Finesse, Duplicity and the False Assurance of Friendship

Posted on July 29, 2016 by Cape Rebel

From Escape from Culloden
by The Chevalier de Johnstone


When daylight began to appear, I dismounted and offered my horse to Samuel as a present. I was no longer able to keep him as I needed to cross the first arm of the sea, from which we were now about four miles distant. Samuel refused to accept, however, saying that if his neighbours saw him in possession of a fine horse, they would immediately suspect that he had received it from some rebel he had assisted to escape; they would immediately inform against him, and he would in consequence be prosecuted. The horse would be the evidence against him, and he would inevitably be sentenced to be hanged.

I removed the saddle and bridle, which we threw into a draw-well, and we then drove the horse into a field some distance from the road, so that those who found him might take him for a stray. We had great difficulty in getting rid of this animal, for he followed us for some time, like a dog.

We had not walked a quarter of an hour after giving liberty to my horse when we fell in with a friend of Samuel, who questioned him a great deal as to where he was heading, the nature of his business, and who I was. Samuel answered without the least hesitation, which pleasantly surprised me after the adventure of the dog at Forfar: ‘I’m going to bring home a calf I left to winter in the Lowlands last autumn,’ he said. ‘I’m taking this young man with me out of charity, as he was without bread and he serves me for his victuals. I intend sending him back with the calf, whilst I myself go to Dundee to buy a cow with which to support my family during the summer.’

As there happened to be an alehouse nearby, the two friends agreed to have a bottle of beer together, and I was obliged to accompany them. I showed such respect for my newfound master that I did not venture to sit down beside him until he invited me. The friend of Samuel pressed me to partake of their small beer, which looked for all the world like physic, but Samuel excused me, extolling so much my sobriety and good character that his friend incessantly showed me a thousand little attentions, expressing the wish, from time to time, to find a lad like me on the same terms. I thought I perceived in him a secret desire to entice me from Samuel’s service.

After they had swallowed a considerable quantity of beer, they left the alehouse and, to my great pleasure, parted, for not only was I frequently very embarrassed at having to play the part Samuel had assigned me, I was also sick and tired of their mundane jargon. This man had scarcely left us when Samuel whispered in my ear that he was one of the greatest knaves and cheats in this part of the country, famous for his villainy; that if he had found out who I was, he would undoubtedly have betrayed me; and that the mere wish to obtain possession of my watch and purse would have been a sufficient inducement for him to have reported my presence to the authorities, and thus sent me to the gallows.

I was the more astonished at what Samuel told me as, from their conversation, which was full of assurances of mutual esteem, I had had no doubt in my mind that they entertained for each other the most sincere friendship. Having gained this insight, I greatly praised my new master for his prudence and discretion on this occasion.

Artifice, hypocrisy, and the art of deceiving, which have very improperly been called policy, are commonly supposed to be found only in the courts of princes – the only schools for learning falsehood and dissimulation. But I saw as much finesse and duplicity in the false assurance of friendship and the compliments of these two peasants while they were drinking their beer, and I was as completely duped in this case, as I later was in a conversation at which I happened to be present between two noblemen of the first rank.

One of these was my particular friend, and the other an ambassador at a court where he had promised, and where he had had it in his power if he had been so inclined, to be of essential service to my friend, then outlawed and exiled from his native country. These two personages embraced each other with an air of cordiality, said a thousand flattering things to each other, and repeatedly expressed the strongest assurances of mutual friendship; but the moment the ambassador terminated his visit and took his departure, my friend informed me that they cordially detested each other. When I reproached him with having acted a part unworthy of a man of honour and a gentleman, he replied that he had only wished to pay the ambassador in his own coin.

Nevertheless, the pantomime of these two lords – Lord Ogilvie, later the Earl of Airly, and the Duke de Mirepoix, then ambassador at the court of London – would have deceived me less, from the opinion generally entertained of the duplicity of courtiers, than that which was acted out by these two peasants.