Pebble 3 — Desperate Measures

This pebble picks up where Pebble 2 left off, continuing as follows…

Rupert, Lesley and Claire listened as a familiar voice answered the Redcoat’s inquiry.

“I’m looking for our cow,” said Fergus.  “She broke out during the night and ran away.”

“And who might ‘our’ be?  Where do you live?” asked a second Redcoat.

“I live with the Murrays – at Lallybroch.”

“Lallybroch?” The second Redcoat countered.  “The Murrays?  Lallybroch is the Fraser farm.”

“Yes, it is… the mistress was a Fraser, but she’s a Murray –”

Growing impatient, the first Redcoat interrupted, “Is James Fraser there… the one known as Red Jamie?”

“Milord has not been to Lallybroch in many months.”

“Is that so?” asked the first Redcoat derisively.  “Then how is it Lord Melton dispatched me to fetch a wagon to send him home?  Badly injured, yes, but unmistakably alive.”

“Well… yes.” Fergus replied.  “But, he died from his wounds within an hour.”

In the cave, Claire collapsed at these words. Rupert and Lesley leapt to catch her before any sound of disturbance might reach the road.

Unaware of anything but the Redcoats, Fergus continued, “They were preparing to bury him in de graveyard when I was leaving to look for de cow.”

“Ah, the story changes,” said the first Redcoat, his skepticism clear.  “Well, we’ll just pay a visit to the… Murrays – and, I assure you, we’ll get the real story from them. ”

“And, you’re coming with us,” said the second.

Fergus turned his horse around to follow them. The first Redcoat scoffed.  “We’ll not chance having you take off to warn the Murrays. You’ll ride with me. The horse stays.”

Fergus reluctantly left his mount and after securing her to a large shade tree, the trio rode off in the direction of Lallybroch.  Wasting no time, Rupert scooped Claire up and carried her to the makeshift bedroom at the back of the cave.  “We’ll come back for her later. It’s best she rests here for now than trying to hide her at Lallybroch.”

Lesley nodded, fully comprehending the plan without exchanging words.  He and Rupert hurried from the cave, and Rupert untied Fergus’s horse.  “I know a shortcut,” he said, Leading the horse away from the road onto a barely discernable trail behind the cave, he mounted, and giving Lesley a hand up, urged the horse into action.


The prison wagon carrying Murtagh could be seen from a distance jolting along the countryside.  Inside, Murtagh worked the ropes that tied his hands behind him, keeping watch on the Redcoat escorts through the bars on the back.  Speaking to the prisoner nearest him, he whispered, “My hands are free.  Shift around, and I’ll untie yers.” Nodding toward the Redcoats, he cautioned, “Just take care to no attract too much attention.”

Keeping his hands hidden from view as the prisoner gave him his back, Murtagh felt for the knots and began loosening them.  In moments he was free, and the two began working to untie the rest. As they did, Murtagh quietly addressed the group.  “Unless you plan on lettin’ the Redcoats hang us all, we need to cut this ride through the countryside short. It’s takin’ a great chance, but I’ll wager it’s better than any chance they’ll give us. I ken this area well… there’s some rough ground ahead, where they’ll have to make a turn. I warn you, it’s gonna hurt. But, it canna end any worse than havin’ yer neck stretched.


Having seen their approach from an upstairs window, Ian was coming down the front steps to meet Rupert and Lesley when they arrived at Lallybroch.  Noting they rode the horse Fergus had left on, he merely gave a tense nod as they dismounted and Rupert explained. “There’s Redcoats comin’.  Fergus was tellin’ ‘em tales about poor Jamie bein’ buried in the graveyard today and they decided to check.  They’re bringin’ him with ‘em.”  Following Ian’s gaze, he added, “This is Lesley.”

“We’ve got to hide Jamie.  He’s in the bedroom upstairs.”

“He’s alive, then?” Rupert asked, his face reflecting relieved surprise.

“Aye – but he’s bad off.  Jenny’s tending him.”

The trio headed into the house, where Jenny looked down from the upstairs railing, a bloody cloth visible in her hands.  “Fergus ran into Redcoats,” he told her.

