« PreviousContinue »
THE YOUNG PRETENDER.
BY MRS. CRAWFORD.
My grandmother, the late Lady Jane Courtenay, was a native of Scotland, and in her youth was esteemed one of the greatest beauties of that romantic land ; but I only remember her when her light and delicate figure bowed beneath the hand of time. And the head, on which the snows of eighty winters had gathered, was enveloped in the little black bonnet that shaded an eye, still beaming with almost youthful brightness, and instinct with sensibility. The education of Lady Jane, as far as the lighter accomplishments go, had been a good one. She spoke French and Italian with fluency, played on the spinet, and excelled in all those fine works of the needle, which, in her day, were considered indispensable in the education of a gentlewoman; but these accomplishments were only the flowers that wreathed the outside of that fair temple of purity and grace, within burned the sweet incense of early piety, poetic fancy, and clear reason; and, together, with a joyousness of spirit that tinged with its reflected sunshine every object within its influence, and a temper sweet as the gathered honey from a thousand flowers, made up a character of feminine excellence, which she retained through a long and honoured life.
Lady Jane, with her three sisters, the Ladies Mary, Grace, and Ann Stuart, were solely dependant upon their brother, the Earl of Bute, having unfortunately lost both their parents. Their constant residence was at Mount Stuart, in the Isle of Bute, where, as Lady Wortley Montagu observes, in one of her letters, “ they lived like nuns." The eldest of the fair solitaires early married Sir Robert Menzies, and in visits to her and their uncle, the Duke of Argyle, the three unmarried sisters saw occasionally a little of that world from which their home so completely shut them out, that Rumour, with his hundred tongues, rarely brought them news of death or bridal, battle or hurricane, save when the old butler, Donald, returned from some special errand to “ bonnie Edinburgh ;" or old Penniefee, the travelling chapman, delighted the lasses with the display of all his cheap bravery. Yet my grandmother dearly loved her native Bute; and, when an old woman, would speak of it with tenderness, and say, with a heavy sigh, “ the days are awa' that I have seen." The Earl of Bute was a man of strong natural sense, which had been highly cultivated by a liberal education; but withal so intolerably stocked with family pride, that the social virtues, which are the golden bands that bind society together, withered, in his chilling presence, like delicate plants when exposed to the blighting frosts of winter.
This pride, nursed by a noble descent, and the storied relics of his chivalrous ancestors, hung up in the old hall and ancient chambers at Bute, gave rise probably to that restless ambition, against which the caustic Junius hurled the thunders of his eloquence, and for which England has wept tears of blood.
There was another cause, also, which might perhaps give an impetus to his ambition. The earl's rental was very inadequate to the support of that state he loved to keep up, and his high patrician spirit felt humbled and annoyed by the superior splendor in which many of his compeers in rank lived. Brooding over these mortifications, he would wander forth at nightfall, when at Bute, to vent in solitude those feelings which his cold, reserved nature, kept even from his nearest and most intimate friends. And while watching the wild waves, as they dashed along in their reckless course, how little did the ambitious earl see the time, then fast approaching, when fortune (whose smiles are no evidence of a man's desert) would smile upon his wishes; when Scotland would no longer be the theatre of his actions; but far away, in merry England, where lay the yellow fields, from which he was to glean the golden harvest of that distinction he coveted—when, as lord of the bedchamber, he would stand upon the first stepping-stone” to the promised land, and, domesticated at the court of George the Third, * lose all relish for the quiet charms of his native Bute.
But to proceed with our tale, or rather, chronicle. The fatal battle of Culloden had been fought, and the bright eyes of Lady Jane and her sisters bore almost daily tribute to that tenderness, that, in woman, melts at the relation of deeds in which man too often delights. The earl was, of course, for the new family, and bitterly enough spoke of the folly and madness of Prince Charles Edward, whom his sisters pitied; and when alone together, the wish that the gallant laddie might get safe out of Scotland, was echoed with many a sigh from the rosy lips of all three. Selfishness draws its narrow circle round the heart, but charity is of no party and no country, weeping alike over the wounds of the aggressor and the aggressed.
