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Historical Tales, Vol. 4 (of 15) by Charles Morris

Flora McDonald was visiting the family of Clanranald


Charles had fought bravely on the field; and, after the fatal disaster, had fled--having with him only a few Irish officers whose good faith he trusted--to Gortuleg, the residence of Lord Lovat. If he hoped for shelter there, he found it not. He was overcome with distress; Lord Lovat, with fear and embarrassment. No aid was to be had from Lovat, and, obtaining some slight refreshment, the prince rode on.

He obtained his next rest and repast at Invergarry, the castle of the laird of Glengarry, and continued his journey into the west Highlands, where he found shelter in a village called Glenbeisdale, near where he had landed on his expedition for the conquest of England. For nearly a year he had been in Scotland, pursuing a career of mingled success and defeat, and was now back at his original landing-place, a hopeless fugitive. Here some of the leaders of his late army communicated with him. They had a thousand men still together, and vowed that they would not give up hope while there were cattle in the Highlands or meal in the Lowlands. But Prince Charles refused to deal with such a forlorn hope. He would seek France, he said, and return with a powerful reinforcement. With this answer he left the mainland, sailing for Long Island, in the Hebrides, where he hoped to find a French vessel.

And now dangers, disappointments, and hardships surrounded the fugitive. The rebellion was at an end; retribution was in its

full tide. The Highlands were being scoured, the remnants of the defeated army scattered or massacred, the adherents of the Pretender seized, and Charles himself was sought for with unremitting activity. The islands in particular were closely searched, as it was believed that he had fled to their shelter. His peril was extreme. No vessel was to be had. Storms, contrary winds, various disappointments attended him. He sought one hiding-place after another in Long Island and those adjoining, exposed to severe hardships, and frequently having to fly from one place of shelter to another. In the end he reached the island of South Uist, where he found a faithful friend in Clanranald, one of his late adherents. Here he was lodged in a ruined forester's hut, situated near the summit of the wild mountain called Corradale. Even this remote and almost inaccessible shelter grew dangerous. The island was suspected, and a force of not less than two thousand men landed on it, with orders to search the interior with the closest scrutiny, while small war-vessels, cutters, armed boats, and the like surrounded the island, rendering escape by water almost hopeless. It was in this critical state of affairs that the devotion of a woman came to the rescue of the imperilled Prince. Flora McDonald was visiting the family of Clanranald. She wished to return to her home in Skye. At her suggestion the chief provided her with the attendants whom we have already described, her awkward maid-servant Betty Bruce being no less a personage than the wandering prince. The daring and devoted lady was step-daughter to a chief of Sir Alexander McDonald's clan, who was on the king's side, and in command of a section of the party of search. From him Flora obtained a passport for herself and two servants, and was thus enabled to pass in safety through the cordon of investing boats. No one suspected the humble-looking Betty Bruce as being a flying prince. And so it was that the bird had passed through the net of the fowlers, and found shelter in the island of Skye.

And now we must return to the fugitives, whom we left concealed in a basaltic cavern on the rocky coast of Skye. The keen-witted Flora had devised a new and bold plan for the safety of her charge, no less a one than that of trusting the Lady Margaret McDonald, wife of Sir Alexander, with her dangerous secret. This seemed like penetrating the very stronghold of the foe; but the women of the Highlands had--most of them--a secret leaning to Jacobitism, and Flora felt that she could trust her high-born relative.

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