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Graham of Claverhouse

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That afternoon a strange thing had happened to the camp of the Prince of Orange, which was pitched near Nivelle in Brabant, for the Prince was then challenging Condé, who stuck behind his trenches at Charleroi and would not come out to fight. A dusty-colored cloud came racing along the sky so swiftly––yet there was no wind to be felt––that it was above the camp almost as soon as it was seen. When the fringes of the cloud encompassed the place, there burst forth as from its belly a whirlwind and wrought sudden devastation in a fashion none had ever seen before or could afterwards forget. With one long and fierce gust it tore up trees by the roots, unroofed the barns where the Prince’s headquarters were, sucked up tents into the air, and carried soldiers’ caps in flocks, as if they were flocks of rooks. This commotion went on for half an hour, then ceased as instantly as it began; there was calm again and the evening ended in peace, while the cloud of fury went on its way into the west, and afterwards we heard that a very grand and strong church at Utrecht had suffered greatly. As the camp was in vast disorder, both officers and men bivouacked in the open that night, and as it was inclined to chill in those autumn evenings, fires had been lit not only for the cooking of food, but for the comfort of their heat. Round one fire a group of English gentlemen had gathered, who had joined the Prince’s forces, partly because, like other men of their breed, they had an insatiable love of fighting, and partly to push their fortunes, for Englishmen in those days, and still more Scotsmen were willing to serve on any side where the pay and the risks together were certain, and under any commander who was a man of his head and hands. Europe swarmed with soldiers of fortune from Great Britain, hard bitten and fearless men, some of whom fell far from home, and were buried in unknown graves, others of whom returned to take their share in any fighting that turned up in their own country. So it came to pass that many of our Islanders had fought impartially with equal courage and interest for the French and against them, like those two Scots who met for the first time at the camp-fire that night, and whose fortunes were to the end of the chapter to be so curiously intertwined. There was Collier, who afterwards became My Lord Patmore; Rooke, who rose to be a major-general in the English army; Hales, for many years Governor of Chelsea Hospital; Venner, the son of one of Cromwell’s soldiers, who had strange notions about a fifth monarchy which was to be held by our Lord himself, but who was a good fighting man; and some others who came to nothing and left no mark. Two young Scots gentlemen were among the Englishmen, who were to have a share in making history in their own country, and both to die as generals upon the battle-field, the death they chiefly loved. Both men were to suffer more than falls to the ordinary lot, and the life of one, some part of whose story is here to be told, was nothing else but tragedy....