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Romance of War (or The Highlanders in Spain)
Chapter 63 - Edinburgh


At Musselburgh, on approaching the old Roman bridge, the venerable arches of which have so often rung to the tread of a Scottish host, the Highlanders, as they marched down the brae which ascends to the kirk of Inveresk, perceived that some preparations had been made for their reception by the men of the 'honest toon,'—the honourable title conferred by Earl Randolph on that ancient burgh. Between the parapet walls of the bridge, on the spot where once stood an antique barrier gate, a triumphal arch was erected, and on its summit sat a bluff old tar in his tarpaulin hat and frieze coat, bearing aloft the standard of the ancient town of Fisherow, of which he was no bad representative. With a voice which had grown hoarse and loud in out-roaring the waves and blasts of the German Ocean, he welcomed them in the deep Doric language of Scotia, which had so long been a stranger to their ears. ' The song sings truly, "There's nae folk like our ain folk,"' said Campbell, as he rode along the bridge at the head of the column. ' We are home at last, God be praised ! This is our third day's march on Scottish ground. Scotland for ever ! Shout, my lads ! Three cheers for her people ! They seem to vie with the English in giving us a kindly reception.'

Their cheers were answered with threefold heartiness from the other side of the Esk, where the crowd was immense ; and the interest and excitement which prevailed may be imagined from the fact that the
whole line of road between the Esk and Edinburgh, a distance of seven miles, was so densely crowded as to be almost impassable ; and when the regiment entered the street of Fisherow, the cheers and uproar were deafening. The pressure of the people forward was so great that the march was stopped, the ranks were broken, and the music ceased. Hearty greetings and shakings of hands ensued between men who had never met before, and strapping fish-women, in their picturesque blue jackets and yellow petticoats, were seen clinging round the necks of the soldiers, while a crowd of fishermen and peasantry, every man of them with a bottle in his hand, had hemmed in Campbell against the wall of a house, shouting vociferously, each one, that he must drink with them. The colonel abandoned in despair any attempt to proceed, or to urge forward his horse, and sinking back on his saddle, he burst into a hearty roar of laughter at the confused appearance of his men, and the mirth, jollity, and happiness which beamed so radiantly in every face. Stuart was in a similar predicament. The people pressed close around his horse, to every leg of which an urchin was clinging fearlessly, while the rabble shook both hands of the rider without cessation. After the first wild burst of welcome was over, some order was regained, and the march was resumed; but four hours elapsed before the regiment gained entrance into the High Street of Edinburgh, by crushing through the dense masses which occupied the Abbeyhill and Watergate, where they were again brought almost to a halt. The crowd had followed them in from Musselburgh and increased as it rolled along, and one might have supposed that the entire population of the three Lothians was wedged into the High Street of Edinburgh. Every window of all those lofty houses, which shoot up on. both sides of the way, and have been for five centuries a theme of wonder to every traveller, was crowded with eager faces : every lamp-post, every signboard and doorhead bore its load of shouting urchins, and the whole street, from the castle to the palace, was crowded to an excess never before witnessed. The colonel, who always loved to produce an effect, had sent forward a mile or two in advance of the regiment a young drum-boy, who having lost a leg at Waterloo, had had its place supplied by a wooden one; and the appearance of the little fellow, stumping along in' his bonnet and kilt, drew immensely on the sympathy of the women of all ranks, from the ladies of ton down to the poor vendor of edibles. 'Eh, sirs! Gude guide us! Look at the drummer-laddie! the puir bairn wi' the tree leg!' was the cry on all sides, as the tambour of Waterloo limped along. 'Eh! saw ye ever the maik o' that? Oh, wae to the wars, and dule to them that wrocht them! What will his puir mither think at the sicht o' her sodger laddie?'

