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Disputes were brought
to him in his hiding-hole to be decided; and the men of his country, who
would have snapped their fingers at the Court of Session, laid aside
revenge and paid down money at the bare word of this forfeited and
hunted outlaw. When he was angered, which was often enough, he gave his
commands and breathed threats of punishment like any king; and his
gillies trembled and crouched away from him like children before a hasty
father. With each of them, as he entered, he ceremoniously shook hands,
both parties touching their bonnets at the same time in a military
manner. Altogether, I had a fair chance to see some of the inner
workings of a Highland clan; and this with a proscribed, fugitive chief;
his country conquered; the troops riding upon all sides in quest of him,
sometimes within a mile of where he lay; and when the least of the
ragged fellows whom he rated and threatened could have made a fortune by
betraying him.

On that first day, as soon as the collops were ready, Cluny gave them
with his own hand a squeeze of a lemon (for he was well supplied with
luxuries) and bade us draw into our meal.

"They," said he, meaning the collops, "are such as I gave His Royal
Highness in this very house; bating the lemon juice, for at that time we
were glad to get the meat and never fashed for kitchen.[28] Indeed,
there were mair dragoons than lemons in my country in the year
'Forty-six."

I do not know if the collops were truly very good, but my heart rose
against the sight of them, and I could eat but little. All the while
Cluny entertained us with stories of Prince Charlie's stay in the Cage,
giving us the very words of the speakers, and rising from his place to
show us where they stood. By these, I gathered the Prince was a
gracious, spirited boy, like the son of a race of polite kings, but not
so wise as Solomon. I gathered, too, that while he was in the Cage he
was often drunk; so the fault that has since, by all accounts, made such
a wreck of him, had even then begun to show itself.

We were no sooner done eating than Cluny brought out an old, thumbed,
greasy pack of cards, such as you may find in a mean inn; and his eyes
brightened in his face as he proposed that we should fall to playing.

Now this was one of the things I had been brought up to eschew like
disgrace; it being held by my father neither the part of a Christian nor
yet of a gentleman to set his own livelihood, and fish for that of
others, on the cast of painted pasteboard. To be sure, I might have
pleaded my fatigue, which was excuse enough; but I thought it behoved
that I should bear a testimony. I must have got very red in the face,
but I spoke steadily, and told them I had no call to be a judge of
others, but for my own part, it was a matter in which I had no
clearness.

Cluny stopped mingling the cards. "What in the deil's name is this?"
says he. "What kind of Whiggish, canting talk is this, for the house of
Cluny Macpherson?"

"I will put my hand in the fire for Mr. Balfour," says Alan. "He is an
honest and a mettle gentleman, and I would have ye bear in mind who says
it. I bear a king's name," says he, cocking his hat; "and I and any that
I call friend are company for the best. But the gentleman is tired, and
should sleep; if he has no mind to the cartes, it will never hinder you
and me. And I'm fit and willing, sir, to play ye any game that ye can
name."

"Sir," says Cluny, "in this poor house of mine I would have you to ken
that any gentleman may follow his pleasure. If your friend would like to
stand on his head, he is welcome. And if either he, or you, or any other
man, is not preceesely satisfied, I will be proud to step outside with
him."

I had no will that these two friends should cut their throats for my
sake.

"Sir," said I, "I am very wearied, as Alan says; and what's more, as you
are a man that likely has sons of your own, I may tell you it was a
promise to my father."

"Say nae mair, say nae mair," said Cluny, and pointed me to a bed of
heather in a corner of the Cage. For all that he was displeased enough,
looked at me askance, and grumbled when he looked. And indeed it must be
owned that both my scruples, and the words in which I had declared them,
smacked somewhat of the Covenanter, and were little in their place among
wild Highland Jacobites.

What with the brandy and the venison, a strange heaviness had come over
me; and I had scarce lain down upon the bed before I fell into a kind of
trance, in which I continued almost the whole time of our stay in the
Cage. Sometimes I was broad awake and understood what passed; sometimes
I only heard voices, or men snoring, like the voice of a silly river;
and the plaids upon the wall dwindled down and swelled out again, like
firelight shadows on the roof. I must sometimes have spoken or cried
out, for I remember I was now and then amazed at being answered; yet I
was conscious of no particular nightmare, only of a general, black,
abiding horror--a horror of the place I was in, and the bed I lay on,
and the plaids on the wall, and the voices, and the fire, and myself.

