Part 2 out of 6
you; and you will want all your wits about you, for it won't be many
hours before we are bumping on the sands, and stoutly built as the craft
is she won't hold together long in such a sea as this."
"Do you really mean it, Malcolm, or are you only trying to get me on
"I mean it, lad. We are drifting fast upon the French coast, and there is
no hope of her clawing off in the teeth of such a gale as this."
The news aroused Ronald effectually. He had not suffered at all on the
voyage down from Glasgow, and he was already beginning to feel better
when Malcolm went down to call him. He was soon on deck holding on by the
"There it is, that long low black line; it looks a long way off because
the air is full of spray and the coast is low, but it's not more than
three or four miles; look at that broad belt of foam."
For some hours the Dutch skipper did his best to beat to windward, but in
vain, the vessel drove nearer and nearer towards the shore; the anchors
were got in readiness, and when within a quarter of a mile of the line of
breakers the vessel's head was brought up into the wind, and the lashings
of the two anchors cut simultaneously.
"Will they hold her, do you think?" Ronald asked.
"Not a chance of it, Ronald. Of course the captain is right to try; but
no cables were ever made would hold such a bluff bowed craft as this in
the teeth of such a wind and sea."
The cables ran out to the bitts. Just as they tightened a great sea
rolled in on the bow. Two dull reports were heard, and then her head
payed off. The jib was run up instantly to help her round, and under this
sail the brig was headed directly towards the shore. The sea was breaking
round them now; but the brig was almost flat bottomed and drew but little
water. All on board hung on to the shrouds and bulwarks, momentarily
expecting a crash, but she drove on through the surf until within a
hundred yards of the shore. Then as she went down in the trough of a wave
there was a mighty crash. The next wave swept her forward her own length.
Then there was another crash even more tremendous than the first, and her
masts simultaneously went over the side. The next wave moved her but a
few feet; the one which followed, finding her immovable, piled itself
higher over her, and swept in a cataract down her sloping deck. Her stern
had swung round after the first shot, and she now lay broadside to the
waves. The Dutch skipper and his crew behaved with the greatest calmness;
the ship lay over at such an angle that it was impossible to stand on the
deck; but the captain managed to get on the upper rail, and although
frequently almost washed off by the seas, contrived to cut the shrouds
and ropes that still attached the masts to the ship there. Then he joined
the crew, who were standing breast high in the water on the lee side, the
floating masts were pulled in until within a few yards of the vessel, and
such of the crew as could swim made towards them.
The skipper cut the last rope that bound them, and then plunged in and
joined his men. The distance was little over fifty yards to the shore,
and the wreck formed a partial shelter. A crowd of people were assembled
at the edge of the beach with ropes in readiness to give any assistance
in their power. Malcolm and Ronald were among those who had swum to the
masts, but when within a short distance of the shore the former shouted
in the latter's ear:
"Swim off, lad, the masts might crush us."
As soon as they neared the shore a number of ropes were thrown. Most of
the sailors, seeing the danger of being crushed, followed the example of
Malcolm, and left the masts. Malcolm and Ronald swam just outside the
point where the waves broke until a line fell in the water close to them.
They grasped it at once.
"Give it a twist round your arm," Malcolm shouted, "or the backwash will
tear you from it."
The sailors on shore watched their opportunity, and the instant a wave
passed beneath the two swimmers ran up the beach at full speed with the
rope. There was a crash. Ronald felt himself shot forward with great
rapidity, then as he touched the ground with his feet they were swept
from under him, and so great was the strain that he felt as if his arm
was being pulled from the socket. A few seconds later he was lying at
full length upon the sands, and before the next wave reached him a dozen
men had rushed down and seized him and Malcolm, and carried them beyond
its influence. For a minute or two Ronald felt too bruised and out of
breath to move. Then he heard Malcolm's voice:
"Are you hurt, Ronald?"
"No; I think not, Malcolm," he replied, making an effort to sit up. "Are
"No, lad; bruised a bit, but no worse."
One by one the sailors were brought ashore, one with both legs broken
from the force with which he was dashed down by the surf, and one man who
stuck to the mast was crushed to death as it was rolled over and over on
to the beach. The captain and three sailors were, like Malcolm and
Ronald, unhurt. There still remained four men on the wreck. Fortunately
she had struck just at high tide, and so stoutly was she built that she
held together in spite of the tremendous seas, and in an hour the four
sailors were able to wade breast high to the shore.
They found that the spot where the vessel had struck was half a mile west
of Gravelines. They were taken to the town, and were hospitably
entertained. A small body of soldiers were quartered there, and the
officer in command told the Dutch skipper, that as the two nations were
at war he and his crew must be detained until he received orders
respecting them. On learning from Malcolm that he and Ronald were
passengers, and were Scotsmen making their way from England to escape
imprisonment as friends of the Stuarts, and that he had for twelve years
served in one of the Scotch regiments of Louis, and was now bound for
Paris, the officer said that they were free to continue their journey at
It was two or three days before they started, for they found the next
morning that they were both too severely bruised to set out at once on
the journey. As Malcolm had taken care to keep the purse containing
Ronald's money securely fastened to a belt under his clothes they had no
lack of funds; but as time was no object they started for Paris on foot.
Ronald greatly enjoyed the journey. Bright weather had set in after the
storm. It was now the middle of May, all nature was bright and cheerful,
the dresses of the peasantry, the style of architecture so different to
that to which he was accustomed in Scotland, and everything else were new
and strange to him. Malcolm spoke French as fluently as his own language,
and they had therefore no difficulty or trouble on the way.
They arrived at Paris without any adventure. Malcolm went to a cabaret
which had at the time when he was in the French service been much
frequented by Scotch soldiers, being kept by a countryman of their own,
an ex-sergeant in one of the Scottish regiments.
"Ah! Sandy Macgregor," Malcolm exclaimed as the proprietor of the place
approached to take their order. "So you are still in the flesh, man!
Right glad am I to see you again.
"I know your face," Sandy replied; "but I canna just say what your name
"Malcolm Anderson, of Leslie's Scotch regiment. It's fourteen years since
I left them now; but I was here again four years later, if you can
remember, when I came over to try and find out if aught had been heard of
"Ay, ay," Sandy said, grasping Malcolm's outstretched hand warmly. "It
all comes back to me now. Right glad am I to see you. And who is the lad
ye have brought with you? A Scot by his face and bearing, I will be
bound, but young yet for the service if that be what he is thinking of."
"He is the colonel's son, Sandy. You will remember I told you I had
carried him back to Scotland with me; but I need not tell ye that this is
betwixt ourselves, for those who have so badly treated his father might
well have a grudge against the son, and all the more that he is the
rightful heir to many a broad acre here in France."
"I give you a hearty welcome, young sir," Sandy said. "Many a time I have
seen your brave father riding at the head of his regiment, and have
spoken to him too, for he and his officers would drop in here and crack a
cup together in a room I keep upstairs for the quality. Well, well, and
to think that you are his son! But what Malcolm said is true, and it were
best that none knew who ye are, for they have an unco quick way here of
putting inconvenient people out of the way."
"Have you ever heard aught of my father since?" Ronald asked eagerly.
"Not a word," Sandy replied. "I have heard it talked over scores of times
by men who were in the regiment that was once his, and none doubted that
if he were still alive he was lying in the Bastille, or Vincennes, or one
of the other cages where they keep those whose presence the king or his
favourites find inconvenient. It's just a stroke of the pen, without
question or trial, and they are gone, and even their best friends darena
ask a question concerning them. In most cases none know why they have
been put away; but there is no doubt why Leslie was seized. Three or four
of his fellow officers were in the secret of his marriage, and when he
had disappeared these talked loudly about it, and there was sair grief
and anger among the Scottish regiment at Leslie's seizure. But what was
to be done? It was just the king's pleasure, and that is enough in
France. Leslie had committed the grave offence of thwarting the wishes of
two of the king's favourites, great nobles, too, with broad lands and
grand connections. What were the likings of a Scottish soldier of fortune
and a headstrong girl in comparison! In Scotland in the old times a
gallant who had carried off a daughter of a Douglas or one of our
powerful nobles would have made his wife a widow ere many weeks were
over, and it is the same thing here now. It wouldna have been an easy
thing for his enemies to kill Leslie with his regiment at his back, and
so they got an order from the king, and as surely got rid of him as if
they had taken his life."
"You have never heard whether my mother has married again?" Ronald asked.
"I have never heard her name mentioned. Her father is still at court, but
his daughter has never been seen since, or I should have heard of it; but
more than that I cannot say."
"That gives me hopes that my father is still alive," Ronald said. "Had he
been dead they might have forced her into some other marriage."
"They might so; but she was plainly a lassie who had a will of her own
and may have held out."
"But why did they not kill him instead of putting him in prison if he was
in their way?"
"They might, as I said, have done it at once; but once in prison he was
beyond their reach. The king may grant a lettre de cachet, as these
orders are called, to a favourite; but even in France men are not put to
death without some sort of trial, and even Chateaurouge and De Recambours
could not ask Louis to have a man murdered in prison to gratify their
private spite, especially when that man was a brave Scottish officer
whose fate had already excited much discontent among his compatriots in
the king's service. Then again much would depend upon who was the
governor of the prison. These men differ like others. Some of them are
honourable gentlemen, to whom even Louis himself would not venture to
hint that he wanted a prisoner put out of the way; but there are others
who, to gratify a powerful nobleman, would think nothing of telling a
jailer to forget a fortnight to give food to a prisoner. So you see we
cannot judge from this. And now what are you thinking of doing, Malcolm,
and why are you over here?"
"In the first place we are over here because young Leslie took after his
father and aided a Jacobite, whom George's men were in search of, to
escape, and drew his sword on a worshipful justice of Glasgow and the
"He has begun early," Sandy said, laughing; "and how did he get away?"
"They brought him down a prisoner to London, to interrogate him as to the
plot. I had a boat in the Thames and he jumped over and swam for it; so
here we are. There are rumours in Scotland that King Louis is helping
Prince Charlie, and that an army is soon going to sail for Scotland."
"It is talked of here, but so far nothing is settled; but as King George
is interfering in Louis's affairs, and is fighting him in Germany, I
think it more than likely that King Louis is going to stir up a coil in
Scotland to give George something to do at home."
"Then if there's nothing to be done here I shall find out the old
regiment. There will be many officers in it still who have fought under
Leslie, and some of them may know more about him than you do, and will
surely be able to tell me what has become of the lad's mither."
"That may well be so; but keep a quiet tongue, Malcolm, as to Leslie's
son, save to those on whose discretion you can rely. I tell you, if it
were known that he is alive and in France his life would not be worth a
week's purchase. They would not take the trouble to get a lettre de
cachet for him as they did for his father; it would be just a pistol
bullet or a stab on a dark night or in a lonely place. There would be no
question asked about the fate of an unknown Scotch laddie."
