Part 3 out of 6
will be all but impossible, and a failure would destroy altogether any
hopes you may have of obtaining his release from the king."
It seemed that some of his mother's family with whom he had communicated
must have desired to gain the favour of the favourite of the king by
relating the circumstances to him, for a short time after Ronald's
interview with the marshal the marquis came up to Colonel Hume when he
was on duty in the king's antechamber, and, in the presence of a number
of courtiers, said to him:
"So, Colonel Hume, I find that I have to thank you for harbouring in your
regiment an imposter, who claims to be my grandson. I shall know, sir,
how to repay the obligation."
"The gentleman in question is no imposter, marquis, as I have taken the
pains to inform myself. And I am not aware of any reason why I should not
admit the son of a Scottish gentleman into my regiment, even though he
happen to be a grandson of yours. As to your threat, sir, as long as I do
my duty to his majesty I fear the displeasure of no man."
Two nights later, as Ronald was returning from dining with Colonel Hume
and some of his officers, he was suddenly attacked in a narrow street by
six men. Malcolm was with him, for Colonel Hume had at once related to
him the conversation he had had with the marquis, and had warned him to
take the greatest precautions.
"He is perfectly capable of having you suddenly put out of his way by a
stab in the back, Ronald. And if there were anywhere for you to go I
should advise you to leave Paris at once; but nowhere in France would you
be safe from him, and it would upset all your plans to return to Scotland
at present. However, you cannot be too careful."
Ronald had related what had passed to Malcolm, who determined to watch
more carefully than ever over his safety, and never left his side when he
was outside the barracks.
The instant the six men rushed out from a lane, at whose entrance a
lantern was dimly burning, Malcolm's sword was out, and before the
assailants had time to strike a blow he had run the foremost through the
Ronald instantly recovered from his surprise and also drew. He was now
nearly eighteen, and although he had not yet gained his full height he
was a match for most men in strength, while his constant exercise in the
school of arms had strengthened the muscle of his sword arm, until in
strength as well as in skill he could hold his own against the best
swordsman in the regiment. The men were for a moment checked by the fall
of their leader; but then seeing that they had opposed to them only one
man, and another whom they regarded as a lad, scarcely to be taken into
consideration, they rushed upon them. They were quickly undeceived.
Ronald parried the first blow aimed at him, and with his riposte
stretched his opponent on the pavement, and then springing forward, after
a few rapid thrusts and parries ran the next through the shoulder almost
at the same moment that Malcolm stretched another opponent on the ground.
Terrified at the downfall of three of their number, while a fourth leaned
against a door post disabled, the two remaining ruffians took to their
heels and fled at the top of their speed, the whole affair having lasted
scarce a minute.
"Tell your employer," Ronald said to the wounded man, "that I am not to
be disposed of so easily as he imagined. I should be only giving you what
you deserve if I were to pass my sword through your body; but I disdain
to kill such pitiful assassins except in self defence."
The next morning Ronald communicated to Colonel Hume what had happened.
"It's just as well, my young friend, that you are going to leave Paris. I
received orders half an hour ago for the regiment to march to the
frontier at once. That is the marquis's doing, no doubt. He thought to
get rid of you last night and to punish me this morning; but he has
failed both ways. You have defeated his cutthroats; I shall be heartily
glad to be at the front again, for I am sick of this idle life in Paris."
CHAPTER VIII: Hidden Foes.
"I am heartily glad to be out of Paris," Ronald said to Malcolm on their
first halt after leaving the capital. "It is not pleasant to regard every
man one meets after dark as a possible enemy, and although I escaped scot
free from the gang who attacked us the other night, one cannot always
expect such good fortune as that. It was a constant weight on one's mind,
and I feel like a new man now that we are beyond the city walls."
"Nevertheless, Ronald, we must not omit any precautions. Your enemy has a
long purse, and can reach right across France. That last affair is proof
of his bitterness against you, and it would be rash indeed were we to act
as if, having made one attempt and failed, he would abandon his plans
altogether. He is clearly a man who nourishes a grudge for years, and his
first failure is only likely to add to his vindictive feeling. I do not
say that your danger is as great as it was in Paris, but that is simply
because the opportunities of attacking you are fewer. I should advise you
to be as careful as before, and to be on your guard against ambushes and
"Well, it may be so, Malcolm, and of course I will be careful; but till I
have proof to the contrary I shall prefer to think that the marquis will
trust to my being knocked on the head during the war, and will make no
further move against me until the regiment returns to Paris."
"Think what you like, lad," Malcolm said, "so that you are cautious and
guarded. I shall sleep with one eye open, I can tell you, till we are
fairly beyond the frontier."
Two days later the regiment encamped outside the town of St. Quentin.
They were usually quartered on the inhabitants; but the town was already
filled with troops, and as the weather was fine Colonel Hume ordered his
men to bivouac a short distance outside the walls. Ronald was seeing that
his troop got their breakfast next morning, when a sergeant came up with
two men with a horse.
"This is Monsieur Leslie," he said to them. "These men were asking for
"What do you want with me?" Ronald said surprised.
"We heard, sir," one of the peasants said, "that you wanted to buy a
horse. We have a fine animal here, and cheap."
"But I do not want to buy one," Ronald replied. "I am very well supplied
with horses. What made you think I wanted one?"
"We asked one of the officers, sir, if anyone in the regiment would be
likely to buy, and he said that Monsieur Leslie wanted one, he believed."
"No," Ronald said decidedly. "Whoever told you was mistaken. I have my
full complement, and though your horse looks a nice animal I could not
take him if you offered him to me for nothing. I don't think you will get
anyone to buy him in the regiment. I believe that every officer has his
full complement of chargers."
In the evening Ronald happened to mention to Malcolm the offer he had had
in the morning.
"It was a nice looking beast," he said, "and I had half a mind to ask
them what they would take to exchange him with my roan, but I did not
want to dip further into my purse."
"I wish I had been beside you at the time," Malcolm said earnestly;
"those two fellows wouldn't have gone out of the camp so easily."
"Why, what do you mean, Malcolm?"
"Mean!" Malcolm repeated in a vexed tone. "This is what comes of your
being watchful and cautious, Ronald. Why, the matter is clear enough. The
marquis has set men on your track, but of course they could do nothing
until some of them knew you by sight, so two of them are sent into camp
with this cock and bull story about a horse, and they come and have a
good look at you and go quietly off. It is too provoking. Had I been
there I would have given them in charge of a file of men at once. Then we
would have asked every officer in the regiment if he had sent them to
you, and when we found, as we certainly should have found, that none of
them had done so, we should have marched the men off to Colonel Hume, and
I am sure, when he heard the circumstances of the case, they would have
been lashed up and flogged till he had got the truth of the matter out of
them. My great hope has been that they could not very well attempt your
life, because none of the men who might be engaged on the job would be
likely to know your face, and they would therefore have no means of
singling you out for attack; and now two of the ruffians will be able to
follow you and watch their opportunity."
"Oh, nonsense, Malcolm, you are too suspicious altogether! I have no
doubt the affair was just as they stated it to be. What was more
"Well, Ronald, you will meet all the other officers at supper in half an
hour. Just ask if any of them sent two men wanting to sell a horse to you
this morning; if any of them say that they did so, I will acknowledge I
Accordingly Ronald, at supper, put the question, but none of the officers
admitted they knew anything about the matter.
"You have two very good horses, Leslie; why should anyone suppose that
you wanted another?" the colonel asked.
"I don't know," Ronald said. "I only know that two men did come up with a
horse to me this morning, and said that one of the officers had told them
that I wanted to buy one."
"It must have been one of the men," the colonel said carelessly, "though
I don't know why anyone should suppose that you wanted another charger.
Still, someone, knowing that you are the last joined officer, might think
you had need for a second horse."
The subject dropped, and Malcolm shook his head ominously when Ronald
acknowledged to him that his suspicions were so far right that none of
the officers had sent the men to him. The next day, as the regiment was
passing through a thick wood, and Ronald was riding with Captain Campbell
behind his troop, which happened to be in the rear in the regiment, two
shots were fired from among the trees. The first struck Ronald's horse in
the neck, causing him to swerve sharply round, a movement which saved his
rider's life, for the second shot, which was fired almost instantly after
the first, grazed his body and passed between him and Captain Campbell.
"Are you hit, Leslie?" the latter exclaimed, for the sudden movement of
his horse had almost unseated Ronald.
"Nothing serious, I think. The bullet has cut my coat and grazed my skin,
I think, but nothing more."
The captain shouted orders to his men, and with a score of troopers
dashed into the wood. The trees grew thickly and there was a dense
undergrowth, and they had difficulty in making their way through them.
For half an hour they continued their search without success, and then
rejoined the regiment on its march.
"This is a curious affair," Colonel Hume said when Captain Campbell
reported, at the next halt, that an attempt at assassination had taken
"It looks like a premeditated attempt upon one or other of you. You
haven't been getting into any scrape, have you?" he asked with a smile;
"kissing some peasant's wife or offering to run away with his daughter?
But seriously this is a strange affair. Why should two men lie in wait
for the regiment and fire at two of its officers? The men have been
behaving well, as far as I have heard, on the line of march, and nothing
has occurred which could explain such an outrage as this."
"It may be fancy on my part, colonel," Ronald said, "but I cannot help
thinking that it is a sequence of that affair I told you about in Paris,
just before we started. The first shot struck my horse and the second
would certainly have killed me had it not been for the horse's sudden
swerve, therefore it looks as if the shots were aimed at me. I have some
reason, too, for supposing that I have been followed. If you remember my
question last night at supper about the men who wanted to sell me a
horse. Malcolm Anderson is convinced that the whole thing was only a ruse
to enable them to become acquainted with my face. They wanted to be able
to recognize me, and so got up this story in order to have me pointed out
to them, and to have a talk with me. None of the officers did send them
to me, as they said, and they could hardly have hit upon a better excuse
for speaking to me."
"It certainly looks like it," Colonel Hume said gravely. "I would give a
good deal if we had caught those two men in the wood. If we had I would
have given them the choice of being hung at once or telling me what was
their motive in firing at you and who paid them to do it. This is
monstrous. If we could get but a shadow of proof against your enemies I
would lay a formal complaint before the king. Marquis or no marquis, I am
not going to have my officers assassinated with impunity. However, till
we have something definite to go upon, we can do nothing, and until then,
Leslie, you had best keep your suspicion to yourself. It were best to say
nothing of what you think; in this country it is dangerous even to
whisper against a king's favourite. Let it be supposed that this attack
in the woods was only the work of some malicious scoundrels who must have
fired out of pure hatred of the king's troops."
