James VI and the Gowrie Mystery
by Andrew Lang
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As to this secrecy, we must remember that Gowrie was very young; that in Italy he may have heard or read of romantic and crafty plots; and may long have dreamed (as Robert Oliphant's reported allegation declared) of some such scheme as that in which he failed. We must remember, too, that James's own account at least suggests a plan quite feasible. To bring James to Gowrie House, early in the day, when the townsmen were at kirk, to bring him with only three or four attendants, then to isolate him and carry him off, was far from impossible; they might hurry him, disguised, to Dirleton, a castle garrisoned and provisioned, according to Carey, who reports the version of Gowrie's friends. A Scottish judge, Gibson (the ancestor of Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael), was later carried from Leith Sands across the Border, with perfect success. A fault of the plan was that, once undertaken, it could not be dropped, even though James came late and well attended. Ruthven could not tell the King that his story about a captive and a pot of gold was false. To do that would have subjected him to a charge of treason. He could have only one motive for thus deceiving his Majesty. Thus the plot had to go on, even under circumstances very unfavourable. There was no place for repentance.

Thus considered, the conspiracy looks like the plot of a romance, not without meritorious points, but painfully amateurish.

As proof of Gowrie's guilt, the evidence, I think, distinctly proves that he intentionally concealed from those about him the ride of his brother, Henderson, and Andrew Ruthven to Perth; that he concealed his knowledge, derived from Henderson, of the King's approach; and that Ruthven concealed from Craigengelt, on his return, his long ride to Falkland, saying that he had been on 'an errand not far off.' Moncrieff swore that Henderson gave him a similar answer. Asked by Moncrieff where he had been, he said 'he had been two or three miles above the town.' Henderson corroborated Moncrieff's evidence on this point. There can have been no innocent motive for all this secrecy. It would have been natural for Gowrie to order luncheon for the King to be prepared, as soon as Henderson arrived.

Finally, the Earl's assertions that James had ridden away, assertions repeated after he had gone upstairs to inquire and make sure, are absolutely incompatible with innocence. They could have only one motive, to induce the courtiers to ride off and leave the King in his hands.

What was to happen next? Who can guess at the plot of such a plotter? It is perhaps least improbable that the King was to be conveyed secretly, by sea or across Fife, to Dirleton in the first place. Gowrie may have had an understanding with Guevara at Berwick. James himself told Nicholson that a large English ship had hovered off the coast, refusing communication with the shore. Bothwell, again, now desperate, may have lately been nearer home than was known; finally, Fastcastle, the isolated eyrie on its perpendicular rock above the Northern Sea, may have been at Gowrie's disposal. I am disinclined to conjecture, being only certain that a young man with Gowrie's past—'Italianate,' and of dubious religion—was more apt to form a wild and daring plot than was his canny senior, the King of Scots. But that a plot of some kind Gowrie had laid, I am convinced by his secrecy, and by his falsehoods as to the King's departure. Among the traps for the King contrived by Bothwell and Colville, and reported by Colville to his English paymasters, were schemes quite as wild as that which Gowrie probably entertained. The King once in the pious hands of so godly a man as Gowrie, the party of the Kirk, or the party of the Church, would have come in and made themselves useful. {147}


We now arrive at an extraordinary sequel of the Gowrie mystery: a sequel in which some critics have seen final and documentary proof of the guilt of the Ruthvens. Others have remarked only a squalid intrigue, whereby James's ministers threw additional disgrace on their master. That they succeeded in disgracing themselves, we shall make only too apparent, but if the evidence which they handled proves nothing against the Ruthvens, it does not on that account invalidate the inferences which we have drawn as to their conspiracy. We come to the story of the Laird and the country writer.

That we may know the Laird better, a brief description of his home may be introduced. Within a mile and a half of the east end of Princes Street, Edinburgh, lies, on the left of the railway to the south, a squalid suburb. You drive or walk on a dirty road, north-eastwards, through unambitious shops, factories, tall chimneys, flaming advertisements, and houses for artisans. The road climbs a hill, and you begin to find, on each side of you, walls of ancient construction, and traces of great old doorways, now condemned. On the left are ploughed fields, and even clumps of trees with blackened trunks. Grimy are the stacks of corn in the farmyard to the left, at the crest of the hill. On the right, a gateway gives on a short avenue which leads to a substantial modern house. Having reached this point in my pilgrimage, I met a gentleman who occupies the house, and asked if I might be permitted to view the site. The other, with much courtesy, took me up to the house, of which only the portion in view from the road was modern. Facing the west all was of the old Scottish chateau style, with gables, narrow windows, and a strange bulky chimney on the north, bulging out of the wall. The west side of the house stood on the very brink of a steep precipice, beneath which lay what is now but a large deep waterhole, but, at the period of the Gowrie conspiracy, was a loch fringed with water weeds, and a haunt of wild fowl. By this loch, Restalrig Loch, the witch more than three centuries ago met the ghost of Tam Reid, who fell in Pinkie fight, and by the ghost was initiated into the magic which brought her to the stake.

I scrambled over a low wall with a deep drop, and descended the cliff so as to get a view of the ancient chateau that faces the setting sun. Beyond the loch was a muddy field, then rows on rows of ugly advertisements, then lines of 'smoky dwarf houses,' and, above these, clear against a sky of March was the leonine profile of Arthur's Seat. Steam rose and trailed from the shrieking southward trains between the loch and the mountain, old and new were oddly met, for the chateau was the home of an ancient race, the Logans of Restalrig, ancestors of that last Laird with whom our story has to do. Their rich lands stretched far and wide; their huge dovecot stands, sturdy as a little pyramid, in a field to the north, towards the firth. They had privileges over Leith Harbour which must have been very valuable: they were of Royal descent, through a marriage of a Logan with a daughter of Robert II. But their glory was in their ancestor, Sir Robert Logan, who fell where the good Lord James of Douglas died, charging the Saracens on a field of Spain, and following the heart of Bruce. So Barbour sings, and to be named by Barbour, for a deed and a death so chivalrous, is honour enough.

[Picture: Restalrig House]

[Picture: Restalrig Village]

The Logans flourished in their eyrie above the Loch of Restalrig, and intermarried with the best houses, Sinclairs, Ogilvys, Homes, and Ramsays of Dalhousie. It may be that some of them sleep under the muddy floor of St. Triduana's Chapel, in the village of Restalrig, at the foot of the hill on the eastern side of their old chateau. This village, surrounded by factories, is apparently just what it used to be in the days of James VI. The low thick-walled houses with fore-stairs, retain their ancient, high-pitched, red-tiled roofs, with dormer windows, and turn their tall narrow gables to the irregular street. 'A mile frae Embro town,' you find yourself going back three hundred years in time. On the right hand of the road, walking eastward, what looks like a huge green mound is visible above a high ancient wall. This is all that is left of St. Triduana's Chapel, and she was a saint who came from Achaia with St. Regulus, the mythical founder of St. Andrews. She died at Restalrig on October 8, 510, and may have converted the Celts, who then dwelt in a crannog in the loch; at all events we hear that, in a very dry summer, the timbers of a crannog were found in the sandy deposit of the lake margin. The chapel (or chapter-house?), very dirty and disgracefully neglected, has probably a crypt under it, and certainly possesses a beautiful groined roof, springing from a single short pillar in the centre. The windows are blocked up with stones, the exterior is a mere mound of grass like a sepulchral tumulus. On the floor lies, broken, the gravestone of a Lady Restalrig who died in 1526. Outside is a patched-up church; the General Assembly of 1560 decreed that the church should be destroyed as 'a monument of idolatry' (it was a collegiate church, with a dean, and prebendaries), and in 1571 the wrought stones were used to build a new gate inside the Netherbow Port. The whole edifice was not destroyed, but was patched up, in 1836, into a Presbyterian place of worship. This old village and kirk made up 'Restalrig Town,' a place occupied by the English during the siege of Leith in 1560. So much of history may be found in this odd corner, where the sexton of the kirk speaks to the visitor about 'the Great Logan,' meaning that Laird who now comes into the sequel of the Gowrie mystery.

