The Laird
99 Pages
English

The Laird's Luck and Other Fireside Tales

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Laird's Luck, by Arthur Quiller-CouchThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: The Laird's LuckAuthor: Arthur Quiller-CouchRelease Date: July 17, 2004 [EBook #12923]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LAIRD'S LUCK ***Produced by Ted Garvin, Josephine Paolucci and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.THE LAIRD'S LUCK AND OTHER FIRESIDE TALESBY A.T. QUILLER-COUCH (Q)CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS NEW YORK 1901THE LAIRD'S LUCK[In a General Order issued from the Horse-Guards on New Year's Day, 1836, His Majesty, King William IV., waspleased to direct, through the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Hill, that "with the view of doing the fullest justice toRegiments, as well as to Individuals who had distinguished themselves in action against the enemy," an account ofthe services of every Regiment in the British Army should be published, under the supervision of the AdjutantGeneral.With fair promptitude this scheme was put in hand, under the editorship of Mr. Richard Cannon, Principal Clerk of theAdjutant General's Office. The duty of examining, sifting, and preparing the records of that distinguished Regimentwhich I shall here call the Moray Highlanders (concealing its real name for reasons which the ...

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Published 08 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Laird's Luck, by Arthur Quiller-Couch This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Laird's Luck Author: Arthur Quiller-Couch Release Date: July 17, 2004 [EBook #12923] Language: English *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LAIRD'S LUCK *** Produced by Ted Garvin, Josephine Paolucci and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. THE LAIRD'S LUCK AND OTHER FIRESIDE TALES BY A.T. QUILLER-COUCH (Q) CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS NEW YORK 1901 THE LAIRD'S LUCK [In a General Order issued from the Horse-Guards on New Year's Day, 1836, His Majesty, King William IV., was pleased to direct, through the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Hill, that "with the view of doing the fullest justice to Regiments, as well as to Individuals who had distinguished themselves in action against the enemy," an account of the services of every Regiment in the British Army should be published, under the supervision of the Adjutant General. With fair promptitude this scheme was put in hand, under the editorship of Mr. Richard Cannon, Principal Clerk of the Adjutant General's Office. The duty of examining, sifting, and preparing the records of that distinguished Regiment which I shall here call the Moray Highlanders (concealing its real name for reasons which the narrative will make apparent) fell to a certain Major Reginald Sparkes; who in the course of his researches came upon a number of pages in manuscript sealed under one cover and docketed "Memoranda concerning Ensign D.M.J. Mackenzie. J.R., Jan. 3rd, 1816"—the initials being those of Lieut.-Colonel Sir James Ross, who had commanded the 2nd Battalion of the Morays through the campaign of Waterloo. The cover also bore, in the same handwriting, the word "Private," twice underlined. Of the occurrences related in the enclosed papers—of the private ones, that is—it so happened that of the four eye- witnesses none survived at the date of Major Sparkes' discovery. They had, moreover, so carefully taken their secret with them that the Regiment preserved not a rumour of it. Major Sparkes' own commission was considerably more recent than the Waterloo year, and he at least had heard no whisper of the story. It lay outside the purpose of his inquiry, and he judiciously omitted it from his report. But the time is past when its publication might conceivably have been injurious; and with some alterations in the names—to carry out the disguise of the Regiment—it is here given. The reader will understand that I use the IPSISSIMA VERBA of Colonel Ross.—Q.] THE LAIRD'S LUCK I I had the honour of commanding my Regiment, the Moray Highlanders, on the 16th of June, 1815, when the late Ensign David Marie Joseph Mackenzie met his end in the bloody struggle of Quatre Bras (his first engagement). He fell beside the colours, and I gladly bear witness that he had not only borne himself with extreme gallantry, but maintained, under circumstances of severest trial, a coolness which might well have rewarded me for my help in procuring the lad's commission. And yet at the moment I could scarcely regret his death, for he went into action under a suspicion so dishonouring that, had it been proved, no amount of gallantry could have restored him to the respect of his fellows. So at least I believed, with three of his brother officers who shared the secret. These were Major William Ross (my half- brother), Captain Malcolm Murray, and Mr. Ronald Braintree Urquhart, then our senior ensign. Of these, Mr. Urquhart fell two days later, at Waterloo, while steadying his men to face that heroic shock in which Pack's skeleton regiments were enveloped yet not overwhelmed by four brigades of the French infantry. From the others I received at the time a promise that the accusation against young Mackenzie should be wiped off the slate by his death, and the affair kept secret between us. Since then, however, there has come to me an explanation which—though hard indeed to credit—may, if true, exculpate the lad. I laid it before the others, and they agreed that if, in spite of precautions, the affair should ever come to light, the explanation ought also in justice to be forthcoming; and hence I am writing this memorandum. It was in the late September of 1814 that I first made acquaintance with David Mackenzie. A wound received in the battle of Salamanca—a shattered ankle—had sent me home invalided, and on my partial recovery I was appointed to command the 2nd Battalion of my Regiment, then being formed at Inverness. To this duty I was equal; but my ankle still gave trouble (the splinters from time to time working through the flesh), and in the late summer of 1814 I obtained leave of absence with my step-brother, and spent some pleasant weeks in cruising and fishing about the Moray Firth. Finding that my leg bettered by this idleness, we hired a smaller boat and embarked on a longer excursion, which took us almost to the south-west end of Loch Ness. Here, on September 18th, and pretty late in the afternoon, we were overtaken by a sudden squall, which carried away our mast (we found afterwards that it had rotted in the step), and put us for some minutes in no little danger; for my brother and I, being inexpert seamen, did not cut the tangle away, as we should have done, but made a bungling attempt to get the mast on board, with the rigging and drenched sail; and thereby managed to knock a hole in the side of the boat, which at once began to take in water. This compelled us to desist and fall to baling with might and main, leaving the raffle and jagged end of the mast to bump against us at the will of the waves. In short, we were in a highly unpleasant predicament, when a coble or row-boat, carrying one small lug-sail, hove out of the dusk to our assistance. It was manned by a crew of three, of whom the master (though we had scarce light enough to distinguish features) hailed us in a voice which was patently a gentleman's. He rounded up, lowered sail, and ran his boat alongside; and while his two hands were cutting us free of our tangle, inquired very civilly if we were strangers. We answered that we were, and desired him to tell us of the nearest place alongshore where we might land and find a lodging for the night, as well as a carpenter to repair our damage. "In any ordinary case," said he, "I should ask you to come aboard and home with me. But my house lies five miles up the lake; your boat is sinking, and the first thing is to beach her. It happens that you are but half a mile from Ardlaugh and a decent carpenter who