HUNTLY HILL

CALLANDAR rode up Huntly Hill. The rose-red of the blossoming briar
that decks all Angus with its rubies glowed in the failing sunlight,
and the scent of its leaf came in puffs from the wayside ditches; the
blurred heads of the meadow-sweet were being turned into clouds of
gold as the sun grew lower and the road climbed higher. In front the
trees began to mantle Huntly Hill.

He had just begun the ascent at a foot’s pace when he heard the whirr
of the beggar’s chariot-wheels behind him, then at his side, and he
turned in his saddle and looked down on his pursuer’s bald crown.
Wattie had cast off his bonnet, and the light breeze springing up
lifted the fringe of his grizzled hair.

“Whaur awa’s Flemington?” he cried, as he came up.

The other answered by another question; his thoughts had come back to
the red-haired prisoner at the top of the hill, and it struck him that
the man in the cart might recognize him.

“What’s your name?” he asked abruptly.

“Wattie Caird.”

“You belong to these parts?”

He nodded.

“Then come on; I have not done with you yet.”

“A’m asking ye whaur’s Flemington?”

If Callandar had pleased himself he would have driven Wattie down the
hill at the point of the sword, his persistence and his pestilent,
unashamed curiosity were so distasteful to him. But he had a second
use for him now. He was that uncommon thing, a disciplinarian with
tact, and by virtue of the combination in himself he understood that
the troopers in front of him, who had been looking forward eagerly to
getting their heads once more under a roof that night, would be
disgusted by the orders he was bringing. He had noticed the chanter
sticking out from under Wattie’s leathern bag, and he thought that a
stirring tune or two might ease matters for them. He did not see his
way to dispensing with him at present, so he tolerated his company.

“Mr. Flemington has a bad wound,” he answered. “He has gone to Brechin
to have it attended to.”

“Whaur did he get it?”

“At Culloden Moor.”

“They didna tell me onything aboot that.”

“Who tells you anything about Mr. Flemington? What do you know about
him?”

“Heuch!” exclaimed Wattie, with contempt, “it’s mysel’ that should
tell them! A ken mair aboot Flemington than ony ither body–a ken fine
what’s brocht yon lad here. He’s seeking Logie, like a’body else, but
he kens fine he’ll na get him–ay, does he!”

Callandar looked down from his tall horse upon the grotesque figure so
close to the ground. He was furious at the creature’s assumption of
knowledge.

“You are a piper?” said he.

“The best in Scotland.”

“Then keep your breath for piping and let other people’s business be,”
he said sternly.

“Man, dinna fash. It’s King Geordie’s business and syne it’s mine. Him
and me’s billies. Ay, he’s awa’, is he, Flemington?”

Callandar quickened his horse’s pace; he was not going to endure this
offensive talk. But Wattie urged on his dogs too, and followed hard on
his heels.

All through the winter, whilst the fortunes of Scotland were deciding
themselves in the North, he had been idle but for his piping and
singing, and he had had little to do with the higher matters on which
he had been engaged in the autumn, whilst the forces of the coming
storm were seething south of the Grampians. He had not set eyes on
Flemington since their parting by the farm on Rossie Moor, but many a
night, lying among his dogs, he had thought of Archie’s voice calling
to Logie as he tossed and babbled in his broken dreams.

He had long since drawn his conclusion and made up his mind that he
admired Archie as a mighty clever fellow, but he was convinced that he
was more astute than anybody supposed, and it gave him great delight
to think that, probably, no one but himself had a notion of the part
Flemington was playing. Wattie was well aware of his advancement, for
his name was in everybody’s mouth. He knew that he was on Cumberland’s
staff, just as Logie was on the staff of the Prince, and he wagged his
head as he thought how Archie must have enriched himself at the
expense of both Whig and Jacobite. It was his opinion that, knowledge
being marketable, it was time that somebody else should enrich himself
too. He would have given a great deal to know whether Flemington, as a
well-known man, had continued his traffic with the other side, and as
he went up the hill beside the dark Whig officer he was turning the
question over in his mind.

He had kept his suspicions jealously to himself. Whilst Flemington was
far away in the North, and all men’s eyes were looking across the
Grampians, he knew that he could command no attention, and he had
cursed because he believed his chance of profit to be lost. Archie had
gone out of range, and he could not reach him; yet he kept his
knowledge close, like a prudent man, in case the time should come when
he might use it. And now Flemington had returned, and he had been sent
out to meet him.

