« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
which gave a freer play to his natural vivacity, and enabled him to preserve the active habits he had formed in the camp:
Hunting in the Pontine marshes is not that tame amusement which it has come to be with us. You build a hut of boughs and branches, or, clearing away the earth from some moss-covered ruin, spread a bed of leaves or straw in one corner, and
your table of stone in another. Here for shelter from the storm, and here is cooked the game which you have won during the day, and here you sleep. Around you expands the broad tract of the marshes, with its long grass and green trees, so beautiful to the eye. Before you is the deep blue of the Mediterranean, where you see the sun set with a glow unknown to northern climes; and at night you may bear afar off the deep murmur of its waves mingling with the solemn voices of the night wind. Behind you and at your side, mountains, girding the plain as with a cincture, and swelling upward, one behind another, till they are lost in the distance. The Circean cape to the south, with its dark outline stretching boldly into the sea, and reminding you of Ulysses and Circe, and the days when history and fable were one. To the east the precipitous wall of the Apennines, with Cora, whence Juno's temple looks down upon you from its rocky seat, and Massimo, hanging like an eagle's nest amid precipices and crags. And on the north the gently swelling slope of the Alban mount, with the white-walled convent that crowns its wooded cone, and the vineyards and olive-orchards that cluster in rich profusion round its base. And the game is worthy of a scene where every object carries you back to days in which the chase was a living image of war ; the boar, with his bristled skin, his foam-covered tusks, and flaming eyes. The dogs, a strong, bold breed, and trained to the deadly sport, rouse the fierce animal from his lair, and, yelling wildly on his track, tell you where to look for the prey. On he comes, , with a quick, short step, grinding his teeth until the foam flies from them like spray, his small eyes glowing like living fire, and breaking his way with headlong speed through bush and brake. Every huntsman has his stand in the space through which he is expected to pass, and each fires in turn, as he draws nigh; but it is a quick hand and a sure eye and perfect coolness alone that can give you success. Woe, too,
to the poor dog that is first to approach him, when, maddened by pain, and with speed diminished by the loss of blood, he turns for the final struggle. Some are ripped up by a single plunge of his tusks, some tossed in the air, some crushed beneath him as he falls; and not unfrequently the huntsman, too, counts himself happy, if a slight flesh-wound is the only mark which he bears away from the deadly contest.
Such scenes were for Charles Edward no bad preparation for what he was so soon to undergo, in guiding the last effort of the Stuarts for the throne of their fathers. At length, the long wished-for moment seemed to have arrived. France was on the point of taking an active part in the war of the Austrian succession, and, looked to a rising in favor of the exiled family as the surest means of finding employment for the English monarch at home. A body of fifteen thousand men was to invade England, under the command of Marshal Saxe, and all the principal measures were to be concerted at Paris, with Charles Edward himself. Still the whole negotiation was enveloped in a veil of the deepest mystery. At Rome the Bailli de Tencin and Cardinal Acquaviva acted as agents for France, and not a word was said to the ambassador. Charles Edward, the most important personage in the whole drama, was to be kept as long as possible in the background, and to conceal both his departure from Rome and his arrival at Paris.
A hunting-party to the marshes was made the pretext for leaving Rome, and the prince, pretending to have sprained bis foot on the road, separated from his companions, and, assuming the dress and medal of the Spanish courier, pushed forward, with the utmost speed, for Genoa. Here he embarked in a felucca for Antibes. The wind was against him, and he was compelled to pass through the midst of an English squadron, enemies now, but soon, he hoped, to become his subjects and defenders. On the 13th of January, he reached Antibes, near the spot where, seventy-one years later, Napoleon was to land on his return from Elba. Reporting himself and his companion to the commandant as Englishmen, under the names of Graham and Mattock, he mounted a post-horse and took the road to Paris.
At Avignon, he had an hour's interview with the Duke of Ormond, and by the 20th was already in the capital.
Here everything seemed to favor his hopes. The army of invasion was assembling in the north, and a fleet of transports at Dunkirk. Marshal Saxe, who till then had manifested but little inclination for the enterprise which he had been chosen to command, was completely won over by the prince's enthusiasm, and entered heartily into his views.
The king, it is true, still refused to receive him at court, and his negotiations were drawn out through indirect channels; but here, at last, was something done, and something doing, and the speedy promise of more.
But all these bright prospects were suddenly overcast. А tempest scattered the French and English fleets, as they were upon the point of engaging, and wrecked several transports in which a portion of the troops had already been embarked. Marshal Saxe was der into Flanders to take command of the army, with which he fought, next year, the decisive battle of Fontenoy ; and the court relapsed into that system of tergiversation and indifference by which it had already tried the patience of the Jacobites so severely. Charles Edward retired to Gravelines, deeply depressed, but not disheartened ; and not long afterwards, took a house in the neighbourhood of Paris, where, to use his own words, he led the life of a hermit. Months passed away in fruitless remonstrances and negotiations, until he became convinced that no efficient aid could be expected from the court of Versailles. It has subsequently been shown, that Louis the Fifteenth had been induced to abandon an enterprise which promised him so much advantage by the remonstrances of his Protestant allies, justly alarmed at the prospect of so formidable an accession to the Catholic cause.
