in a voice almost inaudible, “you have the character of a young gentleman of sense and generosity; but we have already met in one situation which you must think singular; and I must be exposed to misconstruction, at least, for my forwardness, were it not in a cause in which my dearest affections were concerned.”
“Any interest in my beloved friend Darsie Latimer,” said Fairford, stepping a little back, and putting a marked restraint upon his former advances, “gives me a double right to be useful to——” He stopped short.
“To his sister, your goodness would say,” answered Lilias.
“His sister, madam!” replied Alan, in the extremity of astonishment—“Sister, I presume, in affection only?”
“No, sir; my dear brother Darsie and I are connected by the bonds of actual relationship; and I am not sorry to be the first to tell this to the friend he most values.”
Fairford’s first thought was on the violent passion which Darsie had expressed towards the fair unknown. “Good God!” he exclaimed, “how did he bear the discovery?”
“With resignation, I hope,” said Lilias, smiling. “A more accomplished sister he might easily have come by, but scarcely could have found one who could love him more than I do.”
“I meant—I only meant to say,” said the young counsellor, his presence of mind failing him for an instant—“that is, I meant to ask where Darsie Latimer is at this moment.”
“In this very house, and under the guardianship of his uncle, whom I believe you knew as a visitor of your father, under the name of Mr. Herries of Birrenswork.”
“Let me hasten to him,” said Fairford; “I have sought him through difficulties and dangers—I must see him instantly.”
“You forget you are a prisoner,” said the young lady.
“True—true; but I cannot be long detained—the cause alleged is too ridiculous.”
“Alas!” said Lilias, “our fate—my brother’s and mine, at least—must turn on the deliberations perhaps of less than an hour. For you, sir, I believe and apprehend nothing; but some restraint; my uncle is neither cruel nor unjust, though few will go further in the cause which he has adopted.”
“Which is that of the Pretend——”
“For God’s sake speak lower!” said Lilias, approaching her hand, as if to stop him. “The word may cost you your life. You do not know—indeed you do not—the terrors of the situation in which we at present stand, and in which I fear you also are involved by your friendship for my brother.”
“I do not indeed know the particulars of our situation,” said Fairford; “but, be the danger what it may, I shall not grudge my share of it for the sake of my friend; or,” he added, with more timidity, “of my friend’s sister. Let me hope,” he said, “my dear Miss Latimer, that my presence may be of some use to you; and that it may be so, let me entreat a share of your confidence, which I am conscious I have otherwise no right to ask.”
He led her, as he spoke, towards the recess of the farther window of the room, and observing to her that, unhappily, he was particularly exposed to interruption from the mad old man whose entrance had alarmed her, he disposed of Darsie Latimer’s riding-skirt, which had been left in the apartment, over the back of two chairs, forming thus a sort of screen, behind which he ensconced himself with the maiden of the green mantle; feeling at the moment, that the danger in which he was placed was almost compensated by the intelligence which permitted those feelings towards her to revive, which justice to his friend had induced him to stifle in the birth.
The relative situation of adviser and advised, of protector and protected, is so peculiarly suited to the respective condition of man and woman, that great progress towards intimacy is often made in very short space; for the circumstances call for confidence on the part of the gentleman, and forbid coyness on that of the lady, so that the usual barriers against easy intercourse are at once thrown down.
Under these circumstances, securing themselves as far as possible from observation, conversing in whispers, and seated in a corner, where they were brought into so close contact that their faces nearly touched each other, Fairford heard from Lilias Redgauntlet the history of her family, particularly of her uncle; his views upon her brother, and the agony which she felt, lest at that very moment he might succeed in engaging Darsie in some desperate scheme, fatal to his fortune and perhaps to his life.
Alan Fairford’s acute understanding instantly connected what he had heard with the circumstances he had witnessed at Fairladies. His first thought was, to attempt, at all risks, his instant escape, and procure assistance powerful enough to crush, in the very cradle, a conspiracy of such a determined character. This he did not consider as difficult; for, though the door was guarded on the outside, the window, which was not above ten feet from the ground, was open for escape, the common on which it looked was unenclosed, and profusely covered with furze. There would, he thought, be little difficulty in effecting his liberty, and in concealing his course after he had gained it.