Captain Campbell and Ronald quite agreed with the view taken by the
colonel, and answered all questions as to the affair, that they had not
the least idea who were the men who fired on them, and that no one
obtained as much as a glimpse of them.
With most of the officers of the regiment, indeed with all except one,
Ronald was on excellent terms. The exception was a lieutenant named
Crawford; he was first on the list of his company, and had, indeed, been
twice passed over in consequence of his quarrelsome and domineering
disposition. He was a man of seven or eight and twenty; he stood about
the same height as Ronald and was of much the same figure, indeed the
general resemblance between them had often been remarked.
His dislike to Ronald had arisen from the fact that previous to the
latter joining the regiment Crawford had been considered the best
swordsman among the officers, and Ronald's superiority, which had been
proved over and over again in the fencing room, had annoyed him greatly.
Knowing that he would have no chance whatever with Ronald in a duel, he
had carefully abstained from open war, showing his dislike only by
sneering remarks and sarcastic comments which frequently tried Ronald's
patience to the utmost, and more than once called down a sharp rebuke
from Colonel Hume or one or other of the majors. He did not lose the
opportunity afforded by the shots fired in the wood, and was continually
suggesting all sorts of motives which might have inspired the would be
Ronald, who was the reverse of quarrelsome by disposition, laughed good
temperedly at the various suggestions; but one or two of the senior
officers remonstrated sharply with Crawford as to the extent to which he
carried his gibes.
"You are presuming too much on Leslie's good nature, Crawford," Captain
Campbell said one day. "If he were not one of the best tempered young
fellows going he would resent your constant attacks upon him; and you
know well that, good swordsman as you are, you would have no chances
whatever if he did so."
"I am quite capable of managing my own affairs," Crawford said sullenly,
"and I do not want any advice from you or any other man."
"I am speaking to you as the captain of Leslie's troop," Captain Campbell
said sharply, "and I do not mean to quarrel with you. You have had more
quarrels than enough in the regiment already, and you know Colonel Hume
said on the last occasion that your next quarrel should be your last in
the regiment. I tell you frankly, that if you continue your course of
annoyance to young Leslie I shall report the matter to the colonel. I
have noticed that you have the good sense to abstain from your remarks
when he is present."
Three days later the regiment joined the army before Namur.
That evening, having drunk more deeply than usual, Lieutenant Crawford,
after the colonel had retired from the circle round the fire and to his
tent, recommenced his provocation to Ronald, and pushed matters so far
that the latter felt that he could no longer treat it as a jest.
"Mr. Crawford," he said, "I warn you that you are pushing your remarks
too far. On many previous occasions you have chosen to make observations
which I could, if I had chosen, have resented as insulting. I did not
choose, for I hate brawling, and consider that for me, who have but
lately joined the regiment, to be engaged in a quarrel with an officer
senior to myself would be in the highest degree unbecoming; but I am sure
that my fellow officers will bear me out in saying that I have shown
fully as much patience as is becoming. I, therefore, have to tell you
that I will no longer be your butt, and that I shall treat any further
remark of the nature of those you have just made as a deliberate insult,
and shall take measures accordingly."
A murmur of approval rose among the officers sitting round, and those
sitting near Crawford endeavoured to quiet him. The wine which he had
taken had, however, excited his quarrelsome instinct too far for either
counsel or prudence to prevail.
"I shall say what I choose," he said, rising to his feet. "I am not going
to be dictated to by anyone, much less a boy who has just joined the
regiment, and who calls himself Leslie, though no one knows whether he
has any right to the name."
"Very well, sir," Leslie said in a quiet tone, which was, however, heard
distinctly throughout the circle, for at this last outburst on the part
of Crawford a dead silence had fallen on the circle, for only one
termination could follow such an insult. "Captain Campbell will, I hope,
act for me?"
"Certainly," Captain Campbell said in a loud voice; "and will call upon
any friend Lieutenant Crawford may name and make arrangements to settle
this matter in the morning."
"Macleod, will you act for me?" Crawford said to a lieutenant sitting
next to him.
"I will act," the young officer said coldly, "as your second in the
matter; but all here will understand that I do solely because it is
necessary that some one should do so, and that I disapprove absolutely
and wholly of your conduct."
"Well, make what arrangements you like," Crawford said with an oath, and
rising he left the circle and walked away.
When he had left there was an immediate discussion. Several of the
officers were of opinion that the duel should not be allowed to proceed,
but that Crawford's conduct should be reported to the colonel.
"I am entirely in your hands, gentlemen," Ronald said. "I have no desire
whatever to fight. This affair has been forced upon me, and I have no
alternative but to take it up. I am not boasting when I say that I am a
far better swordsman than he, and I have no need to shrink from meeting
him; but I have certainly no desire whatever to take his life. He has
drunk more than he ought to do, and if this matter can be arranged, and
he can be persuaded in the morning to express his regret for what he has
said, I shall be very glad to accept his apology. If it can be settled in
this way without either fighting or reporting his conduct to the colonel,
which would probably result in his having to leave the regiment, I should
be truly glad -- What is that?" he broke off, as a loud cry rang through
The whole party sprang to their feet, and snatching up their swords ran
in the direction from which the cry had come. The tents were at some
little distance, and just as they reached them they saw a man lying on
"Good heavens, it is Crawford!" Captain Campbell said, stooping over him.
"See, he has been stabbed in the back. It is all over with him. Who can
have done it?"
He questioned several of the soldiers, who had now gathered round,
attracted like the officers by the cry. None of them had seen the act or
had noticed anyone running away; but in so large a camp there were so
many people about that an assassin could well have walked quietly away
without attracting any attention.
The colonel was speedily on the spot, and instituted a rigid inquiry, but
entirely without success. The attack had evidently been sudden and
entirely unsuspected, for Crawford had not drawn his sword.
"It is singular," he said, as with the officers he walked slowly back to
the fire. "Crawford was not a popular man, but I cannot guess at any
reason for this murder. Strange that this should be the second attack
made on my officers since we left Paris."
Captain Campbell now related what had taken place after he had left the
"The matter should have been reported to me at once," he said; "although,
as it has turned out, it would have made no difference. Perhaps, after
all, it is best as it is, for a duel between two officers of the regiment
would have done us no good, and the man was no credit to the regiment.
But it is a very serious matter that we should be dogged by assassins.
Leslie, come up with me to my tent. I am not going to blame you, lad," he
said when they were together, "for you could not have acted otherwise
than you have done. Indeed, I have myself noticed several times that
Crawford's bearing towards you was the reverse of courteous. Have you any
idea as to how he came by his death?"
"I, sir!" Ronald said in surprise. "No, I know no more than the others."
"It strikes me, Leslie, that this is only the sequel of that attack in
the wood, and that your enemies have unwittingly done you a service.
Crawford was very much your height and build, and might easily have been
mistaken for you in the dark. I fancy that blow was meant for you."
"It is possible, sir," Ronald said after a pause. "I had not thought of
it; but the likeness between him and myself has been frequently noticed.
It is quite possible that that blow was meant for me."
"I have very little doubt of it, my lad. If any of these men were hanging
about and saw you as they believed coming away from the circle alone,
they may well have taken the opportunity. Let it be a lesson to you to be
careful henceforth. It is unlikely that the attempt will be repeated at
present. The men who did it will think that they have earned their money,
and by this time are probably on the way to Paris to carry the news and
claim their reward. So that, for a time at least, it is not probable that
there will be any repetition of the attempt. After that you will have to
be on your guard night and day.
"I wish to heaven we could obtain some clue that would enable me to take
steps in the matter; but at present we have nothing but our suspicions,
and I cannot go to the king and say three attempts have been made on the
life of one of my officers, and that I suspect his grandfather, the
Marquis de Recambours, has been the author of them."
When Malcolm heard the events of the evening his opinion was exactly the
same as that of the colonel, and he expressed himself as convinced that
Crawford had fallen by a blow intended for Ronald. He agreed that for a
while there was no fear of a renewal of the attempt.
"The fellows will take the news straight to Paris that you have been put
out of the way, and some time will elapse before the employers know that
a mistake has been made. Then, as likely as not, they will decide to wait
until the campaign is over."
The camp before Namur was a large and brilliant one. The king and dauphin
had already arrived with the army. All the household troops were there,
and a large contingent of the nobles of the court. The English army was
known to be approaching, and was expected to fight a battle to relieve
Namur, which the French were besieging vigorously. The French confidently
hoped that in the approaching battle they would wipe our the reverse
which had befallen them at Dettingen.
CHAPTER IX: Fontenoy.
A fortnight after the Scottish Dragoons joined the army the king was
present at an inspection of their regiment. As the brilliant cortege
passed along the line Ronald saw among the gaily dressed throng of
officers riding behind the king and Marshal Saxe the Marquis de
Recambours and the Duke de Chateaurouge side by side. Ronald with two
other gentlemen volunteers were in their places in the rear of the
regiment. It was drawn up in double line, and as the royal party rode
along for the second time, Ronald saw that the two noblemen were looking
scrutinizingly through the line of troopers at himself and his two
That evening Colonel Hume on his return from a visit to Marshal Saxe told
Ronald that the general had inquired after him, and had sent him word
that if he won the battle he would not forget the promise he had made
him. He had requested Colonel Hume to place Ronald at his disposal on the
day of the battle.
"'I shall want active officers to carry my messages,' he said, 'and your
young friend may have a greater opportunity of distinguishing himself
than he would with the regiment. I should in that case find it all the
easier to bring his business before the king.'
"The marshal is terribly ill," Colonel Hume said as he reported the
conversation to Ronald, "so ill that he can only occasionally sit on his
horse. Nothing but his indomitable courage sustains him. He is drawn
about in a light carriage made of basketwork, and this serves him also
for his bed."
On the 7th of May the enemy were known to be close at hand, and the
French selected the position on which they would fight. The village of
Fontenoy had already been occupied by a strong body of troops under
Marshal Noailles, and the rest of the army now moved forward to the posts
allotted to them. The English army were close at hand, and it was certain
that the battle would be fought on the morrow. In the evening the king
held a grand reception at which all the officers of rank were present.
When Colonel Hume returned to his camp his officers were still sitting
round the fire.
"Have you any news for us, sir?"
"No; I believe everything stands as was arranged. The king is in the
highest spirits, though I must say his majesty did not choose
reminiscences of a nature to encourage those who heard him. He remarked,
for instance, that since the days of St. Louis the French had never
gained a decisive success over the English, and a few minutes later he
observed that the last time a king of France with his son had fought at
the head of the French army was at the battle of Poictiers."
There was a general laugh.
