Spanning 13 years, two continents, several wars, and many smoke-filled and bloody battlefields, John Sayles’s thrilling historical and cinematic epic invites comparison with Diana Gabaldon, George R. R. Martin, Phillippa Gregory, and Charles Dickens.
It begins in the highlands of Scotland in 1746, at the Battle of Culloden, the last desperate stand of the Stuart ‘pretender’ to the throne of the Three Kingdoms, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his rabidly loyal supporters. Vanquished with his comrades by the forces of the Hanoverian (and Protestant) British crown, the novel’s eponymous hero, Jamie MacGillivray, narrowly escapes a roadside execution only to be recaptured by the victors and shipped to Marshalsea Prison (central to Charles Dickens’s Hard Times) where he cheats the hangman a second time before being sentenced to transportation and indentured servitude in colonial America "for the term of his natural life." His travels are paralleled by those of Jenny Ferguson, a poor, village girl swept up on false charges by the English and also sent in chains to the New World.
The novel follows Jamie and Jenny through servitude, revolt, escape, and romantic entanglements -- pawns in a deadly game. The two continue to cross paths with each other and with some of the leading figures of the era- the devious Lord Lovat, future novelist Henry Fielding, the artist William Hogarth, a young and ambitious George Washington, the doomed General James Wolfe, and the Lenape chief feared throughout the Ohio Valley as Shingas the Terrible.
A DELUXE EDITION with a brilliant design.
700 PAGES of a thrilling, historical, and cinematic epic!
Release date: February 28, 2023
Publisher: Melville House
Print pages: 703
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Jamie MacGillivray: The Renegade's Journey
The mare slips, climbing the rain-slick hillside, white puffs huffing from her nostrils in the frigid evening air. Jamie MacGillivray, new-bought plaid draped over his head, leans forward in the cracked saddle, cooing to the beast in Erse. There are no trees. He knew this, of course, remembered it, but the bleak nakedness of the hills is still a shock after so much time away. Sudden scooting of dappled feathers to his left, but the mare is too weary to startle. Easier to snag a grouse in one’s bare hands than to find the Laird Lovat if he wishes it not. At what the gentry call Castle Dounie, the resident Fraser secretary condescended to inform Jamie that the Auld Fox was not yet so vexed with age as to return straight to his clan seat after a narrow escape, and that even if he was there, the quest was pointless. But Jamie is a go-between by profession now, and the job requires patience. The more accomodating Fraser, who attends the Prince, cautioned Jamie of Lovat’s calculated evasiveness, his eel-like ability to change direction, even shape, but stressed that he is the key to success in the impending carnage—then whispered the name of the great chieftan’s most likely hideaway.
Jamie, cold and sodden, is unsurprised that no Highlander he’s asked since has been willing to cede him the exact location, or even admit that such a place as Gortuleg exists. His only guess is that it lies somewhere here on the northern shore of Loch Mhòr, possibly over the next hill—
Jamie presses his knees tight to the mare’s steaming flank. They gain the crest as the rain hardens to something like sleet, then pause to survey the other side, and there it lies, just below, chimney smoke blown sideways from a middling, whitewashed cottage left deceptively unguarded. Turf smoke, by the smell of it—the Auld Fox must save his kindling for honored guests.
A few bodies move about the cottage, none looking up the hill as Jamie allows the surly mare to rest. They have surely kenned his coming for an hour at the least—even with the young and vital away in arms, Frasers are not to be caught unawares—Je suis prest their motto. Jamie has seen Lovat only once, he and Dougal as boys fishing in the Moy Burn when the procession came through on a hunt to the north, the laird with a parade of his henchmen. The óstair first, leading the great man’s stallion with a trio of young bodyguards trotting alongside, keeking the hills for
danger, and then the sword bearer and the baggage man and the standard bearer, wavering as his flapping banner caught the wind and pulled him backward, and the piper, striding with his nose in the air, his own gillie shuffling behind with the bulky instrument draped upon him like a many-armed sea creature, and then the portly Auld Fox himself, legs outsplayed, riding the shoulders of his ruddy-cheeked casflue across the frigid water. Je suis prest, announced the banner, letters on the belt that circled the buck’s head, I am ready, but they knew before they read it, Jamie and his brother standing with mouths gapped wide and poles forgotten in their hands. It was in the man’s face, everything they’d ever heard of him, as he spread his wide, jack-o’-lantern grin and nodded to one of the half-dozen luchd tighe trotting to the rear with hands on their swords, and that ready young man flipped a tarnished shilling that Dougal snatched before it hit the water. Laird Lovat with the grin of a wolf, eager for whatever life might place before him.
Jamie prods the mare, and they start down the hill.
tweedie watches from the door as the stranger hands Rhory Bain the reins to his mount and steps forward. It is a tall mare, none of your shaggy little Galloways for this lad, who announces himself in Erse with a foreign lilt to it and waits in mud-caked boots and wet woolen breeches. Tweedie can hop it when he desires, but now drags his ruined leg emphatically across the cold plank floor to advertise the intrusion. It always hurts worse in the cold. Though at times the Laird will curse Tweedie’s slowness and his clumsiness and the leaden scrape of his gait, and joke that if this crippled oaf is truly his blood the Frasers are doomed for certain, the Auld Fox is a great man, and they all, from the royal cousins to the lowest wandering thrasherman, strut prideful in the world to claim him as their chief.
The great man is on his chamber pot when Tweedie announces the visit.
“A MacGillivray, is it?” says the Laird, the meaning of his smile yet to be revealed. “Lead him in. And ale for the two of us.”
Tweedie moves a mite quicker to cross the excuse for a hall and calls the stranger in, telling him to wait by the door. He pours twopenny from the bucket into a pair of tankards on the small table, then stirs the fire and hitches out past the visitor to the yard, only a thin, cold rain to contend with now.
Rhory Bain is watching the stranger’s mare eat hay.
A MacGillivray, Tweedie informs the hostler, speaking Erse. One I’ve never seen before.
Another young man gone a-kingmaking, snarls Rhory Bain, not one to waste a soft word on a two-legged creature.
He wore no cockade.
He reeks of it. What else would stir a man out in this weather?
Tweedie moves to peer back inside. The men are standing at the table, drinking ale. He strains to listen.
They’re talking Saxon.
Rhory Bain scowls. No good will come of it, he says, same as the Last One.
They are both old enough to remember the Last One, the ’15, Tweedie still whole then and mustered to march back and forth across the country with never the occasion to fight.
The Laird knows what’s right, he says.
He does indeed. That one—Rhory jerks his shaggy white head toward the doorway—will leave on the same horse he arrived on.
