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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Daughter Of Raasay: A Tale Of The '45 - Chapter 9. Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border
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A Daughter Of Raasay: A Tale Of The '45 - Chapter 9. Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border Post by :johneze Category :Long Stories Author :William Macleod Raine Date :May 2012 Read :567

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A Daughter Of Raasay: A Tale Of The '45 - Chapter 9. Blue Bonnets Are Over The Border

CHAPTER IX. BLUE BONNETS ARE OVER THE BORDER

Next day I enrolled myself as a gentleman volunteer in Lord Balmerino's troop of horse-guards, and was at once appointed to a lieutenancy. In waiting for reinforcements and in making preparations for the invasion three weeks were lost, but at last, on the 31st of October, came the order for the march. We had that day been joined by Cluny Macpherson at the head of his clan Pherson, by Menzies of Shien, and by several other small bodies of Highlanders. All told our force amounted to less than five thousand men, but the rapidity of our movements and the impetuous gallantry of the clansmen made the enterprise less mad than it appeared upon the face of it. Moreover we expected to be largely reinforced by recruits who were to declare themselves as we marched south.

It may be guessed that the last hour of leisure I had in the city was spent with Aileen. Of that hour the greater part of it was worse than lost, for a thickheaded, long-legged oaf of an Ayrshire laird shared the room with us and hung to his chair with dogged persistency the while my imagination rioted in diverse forms of sudden death for him. Nor did it lessen my impatience to know that the girl was laughing in her sleeve at my restlessness. She took a malicious pleasure in drawing out her hobnailed admirer on the interesting subject of sheep-rot. At last, having tormented me to the limit of prudence, she got rid of him. To say truth, Miss Aileen had for weeks held me on the tenter-hooks of doubt, now in high hope, far more often in black despair. She had become very popular with the young men who had declared in favour of the exiled family, and I never called without finding some colour-splashed Gael or broad-tongued Lowland laird in dalliance. 'Twas impossible to get a word with her alone. Her admirers were forever shutting off the sunlight from me.

Aileen was sewing on a white satin cockade, which the man from Ayrshire, in the intervals between the paragraphs of his lecture on the sheep industry, had been extremely solicitous of obtaining for a favour. 'Twas a satisfaction to me that my rustic friend departed without it. He was no sooner gone than I came near and perched myself on the arm of a chair beside the girl. For a minute I sat watching in silence the deft movements of the firm brown hands in which were both delicacy and power.

Then, "For Malcolm?" I asked.

"No-o."

"For whom then?"

"For a brave gentleman who iss marching south with the Prince--a kind friend of mine."

"You seem to have many of them. For which one is the favour?" I queried, a little bitterly.

She looked at me askance, demure yet whimsical.

"You will can tell when you see him wearing it."

I fell sulky, at the which mirth bubbled up in her.

"Is he as good a friend as I am, this fine lover of yours?" I asked.

"Every whit." Mockery of my sullenness danced in her blue eyes.

"And do you--like him as well?" I blurted out, face flaming.

She nodded yes, gaily, without the least sentiment in the world.

I flung away in a pet. "You're always laughing at me. By Heaven, I won't be made a fool of by any girl!"

The corners of her eyes puckered to fresh laughter. "Troth, and you needna fear, Kenneth. No girl will can do that for you."

"Well then," I was beginning, half placated at the apparent flattery, but stopped with a sudden divination of her meaning. "You think me a fool already. Is that it?"

"I wass thinking that maybe you werena showing the good gumption this day, Mr. Kenneth Montagu."

My pride and my misery shook hands. I came back to blurt out in boyish fashion,

"Let us not quarrel again to-day, Aileen, and--do not laugh at me these last few minutes. We march this afternoon. The order has been given out."

Her hands dropped to her lap. Save where a spot of faint red burned in either cheek the colour ran out of her face. I drove my news home, playing for a sign of her love, desiring to reach the spring of her tears.

"Some of us will never cross the border twice," I said.

My news had flung a shadow across the bright track of her gayety. 'Tis one thing for a high-spirited woman to buckle on the sword of her friend; 'tis another to see him go out to the fight.

"Let us not be thinking of that at all, Kenneth," she cried.