"Certainly the king was not happy with his reminiscences," Major Munro
remarked; "but I think this time the tables are going to be turned. In
the first place we considerably outnumbered the enemy, even after leaving
15,000 men to continue the siege. In the second place, the position we
have chosen is almost impregnable. The Scheldt covers our right, with the
fortified bridge securing our communication, and the village of Antoin
resting on the river. Along our front from Antoin to Fontenoy is a narrow
and difficult valley. Our left is covered by the wood of Barre, where a
strong redoubt has been constructed; and the whole of the position is
fortified with breastworks and abattis as far as Fontenoy. Between that
village and Barre the natural difficulties are so great that field works
are unnecessary. I cannot believe myself that they will attack us in such
a position, especially as nearly half their army are Dutch, who will
count for little. The English are the only troops which we shall find
Before daybreak the camp was astir, and the troops took the positions
assigned to them. Even now it was hardly believed that an attack would be
made by the enemy so long as the French remained in their all but
impregnable position; but presently the columns of the enemy were seen
advancing. Ronald had ridden up to the litter on which Marshal Saxe was
placed, and after saluting, had taken up his position with a number of
other officers, in readiness to carry orders to different parts of the
At a short distance from the marshal the King of France with the dauphin
and the brilliant cortege of nobles had taken up his post. From the
position in which the marshal had caused himself to be placed a complete
view of the enemy's approaching ranks was obtained. It could soon be seen
that the Dutch troops, who on the English right were advancing to the
attack, were moving against the villages of Antoin and Fontenoy. A strong
force, headed, as was known afterwards, by General Ingoldsby, moved
towards the wood of Barre; while a solid column of English and
Hanoverians, 10,000 strong, marched forward to the attack across the
broken ground between Fontenoy and the wood of Barre.
It was as yet but five o'clock in the morning when the cannon broke out
into a roar on both sides. The Dutch, who were commanded by the Prince of
Waldeck, soon hesitated, and in a short time fell back out of range of
fire. On the English right General Ingoldsby penetrated some distance
into the wood of Barre, and then fell back again as the Dutch had done.
In an hour after the fighting had commenced the right and left of the
allied army had ceased their attack. There remained only the centre, but
this was advancing.
Under the command of the Duke of Cumberland the column crossed the ravine
in front of Fontenoy. The ground was so broken that the troops were
unable to deploy, but moved forward in a solid mass with a front of only
The French batteries from the right and left mowed them down in lines,
but as steadily as if on parade the places were filled up, and unshaken
and calm the great column moved forward. The cannon which they dragged
along by hand opened against Fontenoy and the redoubts, and as, in spite
of the hail of fire, they pressed steadily on, the French gunners were
obliged to abandon their cannon and fly.
The regiment of French guards, officered almost entirely by the highest
nobles, met the English guards, who composed the front lines of the
column. A tremendous volley flashed along the English line, shattering
the ranks of the French guard. There was a moment's fierce fighting, and
then the English column swept from before it the remains of the French
guard, and cleared the ravine which defended Fontenoy.
Ronald felt his heart beat with excitement and a feeling of pride and
admiration as he saw the English advancing unmoved through the storm of
fire. They advanced in the most perfect order. The sergeants calmly
raised or depressed the soldiers' muskets to direct the fire; each vacant
place was filled quietly and regularly without hesitation or hurry; and
exclamations of surprise and admiration broke even from the French
Regiment after regiment was brought up and hurled against the head of the
column, but with no more effect than waves against a rock, each being
dashed aside shattered and broken by the steady volleys and regular lines
of bayonets. Ronald and other officers were sent off to bring up the
cavalry, but in vain did these strive to break the serried column. One
regiment after another charged down upon it, but the English, retaining
their fire until they were within a few yards of their muzzles, received
them with such tremendous volleys that they recoiled in disorder.
The French regiment of Vaisseaux next advanced to the attack, and fought
with greater gallantry than any which had preceded it; but at last, when
almost annihilated, its survivors fell back. And now it seemed as if this
10,000 men were to be victorious over the whole French army. Marshal Saxe
begged the king to retire with the dauphin across the bridge of Calonne
while he did what he could to retrieve the battle, but the king refused
to leave the field. There was a hurried council held round Louis, and it
was agreed to make a great effort by calling up the whole of the troops
between Fontenoy and Antoin, as the positions they held were no longer
threatened by the Dutch.
Had the latter now advanced nothing could have saved the French army from
utter defeat; but they remained immovable at a distance from the field of
battle. The English now won the crown of the position, had cut through
the French centre, and were moving forward towards the bridge of Calonne,
when the whole of the French artillery, which had, by the advice of the
Duke of Richelieu, been brought up, opened fire on the English column. At
the same moment the French regiments from Antoin fell upon it; while
Marshal Saxe, who had, when the danger became imminent, mounted his
horse, himself brought up the Irish Brigade, who, with a wild yell of
hatred, flung itself furiously upon the flank of the English.
Attacked thus on all sides, mown down by a heavy fire of artillery,
unsupported amid an army of foes, the column could do no more. Ten
thousand men could not withstand fifty thousand. Their ranks were twice
broken by the Irish, but twice their officers rallied them; until at
last, when it became evident that no more could be done, the column fell
slowly back in an order as perfect and regular as that in which it had
French historians have done ample justice to the extraordinary valour
shown by the English troops on this occasion, a valour never surpassed in
the long annals of the British army. Had they received the slightest
assistance from their cowardly allies the victory must have been theirs.
As it was, although unsuccessful, the glory and honour of the day rested
with them, rather than with the victorious army of France. More than half
the column had fallen in the desperate engagement, but the loss of the
victors was even greater, and comprised many belonging to the noblest
families of France.
Ronald had won the warm approval of Marshal Saxe for the manner in which
he carried his orders across ground swept by a heavy fire, and brought up
the regiments to within close quarters of the English; and after the
battle was over Marshal Saxe presented to the king several of his staff
who had most distinguished themselves, and calling up Ronald, who was
standing near, for his horse had been shot under him as he rode by the
side of the marshal with the Irish Brigade to the attack, the marshal
"Allow me to present to your majesty Ronald Leslie, a young Scottish
gentleman of good family, who is a volunteer in the Scottish Dragoons,
and has rendered great service today by the manner in which he has borne
my orders through the thickest of the fire."
"I will bear you in mind, young gentleman," the king said graciously,
"and I charge the marshal to bring your name before me on a future day."
His duty as aide de camp over, Ronald rejoined his regiment. They had
lost nearly a third of their number in their charges upon the English
column. Major Munro had been killed, the colonel severely wounded, and a
number of officers had fallen. Ronald went about among the men assisting
to bind up wounds, and supplying those who needed it with wine and other
refreshments. Presently he was joined by Malcolm.
"Thank God you are safe, Ronald. I tell you, you have given me many a
fright today as I watched you galloping along through the line of the
"Where were you, Malcolm? I did not see you."
"I had nothing to do," Malcolm said, "and I climbed a tree not fifty
yards from the marshal's litter, and keeping the trunk in front of me to
protect me from a stray bullet I had a good view of the whole
proceedings. At one time I was on the point of slipping down and making a
bolt for it, for I thought it was all over with us. How that column did
fight! I have been in many a battle, but I never saw anything like it, it
was grand; and if it hadn't been for the Irish Brigade, I think that they
would have beaten the whole French army. But if you go into a battle
again I sha'n't come to see you. I have done my share of fighting, and
can take hard knocks as well as another; but I would not go through the
anxiety I have suffered today about you on any condition. However, this
has been a great day for you."
"You mean about the marshal presenting me to the king? Yes, that ought to
"No, I didn't mean that, for I had not heard of it. I mean about that old
rascal your grandfather, the Marquis de Recambours."
"What about him? I have not heard."
"No!" Malcolm exclaimed; "then I have good news for you. A ball from one
of the English field pieces struck him full in the chest, and of course
slew him instantly. He was not thirty yards from the tree when I saw him
knocked over. He is quite dead, I can assure you, for when the others
moved off I took the trouble to clamber down to assure myself. So now the
greatest obstacle to the release of your father and mother is out of the
"Thank God for that!" Ronald said. "I have no reason for feeling one
spark of regret at what has befallen him. He was the cruel persecutor of
my parents, and did his best to get me removed. There is but one obstacle
now to obtaining my father's release, and as he is neither a relation nor
an old man I shall be able to deal with him myself"
"Yes, but you must be careful, Ronald; remember the decree against
duelling. We must not make a false step now, when fortune is at last
favouring us. There will be no more fighting, I fancy. The English will
certainly not attack us again, and Tournay must fall, and I don't think
that on our part there will be any desire whatever to go out of our way
to seek another engagement with them. The king is sure to go back to
Paris at once, where he will be received with enthusiasm. Marshal Saxe
will probably follow as soon as Tournay has fallen. I should advise you,
therefore, to get leave from the colonel to be absent from the regiment
for a time, and we will make our way down to Tours and let your mother
know the marquis is dead, and get her to write a memorial to the king
requesting permission to leave the convent, and then when the marshall
arrives in Paris we will get him to present it."
Ronald agreed to Malcolm's proposal, and the next morning, having
obtained leave of absence from the colonel, he and Malcolm mounted and
rode for Tours.
The message was duly conveyed to the countess by Jeanne, together with
Ronald's earnest request that his mother would again meet him. She sent
back by Jeanne the memorial he had asked her to write to the king,
begging that she might be allowed to leave the convent; but she refused
to agree to his wishes to meet her, bidding Jeanne say that now it seemed
there was really a hope of her release shortly, she would less than ever
risk any step which if discovered might prejudice their plans.
Although disappointed, Ronald could not deny that her decision was a wise
one, and therefore contented himself by sending word that he had obtained
one very powerful friend, and that he hoped that she would ere long
receive good tidings. After a short stay at Tours, Ronald and Malcolm
returned to Paris, where a series of brilliant fetes in honour of the
victory of Fontenoy were in preparation. Tournay had surrendered a few
days after the battle, the governor of that town having accepted a heavy
bribe to open the gates, for the place could have resisted for months,
and the allied army were ready to recommence hostilities in order to
After its surrender they fell back and resumed a defensive attitude. The
king therefore returned at once to Paris, and Marshal Saxe, handing over
the command of the army to Marshal de Noailles, followed him by easy
stages. Delighted above all things at a success gained over the English,
who had for centuries been victorious in every battle in which England
and France had met as enemies, the citizens of Paris organized a
succession of brilliant fetes, which were responded to by entertainments
of all kinds at Versailles. The Scottish Dragoons were still at the
front; but Colonel Hume had been brought to Paris, as it would be some
time ere he would be able again to take the command of the regiment.
