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- The Lion of the North - 1/57 -


MY DEAR LADS,

You are nowadays called upon to acquire so great a mass of learning and information in the period of life between the ages of twelve and eighteen that it is not surprising that but little time can be spared for the study of the history of foreign nations. Most lads are, therefore, lamentably ignorant of the leading events of even the most important epochs of Continental history, although, as many of these events have exercised a marked influence upon the existing state of affairs in Europe, a knowledge of them is far more useful, and, it may be said, far more interesting than that of the comparatively petty affairs of Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes.

Prominent among such epochs is the Thirty Years' War, which arose from the determination of the Emperor of Austria to crush out Protestantism throughout Germany. Since the invasion of the Huns no struggle which has taken place in Europe has approached this in the obstinacy of the fighting and the terrible sufferings which the war inflicted upon the people at large. During these thirty years the population of Germany decreased by nearly a third, and in some of the states half the towns and two-thirds of the villages absolutely disappeared.

The story of the Thirty Years' War is too long to be treated in one volume. Fortunately it divides itself naturally into two parts. The first begins with the entry of Sweden, under her chivalrous monarch Gustavus Adolphus, upon the struggle, and terminates with his death and that of his great rival Wallenstein. This portion of the war has been treated in the present story. The second period begins at the point when France assumed the leading part in the struggle, and concluded with the peace which secured liberty of conscience to the Protestants of Germany. This period I hope to treat some day in another story, so that you may have a complete picture of the war. The military events of the present tale, the battles, sieges, and operations, are all taken from the best authorities, while for the account of the special doings of Mackay's, afterwards Munro's Scottish Regiment, I am indebted to Mr. J. Grant's Life of Sir John Hepburn.

Yours sincerely,

G. A. HENTY

CHAPTER I THE INVITATION

It was late in the afternoon in the spring of the year 1630; the hilltops of the south of Scotland were covered with masses of cloud, and a fierce wind swept the driving rain before it with such force that it was not easy to make way against it. It had been raining for three days without intermission. Every little mountain burn had become a boiling torrent, while the rivers had risen above their banks and flooded the low lands in the valleys.

The shades of evening were closing in, when a lad of some sixteen years of age stood gazing across the swollen waters of the Nith rushing past in turbid flood. He scarce seemed conscious of the pouring rain; but with his lowland bonnet pressed down over his eyes, and his plaid wrapped tightly round him, he stood on a rising hummock of ground at the edge of the flood, and looked across the stream.

"If they are not here soon," he said to himself, "they will not get across the Nith tonight. None but bold riders could do so now; but by what uncle says, Captain Hume must be that and more. Ah! here they come."

As he spoke two horsemen rode down the opposite side of the valley and halted at the water's edge. The prospect was not a pleasant one. The river was sixty or seventy feet wide, and in the centre the water swept along in a raging current.

"You cannot cross here," the boy shouted at the top of his voice. "You must go higher up where the water's deeper."

The wind swept his words away, but his gestures were understood.

"The boy is telling us to go higher up," said one of the horsemen.

"I suppose he is," the other replied; "but here is the ford. You see the road we have travelled ends here, and I can see it again on the other side. It is getting dark, and were we to cross higher up we might lose our way and get bogged; it is years since I was here. What's the boy going to do now? Show us a place for crossing?"

The lad, on seeing the hesitation of the horsemen, had run along the bank up the stream, and to their surprise, when he had gone a little more than a hundred yards he dashed into the water. For a time the water was shallow, and he waded out until he reached the edge of the regular bank of the river, and then swam out into the current.

"Go back," the horseman shouted; but his voice did not reach the swimmer, who, in a few strokes, was in the full force of the stream, and was soon lost to the sight of the horsemen among the short foaming waves of the torrent.

"The boy will be drowned," one of the horsemen said, spurring his horse up the valley; but in another minute the lad was seen breasting the calmer water just above the ford.

"You cannot cross here, Captain Hume," he said, as he approached the horsemen. "You must go nigh a mile up the river."

"Why, who are you, lad?" the horseman asked, "and how do you know my name?"

"I'm the nephew of Nigel Graheme. Seeing how deep the floods were I came out to show you the way, for the best horse in the world could not swim the Nith here now."

"But this is the ford," Captain Hume said.

"Yes, this is the ford in dry weather. The bottom here is hard rock and easy to ride over when the river is but waist deep, but below and above this place it is covered with great boulders. The water is six feet deep here now, and the horses would be carried down among the rocks, and would never get across. A mile up the river is always deep, and though the current is strong there is nothing to prevent a bold horseman from swimming across."

"I thank you heartily, young sir," Captain Hume said. "I can see how broken is the surface of the water, and doubt not that it would have fared hard with us had we attempted to swim across here. In faith, Munro, we have had a narrow escape."

"Ay, indeed," the other agreed. "It would have been hard if you and I, after going through all the battlefields of the Low Countries, should have been drowned here together in a Scottish burn. Your young friend is a gallant lad and a good swimmer, for in truth it was no light task to swim that torrent with the water almost as cold as ice."

"Now, sirs, will you please to ride on," the boy said; "it is getting dark fast, and the sooner we are across the better."

So saying he went off at a fast run, the horses trotting behind him. A mile above he reached the spot he had spoken of. The river was narrower here, and the stream was running with great rapidity, swirling and heaving as it went, but with a smooth even surface.

"Two hundred yards farther up," the boy said, "is the beginning of the deep; if you take the water there you will get across so as to climb up by that sloping bank just opposite."

He led the way to the spot he indicated, and then plunged into the stream, swimming quietly and steadily across, and allowing the stream to drift him down.

The horsemen followed his example. They had swum many a swollen river, and although their horses snorted and plunged at first, they soon quieted down and swam steadily over. They just struck the spot which the boy had indicated. He had already arrived there, and, without a word, trotted forward.

It was soon dark, and the horsemen were obliged to keep close to his heels to see his figure. It was as much as they could do to keep up with him, for the ground was rough and broken, sometimes swampy, sometimes strewn with boulders.

"It is well we have a guide," Colonel Munro said to his companion; "for assuredly, even had we got safely across the stream, we should never have found our way across such a country as this. Scotland is a fine country, Hume, a grand country, and we are all proud of it, you know, but for campaigning, give me the plains of Germany; while, as for your weather here, it is only fit for a water rat."

Hume laughed at this outburst.

"I sha'n't be sorry, Munro, for a change of dry clothes and a corner by a fire; but we must be nearly there now if I remember right. Graheme's hold is about three miles from the Nith."

The boy presently gave a loud shout, and a minute later lights were seen ahead, and in two or three minutes the horsemen drew up at a door beside which two men were standing with torches; another strolled out as they stopped.

"Welcome, Hume! I am glad indeed to see you; and -- ah! is it you, Munro? it is long indeed since we met."

"That is it, Graheme; it is twelve years since we were students together at St. Andrews."

"I did not think you would have come on such a night," Graheme said.

"I doubt that we should have come tonight, or any other night, Nigel, if it had not been that that brave boy who calls you uncle swam across the Nith to show us the best way to cross. It was a gallant deed, and I consider we owe him our lives."

"It would have gone hard with you, indeed, had you tried to swim the Nith at the ford; had I not made so sure you would not come I would have sent a man down there. I missed Malcolm after dinner, and wondered what had become of him. But come in and get your wet


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