Lady Jane, and her sister Lady Grace, were on visit at Menzies Castle, when a letter from the earl, (who had been some time absent in England, t) mentioned his intention of being at Bute in a day or two. Anxious to see him, the affectionate maid took leave of her sister, and regardless of the disappointed looks of young Campbell, a handsome but not favoured suitor, departed on her way to Bute.
Travelling in my grandmother's day was not very agreeable; the
“The Earl of Bute was appointed one of the Lords of the Bedchamber to the Prince of Wales (father of George the Third) in October, 1750, five years after the defeat of the Pretender at Culloden. And in 1760, two days after the accession of George the Third to the throne, the earl was, with the king's eldest brother, introdaced into the Privy Council, where he began to assume an air of authority, which gave much disgust to the administration.”
+ The union of Lord Bute with the daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu led to his residing in England.
roads were wretchedly bad, and the carriages, even of the nobility, clumsy, and by their unwieldy construction liable to overturn. The state of the country, too, offered no inducement for undertaking a journey Scotland was disturbed by civil contention, and overrun with English troops, who were then looked upon with the same feelings of jealousy and dislike with which they are now regarded by the sister kingdom of Ireland. The battle of Culloden had annihilated the hopes, but not in any way deadened the wishes, of the Scottish clans in favour of the young prince, Charles Edward. A hardy race of men, conversant with the rude features of nature, and whose chief knowledge lay in the legends and traditions of other days, were likely to keep alive the old hereditary affection, transmitted from father to son, for the unfortunate Stuart race. Neither can we wonder that such affection strengthened after the young Pretender came amongst them; or that, defeated, they could not at once cease to lament the total extinction of those things that had so long given a zest to the cup of the reveller and a charm to the tale and the song of the bard. Detachments from the Duke of Cumberland's army having been sent out and encamped at different places for the safety of the country, and the rebels being dispersed all over the highlands, hiding in secret fastnesses and reduced to the extreme of want, the Jacobites had no alternative but to chew the cud of disappointment in sullen silence. Yet nature would at times break out, despite the dread which the name of the sanguinary duke inspired, and many and bloody were the combats between the victors and the vanquished when a cup of mountain dew had set the staunch Jacobite's heart in a glow. To some of these unpleasant encounters Lady Jane was herself a fearful witness as she journeyed homewards.
Stopping to take refreshment at a little road-side inn, she was shown into a chamber, over the door of which was written in chalk the name of Courtenay.* The gude alewife informed her that the captain of an English troop had slept there the night before, and was then on his way to secure the person of the unfortunate Charles Edward.
On landing from the boat at Rothsay, Lady Jane found old Donald waiting at the water-side.
“ Well, Donald, did you expect me ?"
“ Weel, yes, my bonnie leddy, I ken'd ye wad be lothe to keep the lord waiting."
• Is my brother arrived then ?"
“ Troth is be; he cam hame yestreen wi' a mountebank southron, a daft loon o' a servant, wi' mair gowd on his claiths than wad fin' a' Bute in whisky for a twalmonth."
“ And how does my brother seem, Donald—is he in good spirits ?”
“ Weel, joost as ye ken him langsyne, vary spare o' cracking wi' ony body; I dinna ken he's sae fresh-looking, but ablins he's made a leetle too free wi' himself amang the southrons; gude troth, they southrons wad sell their sauls to the auld deevil for gude entertainment o' their bodies.”
* A singular fact, as the reader will admit when acquainted with the sequel of these records.
When my grandmother entered the library where the earl was seated, she was struck with the anxious and perturbed expression of his countenance; his greeting, however, was more kindly than of wont, while Lady Jane, who dearly loved her brother, welcomed him with all those sunny smiles that so well become the fair face of woman at the domestic hearth.
“ Well, Jane," said the earl, as she seated herself at the end of the green damask covered settee upon which he half reclined, “how have you left our friends at Menzies Castle ?"
* Quite well,” said she, “but very anxious to hear from you."
* And what,” continued the earl," says Sir Robert to the present aspect of affairs in Scotland ?”
" I believe,” replied Lady Jane, “his fears are rather strong of something still brewing among the clans that adhere to Prince Charles.”
“ The Pretender you mean, Jane,” said her brother sharply. “ Yes, yes, the tartans are still on the stir; but I hope the troops sent over by England will soon send them back to their strongholds in the mountains, or some still stronger retreat where they may eschew their folly for the future.”