For some thirty years before the date of which we are speaking, a Robert Logan had been laird of Restalrig, and of the estate of Flemington, in Berwickshire, where his residence was the house of Gunnisgreen, near Eyemouth, on the Berwickshire coast. He must have been a young boy when, in 1560, the English forces besieging Leith (then held by the French for Mary of Guise) pitched their camp at Restalrig.

In 1573, Kirkcaldy of Grange and Maitland of Lethington gallantly held the last strength of the captive Mary Stuart, the Castle of Edinburgh. The fortress was to fall under the guns of the English allies of that Earl of Gowrie (then Lord Ruthven), who was the father of the Gowrie of our mystery.

On April 17, 1573, a compact was made between Lord Ruthven and Drury, the English general. One provision was (the rest do not here concern us) that Alexander, Lord Home; Lethington; and Robert Logan of Restalrig, if captured, 'shall be reserved to be justified by the laws of Scotland,' which means, hanged by the neck. But neither on that nor on any other occasion was our Logan hanged. {152} He somehow escaped death and forfeiture, when Kirkcaldy was gibbeted after the fall of the castle. In 1577, we find him, with Lord Lindsay and Mowbray of Barnbogle (now Dalmeny) surety for Queen Mary's half-brother, the Lord Robert Stewart, who vainly warned Darnley to escape from Kirk o' Field. Lord Robert was then confined by the Regent Morton in Linlithgow, and Logan with the rest was surety in 10,000l. that he would not attempt to escape. Later, Logan was again surety that Lord Robert would return after visiting his dominions, the Orkney Islands. {153}

Logan, though something of a pirate, was clearly a man of substance and of a good house, which he strengthened by alliances. One of his wives, Elizabeth Macgill, was the daughter of the Laird of Cranstoun Riddell, and one of her family was a member of the Privy Council. From Elizabeth Logan was divorced; she was, apparently, the mother of his eldest son, Robert. By the marriage of an ancestor of Logan's with an heiress of the family of Hume, he acquired the fortress and lands of Fastcastle, near St. Abbs, on the Berwickshire coast. The castle, now in ruins, is the model of Wolfscrag in 'The Bride of Lammermoor.' Standing on the actual verge of a perpendicular cliff above the sea, whence it is said to have been approached by a staircase cut in the living rock, it was all but inaccessible, and was strongly fortified. Though commanded by the still higher cliff to the south, under which it nestled on its narrow plateau of rock, Fastcastle was then practically impregnable, and twenty men could have held it against all Scotland. Around it was, and is, a roadless waste of bent and dune, from which it was severed by a narrow rib of rock jutting seawards, the ridge being cut by a cavity which was spanned by a drawbridge. Master of this inaccessible eyrie, Logan was most serviceable to the plotters of these troubled times.

His religion was doubtful, his phraseology could glide into Presbyterian cant, but we know that he indifferently lent the shelter of his fastness to the Protestant firebrand, wild Frank Stewart, Earl of Bothwell (who, like Carey writing from Berwick to Cecil, reckons Logan among Catholics), or to George Ker, the Catholic intriguer with Spain. Logan loved a plot for its own sake, as well as for chances of booty and promotion. He was a hard drinker, and associate of rough yeomen and lairds like Ninian Chirnside of Whitsumlaws (Bothwell's emissary to the wizard, Richard Graham), yet a man of ancient family and high connections. He seems to have been intimate with the family of Sir John Cranstoun of Cranstoun. On one occasion he informs Archibald Douglas, the detested and infamous murderer and deeply dyed traitor, that 'John of Cranstoun is the one man now that bears you best good will.' (January 1587?)

[Picture: Fastcastle (circ. 1820)]

In January 1600, the year of the Gowrie plot, we find Sir John Cranstoun in trouble for harbouring an outlawed Mr. Thomas Cranstoun, who was, with Douglas, the Laird of Spot, one of Bothwell's allies in all his most desperate raids on the person of King James. In 1592, Mr. Thomas Cranstoun was forfeited, he was informed against for 'new conspiracies against his Majesty's life and estate,' and, in January 1600, Sir John Cranstoun was sheltering this dangerous and desperate Bothwellian outlaw, as was his son-in law, Mr. William Cranstoun. {155a}

Now the Mr. Thomas Cranstoun who was hanged for his part in the Gowrie affair, was brother of Sir John Cranstoun of Cranstoun, the ally of that other Mr. Thomas Cranstoun who was so deep in Bothwell's wild raids on the King's person. In the spring of 1600 (as we have said, but must here repeat) there were reports that Bothwell had secretly returned to Scotland, and, on April 20, 1600, just before the date of Gowrie's arrival in Edinburgh from London, Nicholson reports suspected plots of Archibald Douglas, of John Colville, a ruined Bothwellian, and a spy, and of the Laird of Spot. {155b} This Colville had recently hinted to Essex that he could do a serviceable enterprise. 'As for the service I mean to do, if matters go to the worst, it shall be such, God willing—if I lose not my life in doing thereof—as no other can do with a million of gold, and yet I shall not exceed the bonds of humanity,' that is, he will not murder the King. 'But for conscience sake and worldly honesty, I must first be absolved of my natural allegiance.' (April 27, 1598; again, October 20, 1598.) {156}

The point for us to mark is that all these conspirators and violent men, Bothwell (in exile or secretly in Scotland), Colville (in 1600 an exile in Paris), the Laird of Spot, the Cranstouns, the infamous Archibald Douglas, with Richard Douglas his nephew, and Logan of Restalrig, were united, if not by real friendship, at least, as Thucydides says, by 'partnership in desperate enterprises' and by 1600 were active in a subterranean way. If it is fair to say, noscitur a sociis, 'a man is known by the company he keeps,' Logan of Restalrig bears the mark of the secret conspirator. He had relations with persons more distinguished than his Chirnsides and Whittingham Douglases, though they were of near kin to the Earl of Morton. His mother, a daughter of Lord Gray, married Lord Home, after the death of Logan's father. The Laird of Restalrig was thus a half-brother of the new Lord Home, a Warden of the Border, and also was first cousin of the beautiful, accomplished, and infamous Master of Gray, the double spy of England and of Rome.

Logan, too, like the Master, had diplomatic ambitions. In 1586 (July 29) we find him corresponding with the infamous Archibald Douglas, one of Darnley's murderers, whom James had sent, in the crisis of his mother's fate, as his ambassador to Elizabeth. In 1586, Logan, with two other Logans, was on the packed jury which acquitted Douglas of Darnley's murder. Logan was a retainer of Bothwell, that meteor-like adventurer and king-catcher, and he asks Douglas to try to procure him employment (of course as a spy) from Walsingham, the English statesman. {157}

In October of the same year, we find the Master of Gray writing to Douglas, thus: 'Of late I was forced, at Restalrig's suit, to pawn some of my plate, and the best jewel I had, to get him money for his marriage'—his second marriage, apparently. By December 1586 we find Logan riding to London, as part of the suite of the Master of Gray, who was to plead with Elizabeth for Mary's life. He was the Master's most intimate confidant, and, as such, in February-March 1587, proposed to sell all his secrets to Walsingham! Nevertheless, when Gray was driven into exile, later in 1587, Logan was one of his 'cautioners,' or sureties. He had been of the party of Gowrie's father, during that nobleman's brief tenure of power in 1582, 1583, and, when Gowrie fell, Logan was ordered to hand his eyrie of Fastcastle over, at six hours' notice, to the officers of the King. Through the stormy years of Bothwell's repeated raids on James (1592-1594) Logan had been his partisan, and had been denounced a rebel. Later he appears in trouble for highway robbery committed by his retainers. Among the diversions of this country gentleman was flat burglary. In December 1593, 'when nichts are lang and mirk,' the Laird helped himself to the plate-chest of William Nesbit of Newton. 'Under silence of night he took spuilzie of certain gold and silver to the value of three thousand merks Scots.' The executors of Nesbit did not bring their action till after Logan died, in July 1606, 'in respect the said clandestine deed and fact came not to our knowledge, nor light as to who had committed the same,' till just before the action was brought.