"I will be careful, Sandy, and silent. The first thing is to find out
where the old regiment is lying."
"That I can tell you at once. It is on the frontier with the Duc de
Noailles, and they say that there is like to be a great battle with
English George and his army."
"Well, as we have nothing else to do we will set out and find them,"
Malcolm said; "but as time is not pressing we will stop a few days here
in Paris and I will show the lad the sights. I suppose you can put us
"That can I. Times are dull at present. After '15 Paris swarmed with
Scotsmen who had fled to save their heads; but of late years but few have
come over, and the Scotch regiments have difficulty in keeping up their
numbers. Since the last of them marched for the frontier I have been
looking after empty benches, and it will be good news for me when I hear
that the war is over and they are on their way back."
For some days Malcolm and Ronald wandered about the narrow streets of
Paris. Ronald was somewhat disappointed in the city of which he had heard
so much. The streets were ill paved and worse lighted, and were narrow
and winding. In the neighbourhood of the Louvre there were signs of
wealth and opulence. The rich dresses of the nobles contrasted strongly
indeed with the sombre attire of the Glasgow citizens, and the appearance
and uniform of the royal guards filled him with admiration; but beyond
the fashionable quarter it did not appear to him that Paris possessed
many advantages over Glasgow, and the poorer class were squalid and
poverty stricken to a far greater degree than anything he had seen in
Scotland. But the chief points of attraction to him were the prisons. The
Bastille, the Chatelet, and the Temple were points to which he was
continually turning; the two former especially, since, if he were in
Paris, it was in one of these that his father was most probably lying.
The various plans he had so often thought over, by which, in some way or
other, he might communicate with his father and aid his escape, were
roughly shattered at the sight of these buildings. He had reckoned on
their resembling in some respect the prison in Glasgow, and at the sight
of these formidable fortresses with their lofty walls and flanking
towers, their moats and vigilant sentries, his hopes fell to zero. It
would, he saw at once, be absolutely impossible to open communication
with a prisoner of whose whereabouts he was wholly ignorant and of whose
very existence he was doubtful. The narrow slits which lighted the cell
in which he was confined might look into an inner court, or the cell
itself might be below the surface of the soil. The legend of the
troubadour who discovered King Richard of England's place of captivity by
singing without the walls had always been present in his mind, but no
such plan would be practicable here. He knew no song which his father,
and his father only, would recognize; and even did he know such a song,
the appearance of anyone loitering in the open space outside the moat
round the Bastille singing at intervals at different points would have
instantly attracted the attention of the sentries on the walls. Nor, even
did he discover that his father was lying a prisoner in one of the cells
facing outwards in the fortress, did he see any possibility of compassing
his escape. The slits were wide enough only for the passage of a ray of
light or the flight of an arrow. No human being could squeeze himself
through them, and even if he could do so he would need a long rope to
descend into the moat.
One day Ronald talked over his ideas with Malcolm, who declared at once
that they were impossible of execution.
"There is scarcely a case on record," he said, "of an escape from either
the Bastille or the Chatelet, and yet there have been scores of prisoners
confined in them with friends of great influence and abundant means. If
these have been unable, by bribing jailers or by other strategy, to free
their friends, how could a stranger, without either connection,
influence, or wealth, hope to effect the escape of a captive were he
certain that he was within the walls. Do not waste your thought on such
fancies, Ronald. If your father is still in prison it is by influence
only, and influence exerted upon the king and exceeding that of your
father's enemies, that his release can be obtained.
"Such influence there is no possibility of our exerting. Your father's
comrades and countrymen, his position and services, availed nothing when
he was first imprisoned; and in the time which has elapsed the number of
those who know him and would venture to risk the king's displeasure by
pleading his cause must have lessened considerably. The only possibility,
mind I say possibility, of success lies in your mother.
"So far it is clear that she has been powerless; but we know not under
what circumstances she has been placed. She may all this time have been
shut up a prisoner in a convent; she may be dead; but it is possible
that, if she is free, she may have powerful connections on her mother's
side, who might be induced to take up her cause and to plead with the
king for your father's liberty. She may have been told that your father
is dead. She is, no doubt, in ignorance of what has become of you, or
whether you are still alive. If she believes you are both dead she would
have had no motive for exerting any family influence she may have, and
may be living a broken hearted woman, firm only in the resolution to
accept no other husband."
"Yes, that is possible," Ronald agreed. "At any rate, Malcolm, let us
lose no further time, but set out tomorrow for the frontier and try to
find out from my father's old comrades what has become of my mother."
CHAPTER V: Dettingen.
After walking two or three miles Malcolm and Ronald came upon the rear of
a train of waggons which had set out from Paris an hour earlier. Entering
into conversation with one of the drivers they found that the convoy was
bound for the frontier with ammunition and supplies for the army.
"This is fortunate," Malcolm said; "for to tell you the truth, Ronald, I
have looked forward to our meeting with a good many difficulties by the
way. We have no passes or permits to travel, and should be suspected of
being either deserters or thieves. We came down from the north easy
enough; but there they are more accustomed to the passage of travellers
to or from the coast. Going east our appearance if alone would be sure to
incite comment and suspicion. It is hard if among the soldiers with the
convoy I do not know someone who has friends in the old regiment. At any
rate we can offer to make ourselves useful in case of any of the drivers
falling ill or deserting by the way."
As they walked along towards the head of the long line of waggons Malcolm
closely scrutinized the troopers who formed the escort, but most of them
were young soldiers, and he therefore went on without accosting them
until he reached the head of the column. Here two officers were riding
together, a captain and a young lieutenant. Malcolm saluted the former.
"I am an old soldier of the 2d Regiment of Scottish Calvary, and am going
with my young friend here, who has relations in the regiment, to join
them. Will you permit us, sir, to journey with your convoy? We are ready,
if needs be, to make ourselves useful in case any of your drivers are
missing, no uncommon thing, as I know, on a long journey."
The officer asked a few questions about his services, and said: "What
have you been doing since you left, as you say, fourteen years ago?"
"I have been in Scotland, sir. I took this lad, who was then an infant,
home to my people, having had enough of soldiering, while my brother, his
father, remained with the regiment. We do not know whether he is alive or
dead, but if the former the lad wants to join as a trumpeter, and when
old enough to fight in the ranks."
"Very well," the officer said. "You can march along with us, and if any
of these fellows desert you shall take their places, and of course draw
It was a short time indeed before Malcolm's services were called into
requisition, for the very first night several of the drivers, who had
been pressed into the service, managed to elude the vigilance of the
guard and slipped away.
The next morning Malcolm, with Ronald as his assistant, took charge of
one of the heavy waggons, loaded with ammunition, and drawn by twelve
"This is better than walking after all, Ronald. In the first place it
saves the legs, and in the second one is partly out of the dust."
"But I think we should get on faster walking, Malcolm."
"Yes, if we had no stoppages. But then, you see, as we have no papers we
might be detained for weeks by some pig headed official in a little
country town; besides, we are sure to push on as fast as we can, for they
will want the ammunition before a battle is fought. And after all a few
days won't make much difference to us; the weather is fine, and the
journey will not be unpleasant."
In fact Ronald enjoyed the next three weeks greatly as the train of
waggons made its way across the plains of Champagne, and then on through
the valleys of Lorraine and Alsace until it reached Strasbourg. Malcolm
had speedily made friends with some of the soldiers of the escort, and of
an evening when the day's work was over he and Ronald sat with them by
the fires they made by the roadside, and Malcolm told tales of the
campaigns in which he had been engaged, and the soldiers sang songs and
chatted over the probabilities of the events of the war. None of them had
served before, having been but a few months taken from their homes in
various parts of France. But although, doubtless, many had at first
regretted bitterly being dragged away to the wars, they were now all
reconciled to their lot, and looked forward eagerly to joining their
regiment, which was at the front, when the duty of looking after the
convoy would be at an end.
Little was known in Paris as to the position of the contending armies
beyond the fact that Lord Stair, who commanded the English army, sixteen
thousand strong, which had for the last year been lying inactive in
Flanders, had marched down with his Hanoverian allies towards the Maine,
and that the Duc de Noailles with sixty thousand men was lying beyond the
Rhine. But at Strasbourg they learned that the French army had marched
north to give battle to Lord Stair, who had at present with him but
twenty-eight thousand men, and was waiting to be joined by twelve
thousand Hanoverians and Hessians who were on their way.
The convoy continued its journey, pushing forward with all speed, and on
the 26th of July joined the army of De Noailles. The French were on the
south side of the river, but having arrived on its banks before the
English they had possession of the bridges. As soon as the waggons had
joined the army, Malcolm obtained from the officer commanding the escort
a discharge, saying that he and Ronald had fulfilled their engagement as
drivers with the waggons to the front, and were now at liberty to return
"Now we are our own masters again, Ronald," Malcolm said. "I have taken
part in a good many battles, but have never yet had the opportunity of
looking on at one comfortably. De Noailles should lose no time in
attacking, so as to destroy the English before they receive their
reinforcements. As he holds the bridges he can bring on the battle when
he likes, and I think that tomorrow or next day the fight will take
It was known in the camp that evening that the English had established
their chief magazines at Hanau, and were marching up the river towards
Aschaffenburg. In the early morning a portion of the French troops
crossed the river at that town, and took up a strong position there.
Ronald and Malcolm climbed a hill looking down upon the river from the
south side, and thence commanded the view of the ground across which the
English were marching. On the eastern side of the river spurs of the
Spessart Mountains came down close to its bank, inclosing a narrow flat
between Aschaffenburg and Dettingen. At the latter place the heights
approached so closely to the river as to render it difficult for an army
to pass between them. While posting a strong force at Aschaffenburg to
hold the passage across a stream running into the Maine there, De
Noailles marched his main force down the river; these movements were
hidden by the nature of the ground from the English, who were advancing
unconscious of their danger towards Dettingen.
"De Noailles will have them in a trap," Malcolm said, for from their
position on the hill they could see the whole ground on the further bank,
Hanau lying some seven miles beyond Dettingen, which was itself less than
seven miles from Aschaffenburg.
"I am afraid so," Ronald said.
"Afraid!" Malcolm repeated. "Why, you should rejoice, Ronald."
"I can't do that," Ronald replied. "I should like to see the Stuarts
instead of the Hanoverians reigning over us; but after all, Malcolm,
England and Scotland are one nation."
"But there are Scotch regiments with the French army, and a brigade of
"That may be," Ronald said. "Scotchmen who have got into political
trouble at home may enter the service of France, and may fight heartily
against the Germans or the Flemings, or other enemies of France; but I
know that I should feel very reluctant to fight against the English army,
except, of course, at home for the Stuarts."