The way had grown steep, and as Callandar’s horse began to stumble,
the soldier swung himself off the tired beast and walked beside him,
his hand on the mane.

Wattie was considering whether he should speak. If his information
were believed, it would be especially valuable at this time, when the
authorities were agog to catch Logie, and the reward for his services
must be considerable if there was any justice in the world. They would
never catch Logie, because Flemington was in league with him. Wattie
knew what many knew–that the rebel was believed to be somewhere about
the great Muir of Pert, now just in front of them, but so far as he
could make out, the only person who was aware of how the wind set with
Archie was himself.

What he had seen at the foot of Huntly Hill had astonished him till he
had read its meaning by the light of his own suspicions. Though he had
not been close enough to the two men to hear exactly what passed
between them when they parted, he had seen them part. He had seen
Callandar standing to look after the other as though uncertain how to
act, and he had heard Archie’s derisive shout. There was no sign of a
quarrel between them, yet Callandar’s face suggested they had
disagreed; there was perplexity in it and underlying disapproval. He
had seen his gesture of astonishment, and the way in which he had sat
looking after Flemington at the cross roads, reining back his horse,
which would have followed its companion, was eloquent to the beggar.
Callandar had not expected the young man to go.

Wattie did not know the nature of the orders he had brought, but he
knew that they referred to Logie. He understood that those who
received them were hastening to meet those who had despatched them,
and would be with them that night; and this proved to him how
important it was that the letters should be in the hand of the riders
before they advanced farther on their way. He had been directed to
wait on the northern side of Huntly Hill, and had been specially
charged to deliver them before Callandar crossed it. He told himself
that only a fool would fail to guess that they referred to this
particular place. But the illuminating part to Wattie was the speech
he had heard by the bracken: it was all that was needed to explain the
officer’s stormy looks.

“These are my orders,” Callandar had said, “but you know them, for I
am informed that they are the duplicate of yours.”

Archie had disobeyed them, and Wattie was sure that he had gone,
because the risk of meeting Logie was too great to be run. Now was the
time for him to speak.

He had no nicety, but he had shrewdness in plenty. He was sudden and
persistent in his address, and divining the obstacles in Callandar’s
mind, he charged them like a bull.

“Flemington ‘ll na let ye get Logie,” said he.

He made his announcement with so much emphasis that the man walking
beside him was impressed in spite of his prejudices. He was annoyed
too. He turned on him angrily.

“Once and for all, what do you mean by this infernal talk about Mr.
Flemington?” he cried, stopping short. “You will either speak out, or
I will take it upon myself to make you. I have three men in the wood
up yonder who will be very willing to help me. I believe you to be a
meddlesome liar, and if I find that I am right you shall smart for
it.”

But the beggar needed no urging, and he was not in the least afraid of
Callandar.

“It’s no me that’s sweer to speak, it’s yersel’ that’s sweer to
listen,” said he, with some truth. “Dod, a’ve tell’t ye afore an’ a’m
telling ye again–_Flemington ‘ll no let ye get him!_ He’s dancin’ wi’
George, but he’s takin’ the tune frae Chairlie. Heuch! dinna tell me!
There’s mony hae done the same afore an’ ‘ll dae it yet!”

The officer was standing in the middle of the road, a picture of
perplexity.

“It’s no the oxter of him that gars him gang,” said Wattie, breaking
into the broad smile of one who is successfully letting the light of
reason into another’s mind. “It’s no his airm. Maybe it gies him a
pucklie twist, whiles, and maybe it doesna, but it’s no that that gars
the like o’ him greet. _He wouldna come up Huntly Hill wi’ you, for he
ken’t he was ower near Logie._ It’s that, an’ nae mair!”

Callandar began to think back. He had not heard one complaint from
Archie since the day they rode out of Fort Augustus together, and he
remembered his own astonishment at hearing he was in pain from his
wound. It seemed only to have become painful in the last couple of
hours.

“It is easy to make accusations,” he said grimly, “but you will have
to prove them. What proof have you?”

“Is it pruifs ye’re needin’? Fegs, a dinna gang aboot wi’ them in ma
poke! A can tell ye ma pruifs fine, but maybe ye’ll no listen.”

He made as though to drive on.

Callandar stepped in front of the dogs, and stood in his path.

“You will speak out before I take another step,” said he. “I will have
no shuffling. Come, out with what you know! I will stay here till I
get it.”

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