“I kent I should never have let him talk me into goin’,” she fretted,

“He’s fine,” Ian said, “But, they’re on their way.”  Rupert and Lesley hurried up the stairs, Ian’s wooden leg causing him to lag behind. Rupert continued to explain.  “Fergus told them Jamie died…”

Jenny listened as they crowded into the bedroom where Jamie lay unconscious.  “He wasna far wrong,” she replied.

“He’s lost so much blood, he’s barely been awake since they brought him here,” she continued, her eyes surveying the room as she spoke, unconsciously fumbling with the bloody cloth in her hands. Suddenly, her gaze moved from the cloth to the chest at the foot of the bed. A desperate plan began to form.

“It’s no’ big enough, she muttered, her brain spinning to work out details. Nodding decisively, she continued, “Bring the one from the boys’ room”

Grasping her meaning, the others all turned to Jenny as if she’d lost her mind. “If you have a better idea,” she challenged, speak up.”

“There’s no time to rearrange the house, Mistress,” Rupert chided.  “The Redcoats are likely close by now.”

“Then you’d best stop talkin’ and start movin’,” Jenny shot back, her brown eyes flashing.

Minutes later, with the switch completed, Jenny looked on in worried determination as Rupert and Lesley carried Jamie  from the bed and situated him on a quilt she’d arranged to cushion the bottom of the chest.  “Careful of that leg,” she admonished. It’s more delicate than a lace scarf.”

“And I thought we were trying to keep him out of a box,” Rupert quipped as they folded Jamie’s large body into the small space.  Jenny placed the inner half-tray upside down over his legs. Pulling off the bloody bedsheet, she placed this in the chest, and removing a clean one from the pile of linens in the chair, dropped the rest over it to cover his head and upper body, before deftly spreading the clean sheet on the bed.

“If Fergus told him we were burying him, they’re best be a new grave for ‘em to see,” she said tensely, as she collected all signs of Jamie’s presence and tidied the room.  Taking her cue, Ian said, “I’ll get shovels,” and began directed Rupert and Lesley out of the room.

Jenny grabbed Ian”s arm on his way by.  “Tell Mrs. Crook I need her up here, she said. Ian nodded, then joined the others in the doorway.

Casting a last glance at the chest, Rupert tossed back, “Sleep tight, Jamie.”


From inside the prison wagon, all eyes tensely watched Murtagh as the horses carried them through a stretch of road bordered by steep drop-offs leading to dense woods.  Moving almost imperceptibly, they shifted as a unit to one side of the wagon – and waited.  “Ready, boys?” Murtagh asked. Then, moments later… “NOW!

The men threw themselves with full force to the opposite side of the wagon at the sharpest point of a turn. The horses whinnied and pawed the air in confusion as the wagon broke free, toppled onto its side and flipped end over end down the slope.  The redcoats escorting from behind tried to follow, but were forced to dismount and flounder their way on foot across terrain too steep to be ridden.

Inside the wagon, men groaned and scrambled to disentangle themselves from one another, letting out curses and rubbing bruised limbs. “Quiet,” Murtagh hissed.  “Now, remember the plan.” Stealing a quick glance through the bars, he caught sight of red uniforms quickly approaching. He ducked out of sight. “Here they come.”

The rear guard Redcoats reached the wagon first. Facing their pistols inside, they peered through the bars. Seeing an unmoving pile of men, they opened the back doors and flung them wide.

Murtagh was the first out of the wagon. Quickly overpowering the nearest Redcoat, he grabbed the gun and struck him with it as the other Jacobites poured out. Two of them made quick work of the second Redcoat, and had stripped both of all weapons before the three front escorts had a chance to reach them.  With their view of what had transpired obscured by the wagon, the two closest had no time to react when shots rang from its blind side. Both fell simultaneously as the bullets hit their marks, prompting the third to duck for cover as he fumbled for his gun and fired back. His shots hit only the wagon, and he was quickly felled by a round from a lanky Jacobite.

