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Wilson's Border Tales
The Curse of Scotland


A night or two previous to the battle of Culloden, three or four gentlemen, retainers of Prince Charles, and who were residing in the same house with him at Inverness, were amusing themselves with a game at cards. During the evening, one of the latter suddenly disappeared, and, though anxiously sought for, could nowhere be found. "Curse the card!" exclaimed one of the gentlemen impatiently, after looking for it for some time in vain—"I wish it were in the Duke of Cumberland’s throat." The missing card was the nine of diamonds. The gentlemen, however, determined not to be baulked of their sport, contrived to do without the lost article, and played on till bed time.

Two days after this, the battle of Culloden was fought; and, as is well known, the insurgent army was totally defeated and the hopes of the unfortunate Adventurer laid prostrate for ever.

One consequence of this event was, that Inverness was thrown open to the Royalists, and thither, accordingly, the victorious general, the Duke of Cumberland, directed his steps after the engagement.

It was a practice of the Duke’s, on arriving at any town or village which had been previously visited by Charles, to inquire for the house, nay, for the very apartment and bed he had occupied, and to take possession of them for his own use, alleging, shrewdly enough, as a reason for this conduct, that they were sure to be the best in the place. In conformity with this practice, the Duke, on arriving at Inverness, inquired for the house in which Charles had stopped; and it being pointed out to him, he immediately took up his abode in it.

On the day after the engagement, it was reported to the Duke, that a great number of the wounded insurgents and others were still wandering, or in concealment, in the neighbourhood of the field of battle. The ruthless general—whose natural cruel disposition and sullen temper seem to have been fearfully excited by the resistance he had met with, and by the trouble it had cost him to subdue the rebellion in Scotland—on being informed of this circumstance, gave instant orders that a party of military should be sent out to destroy the unfortunate men wherever they could be found.

A strong body of troops were accordingly immediately dispatched on this sanguinary mission. But the officer in command of the party, after proceeding some way on his dreadful errand, suddenly recollected that he had no written authority for the horrible atrocity he was ordered to see perpetrated, the commands of the Duke having been merely verbal. Desirous of being better secured against any consequences which might arise from the shocking proceeding in which he was about to be engaged, he hastened back to Inverness, sought an audience of the Duke, and respectfully requested him to give him his orders in writing.

"No occasion whatever," said the Duke, sternly, and somewhat irritated at the want of confidence which the demand implied. "Do as you are desired, sir. I’ll answer for the consequences."

The officer, however, continued to press his request, and reiterated his desire to be put in possession of documentary evidence that what he was about to do was done by authority.

Impatient at his importunity, and desirous of getting quit at once of the subject and his pertinacious visitor, the Duke hurriedly looked about the apartment for paper on which to write the desired order; but he could see none. While looking for the paper, however, he accidentally turned up a corner of the carpet with his foot, and brought to view a card which had been lying beneath it. The Duke observing it hastily stooped down and picked it up, exclaiming as he did so—"Oh, here, this will do well enough for the death-warrant of a parcel of rebel scoundrels!" And he immediately wrote the fatal order with a pencil on the back of the card. This card was the nine of diamonds, the same which had been lost a few evenings before; and such is one version, at any rate, of that tradition that has given to this particular card the startling title of "The curse of Scotland."


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