Ronald called at the house where the colonel lodged, upon the day after
his return from Tours, and found that he had arrived upon the previous
day. Ronald was at once shown up on sending in his name. The colonel was
lying on the couch when he entered.
"How are you, colonel?"
"I am going on as well as possible, Ronald; they found the ball and got
it out the day before I left the regiment, and I shall do well now. I
have been carried on a litter all the way by eight of our troopers, and
the good fellows were as gentle with me as if I had been a child, and I
scarce felt a jar the whole distance. What I have got to do now is to lie
quiet, and the doctor promises me that in six weeks' time I shall be fit
to mount a horse again. Marshal Saxe sent yesterday evening to inquire
after me, and I will send you to him to thank him for so sending, and to
inquire on my part how he himself is going on. My message will be a good
excuse for your presenting yourself."
Ronald found the antechamber of the marshal crowded with nobles and
officers who had come to pay their respects to the victorious general,
who was, next to the king himself, at that moment the most popular man in
France. Hitherto, as a Protestant and a foreigner, Maurice of Saxony had
been regarded by many with jealousy and dislike; but the victory which he
had won for the French arms had for the first time obliterated every
feeling save admiration and gratitude.
Presently the marshal came out from the inner room with the dauphin, who
had called on the part of the king to inquire after his health. He was
now able to walk, the excitement of the battle and the satisfaction of
the victory having enabled him partially to shake off the disease which
afflicted him. After the dauphin had left, the marshal made the tour of
the apartment, exchanging a few words with all present.
"Ah! you are there, my young Leslie," he said familiarly when he came to
Ronald. "Where have you been? I have not seen you since the day when you
galloped about with my messages through the English fire as if you had a
"Colonel Hume gave me leave, sir, to travel on private business. I am now
the bearer of a message from him, thanking you for the kind inquiries as
to his wound; he bids me say that he trusts that your own health is
"As you see, Leslie, Fontenoy has done wonders for me as well as for
France; but wait here, I will speak with you again."
In half an hour most of the callers took their departure, then the
marshal called Ronald into an inner room.
"Tomorrow," he said, "I am going to pay my respects to the king at
Versailles. I will take you with me. Have you your mother's memorial?
That is right. As her father was killed at Fontenoy there will, I hope,
be the less difficulty over the matter; but we must not be too sanguine,
for there will be a host of hungry competitors for the estates of the
marquis, and all these will unite against you. However, I do not think
the king will be able to refuse my first request, and when your mother is
out we must put our heads together and see about getting your father's
Ronald expressed his deep gratitude at the marshal's kindness.
"Say nothing about it, my lad. Fortunately I want nothing for myself, and
it is no use being a victorious general if one cannot utilize it in some
way; so I am quite glad to have something to ask the king."
The next day Ronald presented himself at the hotel of Marshal Saxe and
rode by the side of his carriage out to Versailles. The king, surrounded
by a brilliant train of courtiers, received the marshal with the greatest
warmth, and after talking to him for some time retired with him into his
private closet. A few minutes later one of the royal pages came out into
the audience chamber and said in a loud voice that the king desired the
presence of Monsieur Ronald Leslie.
Greatly embarrassed at finding himself the centre of observation not
unmingled with envy at the summons, Ronald followed the page into the
presence of the king, who was alone with Marshal Saxe. Louis, who was in
high good humour, gave Ronald his hand to kiss, saying:
"I told the marshal to recall your name to me, and he has done so now. He
says that you have a boon to ask of me."
"Yes, sire," the marshal said; "and please consider graciously that it is
I who ask it as well as he. Your majesty has always been gracious to me,
and if you think me deserving of any mark of your favour after this
success which your majesty and I have gained together, I would now crave
that you grant it."
"It is granted before you name it, marshal," the king said. "I give you
my royal word that whatever be your boon, provided that it be within the
bounds of possibility, it is yours."
"Then, sire, I ask that an old comrade and fellow soldier of mine, who
fought bravely for your majesty, but who fell under your majesty's
displeasure many years ago on account of a marriage which he made
contrary to your pleasure, may be released. He has now been over sixteen
years in prison, and has therefore paid dearly for thwarting your will,
and his wife has all this time been confined in a convent. They are the
father and mother of this brave lad -- Colonel Leslie, who commanded your
majesty's regiment of Scotch Dragoons, and his wife, the Countess Amelie
of Recambours. I ask your majesty, as my boon, that you will order this
officer to be released and the lady to be allowed to leave the convent."
"Peste, marshal!" the king said good temperedly; "your request is one of
which will get me into hot water with a score of people. From the day the
marquis was killed at Fontenoy I have heard nothing but questions about
his estates, and I believe that no small portion of them have been
"I say nothing about the estates," the marshal replied; "as to that, your
majesty's sense of justice is too well known for it to be necessary for
me to say a single word. The countess has estates of her own, which she
inherited from her mother, but even as to these I say nothing. It is her
liberty and that of her husband which I and this brave lad ask of your
"It is granted, marshal, and had your boon been a great one instead of a
small one I would have granted it as freely;" and the king again held out
his hand to Ronald, who bent on one knee to kiss it, tears of joy flowing
down his cheeks and preventing the utterance of any audible thanks for
the boon, which far surpassed his expectations; for the marshal had said
nothing as to his intention of asking his father's freedom, which indeed
he only decided to do upon seeing in how favourable a disposition he had
found the king.
"You see, marshal," Louis went on, "marriages like this must be sternly
discouraged, or all order in our kingdom would be done away with. Wilful
girls and headstrong soldiers cannot be permitted to arrange their
affairs without reference to the plans of their parents, and in this
instance it happened that the father's plans had received our approval.
The great estates of France cannot be handed over to the first comer, who
may perhaps be utterly unworthy of them. I do not say that in the present
case Colonel Leslie was in any way personally unworthy; but the disposal
of the hands of the great heiresses of France is in the king's gift, and
those who cross him are against his authority."
The king touched a bell and bade the page who entered to order his
secretary to attend at once.
"Search the register of the state prisons," he said, "and tell me where
Colonel Leslie, who was arrested by our orders sixteen years ago, is
confined, and then make out an order to the governor of his prison for
his release; also draw up an order upon the lady superior of --," and he
"The convent of Our Lady at Tours," Ronald ventured to put in.
"Oh! you have discovered that, eh?" the king said with a smile; and then
turned again to the secretary -- "bidding her suffer the Countess Amelie
de Recambours to leave the convent and to proceed where she will."
The secretary bowed and retired. Ronald, seeing that his own presence was
no longer required, said a few words of deep gratitude to the king and
retired to the audience room, where he remained until, ten minutes later,
the door of the king's closet opened, and the king and Marshal Saxe again
appeared. The audience lasted for another half hour, and then the
marshal, accompanied by many of the nobles, made his way down to his
carriage. Ronald again mounted, and as soon as the carriage had left the
great courtyard of the palace, rode up alongside and poured out his
gratitude to the marshal.
"It has been another Fontenoy," the marshal said smiling. "Here are the
two orders, the one for Tours, the other for the governor of the royal
castle at Blois. The king made light of it; but I know his manner so well
that I could see he would rather that I had asked for a dukedom for you.
It is not often that kings are thwarted, and he regards your parents as
being rebels against his authority. However, he was bound by his promise,
and there are the papers. Now, only one word, Leslie. Do not indulge in
any hopes that you will see your father more than a shadow of the
stalwart soldier that he was sixteen years ago. There are few men,
indeed, whose constitution enable them to live through sixteen years'
confinement in a state prison. Therefore prepare yourself to find him a
mere wreck. I trust that freedom and your mother's care may do much for
him, but don't expect too much at first. If you take my advice you will
go first and fetch your mother, in order that she may be at hand to
receive your father when he leaves the fortress. By the way, I thought it
just as well not to produce your mother's memorial, as it seemed that we
should be able to do without it, for it might have struck the king to ask
how you obtained it, and he would probably have considered that your
communication with your mother was a fresh act of defiance against his
Malcolm was wild with joy when Ronald returned with the account of his
interview with the king and its successful result, and had his not been a
seasoned head, the number of bumpers which he drank that night in honour
of Marshal Saxe would have rendered him unfit for travel in the morning.
Ronald had, after acquainting him with the news, gone to Colonel Hume,
whose pleasure at hearing that his former colonel and comrade was to
regain his freedom was unbounded. Every preparation was made for an early
"Be sure you look well to the priming of your pistols before you put them
in your holsters tomorrow," Malcolm said.
"Do you think it will be necessary?"
"I am sure of it, Ronald. News travels fast; and you may be sure that by
this time the fact that the king has granted an order for the release of
your father and mother is known to the Duke of Chateaurouge. If he did
not hear it from the king himself, which he would be most likely to do,
as Louis would probably lose no time in explaining to him that he had
only gone against his wishes because under the circumstances it was
impossible for him to refuse the marshal's request, the secretary who
drew out the document would, no doubt, let the duke know of it. There are
no secrets at court."
"But now that the orders for release have been granted," Ronald said,
"the duke can have no motive in preventing them being delivered, for
fresh ones could, of course, be obtained."
"In the first place, Ronald, the duke will be so furious at your success
that he will stick at nothing to have his revenge; in the second place,
he and the others, for there are many interested in preventing your
mother from coming into her father's possessions, will consider that the
gain of time goes for a good deal. You are the mover in the matter. Were
you out of the way, and the documents destroyed, the matter might rest as
it is for a long time. The marshal is busy from morning till night, and
would be long before he missed you, and would naturally suppose that you
had, after obtaining the release of your parents, retired with them to
some country retreat, or even left the kingdom.
"This would give ample time for working upon Louis. Besides, the king
might never inquire whether the prisoners had been released. Then the
marshal might die or be sent away to the frontier. Therefore, as you see,
time is everything. I tell you, Ronald, I consider the journey you are
going to undertake tomorrow an affair of greater danger than going into a
pitched battle. You will have to doubt everyone you meet on the road, the
people at the inns you stop at -- you may be attacked anywhere and
everywhere. As to our travelling by the direct road, I look upon it as
impossible. Our only chance is to throw them off the scent, and as they
know our destination that will be no easy matter."
They were astir by daylight, and Malcolm soon brought the horses round to
"It's a comfort to know," he said, "that the horses have passed the night
in the barracks, and that therefore they have not been tampered with.
Look well to the buckles of your girths, Ronald. See that everything is
strong and in good order."
"That is not your own horse, Malcolm, is it?"
"No, it is one of the troopers'. It is one of the best in the regiment,
and I persuaded the man to change with me for a week. No one is likely to
notice the difference, as they are as nearly as possible the same colour.
