Friends, Though Divided by G. A. Henty
Chapter XXII. Kidnaped.
Unable to silence Mike's shouts, the scandalized guards began dragging him roughly from the spot, cuffing him as they went. But the door of the tent opened, and General Leslie appeared.
"What means all this unseemly uproar?" he asked.
"This malapert boy, general, wished to force his way into your tent, and when we stopped him, and told him that he must apply to the lieutenant of the guard if he had aught of importance which he wished to communicate to you, he began to shout like one possessed."
"Loose him," the general said. "Now, varlet, what mean you by this uproar?"
"Forgive me, sir," Mike pleaded, "but I come on an errand which concerns the life of my master, Colonel Furness."
"Come within," the general said briefly, for by this time a crowd had gathered round the tent. "Now," he went on, "what is it you would tell me?"
"I would ask you, sir, whether an hour since you sent an order to my master that he should forthwith go on board the ship Royalist to inspect recruits and stores of arms just arrived from Holland?"
The general looked at him in astonishment.
"I sent no such order," he said. "No ship has arrived from Holland of that or any other name. What story is this that you have got hold of?"
"My master received such an order, sir, for I heard him read it aloud, and he started at once with his major to carry out the order. Knowing, sir, how great, as you are doubtless aware, is the enmity which the Earl of Argyll bears to my master, I followed him to the port, and there learned that the ship called the Royalist had not come from Holland, but is a coaster from the north. I found, moreover, that she was but yesterday named the Royalist, and that she was before known as the Covenant, and that she is commanded by a Campbell. Then it seemed to me that some plot had been laid to kidnap my master, and I ran straight to you to ask you whether you had really ordered him to go on board this ship."
"This must be seen to at once," the general said; for having been present at the scene when Harry produced Cromwell's letter, he knew how deadly was the hatred of the earl for the young colonel. "Without there!" he cried. A soldier entered. "Send the lieutenant of the guard here at once." The soldier disappeared, and the general sat down at his table and hastily wrote an order. "Lieutenant," he said, when the officer entered, "give this letter to Captain Farquharson, and tell him to take his twenty men, and to go on the instant down to the port. There he is to take boat and row out to the ship called the Royalist. He is to arrest the captain and crew, and if he see not there Colonel Furness, let him search the ship from top to bottom. If he find no signs of him, let him bring the captain and six of his men ashore at once."
As soon as he heard the order given Mike, saluting the general, hurried from the tent, and ran at full speed to the camp of Harry's regiment. There he related to Donald Leslie and William Long the suspicious circumstances which had occurred, and the steps which the general had ordered to be taken.
"This is bad news, indeed," Captain Leslie exclaimed; "and I fear that the colonel has fallen into the hands of Argyll's minions. If it be so Farquharson is scarce likely to find the Royalist at anchor when he arrives at the port. Come, Long, let us be stirring. I will hand over the command of the regiment to Grahame till we return. While I am speaking to him pick me out ten trusty men."
He hurried off, and in five minutes was hastening toward the port, with William Long, Mike, and ten men. Such was the speed they made that they reached the quay just at the same time with Captain Farquharson and his men.
Mike gave a cry of despair. The Royalist had disappeared. He ran up to a sailor who was still sitting on an upturned basket, smoking as he had left him before.
"Where is the Royalist?" he exclaimed.
"Halloo! young fellow, are you back again? I thought you had gone off with a bee in your bonnet, so suddenly and quickly did you run. The Royalist? ay, she hoisted her sails two minutes after her boat reached her. I was watching her closely, for I wondered whether she had aught to do with your sudden flight. Methinks that something strange has happened on board, for I saw what seemed to be a scuffle, and certainly the sun shone on the gleam of swords. Then, too, instead of heaving her anchor, she slipped the cable, and a Scotch captain must be in a hurry indeed when he does that."
"Where is she now?" Mike asked.
"Over there, full four miles away, making across the Forth for the northern point of land."
"Is she a fast ship?" Captain Leslie, who had come up, inquired.
"She has the name of being the fastest sailer in these parts."
"There is nothing here would catch her?" Donald Leslie asked. "Would a rowboat have a chance of overtaking her?"