"It will benefit the Stuarts' cause if the English are defeated here,"
"That may be or it may not.," Ronald replied. "You yourself told me that
Louis cared nothing for the Stuarts, and would only aid them in order to
cripple the English strength at home. Therefore, if he destroys the
English army here he will have less cause to fear England and so less
motive for helping the Chevalier."
"That is true enough," Malcolm agreed. "You are fast becoming a
politician, Ronald. Well, I will look on as a neutral then, because,
although the English are certainly more nearly my countrymen than are the
French, you must remember that for twelve years I fought under the French
flag. However, there can be no doubt what is going to take place. See,
the dark mass of the English army are passing through the defile of
Dettingen, and the French have begun to cross at Seligenstadt in their
rear. See, they are throwing three or four bridges across the river
In utter ignorance of their danger the English marched on along the
narrow plain by the river bank towards Aschaffenburg.
"Look at their cavalry scouting ahead of them," Malcolm said. "There, the
French are opening fire!" And as he spoke puffs of musketry rose up from
the line of the stream held by the French.
The English cavalry galloped back, but the columns of infantry still
advanced until within half a mile of the French position, and were there
halted, while some guns from the French lines opened fire. The bridges at
Seligenstadt were now completed, and masses of troops could be seen
pouring over. King George and the Duke of Cumberland had joined the Earl
of Stair just as the army passed through Dettingen, and were riding at
the head of the column when the French fire opened. A short time was
spent in reconnoitring the position of the enemy in front. The English
believed that the entire French army was there opposed to them, and that
the advance of the army into Franconia, which was its main objective was
therefore barred. After a short consultation it was resolved to fall back
at once upon the magazines at Hanau, which, from their ignorance of the
near proximity of the French, had been left but weakly guarded. Believing
that as they fell back they would be hotly pursued by the French army,
the king took the command of the rear as the post of danger, and the
columns, facing about, marched towards Dettingen.
But the French had been beforehand with them. De Noailles had sent 23,000
men under his nephew the Duke de Grammont across the river to occupy
Dettingen. He himself with his main army remained on the south side, with
his artillery placed so as to fire across the river upon the flank of the
English as they approached Dettingen; while he could march up and cross
at Aschaffenburg should the English, after being beaten back at
Dettingen, try to retreat up the river.
De Grammont's position was a very strong one behind a swamp and a deep
ravine hollowed out by a stream from the hill. There seemed no
possibility of escape for the English army, who were as yet absolutely in
ignorance of the position of the French. As the head of the column
approached Dettingen, Grammont's artillery opened upon them in front,
while that of De Noailles smote them in flank. As soon as the king found
that his retreat was cut off he galloped from the rear of the column to
its head. His horse, alarmed by the fire of the artillery and whistling
of balls, ran away with him, and was with difficulty stopped just as he
reached the head of the column. He at once dismounted and announced his
intention of leading his troops on foot.
There was a hasty council held between him, Lord Stair, and the Duke of
Cumberland, and it was agreed that the only escape from entire
destruction was by fighting their way through the force now in front of
them. This would indeed have been impossible had De Grammont held his
position; but when that officer saw the English troops halt he believed
he had only the advanced guard in front of him, and resolving to
overwhelm these before their main body arrived, he abandoned his strong
position, led the troops across the swamp, and charged the English in
De Noailles, from the opposite bank, seeing the error his nephew had
made, hurried his troops towards the bridges in order to cross the river
and render him assistance; but it was too late.
The English infantry, headed by the king in person, hurled themselves
upon the troops of De Grammont.
Every man felt that the only hope of escape from this trap into which
they had fallen lay in cutting their way through the enemy, and so
furiously did they fight that De Grammont's troops were utterly
overthrown, and were soon in full flight towards the bridges in the rear,
hotly pursued by the English. Before they could reach the bridges they
left behind them on the field six thousand killed and wounded. King
George, satisfied with his success, and knowing that the French army was
still greatly superior to his own, wisely determined to get out of his
dangerous position as soon as possible, and pushed on that night to
Although Malcolm and Ronald were too far off to witness the incidents of
the battle, they made out the tide of war rolling away from them, and saw
the black masses of troops pressing on through Dettingen in spite of the
French artillery which thundered from the opposite bank of the river.
"They have won!" Ronald said, throwing up his cap. "Hurrah, Malcolm!
Where is the utter destruction of the English now? See, the plain beyond
Dettingen is covered by a confused mass of flying men. The English have
broken out of the trap, and instead of being crushed have won a great
"It looks like it certainly," Malcolm said. "I would not have believed it
if I had not seen it; their destruction seemed certain. And now let us go
round to the camp again."
On their way down Malcolm said:
"I think, on the whole, Ronald, that you are perhaps right, and the
French defeat will do good rather than harm to the Stuart cause. Had they
conquered, Louis would have been too intent on pushing forward his own
schemes to care much for the Stuarts. He has no real interest in them,
and only uses them as cat's paws to injure England. If he had beaten the
English and Hanoverians he would not have needed their aid. As it is, it
seems likely enough that he will try to create a diversion, and keep the
English busy at home by aiding the Stuarts with men and money to make a
landing in Scotland."
"In that case, Malcolm, we need not grieve over the defeat today. You
know my sympathies are with the brave Empress of Austria rather than with
her enemies, and this defeat should go far towards seating her securely
on the throne. Now, what will you do, Malcolm? Shall we try and find my
father's friends at once?"
"Nor for another few days," Malcolm said. "Just after a defeat men are
not in the best mood to discuss bygone matters. Let us wait and see what
is done next."
The next morning a portion of the French army which had not been engaged
crossed the river and collected the French and English wounded, for the
latter had also been left behind. They were treated by the French with
the same care and kindness that was bestowed upon their own wounded. De
Noailles was about to advance against the English at Hanau, when he
received the news that the French army in Bavaria had been beaten back by
Prince Charles, and had crossed the Rhine into Alsace. As he would now be
exposed to the whole brunt of the attack of the allies he decided to
retreat at once.
The next day the retreat recommenced. Many of the drivers had fled at the
first news of the defeat, and Malcolm without question assumed the post
of driver of one of the abandoned teams. For another week the army
retired, and then crossing the Rhine near Worms were safe from pursuit.
"Now, Ronald, I will look up the old regiment, and we will see what is to
The 2d Scotch Dragoons were posted in a little village a mile distant
from the main camp which had now been formed. Malcolm did nor make any
formal transfer of the waggon to the authorities, thinking it by no means
improbable that they would insist upon his continuing his self adopted
avocation as driver; but after seeing to the horses, which were picketed
with a long line of transport animals, he and Ronald walked quietly away
without any ceremony of adieu.
"We must not come back again here," he said, "for some of the teamsters
would recognize me as having been driving lately, and I should have hard
work to prove that I was not a deserter; we must take to the old regiment
now as long as we are here."
On reaching the village they found the street full of troopers, who were
busy engaged in cleaning their arms, grooming their horses, and removing
all signs of weather and battle. Ronald felt a thrill of pleasure at
hearing his native language spoken. He had now so far improved the
knowledge of French as to be able to converse without difficulty, for
Malcolm had from his childhood tried to keep up his French, and had
lately always spoken in that language to him, unless it was necessary to
speak in English in order to make him understand.
These occasions had become more and more rare, and two months of constant
conversation with Malcolm and others had enabled Ronald by this time to
speak with some fluency in the French tongue. None of the soldiers paid
any attention to the newcomers, whose dress differed in no way from that
of Frenchmen, as after the shipwreck they had, of course, been obliged to
rig themselves out afresh. Malcolm stopped before an old sergeant who was
diligently polishing his sword hilt.
"And how fares it with you all these years, Angus Graeme?"
The sergeant almost dropped his sword in his surprise at being so
addressed in his own tongue by one whose appearance betokened him a
"You don't know me, Angus," Malcolm went on with a smile; "and yet you
ought to, for if it hadn't been for me the sword of the German hussar who
carved that ugly scar across your cheek would have followed it up by
putting an end to your soldiering altogether."
"Heart alive, but it's Malcolm Anderson! Eh, man, but I am glad to see
you! I thought you were dead years ago, for I have heard nae mair of you
since the day when you disappeared from among us like a spook, the same
day that puir Colonel Leslie was hauled off to the Bastille. A sair day
was that for us a'! And where ha' ye been all the time?"
"Back at home, Angus, at least in body, for my heart's been with the old
regiment. And who, think you, is this? But you must keep a close mouth,
man, for it must nor be talked of. This is Leslie's son. By his father's
last order I took him off to Scotland with me to be out of reach of his
foes, and now I have brought him back again to try if between us we can
gain any news of his father."
"You don't say so, Malcolm! I never as much heard that the colonel had a
son, though there was some talk in the regiment that he had married a
great lady, and that it was for that that he had been hid away in prison.
And this is Leslie's boy! Only to think, now! Well, young sir, there
isn't a man in the regiment but wad do his best for your father's son,
for those who have joined us since, and in truth that's the great part of
us, have heard many a tale of Colonel Leslie, though they may not have
served under him, and not a tale but was to his honour, for a braver
officer nor a kinder one never stepped the earth. But come inside,
Malcolm. I have got a room to myself and a stoup of good wine; let's talk
over things fair and gentle, and when I know what it is that you want you
may be sure that I will do all I can, for the sake baith of the colonel
and of you, auld comrade."
The trio were soon seated in the cottage, and Malcolm then gave a short
sketch of all that had taken place since he had left the regiment.
"Well, well!" the sergeant said when he had ended; "and so the lad, young
as he is, has already drawn his sword for the Stuarts, and takes after
his father in loyalty as well as in looks, for now that I know who he is
I can see his father's face in his plain enough; and now for your plans,
"Our plans must be left to chance, Angus. We came hither to see whether
any of the colonel's friends are still in the regiment, and to learn from
them whether they have any news whatever of him; and secondly, whether
they can tell us aught of his mother."
"Ay, there are six or eight officers still in the regiment who served
with him. Hume is our colonel now; you will remember him, Malcolm, well,
for he was captain of our troop; and Major Macpherson was a captain too.
Then there are Oliphant, and Munroe, and Campbell, and Graham, all of
whom were young lieutenants in your time, and are now old captains of
"I will see the colonel and Macpherson," Malcolm said; "if they do not
know, the younger men are not likely to. Will you go along with us,
Angus, and introduce me, though Hume is like enough to remember me,
seeing that I was so much with Leslie?"
"They will be dining in half an hour," the sergeant said; "we'll go after
they have done the meal. It's always a good time to talk with men when
they are full, and the colonel will have no business to disturb him then.