"Why not? 'Tis a fact to face," I insisted cruelly. "There'll be many a merry lusty gentleman lying quiet under the sod, Aileen, before we reach London town. From the ownership of broad moorland and large steading they will come down to own no more of earth than six foot by two."

"They will be dying as brave gentlemen should," she said, softly, her voice full of tears.

"And if I am one of them?" I asked, making a more home thrust.

The girl stood there tall, slim, pallid, head thrown back, the pulse in the white curved throat beating fast.

"Oh Kenneth, you will not be," she cried piteously.

"But if I am?"

"Please, Kenneth?" Her low voice implored me to desist; so too the deep billowing breasts and melting eyes.

"The fighting will be sharp and our losses heavy. It's his death many a man is going to, Aileen."

"Yes, and if you will be believing me, Kenneth, the harder part iss for those of us who cannot fight but must wear away the long days and mirk nights at home. At the least I am thinking so whatever. The long live day we sit, and can do nothing but wait and wait. After every fight will not some mother be crooning the coronach for her dear son? Every glen will have its wailing wife and its fatherless bairns. And there will be the lovers too for whom there iss the driech wait, forby (besides) that maybe their dearest will be lying under the rowans with their een steekit (eyes fixed) in death."

"There are some of us who have neither mother, wife, nor lover. Will there be none to spare a tear for us if we fall?"

"Indeed, and there will, but"--a wan little smile broke through the film of gathering tears--"we will be waiting till they are needed, and we will be praying that the evil day may never come."

"I'm hoping that myself," I told her, smiling, "but hope never turns aside the leaden bullet."

"Prayers may," she answered quickly, the shy lids lifting from the blue eyes bravely to meet my look, "and you will never be wanting (lacking) mine, my friend." Then with the quick change of mood that was so characteristic of her, she added: "But I will be the poor friend, to fash (bother) you with all these clavers (idle talk) when I should be heartening you. You are glad to be going, are you not?"

All the romance and uplift of our cause thrilled through me.

"By God, yes! When my King calls I go."

Her eyes shone on me, tender, wistful, proud.

"And that's the true word, Kenneth. It goes to the heart of your friend."

"To hear you say that rewards me a hundred times, dear."

I rose to go. She asked, "Must you be leaving already?"

When I told her "Yes!" she came forward and shyly pinned the cockade on the lapel of my coat. I drew a deep breath and spoke from a husky throat.

"God bless you for that, Aileen girl."

I was in two minds then about taking her in my arms and crying out that I loved her, but I remembered that I had made compact with myself not to speak till the campaign was ended and the Prince seated as regent on his father's throne. With a full heart I wrung her hand in silence and turned away.

Prince Charles and his life-guards, at the head of the army, moved from Holyrood to Pinkie-house that afternoon. A vast concourse of people were gathered to cheer us on our way, as we passed through the streets to the sound of the pipes and fife and beating drum. More than one twisted cripple flung himself before the horse of the Prince, begging for "the King's touch." In each case the Young Chevalier disclaimed any power of healing, but his kindly heart forbade his denying the piteous appeal. With a slight smile of sympathy he would comply with the request, saying, "I touch, but God heal." At the head of each clan-regiment rode its chief, and in front of every company the captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, all of whom were gentlemen of the clan related by blood ties to the chief. Though I say it who was one of them, never a more devoted little army went out on a madder or more daring enterprise.

Just one more glimpse of Aileen I got to carry with me through weary months of desire. From the window of her aunt's house she was waving a tartan scarf, and many a rugged kerne's face lighted at the girl's eager loyalty. Flushed with shy daring, the soft pliant curves of her figure all youth and grace, my love's picture framed in the casement was an unconscious magnet for all eyes. The Prince smiled and bowed to her, then said something which I did not catch to Creagh who was riding beside him. The Irishman laughed and looked over at me, as did also the Prince. His Highness asked another question or two, and presently Tony fell into narration. From the young Stuart Prince's curious looks at me 'twas plain to be seen that Creagh was recounting the tale of my adventures. Once I heard the Prince exclaim, "What! That boy?" More than once he laughed heartily, for Creagh was an inimitable story-teller and every point to be scored in the telling gained sparkle from his Irish wit. When he had finished Prince Charles sent for me and congratulated me warmly on the boldness and the aplomb (so he was kind enough to phrase it) which had carried me through devious dangers.

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