Your horse is good enough for anything; but if I could not keep up with
you its speed would be useless. Now, I think, we can keep together if we
have to ride for it.
"What have you got in that valise, Malcolm? One would think that you were
going upon a campaign."
"I have got four bottles of good wine, and bread and meat enough to last
us for two days. I do not mean, if I can help it, to enter a shop or stop
at an inn till we arrive at Tours. We can make a shift to sleep for
tonight in a wood. It would be safer a thousand times than an inn, for I
will bet fifty to one that if we ventured to enter one we should find one
or both of our horses lame on starting again."
"Oh come, Malcolm, that's too much! The Duke of Chateaurouge is not
ubiquitous. He has not an army to scatter over all France."
"No, he has not," Malcolm agreed; "but from what I know of him I doubt
not that he can lay his hands on a number of men who will stick at
nothing to carry out his orders and earn his money. Paris swarms with
discharged soldiers and ruffians of all kinds, and with plenty of gold to
set the machine in motion there is no limit to the number of men who
might be hired for any desperate deed."
As they were talking they were making their way towards one of the
southern gates. They arrived there before it opened, and had to wait a
few minutes. Several other passengers on horseback and foot were gathered
"I could bet a crown piece," Malcolm said, "that some one among this
crowd is on the watch for us, and that before another half hour the Duke
of Chateaurouge will know that we have started."
CHAPTER X: A Perilous Journey.
A number of peasants with market carts were waiting outside the gates,
and for the first few miles of their ride the road was dotted with people
making their way to the city. As they rode, Malcolm discussed the
question of the best road to be taken. Ronald himself was still in favour
of pushing straight forward, for he was not so convinced as his follower
that a serious attempt would be made to interrupt their journey. He
pointed out that the road, as far as Orleans at least, was one of the
most frequented in France, and that in that city even the most reckless
would hardly venture to assault them.
"I agree with you, Ronald, that the road offers less opportunities for
ambushes than most others, for the country is flat and well cultivated;
but after all a dozen men with muskets could lie in ambush in a cornfield
as well as a wood, and the fact that people are going along the road
counts for little one way or the other, for not one in fifty would
venture to interfere if they saw a fray going on. But granting that so
far as Orleans the country is open and cultivated, beyond that it is for
the most part forest; but above all -- although they may regard it as
possible that we may be on our guard, and may travel by other roads -- it
is upon this direct line that they are sure to make the most preparations
for us. Beyond that it can only be chance work. We may go by one road or
by another. There may be one trap set on each road; but once past that
and we are safe."
After riding for upwards of an hour they came, at the turn of the road,
upon two carts. One had apparently broken down, and the other had stopped
that those with it might give assistance in repairing it. One cart was
turned across the road, and the other filled the rest of the space.
"Stop!" Malcolm exclaimed, checking his horse suddenly.
"What is it?" Ronald asked in surprise.
"Turn back!" Malcolm said sharply as he wheeled his horse round.
Ronald, without a word, did the same, and they galloped a hundred yards
down the road.
"We were nearly caught there," Malcolm said.
"Why, how do you mean?"
"Never mind now, Ronald. Turn sharp to the right here, and make a detour
through the fields. You will soon see whether I was right."
"It is a shame riding through this ripe corn," Ronald said, as without
any further comment he leaped his horse over the bank and dashed off
among the golden grain, which stretched far and wide on both sides of the
They had not gone fifty yards before they heard loud shouts, and as they
came abreast of where the carts were standing several shots were fired,
and ten or twelve men were seen running through the corn as if to cut
them off. But although they heard the whiz of the bullets they were too
far off to be in much danger, and the men on foot had no chance of
cutting them off, a fact which they speedily perceived, as one by one
they halted and fired. A few hundred yards farther the two horsemen came
round into the road again and pursued their journey.
"Well, what do you think of that, Ronald?"
"It was an ambush, no doubt, Malcolm; but what on earth made you suspect
it? I saw nothing suspicious. Merely two carts in the road, with three or
four men doing something to one of the wheels."
"I am in a suspicious humour this morning, Ronald, and it is lucky I am.
The sight of the two carts completely blocking the road brought me to a
halt at once, and as I checked my horse I saw a movement among the bushes
on the right of the road, and felt sure that it was an ambush. It was a
well laid one, too, and had we ridden on we should have been riddled with
bullets. No doubt there were men lying in the carts. They would have
jumped up as we came up to them, and the fellows in the bushes would have
taken us in the rear; between their two fires our chances would have been
small indeed. No doubt they had a man on watch, and directly they saw us
coming they got their carts across the road, and took up their positions.
It was a well contrived scheme, and we have had a narrow escape."
"Thanks to your quickness and watchfulness, Malcolm, which has saved our
lives. I admit that you are right and I was wrong, for I own that I did
not share your apprehensions as to the dangers of our journey. Henceforth
I will be as much on the lookout as you are, and will look with suspicion
at every beggar woman that may pass."
"And you will be right to do so," Malcolm said seriously; "but for the
present I think that we are safe. This, no doubt, was their main ambush,
and they may reasonably have felt certain of success. However, we may be
sure that they did not rely solely upon it. This, no doubt, is the
unmounted portion of their gang. They were to try and put a stop to our
journey at its outset; but mounted men will have ridden on ahead,
especially as they couldn't have been sure that we should follow this
road. We might have gone out by one of the other gates at the south side
of the town, and they will have watched all the roads. Now I propose that
we take the next lane which branches off to the right, and travel by
byroads in future. Do not press your horse too fast. We have a long
journey before us, and must always have something in hand in case it is
necessary to press them to full speed."
Two miles further a road branched to the right. As they approached it
Ronald was about to touch his horse's rein, when Malcolm said shortly,
"Ride straight on."
Although surprised at this sudden change of plan, Ronald obeyed without
"What was that for?" he asked when he had passed the turning.
"Did you not see that man lying down by the heap of stones at the
"Yes, I saw him; but what of that?"
"I have no doubt he was on the lookout for us. Yes, I thought so," he
went on, as he stood up in his stirrups and looked back; "there, do you
see that horse's head in that little thicket, just this side of where the
road separates? I expected as much. If we had turned off, in another two
minutes that fellow would have been galloping along this road to take the
news to those ahead, and they would have ridden to cut us off further
along. I have no doubt we shall find someone on watch at every turning
between this and Orleans."
"But this is a regular campaign, Malcolm."
"It is a campaign, Ronald. The ruffians and thieves of Paris form a sort
of army. They have heads whom they implicitly obey, and those who have
money enough to set this machine in motion can command the services of
any number of men. Sharp fellows, too, many of them are, and when they
received orders to arrest our journey to Tours at any cost, they would
not omit a single precaution which could ensure success. Their former
attack upon you, and its result, will have showed them that we are not
children, and that the enterprise was one which demanded all their
"What is our next move now, Malcolm?"
"We will turn off before we get to the next road. They can see a long way
across these level plains; so we will dismount and lead our horses. The
corn is well nigh shoulder deep, and if we choose a spot where the ground
lies rather low, neither that scoundrel behind nor the one at the next
road is likely to see us."
Half a mile further there was a slight dip in the ground.
"This is a good spot," Malcolm said. "This depression extends far away on
our right, and although it is very slight, and would not conceal us if
the ground were bare, it will do so now, so let us take advantage of it."
So saying he dismounted, and leading his horse, turned into the
cornfield. Ronald followed him, and for two miles they kept straight on
through the corn; then they came upon a narrow road connecting two
villages. They mounted and turned their horses' heads to the south.
"It is as well that none of the peasants saw us making through their
corn," Ronald said, "or we should have had them upon us with stone and
flail like a swarm of angry bees."
"It could not be helped," Malcolm replied, "and we could easily have
ridden away from them. However, it is just as well that we have had no
bother with them. Now we will quicken our pace. We are fairly between two
of the main roads south, and if we can contrive to make our way by these
village tracks we shall at any rate for some time be free from all risk
"I should think we should be free altogether," Ronald said. "When they
find we do not come along the road they will suppose we have been killed
at the first ambush."
Malcolm shook his head.
"Do not build upon that, Ronald. No doubt as soon as we had passed, some
of those fellows mounted the horses we saw in the carts, and rode off in
accordance with an agreed plan to give notice that we had passed them
safely, and were proceeding by that road. In the next place the fellow we
saw on watch would most likely after a time mount and follow us, and when
he got to the watcher at the next crossroad and found that we had not
come along there would know that we must have turned off either to the
right or left. One of them is doubtless before this on his way to the
next party with the news, while the other has set to work to find out
where we turned off, which will be easy enough to discover. Still, we
have gained something, and may fairly reckon that if we ride briskly
there is no fear of those who were posted along the road we have left
cutting us off."
They rode all day at a steady pace, stopping occasionally for a short
time to allow the horses a rest and a feed. The people in the quiet
little villages looked in surprise at the young officer and his follower
as they rode through their street or stopped for a quarter of an hour
while the horses were fed, for even Malcolm agreed that such pauses were
unattended by danger. It was rarely, indeed, that a stranger passed along
these bypaths, and the peasants wondered among themselves what could
induce them to travel by country byways instead of following the main
As they left the rich plains of the Beauce, the country was less
carefully cultivated. The fields of corn were no longer continuous, and
presently they came to tracts of uncultivated land with patches of wood.
They now left the little road they had been following, and rode straight
across country, avoiding all villages. They crossed several hills, and
late in the afternoon drew rein in a wide spreading forest. They were,
Malcolm thought, quite as far south as Orleans, and by starting at
daylight would arrive at Tours by midday.
"Here at least we are perfectly safe," he said; "when we approach Tours
our perils will begin again. When once they find that we have given them
the slip they are not likely to try to intercept us anywhere along the
route till we near the town, for they will know that the chances are
enormous against their doing so, and the parties along the various roads
will push on so as to meet us somewhere near that city. The river can
only be crossed at certain points, and they will feel sure we shall go by
one or other of them."
"And I suppose we shall," Ronald said.
"No, Ronald; my idea is that we turn west and ride to Le Mans, then take
a wide detour and enter Tours from the south side. It will take us a day
longer, but that is of little consequence, and I think that we shall in
that way entirely outwit them. The only precaution we shall have to take
is to cross the main road on our right at some point remote from any town
"I think that is a capital plan. I do not mind a share of fair fighting;
but to be shot down suddenly in an ambush like that of this morning, I
own I have little fancy for it."