But Lilias exclaimed against this scheme. Her uncle, she said, was a man who, in his moments of enthusiasm, knew neither remorse nor fear. He was capable of visiting upon Darsie any injury which he might conceive Fairford had rendered him—he was her near kinsman also, and not an unkind one, and she deprecated any effort, even in her brother’s favour, by which his life must be exposed to danger. Fairford himself remembered Father Buonaventure, and made little question but that he was one of the sons of the old Chevalier de Saint George; and with feelings which, although contradictory of his public duty, can hardly be much censured, his heart recoiled from being the agent by whom the last scion of such a long line of Scottish princes should be rooted up. He then thought of obtaining an audience, if possible, of this devoted person, and explaining to him the utter hopelessness of his undertaking, which he judged it likely that the ardour of his partisans might have concealed from him. But he relinquished this design as soon as formed. He had no doubt, that any light which he could throw on the state of the country, would come too late to be serviceable to one who was always reported to have his own full share of the hereditary obstinacy which had cost his ancestors so dear, and who, in drawing the sword, must have thrown from him the scabbard.
Lilias suggested the advice which, of all others, seemed most suited to the occasion, that, yielding, namely, to the circumstances of their situation, they should watch carefully when Darsie should obtain any degree of freedom, and endeavour to open a communication with him, in which case their joint flight might be effected, and without endangering the safety of any one.
Their youthful deliberation had nearly fixed in this point, when Fairford, who was listening to the low sweet whispering tones of Lilias Redgauntlet, rendered yet more interesting by some slight touch of foreign accent, was startled by a heavy hand which descended with full weight on his shoulder, while the discordant voice of Peter Peebles, who had at length broke loose from the well-meaning Quaker, exclaimed in the ear of his truant counsel—“Aha, lad! I think ye are catched—An’ so ye are turned chamber-counsel, are ye? And ye have drawn up wi’ clients in scarfs and hoods? But bide a wee, billie, and see if I dinna sort ye when my petition and complaint comes to be discussed, with or without answers, under certification.”
Alan Fairford had never more difficulty in his life to subdue a first emotion, than he had to refrain from knocking down the crazy blockhead who had broken in upon him at such a moment. But the length of Peter’s address gave him time, fortunately perhaps for both parties, to reflect on the extreme irregularity of such a proceeding. He stood silent, however, with vexation, while Peter went on.
“Weel, my bonnie man, I see ye are thinking shame o’ yoursell, and nae great wonder. Ye maun leave this quean—the like of her is ower light company for you. I have heard honest Mr. Pest say, that the gown grees ill wi’ the petticoat. But come awa hame to your puir father, and I’ll take care of you the haill gate, and keep you company, and deil a word we will speak about, but just the state of the conjoined processes of the great cause of Poor Peter Peebles against Plainstanes.”
“If thou canst; endure to hear as much of that suit, friend,” said the Quaker, “as I have heard out of mere compassion for thee, I think verily thou wilt soon be at the bottom of the matter, unless it be altogether bottomless.”
Fairford shook off, rather indignantly, the large bony hand which Peter had imposed upon his shoulder, and was about to say something peevish, upon so unpleasant and insolent a mode of interruption, when the door opened, a treble voice saying to the sentinel, “I tell you I maun be in, to see if Mr. Nixon’s here;” and little Benjie thrust in his mop-head and keen black eyes. Ere he could withdraw it, Peter Peebles sprang to the door, seized on the boy by the collar, and dragged him forward into the room.
“Let me see it,” he said, “ye ne’er-do-weel limb of Satan—I’ll gar you satisfy the production, I trow—I’ll hae first and second diligence against you, ye deevil’s buckie!”
“What dost thou want?” said the Quaker, interfering; “why dost thou frighten the boy, friend Peebles?”
“I gave the bastard a penny to buy me snuff,” said the pauper, “and he has rendered no account of his intromissions; but I’ll gar him as gude.”
So saying, he proceeded forcibly to rifle the pockets of Benjie’s ragged jacket of one or two snares for game, marbles, a half-bitten apple, two stolen eggs (one of which Peter broke in the eagerness of his research), and various other unconsidered trifles, which had not the air of being very honestly come by. The little rascal, under this discipline, bit and struggled like a fox-cub, but, like that vermin, uttered neither cry nor complaint, till a note, which Peter tore from his bosom, flew as far as Lilias Redgauntlet, and fell at her feet. It was addressed to C.N.