In 1599, when conspiracies were in the air, Logan was bound over not to put Fastcastle in the hands of his Majesty's enemies and rebels. {158}

This brief sketch of a turbulent life is derived from Logan's own letters to Archibald Douglas, now among the Cecil Papers at Hatfield; from the 'Papers relating to the Master of Gray,' in which we find Logan, under a cypher name, betraying the Master, his cousin and ally, and from the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, in which all that dead world, from the King to the crofter, may be traced, often in circumstances peculiarly private.

At that time, civil processes of 'horning,' 'putting to the horn,' or outlawry, were the common resort of creditors against procrastinating debtors. Many of the most respectable persons, gentlemen and ladies, appear in these suits; Robert Abercromby sues a lady of rank for 150l. Scots. He is the burgess of Edinburgh, the King's saddler, who, as the Master of Ruthven told Craigengelt, had brought the King from Falkland to Perth, 'to take order for his debt.' Now the singular thing is that we never find Logan of Restalrig recorded as under 'horning' for debt, whereas, considering his character, we might expect him never to be free from 'the horn.' On the other hand, we know him to have been a lender, not a borrower. He was sui profusus. On January 1, 1599, Cecil had been making inquiries as to Logan, from Lord Willoughby commanding at Berwick. Cecil always had his eyes on Border Scots, likely to be useful in troubling King James. Willoughby replies, 'There is sutch a laird of Lesterigge as you write of, a vain lose man, a greate favourer of thefes reputed, yet a man of a good clan, as they here tearme it, and a gud felow.' {159}

Such was Logan of Restalrig, 'Old Rugged and Dangerous.' In 1601, May 30, we find him appearing as surety for Philip Mowbray, one of the Mowbrays of Barnbogle, whose sister stood by Queen Mary at the scaffold, and whose brother Francis was with the bold Buccleuch, when he swam 'that wan water' of Esk, and rescued Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Castle. This Francis Mowbray and his brother Philip were (1601-1603) mixed up with Cecil in some inscrutable spy-work, and intrigues for the murder of King James. The Mowbrays were old friends of Logan: they had been engaged in privateering enterprises together, but could produce no letters of marque! In 1603, Francis Mowbray, abandoned and extradited by Cecil, was killed in an attempt to escape from Edinburgh Castle. He had been accused, by an Italian fencing-master, of a conspiracy to kill James. Cecil had, of course, by this time made peace and alliance with James, who was on the point of ascending the English throne, and he gave up Francis. Mowbray challenged the Italian fencing-master to judicial combat; the Italian came down to fight him, the lists were actually pitched at Holyrood, when (January 31, 1603) Francis preferred to try the chance of flight; the rope of knotted sheet to which he trusted broke, and he was dashed to pieces on the Castle rocks. {160a}

Since 1592, Mowbray had been corresponding with Logan's friend, Archibald Douglas, and offering his services to Cecil. To Cecil, in September 1600, he was again applying, regarding Elizabeth as his debtor. In 1600, he was in touch with Henry Locke, who had been Cecil's go-between in his darkest intrigues against James, and his agent with Bothwell, Atholl, and the Gowrie slain on August 5, 1600. But, in the autumn of 1602, Cecil had become the secret ally of James, and gave up poor Francis, a broken tool of his and of Elizabeth's. {160b}

We have now learned a good deal about Logan's habitual associates, and we have merely glanced at a few of the numberless plots against James which were encouraged by the English Government. If James was nervously apprehensive of treason, he had good cause. But of Logan at the moment of the Gowrie Plot, we know nothing from public documents. We do know, however, on evidence which has previously been in part unpublished, in part unobserved, that from August 1600 onwards, Logan was oddly excited and restless. Though not in debt—or at least though no record of his 'horning' exists—he took to selling his lands, Restalrig, Flemington, Gunnisgreen, Fastcastle. {161} After 1600 he sold them all; he wallowed in drink; he made his wife wretched; with his eldest son he was on ill terms; he wandered to London, and to France in 1605, and he returned to die (of plague, it seems) in the Canongate, a landless but a monied man, in July 1606.

Why did Logan sell all his lands, investing in shipping property? The natural inference, at the time, was that he had been engaged in 'some ill turn,' some mysterious conspiracy, and people probably (certainly, if we believe the evidence to follow) thought that he had been an accomplice in the Gowrie affair.

He died, and his children by his first wives dissociated themselves from his executorship. The bulk of it was the unpaid part of the purchase money for his lands, sold by him to Balmerino, and Dunbar, James's trusted ministers, who owed some 33,000 marks to the estate.

Logan had a 'doer,' or law agent, a country writer, or notary, named Sprot, who dwelt at Eyemouth, a hungry creature, who did not even own a horse. When Logan rode to Edinburgh, Sprot walked thither to join him. Yet the two were boon companions; Sprot was always loitering and watching at Gunnisgreen, always a guest at the great Christmas festivals, given by the Laird to his rough neighbours. The death of Logan was a disaster to Sprot, and to all the parasites of the Laird.

Logan died, we saw, in July 1606. In April, 1608, Sprot was arrested by a legal official, named Watty Doig. He had been blabbing in his cups, it is said, about the Gowrie affair; certainly most compromising documents, apparently in Logan's hand, and with his signature, were found on Sprot's person. They still bear the worn softened look of papers carried for long in the pockets. {162} Sprot was examined, and confessed that he knew beforehand of the Gowrie conspiracy, and that the documents in his possession were written by Logan to Gowrie and other plotters. He was tortured and in part recanted; Logan, he said, had not written the guilty letters: he himself had forged them. This was all before July 5, 1608, while Mr. Robert Oliphant lay in prison, in London, on the same charge of guilty foreknowledge. Early in July 1608, the Earl of Dunbar came from London to Edinburgh, to deal with the affairs of the Kirk. He took Sprot out of his dungeon, gave him a more wholesome chamber, secluded him from gentlemen who came and threatened him (or so he said) if he made revelations, and Dunbar provided him with medical attendance. The wounds inflicted in 'the boot' were healed.

