G. A. (George Alfred) Henty.

A Jacobite exile : being the adventures of a young Englishman in the service of Charles XII of Sweden online

. (page 13 of 26)
Online LibraryG. A. (George Alfred) HentyA Jacobite exile : being the adventures of a young Englishman in the service of Charles XII of Sweden → online text (page 13 of 26)
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only a short time since."

"Well, please to s't down and join us," Mrs. Ramsay
said. " It is bad manners indeed to keep you talking while
the meat is getting cold on the table. When you have
finished, it will be time enough to question you."

While the meal was going on, however, many questions
were asked as to Colonel Jamieson, the regiment, and its

" As soon as matters are more settled," the merchant said.
" I will give myself a holiday, and Janet and I will go and
spend a few days with Jock. Many of the names of the
officers are well known to me, and two or three of the cap-
tains were at Glasgow College with Jock and myself. It
will be like old times to have four or five of us talking over
the wild doings we had together."

The supper over the children were sent off to bed. Allan
Ramsay lit a long pipe. A bottle of wine and two glasses
were placed on the table, and Mrs. Ramsay withdrew to see
after domestic matters and prepare a room for Charlie.

"Now, lad, tell me all about it," Allan Ramsay said.
" Jock tells me you are here on a mission which he would
leave it to yourself to explain ; but it is no business of mine,
and if you would rather keep it to yourself I will ask no

" There is no secret about it as far as you are concerned,
Mr. Ramsay, for it is to you and to other merchants here
that I have come to talk it over;" and he then went fully
into the subject.

The Scotchman sat smoking his pine in silence for soma


minutes after he had concluded. " We do not much meddle
with politics here. We have neither voice nor part in the
making of kings or of laws, and beyond that we like to have
a peace-loving king, it matters little to us whom the diet may
set up over us. If we were once to put the tips of our fingers
into Polish affairs we might give up all thought of trade.
They are for ever intriguing and plotting, except when they
are fighting; and it would be weary work to keep touch with
it all, much less to take part in it. It is our business to buy
and to sell, and so that both parties come to us it matters
little ; one's money is as good as the other. If I had one set
of creditors deeper in my books than another, I might wish
their party to gain the day, for it would, maybe, set them up
in funds, and I might get my money ; but as it is, it matters
little. There is not a customer I have but is in my debt;
money is always scarce with them; for they are reckless
and extravagant, keeping a horde of idle loons about them,
spending as much money on their own attire and that of
their wives as would keep a whole Scotch clan in victuals.
But if they cannot pay in money, they can pay in corn or
'n cattle, in wine or in hides.

" I do not know which they are fondest of plotting, or
fighting, or feasting; and yet, reckless as they are, they are
people to like. If they do sell their votes for money, it is
not a Scotchman that should throw it in their teeth; for there
is scarce a Scotch noble since the days of Bruce who has not
been ready to sell himself for English gold. Our own High-
landers are as fond of fighting as the Poles, and their chiefs
are as profuse in hospitality and as reckless and spendthrift.
But the Poles have their virtues, they love their country
and are ready to die for her. They are courteous and even
chivalrous, they are hospitable to an excess, they are good
husbands and kindly masters, they are recklessly brave;
and if they are unduly fond of finery, I who supply so many


of them should be the last to find fault with them on that
score. They are proud and look down upon us traders, but
that does not hurt us; and if they were to take to trading
themselves, there would be no place for us here. But this
has nothing to do with our present purpose.