The Auld Fox stands by the fireplace, eyes gleaming red. “Spare yer tongue,” he says, the burr of the Highlands a conscious filigree to his English. He’s at home here, not preening for the peers in London, wig left snug in its powdered box. “Ma mind is fixed.”
Jamie stands back from the flickering light, his bonnet wet under his arm, épée de coeur buckled at his hip, feeling the cold of the room at his back. “Ye’ve a son with the Prince,” he says.
“And twa mair in the scrape with the Royal Fusiliers, standing by King George. Them that’s left tae me are needed fer the plough.”
The notorious master of intrigues, thinks Jamie, careful to gird both his flanks years ahead of Prince Charlie’s impetuous fling at the throne.
“The French are coming with arms and men,” he ventures—
“The French!” smiles the Auld Fox. “The French have been coming fer thretty years noo, and I’ve yet tae keek a mon of ’em in the flesh.”
“I’ve ainly just been with the Prince—”
“I smelt it when ye strode in.” The Auld Fox had been as canny in the ’15, promising both parties the support of his clansmen but never quite joining either, conniving to hold on to nearly all his ill-gotten estates after the Defeat.
“T’will gae hard with ye when we’ve won,” says Jamie, a statement rather than a threat.
“I’ve ma son with yer lot tae plead fer me.”
“If he survives the fighting.”
The Auld Fox shifts his head, eyes shadowed now. “Enough shall be lost,” he says quietly, “withoot I add tae the sorra.” He steps toward Jamie, looking him over from boots to crown.
Snorts. “Yer father was as fu’ of the Cause in his ain day—he’d hear nae counsel. If he’d listened, ye’d no be ferrying coals fer the MacIntosh.”
The Auld Fox is as wide as he is tall, powerful, excesses of table expanding his girth while those of the court and the bedchamber still frolic in his wicked eyes, his constant smirk. Jamie notices that the heavy chairs set at the table have rings below the arms, rings to fit the poles with which, after a night of toasting one king or another, the neighboring laird and the three-bottle men and perhaps the Auld Fox himself, mumbling and cock-eyed, are carted off to sleep.
“There is Honor tae be considered.” Jamie hears his echo in the stone cottage. No claymores cross over the mantelpiece here, no coat of arms like the secretary Robert Fraser stood before at Castle Dounie. This is the lair of a chief in exile, something better than a croft or a cave, but only meant as shelter till the outcome of the great struggle is known.
The Auld Fox smiles again, eyes crinkling into slits. “Aye, the French are great uns fer Honor.”
And then the lame house gillie, breath wisping ghostly in the cold as he enters, informs them that there is a messenger from Inverness.
the men sit on their folded plaids on the cold ground, hungry, awaiting word from the flock of Irishmen and rebel lairds who surround the willowy boy they wish to place on the throne. Since the stormy shambles of a battle at Falkirk Muir, they’ve done little but retreat, the Hessians in the game against them now under King George’s porcine third son, Cumberland, who is in no hurry, it seems, to bring them to bay. “There’s little enow iv Scotland left,” the MacGillivray Chief muttered only this morning, “fer us tae run tae.”
Dougal walks among his landsmen to be seen. They have been too long without a fight. Without a charge, a slaughter, a victory or defeat, the rest of it is only misery. It will be a hard winter, and each morning roll finds a handful missing, gone to mind their beasts and bairns. Clan Chattan had been given the center front at Falkirk, right beside young Fraser’s troop, a greeting shot in the howling storm and then throwing down firelocks to charge, waving claymores and screaming their cry, the lobsterbacks firing one uneven volley with wet powder before they took to their heels. Lashed with sleet, cutting men down from behind no more perilous than houghing cattle, striking at their legs and leaving them in the mire to be finished with the
thrust of a dirk. His men were raw at it, lunatic-eyed and near hysteria as they lingered to strip the dead, allowing the living, breathing red enemy to disappear into the wall of freezing rain.
“Where are we aff tae?”
It is the little printer from Inverness, scrawny and shivering, half whispering in English at Dougal’s side, as if there are secrets to be shared.
“It hasnae been decidit.”
The man had run broadsides for the Cause from his shop at night, colorful jeremiads to be read in passion and burned immediately, until he was denounced to the Lord President and forced into hiding. He’d lived as a wraith among his MacBean people till the Rising and now struggles to keep step with the regiment, dwarfed by the rusty claymore his father’s father’s father carried to fight Cromwell.
“But where’d’ye think?”
They have this conversation several times a day. “Are the King’s cannon rainin’ shot on our heids?” asks Dougal.
The man actually looks to the sky.
“They are no.”
“Are his sojers formed in line to pierce us with bullets or spit us on their bayonets?”
The man frowns. “They are no.”
“Then be glad fer it, and wait instruction.”
The one they call Crawford’s Fergal is cleaning his firelock. He was with the Highland men who fought for the Crown in Belgium but was mustered out on their return from the Continent as more trouble than his worth. Dougal has seen the man’s naked back, welts upon welts from the King’s Discipline, and knows him for a drunkard and a troublemaker and a magnificent hellion in battle.
If the other men had your vigilance, says Dougal in Erse, stepping past him, we’d be a force to contend with.
If the other men had whisky, mutters the veteran, I’d trade this for half a gill of it.
Neddy Coos is standing before Dougal now, one of his renters from home, wide and placid. Neddy can charm milk from an udder that hasn’t yielded for days, is a master at bonding orphaned calves to barren cows. His eyes are a watery blue, and he speaks slowly and after much deliberation.
“Winter is upon us,” he says.
Neddy is a good tenant, paying his tack in clabber and crowdie, never a complaint.
“The hay will be gan.”
Dougal waits. Neddy carries a Lochaber axe into battle and has the shoulders to render it fearsome.
“The roof wants mending.”
Like many of his kind, Neddy considers it impolite to begin a conversation with a question, first building a solid edifice of undeniable observation to house it.
“How much langer,” he asks, finally letting it peek out, “will we be at war?”
Dougal lays a hand on Neddy’s massive arm, speaking softly.
“No lang, I fear,” he answers. “No lang at all.”
