THE WINTER

APRIL is slow in Scotland, distrustful of her own identity, timid of
her own powers. Half dazed from the long winter sleep, she is often
bewildered, and cannot remember whether she belongs to winter or to
spring.

After the struggles and perplexities of the months that had elapsed
since Balnillo and Christian Flemington met in Edinburgh, she had come
slowly to herself amid storms of sleet. Beyond the Grampians, in the
North, her awakened eyes looked on a country whose heart had been
broken at Culloden. The ragged company that gathered round its Prince
on that Wednesday morning was dispersed among the fastnesses of the
hills, or lying dead and dying among the rushes and heather, whilst
Cumberland’s soldiers finished their bloody business; the April snow
that had blown in the faces of the clansmen as they hurled their
unavailing valour on the Whig army had melted upon mounds of slain,
and in the struggle of an hour the hopes of half a century had
perished. Superior numbers, superior artillery, and superior
generalship, had done their work; when the English dragoons had
recovered themselves after the Highland charge, they pursued almost to
the gates of Inverness, returning again to the battlefield before
night should darken upon the carnage, to despatch the wounded wretches
who still breathed among their dead comrades.

The country smelt of blood; reeked of it. For miles and miles round
Inverness, where the search for fugitives was hottest, burnt hovels
and blackened walls made blots upon the tardy green of spring. Women
went about, white-faced and silent, trying to keep from their eyes the
self-betraying consciousness of hidden terrors; each striving to
forget the peat-stack on the moor where some hunted creature was
lying, the scrub in the hollow that sheltered some wounded body, the
cranny in the hill to which she must journey painfully after dark with
the crusts in her apron.

The shot still rattled out over the countryside where the search was
going on, and where, when it had been successful, a few maimed and
haggard men stood along some shieling wall in front of a platoon of
Cumberland’s musketry. All down the shores of Loch Ness and among the
hills above the Nairn water south-west of Culloden, the dark rocks
raised their broken heads to the sky over God knows what agonies of
suffering and hunger. The carrion-crow was busy in the land. One-fifth
of Prince Charles’s army was dead upon the battle-field, and the
church and tolbooth of Inverness were full of wounded prisoners, to
whom none–not even the surgeons of their own party–were suffered to
attend.

And so April passed, and May was near her passing. Cumberland lay at
Fort Augustus, to which place he had retired with Kingston’s Horse and
eleven battalions of foot. The victorious army was the richer by much
spoil, and money was free; the Duke’s camp was merry with festivities
and races, and in the midst of it he enjoyed a well-earned leisure,
enlivened by women and dice. He had performed his task of stamping out
the danger that threatened his family with admirable thoroughness, and
he had, besides, the comfortable prospect of a glorious return to
London, where he would be the hero of the general rejoicing that was
to follow. He was rooted at Fort Augustus, a rock of success and
convivial self-satisfaction in the flood of tears and anguish and
broken aspiration that had drowned half Scotland.

The Prince had begun his wanderings in the West, hiding among the
hills and corries of the islands, followed by a few faithful souls,
and with a price of thirty thousand pounds on his head, whilst
Cumberland’s emissaries, chief among whom was John Campbell of Mamore,
Commandant of the West Highland garrisons, searched the country in
every direction. The rank and file of his army–such of his men as
were not dead or in prison–were scattered to the four winds; and
those officers who had escaped after Culloden were in hiding, too,
some despairing, some holding yet to the forlorn hope of raising his
standard anew when the evil day should be over. Among these last was
James Logie.

He had come unhurt through the battle. Complete indifference about
personal issues had wrapped him round in a protecting atmosphere, as
it seems to enwrap and protect the unconcerned among men. He had left
the field in company with the Prince and a few friends, with whom he
reached the Ford of Falie on the Nairn River. They had held a rapid
council at this place, Prince Charles desiring that the remnant of his
army should rendezvous at Ruthven, in Badenoch, whilst he made his way
to France; for his hopes were living still, and he still looked for
support and supplies from the French king. He had taken leave of his
companions at the ford, and had set off with half a dozen followers
for the coast.

Logie turned his face towards Angus. He had been a conspicuous figure
in the Prince’s immediate circle, and he knew that he had no time to
lose if he was to cross the Grampians alive. He thirsted to get back,
and to test the temper of the east coast after the news of the
reverse; like his master, he was not beaten yet. He did not know what
had become of Ferrier and the Angus men, for he had been on the
Prince’s staff; but the friends had met on the night before the
battle, and it was a compact between them, that, should the day go
against them, and should either or both survive the fight, they were
to make for the neighbourhood of Forfar, where they would be ready, in
case of necessity, to begin on their task of raising new levies for
the cause.

