“I have only to ask,” said he, “that you will grant me the first convenient hour for explaining; and to remind you that when I besought you not to send him into action to-day, I had no time to give you reasons.”
“This is extraordinary talk, sir. I am not used to command the Morays under advice from my subalterns. And in this instance I had reasons for not even listening to you.” He was silent. “Moreover,” I continued, “you may as well know, though I am under no obligation to tell you, that I do most certainly not regret having given that permission to one who justified it by a signal service to his king and country.”
“But would you have sent him knowing that he must die? Colonel,” he went on rapidly, before I could interrupt, “I beseech you to listen. I knew he had only a few hours to live. I saw his wraith last night. It stood behind his shoulder in the room when in Captain Murray’s presence he challenged me to fight him. You are a Highlander, sir: you may be sceptical about the second sight; but at least you must have heard many claim it. I swear positively that I saw Mr. Mackenzie’s wraith last night, and for that reason, and no other, tried to defer the meeting. To fight him, knowing he must die, seemed to me as bad as murder. Afterwards, when the alarm sounded and you took off his arrest, I knew that his fate must overtake him—that my refusal had done no good. I tried to interfere again, and you would not hear. Naturally you would not hear; and very likely, if you had, his fate would have found him in some other way. That is what I try to believe. I hope it is not selfish, sir; but the doubt tortures me.”
“Mr. Urquhart,” I asked, “is this the only occasion on which you have possessed the second sight, or had reason to think so?”
“Was it the first or only time last night you believed you were granted it?”
“It was the second time last night,” he said steadily.
We had been walking back to my bivouac fire, and in the light of it I turned and said: “I will hear your story at the first opportunity. I will not promise to believe, but I will hear and weigh it. Go now and join the others in their search.”
He saluted, and strode away into the darkness. The opportunity I promised him never came. At eleven o’clock next morning we began our withdrawal, and within twenty-four hours the battle of Waterloo had begun. In one of the most heroic feats of that day—the famous resistance of Pack’s brigade—Mr. Urquhart was among the first to fall.
Thus it happened that an affair which so nearly touched the honour of the Morays, and which had been agitating me at the very moment when the bugle sounded in the Place d’Armes, became a secret shared by three only. The regiment joined in the occupation of Paris, and did not return to Scotland until the middle of December.