For six weeks Sprot was frequently examined, before members of the Privy Council and others, without torture. What he said the public did not know, nor, till now, have historians been better informed. Throughout, after July 5, 1608, he persisted in declaring Logan's complicity in the Gowrie conspiracy, and his own foreknowledge. He was tried, solely on the evidence of guilty foreknowledge alleged in his own confessions, and of extracts, given by him from memory only, of a letter from Gowrie to Logan (not one of those which he claimed to have forged), and another of Logan to Gowrie, both of July 1600. On August 12, Sprot was hanged at Edinburgh. He repeated his confession of guilt from every corner of the scaffold. He uttered a long religious speech of contrition. Once, he said, he had been nearly drowned: but God preserved him for this great day of confession and repentance. But 'no unbeliever in the guilt of Gowrie,' says Calderwood, 'was one whit the more convinced.' Of course not, nor would the death of Henderson—which they clamoured for—have convinced them. They said, falsely, that Sprot was really condemned as a forger, and, having to die, took oath to his guilt in the Gowrie conspiracy, in consideration of promises of help to his wife and family. {164}

Nearly a year later, in June 1609, the exhumed remains of Logan were brought into court (a regular practice in the case of dead traitors), and were tried for treason. Five letters by Logan, of July 1600, were now produced. Three were from Logan to conspirators unnamed and unknown. One was to a retainer and messenger of his, Laird Bower, who had died in January 1606. These letters were declared, by several honourable witnesses, to be in Logan's very unusual handwriting and orthography: they were compared with many genuine letters of his, and no difference was found. The Parliamentary Committee, 'The Lords of the Articles,' previously sceptical, were convinced by the five letters, the evidence to handwriting, the energy of the Earl of Dunbar, and the eloquence of the King's Advocate. Logan's children were all forfeited, and Dunbar saved the money which he owed to Logan's estate. This trial is not alluded to, either by Calderwood or Archbishop Spottiswoode, in their histories. The five letters produced in the trial of Logan exist, and have been accepted as authentic by Mr. Tytler and Mr. Hill Burton, but not by writers who favour the Ruthvens. We print all five letters in Appendix C.

Meanwhile what had Sprot really said, under private examination, between July 5 and August 12, 1608, when he was executed?

This question is to be answered, from the hitherto unpublished records, in the following chapters. But, in common charity, the reader must be warned that the exposition is inevitably puzzling and complex. Sprot, under examination, lied often, lied variously, and, perhaps, lied to the last. Moreover much, indeed everything, depends here on exact dates, and Sprot's are loose, as was natural in the circumstances, the events of which he spoke being so remote in time.

Consequently the results of criticism of his confession may here be stated with brevity. The persevering student, the reader interested in odd pictures of domestic life, and in strange human characters may read on at his own peril. But the actual grains of fact, extracted from tons of falsehood, may be set down in very few words.

The genuine and hitherto unknown confessions of Sprot add no absolute certainty as to the existence of a Gowrie conspiracy. His words, when uncorroborated, can have no weight with a jury. He confessed that all the alleged Logan papers which, up to two days before his death, were in possession of the Privy Council, were forgeries by himself. But, on August 10, he announced that he had possessed one genuine letter of Logan to Gowrie (dated July 29, 1600). That letter (our Letter IV) or a forged copy was then found in his repositories. Expert evidence, however, decides that this document, like all the others, is in a specious imitation of Logan's hand, but that it has other characteristics of Sprot's own hand, and was penned by Sprot himself. Why he kept it back so long, why he declared that it alone was genuine, we do not know. That it is genuine, in substance, and was copied by Sprot from a real letter of Logan's in an imitation of Logan's hand, and that, if so, it proves Logan's accession to the conspiracy, is my own private opinion. But that opinion is based on mere literary considerations, on what is called 'internal evidence,' and is, therefore, purely a matter of subjective impression, like one's idea of the possible share of Shakespeare in a play mainly by Fletcher or another. Evidence of this kind is not historical evidence. It follows that the whole affair of Sprot, and of the alleged Logan letters, adds nothing certain to the reasons for believing that there was a Gowrie conspiracy. As far as Sprot and his documents are concerned, we know that all, as they stand, are pure fictitious counterfeits by that unhappy man, while, as to whether one letter (IV) and perhaps another (I) are genuine in substance, every reader must form his own opinion, on literary grounds, and no opinion is of much value. Such is a brief summary of the facts. But the tenacious inquirer who can follow us through the tangled mazes of Sprot's private confessions, will perhaps agree with me that they contain distinguishable grains of fact, raising a strong surmise that Logan was really involved with Gowrie in a plot. Yet this, again, is a subjective impression, which may vary with each reader.


The final and deepest mystery of the mysterious Gowrie affair rises, like a mist from a marsh, out of these facts concerning Sprot. When he was convicted, and hanged, persisting in his confessions, on August 12, 1608, no letters by Gowrie, or any other conspirator, were produced in Court. Extracts, however, of a letter from Gowrie to Logan, and of one from Logan to Gowrie, were quoted in Sprot's formal Indictment. They were also quoted in an official publication, an account of Sprot's case, prepared by Sir William Hart, the Chief Justice, and issued in 1608. Both these documents (to which we return) are given by Mr. Pitcairn, in the second volume of his 'Criminal Trials.' But later, when the dead Logan was tried in 1609, five of his alleged plot letters (never publicly mentioned in Sprot's trial) were produced by the prosecution, and not one of these was identical with the letter of Logan cited in the Indictment of Sprot, and in the official account of his trial. There were strong resemblances between Logan's letter, quoted but not produced, in 1608, and a letter of Logan's produced, and attested to be in his handwriting, in 1609. But there were also remarkable variations.

Of these undeniable facts most modern historians who were convinced of the guilt of the Ruthvens take no notice; though the inexplicable discrepancies between the Logan letters quoted in 1608, and the letters produced as his in 1609, had always been matters of comment and criticism.

As to the letters of 1609, Mr. Tytler wrote, 'their import cannot be mistaken; their authenticity has never been questioned; they still exist . . . ' Now assuredly the letters exist. The five alleged originals were found by Mr. Pitcairn, among the Warrants of Parliament, in the General Register House, in Edinburgh, and were published by him, but without their endorsements, in his 'Criminal Trials' in Scotland. (1832). {169} Copies of the letters are also 'bookit,' or engrossed, in the Records of Parliament. These 'bookit' transcripts were made carelessly, and the old copyist was puzzled by the handwriting and orthography of the alleged originals before him. The controversy about the genuineness of the five letters took new shapes after Mr. Pitcairn discovered those apparently in Logan's hand, and printed them in 1832. Mr. Hill Burton accepts them with no hint of doubt, and if Mr. Tytler was the most learned and impartial, Mr. Hill Burton was the most sceptical of our historians. Yet on this point of authenticity these historians were too hasty. The authenticity of the letters (except one, No. IV) was denied by the very man, Sprot, in whose possession most of them were originally found. {170} The evidence of his denial has been extant ever since Calderwood wrote, who tells us, clearly on the authority of an older and anonymous History in MS. (now in the Advocates' Library), that Sprot, when first taken (April 13-19, 1608), accused Logan of writing the letters, but withdrew the charge under torture, and finally, when kindly treated by Lord Dunbar, and healed of his wounds, declared that he himself had forged all the Logan letters (save one). Yet Logan was, to Sprot's certain knowledge (so Sprot persistently declared), involved in the Gowrie conspiracy.

Now assuredly this appeared to be an incredible assertion of Calderwood, or of his MS. source. He was a stern Presbyterian, an enemy of the King (who banished him), and an intimate friend of the Cranstoun family, who, in 1600, were closely connected with conspirators of their name. Thus prejudiced, Calderwood was believed by Mr. Pitcairn to have made an untrue or confused statement. Logan is in a plot; Sprot knows it, and yet Sprot forges letters to prove Logan's guilt, and these letters, found in Sprot's possession, prove his own guilty knowledge. There seems no sense in such behaviour. It might have been guessed that Sprot knew of Logan's guilt, but had no documentary evidence of it, and therefore forged evidence for the purpose of extorting blackmail from Logan. But, by 1608, when Sprot was arrested with some of the documents in his pocket, Logan had been dead for nearly two years.