The Chief allowed each man to keep whatever weapons he was able to find on Falkirk Muir, but in the weeks since, the poorest have sold or traded their firelocks to those who know how to use them. They are a mongrel regiment, not only the usual jumble of MacIntoshes, MacPhersons, MacBeans, MacPhails, MacGillivrays, Farquarsons, Davidsons, Ritchies, and Smiths that form the confederation, but blooded gentry, tacksmen, tenants, tradesmen, and strolling laborers mixed together, few who’ve ever marched in order or raised a blade in anger. Half, perhaps, were seduced by the glory of it, Lady MacIntosh rosy-cheeked and bonny on her mount bringing the blood up in a man, riding among the clachans while her husband honored his legally sworn service to the Hanover King. “This is our Destiny,” she told them. “Clan,” she said, “God,” she said, “King,” she said, “Scotland,” she said, and tears ran from old men’s eyes. “Ma husband is bonded to the English, so MacGillivray of Dunmaglas shall lead you!” Barefoot cottars shouldered their pitchforks and scythes, kissed their women farewell, and followed her to the next smattering of huts, chuffed to belong to Lady Anne’s Regiment.
The rest were shamed or threatened.
Dougal had a hand in that—only a wee step from tacksman to recruiting officer. No thatch was torched, no cattle taken, only a strong word and the ancient weight of the clan.
“If ye dinnae come oot, and we win, there will be nae life fer ye here,” he explained. “And if we lose, yer still ainly Hieland filth tae the English. So ye’ve nowt but ane course tae take—”
Only the poorest, the harvest hands and gleaners, starvation in their bones, were without obligation. The tack for the land that tenants worked and squatted on was mostly paid in kind—oats or barley, beef and mutton and fowl, perhaps a week’s labor when required—but belonging, being part of a great family that reaches back through the mists of memory…that, you pay in blood.
“Tis the Duke of Cumberland’s birthday,” says the Chief, in English, stepping over when the conference around the Prince breaks up.
“May the wee kraut-eater ne’er see another,” says Dougal.
“Their troops rest at Nairn, and they’ll be gi’en brandy tae celebrate.”
The Chief is looking pensively at his underfed, exhausted men. “We’ll march through the night, Murray with the right, Perth with the left, the Prince himsel’ ahind us with the second line, and we’ll a’ fall upon them at dawn.”
Dougal feels ill. The Prince’s army—Highlanders and Irish and Scots in the French service and English deserters and the flighty, headstrong MacDonalds—is hard enough to herd together in daylight.
“And who is to guide us on this midnight crusade?”
“You are, Dougal,” says the Chief, MacGillivray of Dunmaglas.
the old man cooks bannock on a turf spade. the shed, at the far edge of Fraser land, squats in the lee of a dozen horse-high stacks of drying turf on a rise just above the bog itself. His feet are wrapped in burlap rags, his fingers stained a reddish brown. Jamie saw the wisp of smoke in the last light, spoke as if he was on important business for the Auld Fox, and was invited to shelter for the night. The mare has been hobbled—nothing to tie it to on the great soggy mat of the moor—and Jamie is sitting on his grounded saddle in the dull glow of the peat fire. When his thoughts wander back to France, he thinks of being dry. Dry and warm.
The old man does not seem unintelligent, his Erse lively when he chooses to speak, and Jamie wonders what transgression might have caused his banishment this far from the heart of the clan to be the lonely minister of turf.
The old man flips the cake deftly, browned side up now. Jamie hasn’t eaten oat bannock since he was a boy, hunting with Dougal and their father. You needed real coals, his father said, from a wood fire, though the old man seems to be doing well enough with what he has at hand.
Have there been many people by? asks Jamie, more to break the silence than for want of an answer. Sooner wrest a bloody chop from the teeth of a starving dog than coax a Highlander to reveal himself.
No one comes by, says the old man, eyes never leaving the cake. The spade is a blackened iron ell with a wooden handle.
People come to win their turf, and they go home.
Jamie hopes the Prince’s army will be in Inverness tomorrow, though he is without good news to bear. None of the lairds holding men back have agreed to release them, and those stragglers he has seen on the roads have been deserting rather than hurrying to join the fight. The French have in fact landed
some weapons and money, but no more troops, and he is only glad that he is not back in St. Germaine en Laye to hear them explain why. It is a beautiful language, French, for mendacity.
Still, there are so many moving about the country, says Jamie to the old man. Soldiers.
It’s what soldiers do, says the old man.
There are more turf spades leaning against the one high wall of the shed and some other items, just at the edge of the firelight, laid out on an old scrap of sacking. Jamie moves to kneel on the damp floor beside them—a blackened, broken sword, a pair of bone-handled rondel daggers, some pottery—
They come up in the bog, says the old man.
—and a kind of blackish, leathery sack with stumplike appendages that Jamie gives a tentative poke with his finger.
And that was a man, says the turf minder.
Jamie sniffs but smells only bog.
Dead for a good while. He might have been one of the Painted People.
When it was nothing but savages here.
Something like a smile plays about the old man’s lips, or perhaps it is only a trick of the firelight.
A man with matters to look after, no doubt, he says. Important things—vital things, but meaning nothing to us now.
It looks like a leather sack, says Jamie. He cannot imagine that the bannock will be edible. He wonders how he will sleep on the earthen floor with the wind moaning over the treeless moor. For the first time since the French boat left him ashore, he is losing hope.
Some come up in the bog, says the old man, shifting the flattish cake onto a slab of wood.
Most prefer to remain below it.
“there is a ’ways a moon,” his father used to say. “Whether it reveals itsel to licht our wee or no is another matter.”
Dougal has always had the gift of direction, a sense of how the land is arranged, of what should lie ahead. He keeps south of the Inverness road, the river to their left now, able to move over the raw heath and scattered stubble of grain fields quickly enough. But except for the half dozen in the vanguard, Lord Murray’s men seem unable to remain in contact. For every hour of traveling there is an hour of waiting for them to catch up and be reassembled, leaving a chorus of barking clachan dogs in their wake. Some are foraging, of course, rushing after startled
chickens in the dark, and some are too exhausted or reluctant to do more than trudge mindlessly, staring at the back of the man before them, lost or not. Entire regiments wander astray. Dougal feels the darkness thinning, slipping away, as he makes out the distant tower of Cawdor Castle against the sky. Any royal-ass-licking Campbells knocking about within it will be the old and the infirm, the fighting men no doubt asleep in Nairn after celebrating the Duke of Cumberland’s twenty-fifth year.
Dougal signals for the handful of men behind him to wait again, planning to steer the troop north from here when they arrive. First there will be a twitching of panicked hares, then the creaking and clanking of the multitude, or at least those who have not wandered too far astray. They are the right wing, meant to recross the Nairn behind the English while Perth’s men confront them head on. There are meant to be runners keeping the two forces informed of the other’s position and timing, but not one has arrived from either Perth on the left nor from the Prince back with the reserve.