"Certainly if it was a question of Polish affairs, neither the
foreign nor the Jewish merchants here would move a finger
one way or the other. We have everything to lose and
nothing to gain. Suppose we took sides with one of the
parties, and the other got the upper hand. Why, they
might make ordinances hampering us in every way, laying
heavy taxes on us, forbidding the export of cattle or horses,
and making our lives burdensome. True, if they drove us
out they would soon have to repeal the law, for all trade
would be at an end. But that would be too late for many
of us. However, I do not say that at the present time
many would not be disposed to do what they could against
Augustus of Saxony. We are accustomed to civil wars;
and though these may cause misery and ruin in the districts
where they take place, they do not touch us here in the
capital. But this is a different affair. Augustus has, with-
out reason or provocation, brought down your fiery King
of Sweden upon us; and if he continues on the throne we
maj hear the Swedish cannon thundering outside our walls,
and may have the city taken and sacked. Therefore for
once politics become our natural business. But though you
may find many well-wishers, I doubt if you can obtain any
substantial aid. With Saxon troops in the town, and the
nobles divided, there is no hope of a successful rising in

"The king did not think of that," Charlie said; "his
opinion was that were it evident that the citizens of War-
saw were strongly opposed to Augustus of Saxony, it would
have a great moral effect, arid that perhaps they might in-


fluence some of the nobles who, as you say, are deeply
in their books, or upon whose estates they may hold mort-
gages, to join the party against the king."

"They might do something that way," Allan Kamsay
agreed. "Of course I have no money out on mortgages.
I want badly enough all the money I can lay hands on in
my own business. Giving credit, as we have to, and often
very long credit, it requires a large capital to carry on trade.
But the Jews, who no doubt do hold large mortgages on
the land, cannot exert much power. They cannot hold land
themselves, and were one of them to venture to sell the
property of any noble of influence he would be ruined. The
whole class would shrink from him, and like enough there
would be a tumult got up, his house would be burned over
his head, and he and his family murdered. Still, as far as
popular opinion goes, something might be done. At any
rate I will get some of my friends here to-morrow, and intro-
duce you to them and talk it over. But we must be careful,
for Augustus has a strong party here, and were it suspected
that you are a Swedish officer it would go very hard with
you. To-morrow you must fetch your servant here. I have
already sent round to the inn, and you will find your valises
in your room. You said you could rely thoroughly upon

"Yes, he was handed over to me by Count Piper himself;
and moreover, from what I have seen of him, I am myself
confident that he can be trusted. He is of Swedish descent,
and is, I think, a very honest fellow."

For a fortnight Charlie remained at Allan Ramsay's, and
then, in spite of the pressing entreaties of his host and
hostess, took a lodging near them. He had by this time seen
a good many of the leading traders of the town. The Scotch
and Frenchmen had all heartily agreed with his argument
that it was for the benefit of Poland, and especially for that


of Warsaw, that Augustus of Saxony should be replaced
by another king who would be acceptable to Charles of
Sweden; but all were of opinion that but little could be
done by them towards bringing about this result. With the
Jewish traders his success was less decided. They admitted
that it would be a great misfortune were Warsaw taken by
the Swedes, but as Poles they retained their confidence in
the national army, and were altogether sceptical that a few
thousand Swedes could withstand the host that could be
put in the field against them. Several of them pointedly
asked what interest they had in the matter, and to some
of these Charlie was obliged to use his power of promising
sums of money in case of success.

There were one or two, however, of whom he felt doubtful.
Chief among these was Ben Soloman Muller, a man of great
influence in the Jewish community. This man had placed
so large a value upon his services that Charlie did not feel
justified in promising him such a sum. He did not like the
man's face, and did not rely upon the promises of silence he
had given before the mission was revealed to him. It was
for this reason principally that he determined to go into
lodgings. Should he be denounced, serious trouble might
fall upon Allan Ramsay, and it would at least minimize this
risk were he not living at his house when he was arrested.
Ramsay himself was disposed to make light of the danger.

" I believe myself that Ben Soloman is an old rogue, but
he is not a fool. He cannot help seeing that the position of
the king is precarious, and were he to cause your arrest he
might get little thanks and no profit, while he would be in-
curring the risk of the vengeance of Charles should he ever
become master of the town. Did he have you arrested he
himself would be forced to appear as a witness against you,
and this he could hardly do without the matter becoming
publicly known. I do not say, however that if he could

(806) V


curry favour with the king's party by doing you harm
without appearing in the matter, he would hesitate for a
moment. Even if you were arrested here, I doubt whether
any great harm would befall me, for all the Scotch merchants
would make common cause with me, and although we have
no political power, we have a good deal of influence one
way or another, and Augustus at this time would not care
to make fresh enemies. However, lad, I will not further
dispute your decision. Were I quite alone I would not let
you leave me so long as you stop in this city without taking
great offence, but with a wife and two children a man is
more timid than if he had but himself to think of."