The guess, that Sprot knew of Logan's treason, but forged the proof of it, for purposes of blackmailing him, was not made by historians. The guess was getting 'warm,' as children say in their game, was very near the truth, but it was not put forward by criticism. Historians, in fact, knew that Logan would not have stood an attempt at extortion. He was not that kind of man. In 1594, he made a contract with Napier of Merchistoun, the inventor of Logarithms. Tradition declared that there was a hoard of gold in 'the place of Fastcastle.' Napier was to discover it (probably by the Divining Rod), and Logan was to give him a third of the profits. But Napier, knowing his man, inserted a clause in the deed, to the effect that, after finding the gold, he was to be allowed a free exit from Fastcastle. Whether he found the hoard or not, we do not know. But, two years later, in letting a portion of his property, Napier introduced the condition that his tenant should never sublet it to any person of the name of Logan! If he found the gold he probably was not allowed to carry off his third share. Logan being a resolute character of this kind, Sprot, a cowering creature, would not forge letters to blackmail him. He would have been invited to dine at Fastcastle. The cliffs are steep, the sea is deep, and tells no tales.

Thus where was Sprot's motive for forging letters in Logan's hand, and incriminating the Laird of Restalrig, and for carrying them about in his pocket in 1608? But where was his motive for confessing when taken and examined that he did forge the letters, if his confession was untrue, while swearing, to his certain destruction, that he had a guilty foreknowledge of the Gowrie conspiracy? He might conciliate Government and get pardoned as King's evidence, by producing what he called genuine Logan letters, and thus proving the conspiracy, and clearing the King's character; but this he did not do. He swore to the last that Logan and he were both guilty (so Calderwood's authority rightly reported), but that the plot letters were forged by himself, to what end Calderwood did not say. All this appeared midsummer madness. Calderwood, it was argued, must be in error.

A theory was suggested that Sprot really knew nothing of the Gowrie mystery; that he had bragged falsely of his knowledge, in his cups; that the Government pounced on him, made him forge the letters of Logan to clear the King's character by proving a conspiracy, and then hanged him, still confessing his guilt. But Mr. Mark Napier, a learned antiquary, replied (in a long Appendix to the third volume of the History by the contemporary Spottiswoode) to this not very probable conjecture by showing that, when they tried Sprot, Government produced no letters at all, only an alleged account by Sprot of two letters unproduced. Therefore, in August 1608, Mr. Napier argued, Government had no letters; if they had possessed them, they would infallibly have produced them. That seemed sound reasoning. In 1608 Government had no plot letters; therefore, the five produced in the trial of the dead Logan were forged for the Government, by somebody, between August 1608 and June 1609. Mr. Napier refused to accept Calderwood's wild tale that Sprot, while confessing Logan's guilt and his own, also confessed to having forged Logan's letters.

Yet Calderwood's version (or rather that of his anonymous authority in MS.) was literally accurate. Sprot, in private examinations (July 5, August 11, 1608), confessed to having forged all the letters but one, the important one, Letter IV, Logan to Gowrie. This confession the Government burked.

The actual circumstances have remained unknown and are only to be found in the official, but suppressed, reports of Sprot's private examinations, now in the muniment room of the Earl of Haddington. These papers enable us partly to unravel a coil which, without them, no ingenuity could disentangle. Sir Thomas Hamilton, the King's Advocate, popularly styled 'Tam o' the Cowgate,' from his house in that old 'street of palaces,' was the ancestor of Lord Haddington, who inherits his papers. Sir Thomas was an eminent financier, lawyer, statesman, and historical collector and inquirer, who later became Lord Binning, and finally Earl of Haddington. As King's Advocate he held, and preserved, the depositions, letters, and other documents, used in the private examinations of Sprot, on and after July 5, 1608. The records of Sprot's examinations between April 19 and July 5, 1600, are not known to be extant.

Sir Thomas's collection consists of summonses, or drafts of summonses, for treason, against the dead Logan (1609). There is also a holograph letter of confession (July 5, 1608) from Sprot to the Earl of Dunbar. There are the records of the private examinations of Sprot (July 5-August 11, 1600) and of other persons whom he more or less implicated. There are copies by Sprot, in his 'course,' that is, current, handwriting, of two of the five letters in Logan's hand (or in an imitation of it). These are letters I and IV, produced at the posthumous trial of Logan in June 1609. Finally, there are letters in Logan's hand (or in an imitation of it), addressed to James Bower and to one Ninian Chirnside, with allusions to the plot, and there is a long memorandum of matters of business, also containing hints about the conspiracy, in Logan's hand, or in an imitation thereof, addressed to John Bell, and James Bower.

Of these compromising papers, one, a letter to Chirnside, was found by the Rev. Mr. Anderson (in 1902) torn into thirteen pieces (whereof one is missing), wrapped up in a sheet of foolscap of the period. Mr. Anderson has placed the pieces together, and copied the letter. Of all these documents, only five letters (those published by Mr. Pitcairn) were 'libelled,' or founded on, and produced by the Government in the posthumous trial of Logan (1609). Not one was produced before the jury who tried Sprot on August 12, 1608. He was condemned, we said, merely on his own confession. In his 'dittay,' or impeachment, and in the official account of the affair, published in 1608, were cited fragments of two letters quoted from memory by Sprot under private examination. These quotations from memory differ, we saw, in many places from any of the five letters produced in the trial of 1609, a fact which has aroused natural suspicions. This is the true explanation of the discrepancies between the plot letter cited in Sprot's impeachment, and in the Government pamphlet on his case; and the similar, though not identical, letter produced in 1609. The indictment and the tract published by Government contain merely Sprot's recollections of the epistle from Logan to Gowrie. The letter (IV) produced in 1609 is the genuine letter of Logan, or so Sprot seems, falsely, to swear. This document did not come into the hands of Government till after the Indictment, containing Sprot's quotation of the letter from memory, was written, or, if it did, was kept back.

All this has presently to be proved in detail.

As the Government (a fact unknown to our historians) possessed all the alleged Logan letters and papers before Sprot was hanged, and as, at his trial, they concealed this circumstance even from Archbishop Spottiswoode (who was present at Sprot's public trial by jury), a great deal of perplexity has been caused, and many ingenious but erroneous conjectures have been invented. The Indictment or 'dittay' against Sprot, on August 12, 1608, is a public document, but not an honest one. It contains the following among other averments. We are told that Sprot, in July 1600, at Fastcastle, saw and read the beginning of a letter from Logan to Gowrie (Letter IV). Logan therein expresses delight at receiving a letter of Gowrie's: he is anxious to avenge 'the Macchiavelian massacre of our dearest friends' (the Earl decapitated in 1584). He advises Gowrie to be circumspect, 'and be earnest with your brother, that he be not rash in any speeches touching the purpose of Padua.'

[Picture: Fastcastle]

This letter, as thus cited, is not among the five later produced in 1609; it is a blurred reminiscence of parts of two of them. The reason of these discrepancies is that the letter is quoted in the Indictment, not from the document itself (which apparently reach the prosecution after the Indictment was framed), but from a version given from memory by Sprot, in one of his private examinations. Next, Sprot is told in his Indictment that, some time later, Logan asked Bower to find this letter, which Gowrie, for the sake of secrecy, had returned to Bower to be delivered to Logan. We know that this was the practice of intriguers. After the December riot at Edinburgh in 1596, the Rev. Robert Bruce, writing to ask Lord Hamilton to head the party of the Kirk, is said to request him to return his own letter by the bearer. Gowrie and Logan practised the same method. The indictment goes on to say that Bower, being unable to read, asked Sprot to search for Logan's letter to Gowrie, among his papers, that Sprot found it, 'abstracted' it (stole it), retained it, and 'read it divers times,' a false quotation of the MS. confession. Sprot really said that he kept the stolen letter (IV) 'till' he had framed on it, as a model, three forged letters. It contained a long passage of which the 'substance' is quoted. This passage as printed in Sprot's Indictment is not to be found textually, in any of the five letters later produced. It is, we repeat, merely the version given from memory, by Sprot, at one of his last private examinations, before the letter itself came into the hands of Government. In either form, the letter meant high treason.