It was a cunning stroke of policy, sending the mutilated boy forward as an advanced guard. His appearance increased the enthusiasm of the modern Athenians; and when the long line of dark-plumed bonnets appeared above the advancing masses, pressing slowly into the street at the foot of the Canongate, the cries and cheers resembled, as Campbell said, nothing he had ever heard before except the ' roar of the cannon and musketry at the battle of Alexandria in Egypt.' So many open mouths, so many arms, heads, hands, and hats in motion at once, presented a very odd appearance, and Stuart, in consequence of being elevated on horseback above the dense masses which crowded the way from wall to wall, had a full view of the whole assemblage, and thus possessed an advantage over the officers and soldiers who marched on foot. In some places there might be seen a plumed bonnet floating above a sea of heads, where some solitary Highlander, separated far from the rest of his comrades, was struggling in vain to get forward,—a girl, perhaps, hanging around his neck, two men grasping his hands, a third shouldering his musket, while a fourth held a pint-stoup to. his mouth, calling upon him to 'drink to the health o' his ain folk.' In other places appeared the long bayonets, the Lochaber axes and cocked hats of the town guard. That ancient civic corps had been ordered to lines the streets, but being completely routed by the pressure of the people, they had abandoned their post and sought shelter behind the long lines of carriages which were drawn up on each side of the street as closely as they may be seen at a racecourse. Never before had Edinburgh witnessed such enthusiasm, such merriment, noise, laughter, hubbub, such shaking of hands, such pressing, crushing,and tumult, as that with which its hospitable inhabitants welcomed the first-returning regiment of their countrymen; and even Campbell himself—with many regrets that poor Fassifern was not there to share in it—declared that he'd never met with anything like it, 'even in Egypt!' To show their respect for their victorious countrymen, even the honest Bailies of Edinburgh, headed by the Lord P.rovost, turned out in state to welcome them; and upon this occasion, contrary to their usual wont, they arrived on the ground—almost—in time. The Provost had prepared a set speech, and would have delivered it, probably, if he hadn't been frightened almost out of his wits at the outset, and forgotten it besides. So a bold Bailie, in scarlet robe and beaver, got upon his legs to welcome home the Highlandmen; and it is to be regretted that the only part of his speech which has been preserved consists merely of an apology on behalf of the Provost,—an assertion that all Scotland was well assured 'no rajment in the haill service had done sae muckle mischief as the ninety-twa during the wars,' and an offer of an unlimited pinch of snuff from a very handsome gold box which the Baillie carried with him, and which the colonel took it for granted contained the freedom of the city at the very least. To all of which Campbell replied in a speech, which to this day may be seen, printed in small capitals, in the Edinburgh Journal.

The bows, the sweet smiles, and pretty wreaths of real or artificial flowers which the ladies tossed from the carriages lining the streets, were far more agreeable tokens of admiration than the address of Baillie Mucklewham; and those wounded officers who still bore their arms in slings found that such honourable badges of war attracted the utmost attention and interest.

Having thus piloted back Ronald Stuart to the Scottish capital, the place in which his military career began, and having brought him thither safe and sound, wind and limb,—with the rank of major, and a moderate fortune besides, the reader may suppose that his adventures are finished. But pause awhile, dear reader! one or two of the most interesting—to him, at least—are yet to come. The regiment halted in the gloomy old quadrangle of the castle, where they were wheeled into line and closely inspected by the commander-in-chief, who complimented Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell in the usual phraseology on the efficiency and discipline, etc., etc., etc., of the regiment. Campbell replied that he believed that they were in as good trim as when they returned from Egypt, some sixteen years before.

The moment this tedious ceremony was over, Ronald, who had been wishing the whole North British staff at the bottom of the draw-well, found himself seated in the 'Rob Roy' Perth stage, without having doffed his trappings, and with no other encumbrances than his plaid and claymore. In ten minutes Edinburgh, the city of the seven hills, was far behind him, and the stage was bounding along the Queensferry road, past the hills and woods of Corstorphin, as fast as four blood-horses and four flying wheels could bear it. The heart of the gallant young Scot was leaping with feelings of gladness and delight, which none can imagine save those who have experienced the pleasure of returning home after a long and weary absence. Five years had elapsed since he had travelled that road before, and it seemed a very long time to look back upon. He had seen so many strange scenes, places, and persons in that time, that it seemed like a century.

'Five years ago! Alice was quite a girl then,' he repeated to himself. 'Ah! Alice will be quite a woman now; but she is my beloved Alice still.' At times there flitted across his mind anticipations of something unpleasant occurring, in consequence of his father's obstinate and old-fashioned hostility to the Inchavon family; and he remembered, with peculiar pain, his resentment when his passion for Alice Lisle first became known to him.

It was nearly midnight when he alighted at the George Inn, and he had yet a considerable distance to travel before he should reach Lochisla. Having a stout saddle-horse, he took the road which led to Lochearn, and as he perfectly remembered every by-way and sheep-track, he struck across the mountains, taking a nearer way to Lochisla than the high road; and, as there was neither hedge, ditch, wall, nor enclosure of any kind, the way was free and open, and he galloped on by beetling crags, by corrie and rock, over ground from which the most heedless fox-hunter would have recoiled with dismay.


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