Charlie therefore moved into the lodging, but every day
he went for three or four hours to the shop, where he kept
up his assumed character by aiding to keep the ledgers, and
in learning from the Polish assistants the value of the various
goods in the shop. One evening he was returning after
supper to his lodging when Stanislas met him.

"I observed three or four evil-looking rascals casting
glances at the house to-day, and there are several rough-
looking fellows hanging about the house this evening. I do
not know if it means anything, but I thought I would let
you know."

"I think it must be only your fancy, Stanislas; I might
be arrested by the troops were I denounced, but I apprehend
no danger from men of the class you speak of. However, i'
we should be interfered with, I fancy we could deal with
several rascals of that sort."

At the corner of his street three or four men were standing.
One of them moved as he passed and pushed rudely against
him, sending his hat into the gutter Then as his face
was exposed the fellow exclaimed :

"It is he, death to the Swedish spy!"

They were the last words he uttered. Charlie's sword


flew from its scabbard, and with a rapid pass he ran the
man through the body. The others drew instantly and fell
upon Charlie with fury, keeping up the shout of, " Death to
the Swedish spy !" It was evidently a signal, for men darted
out of doorways and came running down the street repeating
the cry.

"Go, Stanislas!" Charlie shouted as he defended himself
against a dozen assailants. "Tell Ramsay what has hap-
pened; you can do no good here." A moment later he re-
ceived a tremendous blow on the back of the head from
an iron-bound cudgel, and fell senseless to the ground.



WHEN Charlie recovered his senses he found himself
lying bound in a room lighted by a dim lamp, which
sufficed only to show that the beams were blackened by
smoke and age, and the walls constructed of rough stone-work.
There was, so far as he could see, no furniture whatever in it,
and he imagined that it was an underground cellar, used per-
haps at some time or other as a store-room. It was some time
before his brain was clear enough to understand what had
happened, or how he had got into his present position. Gra-
dually the facts came back to him, and he was able to think
coherently in spite of a splitting headache and a dull
throbbing pain at the back of his head.

"I was knocked down and stunned," he said to himself at
last. "I wonder what became of Stanislas; I hope he got
away. This does not look like a prison. I should say that
it was a cellar in the house of one of the gang that set upon
me. It is evident that some one has betrayed me, probably
that Jew, Ben Soloman. What have they brought me here
for? I wonder what are they going to do with me." His
head, however, hurt him too much for him to continue the
strain of thought, and after a while he dozed off to sleep.
When he awoke a faint light was streaming in through a
slit two or three inches wide, high up on the wall. He
still felt faint and dizzy from the effects of the blow



Parched with thirst he tried to call out for water, but
scarce a sound came from his lips.

Gradually the room seemed to darken and become indis-
tinct, and he again lapsed into insensibility. When he again
became conscious, some one was pouring water between his
lips, and he heard a voice speaking loudly and angrily. He
had picked up a few words of Polish from Stanislas the
names of common things, the words to use in case he lost
his way, how to ask for food and for stabling for a horse,
but he was unable to understand what was said. He judged,
however, that someone was furiously upbraiding the man
who was giving him water, for the latter now and then
muttered excuses.

"He is blowing the fellow up for having so nearly let me
slip through their fingers," he said to himself. " Probably
they want to question me, and find out who I have been in
communication with. They shall get nothing at present
anyhow." He kept his eyes resolutely closed. Presently he
heard a door open and another man come in. A few words
were exchanged, and this time wine instead of water was
poured down his throat. Then he was partly lifted up, and
felt a cooling sensation at the back of his head. Some
bandages were passed round it and he was laid down again.
There was some more conversation, then a door opened and
two of the men went out; the third walked back to him,
muttering angrily to himself. Charlie felt sure that he
had been moved from the place in which he had been the
evening before, his bonds had been loosed, and he was lying
on straw and not on the bare ground. Opening his eyelids the
slightest possible degree, he was confirmed in his belief by
seeing that there was much more light than could have
entered the cellar. He dared not look farther, and in a
short time fell into a far more refreshing sleep than that he
before had.


