The Patriot

The Patriot by Nigel Tranter Read Free Book Online

Book: The Patriot by Nigel Tranter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nigel Tranter
Tags: Historical Novel
many must doubt and fear. Even amongst those whom he has bribed and bought. Such vast moneys must give all pause. So delay might be accepted. Propose commissioners to enquire. Into details. At least prevent a rushed vote. Two matters would allow reason for this. First the great rigging of the elections, making false all voting. A committee to enquire into this. Second, the amount of the moneys demanded. How such great sum was reached should be enquired into. Another committee of the convention. Delay, give time to rouse the land."
    "By God - that is a notion!" Scott of Harden, he who had suffered the £1,500 fine, exclaimed. "It might work."
    "At least it would give us something to fight for - not to be swept away on a snap vote," somebody else said.
    There was general approval, and Andrew's credit rose further. It was' decided to recommend this procedure to the Duke of Hamilton next day. Even though there was no party, as such, the Duke was accepted as the obvious leader against Lauderdale, because of his rank and their mutual hatred.
    If young Andrew Fletcher had any tendency to swelled-headedness, it was sorely tested that night by the acclaim of his elders. But what went to his head more was the unaffected praise and favour of Margaret Carnegie, who made no bones about expressing her sympathies and encouragement. Indeed, as she said farewell to the brothers at the close-mouth later, she emphasised her concern.
    "Would it be possible, Mr. Fletcher, for me to attend at Parliament House tomorrow? To watch and listen? I have heard that it can be allowed. For friends of the commissioners. It would greatly please me."
    "I wanted to go, today," Henry said. "But Andrew feared that it would not be permitted."
    "They drum out all unauthorised folk before Lauderdale comes in," Andrew explained. "But today I saw visitors remaining, at the side of the hall. Two ladies whom I knew not. But I did recognise Willie Talmash, as they call him. And he is no commissioner." Lauderdale had married as his second wife the notorious Elizabeth, Countess of Dysart in her own right, an evil influence in two kingdoms. Her first husband had been an Englishman, Sir Lionel Tollemache, and this Willie was their son, Lauderdale's step-son. "If fifteen-year-old Willie can sit through the sessions, then you can, I say!"
    "Good! Then allow me to be your escort," Henry put in quickly.
    "Delighted, sir . . . !"
    Next noonday, consequently, Andrew was in no hurry to take his seat in the Parliament Hall, being more concerned with awaiting his brother and Margaret Carnegie at the outer entrance, behind St. Giles Kirk, and then conducting them to the place where the visitors had sat the day before. They were not long settled there, however, before one of the officers of the guard came up, and peremptorily ordered their departure.
    "On whose authority, sir?" Andrew demanded, flushing.
    "On His Grace's own," the other asserted.
    "Well, I'll be damned! This, this is insufferable! I am a commissioner. And these are my guests ..." A thought occurred to him. "How does the Duke of Lauderdale know that we are here?"
    "He has been informed. And it is not permitted for such as are not commissioners to remain in the hall during sessions."
    "But - William Tollemache, a mere boy, was here yesterday. Throughout. The Duke's step-son . . ."
    "I know nothing of that. I have my orders. These are to leave, sir."
    "No! If the Duke's step-son can remain, my brother and this lady can."
    "Please, Mr. Fletcher!" Margaret Carnegie had risen. "I will go. I certainly desire no trouble, embarrassment. Say no more. I will leave . . ."
    "No - do not, I beg of you. This is a disgrace! Not to be truckled to."
    "I cannot remain. You must see that. Not now." She turned to Henry. "Will you take me out, please. I am sorry, but I must leave."
    Henry nodded.
    "Then you come back, Henry," Andrew urged. "We cannot just give in to this. A matter of principle." "Very well ..."
    The High Commissioner again

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