“It is for the villain Nixon.” she said to Alan Fairford; “open it without scruple; that boy is his emissary; we shall now see what the miscreant is driving at.”
Little Benjie now gave up all further struggle, and suffered Peebles to take from him, without resistance, a shilling, out of which Peter declared he would pay himself principal and interest, and account for the balance. The boy, whose attention seemed fixed on something very different, only said, “Maister Nixon will murder me!”
Alan Fairford did not hesitate to read the little scrap of paper, on which was written, “All is prepared—keep them in play until I come up. You may depend on your reward.—C.C.”
“Alas, my uncle—my poor uncle!” said Lilias; “this is the result of his confidence. Methinks, to give him instant notice of his confidant’s treachery, is now the best service we can render all concerned—if they break up their undertaking, as they must now do, Darsie will be at liberty.”
In the same breath, they were both at the half-opened door of the room, Fairford entreating to speak with the Father Buonaventure, and Lilias, equally vehemently, requesting a moment’s interview with her uncle. While the sentinel hesitated what to do, his attention was called to a loud noise at the door, where a crowd had been assembled in consequence of the appalling cry, that the enemy were upon them, occasioned, as it afterwards proved, by some stragglers having at length discovered the dead bodies of Nanty Ewart and of Nixon.
Amid the confusion occasioned by this alarming incident, the sentinel ceased to attend, to his duty; and accepting Alan Fairford’s arm, Lilias found no opposition in penetrating even to the inner apartment, where the principal persons in the enterprise, whose conclave had been disturbed by this alarming incident, were now assembled in great confusion, and had been joined by the Chevalier himself.
“Only a mutiny among these smuggling scoundrels,” said Redgauntlet.
“Only a mutiny, do you say?” said Sir Richard Glendale; “and the lugger, the last hope of escape for,”—he looked towards Charles,—“stands out to sea under a press of sail!”
“Do not concern yourself about me,” said the unfortunate prince; “this is not the worst emergency in which it has been my lot to stand; and if it were, I fear it not. Shift for yourselves, my lords and gentlemen.”
“No, never!” said the young Lord ——. “Our only hope now is in an honourable resistance.”
“Most true,” said Redgauntlet; “let despair renew the union amongst us which accident disturbed. I give my voice for displaying the royal banner instantly, and—How now!” he concluded, sternly, as Lilias, first soliciting his attention by pulling his cloak, put into his hand the scroll, and added, it was designed for that of Nixon.
Redgauntlet read—and, dropping it on the ground, continued to stare upon the spot where it fell, with raised hands and fixed eyes. Sir Richard Glendale lifted the fatal paper, read it, and saying, “Now all is indeed over,” handed it to Maxwell, who said aloud, “Black Colin Campbell, by G—d! I heard he had come post from London last night.”
As if in echo to his thoughts, the violin of the blind man was heard, playing with spirit, “The Campbells are coming,” a celebrated clan-march.
“The Campbells are coming in earnest,” said MacKellar; they are upon us with the whole battalion from Carlisle.”
There was a silence of dismay, and two or three of the company began to drop out of the room.
Lord —— spoke with the generous spirit of a young English nobleman. “If we have been fools, do not let us be cowards. We have one here more precious than us all, and come hither on our warranty—let us save him at least.”
“True, most true,” answered Sir Richard Glendale. “Let the king be first cared for.”
“That shall be my business,” said Redgauntlet “if we have but time to bring back the brig, all will be well—I will instantly dispatch a party in a fishing skiff to bring her to.” He gave his commands to two or three of the most active among his followers. “Let him be once on board,” he said, “and there are enough of us to stand to arms and cover his retreat.”
“Right, right,” said Sir Richard, “and I will look to points which can be made defensible; and the old powder-plot boys could not have made a more desperate resistance than we shall. Redgauntlet,” continued he, “I see some of our friends are looking pale; but methinks your nephew has more mettle in his eye now than when we were in cold deliberation, with danger at a distance.”
