Lord Dagon’s eyes were deeply troubled by whatever it was his mind saw. He was so absorbed by his thoughts that his pipe lay unlit on the table beside him. Though Gordon keenly felt the aching of his own broken heart over Robert’s death, he reached out to Charles in an attempt to ease the man’s pain.
“Robert would not want us to be hurting so,” Gordon spoke softly as he reached to lay his large hand upon his friend’s arm, drawing the elder man’s gaze to his. “He was at peace with all that had happened. Surely you don’t think that we could have done anything differently?”
“It’s not about that Gordon, I know that we did all that we could for him. Though I greatly mourn the loss of my son, something else disturbs me nearly as deeply. I’ve been reading all of these reports that I’ve received,” he paused to wave his arm towards his desk which was piled high with missives. “I just – I couldn’t read them until today. I did so only to try to drive my pain of Robert’s death away if only for a moment, but I found no respite in them from my grief.” Charles lowered his eyes and let his arm drop heavily into his lap as he continued, “And now I wish I hadn’t even tried for not only have I lost my son, but I fear that we have lost as well the Scotland we’ve always known and loved.”
Gordon looked from Charles to the desk, taking in the scattered papers there among the piles. With troubled eyes, he then searched the familiar face of his friend and noted how greatly he seemed to have aged recently. The thought made him uncomfortable, and he shifted in his seat to look upon the setting sun beyond the room, listening to the sound of birds settling in for the night. He felt the need to dissuade Lord Dagon from his dark thoughts yet knew not how he could.
“We know of the battles; Falkirk, the butchery of Culloden. We heard reports even as we finished our travels. Your letters, surely they are just more of the same.”
“No, these are not of the battles. These are reports of the suffering and death that is running rampant in the Highlands that the English are causing. I’m afraid that it is just the beginning.”
“Retribution? A bit of that is natural after such a war.”
“I believe ‘tis more than that. I cry for the great Highlanders who with righteous courage and strength stood upon such a weak, unstable foundation!” Charles was shaking now and the tone of his voice grew deeper with the intensity of his feelings as he spoke, “In backing Prince Charles, they have given the English the opening they needed to destroy the clan system. Legislation will come next to take all authority from the chiefs. The English will certainly swing a wide path of destruction through our land, not just in the Highlands, I promise you! Of greater import and tragedy, they will do all they can to assimilate who and what we are in all areas, destroying our very culture. We won’t just be part of Great Britain. The English yoke will now be fully upon us. Our differences will be eradicated. Our tartans, our pipes, our very way of speech and life will be forced from us, and we will suffocate under this mantle!”
Gordon stared at Charles in horror as he took in the meaning of his words. Trembling, he stood and went to the decanter, lifting it to bring over to their now empty glasses and refilled them. Sitting back down, the decanter still in hand, he shook his head as if to dislodge the images his mind saw in the truth of what he had just heard.
“Surely, it canna be all that you say!” he exclaimed at last as tears filled his eyes and sorrow broke his heart anew.
“It is as I feared. This is why I refused to join with the Jacobites and did all that I could to warn them of their folly. I wish Scotland to stand free and proud as well as the next man, but this was not the time, nor the way!”
Gordon set the decanter on the floor and covered his face with his hands, his elbows braced on his shaking knees. Noting how devastated his friend had become, Charles pulled himself from his own anger and pain. Swallowing his drink in full then clearing his throat of the burn, he drew a deep breath and reached to place his hand on Gordon’s back.
“I may be wrong, it may not come to all that,” he tried to sound positive though he believed otherwise. His brogue thickened with emotion as he spoke, “And even if it does happen as I think it will, it canna last forever. We Scots are strong of heart and mind! We know our roots and will nay let go of them! We will bide our time, and one day, you’ll see, we will stand again with heads held high and proclaim our blood! It matters not how the English try to reshape us. We will survive this. We will take the good that can come of this and unite stronger and better than ever! You’ll see, Gordy, you’ll see!”
Gordon lifted his head to meet the crystal blue eyes that beckoned him with their fire to hold on to hope. Lord Dagon’s words rang in the room with conviction. Slowly, Gordon’s ever present smile returned and his spirit shouldered aside the darkness that had threatened him moments before.
“That’s the way, lad!” Charles smiled as he saw light come back into his friend’s eyes. Slapping the man’s back, he stood and stretched his arms wide as if to throw off his own darkness as he declared, “Our hearts are strong and true. We will weather the storms that this rebellion has brought upon us all. Despite the intentions of ‘Great Britain,’ Scotland will always, always be ours!”