“Only some here in Scotland agree with this coming war with England, and I’m not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, if I felt that Scotland could rule its own again with all the rights that entails, including having its own chosen king, I would stand and fight for it as well as the next man. But I don’t feel that Scotland, with the politics of the clans and what the Jacobites want to do in support of Prince Charles Stuart, has a snowball’s chance in hell against King George at this time! My own personal opinion of this so-called ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ is that he is an arrogant, self-serving drunkard, with no thought or care of the consequences we will suffer by serving him. I’ve received messages that he arrived in Scotland in July and is calling for the clans to gather in support of him. Though it is ill planned and ill timed, there will be war now, not just rumors of rebellion. I have told my own people to stand down. All I can foresee coming from this is further destruction of this land of ours and all that we hold dear. Nevertheless, it has begun, and Clairemont’s Keep, unfortunately, is one of the first of many travesties this war will bring to us all.”
Charles stopped to clear his throat and to stem the tears that burned behind his eyes, his heart filled to breaking with what he knew would happen now to his beloved country. It galled him to know that there was little if anything he could do about it. He would not bear arms or sanction such against the armies of King George; neither would he join with them against his own people. His was a most precarious position indeed, and he knew that the best he would be able to do would be to get his own family and people through it as intact and unharmed as possible. He counted heavily on the respect his people had for him and prayed that they would understand his need to abstain from the conflict that too many were now embracing.
“I must express to you right now before I continue that not all men are good,” he went on, shaking his own concerns aside as he tried to prepare Leigha for the story he had yet to tell. “It is part of human nature and, unfortunately, such men use the military as a means to inflict great harm on others. It matters not what country they are from, men like these are everywhere.”
Feeling that he had prepared her for the news, Charles then related the tale of Clairemont’s Keep as thoroughly as he could. He felt it best for her to know it all at one time and thus begin to get over it with their help rather than to be told just a bit at a time and keep putting her through the trauma. He tried to keep his voice steady though it broke at times as he recited the information Jesep and Richard had given him, for it was the only way that he could contain his own raging emotions.
Tears of sorrow and pain for her beloved people and home rolled silently down Leigha’s fair cheeks as she listened with horror and grief to the story. She was sitting on the edge of the couch, clenching Robert’s hand in her lap, almost forgetting his presence until he drew her back to his side again and gave her his handkerchief to wipe her tears. Robert held her close, trying to comfort her in his great arms as Charles told them of Richard and Jesep’s escape from the soldiers and of the burning of the mansion and the people trapped within. Leigha was sobbing quietly in despair and shock, her face buried against Robert’s wide chest, by the time Charles had stopped speaking. He got up from the couch after handing Emily his handkerchief to wipe her own streaming tears and went to kneel beside Leigha. Taking her trembling chin in his hand, he made her turn her tear-filled eyes to him as he spoke.
“I am so sorry that this has happened,” he said, an unbidden tear coming into his clear blue eyes as he then held her hand. “The soldiers have left Clairemont’s Keep by now, Leigha. I will send a messenger to my friend William Pitt in England and explain the atrocities that were committed against your home and peoples. These soldiers were supposed to prevent rebellion by stopping any known Jacobites. I’m sure that their orders must have been to arrest your father, but he fought them, and they had to do what they did. William will understand that what they have done since then, however, would certainly add to any cause for rebellion. I will give him my word, as your guardian, that you will have no part in any Jacobite plans and that we do not stand with Prince Charles. With that oath and this most recent information regarding what was done, he should be able to ensure that the Keep be returned to you. As for the needs of your people, I will send a good body of my men there as soon as possible. They will bring plenty of food, livestock, and supplies with them to replace what has been taken or destroyed. Your people will not suffer this winter. My men will remain to help rebuild and to do whatever we can for all of them, you may rest assured of that!”