He had reached the Spey, and had gained Deeside in safety by the
shores of the Avon, crossing the Grampians near the sources of the
Isla.

In the long winter that had passed since he joined the Prince in the
field, James had not forgotten Flemington. His own labours in Angus
and at the taking of the _Venture_, completely as they had filled his
mind in the autumn, had sunk back into the limbo of insignificant
things, but Archie was often in his thoughts, and some time before the
advance on Inverness he had heard with indescribable feelings that he
was intelligence officer to the Duke of Cumberland. The terrible thing
to Logie was that Archie’s treachery seemed to have poisoned the
sacred places in his own past; when he turned back to it now, it was
as though the figure of the young man stood blocking his view, looking
at him with those eyes that were so like the eyes of Diane, and were
yet the eyes of a traitor.

He could not bear to think of that October morning by the Basin of
Montrose. Perhaps the story that a fatal impulse had made him lay bare
to his companion had been tossed about–a subject of ridicule on
Flemington’s lips, its telling but one more proof to him of the folly
of men. He could scarcely believe that Archie would treat the record
of his anguish in such a way; but then, neither could he have believed
that the sympathy in Archie’s face, the break in his voice, the
tension of his listening attitude, were only the stock-in-trade of a
practised spy. And yet this horror had been true. In spite of the
unhealed wound that he carried, in spite of the batterings of his
thirty-eight years, Logie had continued to love life, but now he had
begun to tell himself that he was sick of it.

And for another very practical reason his generous impulses and his
belief in Flemington had undone him. Perhaps if the young painter had
come to Balnillo announcing an ostentatious adherence to the Stuarts,
he might have hesitated before taking him at his own value; but his
apparent caution and his unwillingness to speak, and the words about
his father at St. Germain, which he had let fall with all the quiet
dignity of a man too upright to pass under false colours, had done
more to put the brothers on the wrong track than the most violent
protestations. Balnillo had been careful, in spite of his confidence
in his guest; but in the sympathy of his soul James had given
Flemington the means of future access to himself. Now the tavern in
the Castle Wynd at Stirling could be of use to him no longer, and he
knew that only the last extremity must find him in any of the secret
haunts known to him in the Muir of Pert.

Madam Flemington had never reopened the subject of James Logie with
Archie. In her wisdom she had left well alone. Installed in her little
lodging in Hyndford’s Close, with her woman Mysie, she had made up her
mind to remain where she was. There was much to keep her in Edinburgh,
and she could not bring herself to leave the centre of information and
to bury herself again in the old white house among the ash-trees,
whilst every post and every horseman brought word of some new turn in
the country’s fortunes.

News of the Highland army’s retreat to Scotland, of the Battle of
Falkirk, of the despatch of the Duke of Cumberland to the North,
followed one another as the year went by, and still she stayed on.
With her emergence from the seclusion of the country came her
emergence from the seclusion she had made for herself; and on the
Duke’s thirty hours’ occupation of Holyrood, she threw off all
pretence of neutrality, and repaired with other Whig ladies to the
palace to pay her respects to the stout, ill-mannered young General
whose unbeguiling person followed so awkwardly upon the attractive
figure of his predecessor.

Now that Archie was restored to her, Christian found herself with
plenty of occupation. The contempt she had hitherto professed for
Edinburgh society seemed to have melted away, and every card-party,
every assembly and rout, knew her chair at its door, her arresting
presence in its midst. Madam Flemington’s name was on a good many
tongues that winter. Many feared her, some maligned her, but no one
overlooked her. The fact that she was the widow of an exiled Jacobite
lent her an additional interest; and as the polite world set itself to
invent a motley choice of reasons for her adherence to the House of
Hanover–which it discovered before her reception by the Duke at
Holyrood made it public–it ended by stumbling on the old story of a
bygone liaison with Prince Charles’s father. The idea was so much to
its taste that it was generally accepted; and Christian, unknown to
herself, became the cast-off and alienated mistress of that Prince
whom her party had begun to call ‘The Old Pretender.’ It was scarcely
a legend that would have conciliated her had it come to her ears, but,
as rumour is seldom on speaking terms with its victims, she was
ignorant of the interested whispers which followed her through the
wynds and up the staircases of the Old Town.

But the reflected halo of royalty, while it casts deep shadows,
reaches far. The character of royal light of love stood her in good
stead, even among those to whom her supposed former lover was an
abhorred spectre of Popery and political danger. The path that her own
personality would surely open for her in any community was illumined
and made smooth by the baleful interest that hangs about all kingly
irregularities, and there was that in her bearing which made people
think more of the royal and less of the irregular part of the
business. Also, among the Whigs, she was a brand plucked from the
burning, one who had turned from the wrong party to embrace the right.
Edinburgh, Whig at heart, in spite of its backslidings, admired Madam
Flemington.