The barber-gillie, who was a doctor too, was called in to prescribe for
me; but as he spoke in the Gaelic, I understood not a word of his
opinion, and was too sick even to ask for a translation. I knew well
enough I was ill, and that was all I cared about.

I paid little heed while I lay in this poor pass. But Alan and Cluny
were most of the time at the cards, and I am clear that Alan must have
begun by winning; for I remember sitting up, and seeing them hard at it,
and a great glittering pile of as much as sixty or a hundred guineas on
the table. It looked strange enough to see all this wealth in a nest
upon a cliff-side, wattled about growing trees. And even then, I thought
it seemed deep water for Alan to be riding, who had no better
battle-horse than a green purse and a matter of five pounds.

The luck, it seems, changed on the second day. About noon I was wakened
as usual for dinner, and as usual refused to eat, and was given a dram
with some bitter infusion which the barber had prescribed. The sun was
shining in at the open door of the Cage, and this dazzled and offended
me. Cluny sat at the table, biting the pack of cards. Alan had stooped
over the bed, and had his face close to my eyes; to which, troubled as
they were with the fever, it seemed of the most shocking bigness.

He asked me for a loan of my money.

"What for?" said I.

"O, just for a loan," said he.

"But why?" I repeated. "I don't see."

"Hut, David!" said Alan, "ye wouldna grudge me a loan?"

I would though, if I had had my senses! But all I thought of then was to
get his face away, and I handed him my money.

On the morning of the third day, when we had been forty-eight hours in
the Cage, I awoke with a great relief of spirits, very weak and weary
indeed, but seeing things of the right size and with their honest,
everyday appearance. I had a mind to eat, moreover, rose from my bed of
my own movement, and as soon as we had breakfasted, stepped to the entry
of the Cage and sat down outside in the top of the wood. It was a grey
day, with a cool, mild air: and I sat in a dream all morning, only
disturbed by the passing by of Cluny's scouts and servants coming with
provisions and reports; for, as the coast was at that time clear, you
might almost say he held court openly.

When I returned, he and Alan had laid the cards aside, and were
questioning a gillie; and the chief turned about and spoke to me in the
Gaelic.

"I have no Gaelic, sir," said I.

Now, since the card question everything I said or did had the power of
annoying Cluny. "Your name has more sense than yourself, then," said he
angrily; "for it's good Gaelic. But the point is this: my scout reports
all clear in the south, and the question is, have ye the strength to
go?"

I saw cards on the table, but no gold; only a heap of little written
papers, and these all on Cluny's side. Alan, besides, had an odd look,
like a man not very well content; and I began to have a strong
misgiving.

"I do not know if I am as well as I should be," said I, looking at Alan;
"but the little money we have has a long way to carry us."

Alan took his under-lip into his mouth, and looked upon the ground.

"David," says he at last, "I've lost it; there's the naked truth."

"My money too?" said I.

"Your money too," says Alan, with a groan. "Ye shouldna have given it
me. I'm daft when I get to the cartes."

"Hoot-toot! hoot-toot!" said Cluny. "It was all daffing; it's all
nonsense. Of course you'll have your money back again, and the double of
it, if ye'll make so free with me. It would be a singular thing for me
to keep it. It's not to be supposed that I would be any hindrance to
gentlemen in your situation; that would be a singular thing!" cries he,
and began to pull gold out of his pocket with a mighty red face.

Alan said nothing, only looked on the ground.

"Will you step to the door with me, sir?" said I.

Cluny said he would be very glad, and followed me readily enough, but he
looked flustered and put out.

"And now, sir," says I, "I must first acknowledge your generosity."

"Nonsensical nonsense!" cries Cluny. "Where's the generosity? This is
just a most unfortunate affair; but what would ye have me do--boxed up
in this bee-skep of a cage of mine--but just set my friends to the
cartes, when I can get them? And if they lose, of course, it's not to be
supposed----" And here he came to a pause.

"Yes," said I, "if they lose, you give them back their money; and if
they win, they carry away yours in their pouches! I have said before
that I grant your generosity; but to me, sir, it's a very painful thing
to be placed in this position."

There was a little silence, in which Cluny seemed always as if he was
about to speak, but said nothing. All the time he grew redder and redder
in the face.

"I am a young man," said I, "and I ask your advice. Advise me as you
would your son. My friend fairly lost this money, after having fairly
gained a far greater sum of yours; can I accept it back again?



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