And now it was that the heroic character of the young prince shone out in full lustre. It had been in compliance with the wishes of his adherents, rather than by his own free will, that he had consented to the French invasion ; for, unlike a prince of our own times, his heart revolted at the idea of ascending the throne of his fathers under the escort of foreign bayonets. His partisans were far from sharing his scruples, and the assistance of a body of French troops was a condition upon which they had constantly insisted throughout all their negotiations. This they could no longer count upon, and it now remained to be decided whether the enterprise should be abandoned, or made with such forces as could be raised upon the spot.
His decision was promptly taken, and, fully aware how much opposition it would meet with in every quarter, he resolved to carry on his preparations with all possible secrecy. There was living at that time, at Nantes, an adherent of the Stuarts by the name of Walsh, whose father had distinguished himself, on several occasions, by his devotion to the exiled monarch, and had received the title of Count in reward for his services. The son had engaged in commerce and privateering, which, according to the ideas of Brittany, were no spot upon his nobility. To him it was that Charles Edward addressed himself for the means of transportation, and by his zeal and activity an old ship of eighteen guns, called the Elizabeth, and the Doutelle, a frigate of twenty guns, were fitted up, as if for a cruise to the northward, and freighted with arms and ammunition. Another exile, a banker, named Rutledge, advanced part of the money, and Charles sent word to Rome to raise what they could upon his jewels, declaring that he should never be able to wear them with any degree of pleasure, when he remembered how much better they might have been employed.
The moment that his preparations were completed, he set out from the castle of Navarre, where he had been staying with his friend and cousin, the young Duc de Bouillon, and hastened with the utmost secrecy to the place of embarkation at St. Nazaire, at the mouth of the Loire. The letters announcing his intentions to his father and to the king of France were kept back until he was beyond the reach of remonstrance. The wind was against him, and he was compelled to curb his impatience for a few days longer. At last it changed in his favor, and on the 2d of July, 1745, entering a fisherman's boat in the disguise of a student from the Scotch college of Paris, he was quickly wasted to the side of the Doutelle. Walsh himself had assumed the command ; and with him were seven others, devoted adherents of the exiled family, who had resolved to stand by their prince in this last and apparently desperate effort for the throne of his fathers.
On the 12th, they were joined by the Elizabeth at the rendezvous, at Belle Isle, and spread their sails for Scotland. The first three days went calmly by ; but on the fourth they descried a strange sail, which, approaching the Elizabeth, hoisted English colors. It was the Lion, a fifty-eight gun ship, commanded by Captain Brett, afterwards Lord Percy. The Elizabeth immediately ranged up with her, and opened a destructive fire. For several hours a heavy cannonade was kept up on both sides, during which both captains were wounded, and each vessel suffered severely. At the sound of the first gun, Charles Edward, forgetting his assumed character, hurried to the deck, calling loudly for a sword, and insisting that the Doutelle should come in for her part of the honors of the combat. " Monsieur l'Abbé,” said Walsh, taking him hastily by the arm, “this is not your place ; have the goodness to withdraw to your cabin.” The combat lasted till nightfall, when both ships, being too much disabled to keep the sea, sought the nearest ports, as best they could. The Doutelle held on her course, but this casual encounter deprived the young prince of his arms and stores, which had been embarked on board the Elizabeth.
Once again they were menaced with the same danger, from three ships of war which they fell in with, towards the south of Long island, and only escaped by keeping close under the western coast of Barra, and anchoring between South Uist and Eriska. As they approached the land, an eagle was seen hovering over the ship. “It is the king of birds,” said the Marquis of Tullibardine, “ come to welcome your Royal Highness to Scotland.” It was the 1st of July, and with a joyful heart Charles Edward set foot, for the first time, on the soil of that kingdom towards which, from earliest childhood, his hopes and his wishes had been directed. His first care was to despatch a me
nessenger to Boisdale of Clanranald, by whose influence over the mind of the elder brother he hoped to obtain an immediate declaration of the clan. Boisdale obeyed the summons, but with a manner which showed there was little to be hoped from the interview. “I can count upon MacDonald of Sleat, and the Jaird of MacLeod,” said the prince.
< Undeceive your self,” was the inauspicious reply; "they have both resolved not to raise a single man, unless your Royal Highness comes attended with regular forces.”
This was a bad outset, and some of the party, it is said, began already to wish themselves safely back in France. Charles Edward was not so easily discouraged, but, setting sail, held on his way among the islands, to Loch Nanuagh, between Moidart and Arisaig, where he again cast anchor.