The Highlanders did not long remain undisturbed in the defensive position they had adopted. Favoured by the night, one large body of dismounted dragoons attempted to force the enclosures, while another, equally strong, strove to penetrate by the highroad. Both were received by such a heavy fire as disconcerted their ranks and effectually checked their progress. Unsatisfied with the advantage thus gained, Fergus, to whose ardent spirit the approach of danger seemed to restore all its elasticity, drawing his sword and calling out ‘Claymore!’ encouraged his men, by voice and example, to break through the hedge which divided them and rush down upon the enemy. Mingling with the dismounted dragoons, they forced them, at the sword-point, to fly to the open moor, where a considerable number were cut to pieces. But the moon, which suddenly shone out, showed to the English the small number of assailants, disordered by their own success. Two squadrons of horse moving to the support of their companions, the Highlanders endeavoured to recover the enclosures. But several of them, amongst others their brave Chieftain, were cut off and surrounded before they could effect their purpose. Waverley, looking eagerly for Fergus, from whom, as well as from the retreating body of his followers, he had been separated in the darkness and tumult, saw him, with Evan Dhu and Callum, defending themselves desperately against a dozen of horsemen, who were hewing at them with their long broadswords. The moon was again at that moment totally overclouded, and Edward, in the obscurity, could neither bring aid to his friends nor discover which way lay his own road to rejoin the rear-guard. After once or twice narrowly escaping being slain or made prisoner by parties of the cavalry whom he encountered in the darkness, he at length reached an enclosure, and, clambering over it, concluded himself in safety and on the way to the Highland forces, whose pipes he heard at some distance. For Fergus hardly a hope remained, unless that he might be made prisoner Revolving his fate with sorrow and anxiety, the superstition of the Bodach Glas recurred to Edward’s recollection, and he said to himself, with internal surprise ‘What, can the devil speak truth?’ [Footnote: See Note 13.]
CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
Edward was in a most unpleasant and dangerous situation. He soon lost the sound of the bagpipes; and, what was yet more unpleasant, when, after searching long in vain and scrambling through many enclosures, he at length approached the highroad, he learned, from the unwelcome noise of kettledrums and trumpets, that the English cavalry now occupied it, and consequently were between him and the Highlanders. Precluded, therefore, from advancing in a straight direction, he resolved to avoid the English military and endeavour to join his friends by making a circuit to the left, for which a beaten path, deviating from the main road in that direction, seemed to afford facilities. The path was muddy and the night dark and cold; but even these inconveniences were hardly felt amidst the apprehensions which falling into the hands of the King’s forces reasonably excited in his bosom.