From Escape from Culloden
by The Chevalier de Johnstone
As there was no longer any safety for us in Glen-Prossen on account of the detachments with which we were continually being surrounded, we unanimously agreed to quit Samuel’s at three o’clock the next morning. Our plan was to return to the Highlands and to fix our abode, for the time being, among the rocks. As a result of this decision, we went to bed at eight o’clock in the evening in order to lay in a stock of sleep before our departure, as we had no hope of sleeping under a roof for some time to come.
I have never been in the habit of giving credence to stories of supernatural intervention, which seem to abound in every country and with which men are deceived from their infancy. Such stories are generally the creations of overheated imaginations, of superstitious old women, or of disordered intellects. That night, however, I had so extraordinary and so incomprehensible a dream that if any other person had related it to me, I should have treated him as a visionary. However, it was later verified to the letter, and I owe my life to the circumstance of my having been so struck with it, incredulous as I was, that I could not resist the impression it left on my mind. I dreamed that, having escaped the pursuits of my enemies and being at the end of all my troubles and sufferings, I happened to be in Edinburgh in the company of Lady Jane Douglas, sister of the Earl of Douglas. I was relating to her everything that had occurred to me since the battle of Culloden, detailing all that had taken place in our army since our retreat from Stirling, including the dangers to which I had been personally exposed in endeavouring to escape death on the scaffold.
When I awoke at six o’clock in the morning, this dream had left so strong an impression on my mind that I thought I still heard the soft voice of Lady Jane Douglas in my ears. All my senses were lulled into a state of profound calm, while I felt at the same time a serenity of soul and tranquillity of mind to which I had been a total stranger since the advent of our misfortunes. I remained in my bed, absent and buried in all manner of reflections, my head leaning on my hand and my elbow supported on my pillow, recalling all the circumstances of my dream and regretting very much that it was only a dream, but wishing to have such dreams frequently, to calm the storms and agitations that devoured my soul owing to the uncertainty of my fate. In the certainty of an inevitable punishment, one can at least resolve to face it with courage and resignation, but what situation is crueller than continual oscillation between hope and despair, a thousand times worse than death itself?
I had passed an hour in this attitude, motionless as a statue, when Samuel entered to tell me that my companions had left at three o’clock in the morning, and to tell me where in the mountains I would find them. He added that he had been twice at my bedside to awaken me before their departure but, seeing me fast asleep, could not find it in his heart to disturb me, convinced as he was of my need to rest before the fatigues I must undergo in the mountains. He advised me to rise without delay, as it was time to depart and his daughter, who would think we had all left, might not be as diligent about signalling the arrival of detachments.
I answered in a composed and serious tone: ‘Samuel, I’m going to Edinburgh.’
Poor Samuel stared at me with a foolish and astonished air, and exclaimed: ‘Excuse me, my good sir, but are you right in the head?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘my head is perfectly sound. I’m going to Edinburgh, and I leave this evening. Go and tell your daughter I’m still here, and that she must continue her usual watch and let me know if any troops arrive in Cortachie during the course of the day.’
Samuel began to tire me with his remonstrances, so I imposed silence by telling him, once and for all, that I had made up my mind, and that it was pointless to raise the subject again.