The next time he woke his brain was clearer, though
there was still a dull sense of pain where he had been
struck. Without opening his eyes he listened attentively.
There was some sound of movement in the room, and pre-
sently he heard a faint regular breathing. This continued
for some time, and he then heard a sort of grunt. " He is
asleep," he said to himself, and opening his eyes slightly
looked round. He was in another chamber. It was grimy
with dirt, and almost as unfurnished as the cellar, but there
was a window through which the sun was streaming brightly.
He himself lay upon a heap of straw. At the opposite side
of the room was a similar heap, and upon this a man was
sitting, leaning against the wall with his chin dropped on
his chest.

The thought of escape at once occurred to Charlie. Could
he reach the window, which was without glass and a mere
opening in the wall, without awakening his guard, he could
drop out and make for Allan Ramsay's. As soon as he
tried to move, however, he found that this idea was for the
present impracticable. He felt too weak to lift his head,
and at the slight rustle of straw caused by the attempt, the
man opposite roused himself with a start. He gave another
slight movement, and then again lay quiet with his eyes
closed. The man came across and spoke, but he made no
sign. Some more wine was poured between his lips, then
the man returned to his former position and all was quiet.
As he lay thinking his position over, Charlie thought that
those who had set his assailants to their work must have
had two objects the one to put a stop to his efforts to
organize an agitation against the king, the second to find
out by questioning him who were those with whom he had
been in communication, in order that they might be arrested
and their property confiscated. He could see no other
reason why his life should be spared by his assailants, for


it would have been easier and far less troublesome to run
him through as he lay senseless on the ground than to carry
him off and keep him a prisoner.

This idea confirmed the suspicion he had first entertained,
that the assault had been organized by Ben Soloman. He
could have no real interest in the king, for he was ready to
join in the organization against him could he have obtained
his own terms. He might intend to gain credit with the
royal party by claiming to have stopped a dangerous plot
and at the same time to benefit himself by bringing about the
expulsion or death of many of his foreign trade rivals. Foi
this end the Jew would desire that he should be taken alive,
in order to serve as a witness against the others. "He will
not get any names from me," he said; "besides, none of
them have promised to take any active measures against
Augustus. I did not ask them to do so. There is no high
treason in trying to influence public opinion. Still, it is
likely enough that the Jew wants to get me to acknowledge
that an insurrection was intended, and will offer me my
freedom if I will give such testimony. As I am altogether
'n his power, the only thing to do is to pretend to be a great
deal worse than I am, and so to gain time till I am strong
enough to try to get away from this place."

All this was not arrived at at once, but was the result of
half -dreamy cogitation extending over hours, and interrupted
by short snatches of sleep. He was conscious that from
time to time some one came into the room and spoke to his
guard, and that three or four times wine was poured be
tween his lips. Once he was raised up and fresh cloths
dipped in water and bandages applied to his head. In the
evening two or three men came in, and he believed that he
recognized the voice of one of them as that of Ben Soloman.
One of the men addressed him suddenly and sharply in


' How are you feeling, are you in pain 1 We have come
here to give you your freedom."

Charlie was on his guard, and remained silent with his
eyes closed.

"It is of no use," Ben Soloman said in his own language,
"the fellow is still insensible. The clumsy fool who hit
him would fare badly if I knew who he was. I said that
he was to be knocked down, silenced, and brought here;
and here he is, of no more use than if he were dead."

" He will doubtless come round in time," another said in
an apologetic tone. " We will bring him round if you will
have patience, Ben Soloman."

"Well, well," the other replied, "a few days will make
no difference; but mind that he is well guarded directly he
begins to gain strength. I will get him out of the town as
soon as I can. Allan Ramsay has laid a complaint before
the mayor that his countryman has been attacked by a
band of ruffians, and has been either killed or carried off
by them. It is a pity that servant of his was not killed."

