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It was almost a year since she had come up here to watch the sun go down one warm evening in full spring. She had been sitting on the stone chair watching the changing colors of the clouds when something made her look up. A tall Highlander in the red tartan of the MacGregors was leaning against the pine trunk behind her. The MacGregors had a bad name and no love for the Grahams, but Donald was a gentleman in spite j of his clan, and nothing untoward happened.
Here the MacGregors buried their dead and took their oaths. His lands lay northward beyond Ben Mor. After that evening Donald came j often to Lowrie House, but he always appeared unannounced, and he always met Diana in the glen before anyone else saw him.
He was always a quiet man, full of fierce desires that he could express best in music. Sometimes he would sit down at the spinet in the drawing-room.
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He could play the French and Italian airs beautifully, but after half an hour of them he would suddenly bang out a few jarring chords. Sometimes he brought his pipes with him and squeezed out a wild haunting music that sang of things deep in the blood no words could ever tell. He made up his own songs, too, gay lilting things that shifted suddenly into minor keys and left her heart aching. Her brother Alec, who had just received his degree from St.
Andrews, and was reading law in Edinburgh, played the flute, and he and Donald sometimes joined in duets. Alec conceived a boyish admiration for this moody Highlander, and the three of them became fast friends.
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It was the secret of the glen. The glen itself was no different from a hundred others along the loch, except that perhaps its shade was a little deeper. There they would sit through the long evenings of late spring and early summer while scores of tiny birds sang in the birches by the water and the wild flowers pushed their way up through the thick pine needles of the glen.
The sun would fall beneath the lowering clouds and turn the lake to molten silver that needed only to be dipped up and coined. Diana spoke of it one evening in August. She knew he meant which king, German George in London of James over the water, whose son, it was rumored from the Highlands, had just landed in Moidart to claim his crown.
Donald had met the young Prince Charles in France and was a strong Jacobite, but now he too avoided polities. Instead he took her hands in one of his and with the other he lifted a lock of her hair as though assaying its weight. The goddess who wears red gold on her head. Shall I tell you a myth of the Greeks? But Delos is a small island, and after many years the sun scorched its forests and burned the grass, and the deer died. She searched across all Europe, going farther and farther, but finding nothing she liked until she came to Caledonia, far in the northwest.
And there she found mountains steeper and more purple than the mountains of Greece, and pines even darker, and water brighter than the Aegean Sea. So she made herself queen there and sat upon a granite throne, but she found new sport, for instead of stags she hunted men, and killed them with arrows from her eyes. Then all men feared her and fled before her, all except one.
He was a young chief, and instead of fleeing, this man faced the goddess and dared her to do her worst.
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The girl stared straight before her. So she moved over on her throne and asked the brave young chief to be her kind and share it with her. THAT was the last time Diana had seen him. He was to have come again five days later to speak to her father. Instead there came a letter. Prince Charles Edward had raised his standard at Glenfinnan, and all through the Highlands the clans were rising to throw out the Hanoverian usurpers. The prince was at Blair Atholl, and the Duke of Perth was raising men to join him. Diana choked thinking of it. A man like Donald had no right to throw himself away as a soldier.
There was a fierceness in him, yes, but he would find his peace in the glen over Loch Lomond, not on a bloody field.
He felt beauty too keenly for that. And yet. There was a music of swordblades and cannons and the screams of the dying as well as of bagpipes. Even though she could not hear it herself, she knew how it would call to him. There was no point trying to stop him, and she had not tried. Then came the news of the fiveminute slaughter at Prestonpans, where the redcoats fled from the claymores and dirks as fast as their legs would carry them and General Johnny Cope galloped to England with the first news of his own defeat.
When the birches turned yellow in October the Highlanders took Edinburgh, and Diana pestered her father for permission to go there and visit her aunts. Perhaps she could find Donald somewhere in the army. Hector Graham was a lukewarm Whig who thought it would do no harm to have connections in the Jacobite camp, and Diana had run the household since her mother's death. He let her go. Her aunts, prim Lowland ladies, had been as terrified of the bare-legged Highlanders as they would have been of.
Red Indians from America, but Diana mocked their fears and searched for Donald. She found he had been sent on a special mission south toward the border, and she felt angry at this young prince who could come over the sea and take the man she loved away from her. Angry and jealous. What right did he have to break the wish they had made on the new moon?
It was a magnificent affair of many candles, men in bright tartans, and ladies in court dresses that had not been worn since the Union. She had no idea of how to behave, but she knew at once why they called him Bonnie Prince Charlie, why the men were ready to die for him and the women ready to urge them on. He put her at ease immediately, talking to her of Scotland and how much he felt at home there. It was the poorest land he had seen in all his travels, he said, rich only in the bravest men and most beautiful women on earth. It was a high-flown compliment, yet there was something in his face and voice that showed he meant it.
Diana would always remember his sad eyes, pointed chin, and almost girlish smile. But in spite of his delicate features there was a dashing gallantry about him that made him a man to love and to serve. She saw the prince once more, from a distance, the day he led his army south to conquer England. The streets were crowded with people cheering and wearing white cockades.
They were all there. Their plaids were torn and dirty, their beards were shaggy, and many of them walked bare-foot on the hard cobblestones, but their swords were bright and clean, the great gleaming broadswords that terrified the English. They were tall lean men who walked with springy steps and flashing eyes. The pipes were playing a new song and the people were singing it. The prince had reached Lancaster, Manchester, Derby, and the English were fleeing. Then in December came news that puzzled her. The prince was retreating.
With victory in its grasp the army was marching north again.
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English regiments rushed back from Flanders were closing in on it from. Diana paced the drawing-room and glared out the window at the snowdrifts. She thought of going north to the MacGregor country to see if they had news of him there. The news came late in January, as she was about to leave. Donald had been wounded at Cliftonhall and taken prisoner by the redcoats.
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His wound was healing, but he was being held at Carlisle to await trial for high treason. Treason to the fat. Diana remembered the sentence for treason. It was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
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Or a person of no importance might get off with mere hanging. She remembered Carlisle, too. She had passed through the old border town coming back from London three years before and had seen the cold grey stones of its castle. The cells would be wet and filthy. The thought of Donald there, wounded, drove her nearly crazy, till her father agreed to send Alec off with letters to all their friends who might have any influence.