Our own dinner will be ready directly; I can smell a goose that I picked
up, as it might be by accident, at the place where we halted last night.
There are four or five of us old soldiers who always mess together when
we are not on duty with our troops, and if I mistake not, you will know
every one of them, and right glad they will be to see you; but of course
I shall say no word as to who the lad is, save that he is a friend of
A few minutes later four other sergeants dropped in, and there was a
joyful greeting between them and Malcolm as soon as they recognized his
identity. The meal was a jovial one, as old jokes and old reminiscences
were recalled. After an hour's sitting Angus said:
"Pass round the wine, lads, till we come back again. I am taking Anderson
to the colonel, who was captain of his troop. We are not likely to be
long, and when we come back we will make a night of it in honour of old
times, or I am mistaken."
On leaving the cottage they waited for a while until they saw the colonel
and major rise from beside the fire round which, with the other officers,
they had been taking their meal, and walk to the cottage which they
shared between them. Angus went up and saluted.
"What is it, Graeme?" the colonel asked.
"There's one here who would fain have a talk with you. It is Malcolm
Anderson, whom you may remember as puir Colonel Leslie's servant, and as
being in your own troop, and he has brought one with him concerning whom
he will speak to you himself."
"Of course I remember Anderson," the colonel said. "He was devoted to
Leslie. Bring him in at once. What can have brought him out here again
after so many years? Been getting into some trouble at home, I suppose?
He was always in some scrape or other when he was in the regiment, for,
though he was a good soldier, he was as wild and reckless a blade as any
in the regiment. You remember him, Macpherson?"
"Yes, I remember him well," the major said. "The colonel was very fond of
him, and regarded him almost as a brother."
A minute later Angus ushered Malcolm and Ronald into the presence of the
two officers, who had now taken seats in the room which served as kitchen
and sitting room to the cottage, which was much the largest in the
"Well, Anderson, I am glad to see you again," Colonel Hume said, rising
and holding out his hand. "We have often spoken of you since the day you
disappeared, saying that you were going on a mission for the colonel, and
have wondered what the mission was, and how it was that we never heard of
"I came over to Paris four years later, colonel, but the regiment was
away in Flanders, and as I found out from others what I had come to
learn, there was no use in my following you. As to the colonel's mission,
it was this;" and he put his hand on Ronald's shoulder.
"What do you mean, Anderson?" the colonel asked in surprise.
"This is Colonel Leslie's son, sir. He bade me fetch him straight away
from the folk with whom he was living and take him off to Scotland so as
to be out of reach of his foes, who would doubtless have made even
shorter work with him than they did with the colonel."
"Good heavens!" the colonel exclaimed; "this is news indeed. So poor
Leslie left a child and this is he! My lad," he said, taking Ronald's
hand, "believe me that anything that I can do for you, whatever it be,
shall be done, for the sake of your dear father, whom I loved as an elder
"And I too," the major said. "There was not one of us but would have
fought to the death for Leslie. And now sit down, my lad, while Anderson
tells us your story."
Malcolm began at the account of the charge which Colonel Leslie had
committed to him, and the manner in which he had fulfilled it. He told
them how he had placed the child in the care of his brother, he himself
having no fixed home of his own, and how the lad had received a solid
education, while he had seen to his learning the use of his sword, so
that he might be able to follow his father's career. He then told them
the episode of the Jacobite agent, and the escape which had been effected
in the Thames.
"You have done well, Anderson," the colonel said when he had concluded;
"and if ever Leslie should come to see his son he will have cause to
thank you, indeed, for the way in which you have carried out the charge
he committed to you, and he may well be pleased at seeing him grown up
such a manly young fellow. As to Leslie himself, we know not whether he
be alive or dead. Every interest was made at the time to assuage his
majesty's hostility, but the influence of the Marquis of Recambours was
too strong, and the king at last peremptorily forbade Leslie's name being
mentioned before him. You see, although the girl's father was, of course,
at liberty to bestow her hand on whomsoever he pleased, he had, with the
toadyism of a courtier, asked the king's approval of the match with
Chateaurouge, which, as a matter of course, he received. His majesty,
therefore, chose to consider it as a personal offence against himself
that this Scottish soldier of fortune should carry off one of the richest
heiresses of France, whose hand he had himself granted to one of his
peers. At the same rime I cannot but think that Leslie still lives, for
had he been dead we should assuredly have heard of the marriage of his
widow with some one else. The duke has, of course, long since married,
and report says that the pair are ill-matched; but another husband would
speedily have been found for the widow."
"Since the duke has married," Ronald said, "he should no longer be so
bitter against my father, and perhaps after so long an imprisonment the
king might be moved to grant his release."
"As the duke's marriage is an unhappy one, I fear that you cannot count
upon his hostility to your father being in any way lessened, as he would
all the more regret the interference with his former plans."
"Have you any idea where my mother is, sir?"
"None," the colonel said. "But that I might find out for you. I will give
you a letter to the Count de Noyes, who is on intimate terms with the
Archbishop of Paris, who would, no doubt, be able to tell him in which
convent the lady is residing. You must not be too sanguine, my poor boy,
of seeing her, for it is possible that she has already taken the veil.
Indeed, if your father has died, and she has still refused to accept any
suitor whom the marquis may have found for her, you may be sure that she
has been compelled to take the veil, as her estates would then revert to
the nearest kinsman. This may, for aught we know, have happened years
ago, without a word of it being bruited abroad, and the affair only known
to those most concerned. However, we must look at the best side. We shall
be able, doubtless, to learn through the archbishop whether she is still
merely detained in the convent or has taken the veil, and you can then
judge accordingly whether your father is likely to be alive or dead. But
as to your obtaining an interview with your mother, I regard it as
impossible in the one case as the other.
"At any rate it is of the highest importance that it should not be known
that you are in France. If it is proved that your father is dead and your
mother is secluded for life, we must then introduce you to her family,
and try and get them to bring all their influence to bear to have you
acknowledged openly as the legitimate heir of the marquis, and to obtain
for you the succession to at least a portion of his estates -- say to
that of those which she brought him as her dowry. In this you may be sure
that I and every Scottish gentleman in the army will give you all the aid
and influence we can bring to bear."
Ronald warmly thanked Colonel Hume for his kindness, and the next day,
having received the letter to the Count de Noyes, set out for Paris with
Malcolm. On his arrival there he lost no time in calling upon the count,
and presenting his letter of introduction.
The count read it through twice without speaking.
"My friend Colonel Hume," he said at last, "tells me that you are the
son, born in lawful wedlock, of Colonel Leslie and Amelie de Recambours.
I am aware of the circumstances of the case, being distantly related to
the lady's family, and will do that which Colonel Hume asks me, namely,
discover the convent in which she is living. But I warn you, young man,
that your position here is a dangerous one, and that were it known that
Colonel Leslie's son is alive and in France, I consider your life would
not be worth a day's purchase. When powerful people are interested in the
removal of anyone not favoured with powerful protection the matter is
easily arranged. There are hundreds of knives in Paris whose use can be
purchased for a few crowns, of if seclusion be deemed better than
removal, a king's favourite can always obtain a lettre-de-cachet, and a
man may linger a lifetime in prison without a soul outside the walls
knowing of his existence there.
"You are an obstacle to the plans of a great noble, and that is in France
a fatal offence. Your wisest course, young man, would be to efface
yourself, to get your friend Colonel Hume to obtain for you a commission
in his regiment, and to forget for ever that you are the son of Colonel
Leslie and Amelie de Recambours. However, in that you will doubtless
choose for yourself; but believe me my advice is good. At any rate I will
do what my friend Colonel Hume asks me, and will obtain for you the name
of the convent where your mother is living. I do not see that you will be
any the better off when you have it, for assuredly you will nor be able
to obtain permission to see her. However, that again is your affair. If
you will give me the address where you are staying in Paris I will write
to you as soon as I obtain the information. Do not be impatient, the
archbishop himself may be in ignorance on the point; but I doubt not,
that to oblige me, he will obtain the information from the right quarter.
A week later, Ronald, on returning one day to Le Soldat Ecossais, found a
note awaiting him. It contained only the words:
"She has not taken the veil; she is at the convent of Our Lady at Tours."
The next morning Ronald and Malcolm set out on their journey to Tours.
CHAPTER VI: The Convent of Our Lady.
Arrived at Tours, Malcolm took a quiet lodging in a retired street.
Colonel Hume had furnished him with a regular discharge, testifying that
the bearer, Malcolm Anderson, had served his time in the 2d Scotch
Dragoons, and was now discharged as being past service, and that he
recommended him as a steady man for any employment for which he might be
suited. Malcolm showed this document to his landlord in order that the
latter might, as required by law, duly give notice to the police of the
name and occupation of his lodger, and at the same time mentioned that
the relations of his wife lived near Tours, and that he hoped through
them to be able to obtain some sort of employment.
As soon as they were settled in their lodgings they went out, and after a
few inquiries found themselves in front of the convent of Our Lady. It
was a massive building, in a narrow street near the river, to which its
grounds, surrounded by a high wall, extended. None of the windows of the
building looked towards the street, upon which the massive gate, with a
small wicket entrance, opened.
"What building is this?" Malcolm, in a careless tone, asked a woman who
was sitting knitting at her door nearly opposite the entrance. "I am a
stranger in Tours."
"That needs no telling," the woman replied, "or you would have known that
that is the convent of Our Lady, one of the richest in Touraine, and they
say in all France. Though what they do with their riches is more than I
can tell, seeing that the rules are of the strictest, and that no one
ever comes beyond the gates. They have their own grounds down to the
river, and there is a walk along the wall there where they take the air
of an evening when the weather is fine. Poor things, I pity them from my
"But I suppose they all came willingly," Malcolm said; "so there is no
need for pity."
"I don't know about willingly," the woman said. "I expect most of them
took the veil rather than marry the men their fathers provided for them,
or because they were in the way of someone who wanted their lands, or
because their lovers had been killed in the war, just as if grief for a
lover was going to last one's life. Besides, they are not all sisters.
They say there's many a lady of good family shut up there till she will
do her father's will. 'Well, well,' I often says to myself, 'they may
have all the riches of France inside those walls, but I would rather sit
knitting at my door here than have a share of them.'"
"You are a wise woman," Malcolm said. "There is nothing like freedom.
Give me a crust, and a sod for my pillow, rather than gold plates inside
a prison. I have been a soldier all my life, and have had my share of
hard knocks; but I never grumbled so long as I was on a campaign, though
I often found it dull work enough when in garrison."
"Oh, you have been a soldier! I have a brother in the regiment of
Touraine. Perhaps you know him?"
"I know the regiment of Touraine," Malcolm said; "and there are no braver
set of men in the king's service. What is his name?"
