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“ Fairly disposed of,” said Claverhouse, in his ear6 the King has lost a servant, and the devil has got onę. But away to business, Evandale--ply your spurs and get the men together. Allan and you must keep them steady. This retreating is new work for us all ; but our turn will come round another day.”
Evandale and Allan betook themselves to their task; but ere they had arranged the regiment for the purpose of retreating in two alternate bodies, a considerable number of the enemy had crossed the marsh. Claverhouse, who had retained immediately around his person a few of his most active and tried men, charged those who bad crossed in person, while they were yet disordered by the broken ground. Some they killed, others they repulsed into the morass, and checked the whole so as to enable the main body, now greatly diminished, as well as disheartened by the loss they had sustained, to commence their retreat up the hill.
But the enemy's van being soon reinforced and supported, compelled Claverhouse to follow his troops. Never did man, however, better maintain the character of a soldier than he did that day. Conspicuous by his black horse and wbite feather, he was first in the repeated charges which he made at every favourable opportunity, to arrest the progress of the pursuers, and to cover the retreat of his regiment. The object of aim to every one, he seemed as if he were impassive to their shot. The superstitious fanatics, who looked upon him as a man gifted by the Evil Spirit with supernatural means of defence, averred that they saw the bullets recoil from his jack-boots and buff-coat like hailstones from a rock of granite, as he galloped to and fro amid the storm of the battle. Many a whig that day loaded his musket with a dollar cut into slugs, in order that a silver bullet (such was their belief) might bring down the persecutor of the holy kirk, on whom lead had no power.
- Try him with the cold steel,” was the cry at every renewed charge—“ powder is wasted on him. Ye might as weel shoot at the Auld Enemy hiinsell."2
But though this was loudly shouted, yet the awe on the insurgents minds was such, that they gave way before Claverhouse as before a supernatural being, and few men ventured to cross swords with him. Still, however, he was fighting in retreat, and with all the disadvantages attending that movement. The soldiers behind him, as they beheld the increasing number of enemies who poured over the morass, became unsteady ; and, at every successive movement, Major Allan and Lord Evandale found it more and more difficult to bring them to halt and form line regularly, while, on the other hand, their motions in the act of retreating became, by degrees, inuch more rapid than was consistent with good order. As the retiring soldiers approached nearer to the top of the ridge, from which in so luckless an hour they had descended, the panic began to increase. Every one became impatient to place the brow of the hill between him and the continued fire of the pursuers, nor could any individual think it reasonable that he should be the last in the retreat, and thus sacrifice his own safety for that of others. In this mood, several troopers set spurs to their horses and fed outright, and the others became so unsteady in their movements and formations, that their officers every moment feared they would follow the same example.
Amid this scene of blood and confusion, the trampling of the horses, the groans of the wounded, the continued fire of the enemy, which fell in a succession of unintermitted musketry, while loud shouts accompanied each bullet which the fall of a trooper showed to have been suęcessfully aimed-amid all the terrors and disorders of such a scene, and when it was dubious how soon they might be totally deserted by their dispirited soldiery, Evandale could not forbear remarking the composure of his commanding officer, Not at Lady Margaret's breakfast-table that morning did his eye appear more lively, or his demeanour more composed. He had closed up to Evandale for the purpose of giving some orders, and picking out a few men to reinforce his rear-guard.
“ If this bout lasts five minutes longer," he said, in a whisper, “our rogues will leave you, my lord, old Allan, and inyself, the honour of fighting this battle with our own hands. I must do something to disperse the musketeers who annoy them so hard, or we shall be all shamed. Don't attempt to succour me if you see me go down, but keep at the head of your men; get off as you can, in God's name, and tell the King and the council I died in my duty!"
So saying, and commanding about twenty stout men to follow him, he gave, with this small body, a charge so desperate and unexpected, that he drove the foremost of the pursuers back to some distance. In the confusion of the assault he singled out Burley, and, desirous to strike terror into his followers, he dealt him so severe a blow on the head, as cút through his steel head-piece, and threw him from his horse, stunned for the moment, though unwounded. A wonderful thing it was afterwards thought, that one so powerful as Balfour should have sunk under the blow of a man, to appearance, so slightly made as Claverhouse ; and the vulgar, of course, set down to supernatural aid, the effect of that energy which a determined spirit can give to a feebler arm. Claverhouse had, in this last charge, however, involved himself too deeply among the insurgents, and was fairly surrounded.