Crawford’s Fergal squats next to the rock Dougal sits upon. He wears grenadier’s boots tugged off a corpse at Falkirk.
We’d go out on a night darker than this one, he says, his Erse a gargling hiss in the dark, lift a few dozen cattle from the Camerons, and be warm in our beds before cock’s crow.
Dougal listens deep into the night, but no one is coming yet.
Cows are easier to lead than men, he says. They lack imagination.
Fergal smiles. I saw the royal lad himself at Tournai, you know. Cumberland. Stuffed in his uniform like a Christmas sausage and waving his hat about to rouse the troops. Sent us howling into the French center without a qualm.
It’s a wondrous talent, says Dougal, sending men off to die.
Oh, he’s steady enough himself when the shot is flying near. A King’s son has the Almighty on his shoulder.
The MacGillivrays are Episcopal by tradition more than practice, Dougal’s father always maintaining that if God could make the earth in less than seven days He had no need for a pack of pew-polishers and mess-Johns to help Him sort it out.
And when one king’s son, says Dougal, meets another in battle?
The men never tire of comparing their slender, berry-lipped Prince with King George’s corpulent third son, born only a year apart and seemingly fated to meet on the field of battle. Though few of the men are Catholic, the most fervent for the Cause treat their glimpses of the Prince as the touch of a holy relic, the tangible, polished bone of an ancient and miraculous saint.
Others, with more worldly designs, think him now only the harried fox who centers the hunt.
Ah, when prince fights prince, says the scarred veteran, God is in his glory.
It is a long time, by the feel of it, the frigid heath silent without a breeze, before three hares bound past, changing direction with each leap, and then the sound of men on the move gathers shape behind them.
It is Lord Murray and his aide, the Lowlander the French have christened the Chevalier de Johnstone who claims to know Dougal’s brother Jamie from the exile court, and one of the much-resented Irish advisors, O’Sullivan. Dougal stands and takes his bonnet off.
“Where are we now?” asks Lord Murray, clearly unhappy with the progress of his troop.
Dougal points in three directions. “Cawdor Castle,” he says. “River. Nairn.”
“But how far?”
Dougal, suddenly dizzy on his feet, tries not to yawn. “Nearly a league yet tae Culraick.”
The officers look to the sky. They have run out of black night, and Dougal can clearly see Crawford’s Fergal, who understands but never speaks English, glaring at them. No telling if Perth’s men or the Prince’s reserves are still on the march, and without the advantage of surprise—
There is a dampness in the air that will be rain in an hour. Morning rain.
“What does your Lord suggest?” asks de Johnstone.
Some think Murray a traitor because he tarried so long in joining the fight, because he argued so strongly for retreat from the enemy’s territory, but he was stalwart in the ’15 and has formed the Prince’s rabble into something like an army.
“It will be an hour or more only to gather them all,” he sighs to O’Sullivan. “At least we’ll have the light for our return.”
And it is a somber gray light by which they shuffle back on the Inverness road, raining lightly now, the men four abreast in their regiments, more lost warriors joining from either side. There is little talk. Dougal keeps after them, dragging the ones he finds sitting on the wayside to their feet. “Just a wink of sleep,” they say, “and Ah’ll be with ye. They’re no chasin’ us yet, are they?”
Neddy stands at the bend facing the stumbling troop, waiting for Dougal with his look of perpetual befuddlement. Dougal knows the question before he reaches the man.
“What was a’ that fer?” asks Neddy Coos.
the mare is well-jaded by sunrise. she is an ill-tempered hunter he purchased from a trader in Glenfinnan, recalcitrant even on the well-traveled tracks during the early hours, huffing and faltering now over broken ground. Jamie notes the ragged group to the west, tottering under bundles of their belongings with the anxious air of people in flight. The mare, wet to the bone and studded with thorns, wearily carries him along the crest of the hill. There is smoke in the sky ahead, then the scattered bothies and byres of the clachan come into view. A whistle, echoing, and he knows he has been spotted.
He starts down the hill and sees a boy running out the back of a hut and off in the opposite direction. Somebody to warn, perhaps, or merely told to save himself.
Jamie stays mounted as the hunter drinks from the muddy burn that wanders crookedly between the dwellings, reins gripped tight. He calls, speaking in Erse, to the pair of blanket-shrouded women watching the drizzle from the shelter of a shed roof.
Where have the men gone?
With the cattle, answers the elder of the two.
I saw none on my journey here.
They’re on the other side of Monadh Cruan, the woman answers, and pulls her friend inside.
There is not a thing, he realizes, to give away which party he serves, no white cockade in his bonnet, not a hint of uniform or rank in his dress. Only a man they believe they’ve never seen before, to be avoided.
A rheumy-eyed cow stands across the burn, staring at him dumbly, and a girl in her late teens steps out from the largest of the bothies with a wooden bucket half filled with oatmeal, which she sets beside the animal. She addresses Jamie in English without looking at him.
“They’re ainly feart of ye.”
“I’ll do them nae harm.”
She draws a knife with a broken handle and knicks at the cow’s ear, holding it out then to drip blood into the pail of meal. She is a comely girl, unmarked by the pox, her eyes an unsettling light gray, almost clear, when she looks up to examine him. She notes his boots, his breeks. For soirées in Paris he’d wear the phillabeg kilt, French ladies invariably rendered giddy at the sight of a man’s untrousered legs, but it is a garment ill designed for riding a horse.
“And how are ye called?” he asks.
“Jenny,” she says. Only that.
When Jamie was a boy his father knew everyone they came across, knew who their closest kinsmen were, knew perhaps a
meandering tale about what someone of their line did long ago. “This land was a’ ours, then,” he’d say. “And, Lord willing, so it shall be again.”
“I was born near here,” says Jamie, looking around at the sodden, puddled patch of ground, the roundstone-and-mud huts under tilting heaps of thatch.
“I ken ye—yer brother is tacksman fer the MacIntosh.”
There is neither fear nor deceit in her steady gaze. He wishes his father were alive, to tell him her story.
“I’m no here fer the rent—”
“Yer after the fightin’, then.”
“There’s been a battle?”
The girl lightly pinches the cow’s ear where it has been cut, waiting for a scab to form.
“Ah’ve been telt of a great flockin’ of sojers on the government road, marchin’ tae Inverness.”
The girl’s eyes are like fresh water held in glass.
“Nae,” she says, cautiously. “Hielanders.”
jamie overtakes them at the bridge over the ness. Young Simon, Master of Lovat, is mounted on the far side of the road, watching his four score of Frasers maunder toward the rumble of cannon, not far distant. He calls before Jamie has brought the mare to a halt.