Such is the evidence of the Indictment against Sprot, of August 12, 1608. In the light of Sprot's real confessions, hitherto lying in the Haddington muniment room, we know the Indictment to be a false and garbled document. Next, on the part of Government, we have always had a published statement by Sir William Hart, the King's Justice, with an introduction by Dr. George Abbot, later Archbishop of Canterbury, who was in Edinburgh, and present when Sprot was hanged. This tract was published by Bradewood, London, in 1608, and is reprinted by Pitcairn.

After a verbose, pious, and pedantic diatribe, Abbot comes to the point. Sprot was arrested in April 1608, first on the strength 'of some words that fell from himself,' and, next, 'of some papers found upon him.' What papers? They are never mentioned in the Indictment of Sprot. They are never alluded to in the sequel of Abbot's pamphlet, containing the official account, by Sir William Hart, of Sprot's Trial and Examinations. In mentioning 'some papers found upon' Sprot, Dr. Abbot 'let the cat out of the bag,' but writers like Mr. Napier, and other sceptics of his way of thinking, deny that any of the compromising letters were found at all.

No letters, we say, are mentioned by Sir William Hart, in Abbot's tract (1608), as having been produced. Archbishop Spottiswoode, who was present at Sprot's public trial (August 12, 1608), thought the man one of those insane self-accusers who are common enough, and observes that he did not 'show the letter'—that of Logan to Gowrie (IV). This remark of Spottiswoode, an Archbishop, a converted Presbyterian, a courtier, and an advocate for the King, has been a source of joy to all Ruthven apologists. 'Spottiswoode saw though the farce,' they say; 'there was no letter at all, and, courtier and recreant as he was, Spottiswoode had the honesty to say so in his History.'

To this there used to be no reply. But now we know the actual and discreditable truth. The Government was, in fact, engaged in a shameful scheme to which Archbishops were better not admitted. They meant to use this letter (IV) on a later occasion, but they also meant to use some of the other letters which Sprot (unknown to Spottiswoode) had confessed to be forgeries. The archiepiscopal conscience might revolt at such an infamy, Spottiswoode might tell the King, so the Scottish Government did not then allow the Archbishop, or the public, to know that they had any Logan letters. No letter at all came into open and public Court in 1608. Hart cites a short one, from Gowrie to Logan. Gowrie hopes to see Logan, or, at least, to send a trusty messenger, 'anent the purpose you know. But rather would I wish yourself to come, not only for that errand, but for some other thing that I have to advise with you.' There is no date of place or day. This letter, harmless enough, was never produced in Court, and Mr. Barbe supposes that it was a concoction of Hart's. This is an unlucky conjecture. The Haddington MSS. prove that Sprot really recited Gowrie's letter, or professed to do so, from memory, in one of his private examinations. The prosecution never pretended to possess or produce Gowrie's letter.

Next, Hart cites, as Logan's answer to Gowrie's first letter (which it was not), the passages already quoted by the prosecution in Sprot's Indictment, passages out of a letter of Logan's given by Sprot from memory only. Hart goes on to describe, as if on Sprot's testimony, certain movements of the Laird's after he received Gowrie's reply to his own answer to Gowrie. Logan's letter (as given in 1609) is dated July 29, and it is argued that his movements, after receiving Gowrie's reply, are inconsistent with any share in the plot which failed on August 5. Even if it were so, the fact is unimportant, for Sprot was really speaking of movements at a date much earlier than July 29; he later gave a separate account of what Logan was doing at the time of the outbreak of the plot, an account not quoted by Hart, who fraudulently or accidentally confused the dates. And next we find it as good as explicitly stated, by Hart, that this letter of Logan's to Gowrie was never produced in open Court. 'Being demanded where this above written letter, written by Restalrig to the Earl of Gowrie, which was returned again by James Bower, is now? Deponeth . . . that he (Sprot) left the above written letter in his chest, among his writings, when he was taken and brought away, and that it is closed and folded within a piece of paper,' so Hart declares in Abbot's tract. He falsified the real facts. He could not give the question as originally put to Sprot, for that involved the publication of the fact that all the letters but one were forged. The question in the authentic private report ran thus: 'Demanded where is that letter which Restalrig wrote to the Earl of Gowrie, whereupon the said George Sprot wrote and forged the missives produced?' (August 10).

The real letter of Logan to Gowrie, the only genuine letter (if in any sense genuine), had not on August 10 been produced. The others were in the hands of the Government. Hart, in his tract, veils these circumstances. The Government meant to put the letters to their own uses, on a later occasion, at the trial of the dead Logan.

Meanwhile we must keep one fact steadily in mind. When Sprot confessed to having forged treasonable letters in Logan's handwriting (as Calderwood correctly reports that he did confess), he did not include among them Letter IV (Logan to Gowrie July 29, 1600). That letter was never heard of by Sprot's examiners till August 10, and never came into the hands of his examiners till late on August 11, or early on August 12, the day when Sprot was hanged. Spottiswoode was never made aware that the letter had been produced. Why Sprot reserved this piece of evidence so long, why, under the shadow of the gibbet, he at last produced it, we shall later attempt to explain, though with but little confidence in any explanation.

Meanwhile, at Sprot's public trial in 1608, the Government were the conspirators. They burked the fact that they possessed plot-letters alleged to be by Logan. They burked the fact that Sprot confessed all these, with one or, perhaps, two exceptions, to be forgeries by himself. What they quoted, as letters of Logan and Gowrie, were merely descriptions of such letters given by Sprot from memory of their contents.


We have now to track Sprot through the labyrinth of his confessions and evasions, as attested by the authentic reports of his private examinations between July 5 and the day of his death. It will be observed that, while insisting on his own guilt, and on that of Logan, he produced no documentary evidence, no genuine letter attributed by him to Logan, nothing but his own confessed forgeries, till the cord was almost round his neck—if he did then.

In his confessions he paints with sordid and squalid realism, the life of a debauched laird, tortured by terror, and rushing from his fears to forgetfulness in wine, travel, and pleasure; and to strange desperate dreams of flight. As a 'human document' the confessions of Sprot are unique, for that period.

On July 5, 1608, Sprot, in prison, wrote, in his own ordinary hand, the tale of how he knew of Logan's guilt: the letter was conveyed to the Earl of Dunbar, who, with Dunfermline, governed Scotland, under the absent King. The prisoner gave many sources of his knowledge, but the real source, if any (Letter IV), he reserved till he was certain of death (August 10). Sprot 'knew perfectly,' he said, on July 5, that one letter from Gowrie and one from his brother, Alexander Ruthven, reached Logan, at Fastcastle and at Gunnisgreen, a house hard by Eyemouth, where Sprot was a notary, and held cottage land. {183} Bower carried Logan's answers, and 'long afterwards' showed Sprot 'the first of Gowrie's letters' (the harmless one about desiring an interview) and also a note of Logan's to Bower himself, 'which is amongst the rest of the letters produced.' It is No. II, but in this confession of July 5, Sprot appears to say that Gowrie's innocent letter to Logan, asking for an interview, was the source of his forgeries. 'I framed them all to the true meaning and purpose of the letter that Bower let me see, to make the matter more clear by these arguments and circumstances, for the cause which I have already' (before July 5) 'shewn to the Lords'—that is, for purposes of extorting money from Logan's executors.