"Not this evening," the sailor said, looking at the sky. "The wind is rising now, and it will blow a gale before morning."
"Tell me, my man," Leslie asked, "and here is a gold piece for your pains, where you think she is likely to put in?"
"That will all depend," the sailor replied, "upon what errand she is bound. I must know that before I can answer you."
Leslie looked at William Long. The latter said:
"It were best to tell this honest fellow the facts of the case. Look you, my 'man, the two king's officers who have gone on board are ill friends with the Campbells, and we doubt not that these have kidnaped and carried them off."
"The Campbells are an ill crew to deal with," the sailor said, "and I do not love them myself. If it be as you say, they might be landed either at Anstruther, near which is a hold belonging to Andrew Campbell of Glencoulie, or at St. Andrews, or at Leuchars, a little bay north of that town, whence they might take them to Kilbeg Castle, also held by a Campbell. It is a lonely place ten miles inland, and their friends would be little likely to look for them there. Besides, the Royalist might land them and sail away without any being the wiser, while at the other ports her coming would be surely noticed."
"Think you that we can obtain horses on the other side?"
"You might obtain four or five," the sailor said, "of Tony Galbraith, who keeps the inn there, and who lets horses on hire to those traveling north."
"If a storm comes on," Leslie asked, "which way is it likely to blow, and will the Royalist be like to make the bay you name?
"Ah! that is more than I can tell," the sailor replied. "Methinks 'twill blow from the west. In that case, she might be able to make her way along the shore; she might run into port for shelter; she might be blown out to sea."
"At any rate," Leslie said, "our first step is to cross. Get us a stout sailing boat. Be not sparing of promises."
The man at once went off to a group of sailors, but these at first shook their heads, and looked toward the sky. Its aspect was threatening. The wind was getting up fast, and masses of scud flew rapidly across it. Leslie went up to the group.
"Come, lads," he said, "five pounds if you put us across."
The offer was too tempting to be rejected, and the men hurried down and began to prepare a large sailing boat. Leslie and Lieutenant Long had a hasty consultation, and agreed that, seeing the difficulty there would be in obtaining horses, it was useless to take more than ten men in all. Accordingly, as soon as the boat was in readiness, the two officers, Mike, and seven soldiers took their places in her. The sails were closely reefed, and she at once put out into the Firth. Every minute the wind rose, until, by the time they were half across, it was blowing a gale. The boat was a stout one, but the waves broke freely over her, and four of the soldiers were kept at work baling to throw out the water she took over her bows. Once or twice they thought that she would capsize, so furious were the gusts, but the boatmen were quick and skillful. The sheets were let go and the sails lowered until the force of the squall abated, and at last, after a passage which seemed rapid even to those on board, anxious as they were, she entered the little port.
Hurrying to the inn, they found that six horses were obtainable. These they hired at once. The host said that he could send to some farms, not far distant, and hire four more, but that an hour or so would elapse ere they came. Leslie and William Long had already decided that the prisoners would most probably be taken to Kilbeg Castle, as being more secluded than the others. They now agreed that they themselves with Mike and three soldiers should start at once, to intercept them if possible between the sea and the castle. When the other horses arrived two of the soldiers were to ride with all speed to Anstruther, and two to St. Andrews, and were there to keep sharp watch to see if the Royalist arrived there, and landed aught in the way either of men or goods.
The point to which they were bound lay fully forty miles away. They determined to ride as far as the horses would carry them, and then, if able to obtain no more, to walk forward. Night was already setting in, and a driving rain flew before the gale.
"We shall never be able to keep the road," Leslie said, "Landlord, have you one here who could serve as guide? He must be quick-footed and sure. Our business is urgent, and we are ready to pay well."
