Inverness, May 1746
The fear was like a blanket, smothering her. Having witnessed and survived the obscene terror of Culloden, Anne Farquharson Moy thought she could never be truly frightened again, yet there were times her heart pounded so violently in her chest, she thought it might explode. Her mouth was dry; her hands shook like those of a palsied old woman. The slimy stone walls of her cell seemed to be shrinking around her, closer each day, and the air was so thin and sour she had to pant to ease the pressure in her lungs. And then there were the sounds....
They were as bone-chilling and piercing as the screams that haunted her dreams day and night. She had watched the prince's army die on the blood-soaked moor at Culloden, had seen the rounds of grapeshot fired by the English ranks spray into the charging Highlanders and cut them down like the pins in a child's game of bowls. She had heard the dreadful, unimaginable agony of fathers cradling fallen sons, brothers dragging themselves on mangled limbs to die beside brothers. And she had heard their cries for mercy as the English completed the slaughter by stabbing and mutilating those wounded souls they found alive on the erstwhile field of honor.
The sounds she heard in her gaol cell were the soft, barely audible groans of a dying faith, of crushed pride, and of the utter, complete hopelessness that permeated the walls of the old stone courthouse in Inverness.
She was alone in her cell. Cumberland had called it a luxury, for there were easily a hundred half-starved men crowded into an area that normally held no more than twenty, some with festering wounds who were too weak or feverish to roll out of their own waste. An oatcake and small tin cup of water were the daily ration. Pleas and prayers went unheeded. The weak eventually grew too frail to squander their strength on such futile measures and simply died in silence. The stronger ones clung to their rage and sat huddled in dank corners, showing their defiance the only way they could: by continuing to live.
How, indeed, could they show any less courage than the tall and straight-backed Lady Anne Moy, who had spat her contempt in the porcine face of Butcher Cumberland with such magnificent defiance? He had come to the prison three times over the past six weeks offering to free her in exchange for giving king's evidence against the Jacobite leaders. All three times she had sent him away spluttering German oaths under his breath.
It was a heavy burden to carry on such slender shoulders, and Anne had come closer to accepting his offer on that third visit than she cared to admit. But he had made it in the open courtyard, below windows filled with the strained, haunted faces of the brave men who had already lost so much in a cause that had been doomed from the outset. If all she could do was give them this last shred of pride and honor to cling to, then it was little enough. It was also a sacrifice that grew pitifully smaller in importance with each day that passed, each hour that saw another rack of Jacobites hung for treason, each minute that brought the inevitability of her own death closer and closer.
Her once lustrous red hair was dull and matted with filth. Her skin was gray and the flesh had shrunk from her bones, leaving her body gaunt and always cold in spite of the spare blanket one of the kinder guards had smuggled through the bars. Deep purple smudges ringed her eyes, and her hands were stained black, her nails cracked and torn from repeatedly pulling herself up to the narrow window cut high in the cell wall.
She held one almost transparent hand up to the murky light and could not entirely stifle the sob that rose in her throat. She was so thin she could no longer wear the ring Angus had given her on their wedding day. It had fallen off one night, and she had become nearly frantic groping through the straw and filth that littered the floor until she had found it. That was the closest she had come to weeping since her arrest. The closest she had come to screaming out an oath to the devil himself if he would take her away from this place. She did not even know if Angus was alive or not.
Cumberland assured her that he was, miraculously clinging to a thread to be sure, yet Anne had no reason to believe him, certainly none to trust him. The royal toady had said himself that belly wounds were the quickest to mortify despite all the skills a surgeon could bring to bear.
Anne curled her fingers into a tight ball and pressed them against her lips.
A gleaming, fat tear squeezed between her lashes and streaked slowly down the length of her cheek to her chin. It hung there a moment, glistening like a liquefied diamond before a tremor shook it free and it dropped unnoticed among the other stains that darkened the bodice of her dress. The once lovely gown was filthy, the silk rendered colorless and torn in a dozen places. The layers of ruffled linen petticoats she had discarded after the first week of confinement now served as her bedding. Her cloak had gone to ease the fevered chills of another prisoner. Over the weeks, she had bartered her shoes, her gloves, even the tiny rosette buttons that had adorned her bodice for a taste of cheese or an extra crust of black bread.
When she had nothing left to trade, one of the Sassenach
guards had suggested other ways of earning favors, but the first time he came into her cell at night, he left doubled over, his ballocks damn near kicked into his pockets.
She had expected him to come back, with friends, but she never saw his ugly face again, and one of the men in a nearby cell whispered a reassurance that she would not. No one would ever see him again for the insult he had paid to their valiant Colonel Anne.
They did not know that the cruelest insult had already been delivered by Cumberland himself. Nor did they know it had been Anne's own blade that had pierced her husband's belly.
Excerpted from Midnight Honor by Marsha Canham. Copyright © 2001 by Marsha Canham. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.