This statement was untrue. The brief letter to Logan from Gowrie was not the model of Sprot's forgeries; as he later confessed he had another model, in a letter of Logan to Gowrie, which he held back till the last day of his life. But in this confession of July 5, Sprot admits that he saw, not only Gowrie's letter to Logan of July 6 (?) 1600 (a letter never produced), but also a 'direction' or letter from Logan to his retainer, Bower, dated 'The Canongate, July 18, 1600.' This is our Letter II. Had it been genuine, then, taken with Gowrie's letter to Logan, it must have aroused Sprot's suspicions. But this Letter II, about which Sprot told discrepant tales, is certainly not genuine. It is dated, as we said, 'The Canongate, July 18, 1600.' Its purport is to inform Bower, then at Brockholes, near Eyemouth, that Logan had received a new letter from Gowrie, concerning certain proposals already made orally to him by the Master of Ruthven. Logan hoped to get the lands of Dirleton for his share in the enterprise. He ends 'keep all things very secret, that my Lord, my brother' (Lord Home) 'get no knowledge of our purposes, for I' (would) 'rather be eirdit quick,' that is, buried alive (p. 205).

Now we shall show, later, the source whence Sprot probably borrowed this phrase as to Lord Home, and being eirdit quick, which he has introduced into his forged letter. Moreover, the dates are impossible. The first of the five letters purports to be from Logan to an unnamed conspirator, addressed as 'Right Honourable Sir.' It is not certain whether this letter was in the hands of the prosecution before the day preceding Sprot's execution, nor is it certain whether it is ever alluded to by Sprot under examination. But it is dated from Fastcastle on July 18, and tells the unknown conspirator that Logan has just heard from Gowrie. It follows that Logan had heard from Gowrie on July 18 at Fastcastle, that he thence rode to Edinburgh, and from Edinburgh wrote his letter (II) to Bower, bidding Bower hasten to Edinburgh, to consult. This is absurd. Logan would have summoned Bower from Fastcastle, much nearer Bower's home than Edinburgh. Again, in Letter I, Logan informs the unknown man that he is to answer Gowrie 'within ten days at furthest.' That being so, he does not need Bower in such a hurry, unless it be to carry the letter to the Unknown. But, in that case, he would have summoned Bower from Fastcastle, he would not have ridden to Edinburgh and summoned him thence. Once more, Sprot later confessed, as we shall see, that this letter to Bower was dictated to himself by Logan, and that the copy produced, apparently in Logan's hand, was forged by him from the letter as dictated to him. He thus contradicted his earlier statement that Letter II was shown to him by Bower. He never says that he was in Edinburgh with Logan on July 18. Besides, it is not conceivable that, by dictating Letter II to Sprot, Logan would have voluntarily put himself in the power of the notary.

This is a fair example of Sprot's apparently purposeless lying. His real interest throughout was to persuade the Government that he was giving them genuine Logan letters. This, however, he denied, with truth, yet he lied variously about the nature of his confessed forgeries.

Sprot was so false, that Government might conceive his very confession of having forged the letters to be untrue. The skill in handwriting of that age could not detect them for impostures; Government might deem that he had stolen genuine letters from Bower; letters which might legitimately be produced as evidence. Indeed this charitable view is perhaps confirmed by the extraordinary fact, to be later proved, that three Edinburgh ministers, Mr. Hall, Mr. Hewat, and Mr. Galloway, with Mr. Lumisden, minister of Duddingston, were present on occasions when Sprot confessed to having forged the letters. Yet these four preachers said nothing, as far as we hear, when the letters, confessedly forged, were produced as evidence, in 1609, to ruin Logan's innocent child. Did the preachers think the letters genuine in spite of the confession that they were forged? We shall see later, in any case, that the contents of the three letters to the Unknown, and a torn letter, when compared with Letter IV, demonstrate that Sprot's final confession to having forged them on the model of IV is true; indeed the fact ought to have been discovered, on internal evidence, even by critics unaware of his confessions.

We now pursue Sprot's written deposition of July 5. He gives, as grounds of his knowledge of Logan's guilt, certain conversations among Logan's intimates, yeomen or 'bonnet lairds,' or servants, from which he inferred that Logan was engaged in treason. Again, just before Logan's death in July 1606, he was delirious, and raved of forfeiture. But Logan had been engaged in various treasons, so his ravings need not refer to the Gowrie affair. He had been on Bothwell's enterprises, and had privy dealings with 'Percy,' probably Thomas Percy, who, in 1602, secretly visited Hume of Manderston, a kinsman of Logan. That intrigue was certainly connected merely with James's succession to the English crown. But one of Logan's retainers, when this affair of Percy was spoken of among them, said, according to Sprot, that the Laird had been engaged in treason 'nearer home.'

Sprot then writes that 'about the time of the conspiracy,' Logan, with Matthew Logan, rode to Dundee, where they enjoyed a three days' drinking bout, and never had the Laird such a surfeit of wine. But this jaunt could not be part of the Gowrie plot, and probably occurred after its failure. Later, Sprot gave a different version of Logan's conduct immediately before and after Gowrie's death. Once more, after Logan's death, one Wallace asked Sprot to be silent, if ever he had heard of 'the Laird's conspiracy.' Sprot ended by confessing contritely that he had forged all the letters (except Letter IV) 'to the true meaning and purpose of the letter that Bower let me see,' a passage already quoted, and a falsehood.

What was the 'cause' for which Sprot forged? It was a purpose to blackmail, not Logan, but Logan's heirs or executors, one of whom was Lord Home. If Sprot wanted to get anything out of them, he could terrify them by threatening to show the forged Logan letters, as genuine, to the Government, so securing the ruin of Logan's heirs by forfeiture. He did not do this himself, but he gave forged letters, for money, to men who were in debt to the dead Logan's estate, and who might use the letters to extort remission of what they owed.

On July 15, Sprot was examined before Dunfermline, Dunbar, Hart, the King's Advocate (Sir Thomas Hamilton), and other gentlemen. He said that, about July 6, 1600, Logan received a letter from Gowrie, which, two days later, Bower showed to him at Fastcastle. This is the harmless Gowrie letter, which Sprot now quoted from memory, as it is printed in Hart's official account.

Now begins a new puzzle, caused by Sprot's dates. Of these we can only give a conjectural version, for the sake of argument. Logan received a letter from Gowrie about July 6, 1600. He returned a reply, by Bower, but when did Bower start with the reply? Let us say on July 9. Bower returned, says Sprot, 'within five days,' with 'a new letter' from Gowrie. That would bring us to July 14, but in Letters I and II, dated July 18, Logan is informing his unknown correspondent, and Bower, of the receipt of 'a new letter' from Gowrie. Why inform Bower of this, if Bower was the bearer of the new letter? But the 'new letter' mentioned in Letters I and II was brought by a retainer of Gowrie. In any case, supposing by way of conjecture that Bower returned from Gowrie about July 15, he spent the night, says Sprot, with Logan at Gunnisgreen, and next day (July 16) rode to Edinburgh with Bower, Boig of Lochend, and Matthew Logan. In Edinburgh he remained 'a certain short space,' say four days, which would bring us to July 20. Needless to say that this does not fit Letter II, Logan to Bower, July 18, and Letter I, Logan to the Unknown, Fastcastle, July 18.

After Logan's return from Edinburgh (which, according to Sprot, seems to be of about July 20) Sprot heard Logan and Bower discuss some scheme by which Logan should get Gowrie's estate of Dirleton, without payment. Bower said nothing could be done till Logan rode west himself. He discouraged the whole affair, but Logan said, in the hearing of several persons, that he would hazard his life with Gowrie. Lady Restalrig blamed Bower for making Logan try to sell the lands of Fastcastle (they were not sold till 1602), of which Bower protested his innocence. This was after Logan's return from Edinburgh (say July 20; that is, say five days after Logan's return, say July 25). Bower and Logan had a long conference in the open air. Sprot was lounging and spying about beside the river; a sea-fisher had taken a basket of blenneys, or 'green-banes.' Logan called to Sprot to bring him the fish, and they all supped. Before supper, however, Sprot walked about with Bower, and tried to 'pump' him as to what was going forward. Bower said that 'the Laird should get Dirleton without either gold or silver, but he feared it should be as dear to him. They had another pie in hand than the selling of land.' Bower then asked Sprot not to meddle, for he feared that 'in a few days the Laird would be either landless or lifeless.'