A guide was speedily found, a lad on a shaggy pony, who had the day before come down from the north with cattle. While the horses were being prepared the party had taken a hasty supper, and Leslie had seen that each of the soldiers had a tankard of hot spiced wine. So quickly had the arrangements been made that in half an hour after their arrival at the port the party started from the inn. The ride was indeed a rough one. The country was heavy and wild. The rain drenched them to the skin in spite of their thick cloaks, and the wind blew at times with such violence that the horses were fain to stop and stand huddled together facing it to keep their feet. Hour after hour they rode, never getting beyond a walk, so rough was the road; often obliged to pause altogether from the force of the gale. Twice they stopped at inns at quiet villages, knocked up the sleeping hosts, and obtained hot wine for themselves and hot gruel for their horses. Their pace grew slower as the animals became thoroughly knocked up, and at last could not be urged beyond a walk.
At the next village they stopped, and as they found that there was no possibility of obtaining fresh horses, they determined to push forward on foot. It was now four o'clock in the morning, and they had ridden over forty miles. Another guide was obtained, and they set forward. Although they had hurried to the utmost, it was ten o'clock in the morning before they came down upon a valley with a narrow stream which their guide told them fell into the sea, near Leuchars. They were, he said, now within two miles of the castle, the track from which to the sea ran down the valley. The wind was still blowing a gale, but the clouds had broken, and at times the sun streamed out brightly.
"Thank Heaven we are here at last," Donald Leslie said, "for a harder night I have never spent. I think we must be in time."
"I think so," William Long said. "Supposing the Royalist made the bay safely, she would have been there by midnight, but the sea would have been so high that I doubt if they would have launched a boat till morning. It was light by five, but they might wait for the gale to abate a little, and after landing they have eight miles to come. Of course, they might have passed here an hour ago, but a incline to think that they would not land till later, as with this wind blowing off shore, it would be no easy matter to row a boat in its teeth."
The guide saying that there was a cottage a mile further up the valley, he was sent there with instructions to ask whether any one had been seen to pass that morning. After being half an hour absent he returned, saying that there was only an old woman at the hut, and that she had told him she was sure no one had passed there since daybreak. They now followed the stream down the valley until they came to a small wood. Here they lay down to rest, one being planed upon the lookout. Two hours later the sentry awoke them with the news that a party of men were coming op the valley. All were at once upon the alert.
"Thank Heaven," Leslie said, "we have struck the right place. There seem to be ten or twelve of them, of whom two, no doubt, are the prisoners. We shall have no difficulty in overcoming them by a sudden surprise. Capture or kill every man if possible, or we shall have hot work in getting back to Edinburgh."
When the party came nearer it could be seen that it consisted of eight armed men, in the center of whom the two Royalist officers were walking. Their arms were bound to their sides. Leslie arranged that he with Mike and one of the soldiers would at once spring to their aid, as likely enough, directly the attack began, the captors might endeavor to slay their prisoners, to prevent them from being rescued. Mike was instructed to strike no blow, but to devote himself at once to cutting their cords, and placing weapons in their hands.
The surprise was complete. The sailors forming the majority of the party, with two trusty retainers of the earl, who had special charge of the affair, were proceeding carelessly along, having no thought of interruption. So far their plans had succeeded perfectly. The moment the two officers had reached the quay they were addressed by the men sent on shore with the Royalist's boat. Unsuspicious of danger they took their place in it, and therefore missed the opportunity, which they would have had if they had entered any of the other boats, of learning the true character of the Royalist. They had been attacked the instant they gained the deck of the vessel. Harry, who was first, had been knocked down before he had time to put his hand to his sword. Jacob had fought valiantly for a short time, but he too had been knocked senseless by a blow with a capstan bar. They had then been roughly tumbled below, where no further attention had been paid to them. The Royalist had been blown many miles out to sea, and did not make her anchorage until ten o'clock in the morning. Then the hatches were removed, and the prisoners brought on deck.