“It is the way of our house,” said Redgauntlet; “our courage ever kindles highest on the losing side. I, too, feel that the catastrophe I have brought on must not be survived by its author. Let me first,” he said, addressing Charles, “see your Majesty’s sacred person in such safety as can now be provided for it, and then——”
“You may spare all considerations concerning me, gentlemen,” again repeated Charles; “yon mountain of Criffel shall fly as soon as I will.”
Most threw themselves at his feet with weeping and entreaty; some one or two slunk in confusion from the apartment, and were heard riding off. Unnoticed in such a scene, Darsie, his sister, and Fairford, drew together, and held each other by the hands, as those who, when a vessel is about to founder in the storm, determine to take their chance of life and death together.
Amid this scene of confusion, a gentleman, plainly dressed in a riding-habit, with a black cockade in his hat, but without any arms except a couteau-de-chasse, walked into the apartment without ceremony. He was a tall, thin, gentlemanly man, with a look and bearing decidedly military. He had passed through their guards, if in the confusion they now maintained any, without stop or question, and now stood, almost unarmed, among armed men, who nevertheless, gazed on him as on the angel of destruction.
“You look coldly on me, gentlemen,” he said. “Sir Richard Glendale—my Lord ——, we were not always such strangers. Ha, Pate-in-Peril, how is it with you? and you, too, Ingoldsby—I must not call you by any other name—why do you receive an old friend so coldly? But you guess my errand.”
“And are prepared for it, general,” said Redgauntlet; “we are not men to be penned up like sheep for the slaughter.”
“Pshaw! you take it too seriously—let me speak but one word with you.”
“No words can shake our purpose,” said Redgauntlet, were your whole command, as I suppose is the case, drawn round the house.”
“I am certainly not unsupported,” said the general; “but if you would hear me——”
“Hear me, sir,” said the Wanderer, stepping forward; “I suppose I am the mark you aim at—I surrender myself willingly, to save these gentlemen’s danger—let this at least avail in their favour.”
An exclamation of “Never, never!” broke from the little body of partisans, who threw themselves round the unfortunate prince, and would have seized or struck down Campbell, had it not been that he remained with his arms folded, and a look, rather indicating impatience because they would not hear him, than the least apprehension of violence at their hand.
At length he obtained a moment’s silence. “I do not,” he said, “know this gentleman——” (making a profound bow to the unfortunate prince)—“I do not wish to know him; it is a knowledge which would suit neither of us.”
“Our ancestors, nevertheless, have been well acquainted,” said Charles, unable to suppress, even at that hour of dread and danger, the painful recollections of fallen royalty.
“In one word, General Campbell,” said Redgauntlet, “is it to be peace or war? You are a man of honour, and we can trust you.”
“I thank you, sir,” said the general; “and I reply, that the answer to your question rests with yourself. Come, do not be fools, gentlemen; there was perhaps no great harm meant or intended by your gathering together in this obscure corner, for a bear-bait or a cock-fight, or whatever other amusement you may have intended, but it was a little imprudent, considering how you stand with government, and it has occasioned some anxiety. Exaggerated accounts of your purpose have been laid before government by the information of a traitor in your own counsels; and I was sent down post to take the command of a sufficient number of troops, in case these calumnies should be found to have any real foundation. I have come here, of course, sufficiently supported both with cavalry and infantry, to do whatever might be necessary; but my commands are—and I am sure they agree with my inclination—to make no arrests, nay, to make no further inquiries of any kind, if this good assembly will consider their own interest so far as to give up their immediate purpose, and return quietly home to their own houses.”
“What!—all?” exclaimed Sir Richard Glendale—“all, without exception?”
“All, without one single exception” said the general; “such are my orders. If you accept my terms, say so, and make haste; for things may happen to interfere with his Majesty’s kind purposes towards you all.”
“Majesty’s kind purposes!” said the Wanderer. “Do I hear you aright, sir?”
“I speak the king’s very words, from his very lips,” replied the general. “‘I will,’ said his Majesty, ‘deserve the confidence of my subjects by reposing my security in the fidelity of the millions who acknowledge my title—in the good sense and prudence of the few who continue, from the errors of education, to disown it.’ His Majesty will not even believe that the most zealous Jacobites who yet remain can nourish a thought of exciting a civil war, which must be fatal to their families and themselves, besides spreading bloodshed and ruin through a peaceful land. He cannot even believe of his kinsman, that he would engage brave and generous though mistaken men, in an attempt which must ruin all who have escaped former calamities; and he is convinced, that, did curiosity or any other motive lead that person to visit this country, he would soon see it was his wisest course to return to the continent; and his Majesty compassionates his situation too much to offer any obstacle to his doing so.”
