The Curse of Scotland by Alexander Campbell
A night or two previous to the battle of Culloden, three or four
gentlemen, retainers of Prince Charles, and who were residing in the
same house with him at Inverness, were amusing themselves with a game
at cards. During the evening, one of the latter suddenly disappeared,
and, though anxiously sought for, could nowhere be found. “Curse the
card!” exclaimed one of the gentlemen impatiently, after looking for
it for some time in vain—“I wish it were in the Duke of Cumberland’s
throat.” The missing card was the nine of diamonds. The gentlemen,
however, determined not to be baulked of their sport, contrived a
substitute for the lost article, and played on till bed time.
Two days after this, the battle of Culloden was fought; and, as is well
known, the insurgent army was totally defeated, and the hopes of the
unfortunate Adventurer laid prostrate for ever.
One consequence of this event was, that Inverness was thrown open to
the Royalists, and thither, accordingly, the victorious general, the
Duke of Cumberland, directed his steps after the engagement.
It was a practice of the Duke’s, on arriving at any town or village
which had been previously visited by Charles, to inquire for the
house, nay, for the very apartment and bed he had occupied, and to
take possession of them for his own use, alleging, shrewdly enough,
as a reason for this conduct, that they were sure to be the best in
the place. In conformity with this practice, the Duke, on arriving at
Inverness, inquired for the house in which Charles had stopped; and it
being pointed out to him, he immediately took up his abode in it.
On the day after the engagement, it was reported to the Duke, that a
great number of the wounded insurgents and others were still wandering,
or in concealment in the neighbourhood of the field of battle. The
ruthless general—whose naturally cruel disposition and sullen temper
seem to have been fearfully excited by the resistance he had met
with, and by the trouble it had cost him to subdue the rebellion in
Scotland—on being informed of this circumstance, gave instant orders
that a party of military should be sent out to destroy the unfortunate
men wherever they could be found.
A strong body of troops were accordingly immediately dispatched on this
sanguinary mission. But the officer in command of the party, after
proceeding some way on his dreadful errand, suddenly recollected that
he had no written authority for the horrible atrocity he was ordered to
see perpetrated, the commands of the Duke having been merely verbal.
Desirous of being better secured against any consequences which might
arise from the shocking proceeding in which he was about to be engaged,
he hastened back to Inverness, sought an audience of the Duke, and
respectfully requested him to give him his orders in writing.
“No occasion whatever,” said the Duke sternly, and somewhat irritated
at the want of confidence which the demand implied. “Do as you are
desired, sir. I’ll answer for the consequences.”
The officer, however, continued to press his request, and reiterated
his desire to be put in possession of documentary evidence that what he
was about to do was done by authority.
Impatient at his importunity, and desirous of getting quit at once
of the subject and his pertinacious visiter, the Duke hurriedly
looked about the apartment for paper on which to write the desired
order; but he could see none. While looking for the paper, however,
he accidentally turned up a corner of the carpet with his foot, and
brought to view a card which had been lying beneath it. The Duke
observing it, hastily stooped down and picked it up, exclaiming, as
he did so—“Oh, here, this will do well enough for the death-warrant
of a parcel of rebel scoundrels!” And he immediately wrote the fatal
order with a pencil on the back of the card. This card was the nine of
diamonds, the same which had been lost a few evenings before; and such
is one version, at any rate, of the tradition that has given to this
particular card the startling title of “The Curse of Scotland.”