“Ave, nuntius, morituri te salutant.”
They have met twice before, two students of the law employed as pawns in a game of kings. Jamie nods ahead as there is another grumbling volley.
Young Lovat resembles his father the Auld Fox, chin, nose, lips, but there is no sport in his eyes, a reluctant player. He listens to a volley. “Ainly the musicians tuning up,” he says. “Three-pounders, still firing iron shot. Perhaps we’ve time tae make the dance.”
“I’ve been tae see yer father.”
A cloud passes over Simon’s face. “Did he lift the mask?”
Jamie suspects that the young Master of Lovat, at this moment, requires no diplomacy. The cannon are very near.
“He is keen in his support of whiche’er party wins the contest, and has been frae the beginning.”
“Wise of him.”
Jamie turns toward the sound of the artillery. “Do ye ken where they’ve set their lines?”
“Ma runner says it’s Drummossie Muir. Mair than half of ma regiment are a’ready there, standing atween yer lot and the Appin Stuarts.”
It is well known among the troops that young Simon wants no part of the fighting, that he tarried in recruiting his Frasers, that but for his father’s scheming ambition he would be safe in Rotterdam blowing the dust from ancient law texts.
“On the field of battle, then,” says Jamie, urging the reluctant mare toward the thunder.
“Or on the hangman’s platform!” calls the Master of Lovat.
the young pretender’s men are assembled upon the sodden moor, awaiting slaughter.
Dougal MacGillivray, sleepless and bone-weary, stands in the front line, sword and targe in hand as the enemy’s cannon drop roundshot upon them, rarely a man struck with the ground too wet to send the balls skipping. Smoke drifts across from the enemy’s guns and back from their own small pieces firing in front, sulfur stinging the nose and eyes, and the crofter’s son beside him who joined after Falkirk and has not yet been blooded pisses a sharp-smelling, steaming puddle at his own feet.
“Pick yerself a redcoat in their first line,” Dougal tells the boy without turning his head. “That’s yer mon. Bear him in sight, and dinnae mind the rest.”
It will be impossible, he knows, to pick out any single redcoat through the powder smoke of their first volley when it comes, but the boy has been given a musket and possibly even been instructed how to use it—perhaps he’ll get a shot off before he’s killed.
They have been standing far too long in the wind and sleet, a few meager leagues from where Dougal was born, waiting, outnumbered and outgunned by Cumberland’s army lined in their ranks far across the rough meadow. He is with Lady MacIntosh’s champions, honored with the very center of the line again, ready to leg it over too much wet ground to close with the bustling cannoneers, the rows of stolid infantry in red coats and slouched hats, the sergeants with their halberds, the nervously shifting horsemen.
A roof over my head and a few hours rest, thinks Dougal. Somebody—the Prince and his Irishmen, or Lord Murray, perhaps—has decided they will stand here, well armed and poorly fed, all of Clan Chattan able to lift a weapon ready to sell their lives dearly as the pipes moan up and down the regiments like a great suffering beast.
Only don’t force a man to contemplate.
“There’s sae mony of them,” says the crofter’s son, shivering as he scans the distant wall of redcoats.
“We’ve beaten twice our number in the past,” Dougal tells him. “When we gae,” Dougal tells him, “cry oot with a’ yer might, as if yer a daemon frae hell that’s come tae destroy them.”
“Will they run?”
No, he thinks, not today. Not in daylight with the best of the ground and too much of it between them.
“Turn yer heid around, laddie, and keek what’s ahind ye.”
The boy turns, taking in the massed warriors, Perth’s and Glen-bucket’s men in the second line, Strathallen’s horsemen—
“Would ye haud yer ground afore that?”
The boy shows his pitted teeth in a grin, then flinches as a cannonball lands just before them with a huge wet smack, spraying water and mud and suddenly men all around are running forward, shouting, Dougal hearing no order but following the mass of them, struggling over the uneven pasture, his belted pistol digging into his hip, splashing in places and slipping in others, perhaps a hundred men in front of him with plaids flapping wetly and the battle cry and the pipes and they have crossed half the ground before the first scouring of canister is unleashed, Dougal dodging one man lying sprawled on his face and leaping over the torn body of another, screaming now as if when he is filled with the sound no shot can pierce him and a second cannonade with the jagged metal hissing past him and still-burning wadding afloat in the air as the crofter’s son just ahead loses his legs and there are gaps between the running men to see through now, the front line of redcoats with their muskets held ready, the cannoneers before them sponging, priming, ramming the canister down the bore and stepping away as Dougal dives forward, spreading his arms to slide on tufts of slick grass before the final blast tears through the men still standing, and he is up and upon them, thrusting under the spongeman’s outheld staff to kill him and the first musket volley crackling out, smoke rolling all down the English line as the clansmen still alive behind him dash past and over the redcoats, parrying bayonets, slashing, clubbing, bodies underfoot with Dougal caught up among them in a great deadly screaming wave finally broken upon the bristling wall of second-line bayonets, Dougal hacking with his blade as he feels the press of the clansmen piling up behind him, forward movement halted now, scrummed between two armies and losing his feet for a moment, carried, staring at a hand’s length into the furious eyes of a cursing redcoat for an instant, his sword caught in another man’s ribs and twisted from his grasp, something hard smashing him on the temple and when the blaze of light subsides,
pulling the charged and primed pistol free to jam it against the nearest patch of red and yank the trigger, smell of burning wool the last clear sensation before a smothering weight overtakes him, driving him down upon a tangle of gutted Highlanders—
jamie strikes the inverness road east of the town at a trot, the sleet a little thicker now. The thunder of the cannon is well past, but there is still the crackle of musket fire carried by the wind. He turns the mare toward the sound, and the first beings he encounters are a pair of men in gory tartans, one supporting the other as they attempt to run through the rutted mud.
“It’s lost!” cries the one who is not bleeding. “Lost!”
“And Clan Chattan?”
“Struck doon! A’ of them kilt!”
Jamie kicks the mare’s flanks but she is unsure of her footing and balks, skittering from side to side on the wet road, kicking up a spray of mud. The next man is French and on horseback, his white uniform coat spattered with red.
“C’est un folie!” he cries. “Il y avait trop de terre pour traverser!”
“Et le Prince?” Jamie shouts back at him. “Il est échappé?”
“Qui peut savoir? C’est un debacle!”
Then there is a scrambling torrent of men on foot, wounded and not, many without weapons, Jamie forced to ride well to the side of the road to avoid trampling them. Men weeping and cursing, men with bewilderment and disbelief in their eyes, men looking panic-stricken over their shoulders, a broken army in desperate flight. Then the road is empty again, and he forces the mare to a gallop, slowing only at the sight of a trio of Irish Picquets, the man in the middle staggering with his hands over his face, blood streaming through his fingers.