“Is this real?” said Redgauntlet. “Can you mean this? Am I—are all, are any of these gentlemen at liberty, without interruption, to embark in yonder brig, which, I see, is now again approaching the shore?”
“You, sir—all—any of the gentlemen present,” said the general,—“all whom the vessel can contain, are at liberty to embark uninterrupted by me; but I advise none to go off who have not powerful reasons unconnected with the present meeting, for this will be remembered against no one.”
“Then, gentlemen,” said Redgauntlet, clasping his hands together as the words burst from him, “the cause is lost for ever!”
General Campbell turned away to the window, as if to avoid hearing what they said. Their consultation was but momentary; for the door of escape which thus opened was as unexpected as the exigence was threatening.
“We have your word of honour for our protection,” said Sir Richard Glendale, “if we dissolve our meeting in obedience to your summons?”
“You have, Sir Richard,” answered the general.
“And I also have your promise,” said Redgauntlet, “that I may go on board yonder vessel, with any friend whom I may choose to accompany me?”
“Not only that, Mr. Ingoldsby—or I will call you Mr. Redgauntlet once more—you may stay in the offing for a tide, until you are joined by any person who may remain at Fairladies. After that, there will be a sloop of war on the station, and I need not say your condition will then become perilous.”
“Perilous it should not be, General Campbell,” said Redgauntlet, “or more perilous to others than to us, if others thought as I do even in this extremity.”
“You forget yourself, my friend,” said the unhappy Adventurer; “you forget that the arrival of this gentleman only puts the cope-stone on our already adopted resolution to abandon our bull-fight or by whatever other wild name this headlong enterprise may be termed. I bid you farewell, unfriendly friends—I bid you farewell,” (bowing to the general) “my friendly foe—I leave this strand as I landed upon it, alone and to return no more!”
“Not alone,” said Redgauntlet, “while there is blood in the veins of my father’s son.”
“Not alone,” said the other gentlemen present, stung with feelings which almost overpowered the better reasons under which they had acted. “We will not disown our principles, or see your person endangered.”
“If it be only your purpose to see the gentleman to the beach,” said General Campbell, “I will myself go with you. My presence among you, unarmed, and in your power, will be a pledge of my friendly intentions, and will overawe, should such be offered, any interruption on the part of officious persons.”
“Be it so,” said the Adventurer, with the air of a prince to a subject, not of one who complied with the request of an enemy too powerful to be resisted.
They left the apartment—they left the house—an unauthenticated and dubious, but appalling, sensation of terror had already spread itself among the inferior retainers, who had so short time before strutted, and bustled, and thronged the doorway and the passages. A report had arisen, of which the origin could not be traced, of troops advancing towards the spot in considerable numbers; and men who, for one reason or other, were most of them amenable to the arm of power, had either shrunk into stables or corners, or fled the place entirely. There was solitude on the landscape excepting the small party which now moved towards the rude pier, where a boat lay manned, agreeably to Redgauntlet’s orders previously given.
The last heir of the Stuarts leant on Redgauntlet’s arm as they walked towards the beach; for the ground was rough, and he no longer possessed the elasticity of limb and of spirit which had, twenty years before, carried him over many a Highland hill as light as one of their native deer. His adherents followed, looking on the ground, their feelings struggling against the dictates of their reason.
General Campbell accompanied them with an air of apparent ease and indifference, but watching, at the same time, and no doubt with some anxiety, the changing features of those who acted in this extraordinary scene.
Darsie and his sister naturally followed their uncle, whose violence they no longer feared, while his character attracted their respect, and Alan Fairford attended them from interest in their fate, unnoticed in a party where all were too much occupied with their own thoughts and feelings, as well as with the impending crisis, to attend to his presence.
Half-way betwixt the house and the beach, they saw the bodies of Nanty Ewart and Cristal Nixon blackening in the sun.