The inlet was a small one, and contained, only a little fishing village; the prisoners saw the Royalist sail off again, directly they had been placed in the boat. They had from the first moment when they regained consciousness entertained no doubts whatever into whose hands they had fallen, and they felt their position to be desperate. The plan, indeed, had been skillfully laid, and had it not been for Harry reading the order aloud in Mike's presence, there would have been no clew to their disappearance. During the night the young men were too overpowered with the violence of the storm, and the closeness of the atmosphere in the hold, in which they had been thrown, to converse. But as the motion moderated in the morning they had talked over their chances, and pronounced them to be small indeed. Harry, indeed, remembered that Mike had been present when he asked Jacob to accompany him on board ship, but he thought that no uneasiness would be felt until late that night, as it might well be thought that their duties had detained them, and that they had supped on board. The storm might further account for their non-appearance till morning. Then they imagined that inquiry would be made, and that it would be found that the Royalist had sailed. Their captors would then have a start of twenty-four hours, and in such troubled times it was scarce likely that anything would be done. Nor indeed did they see how they could be followed, as the destination of the ship would be entirely unknown. The very fact that they had not been thrown overboard when fairly out at sea was in itself a proof that their captors entertained no fear of pursuit; had they done so, they would have dispatched them at once. The captives felt sure that it was intended to land them, in order that Argyll himself might have the pleasure of taunting them before putting them to death. Against Jacob, indeed, he could have no personal feeling, and it was by accident only that he was a sharer in Harry's fate. But as a witness of what had taken place, his life would assuredly be taken, as well as that of his companion. As they walked along they gathered from the talk of their guards the distance which they had to go, and the place of their destination. They had never heard of Kilbeg Castle, but as they had no enemies save Argyll, they knew that it must belong to one of his clan. They spoke but little on the way. Harry was wondering how the news of his disappearance would be received in the camp, and thinking of the dismay which it would occasion in the minds of Mike and William Long, when suddenly he heard a shout, and on the instant a fierce fight was raging around him.
Although taken completely by surprise, the sailors fought steadily. But two were cut down before they could draw a sword, and the others, outmatched, were driven backward. The leader of the party shouted again and again, "Kill the prisoners," but he and each of his men were too hotly engaged with the adversaries who pressed them, to do more than defend their own lives. In a minute the fray was rendered still more unequal by Harry and Jacob joining in it, and in less than three minutes from its commencement seven of the guards lay dead or dying upon the ground. The other, an active young fellow, had taken to flight early in the fight, and was already beyond reach.
The contest over, there was a delighted greeting between the rescued prisoners and their friends.
"Come," Leslie said, "we have not a moment to lose. That fellow who has escaped will take the news to Kilbeg, and we shall be having its garrison at our heels. He has but three miles to run, and they will beat to horse in a few minutes after he gets there. We must strike across the hills, and had best make a great circuit by Stirling. If we avoid the roads and towns they may not pick up our track."
Their guide fortunately knew the country well, and leaving the path by which they had traveled, the party started on their return. All day they tramped across the moorlands, avoiding all villages and scattered farmhouses. They had, they knew, three-quarters of an hour's start, and as their pursuers would be alike ignorant whence they came or whither they were going, the chances of their hitting the right route were small.
Making a circuit round Kinross and Alloa, where the Campbells might have ridden in pursuit, and sleeping in a wood, they arrived next day at Stirling. Here was great excitement, for Cromwell's army, marching south of Edinburgh, had approached the town. They remained, however, a few hours only, collecting what pre visions they could, and then falling back again to their former camp at Musselburgh. The following day Harry and his party marched to Edinburgh. That night Harry reported to Sir David Leslie what had befallen him and the next morning he accompanied the general to Holyrood, and laid a complaint before the king.
His majesty was most indignant at the attempt which had been made upon his follower, but he said to General Leslie, "I doubt not, Sir David, that your thoughts and mine go toward the same person. But we have no evidence that he had an absolute hand in it, although the fact that this ship was commanded by a Campbell, and that the hold of Kilbeg belongs to one of his kinsmen, point to his complicity in the affair. Still, that is no proof. Already the earl is no friend of mine. When the day comes I will have a bitter reckoning with him, but in the present state of my fortunes, methinks that 'twere best in this, as in other matters, to hold my tongue for the time. I cannot afford to make him an open enemy now."
General Leslie agreed with the king. Cromwell's army was in a sore strait, and would, they hoped, be shortly driven either to surrender or to fight under disadvantageous circumstances. But the open defection of Argyll at the present moment, followed as it would be by that of the whole fanatical party, would entirely alter the position of affairs, and Harry begged his majesty to take no more notice of the matter, and so returned to the camp.