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Book of Scottish Story
Albert Bane: an Incident of the Battle of Culloden

By Henry Mackenzie

When I was, last autumn, at my friend Colonel Caustic’s in the country, I saw there, on a visit to Miss Caustic, a young gentleman and his sister, children of a neighbour of the Colonel’s, with whose appearance and manner I was particularly pleased.

The history of their parents, said my friend, is somewhat particular, and I love to tell it, as I do everything that is to the honour of our nature. Man is so poor a thing, taken in the gross, that when I meet with an instance of nobleness in detail, I am fain to rest upon it long, and to recall it often, as in coming thither over our barren hills you would look with double delight on a spot of cultivation or of beauty.

The father of those young folks, whose looks you were struck with, was a gentleman of considerable domains and extensive influence on the northern frontier of our country. In his youth he lived, as it was then more the fashion than it is now, at the seat of his ancestors, surrounded with Gothic grandeur, and cornpassed with feudal followers and dependants, all of whom could trace their connection at a period more or less remote with the family of their chief. Every domestic in his house bore the family-name, and looked on himself as in a certain degree partaking its dignity, and sharing its fortunes. Of these, one was in a particular manner the favourite of his master. Albert Bane (the surname, you know, is generally lost in a name descriptive of the individual) had been his companion from his infancy. Of an age so much more advanced as to enable him to be a sort of tutor to his youthful lord, Albert had early taught him the rural exercises and rural amusements, in which himself was eminently skilful; he had attended him in the course of his education at home, of his travels abroad, and was still the constant companion of his excursions, and the associate of his sports.

On one of those latter occasions, a favourite dog of Albert’s, whom he had trained himself and of whose qualities he was proud, happened to mar the sport which his master expected, who, irritated at the disappointment, and having his gun ready cocked in his hand, tired at the animal, which, however, in the hurry of his resentment, he missed. Albert, to whom Oscar was a child, remonstrated against the rashness of the deed in a manner rather too warm for his master, ruffled as he was with the accident, and conscious of being in the wrong, to bear. In his passion he struck his faithful attendant, who suffered the indignity in silence: and retiring, rather in grief than in anger, left his native country that very night ; and when he reached the nearest town, enlisted with a recruiting party of a regiment then on foreign service. It was in the beginning of the war with France, which broke out in 1744, rendered remarkable for the rebellion which the policy of the French court excited, in which some of the first families of the Highlands were unfortunately engaged. Among those who joined the standard of Charles, was the master of Albert.

After the battle of Culloden, so fatal to that party, this gentleman, along with others who had escaped the slaughter of the field, sheltered themselves from the rage of the unsparing soldiery among the distant recesses of their country. To him his native mountains offered an asylum ; and thither he naturally fled for protection. Acquainted, in the pursuits of the chase, with every secret path and unworn track, he lived for a considerable time, like the deer of his forest, close hid all day, and only venturing down at the fall of evening, to obtain from some of his cottagers, whose fidelity he could trust, a scanty and precarious support. I have often heard him (for he is one of my oldest acquaintances) describe the scene of his hiding-place, at a later period, when he could recollect it in its sublimity, without its horror. " At times," said he, " when I ventured to the edge of the wood, among some of those inacessible crags which you remember a few miles from my house, I have heard, in the pauses of the breeze which rolled solemn through the pines beneath me, the distant voices of the soldiers, shouting in answer to one another amidst their inhuman search. I have heard their shouts re-echoed from cliff to cliff, and seen reflected from the deep still lake below the gleam of those fires which consumed the cottages of my people. Sometimes shame and indignation wellnigh overcame my fear, and I have prepared to rush down the steep, unarmed as I was, and to die at once by the swords of my enemies ; but the instinctive love of life prevailed, and starting, as the roe bounded by me, I have again shrunk back to the shelter I had left.

" One day," continued he, "the noise was nearer than usual ; and at last, from the cave in which I lay, I heard the parties immediately below so close upon me, that I could distinguish the words they spoke. After some time of horrible suspense, the voices grew weaker and more distant ; and at last I heard them die away at the further end of the wood. I rose and stole to the mouth of the cave, when suddenly a dog met me, and gave that short quick bark by which they indicate their prey. Amidst the terror of the circumstance, I was yet master enough of myself to discover that the dog was Oscar ; and I own to you I felt his appearance like the retribution of justice and of heaven. ‘ Stand !’ cried a threatening voice, and a soldier pressed through the thicket, with his bayonet charged. It was Albert ! Shame, confusion, and remorse stopped my utterance, and I stood motionless before him. ‘My master !’ said he, with the stifled voice of wonder and of fear, and threw himself at my feet. I had recovered my recollection. “You are revenged, said I, and I am your prisoner.” ‘Revenged! Alas! you have judged too harshly of me ; I have not had one happy day since that fatal one on which I left my master; but I have lived, I hope, to save him. The party to which I belong are passed; for I lingered behind them among those woods and rocks, which I remember so well in happier days. There is, however, no time to be lost. In a few hours this wood will blaze, though they do not suspect that it shelters you. Take my dress, which may help your escape, and I will endeavour to dispose of yours. On the coast, to the westward, we have learned there is a small party of your friends, which. by following the river’s track till dusk, and then striking over the shoulder of the hill, you may join without much danger of discovery.’ I felt the disgrace of owing so much to him I had injured, and rernonstrated against exposing him to such imminent danger of its being known that he favoured my escape, which, from the temper of his connnander, I knew would be instant death. Albert, in an agony of fear and distress, besought me to think only of my own safety. ‘ Save us both,’ said he, ‘for if you die, I cannot live. Perhaps we may meet again ; but whatever comes of Albert, may the blessing of God be with his master! "’

Albert’s prayer was heard. His master, by the exercise of talents which, though he had always possessed, adversity only taught him to use, acquired abroad a station of equal honour and emolument ; and when the proscriptions of party had ceased, returned home to his own country, where he found Albert advanced to the rank of a lieutenant in the army, to which his valour and merit had raised him, married to a lady, by whom he had got some little fortune, and the father of an only daughter, for whom nature had done much, and to whose native endowments it was the chief study and delight of her parents to add everything that art could bestow. The gratitude of the chief was only equalled by the happiness of his follower, whose honest pride was not long after gratified by his daughter becoming the wife of that master whom his generous fidelity had saved. That master, by the clemency of more indulgent and liberal times, was again restored to the domains of his ancestors, and had the satisfaction of seeing the grandson of Albert enjoy the hereditary birthright of his race. I accompanied Colonel Caustic on a visit to this gentleman’s house, and was delighted to observe his grateful attention to his father-in-law, as well as the unassuming happiness of the good old man, conscious of the perfect reward which his former fidelity had met with. Nor did it escape my notice, that the sweet boy and girl, who had been our guests at the Colonel’s, had a favourite brown and white spaniel, whom they caressed much after dinner, whose name was Oscar.

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