Cassell's illustrated history of India: Volume 1

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Dec 31, 1883
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Exmaple in this ebook continue from Vol.1


"Well, Ronald, my bon camarado, and so you are really here, and in safety?" said Macdonald as he came up at the head of his sub-division. "Quite well now, I perceive. You received my letter from your servant, of course?"

"Yes. I have a thousand strange adventures to tell you of; but I will reserve them for the halt, which I suppose will be at the castle of Zagala. But meanwhile, let me hear the regimental news."

"Defer that till the halt also,—talking is dry work. A few rank and file were knocked on the head at Fuente del Maistre; but the officers, you may see, are all present. We feared you were on your route for France, when we heard that Dombrouski's dragoons were in Merida."

"A daring deed it was, for a handful of men to advance thus."

"Daring indeed!"

"But then they were Poles,—and the Poles are no common troops. Sad work, however, they have made at Merida. Every shop and house in the Plaza has been gutted and destroyed."

"More shame to the citizens! A city containing five or six thousand inhabitants, should have made some resistance to so small a party."

"Ay; but the cits here are not like what our Scottish burghers were two centuries ago,—grasping axe and spear readily at the slightest alarm. By Sir Rowland's orders, Thiele, the German engineer, blew up the Roman bridge, to prevent D'Erlon from pressing upon part of the 13th, who form the rear-guard."

"'Twas a pity to destroy so perfect a relic of antiquity."

"It was dire necessity."

"Did you see any thing of our friends in the Calle de Guadiana,—the house at the corner of the Plaza?"

"Ah! Donna Catalina's residence? Blushing again! Why, no; it was dark, and I was so fatigued when we marched through the market-place, that I could not see the house, and Fassifern is so strict that it is impossible to leave the ranks. But I could observe that nearly all the houses above the piazzas are in ruins. However, we have captured nearly every man of the ravagers. A glorious-looking old fellow their commander is,—a French chef-de-bataillon,—Monsieur le Baron de Clappourknuis, as he styles himself."

"Clappourknuis? That has a Scottish sort of sound."

"The name is purely Scottish. I had a long conversation with him an hour since. He is grandson of the famous John Law of Laurieston, and brother of the French general, the great Marquis of Laurieston.[*] He takes his title of Clappourknuis from some little knowes, which stand between the old castle of Laurieston and the Frith of Forth. What joy and enthusiasm he displayed at sight of our regiment, and the 71st! 'Ah, mon ami!' he exclaimed, holding up his hands. 'Braave Scots,—very superb troupes!' he added, in his broken English, and the soldiers gave him a hearty cheer. He is a true Frenchman of the old school, and has a peculiar veneration for Scotland, which is only equalled by his bitter hatred for England; and all my arguments were lost in endeavouring to prove to him that we are one people,—one nation now. There is one of the 71st, a relation of the Laurieston family: I must introduce him to the baron, who seems to have a great affection for all who come from the land of his fathers.—A handsome young man, apparently, this Louis Lisle, our new sub."

To the political or historical reader, the names of the marquis and his brother will be familiar. The house of Laurieston stands within four miles from Edinburgh, on the south bank of the Forth.

"Very agreeable you'll find him, I dare say," replied Ronald, colouring slightly.

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In the Highlands of Perthshire a deadly feud had existed, from time immemorial, between the Lisles of Inchavon and the Stuarts of Lochisla. In the days when the arm of the law was weak, the proprietors had often headed their kinsmen and followers in encounters with the sword, and for the last time during the memorable civil war of 1745-6. But between the heads of the families, towards the latter end of the last century, (the period when our tale commences,) although the era of feudal ideas and outrages had passed away, the spirit of transmitted hatred, proud rivalry and revenge, lurked behind, and a feeling of most cordial enmity existed between Stuart and Lisle, who were ever engaged in vexatious law-suits on the most frivolous pretences, and constantly endeavouring to cross each other's interests and intentions,—quarrelling at public meetings,—voting on opposite sides,—prosecuting for trespasses, and opposing each other every where, "as if the world was not wide enough for them both;" and on one occasion a duel would have ensued but for the timely interference of the sheriff.

Sir Allan Lisle of Inchavon, a man of a quiet and most benevolent disposition, was heartily tired of the trouble given him by the petty jealousy of his neighbour Stuart, a proud and irritable Highlander, who would never stoop to reconciliation with a family whom his father (a grim duinhe-wassal of the old school) had ever declared to him were the hereditary foes of his race. The reader may consider it singular that such antiquated prejudices should exist so lately as the end of the last century; but it must be remembered that the march of intellect has not made such strides in the north country as it has done in the Lowlands, and many of the inhabitants of Perthshire will recognise a character well known to them, under the name of Mr. Stuart.

It must also be remembered, that he was the son of a man who had beheld the standard of the Stuarts unfurled in Glenfinan, and had exercised despotic power over his own vassals when the feudal system existed in its full force, before the act of the British parliament abolished the feudal jurisdictions throughout Scotland, and absolved the unwilling Highlanders from allegiance to their chiefs.

Sir Allan Lisle (who was M.P. for a neighbouring county) was in every respect a man of superior attainments to Stuart,—being a scholar, the master of many modern accomplishments, and having made the grand tour. To save himself further annoyance, he would gladly have extended the right hand of fellowship to his stubborn neighbour, but pride forbade him to make the first advances.

The residence of this intractable Gael was a square tower, overgrown with masses of ivy, and bearing outwardly, and almost inwardly, the same appearance as when James the Fifth visited it once when on a hunting excursion. The walls were enormously thick; the grated windows were small and irregular; a corbelled battlement surmounted the top, from the stone bartizan of which the standard of the owner was, on great days, hoisted with much formality by Donald Iverach, the old piper, or Evan his son, two important personages in the household of the little tower.

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