“That was your informer?” said Redgauntlet, looking back to General Campbell, who only nodded his assent.
“Caitiff wretch!” exclaimed Redgauntlet;—“and yet the name were better bestowed on the fool who could be misled by thee.”
“That sound broadsword cut,” said the general, “has saved us the shame of rewarding a traitor.”
They arrived at the place of embarkation. The prince stood a moment with folded arms, and looked around him in deep silence. A paper was then slipped into his hands—he looked at it, and said, “I find the two friends I have left at Fairladies are apprised of my destination, and propose to embark from Bowness. I presume this will not be an infringement of the conditions under which you have acted?”
“Certainly not,” answered General Campbell; “they shall have all facility to join you.”
“I wish, then,” said Charles, “only another companion. Redgauntlet, the air of this country is as hostile to you as it is to me. These gentlemen have made their peace, or rather they have done nothing to break it. But you—come you and share my home where chance shall cast it. We shall never see these shores again; but we will talk of them, and of our disconcerted bull-fight.”
“I follow you, sire, through life,” said Redgauntlet, “as I would have followed you to death. Permit me one moment.”
The prince then looked round, and seeing the abashed countenances of his other adherents bent upon the ground, he hastened to say, “Do not think that you, gentlemen, have obliged me less because your zeal was mingled with prudence, entertained, I am sure, more on my own account and on that of your country, than from selfish apprehensions.”
He stepped from one to another, and, amid sobs and bursting tears, received the adieus of the last remnant which had hitherto supported his lofty pretensions, and addressed them individually with accents of tenderness and affection.
The general drew a little aloof, and signed to Redgauntlet to speak with him while this scene proceeded. “It is now all over,” he said, “and Jacobite will be henceforward no longer a party name. When you tire of foreign parts, and wish to make your peace, let me know. Your restless zeal alone has impeded your pardon hitherto.”
“And now I shall not need it,” said Redgauntlet. “I leave England for ever; but I am not displeased that you should hear my family adieus.—Nephew, come hither. In presence of General Campbell, I tell you, that though to breed you up in my own political opinions has been for many years my anxious wish, I am now glad that it could not be accomplished. You pass under the service of the reigning monarch without the necessity of changing your allegiance—a change, however,” he added, looking around him, “which sits more easy on honourable men than I could have anticipated; but some wear the badge of their loyalty on their sleeve, and others in the heart. You will, from henceforth, be uncontrolled master of all the property of which forfeiture could not deprive your father—of all that belonged to him—excepting this, his good sword” (laying his hand on the weapon he wore), “which shall never fight for the House of Hanover; and as my hand will never draw weapon more, I shall sink it forty fathoms deep in the wide ocean. Bless you, young man! If I have dealt harshly with you, forgive me. I had set my whole desires on one point,—God knows, with no selfish purpose; and I am justly punished by this final termination of my views, for having been too little scrupulous in the means by which I pursued them.—Niece, farewell, and may God bless you also!”
“No, sir,” said Lilias, seizing his hand eagerly. “You have been hitherto my protector,—you are now in sorrow, let me be your attendant and your comforter in exile.”
“I thank you, my girl, for your unmerited affection; but it cannot and must not be. The curtain here falls between us. I go to the house of another. If I leave it before I quit the earth, it shall be only for the House of God. Once more, farewell both! The fatal doom,” he said, with a melancholy smile, “will, I trust, now depart from the House of Redgauntlet, since its present representative has adhered to the winning side. I am convinced he will not change it, should it in turn become the losing one.”
The unfortunate Charles Edward had now given his last adieus to his downcast adherents. He made a sign with his hand to Redgauntlet, who came to assist him into the skiff. General Campbell also offered his assistance, the rest appearing too much affected by the scene which had taken place to prevent him.
“You are not sorry, general, to do me this last act of courtesy,” said the Chevalier; “and, on my part, I thank you for it. You have taught me the principle on which men on the scaffold feel forgiveness and kindness even for their executioner. Farewell!”
They were seated in the boat, which presently pulled off from the land. The Oxford divine broke out into a loud benediction, in terms which General Campbell was too generous to criticize at the time, or to remember afterwards;—nay, it is said, that, Whig and Campbell as he was, he could not help joining in the universal Amen! which resounded from the shore.