"Pierre Pitou. I have not heard of him for the last two years. He is a
tall man, and broad, with a scar over the left eye."
"To be sure, to be sure!" Malcolm said. "Of course, Pierre Pitou is one
of my best friends; and now I think of it, madam, I ought to know without
asking, so great is his resemblance to you. Why, his last words to me
were, 'If you go to Tours, seek out my sister, who lives in a house
nearly opposite the entrance to the convent of Our Lady;' and to think I
should have forgotten all about it till I saw you!"
Malcolm remained for a quarter of an hour chatting with the woman about
her brother, and then, promising to call again the next day in the
evening to be introduced to her husband, he rejoined Ronald, who had been
waiting at the corner of the lane, and had been fidgeting with impatience
at the long interview between Malcolm and the woman.
"What have you been talking about all this time, Malcolm, and what could
you have to say to a stranger?"
"I have been telling her all about her brother, Pierre Pitou of the
Touraine regiment, and how he distinguished himself at Dettingen, and
will surely be made a sergeant, with a hope some day of getting to be a
captain. I have quite won her heart."
"But who is Pierre Pitou, and when did you know him?" Ronald asked
"He is a tall man with broad shoulders and a scar over his left eye,"
Malcolm said laughing, and he then related the whole conversation.
"But why did you pretend to this poor woman that you knew her brother?"
"Because she may be very useful to us, Ronald; and if you can't find a
friend in court, it's just as well to have one near court. She is a
gossiping woman, and like enough she may know some of the lay sisters,
who are, in fact, the servants of the convent, and come out to buy
supplies of food and other things, and who distribute the alms among the
poor. I don't know what advantage will come of it yet, Ronald; but I can
see I have done a great stroke of business, and feel quite an affection
for my friend Pierre Pitou."
Malcolm followed up the acquaintance he had made, and soon established
himself as a friend of the family. Ronald did not accompany him on any of
his visits, for as the plan of proceeding was still undecided, he and
Malcolm agreed that it was better that he should not show himself until
some favourable opportunity offered.
Sometimes towards evening he and Malcolm would take a boat and float down
the stream past the convent walls, and Ronald would wonder which of the
figures whose heads he could perceive as they walked upon the terrace,
was that of his mother. It was not until Malcolm had become quite at home
with Madame Vipon that he again turned the conversation towards the
convent. He learned that she had often been inside the walls, for before
her marriage she had worked at a farm whence the convent drew a portion
of its supplies; milk, butter, and eggs, and she had often carried
baskets to the convent.
"Of course I never went beyond the outer court," she said; "but Farmer
Miron's daughter -- it was he owned the farm -- is a lay sister there.
She was crossed in love, poor girl. She liked Andre, the son of a
neighbouring farmer, but it was but a small place by the side of that of
Miron, and her father would not hear of it, but wanted her to marry
Jacques Dubois, the rich miller, who was old enough to be her father.
Andre went to the wars and was killed; and instead of changing when the
news came, as her father expected, and taking up with the miller, she
hated him worse than ever, and said that he was the cause of Andre's
death; so the long and short of it was, she came as a lay sister to the
convent here. Of course she never thought of taking the vows, for to do
that here one must be noble and be able to pay a heavy dowry to the
"So she is just a lay sister, a sort of servant, you know, but she is a
favourite and often goes to market for them, and when she does she
generally drops in here for a few minutes for a talk; for though she was
only a child when I was at the farm we were great friends, and she hears
from me how all the people she used to know are getting on."
"I suppose she knows all the ladies who reside in the convent as well as
"Oh, yes, and much better than the sisters! It is on them she waits. She
does not see much of the sisters, who keep to their own side of the
house, and have very little to do with the visitors, or as one might call
them the prisoners, for that is what most of them really are."
"Now I think of it," Malcolm said, "one of the officers I served under
had a relation, a lady, whom I have heard him say, when he was talking to
another officer, is shut up here, either because she wouldn't marry some
one her father didn't want her to, I forget exactly what it was now. Let
me see, what was her name. Elise -- no, that wasn't it. Amelie -- Amelie
de Recambours -- yes, that was it."
"Oh, yes, I know the name! I have heard Jeanne speak of her. Jeanne said
it was whispered among them that she had really married somebody against
her father's will. At any rate she has been there ever so many years, and
they have not made her take the veil, as they do most of them if they are
obstinate and won't give way. Poor thing! Jeanne says she is very pretty
still, though she must be nearly forty now."
"That is very interesting," Malcolm said; "and if you will not mind,
Madam Vipon, I will write to the officer of whom I spoke and tell him his
cousin is alive and well. I was his servant in the regiment, and I know,
from what I have heard him say, he was very much attached to her. There
can be no harm in that, you know," he said, as Madam Vipon looked
doubtful; "but if you would prefer it, of course I will not say how I
"Yes, that will be better," she agreed. "There is never any saying how
things come round; and though there's no harm in what I have told you,
still it's ill gossiping about what takes place inside convent walls."
"I quite agree with you, my dear Madam Vipon, and admire your discretion.
It is singular how you take after your brother. Pierre Pitou had the
reputation of being the most discreet man in the regiment of Touraine."
Ronald was very excited when he heard from Malcolm that he had actually
obtained news at second hand as to his mother, and it was with difficulty
that his friend persuaded him to allow matters to go on as he proposed.
"It will never do to hurry things now, Ronald; everything is turning out
beyond our expectations. A fortnight ago it seemed absolutely hopeless
that you should communicate with your mother; now things are in a good
train for it."
Accordingly Malcolm made no further allusion to the subject to Madame
Vipon until a fortnight had passed; then he said, on calling on her one
"Do you know, my dear Madam Vipon, I have had a letter from the gentleman
of whom I was speaking to you. He is full of gratitude at the news I sent
him. I did not tell him from whom I had heard the news, save that it was
from one of the kindest of women, the sister of an old comrade of mine.
He has sent me this" -- and he took out a small box which he opened, and
showed a pretty gold broach, with earrings to match -- "and bid me to
give it in his name to the person who had sent him this good news."
"That is beautiful," Madam Vipon said, clapping her hands; "and I have so
often wished for a real gold broach! Won't my husband open his eyes when
he sees them!"
"I think, if I might advise, my dear madam," Malcolm said, "I should not
give him the exact history of them. He might take it into his head that
you had been gossiping, although there is no woman in the world less
given to gossiping than you are. Still, you know what husbands are.
Therefore, if I were you I would tell him that your brother Pierre had
sent them to you through me, knowing, you see, that you could not have
read a letter even if he could have written one."
"Yes, perhaps that would be the best," Madam Vipon said; "but you had
better write to Pierre and tell him. Otherwise when he comes home, and my
husband thanks him for them, he might say he had never sent them, and
there would be a nice affair."
"I will do so," Malcolm said; "but in any case I am sure your wit would
have come to the rescue, and you would have said that you had in fact
bought them from your savings; but that thinking your husband might
grumble at your little economies you had thought it best to say that they
came from your brother."
"Oh, fie, monsieur; I am afraid you are teaching me to tell stories."
"That is a very hard word, my dear madam. You know as well as I do that
without a little management on both sides husbands and wives would never
get on well together; but now I want to tell you more. Not only does my
old master write to say how glad he is to hear of his cousin's welfare,
but he has told me a great deal more about the poor lady, and knowing
your kindness of heart I do not hesitate to communicate the contents of
his letter to you. The Countess Amelie de Recambours was secretly married
to a young officer, a great friend of my late master, and her father did
not discover it until after the birth of a child -- a boy. Then she was
shut up here. The father got the boy safely away to Scotland, but he has
now come back to France. I do not suppose the poor lady has ever heard of
her little son since, and it would be an act of kindness and mercy to let
her know that he is alive and well."
"Yes, indeed, poor creature," Madame Vipon said sympathetically. "Only to
think of being separated from your husband, and never hearing of your
child for all these years!"
"I knew your tender heart would sympathize with her," Malcolm said; "she
is indeed to be pitied."
"And what became of her husband?"
"I fancy he died years ago; but my master says nothing about him. He only
writes of the boy, who it seems is so delighted with the news about his
mother that he is coming here to see if it is possible to have an
interview with her."
"But it is not possible," Madam Vipon exclaimed. "How can he see her,
shut up as she is in that convent?"
"Yes, it is difficult," Malcolm agreed; "but nothing is impossible, my
dear madam, when a woman of heart like yourself takes a matter in hand;
and I rely, I can tell you, greatly on your counsel; as to your goodwill,
I am assured of that beforehand."
"But it is quite, quite, quite impossible, I assure you, my good Monsieur
"Well, let us see. Now I know that you would suggest that the first
measure to be taken is to open communication between mother and son, and
there I heartily agree with you."
"That would be the first thing of course, monsieur; but how is that to be
"Now that is where I look to you, madam. Your friend Jeanne waits upon
her, you see, and I know your quick wit will already have perceived that
Jeanne might deliver a message. I am sure that she would never be your
friend had she not a warm heart like your own, and it will need very
little persuasion on your part, when you have told her this sad story, to
induce her to bring gladness to this unfortunate lady."
"Yes; but think of the consequences, Monsieur Anderson: think what would
happen if it were found out."
"Yes, if there were any talk of the countess running away from the
convent I would not on any condition ask you to assist in such a matter;
but what is this -- merely to give a message, a few harmless words."
"But you said an interview, Monsieur Anderson."
"An interview only if it is possible, my dear madam, that is quite
another matter, and you know you said that it was quite impossible. All
that we want now is just a little message, a message by word of mouth
which not even the keenest eye can discover or prevent; there can be no
harm in that."
"No, I don't think there can be much harm in that," Madam Vipon agreed;
"at any rate I will talk to Jeanne. It will be her day for going to
market tomorrow; I will tell her the story of the poor lady, and I think
I can answer beforehand that she will do everything she can."
The following afternoon Malcolm again saw Madam Vipon, who told him that
although she had not actually promised she had no doubt Jeanne would
deliver the message.
"She will be out again on Saturday, monsieur, at nine in the morning, and
if you will be here with the boy, if he has arrived by that time, you
shall speak to her."
At the time appointed Malcolm, with Ronald, attired now as a young French
gentleman, arrived at the house of Madam Vipon, who was warmly thanked by
Ronald for the interest she had taken in him.
"My friend here has spoken to me in the highest terms of you, Madam
Vipon, and I am sure that all that he has said is no more than the
"I am sure I will do all I can," replied Madam Vipon, who was greatly
taken by Ronald's appearance and manner; "it's a cruel thing separating a
mother from a son so many years, and after all what I am doing is no
hanging matter anyway."