Lord Evandale saw the danger of his commander, his body of dragoons being then halted, while that commanded by Allan was in the act of retreating. Regardless of Claverhouse's disinterested command to the contrary, he ordered the party which he headed to charge down hill and extricate their Colonel. Some advanced with him-most halted and stood uncertain-many ran away. With those who followed Evandale, he disengaged Claverhouse. His assistance just came in time, for a rustic had wounded his horse in a most ghastly manner by the blow of a scythe, and was about to repeat the stroke when Lord Evandale cut him down. As they got out of the press, they looked round them. Allan's division had ridden clear over the hill, that officer's authority having proved altogether unequal to halt them. Evandale's troop was scattered and in total confusion.
6 What is to be done, Colonel ?” said Lord Evandale.
6 We are the last men in the field, I think,” said Claverhouse ; “and when men fight as long as they can there is no shame in flying. Hector himself would say, "devil take the hindmost,' when there are but twenty against a thousand.-Save yourselves, my lads, and rally as soon as you can.-Come, my lord, we must e'en ride for it.”
So saying, he put spurs to his wounded horse ; and the generous animal, as if conscious that the life of his rider depended on his exertions, pressed forward with speed, unabated either by pain or loss of blood.3 A few officers and soldiers followed him, but in a very irregular and tumultuary manner. The flight of Claverhouse was the signal for all the sțragglers, who yet offered desultory reşistance, to fly as fast as they could, and yield up the field of battle to the victorious insurgents.
But see! through the fast-flashing lightnings of war,
DURING the severe skirmish of which we have given the details, Morton, together with Cuddie and his mother, and the Reverend Gabriel Kettledrummle, remained on the brow of the hill, near to the small cairn, or barrow, beside which Claverhouse had held his preliminary council of war, so that they had a commanding view of the action which took place in the bottom. They were guarded by Corporal Inglis and four soldiers, who, as may readily be supposed, were much more intent on watching
4 VOL. II.
the Auctuating fortunes of the battle, than in attending to what passed among their prisoners.
“ If yon lads stand to their tackle,” said Cuddie, “ we'll hae some chance o' getting our necks out o' the brecham again ; but I misdoubt them, they hae little skeel O’arms.”
6 Much is not necessary, Cuddie," answered Morton ; " they have a strong position, and weapons in their hands, and are more than three times the number of their assailants. If they cannot fight for their freedom now, they and theirs deserve to lose it forever.”
“O, sirs,” exclaimed Mause, “ here's a goodly spectacle indeed ! My spirit is like that of the blessed Elihu, it burns within me-my bowels are as wine which lacketh vent—they are ready to burst like new bottles. O, that He may look after His ain people in this day of judginent and deliverance !--And now, what ailest thou, precious Mr. Gabriel Kettledrummle ? I say, what ailest thou, that wert a Nazarite purer than snow, whiter than milk, more ruddy than sulphur, (meaning, perhaps, sapphires) -I say, what ails thee now, that thou art blacker than a coal, that thy beauty is departed, and thy loveliness withered like a dry potsherd ? Surely it is time to be up and be doing, to cry loudly, and to spare not, and to wrestle for the puir lads that are yonder testifying with their ain blude and that of their enemies."
This expostulation implied a reproach on Mr. Kettledrummle, who, though an absolute Boanerges, or son of thunder, in the pulpit, when the enemy were afar, and indeed sufficiently contumacious, as we have seen, when in their power, had been struck dumb by the firing, shouts and shrieks, which now arose from the valley, and—as many an honest man might have been, in a situation where he could neither fight nor fly,—was too much dismayed to take so favourable an opportunity to preach the terrors of presbytery, as the courageous Mause had expected at his hand, or even to pray for the successful event of the battle. His presence of mind was not however, entirely