And not only Edinburgh, but that curious fraction of it, David
Balnillo.

The impression that Christian had made upon the judge had deepened as
the weeks went by. By the time he discovered her true principles, and
realized that she was no dupe of Archie’s, but his partisan, he had
advanced so far in his acquaintance with her, had become so much her
servant, that he could not bring himself to draw back. She had dazzled
his wits and played on his vanity, and that vanity was not only warmed
and cosseted by her manner to him, not only was he delighted with
herself and her notice, but he had begun to find in his position of
favoured cavalier to one of the most prominent figures in society a
distinction that it would go hard with him to miss.

He had begun their conversation at Lady Anne Maxwell’s party by the
mention of Archie Flemington, but his name had not come up between
them again, and when his enlightenment about her was complete, and the
talk which he heard in every house that he frequented revealed her in
her real colours, he had no further wish to discuss the man into whose
trap he had fallen.

David Balnillo’s discoveries were extremely unpalatable to him. If
Christian had cherished his vanity, she had made it smart, too. No
man, least of all one like the self-appreciative judge, can find
without resentment that he has been, even indirectly, the dupe of a
person to whom he has attached himself; but when that person is a
woman, determined not to let him escape from her influence, the case
is not always desperate. For three unblessed days it was wellnigh
desperate with Balnillo, and he avoided her completely, but at the end
of that time a summons from her was brought to him that his
inclination for her company and the chance sight of Lord Grange
holding open the door of her chair forbade him to disobey. She had
worded her command as though she were conferring a favour;
nevertheless, after an hour’s hesitation, David had taken his hat and
repaired to Hyndford’s Close, dragging his dignity after him like a
dog on a leash.

If she guessed the reason of his absence from her side she made no
remark, receiving him as if she had just parted from him, with that
omission of greeting which implies so much. She had sent for him, she
said, because her man of business had given her a legal paper that she
would not sign without his advice. She looked him in the face as
fearlessly as ever, and her glance sparkled with its wonted fire. For
some tormented minutes he could not decide whether or no to charge her
with knowledge of the fraud that had been carried on under his roof,
but he had not the courage to do so. Also, he was acute enough to see
that she might well reply to his reproaches by reminding him that he
had only himself to thank for their acquaintance. She had not made the
advances; his own zeal had brought about their situation. He felt like
a fool, but he saw that in speaking he might look like one, which some
consider worse.

He left her, assuring himself that all was fair in love and politics;
that he could not, in common good breeding, withhold his help from her
in her legal difficulty; that, should wind of Archie’s dealings with
him get abroad in the town, he would be saving appearances in avoiding
a rupture with the lady whose shadow he had been since he arrived in
Edinburgh, and that it was his duty as a well-wisher of Prince Charles
to keep open any channel that might yield information about
Flemington’s movements. Whatsoever may have been the quality of his
reasons, their quantity was remarkable. He did not like the little
voice that whispered to him that he would not have dared to offer them
to James.

There was no further risk of a meeting with Archie, for within a few
days of the latter’s appearance in Hyndford’s Close he had been sent
to the Border with instructions to watch Jedburgh and the
neighbourhood of Liddesdale, through which the Prince’s army had
passed on its march to England. Madam Flemington knew that the coast
was clear, and David had no suspicion that it had been otherwise. Very
few people in Edinburgh were aware of Flemington’s visit to it; it was
an event of which even the caddies were ignorant.

And so Balnillo lingered on, putting off his return to Angus from week
to week. His mouse-coloured velvet began to show signs of wear and was
replaced by a suit of dark purple; his funds were dwindling a little,
for he was not a rich man, and a new set of verses about him was going
the round of the town. Then, with January, came the battle of Falkirk
and the siege of Stirling Castle, and the end of the month brought
Cumberland and the mustering of loyal Whigs to wait upon him at
Holyrood Palace.

David departed quietly. He had come to Edinburgh to avoid playing a
marked part in Angus, and he now returned to Angus to avoid playing a
marked part in Edinburgh. He was behaving like the last remaining king
in a game of draughts when he skips from square to square in the safe
corner of the board; but he did not know that Government had kept its
eye on all his doings during the time of his stay. Perhaps it was on
account of her usefulness in this and in other delicate matters that
Madam Flemington augured well for her grandson, for when the Whig army
crossed the Forth, Archie went with it as intelligence officer to the
Duke of Cumberland.