A few minutes later Jeanne entered; she was a pleasant looking woman of
five or six and twenty, and even her sombre attire as a lay sister failed
to give a formal look to her merry face.
"So these are the gentlemen who want me to become a conspirator," she
said, "and to run the risk of all sorts of punishment and penalties for
meddling in their business?"
"Not so much my business as the business of my mother," Ronald said. "You
who have such true heart of your own, for madam has told us something of
your story, will, I am sure, feel for that poor lady shut up for fifteen
years, and knowing not whether her child is dead or alive. If we could
but see each other for five minutes, think what joy it would be to her,
what courage her poor heart would take."
"See each other!" Jeanne repeated surprised. "You said nothing about
that, Francoise; you only said take a message. How can they possibly see
each other? That's a different thing altogether."
"I want you to take a message first," Ronald said. "If nothing more can
be done that will be very much; but I cannot think but that you and my
mother between you will be able to hit upon some plan by which we might
"But how," Jeanne asked in perplexity, "how could it possibly be?"
"For example," Ronald suggested; "could I not come in as a lay sister? I
am not much taller than you, and could pass very well as a girl."
Jeanne burst our laughing.
"You do not know what you are saying, monsieur; it would be altogether
impossible. People do not get taken on as lay sisters in the convent of
Our Lady unless they are known; besides, in other ways it would be
altogether impossible, and even if it were not it might be years before
you could get to speak to the countess, for there are only two or three
of us who ever enter the visitors' rooms; and lastly, if you were found
out I don't know what would be done to both of us. No, that would never
do at all."
"Well, in the next place, I could climb on to the river terrace at night,
and perhaps she could come and speak to me there."
"That is more possible," Jeanne said thoughtfully; "but all the doors are
locked up at night."
"But she might get out of a window," Ronald urged; "with a rope ladder
she could get down, and then return again, and none be the wiser."
Jeanne sat silent for a minute, and then she asked suddenly:
"Are you telling me all, monsieur, or are you intending that the countess
shall escape with you?"
"No, indeed, on my honour!" Ronald exclaimed. "I have nowhere where I
could take my mother. She would be pursued and brought back, and her
position would be far worse than it is now. No; I swear to you that I
only want to see her and to speak to her, and I have nothing else
whatever in my mind."
"I believe you, monsieur," Jeanne said gravely. "Had it been otherwise I
dare not have helped, for my punishment if I was discovered to have aided
in an escape from the convent would be terrible -- terrible!" she
repeated with a shudder. "As to the other, I will risk it; for a gentler
and kinder lady I have never met. And yet I am sure she must be very,
very brave to have remained firm for so many years. At any rate I will
give her your message."
Ronald took from a small leather bag, which he wore round his neck, a
tiny gold chain with a little cross.
"I had this round my neck when I was taken away as a child to Scotland.
No doubt she put it there, and will recognize it. Say to her only: 'He
whom you have not seen since he was an infant is in Tours, longing above
all things to speak to you;' that is all my message. Afterwards, if you
will, you can tell her what we have said, and how I long to see her. How
high is her room from the ground? Because if it is high it will be better
that I should climb to her window, than that she should descend and
Jeanne shook her head.
"That could not be," she said. "The visitors have all separate cells, but
the partitions do not go up to the ceiling; and even if you entered, not
a word could be spoken without being overheard. But fortunately she is on
the first floor, and I am sure she is not one to shrink from so little a
matter as the descent of a ladder in order to have an interview with her
That same afternoon as Amelie de Recambours was proceeding from the
refectory to her cell, following several of her fellow captives, her
attendant Jeanne came out from one of the cells. Glancing behind to see
that no one was following, she put her finger on her lips and then
whispered: "Make some excuse not to go into the garden with the others
this evening. It is most important." Then she glided back into the room
from which she had come.
The countess followed the others in a state of almost bewilderment. For
sixteen years nothing had occurred to break the monotony of her
existence. At first occasional angry messages reached her from her
father, with orders to join an application to the pope for a divorce; but
when it had been found impossible to overcome her steady refusals the
messages had at last ceased, and for years no word from the outer world
had reached her, although she had learned from those who from time to
time came to share her captivity what was passing outside. Whether her
husband was alive or dead she knew not. They had told her over and over
again that he was dead; but the fact that she had never had the option
given her of accepting another husband or taking the final vows kept hope
alive. For she was convinced that if he was really dead, efforts would be
made to compel her to marry again.
What, then, she wondered to herself, could this communication so secretly
given mean? She regarded the lay sister who attended upon her as a happy
looking young woman whose face was in strong contrast to most of those
within the walls of the convent; but she had exchanged but few words with
her, knowing that she would be but a short time about her. For the policy
of the abbess was to change the attendants upon the ladies in their
charge frequently, in order to prevent them from being tampered with, or
persuaded into conveying communications without the walls.
"You look pale, Amelie," one of the other ladies said as they gathered in
a group for a moment before proceeding to their respective apartments,
where they were supposed to pass the afternoon in working, reading, and
"It is the heat," the countess said. "I have a headache."
"You look it," the latter said. "It is not often that you have anything
the matter with you. You know we all say that you must have a
constitution of iron and the courage of a Roland to be sixteen years here
and yet to have no wrinkle on your forehead, no marks of weeping round
The countess smiled sadly.
"I wept the first six months almost without ceasing, and then I told
myself that if I would be strong and resist I must weep no more. If a
bird in a cage once takes to pining he is sure not to live long. There
are few of us here the news of whose death would not give pleasure to
those who shut us up, and I for one resolved that I would live in spite
"Well, you must not get ill now, Amelie. We should miss you terribly in
the one hour of the day when we really live, the hour when we walk and
talk, and laugh if we can, on the river terrace.
"I don't think I shall be able to come this evening," the countess said.
"I shall lie down and keep myself quiet. Tomorrow I hope to be myself
again. It is a mere passing indisposition."
The hours passed slowly as Amelie lay on her couch and wondered over the
coming interview. There were so many things which she might hear -- that
her father was dead; that her family had hopes at last of obtaining her
restoration to the world. That it could be a message from her husband she
had no hope, for so long as her father lived she was sure that his
release would never be granted. As to the child, she scarce gave it a
thought. That it had somehow been removed and had escaped the search that
had been made for it she was aware; for attempts had been made to obtain
from her some clue as to where it would most likely have been taken. She
was convinced that it had never been found, for if it had she would have
heard of it. It would have been used as a lever to work upon her.
At last the hour when she was accustomed to go into the garden arrived,
and as the convent bell struck seven she heard the doors of the other
cells open, the sound of feet in the corridor, and then all became still.
In a few minutes a step approached, and one of the sisters entered to
inquire why she was not in the garden with the others.
She repeated that her head ached.
"You look pale," the sister said, "and your hand is hot and feverish. I
will send you up some tisane. It is the heat, no doubt. I think that we
are going to have thunder."
In a few minutes a step was again heard approaching, and Jeanne entered
with the medicament. As she closed the door the countess started into a
"What is it, Jeanne? What is it that you have to say to me?"
"Calm yourself, I pray you, countess," Jeanne said. "For both our sakes I
pray you to hear what I have to say calmly. I expect Sister Felicia will
be here directly. When she heard you were unwell she said she would come
up and see what you needed. And now, I will begin my message. In the
first place I was to hand you this." And she placed in Amelie's hand the
little necklet and cross.
For a moment the countess looked at them wonderingly, and then there
flashed across her memory a sturdy child in its nurse's arms, and a tall
man looking on with a loving smile as she fastened a tiny gold chain
round the child's neck. A low cry burst from her lips as she started to
"Hush, lady, hush!" Jeanne exclaimed. "This is my message: 'He whom you
have not seen since he was an infant is in Tours, longing above all
things to speak to you.'"
"My child! my child!" the countess cried. "Alive and here! My God, I
thank thee that thou hast remembered a friendless mother at last. Have
you seen him, Jeanne? What is he like? Oh, tell me everything!"
"He is a right proper young gentleman, madam. Straight and comely and
tall, with brown waving hair and a bright pleasant face. A son such as
any mother might be proud of."
The countess suddenly threw her arms around Jeanne's neck and burst into
"You have made me so happy, Jeanne; happy as I never thought to be again.
How can I thank you?"
"The best way at present, madam," Jeanne said with a smile, "will be by
drinking up that tisane, and lying down quietly. Sister Felicia moves
about as noiselessly as a cat, and she may pop in at any moment. Do you
lie down again, and I will stand a little way off talking. Then if she
comes upon us suddenly she will suspect nothing."
The countess seized the bowl of tisane and drank it off, and then threw
herself on the couch.
"Go on, Jeanne, go on. Have pity on my impatience. Think how I am longing
to hear of him. Did the message say he was longing to see me? But that is
"It is not quite impossible, madam; though it would be dangerous, very
dangerous. Still it is not quite impossible."
"How then could it be done, Jeanne? You know what our life is here. How
can I possibly see my boy?"
"What he proposes, madam, is this: that he should some night scale the
river wall, and await you on the terrace, and that you should descend
from your window by a rope ladder, and so return after seeing him."
"Oh, yes, that is possible!" the countess exclaimed; "I could knot my bed
clothes and slide down. It matters not about getting back again, since we
have no ladder."
"I can manage to bring in two light ropes," Jeanne said. "It would not do
for you to be found in the garden, for it would excite suspicion, and you
would never have a chance of doing it again. But it is not an easy thing
to climb up a rope ladder with no one to help you, and you know I shall
be at the other end of the house."
"That is nothing," the countess said. "Had I to climb ten times the
height, do you think I should hesitate for a moment when it was to see my
son? Oh, Jeanne, how good you are! And when will it be?"
"I will bring in the ropes next time I go out. Mind and place them in
your bed. You will know that that night at eleven o'clock your son will
be on the terrace awaiting you.
As Jeanne finished speaking she placed her finger on her lips, for she
thought she heard a slight noise without. The countess closed her eyes
and then lay down on her pillow, while Jeanne stood as if watching her.
The next instant the door opened noiselessly and Sister Felicia entered.
She moved with a noiseless step up to Jeanne.
"Is she asleep?" she whispered.
"Oh no!" Jeanne answered in a louder voice, guessing that the sister
would have heard the murmur of voices. "She has only just closed her
The countess looked up.
"Ah! is it you, sister? I have taken the tisane Sister Angela sent up,
but my hands are burning and my head aches. The heat in chapel was so
great I thought I should have fainted."
"Your hands are indeed burning," the sister said, convinced, as soon as
she touched them, that the countess was really indisposed. "Yes; and your
pulse is beating quicker than I can count. Yes, you have a touch of
fever. I will mix you a draught and bring it up to you at once. Hark!
that is the first peal of thunder; we are going to have a storm. It will
clear the air, and do you even more good than my medicine. I will leave
you here for tonight; if you are not better tomorrow we will move you
into the infirmary."