Hobbling their horses, they turned them loose to pick up what they could
in the forest, and then sat down to enjoy a good meal from the ample
supply Malcolm had brought with him. When night fell they unstrapped
their cloaks from their saddles and rolled themselves in them, and lay
down to sleep. An hour later they were roughly awakened, each being
seized by three men, who, before they could attempt to offer resistance,
bound their arms to their sides, and then hurried them along through the
"I have been a fool, Ronald," Malcolm said bitterly; "I ought to have
"It was not your fault, Malcolm. One could never have guessed that they
would have found us in this forest. Somebody must have followed us at a
distance and marked us down, and brought the rest upon us; but even had
you kept watch it would have been no good, for they would have shot us
down before we could make any resistance."
"I wonder they didn't cut our throats at once," Malcolm said. "I don't
know what they are troubling to make us prisoners for."
Presently they saw a light in the forest ahead of them, and soon arrived
at a spot where a number of men were sitting round a fire.
"You had no trouble with them, Pierre, I suppose?"
"No, captain, they slept as soundly as moles. They have been speaking
some strange language as we came along."
"Thank God!" Malcolm exclaimed fervently. "I think, after all, Ronald, we
have only fallen in with a band of robbers, and not with our enemies."
"Unbind their hands," the captain of the band said, "but first take away
their swords and pistols. Gentlemen, may I ask you to be seated; and
then, perhaps, you will inform us what you, an officer in the Scotch
dragoons, as I perceive by your uniform, are doing here in the forest?"
Ronald, to whom the question was principally addressed, replied frankly:
"We took to this forest, I fancy, for the same reason for which you use
it, namely, for safety. We are on our way to Tours, and there are some
people who have interest in preventing our arriving there. They made one
attempt to stop us near Paris; fortunately that failed, or we should not
be now enjoying your society; but as it was likely that another attempt
would be made upon the road, we thought it better to leave it altogether
and take to the forest for the night."
"What interest could anyone have in preventing an officer of the king
from arriving at Tours?" the man asked doubtfully.
"It is rather a long story," Ronald said, "but if it is of interest to
you I shall be happy to relate it; and I may mention that there are three
bottles of good wine in the valise of one of the saddles, and a story is
none the worse for such an accompaniment."
A laugh went round the circle at Ronald's coolness, and a man stepped
forward with the two saddles which he had carried from the spot when the
captives had been seized. The wine was taken out and opened.
"Yes," the captain of the band said, after tasting it, "the wine is good;
now let us have your story."
Ronald gave them an outline of his history, told them how his father and
mother had been for many years imprisoned for marrying contrary to the
king's pleasure, and how he had at last obtained the royal order for
their release, and how the enemies of his parents were now trying to
prevent him from having those orders carried out. "There are the orders,"
Ronald said as he concluded, taking them from the inner pocket where he
carried them. "You see they are addressed to the abbess of the convent of
Our Lady at Tours, and to the governor of Blois."
"The story you tell us is a singular one," the captain replied, "and I
doubt not its truth. What was the name of your father?"
"He was Colonel Leslie, and commanded the same regiment to which I
"I remember him," one of the band said. "Our regiments were quartered
together, nigh twenty years ago, at Flanders, and I was in Paris at the
time when he was imprisoned. We were in the next barracks to the
Scotchmen, and I remember what a stir it made. The regiment was very nigh
"And I remember you too, though I cannot recall your name," Malcolm said,
rising and looking hard at the speaker; "and if I mistake not we have
cracked many a flask together, and made many a raid on the hen roosts of
the Flemish farmers. My name is Malcolm Anderson."
"I remember you well," the other said, rising and giving him his hand.
"Of course I met you scores of times, for the regiments were generally
"That confirms your story altogether, monsieur," the captain of the band
said. "From this moment do not consider yourself a prisoner any longer. I
may say that we had no expectation of booty in your case, and you were
captured rather from curiosity than from any other reason. One of my men,
this afternoon, happened to see you ride into the wood and then dismount
and make preparations for passing the night there. He reported the matter
to me. I know that gentlemen of your cloth -- I may say of mine, for I
was once an officer of his majesty, though I left the service somewhat
hastily," and he smiled, "on account of an unfortunate deficiency in the
funds of the regiment in which I happened, at the time, to be acting as
paymaster -- are seldom burdened with spare cash, but the incident seemed
so strange that I determined to capture and question you. If you happen
to have more cash on you than you care about carrying we shall be glad to
purchase a few bottles of wine equal to that which you have given us. If
not, I can assure you that I do not press the matter.".
"I am obliged to you for your courtesy," Ronald said; "and as at present
I really happen to be somewhat flush of cash I am happy to contribute ten
louis for the laudable purpose you mention."
So saying he took out his purse, counted out ten pieces, and handed them
to the captain.
The action was received with a round of applause, for the robbers had
not, from the first, anticipated obtaining any booty worth speaking of,
and the turn affairs had taken had altogether driven any idea of gain
from their minds.
"I thank you warmly, sir," the captain said, "and promise you that I will
tomorrow despatch a messenger to Orleans, which is but ten miles away,
and will lay out the money in liquor, with which we will, tomorrow night,
drink your health and success in the enterprise. Nay, more, if you like,
a dozen of my men shall accompany you on your road to Tours. They have,
for various reasons, which I need not enter into, a marked objection to
passing through towns, but as far as Blois they are at your service."
"I thank you for your offer," Ronald replied, "but will not accept it, as
we intend to ride tomorrow morning to Le Mans, and then to enter Tours
from the south side, by which we shall throw our enemies completely off
"But why do you not go to Blois first?" the man asked. "It is on your way
"I wish my mother to be present at the release of my father. So long a
confinement may well have broken him down. Now that I see how obstinately
bent our enemies are upon our destruction I will take with me two or
three stout fellows from Tours, to act as an escort."
"What day will you be leaving there?" the man asked.
"Today is Tuesday," Ronald said; "on Thursday we shall be at Tours, on
Friday morning we shall leave."
"Very well," the man replied, "we will be on the road. It is no
difference to us where we are, and as well there as here. I will have men
scattered all along in the forest between Blois and Amboise, and if I
find that there are any suspicious parties along the road we will catch
them, and if you are attacked you will find that we are close at hand to
help you. You are a generous fellow, and your story has interested me. We
gentlemen of the woods are obliged to live, whatever the law says; but if
we can do a good action to anybody it pleases us as well as others."
"I am greatly obliged to you," Ronald said, "and can promise you, anyhow,
that your time shall be not altogether thrown away."
Soon afterwards the whole band lay down round the fire and were sound
asleep. In the morning Malcolm saddled the two horses, and after a hearty
adieu from the captain and his followers -- all of whom were discharged
soldiers who had been driven to take up this life from an inability to
support themselves in any other way -- they started for Le Mans, which
town they reached late in the afternoon, without adventure.
Deeming it in the highest degree improbable that any watch would be set
for them at a place so far from their line of travel, they put up for the
night at the principal inn. In the morning they again started, and after
riding for some distance to the south, made a wide sweep, and crossing
the river, entered Tours from the south, late in the evening. They again
put up at the principal inn, for although they doubted not that their
arrival would be noticed by the emissaries of the enemy, they had no fear
of molestation in a town like Tours. And on the following morning Ronald
presented himself at the entrance to the convent.
"I wish to see the lady superior," he said to the lay sister at the
wicket. "I am the bearer of a communication to her from the king."
He was left waiting for a few minutes outside the gate, then the wicket
door opened, and the sister requested him to follow her. Not a soul was
to be seen as he traversed the gloomy courts and passed through several
corridors to the room where the abbess was waiting him. In silence he
handed to her the king's order. The abbess opened and read it.
"His majesty's commands shall be obeyed," she said; "in an hour the
countess will be in readiness to depart."
"A carriage shall be in waiting at the gate to receive her," Ronald said,
bowing, and then, without another word, retired.
Malcolm was awaiting him outside, and they at once went to the officer of
the royal post and engaged a carriage and post horses to take them to
The carriage was at the door at the appointed time, and a few minutes
later the gate opened, and the countess, in travelling attire, issued
out, and in a moment was clasped in her son's arms. He at once handed her
into the carriage and took his place beside her. Malcolm closed the door
and leapt up on the box, the postilion cracked his whip, and the carriage
"Can it be true, Ronald, or am I dreaming? It is but a week since you
were here last, and the news of my release came upon me with such a
surprise that, do you know, I fainted. Am I really free? Is it possible
that I have seen the last of those hateful walls? It seems like a dream.
Where are we going?"
"We are going to Blois."
"To a prison?" the countess exclaimed. "But no, there are no guards or
escorts. Are we going, oh, Ronald, are we going to see my husband?"
"Yes, mother, we are going, not only to see him but to release him. I
have the king's order in my pocket."
For some time the countess was unable to speak, her joy was too great for
words. Then tears came to her relief, and she sobbed out exclamations of
joy and gratitude. Ronald said nothing until she had somewhat recovered
her calmness, and then he told her the manner in which Marshal Saxe had
obtained the two orders of release.
"I will pray for him night and morning to the last day of my life," the
countess said. "God is indeed good to me. I had hoped, from what you
said, that my term of imprisonment was drawing to an end; but I had
looked forward to a long struggle, to endless efforts and petitions
before I could obtain your father's release, with, perhaps, failure in
the end. Not for one moment did I dream that such happiness as this
Ronald now thought it wise to repeat the warning which the marshal had
"Mother, dear," he said "you must be prepared to find that a total change
will have taken place in my father. His imprisonment has been a very
different one to yours. You have had companions and a certain amount of
freedom and comfort. You have had people to speak to, and have known what
is going on in the world. He has been cut off altogether from mankind. He
cannot even know whether you are alive, or whether you may not have
yielded to the pressure that would be sure to be brought upon you, and
acquiesced in a divorce being obtained. He has, doubtless, been kept in a
narrow cell, deprived almost of the air and light of heaven. He will be
greatly changed, mother. He will not be like you; for it does not seem to
me that you have changed much from what you were. I could not see you
much that night on the terrace; but now I see you I can hardly believe
that you are my mother, so young do you look."
"I am nearly forty," the countess said smiling. "I was past twenty-one
when I married. Had I not been of age they could have pronounced the
marriage null and void. But you are right, Ronald, and I will prepare
myself to find your father greatly changed. It cannot be otherwise after
all he has gone through; but so that I have him again it is enough for
me, no matter how great the change that may have taken place in him. But
who are these men?" the countess exclaimed, as, a quarter of a mile
outside the town, four men on horseback took up their places, two on each
side of the carriage.
"Do not be alarmed, mother, they are our escort. Malcolm hired them at Le
Mans. They are all old soldiers, and can be relied on in case of
"But what need can there be for them, Ronald? I have heard that bands of
discharged soldiers and others make travelling insecure; but I had no
idea that it was necessary to have an armed escort."