Murtagh instructed some of the men to strip the third soldier and drag all the bodies out of sight into the woods below. Turning to the companions nearest him he said, “We’ve no seen the drivers yet. Let’s go!” Scrambling up the embankment, they kept a lookout in all directions for the remaining soldiers. Hearing a groan as they neared the top, they clutched their weapons and peered over the edge before ascending fully into the road.  The drivers lay in the opposite ditch, where they’d been thrown when the wagon broke free.   Disposing of them as they had the others, Murtagh and the men with him rejoined the rest.

“Okay, lads,” he said, approaching a horse still standing where its Redcoat rider had dismounted. “Divvy up the rest of the mounts as you see fit, and stay out of sight as you make your ways to wherever you’re fixin’ to go.”  With little plan and no part of Scotland considered safe, they hesitated a moment. Murtagh mounted and turned to leave.  Nodding toward the wagon, he growled, “Ye waitin’ to turn up in another one of those – or worse? Go!”

The men scattered as Murtagh rode away, galloping hard to reach a more level spot to leave the road and cut through the Highland countryside. Soon, he realized one of the men was following at a short distance.  Once safely into a vast area of woods, he turned around and stopped.  “I don’t remember askin’ for comp’ny,” he said, his irritation clear.   The short stocky man – the first prisoner he’d freed in the wagon — sat before him.  “I don’t have anywhere to go,” he said miserably.  “My friend Lesley and I got separated near the end of the fightin’. I was tryin’ to look for ‘im when the Redcoats took me.” Murtagh gave the man a sour look, but said nothing. The man continued, “We’d been fightin’ a pair o’ ‘em, and were holdin’ our own – ‘til I lost my footin’, and went down. Lesley was still fightin’ his and didna see me fall. By the time he looked back, there was a sword bearing down on me. I kent ’twas was the end. But just then a great strappin’ red-haired lad appeared – yellin’ and wavin’ his blades in all directions.” The man shook his head in awed reflection. “Fearsome as God’s own angel of Death he was… the way he charged in and was cutting’ Redcoats down.”

Murtagh’s ears pricked up. “Red-haired lad? D’ye ken who it was?”

“I dinna know him – but I’d seen him… with the prince, early in the day. ‘Twas one of his officers, I reckon.”

“D’ye ken what happened to him?”

“No. Everything was so confused after that… that’s when I lost track of Lesley, and was taken prisoner. Next thing I knew I was joltin’ down the road wi’ ye.”

Murtagh considered a moment, his face inscrutable.  “Ye can stick wi’ me for a bit.  A reinforcement canna hurt gi’en what we may run into.”

The man nodded, clearly grateful at not being sent off alone.  Trotting his horse alongside Murtagh’s, “M’name’s Hayes,” he offered.   Murtagh just grunted in reply, and the two set off through the forest.


Rev. Wakefield scanned the bookshelves in his study.  Not finding the title he sought, he went to his desk, picked up several volumes, checked the spines, and muttered to himself as he set each back down.

“Mrs. Graham,” he called out. Receiving no reply, he called again, “Mrs. Graham!” About to leave the room in search of his housekeeper, he heard a knock on the front door.  Before he’d moved more than a few feet, the knock came again, louder and more persistent.  Again muttering under his breath, he went to open it himself.

“Where the devil is my wife?” came the angry question, as the visitor, without waiting to be invited in, entered and strode past the Reverend.

“Frank!” uttered a stunned and confused Rev. Wakefield.  “Have you gone mad, man? Your wife disappeared over two years ago.  I haven’t heard a breath about her since.”

“Well, that’s very interesting,” Frank responded, his voice rich with sarcasm, “since a man told the police he dropped her off at your house yesterday.”

“At my house?” the Reverend echoed.  Recovering from momentary confusion, he replied adamantly, “That’s not possible.”

“Not possible.”  Brandishing a missing persons poster with Claire’s photo, he sneered, “Then how do you explain a man walking into the police station and telling them he’d just given…” he poked the poster with his finger, and raised his voice “…this woman a lift?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” the Reverend stammered.  “Perhaps he mistook the woman –”

Behind a door down the hallway, Roger, who had been listening, emerged from his hiding spot.  At the sound of his small voice, Frank and Reverend turned.

“Is that the lady with the funny clothes?”


Coming soon… Pebble 4 – What Meets The Eye

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