The next morning Sister Felicia found her patient much better, though she
still seemed languid and weak, and was ordered to remain quietly in her
apartment for a day or so, which was just what she desired, for she was
so filled with her new born happiness that she feared that if she went
about her daily tasks as usual she should not be able to conceal from the
sharp eyes of the sisters the joyousness which was brimming over in her,
while had she laughed she would have astonished the inmates of the gloomy
CHAPTER VII: Mother!
When Jeanne, after accomplishing her errands the next time she went out,
entered Madam Vipon's, she found Ronald and Malcolm awaiting her.
"You have told my mother?" the former asked eagerly as she entered.
"Yes, I have told her, and if I had been an angel from heaven, with a
special message to her, the poor lady could not have looked more happy."
"And you have been like an angel to us!" Ronald exclaimed, taking her
hand. "How can I thank you for your goodness?"
"For shame, sir!" Jeanne said, smiling and colouring as Ronald, in his
delight, threw his arms round her and kissed her. "Remember I am a lay
"I could not have helped it," Ronald said, "if you had been the lady
superior. And now," he went on eagerly, "is all arranged? See, I have
brought a ladder of silk rope, light and thin, but quite strong enough to
"You take all for granted then, sir. You know I said I would take your
message, but that I would not engage to meddle further in it."
"I know you said so; but I was sure that having gone so far you would do
the rest. You will, won't you, Jeanne?"
"I suppose I must," Jeanne said; "for what with the countess on one side
and you on the other, I should get no peace if I said no. Well, then, it
is all arranged. At eleven o'clock tonight you are to be on the terrace,
and you can expect her there. If she does not come you will know that
something has occurred to prevent her, and she will come the following
night at the same hour."
Jeanne took the silken cords and wound them round her, under her lay
sister's robe, and then, with a kindly nod at Ronald, and an injunction
to be as noiseless as a mouse in climbing up the terrace, and above all
not to raise his voice in speaking to his mother, she tripped away across
the street to the convent.
Malcolm and Ronald sallied out from Tours before the city gates were
closed at sunset, and sat down on the slope which rises from the other
side of the river and waited till it was time to carry the plan into
operation. Gradually the lights disappeared from the various windows and
the sounds which came across the water ceased, and by ten o'clock
everything was profoundly still. They had, in the course of the
afternoon, hired a boat, saying they were going out for a night's
fishing. This they had moored a short distance below the town, on the
side of the river where they now were. They now made their way to it and
rowed quietly across the stream; then they left it and waded through the
water, which flowed knee deep at the foot of the walls.
Although Tours was still a walled town the habit of keeping sentry in
time of peace had long since died out, and they had no fear, at that
hour, of discovery. There was no moon, but the night was bright and
clear, and they had no difficulty in finding that part of the wall which
now formed the terrace of the convent.
They were provided with a rope knotted at every foot, and with a grapnel
attached to one end. At the second attempt this caught on the parapet of
the wall, and Ronald at once climbed it and stood on the terrace, where,
a minute later, he was joined by Malcolm. The convent itself could not be
seen, for a screen of trees at the foot of the wall shut it off from the
view of people on the opposite bank of the river. They waited quietly
until a sudden peal of the bells of the numerous churches announced that
it was the hour. Then they moved towards the steps leading down into the
garden. A minute later a figure was seen approaching. Malcolm fell back,
and Ronald advanced towards it. As the countess approached she held our
her arms, exclaiming:
"My boy, my boy!" and with a cry of "Mother!" Ronald sprang forward into
For a short time not a word was spoken, and then the countess murmured:
"My God, I thank thee for this great happiness. And now, my son," she
said, recovering herself, "tell me everything. First, have you news of
"Alas, no!" Ronald said. "Nothing has been heard of him since the fatal
day when he was seized; but I am convinced that he is still alive, and
since I have found you, surely I shall be able to find him."
"Who is that with you, Ronald?"
"That is Malcolm Anderson; it is to him I owe everything. He carried me
off and took me away with him to Scotland the day my father was arrested.
He has been my best friend ever since, and it is he who brought me here
The countess advanced to Malcolm.
"My son has told me that we owe everything to you, my brave Malcolm!" she
said, holding out her hand. "I guessed that it was to you that my husband
had confided the care of the child when I learned that it had
disappeared. I remember what confidence he had in your devotion, and how
he confided everything to you."
"He was like a brother to me, madam," Malcolm replied; "and glad indeed
am I that I have been able to befriend his son and to bring him back to
you a gentleman who will be an honour even to his father's name and
"And now let us sit down here," the countess said, taking a seat upon a
bench. "It gets light very early, and you must not stay after two
o'clock, and there is so much for me to hear."
For the next two hours Ronald sat holding his mother's hand, while he
told her the story of his life. "And now, mother," he said, when he had
concluded, "we have but an hour left, for it has just struck one, and we
have not said a word yet about the principal thing of all. How are we to
obtain your freedom? Cannot you arrange to escape with us? I do not, of
course, mean tonight, for we have nothing prepared, and, moreover, I
promised Jeanne that there should be no attempt at escape; but we can
come again when everything is ready. We shall, of course, need a disguise
for you, for there will be a hot pursuit when your escape is known. But
we might manage to reach the coast and cross over to England, and so make
our way north."
"No, my son," the countess said. "I have thought it over in every way
since I knew you were here, and I am resolved to remain here. Were I to
fly, the last hope that your father might be freed would be lost. My
father would be more than ever incensed against him and me; and,
moreover, although that is but a minor consideration, there would be no
hope whatever of your ever recovering the rank and estate to which you
are entitled. No, I am resolved to wait here, at any rate so long as my
father lives. At his death doubtless there will be some change, for as
heiress to his estates my existence must be in some way recognized, and
my family may be enabled to obtain my release when his powerful
opposition is removed; if not, it will be time to take the idea of flight
into consideration; till then I remain here. Now that I have seen you,
now that I know you as you are, for I can just make out your face by the
light of the stars, I shall be as near contentment and happiness as I can
be till I meet your father again. In the meantime your good friend here
can advise you far better than I can as to what your course had better
be. If you can obtain any high influence, use it for obtaining your
father's release. If it be accompanied by a sentence of exile from France
it matters not, so that he is freed. You can then return here, and I will
gladly fly with you to join him in Scotland."
Malcolm now rose from his seat and left mother and son half an hour
together. When two o'clock struck he returned to them.
"There is the signal," the countess said, rising, "and now we must part."
She had already refused to accede to Ronald's entreaty that she would
meet him there again.
"No, my son, we have been permitted to meet this once, but we must not
tempt fortune again. Sooner or later something would be sure to occur
which would lead to discovery, and bring ruin upon all our plans. It is
hard to say no, and to refuse the chance of seeing you again now that we
have come together, but I am fully resolved that I will not risk it."
"We will see you safe up the ladder, mother," Ronald said. "It is no easy
matter to climb up a rope ladder swinging loosely."
"No, I discovered that in descending," the countess said; "but if you
come with me you must take off your boots -- the print of a man's
footstep in the garden would ruin us all; and mind, not a word must be
spoken when we have once left the terrace."
Taking off their boots they accompanied her through the garden. There was
a last passionate embrace at the foot of the ladder, then the countess
mounted it while they held it steady. Directly she entered the window she
undid the fastening of the rope inside and let the ladder drop down to
them. Five minutes later Ronald descended the rope into the river.
Malcolm shifted the grapnel so that it caught only on the edge of the
parapet and could be shaken off from below when the strain on the rope
was removed, then he slid down to Ronald's side. A sharp jerk brought
down the grapnel, and they returned along the edge of the river as they
had come, crossed in the boat, and waited for morning.
They waited two days longer in Tours in order that they might receive,
through Jeanne from the countess, a list of the noble families to which
she was related, with notes as to those persons of whom she had seen most
before her marriage, and who she believed would be most disposed to exert
their influence on her behalf.
"Jeanne," Ronald said, "I am troubled that I do not know what I can do to
show you how grateful I am. I should so like to give you some souvenir,
but what can I do -- you could not wear brooches, or earrings, or
"That I could not, monsieur," Jeanne broke in with a smile; "and if I
could I would not accept them from you. I have done what I have done
because I pitied your mother and you, and I am content that if I have
broken the rules I have done it with a good purpose."
"Well, Jeanne," Ronald said, "you may not be a lay sister all your life;
you have taken no vows that will bind you for ever, and I have no doubt
that the lady superior can absolve you from your engagements should you
at any time wish to go back to the world; if so, and if I am still in
France, I will come to dance at your wedding, and will promise you as
pretty a necklace and earrings as are to be found in Touraine."
"Very well, that is a bargain," Jeanne said laughing; "and it is not
impossible, young sir, that some day I may hold you to your promise, for
only last market day I met my father, and he spoke more kindly to me than
he used to, and even said that he missed me; and I hear that the miller
has found someone who will put up with him for the sake of his money. I
shouldn't be surprised if, when that comes off, father wants me home
again; but I sha'n't go directly he asks me, you may be sure, but shall
bargain that if there be again any question of a husband it will be for
me to decide and not him."
The next day Ronald and his companion started for Paris. They were highly
gratified with the success which had attended them, and Ronald felt his
whole life brightened now that he had found the mother who had been so
long lost to him. On arriving at Paris they found that Colonel Hume's
regiment had returned to the capital. It was not expected that there
would at present be any further fighting on the frontier, and two or
three of the Scotch regiments had been brought back. Ronald at once
called on Colonel Hume and related to him the success which had attended
the first portion of his undertaking.
"I congratulate you indeed," Colonel Hume said. "I own that I thought
your enterprise was a hopeless one, for it seemed to me impossible that
you should be able to obtain an interview with a lady closely imprisoned
in a convent. Why, Anderson, it is plain now that your talents have been
lost, and that you ought to have been a diplomatist instead of wasting
your time as a soldier. The way you carried out your plan was indeed
admirable, and I shall really begin to think that Ronald will yet
succeed; and now, my young friend, what do you mean to do next?"
"Would it be possible, sir, to ascertain where my father is confined?"
"I think not, my lad," the colonel said gravely. "In addition to the four
or five prisons in Paris there are a score of others in different parts
of France. The names of the prisoners in each are known only to the
governors; to all others within the walls they exist as numbers only. The
governors themselves are sworn to secrecy, and even if we could get at
one or two of them, which would be difficult enough, we could hope for no
more. Nor would it be much satisfaction to you merely to know in which
prison your father is lying, for it is a very different matter to
communicate with a prisoner in one of the royal fortresses to passing a
message to a lady detained in a convent. I can see nothing for you but to
follow the example of your mother and to practise patience, so conducting
yourself as to gain friends and make a name and influence, so that at
your grandfather's death we may bring as strong a pressure as possible to
bear upon the king."