“Turn back!” cries the man on the left, waving his arms. “They’re killin’ all they can lay their hands upon!”
Riders appear in the distance behind them, a squadron of the King’s dragoons moving in loose formation.
“Lord save us,” mutters the Irishman, pulling an envelope from his breast and beginning to stride back toward the approaching horsemen, holding it high over his head. “French papers!” he cries out. “We’ve papers from the King of France!”
Jamie, with a tender letter from Ambrosine Reynaud in his pocket but no official commission, turns his mount and kicks his heels into her flanks, heading south off the road.
He had a fleet turkoman back in St. Germaine that would have understood the difference between sport and survival, but this animal is determined to show him its displeasure. It slips and
founders as he drives forward, beginning to climb, the hooves of his pursuers’ mounts splashing behind. The mare quits before the summit, head down, wheezing, and Jamie dismounts and steps away, drawing his sword, turning to see—
There are six of them, shifting into a half circle around him, closing. One man on each flank dismounts, draws his rifle, aiming it at Jamie. The man in the center, a captain, walks his mount forward. Jamie’s short French sword, chosen more because its scabbard does not drag on the ground than for his skill in handling it, feels paltry in his grip. He thinks for a moment of the ball or the blade, of the singular lack of glory to be won on this forlorn mound of gorse, and thrusts the point deep into the soaked ground. The captain closes with him, draws his own saber, and presses the tip of it to Jamie’s neck.
“Now here’s a lad with a bit of sense.”
men have been passing for days, in large groups and small, heading toward the government road and Inverness. Though it is not far, even without a cart or shoes to cover your feet, Jenny has only been there once, her father claiming that the city market is no place for an unmarried girl to be seen. That one time, shortly after they moved back east from Sheildaig, was in the summer, and they went to the dock where the Ness meets the Moray Firth leading out to the northern sea, and there were ships of all sizes and gulls in the air and the great old castle across the river and people, so many people, some of them who spoke languages that were neither Erse nor Scots nor English, and she even saw a tall man whose skin was so deep brown it was almost black. Mr. Higgenbotham had two paintings hung on the wall at his house in the west, one of a ship with many sails at sea that he said was a frigate and another of a flooded city where the streets are water and you travel from building to building—for in the painting there are only tall stone buildings and nothing like a crofter’s hut—in narrow boats that are moved by pushing very long poles on the bottom. They must all be fishermen, she thinks, and wonders if in the painting it is high tide or low. Jenny has never been on board a great ship but twice has crossed the Ness on ferry rafts and once in a boat pulled by oars.
Men are allowed to go more places. The men who have been passing, some of them, brag about how close to London they’ve marched and list the names of towns and cities they’ve been through, advancing and retreating, as if now they own them. Jenny recognized the names of many but has no painting or picture to help her imagine what they look like. Of course these men are moving about in order to fight and kill, which must take
much of the pleasure out of travel. She wonders if wars have ever come to the flooded city in the painting.
Maybe they fight from boats.
Jenny moves the rusted iron pot under the spot in the roof that is dripping the most. Water that comes through the thatch has a strong taste, but the cow will drink it. There is mending to deal with, something she dislikes, always happier to be outside though there’s nothing new there to see or do. Sometimes if her father is away she will take the trail with the fewest nettles to the government road and wait for the coaches. There are four in a day, two coming and two heading back down south. You can’t really see inside the box, but she pictures the people riding, wearing clothes like in the drawings in Mr. Higgenbotham’s books, books he said he wished Jenny could read out loud to him because his eyes were now so poor. But it was only black markings to her, till you found another of the drawings and could build your own story around it.
There is a country called France, across the channel from London, a channel being like a firth but much wider.
There is a country called Italy, where the flooded city lies.
There is a country called Africa, where the brown people come from, and you might be stricken by a deadly sickness.
There is London, where Mr. Higgenbotham lived before he took to the ships, that he says is the greatest city in the world, greater even than Edinburgh, where Jenny has never been either.
If one of these men who have been passing were to look at Jenny and say, “Come with me,” she would follow without question, as long as they were not heading only to a battle.
Jenny wonders if the men will be passing again soon, moving in the other direction. There has been talk in the clachan of victories and defeats, though both seem meaningless here. The same hovels, the same muck, the same handful of oats and miserable fowl skittering about the yard. She wonders where her father has gone, never a man for greetings or farewells.
The thatch above drips for hours even after the rain has ceased, making a kind of song in the pot and on the floor that is something like company when her father is away. Jenny takes up a pair of his old trews, worn through at the knees and in the seat, that she has mended twice before. There is nothing in this hut or on their little patch of earth that she has not done before and will not be tasked to do again and again. She threads the needle, ponders where to begin.
There is a country called America, covered with trees, where naked men run about carrying axes made of stone—
dougal crawls on his belly. he has been bayoneted twice in his right side and once in the back of the opposite thigh, his forehead gashed and sticky. He is able to push with one foot, pull with one arm. He thought of lying still among the other bodies as if dead till somber light bled from the sky, but then came the redcoats, methodical, under orders and doing a thorough job of it, driving their spoons into the living and the dead.
It was young Charles Fraser of Lovat’s regiment, struggling to rise upon a knee, who afforded him the moment’s distraction to slither away. Fraser calling out his name, his office, then a shout and a quick flocking of English officers in wig and braid, a muttered debate—Dougal had rolled into the gulley before the muffled pistol shot signaled their verdict.
I will bleed to death first, he thinks, pushing with a foot, pulling with an arm, a bone-deep cold beginning to overwhelm the agony of his wounds, and never feel the blade go in. He’d had no fear in the battle, if it could be named one. But now, empty-handed and face half submerged in a puddle, the idea of being skewered on an infantryman’s steel terrifies him.
Pushing with a foot, pulling with an arm, torquing his mortified body as if to punish himself, Dougal crawls through the gully, the sleet in abeyance now, the bodies he encounters only mounds of cold flesh and sodden wool he struggles to move over or around. I will bleed to death slowly, he thinks. Like falling asleep.
The gulley is shallower now, the wet earth rising, and he sees ahead with his one eye not clotted shut with blood that there is a hut ahead at the edge of the moor, a pair of wounded MacPhersons stumbling to it and ducking inside. There are other people, barefoot beggarmen and local poor folk who’ve come to watch the slaughter and gather the spoils should their champions be victorious—they are staring at something above and behind Dougal, and then they begin to run in every direction, panicked, and a few rush into the hut and Dougal hears the splashing of many feet in the gulley behind him and buries his face in the muck of the berm, willing himself not to twitch or shiver.