“I was almost afraid,” said Lady Jane, “ as we travelled along: some impudent English soldiers looked in at the carriage windows, and asked us if we were carrying the Pretender to the Pope. At an inn on the road the hostess told me that the captain of a troop from England had slept there the night before, and was then on his way to seize the unfortunate Charles, who was reported to be somewhere in this neighbourhood.”
“ Yes,” said her brother musingly, “a price has been set upon head, and the man that harbours him had better look to his own."
“ Oh, heavens !” said the tender-hearted Lady Jane, “ a price set upon his head ; and will the brave Scotch betray him to his enemies -for vile gold betray the legitimate heir of their native kings ?”
“ You speak like a woman, Jane, more from feeling than reason: 'tis true, Charles Stuart is the legitimate descendant of the royal family of Scotland; but as to his right to the crown, the laws have decided, and wisely, against the succession of a Catholic prince; he only therefore courts his own ruin, and that of his brave but misguided followers, by prolonging his stay among our mountains: 'tis rumoured that Macdonald of Lochgavie has got one hundred resolute highlanders in arms, and is making to Lochabar, where he expects to be joined by other clans ; but they'll soon pay dearly for their rashness in attempting to cope with the Duke of Cumberland's troops. See,” continued the earl, taking a paper out of his pocket-book, “ here is a capital description of the young chevalier and his pious brother,* which I took from the St. James's Evening Post, November 30th.
666 ADVERTISEMENT. “« Run away from their master at Rome, in the dog days of last August, and since secreted in France, two Young Lurchers, of the right Italian breed ; and being of a black tan colour, with sharp noses, long claws, and hanging ears, have been taken abroad for King Charles the Second's breed, but are only base mongrels of another litter. They are supposed to be on the hunt for prey in the north. They go a full dog-trot by night for fear of being catch’d. They answer to the names of Hector and Plunder, and will jump and dance at the sound of a French-horn, being used to that note by an old dogmaster at Paris. They prick up their ears also at the music of a Lancashire hornpipe.
* Henry, afterwards Cardinal York.
« « This is to give notice, that whoever can secure this couple of curs, and bring them back to the Pope's Head, at Rome, near St. Peter's Church ; or to the Cardinal's Cap, at Versailles; or to the King's Arms, at Newcastle; or to the Thistle, at Edinburgh; or to the Three Kings, at Brentford; or, rather, to the sign of the Axe, on Tower Hill, shall have the reward of thirteen-pence halfpenny, or any sum below a crown, and the thanks of all the powers of Europe, except France, Spain, and the Pope.
“.N.B. They have each a French collar on, stamped with their father's arms, a warming-pan and Aower-de-lus, with this inscription
- We are but young puppies of Tencin's pack.' Beware of them, for they have got a smack of the Scot's mange ; and those that are bit by them run mad, and are called Jacobites."
“ Well,” said Lady Jane, “ from this specimen of English wit, I should imagine that the claim of the chevalier as the legitimate heir of James the Second is unfounded.”
“Oh, as to that,” answered the earl, “ I pay little regard; there is not the shadow of a doubt but that his claim would be just enough if it depended on the right of descent; but that has nothing to do with the question at issue ; as I said before, the law has set the seal to the exclusion of a Catholic prince from the throne ; if he had all the right of heirdom and all the virtues in the world, his religion would make him unfit to govern a free people, and little do the good people of Scotland know themselves, if they deem that happiness could be enjoyed under a popish prince. 'Tis bad enough in Catholic countries, but heaven bless us in this, where so few profess the faith, to have a king lord it over a nation, nearly the whole of which he is bound to believe out of the pale of salvation. Why his very creed would teach him that it was a meritorious act to oppress and harass a land of heretics; but come,” continued the earl, half smiling, “I'll drown Charles Edward in a cup of good wine.” So saying, he seated himself at the supper table, which was spread with all the most tempting cates that Mistress Abernethy, the old housekeeper, had collected from her choice stores, to do honour to her lord's visit to Bute.
The earl and his sister had not been seated many moments at the board, when a loud ringing at the portal bell startled Lady Jane ; “Who can it be?” said his lordship, “ 'tis a late hour for visitors.” The door opened, and old Donald, with a sagacious movement of the head, ushered in a tall figure, closely wrapped up in the foldings of