"Not absolutely necessary, mother, but a useful measure of precaution. We
heard of them as we came through from Paris, and Malcolm and I agreed,
that as you would have with you any jewels and valuables that you took to
the convent, it would be just as well to be in a position to beat off any
who might be disposed to trouble us. As you see, they have brought with
them Malcolm's horse and mine, and we shall now mount. The less weight
the horses have to draw the better. I will get in and have a talk from
time to time where the road happens to be good; but, to tell you the
truth, the jolting and shaking are neither pleasant nor good for
"You are expecting to be attacked, Ronald," the countess said. "I am sure
you would not be wanting to get out and leave me so soon after we have
met did you not anticipate some danger."
"Frankly, mother, then, I do think it is probable that an attempt may be
made to stop us, and that not by regular robbers, but by your enemies.
They did their best to prevent me from reaching Tours, and will now most
likely try to prevent our arriving at Blois. I will tell you all about it
when we get there tonight. Here is the order for my father's release.
Will you hide it in your dress? I had rather not have it about me. And,
mother, if we should be attacked, do not be alarmed, for I have reason to
believe that if we should be outnumbered and hard pressed, help will
speedily be forthcoming."
"I am not in the least afraid for myself," the countess said; "but be
careful, Ronald. Remember I have only just found you, and for my sake do
not expose yourself unnecessarily."
"I will take care of myself, mother," he said. "You know I have always
had to do so."
Malcolm had already mounted his horse, and Ronald was really glad when he
took his place beside him a few yards ahead of the carriage. The art both
of road making and carriage building was still in its infancy. When the
weather was fine and the ground hard a fair rate of progress could be
maintained; but in wet weather the vehicles often sank almost up to their
axles in mud holes and quagmires, and the bumping and jolting were
"Now we take up our work of looking out for ambushes again, Malcolm."
"It will not be quite the same thing now," Malcolm said. "Before, two or
three men with guns behind a wall might do the business, now they will
have to make a regular attack. I have no doubt that we were watched from
the time we entered the town, and that the news that we are travelling
with the countess in a carriage, and with an escort of four armed men,
has been carried on ahead already. It is by horsemen that we shall be
attacked today if we are attacked at all, and they will probably fall
upon us in the forest beyond Amboise. They will know that with a vehicle
we must keep the road, and that as we cannot travel more than six miles
an hour at the outside, we cannot attempt to escape by our speed."
"Do you think we had better wait at Amboise for the night and go on to
"No, I think we had better push straight on, especially as we told our
friends in the forest that we should come today, and I feel sure they
will keep their promise to be on the lookout to aid us. If it were not
for that I should have said let us stay at Tours for the present, for we
may expect to be attacked by a force much superior to our own."
"Why, they would not have sent down more than six men to attack us two,
"No, if they had been sure which road we should travel; but as they
didn't know that, they may have had small parties at half a dozen spots,
and these will now be united. Probably there may be a score of them.
However, I rely on the robbers. The captain meant what he said, and you
won the goodwill of all the men. If there are a dozen horsemen anywhere
along the road they are sure to know of it, and will, I have no doubt,
post themselves close at hand so as to be ready to join in the fray as
soon as it commences."
Amboise was reached without adventure. Here the horses in the carriage
were changed, and the party proceeded on their way. Four miles further
they entered a great forest. Ronald now ordered two of the men to ride a
few yards in front of the horses' heads. He and Malcolm rode on each side
of the coach, the other two followed close behind. He ordered the driver,
in case they were attacked, to jump off instantly and run to the horses'
heads, and keep them quiet during the fray.
A vigilant lookout was kept. Suddenly, when they were in the thickest
part of the wood, a number of mounted men dashed out from either side. In
obedience to the orders Ronald had given, the men in front and behind at
once closed in, so that there were three on either side of the carriage.
The assailants fired their pistols as they dashed down, but the bullets
flew harmlessly by, while the fire of the defenders, sitting quietly on
their horses, was more accurate, two of the assailants falling dead,
while another was severely wounded.
A moment later swords were drawn, and a furious combat ensued. Ronald had
told his men to keep close to the carriage, so that they could not be
attacked in the rear, keeping just far enough out on either side of him
to be able to use their swords. For a short time the defenders of the
coach maintained their position, the number of their assailants giving
them but slight advantage, as they were unable to utilize their force.
Ronald ran the first man who attacked him through the body, and laid open
the face of the next with a sweeping blow from left to right. The men
they had hired fought stoutly; but they were being pressed together as
the assailants urged forward their horses, when suddenly a volley of
firearms was heard.
Several of the assailants fell dead, and with a loud shout a number of
men rushed out from the wood and fell upon them in rear. The assailants
turned to fly, and it was now the turn of the defenders of the coach to
attack, which they did furiously.
In two or three minutes all was over. Five or six only of the assailants
cut their way through the footmen who had attacked them in rear, while
twelve lay dead or dying on the ground. Ronald's first impulse was to
ride up to the carriage to assure his mother of his safety, his next to
leap off his horse and grasp the hand of the chief of the robbers.
"You have kept your promise nobly," he said, "and arrived at the very
nick of time. They were beginning to press us hotly; and though I fancy
we should have rendered an account of a good many more, we must have been
beaten in the end."
"I was farther behind than I intended to be," the man said; "but we were
obliged to keep in hiding some little distance behind them. There were
four parties of them. We kept them in sight all yesterday, and last night
they assembled a mile or two away. I had men watching them all night, and
this morning we followed them here, and saw them take up their position
on both sides of the road. We crept up as closely as we dared without
being observed, but you had for a couple of minutes to bear the brunt of
"I thank you most heartily," Ronald said. "My mother will thank you
herself" So saying, he led them to the door of the carriage, which he
"Mother, I told you that if we were attacked I relied upon help being
near at hand. We owe our lives, for I have no doubt that yours as well as
mine would have been taken, to this brave man and his followers."
"I thank you most sincerely, sir," the countess said. "At present I feel
like one in a dream; for I have been so long out of the world that such a
scene as this has well nigh bewildered me."
"I am only too glad to have been of service," the man said as he stood
bareheaded. "I am not a good man, madame. I am one of those whom the
necessities of the times have driven to earn their living as they can
without much regard to the law; but I trust that I have not quite lost my
instincts as a gentleman, and I am only too glad to have been able to be
of some slight assistance to a persecuted lady; for your son, the other
night, related to us something of the treatment which you have had to
With a bow he now stepped back. His followers were engaged in searching
the pockets of the fallen, and found in them a store of money which spoke
well for the liberality of their employer, and well satisfied the robbers
for the work they had undertaken. After a few words with her son the
countess opened a small bag she carried with her, and taking from it a
valuable diamond brooch, called the leader of the band up and presented
it to him.
Ronald and his party then remounted their horses -- the robbers had
already overtaken and caught those of the fallen assailants -- the driver
mounted the box, and after a cordial farewell to their rescuers the party
proceeded on their way to Blois.
CHAPTER XI: Free.
It was late at night before Blois was reached, and having alighted at the
Aigle d'Or they engaged a private room.
"Even the Duke of Chateaurouge will be satisfied," Ronald said, "that his
schemes have failed, and that no more can be done just at present. It
will be a bitter blow to him when those scoundrels, on their return to
Paris, report their utter failure, for he must have considered it
impossible that we could escape from the toils he had laid for us. I only
wish that we had clear evidence that he is the author of these attempts.
If so, I would go straight with Marshal Saxe and lay an accusation
against him before the king; but however certain we may feel about it, we
have really nothing to connect him with the affair, and it would be
madness to accuse a king's favourite unless one could prove absolutely
the truth of what one says. However, I hope some day that I shall get
even with him. It will not be my fault if I do not."
That night Ronald and his mother debated what would be the best way to
proceed in the morning, and finally they agreed that Malcolm should
present himself at the prison with the order of release, and that they
should remain at the hotel, to which Malcolm should bring Colonel Leslie,
after breaking to him the news that his wife and son were both awaiting
him. The shock, in any case, of sudden liberty, would be a severe one,
and the meeting with his attached comrade would act as a preparation for
that with his wife.
Mother and son sat hand in hand after hearing the carriage drive off with
Malcolm next morning. In the hours they had spent together they had come
to know each other, and the relationship had become a real one. They had
scarce been able to make out each other's features at their midnight
meeting on the terrace, and at that meeting, rejoiced as they both were,
there was still a feeling of strangeness between them. Now they knew each
other as they were, and both were well satisfied. The countess was less
strange to Ronald than he was to her. Malcolm had already described her
to him as he knew her eighteen years before, and the reality agreed
closely with the ideal that Ronald had pictured to himself, except that
she was younger and brighter. For in thinking of her he had told himself
over and over again that she would have grown much older, that her hair
might have turned gray with grief and trouble, and her spirit been
She on her part had been able to form no idea as to what the infant she
had last seen would have grown up, and was not even sure that he was in
existence. She had hoped that if he had lived he would have grown up like
his father, and although she now saw but slight resemblance between them,
she was indeed well satisfied with her son.
He was not, she thought, as handsome as his father, but he bade fair to
surpass him in strength and stature. She was delighted with his manly
bearing; and when he laughed he reminded her of her husband, and she
thought that she read in his gray eye and firm mouth a steadfastness and
depth of character equal to his. They spoke but little now. Both were too
anxious, Ronald for his mother's sake rather than his own. He was
prepared to find this unknown father a man broken down by his years of
captivity; but although his mother said that she too was prepared for
great changes, he could not but think that the reality would be a sad
shock to her. In little over an hour the carriage drove into the
"Be brave, mother," Ronald said, as he felt the hand he held in his own
tremble violently. "You must be calm for his sake."
Steps were heard approaching. The door opened, and Malcolm entered with a
man leaning on his arm. The countess with a cry of joy sprang forward,
and the next moment was clasped in her husband's arms.
"At last, my love, at last!" she said.
Ronald drew aside to the window to leave his father and mother to enjoy
the first rapture of their meeting undisturbed, while Malcolm slipped
quietly from the room again.
"Why, Amelie," Leslie said at last, holding her at arms' length that he
might look the better at her, "you are scarce changed. It does not seem
to me that you are five years older than when I saw you last, and yet
Malcolm tells me that you too have been a prisoner. How much my love has
cost you, dear! No, you are scarce changed, while I have become an old
man -- my hair is as white as snow, and I am so crippled with rheumatism
I can scarce move my limbs."
"You are not so much changed, Angus. Your hair is white and your face is
very pale; but you are not so much changed. If I have suffered for your
love, dear, what have you suffered for mine! I have been a prisoner in a
way, but I had a certain amount of freedom in my cage, while you --" And
"Yes, it has been hard," he said; "but I kept up my spirits, Amelie. I
never lost the hope that some day we should be reunited."