The soldiers, perhaps a dozen of them, run past, a few planting their boots squarely in his back to climb the berm, knocking the breath from him, and there is shouting and rifle fire. Dougal lies still, breathing shallowly and willing the blood to drain from his body, sensing that he is becoming one with the clammy earth beneath him, sinking into it, until the screaming begins.
He only has to tilt his head slightly to see. Somewhere they’ve found dry hay and have piled it to fire the hut, thatch roof in flames already with a thick, black smoke boiling out from it, redcoats standing and kneeling with muskets leveled, a captain beside them tapping with his sword to elect which two are to dispatch the next burning soul to bolt from the opening. Dougal closes his good eye, lays his head to the side and prays he will die before they find him.
the men not too badly wounded stand shoulder to shoulder in the wagon bed, steadying each other at the jolts, attempting not to tread on those moaning at their feet. Dragoons ride on either side of them, clothes and faces spattered with mud, joking with each other. Jamie stares out the rear, the moment seeming unreal as he listens to the clansmen mutter in Erse. The ground was ill-chosen, they say, the King’s men given too much time to prepare, too much distance to shoot them down in. One says he saw Prince Charlie leave the field, unhurt. The wagon is rolling back toward the moor.
“I’ve been done fer,” whines a tow-haired boy who lies curled upon himself, holding his stomach, again and again. “I’ve been done fer.”
The banners of the King’s regiments are planted all about the killing ground, hanging wet and limp as redcoats stroll in twos and threes across the grass, pausing at this or that heap of what was a man, thrusting their bayonets into it, moving on. Now and then a musket shot. There are women, Cumberland’s camp followers, hopping like corbies among the dead, tugging at boots, hauling back on lengths of plaid till the obscenely white, naked bodies roll free of them. The dragoon captain is sweeping his arm about, explaining the battle to his troopers.
“As stupid as young bullocks,” he is saying, “hurling themselves on our steel.”
The tow-haired boy begins to choke.
They are carried a ways down the road to Nairn, till they come upon a battle-weary company of the King’s infantry taking their ease on a berm. Their sergeant rouses them to their feet as the wagon is stopped, then waves his sword at the prisoners.
“Out with ye, then! ’Op it!”
The clansmen who are able climb down, Jamie attempting to stay within the crowd, waiting for his quality to be recognized when it will do him the most good. They are told to leave the badly wounded in the wagon and prodded toward the small rise on the north side of the road. The men balk, uneasy, and the
sergeant, who looks as if he hasn’t slept in days, yanks Jamie by the arm from their midst.
“Ye understand me?”
“Ah do.” This can be managed, thinks Jamie, there is always something one can say—
“Tell ’em we’re marching over the hill.”
“The rest of yer clansmen,” says the sergeant. “Go on now, tell ’em—”
Jamie repeats the sergeant’s words in Erse, and the men grudgingly move up the slope, infantrymen to their backs and a dragoon riding along on each side of the group. Jamie helps a large, bearded Stuart man whose right leg is ruined.
There is nobody waiting on the other side of the hill.
There is nobody waiting, but the men walk forward and Jamie feels that the redcoats have stopped and he hears the sergeant tell them to form their line and then there is a long ditch before them—
It is two quick steps before he throws himself in, the volley cracking before he hits the pile of bodies already lying there, then screams of other men as the redcoats rush forward to finish those only wounded. Somebody leaps over the ditch and there are more shots and he realizes he’s been hit in the back of the leg while he was jumping and a dead man is thrown on top of him. Jamie closes his eyes and tries to breathe without moving his chest, but then he is stepped on, soldiers walking on top of the bodies, arranging them in the ditch, and he opens an eye to find a redcoat staring down at him, the butt of his musket poised to strike.
“Sorry, mate,” he says before he smashes it down.
they stay well back from hawley’s men, considering themselves soldiers and not executioners, making neat piles of swords and pistols taken from the dead, Cruikshank slipping the occasional dirk or smaller memento into his kit bag.
“A good deal of these was lifted from our dead at Prestonpans,” says Kirby when they reach the first of the muskets thrown down in the charge. “A firearm ’as no bloody conscience.”
“Nor a dragoon,” says Cruikshank, pausing to allow one of Hawley’s up ahead dispatch a whimpering Highlander.
“Orders is orders.”
“But ye don’t ’ave ter relish the worst of ’em.”
“If their charge ’ad come any deeper, we’d feel different.”
“Might. But ye know ’ow they go on about the ’eat of battle? Well, me own ’eat cools off dead quick these days. When blades
are flashin’ and the lead is flyin’, sure, ye want a bit of houtrage, ye want ter tear their bloody ’earts out then. But when the smoke clears—”
Scattered gunshots on the moor as Hawley’s men obey the Duke’s order.
“Lookit this one,” says Kirby.
A boy of maybe fourteen, lying on top of a musket, very little left of his legs. Kirby rolls him over, checks the musket.
“It asn’t been fired.”
“Yer irregulars is fine fer abuscados and ’orse stealin—” says Cruikshank. “Ye remember them Oirish women in the ’ills above Limerick?”
“Bleedin’ Amazons, ’ack ye ter death with a turf slane—”
“—but fer a nose-ter-nose affair like we just ’ad, yer professional sojer will prevail every time. It’s the discipline does it, keepin’ a cool ’ead whilst the blade-wavin’ hellions are about ter overrun ye.”
“Discipline as is beat inter yer ’ide.”
“Tis a poor sojer learns nuffing from a stout whipping. I’ve earned a few stripes on me back over the years—”
“And ’ad the luck to duck a good number more ye deserved.”
“True enough,” muses Cruikshank. “But take this young’un ’ere. ’Is military career lasted all of—what would ye put it at, Kirby?”
Kirby looks back to the line of rebels killed by cannon while still in formation.
“A ’undred yards, per’aps.”
“Out, out, brief candle. One minute yer pullin’ spuds outer the ground—”
“I believe it’s oats they’ve got up ’ere, Reg.”
“Right ye are. One minute pickin’ bugs out from the barley, and the next engaged in deadly combat, without an hour of drill, a notion of tactics, nor the opportunity ter discharge yer weapon in the direction of a target ter get the ’ang of it.”
Kirby finds a spot on the ground unoccupied by a dead Jacobite and fires the musket into it. “Amateurs. The type as would leave a weapon primed an waitin’ ter do mischief,” he says.
