John Louis Beatty:
Who Comes to King's Mountain? (Young Adult)

discussed by Janie B. Cheaney & Dr. M. M. Gilchrist

Janie: Aside from the title, it wasn't very good, but the main character is named McLeod, and a major supporting character is named Gilchrist, so I continued reading in your honor ... . The hero, Alec McLeod, is a Loyal Scot but his grandparents are Patriots because they have ugly memories of Culloden.

Doc: Does not compute... Most ex-Jacos were Loyal because they had views on royal authority that made George III look like an anarcho-syndicalist! The Jaco stuff had been a sectarian/dynastic scrap over who should rule the Empire, not whether it should exist! Most had reconciled themselves to G3 anyway, since he was the first monarch since Anne to have been born and bred in Britain, which is more than could be said for a certain wife-beating Polish-Italian dipso in Rome ("The King over the Water"? More like "The King under the Table"!) And the Jacos would surely love Pattie Ferguson - nephew of Alexander Murray the Elibank Plotter, and first cousin of Lady Ogilvy!

Janie: His fiery grandfather nurses a romantic love of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Doc: Evidently insane, then.

Janie: and his weird granny is always staring into the fire reading cryptic fortunes. She sees Alec crossing paths with a red beast and a white beast, and coming first to dark waters and then to a high place where something will happen to his left hand. Ban is the white beast (so called for his milky complexion)

Doc: It's a bilingual pun - ban means 'white' in Gaelic!

Janie: who cold-bloodedly kills Jamie Gilchrist, a Loyal volunteer and friend of Alec's to get his horse. (He wouldn't!) Alec slips pokeberry juice into the rum the green dragoons are swilling and makes them all deathly sick, including Tarleton. Pat is the red beast (because of his hair and coat--get it?) who suspects Alec's father of treachery and orders him to brained in the back of the head with a musket stock. (He WOULDN'T!) It's not quite a cold-blooded act: he figures the old man is going for his gun. Alec joins Francis Marion in the swamp (dark water) and enlists as a courier for him, in which capacity he's captured by Ferguson's men and is forced on the King's Mountain march. Neither beast appears too much in the narrative, but here's how they compare:

Alec conjured up the White Beast and the Red Beast in his mind. Milk-white Tarleton and Ferguson, red as a fox, hot as flame, and almost as quick to burn as Tarleton perhaps? In the very brief time Alec had seen Ferguson he'd sensed a feyness in him, too--not the same quicksilver sort that he felt in Jamie, but a feyness all the same. There was no blustering in Ferguson. He was a deliberate man and one who would accomplish what he set out to do.

Not too critical an assessment, except that Pat, when he does appear, is cold and distant and not at all the humorous lad we've come to know and admire. Also, during the battle he appears to come a little unglued, not in a cowardly sense but in a monomaniacal sense... going off his rocker and losing all touch with reality.

Doc: This is insulting. Since he could hear the Rebs shouting: "Give 'em Buford's play!" and "Tarleton's quarter!", he knew he and his men were probably dead meat. Better to go down fighting than bayoneted after surrendering, or kicking air at the end of a rope from the nearest tree...

Janie: Alec ends up being the youth who got the bayonet stuck through his hand, which literally pins him to the mountain and prevents him from running away to join the patriots. This leads to an unfortunate misunderstanding when the over-mountain men assume he's a spy but he's rescued at the last minute, etc. The book isn't put together too well: strings out too long in some places and bunches up in others. I modestly think I could do better, with half my wits in cold storage.

Doc: And so say all of us...!

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