" We thought he was dead. Two or three of us looked
at him, and I could have sworn that life was out of him."

" Well, then, you would have sworn what was not true,
for he managed to crawl to Ramsay's, where he lies, I am
told, dangerously ill, and an official has been to him to
obtain his account of the fray. It was a bungled business
from beginning to end."

"We could not have calculated on the fellows making
such a resistance," the other grumbled. " This one seemed
but a lad, and yet he killed three of our party, and the
other killed one. A nice business that ; and you will have
to pay their friends well, Ben Soloman, for 1 can tell you
there is grumbling at the price, which they say was not
enough for the work, which you told them would be


x lt ought to have been," the Jew said sullenly; "fifteen
or twenty men to overpower a lad. What could have been
more easy 1 However, I will do something for the friends of
the men who were fools enough to get themselves killed,
but if I hear any grumbling from the others it will be worse
for them; there is not one I could not lay by the heels in
jail. Well, as to this young fellow, I shall not come again,
I do not want to be noticed coming here. Keep a shrewd
look-out after him."

"There is no fear about that," the man said; "it will be
long ere he is strong enough to walk."

" When he gets better, we will have him taken away to
a safe place outside the town; once there, I can make him
say what I like."

"And if he does not get well?"

"In that case we will take away his body and bury it
outside. I will see to that myself."

"I understand," the other sneered. "You don't want
anyone to know where it is buried, so as to be able to bring
it up against you."

" You attend to your own business," the Jew said angrily.
'Why should I care about what they say? At any rate
there are some matters between you and me, and there is
no fear of your speaking."

" Not until the time comes when I may think it worth my
while to throw away my life in order to secure your death,
Ben Soloman."

"It is of no use talking like that," the Jew said quietly;
we are useful to each other. I have saved your life from
the gibbet, you have done the work I required. Between
us, it is worse than childish to threaten in the present
matter. I do not doubt that you will do your business
well, and you know that you will be well paid for it; what
can either of us require more?"


Charlie would have given a good deal to understand the
conversation, and he would have been specially glad to learn
that Stanislas had escaped with his life; for he had taken a
great fancy to the young Lithuanian, and was grieved by the
thought that he had probably lost his life in his defence.

Three days passed. His head was now clear and his
appetite returning, and he found, by quietly moving at
night when his guard was asleep, that he was gaining
strength. The third day there was some talking among
several men who entered the room, then he was lifted,
wrapt up in some cloths, and put into a large box. He felt
this being hoisted up, it was carried downstairs, and then
placed on something. A minute afterwards he felt a vibra-
tion, followed by a swaying and bumping, and guessed at
once that he was on a cart, and was being removed either
to prison or to some other place of confinement; the latter
he considered more probable. The journey was a long one;
he had no means of judging time, but he thought that it
must have lasted two or three hours. Then the rumbling
ceased, the box was lifted down, and carried a short distance,
then the lid was opened and he was again laid down on
some straw. He heard the sound of cart wheels, and knew
that the vehicle on which he had been brought was being
driven away. He was now so hungry that he felt he could
no longer maintain the appearance of insensibility. Two
men were talking in the room, and when for a moment
their conversation ceased, he gave a low groan and then
opened his eyes. They came at once to his bedside with
exclamations of satisfaction.

"How do you feel?" one asked in Swedish.

"I do not know," he said in a low tone. "Where am
I, how did I get here?"

" You are with friends ; never mind how you got here.
You have been ill, but you will soon get well again. Some-


one hit you on the head, and we picked you up and brought
you here."

"I am weak and faint," Charlie murmured; "have you
any food?"

" You shall have some food directly it is prepared. Take
a drink of wine, and see if you can eat a bit of bread while
the broth is preparing."

Charlie drank a little of the wine that was put to his
lips, and then broke up the bread and eat it crumb by

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Online LibraryG. A. (George Alfred) HentyA Jacobite exile : being the adventures of a young Englishman in the service of Charles XII of Sweden → online text (page 13 of 26)