“My point exactly. Don’t bovver searchin’ ’im fer coins, Bert, ’ee’ll need any ’ee’s got in the next world.”
Kirby turns to survey the swath of corpses they’ve already examined. He sees movement by the hut that was fired, smoldering now. He points the musket with one hand—“Something stirring there.”
They stroll back around the disarmed bodies toward the hut, a thin sleet dropping again, blowing into their faces.
“Nasty climate, this,” says Kirby.
“I’d ’ave let the Pretender ’ave it.”
“And throw Carlisle inter the bargain?”
“All I’m sayin’ is, they’re a diffrint race. They don’t think like you an’ me, Bert. Take this poor bugger—”
Kirby bends to pull away the dirk strapped to a crawling man’s calf, examines it. “Nice bit of work ’ere on the ’andle. The way they’ve carved the bone—”
“You or me, if we was poked through with ’oles on a battlefield, we’d likely lie still and wait fer further developments. But this worthy young gent—” he pushes the man over onto his back with his bootheel. It is hard to tell what is mud and what is gore. The man squints up at them through the sleet, breathing with great effort.
“Orders is ter leave none alive on the field,” says Kirby, slipping the dirk into Cruikshank’s near-full kit bag.
“But this one ’as the aspect of a chief, ’ee does. Lookit the way ’ee’s dressed. ’Ee might ’ave vital information ter pass on ter them as draws up our campaigns—”
“Them that sits back under a roof somewheres, by a nice ’ot fire—”
“Get a dram into ’is gullet and ’ee’ll probably give out with the Pretender’s current location, though it might be all in Oirish—”
“Easier, though, ter just knock ’is brains out—”
“Easier, yes, but what of the larger canvas, Bert? We’re only private sojers, I’ll grant ye, but a bit of hinitiative—”
“Can get ye twenty on the back tied to a post.”
“True enough, true enough, but—”
“Do ane or the other,” interrupts Dougal, the wounded man on the ground. “But do it quick and get me oot of this fecking rain.”
it is cold, and when jamie breathes there is more earth than air to it. Something hard digs into his ribs and he cries out, earth filling his mouth, and then someone is cursing in Erse. Jamie chokes and attempts to rise up, earth in his eyes, and when he blinks to see there is a crofter above him with a spade raised over his shoulder, ready to strike.
“Òir!” croaks Jamie, the word spewing from his mouth before a thought can form itself.
Gold! I know where gold is buried.
The crofter has brought sacks of turnips to cover whatever he’s plundered. Jamie crawls into the cart and the man lays them on top before he wrestles himself into the yoke and begins to plod toward home. The man is pondering, Jamie imagines, the probability of a reward for delivering him to the English against the possibility that the story of French gold is true. “We are withoot land nor title,” his father would often comment upon passing a man behind a plow, “but we have no sunk tae that.”
Each bump of the wooden cartwheels is a dagger behind Jamie’s eyes, and he is buried again, straining to fill his lungs, then holding his breath each time the cart stops rolling. His father died this way, in bed, wheezing, his life narrowed to a struggle for air. Jamie can tell that his head is swollen, throbbing, and he feels as if he is going to vomit. This will pass, he wills himself to think, and we will prevail.
brigade major wolfe, not yet twenty, is an uneasy rider. No fear of tumbling from the mount, which his groom says answers to the name of Derrick, but chagrin at the ungainly picture he makes upon it. Aide de camp to Lieutenant General Hawley, he is an infantry officer in a dragoon regiment, and at the end of each day in the saddle, painfully aware of it.
“Find my people,” Hawley shouted to him before thundering away himself, “and have them muster at the bridge.”
Hawley’s people, principally the 1st Royal Dragoons, have galloped in several directions, chasing the remnants of the Pretender’s shattered army, scything them down with cutlass strokes, then turning back to finish them with a pistol shot. Derrick, if that is indeed his name, is not distracted by the carnage, carefully stepping around and over bodies and parts of bodies, ears twitching with interest. Wolfe himself has seen worse, in the center of the first line in the chaos of Dettingen, a boy ensign willing himself not to tremble as iron shot tore the limbs from men around him, more worried about his younger brother than himself. He met, if that is the word for it, Cumberland then, the Duke himself only twenty-two on that day and as unconcerned by the shot and shell as if it had been a light rain. Or that was the impression he gave when Wolfe delivered him the message, and impression is what counts with the men, who must believe it is worth their lives to lift a fallen standard from the bloodied earth. He is tall and slender, Wolfe, too slender, and too you
officer, but today he is damned if he is going to appear be a poor horseman.
There is no life in the bodies he rides over. Many have been shot in the back of the head. This is a donkey’s mission, given not as punishment but for lack of better employment to set him to. Dragoons have a way of always coming back together without plan or urging.
The men of the 1st Royal do not love or respect Lieutenant General Hawley. They fear him, fear his rough tongue and his rages and his orders to flog or to hang. Held in reserve today until the rebels broke and ran, they will not hesitate to execute his order, they will match his brutality with their own. The aide position is meant partly to serve as Major Wolfe’s training, and what he has learned from Hawley is that for mounted troops, dash may be as important as discretion. But it was the portly young Duke of Cumberland in charge of tactics today—
“It would take four of you to equal the Duke,” said Lieutenant Colonel Fosdick on first sight of Wolfe, then explained while his companions laughed that they’d just been discussing who best to shelter behind during a barrage of canister. The dragoon officers, if anything, cut an even more colorful figure than those of the grenadiers, their sexual exploits alone, though often difficult to believe, certainly more varied in location and detail. Wolfe will take a dram now and then, but avoids the card playing, billiards, and indiscriminate wagering in the barracks. Fosdick himself lost a considerable sum after the debacle at Falkirk to one of General Cope’s officers, who had bet him Hawley would have no greater success in his first engagement with the rebels than Cope had at Prestonpans. Wolfe writes his mother whenever possible, has given up his practice of the flute, and has failed to take up either cursing or the use of snuff. Tolerated if not warmed to by the officers of equal rank, he is perhaps treated with a modicum of tact due to the black armband he wears for poor brother Ned, gone with the consumption less than a year ago.
The dead are fewer and farther between now, and he has yet to find his first dragoon. There is a euphoria, for those who survive it unscathed, that comes in the aftermath of battle. Of course one is not among the corpses, nothing could be clearer. After Dettingen he felt almost giddy, despite being made head of a detail meant to consolidate their casualties, and he remembers the vividness of the colors of flags and uniforms, the smell, almost a taste, of musket smoke wafting across the river. It is an illusion, ...
ng, he knows, to be properly intimidating as a
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