"And now, Angus, here is our boy, to whom we owe our liberty and the joy
of this meeting. You may well be proud of such a son."
"I am proud," Leslie said as Ronald advanced, and he took him in his
arms. "God bless you, my boy. You have performed well nigh a miracle.
Malcolm has been telling me of you. Call him in again. It is right that
he to whom you owe so much should share in our happiness."
Ronald at once fetched Malcolm, and until late at night they talked of
all that had happened during so many years. Colonel Leslie had passed the
first three years of his confinement in the Chatelet. "It was well it was
no longer," he said; "for even I, hard as I was with years of soldiering,
could not have stood that much longer. My cell there was below the level
of the river. The walls were damp, and it was there I got the rheumatism
which has crippled me ever since. Then they moved me to Blois, and there
my cell was in one of the turrets, and the sun shone in through the
window slit for half an hour a day; besides for an hour once a week I was
allowed to take what they called exercise on the wall between my turret
and the next. The governor was not a bad fellow, and did not try to
pocket the best part of the money allowed for the keep of the prisoners.
Fortunately I never lost hope. Had I done so I would have thrown myself
over the parapet and ended it at once. I felt sure that you too were shut
up, Amelie, and I pictured to myself how they would try to make you give
me up; but I never thought they would succeed, dear. I knew you too well
for that. Sometimes for months I lay as if paralysed by rheumatism, and I
think I should have died if I had not known how my enemies would have
rejoiced at the news of my death. So I held on stoutly, and I have got my
But the hardships had told their tale. Although but the same age as
Malcolm Anderson, Colonel Leslie looked fully ten years older. His long
confinement had taken every tinge of colour out of his face, and left it
almost ghastly in its whiteness. He could with difficulty lift his hands
to his head, and he walked as stiffly as if his legs had been jointless.
His voice only had not lost the cheery ring his wife remembered.
"No, Amelie," he said when she remarked this. "I kept my tongue in
practice; it was the one member that was free. After I had been confined
a few months it struck me that I was rapidly losing the power of speech,
and I determined that if I could not talk for want of someone to answer
me, I could at least sing, and having a good store of songs, Scottish and
French, I sang for hours together, at first somewhat to the uneasiness of
the prison authorities, who thought that I could not be so merry unless I
had some communication from without, or was planning an escape; but at
last they grew accustomed to it, and as my voice could not travel through
the thick walls of my cells, it annoyed no one."
"And did you never think of escaping, father?"
"The first few years of my confinement I was always thinking of it,
Ronald, but nothing ever came of my thought. I had no tools to burrow
through a four foot wall, and if I could have done so I should have tried
if it had only been to give me something to do, had it not been that I
hoped some day to obtain my release, and that any attempt at escape
would, if discovered, as it was almost certain to be, decrease my
Not a word was said that evening as to their future plans, all their
thoughts being in the past; but the next morning Colonel Leslie said at
"And now what are we going to do next? How do we stand?"
"I know no more than you do, Angus. I do not know whether the king has
gifted my mother's estate to others, as assuredly he has done my father's
lands. If he has, I have been thinking that the best plan will be to ask
the king's permission to leave the kingdom and return to your native
"I am very fond of Scotland, Amelie; but I have also a fondness for
living, and how I should live in Scotland I have not the most remote
idea. My estate there was but a small one, and was forfeited thirty years
ago; so unless I become a gaberlunzie and sit on the steps of St. Andrews
asking for alms, I don't see how we should get porridge, to say nothing
of anything else. No, Amelie, it seems to me that we must stop in France.
For very shame they cannot let the daughter of the Marquis de Recambours
starve, and they must at least restore you a corner of your parents
estates, if it be but a farm. How are we off for funds at present?" he
asked with a laugh. "I hope at least we have enough to pay our hotel
"We have forty louis in cash, father; the remains of the hundred you
committed to Malcolm with me."
"Is that so?" he exclaimed. "All I can say is that that money has lasted
longer than any that ever passed through my fingers before."
"We have plenty of money," the countess said quietly. "I have all the
jewels which came to me from my mother, and their sale will keep us for
years, either in Scotland or France."
"That is good indeed," the colonel said cheerily.
"Yes; I took them all with me when I was sent to the convent, and have
parted with none save the diamond necklet which I gave to the girl who
brought Ronald and me together, as a parting keepsake, and a brooch with
which I rewarded the men who aided us in the forest; but seriously,
Angus, we must settle upon something."
"I quite agree with you, Amelie; but what is that something to be?"
"I should think, Angus, that the proper thing would be for me to write to
the king thanking him for our release, asking his commands, and
petitioning him that my mother's estates may be restored to me. I will
also ask permission to retire to some southern town where there are
waters which may do good to your rheumatism."
Colonel Leslie frowned.
"I suppose that is the right thing to do, Amelie; though, for my part, I
cannot thank a sovereign whom I have served well after such treatment as
I have received. I would rather beg my bread from door to door."
"No, I would not ask you, Angus, and of course you are differently
placed; but I have my rights as a peeress of France; besides I have on my
own account no complaint against the king. It was my father who shut me
up in the convent, not the king."
"By the way, Amelie," her husband said, "you are not yet in mourning."
"Nor do I intend to be," she said firmly; "unless I have to go to court
no thread of mourning do I put on. My father behaved like a tyrant to me,
and I will not feign a grief at an event which has brought us happiness.
Well, Ronald, what do you think had best be done? You and Malcolm have
managed so well that we had best leave it for you to decide."
"I think what you propose, mother, is best. I think you had better travel
down to some place near where your mother's estates lay, and then write
your petition to the king. I will leave you there and return with it to
Paris, and will there consult Colonel Hume and Marshal Saxe as to how it
should be delivered to the king."
This plan was carried out. The party journeyed together to Poitiers, and
there having seen his parents comfortably settled in a small house near
the town, and remained with them a few days, Ronald with Malcolm returned
to Paris, bearing with him his mother's memorial to the king.
Ronald was glad to find that Colonel Hume was now recovered from his
wound. Marshal Saxe too was better; the latter at once took charge of the
petition, and said that he would hand it to the king on the first
opportunity. Ronald accompanied the marquis several times to Versailles,
but the latter had no private audience with the king, and thought it
better not to present the memorial in public. One day, however, he was
called into the king's closet.
When he emerged with the king, Ronald thought from his expression of
countenance that things had not gone well. On leaving the palace he
mounted his horse -- for he was now well enough to ride -- and as he set
out he called Ronald, who with other gentlemen had accompanied him to
ride beside him.
"Things have not gone well," he said. "Your father's enemies have
evidently been at work, and have been poisoning the king's mind. He read
the memorial, and then said harshly, 'The Countess of Recambours has
forfeited all rights to her mother's estates by marrying an alien. The
lands of France are for the King of France's subjects, not for soldiers
of fortune.' This touched me, and I said, 'Your majesty may recollect
that I am an alien and a soldier of fortune, and methinks that in time of
war the swords of our soldiers of fortune have done such things for
France that they have earned some right to gratitude. In a hundred
battles our Scottish troops have fought in the front ranks, and had it
not been for the Irish Brigade we should not have had to write Fontenoy
down among the list of French victories."
"You are bold, marshal," the king said angrily.
"I am bold, sire," I replied, "because I am in the right: and I humbly
submit that a brave soldier like Colonel Leslie deserves better treatment
than he has received at the hands of France."
The king rose at once.
"An answer to the petition will be sent to you tomorrow, marshal."
"I bowed, and without another word the king left his closet and entered
the room of audience. However, lad, you must not look so downcast. We
could perhaps expect no more the first time. Of course every man who has
a hope, or who has a relation who has a hope, of obtaining the grant of
your mother's estates is interested in exciting the king's displeasure
against her; besides which there is, as you have told me, the Duc de
Chateaurouge, who may be regarded as a personal enemy of your father, and
who has the king's ear as much as anyone about him. However, we must have
courage. I consider my personal honour is touched in the matter now, and
I will not let the matter drop till justice is done."
At the appointed time Ronald again called at Marshal Saxe's hotel, and
watched the gay crowd of officers and nobles who were gathered in his
reception rooms. An hour later a royal attendant entered and handed a
document to the marshal. The latter glanced at it and looked around. As
soon as his eye fell upon Ronald he nodded to him.
"Here is the judgement," he said in a low tone, as he handed him the
paper. "You see it is directed to the countess, to my care. I suppose you
will start with it at once."
"Yes, marshal; the horses are saddled and we shall leave immediately."
"Don't hurry your horses," the marshal said with a slight smile; "from
the king's manner I think that the contents are such that a few hours'
delay in the delivery will cause the countess no pain. However, I do not
anticipate anything very harsh. In the first place, although the king is
swayed by favourites who work on his prejudices, his intention is always
to be just; and in the second place, after granting the release of your
parents as a boon to me he can scarcely annul the boon by any severe
sentence. Will you tell the countess from me that I am wholly at her
service, and that, should any opportunity offer, she may be sure that I
will do what I can to incline the king favourably towards her. Lastly,
Leslie, take care of yourself. The change in the king's manner shows that
you have powerful enemies, and now that you have succeeded in obtaining
your parents' freedom you have become dangerous. Remember the attack that
was made upon you before, when there seemed but little chance that you
would ever succeed in obtaining their release or in seriously threatening
the interests of those who were looking forward to the reversion of the
family estates. Their enmity now, when it only needs a change in the
king's mood to do justice to your parents, will be far greater than
"Bid your father, too, to have a care for himself and your mother.
Remember that violence is common enough, and there are few inquiries
made. An attack upon a lonely house and the murder of those within it is
naturally put down as the act of some party of discharged soldiers or
other ruffians. Tell him therefore he had best get a few trusty men
around him, and be on guard night and day against a treacherous attack.
Those who stand in the way of powerful men in France seldom live long, so
he cannot be too careful."
A quarter of an hour later Ronald was on horseback. He had already
provided himself with a pass to leave the city after the usual hour of
closing the gates, and he and Malcolm were soon in the open country. As
they rode along Ronald repeated the warning that the marshal had given
"He is quite right, Ronald, and you cannot be too careful. We have
against us, first, this vindictive Duc de Chateaurouge, who, no doubt,
has poisoned the king's mind. In all France there is no one whom I would
not rather have as a foe. He is powerful, unscrupulous, and vindictive;
he would hesitate at nothing to carry out anything on which he had set
his mind, and would think no more of obtaining the removal of one whom he
considered to stand in his way than of crushing a worm. Even as a young