"How old is my grandfather?" Ronald asked.
"He is a man about sixty."
"Why, he may live twenty years yet!" Ronald exclaimed bitterly.
"Do not look at the worst side of the question," Colonel Hume replied
with a smile. "But he may live some years," he went on more gravely, "and
in the meantime you must think what you had better do. I will tell you as
a great secret, that it has been finally resolved that an expedition
shall sail this winter for Scotland, and fifteen thousand troops will
assemble at Dunkirk under Marshal Saxe. Nothing could be more opportune.
We are to form part of the expedition, with several other Scottish
regiments. You are too young as yet for me to ask for a commission for
you, but if you like I will enroll you as a gentleman volunteer; in this
way you may have an opportunity of distinguishing yourself. I will
introduce you to the Chevalier, and it may be that if he succeeds in
gaining the crown of Scotland, if not of England, he will himself ask
King Louis as a personal favour to release and restore to him Colonel
Leslie of Glenlyon, who fought bravely with him in '15. If the expedition
fails, and we get back alive to France, I will then obtain for you a
commission in the regiment, and we can carry out our plan as we arranged.
What do you say to that?"
"I thank you greatly, sir, and accept your offer most gratefully. I see
that I am powerless to do anything for my father now, and your plan gives
at least a prospect of success. In any case nothing will give me so much
delight as to serve with the regiment he formerly commanded, and under so
kind a friend as yourself."
"That is settled then," Colonel Hume said; "and now about outfit. A
gentleman volunteer wears the uniform of the officers of the regiment,
and indeed is one in all respects except that he draws no pay. My purse
will be at your disposal. Do not show any false modesty, my lad, about
accepting help from me. Your father would have shared his last penny with
me had I needed it."
"I thank you heartily, colonel, for your offer, and should it be
necessary I will avail myself of it, but at present I have ample funds.
Malcolm carried off with me a bag with a hundred louis, and up to the day
when I landed in France these had never been touched. I have eighty of
them still remaining, which will provide my outfit and my maintenance for
a long time to come."
"There is another advantage in your being a volunteer, rather than on the
list of officers, Ronald; in that if it is necessary at any time, you
can, after a word with me, lay aside your uniform and go about your
affairs as long as you choose without question, which would be hard to do
if you belonged regularly to the regiment."
At the end of a week Ronald had procured his uniform, and was presented
by the colonel to the officers of the regiment as Ronald Leslie, the son
of an old friend of his, who was joining the regiment as a gentleman
volunteer. Malcolm joined only in the capacity of Ronald's servant. It
was painful to the lad that his old friend and protector should assume
such a relation towards him, but Malcolm laughed at his scruples.
"My dear Ronald," he said, "I was your father's servant, and yet his
friend. Why should I not act in the same capacity to you? As to the
duties, they are so light that, now I do not belong to the regiment, my
only difficulty will be to kill time. There is nothing to do save to
polish up your arms and your equipment. Your horse will be looked after
by a trooper so long as you are with the regiment. I shall call you in
the morning, get your cup of chocolate, and prepare your dinner when you
do not dine abroad, carry your messages when you have any messages to
send, and escort you when you go about any business in which it is
possible that a second sword would be of use to you. As I have said, the
only trouble will be to know what to do with myself when you do not want
It was now the end of August, and for the next four months Ronald worked
hard at drill. He soon became a general favourite with the officers. The
fact that his name was Leslie, and that he was accompanied by Malcolm,
who was known to many of the old soldiers as being devoted to their
former colonel and as having in some strange way disappeared from the
regiment at the same time, gave ground to a general surmise that Leslie
was the colonel's son.
Malcolm himself, when questioned, neither denied nor acknowledged the
fact, but turned it off with a joke and a laugh. He was soon as much at
home in his old regiment as if he formed a part in it, and when not
required by Ronald passed the greater part of his time with his former
comrades. As was natural, the opinion entertained by the men as to
Leslie's identity was shared by the officers. The avoidance by Ronald of
any allusion to his family, his declining when he first came among them
to say to which branch of the Leslies he belonged, and the decided manner
in which Colonel Hume, the first time the question was broached in his
hearing in Ronald's absence, said that he begged no inquiries would be
made on that score; all he could assure them was that Leslie's father was
a gentleman of good family, and a personal friend of his own -- put a
stop to all further questioning, but strengthened the idea that had got
abroad that the young volunteer was the son of Colonel Leslie.
Early in January the 2d Scottish Dragoons marched for Dunkirk, where
twenty thousand men assembled, while a large number of men of war and
transports were gathered in the port. One day, when Ronald was walking in
the street with Malcolm at his heels, the latter stepped up to him and
"Do you see that officer in the uniform of a colonel of the Black
Musketeers, in that group at the opposite corner; look at him well, for
he is your father's greatest enemy, and would be yours if he knew who you
are; that is the Duke de Chateaurouge."
Ronald gazed at the man who had exercised so evil an influence upon the
fate of his parents. He was a tall dark man with a pointed moustache, and
of from forty to forty-five years of age. His features were regular and
handsome; but in his thin straight eyebrows, the curl of his lips, and a
certain supercilious drooping of the eyelids, Ronald read the evil
passions which rendered him so dangerous and implacable an enemy.
"So that is the duke!" Ronald said when he had passed on. "I did not know
he was a soldier."
"He is an honorary colonel of the regiment, and only does duty when it is
called on active service; but he served in it for some years as a young
man, and had the reputation of being a good soldier, though I know that
he was considered a harsh and unfeeling officer by the men who served
under him. That is the man, Ronald, and if you could get six inches of
your sword between his ribs it would go a good long way towards obtaining
your father's release; but I warn you he is said to be one of the best
swordsmen in France."
"I care not how good a swordsmen he is," Ronald said hotly, "if I do but
get a fair chance."
"Don't do anything rash, Ronald; I have no fear about your swordsmanship,
for I know in the last four months you have practised hard, and that
Francois says that young as you are you could give a point to any officer
in the regiment. But at present it were madness to quarrel with the duke;
you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. If he killed you there
would be an end of you and your plans; if you killed him you would have
to fly the country, for a court favourite is not to be slain with as much
impunity as a bourgeois, and equally would there be an end of all hope of
obtaining your father's release.
"No, for the present you must be content to bide your time. Still it is
as well for you to know your foe when you see him, and in the meantime go
on frequenting the various schools of arms and learn every trick of the
sword that is to be taught. Look!" he went on, as a group of mounted
officers rode down the street; "that is Marshal Saxe, one of the best
soldiers in France, if not the best, and just as wild and reckless in
private life as he is calm and prudent as a general."
Ronald looked with some surprise at the great general. He had expected to
see a dashing soldier. He saw a man who looked worn and bent with
disease, and as if scarce strong enough to sit on his horse; but there
was still a fire in his eye, and as he uttered a joke to an officer
riding next to him and joined merrily in the laugh, it was evident that
his spirit was untouched by the disease which had made a wreck of his
A few days later a messenger arrived with the news that the French fleet
from Brest had sailed, and had met the English fleet which had gone off
in pursuit of it, and the coast of Kent was in consequence unguarded.
Orders were instantly given that the troops should embark on board the
transports, and as fast as these were filled they set sail. The
embarkation of the cavalry naturally took longer time than that of the
infantry, and before the Scottish Dragoons had got their horses on board
a portion of the fleet was already out of sight.
"Was there ever such luck!" Malcolm exclaimed, after assisting in getting
the horses on board, a by no means easy task, as the vessel was rolling
heavily at her mooring. "The wind is rising every moment, and blowing
straight into the harbour; unless I mistake not, there will be no sailing
This was soon evident to all. Signals were made from ship to ship, fresh
anchors were let down, and the topmast housed. By midnight it was blowing
a tremendous gale, which continued for three days. Several of the
transports dragged their anchors and were washed ashore, and messages
arrived from different parts of the coast telling of the wreck of many of
those which had sailed before the storm set in.
The portion of the fleet which had sailed had indeed been utterly
dispersed by the gale. Many ships were lost, and the rest, shattered and
dismantled, arrived at intervals at the various French ports. The blow
was too heavy to be repaired. The English fleet had again returned to the
coast, and were on the lookout to intercept the expedition, and as this
was now reduced to a little more than half of its original strength no
surprise was felt when the plan was abandoned altogether.
Marshal Saxe with a portion of the troops marched to join the army in
Flanders, and the Scotch Dragoons were ordered to return to Paris for the
For a year Ronald remained with the regiment in Paris. He had during that
time been introduced by Colonel Hume to several members of his mother's
family. By some of these who had known her before her marriage he was
kindly received; but all told him that it would be hopeless to make any
efforts for the release of his father as long as the Marquis de
Recambours remained alive and high in favour at court, and that any
movement in that direction would be likely to do harm rather than good.
Some of the others clearly intimated to him that they considered that the
countess had, by making a secret marriage and defying her father's
authority, forfeited all right to the assistance or sympathy of her
Twice Ronald travelled to Tours and sent messages to his mother through
Jeanne, and received answers from the countess. She had, however, refused
to meet him again on the terrace, saying that in spite of the love she
had for him, and her desire to see him again, she was firmly resolved not
to run the risk of danger to him and the failure of all their hopes, by
any rash step.
At the end of the summer campaign in Flanders Marshal Saxe returned to
Paris, and Colonel Hume one day took Ronald and introduced him to him,
having previously interested the marshal by relating his history to him.
The marshal asked Ronald many questions, and was much pleased with his
frank manner and bearing.
"You shall have any protection I can give you," the marshal said. "No man
has loved adventures more than I, nor had a fairer share of them, and my
sympathies are altogether with you; besides, I remember your father well,
and many a carouse have we had together in Flanders. But I am a soldier,
you know, and though the king is glad enough to employ our swords in
fighting his enemies, we have but little influence at court. I promise
you, however, that after the first great victory I win I will ask the
release of your father as a personal favour from the king, on the ground
that he was an old comrade of mine. I can only hope, for your sake, that
the marquis, your grandfather, may have departed this world before that
takes place, for he is one of the king's prime favourites, and even the
request of a victorious general would go for little as opposed to his
influence the other way. And now, if you like, I will give you a
commission in Colonel Hume's regiment. You have served for a year as a
volunteer now, and younger men than you have received commissions."
Ronald thanked the marshal most heartily for his kind promise, but said
that at present he would rather remain as a volunteer, because it gave
him greater freedom of action.
"Perhaps you are right," the marshal said. "But at any rate you had
better abstain from attempting any steps such as Colonel Hume tells me
you once thought of for obtaining the release of your father. Success