Certainly this is a vivid description; Bower and Logan were sitting on a bench 'at the byre end;' Sprot, come on the chance of a supper, was peeping and watching; Peter Mason, the angler, at the river side, 'near the stepping stones,' had his basket of blenneys on his honest back, his rod or net in his hand; the Laird was calling for the fish, was taking a drink, and, we hope, offering a drink to Mason. Then followed the lounge and the talk with Bower before supper, all in the late afternoon of a July day, the yellow light sleeping on the northern sea below. Vivid this is, and plausible, but is it true?

We have reached the approximate date of July 25 (though, of course, after an interval of eight years, Sprot's memory of dates must be vague). Next day (July 26) Logan, with Bower and others, rode to Nine Wells (where David Hume the philosopher was born), thence, the same night, back to Gunnisgreen, next night, July 27, to Fastcastle, and thence to Edinburgh. This brings us (allowing freely for error of memory) to about July 27, 'the hinder end of July,' says Sprot. If we make allowance for a vagueness of four or five days, this does not fit in badly. Logan's letter to Gowrie (No. IV), which Sprot finally said that he used as a model for his forgeries, is dated 'Gunnisgreen, July 29.' 'At the beginning of August,' says Sprot (clearly there are four or five days lost in the reckoning), Logan and Bower, with Matthew Logan and Willie Crockett, rode to Edinburgh, 'and there stayed three days, and the Laird, with Matthew Logan, came home, and Bower came to his own house of the Brockholes, where he stayed four days,' and then was sent for by Logan, 'and the Laird was very sad and sorry,' obviously because of the failure of the plot on August 5.

How do these dates fit into the narrative? Logan was at Gunnisgreen (his letter (IV) proves it) on July 29. (Later we show another error of Sprot's on this point.) He writes that he is sending Bower as bearer of his letter to Gowrie. If Bower left Edinburgh on July 30, he could deliver the letter to Gowrie, at Perth, on August 2, and be back in Edinburgh (whither Logan now went) on August 5, and Logan could leave Edinburgh on August 6, after hearing of the deaths of his fellow-conspirators. We must not press Sprot too hard as to dates so remote in time. We may grant that Bower, bearing Logan's letter of July 29, rode with Logan and the others to Edinburgh; that at Edinburgh Logan awaited his return, with a reply; that he thence learned that August 5 was the day for the enterprise, and that, early on August 6, he heard of its failure, and rode sadly home: all this being granted for the sake of argument.

Had the news of August 6 been that the King had mysteriously disappeared, we may conceive that Logan would have hurried to Dirleton, met the Ruthvens there, with their prisoner, and sailed with them to Fastcastle. Or he might have made direct to Fastcastle, and welcomed them there. His reason for being at Restalrig or in the Canongate was to get the earliest news from Perth, brought across Fife, and from Bruntisland to Leith.

Whether correct or not, this scheme, allowing for lapse of memory as to dates, is feasible. Who can, remote from any documents, remember the dates of occurrences all through a month now distant by eight years? There were no daily newspapers, no ready means of ascertaining a date. Queen Mary's accusers, in their chronological account of her movements about the time of Darnley's death, are often out in their dates. In legal documents of the period the date of the day of the month of an event is often left blank. This occurs in the confirmation of Logan's own will. 'He died —- July, 1606.' When lawyers with plenty of leisure for inquiry were thus at a loss for dates of days of the month (having since the Reformation no Saints' days to go by), Sprot, in prison, might easily go wrong in his chronology.

[Picture: Fastcastle]

In any case, taking Letter IV provisionally as genuine in substance, we note that, on July 29, Logan did not yet know the date fixed for Gowrie's enterprise. He suggested 'the beginning of harvest,' and, by August 5, harvest had begun. One of the Perth witnesses was reaping in the 'Morton haugh,' when he heard the town bell call the citizens to arms. But Gowrie must have acted in great haste, Logan not knowing, till, say, August 2 or 3, the date of a plot that exploded on August 5.

Gowrie may have thought, as Lord Maxwell said when arranging his escape from Edinburgh Castle, 'Sic interprysis are nocht effectuat with deliberationis and advisments, bot with suddane resolutionis.'

It is very important, we must freely admit, as an argument against the theory of carrying James to Logan's impregnable keep of Fastcastle, that only one question, in our papers, is asked as to the provisioning of Fastcastle, and that merely as to the supply of drink! Possibly this had been ascertained in Sprot's earlier and unrecorded examinations (April 19-July 5). One poor hogshead of wine (a trifle to Logan) had been sent in that summer; so Matthew Logan deponed. As Logan had often used Fastcastle before, for treasonable purposes, he was not (it may be supposed) likely to leave it without provisions. Moreover these could be brought by sea, from Dirleton, where Carey (August 11) says that Gowrie had stored 'all his provision.' Moreover Government did not wish to prove intent to kidnap the King. That was commonly regarded as a harmless constitutional practice, not justifying the slaughter of the Ruthvens. From the first, Government insisted that murder was intended. In the Latin indictment of the dead Logan this is again dwelt on; Fastcastle is only to be the safe haven of the murderers. This is a misreading of Letter IV, where Fastcastle is merely spoken of as to be used for a meeting, and 'the concluding of our plot.'

Thus it cannot be concealed that, on July 29 (granting Letter IV to have a basis), the plot, as far as Logan knew, was 'in the air.' If Fastcastle was to be used by the conspirators, it must have been taken in the rough, on the chance that it was provided, or that Gowrie could bring his own supplies from Dirleton by sea. This extreme vagueness undeniably throws great doubt on Logan's part in the plot; Letter IV, if genuine, being the source of our perplexity. But, if it is not genuine, that is, in substance, there is only rumour, later to be discussed, to hint that Logan was in any way connected with Gowrie.

We left Bower and Logan conversing dolefully some days after the failure of the plot. At this point the perhaps insuperable difficulty arises, why did they not, as soon as they returned from Edinburgh, destroy every inch of paper connected with the conspiracy? One letter at least (Logan's to Gowrie, July 29) was not burned, according to Sprot, but was later stolen by himself from Bower; though he reserved this confession to the last day of his life but two. We might have expected Logan to take the letter from Bower as soon as they met, and to burn or, for that matter, swallow it if no fire was convenient! Yet, according to Sprot, in his final confession, Logan let Bower keep the damning paper for months. If this be true, we can only say quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat. People do keep damning letters, constant experience proves the fact.

After Bower had met Logan in his melancholy mood, he rode away, and remained absent for four days, on what errand Sprot did not know, and during the next fortnight, while Scotland was ringing with the Gowrie tragedy, Sprot saw nothing of Logan.

Next, Logan went to church at Coldinghame, on a Sunday, and met Bower: next day they dined together at Gunnisgreen. Bower was gloomy. Logan said, 'Be it as it will, I must take my fortune, and I will tell you, Laird Bower, the scaffold is the best death that a man can die.' Logan, if he said this, must have been drunk; he very often was.

It was at this point, in answer to a question, that Sprot confessed that Logan's letter to Bower (No. II) was a forgery by himself. The actual letter, Sprot said, was dictated by Logan to him, and he made a counterfeit copy in imitation of Logan's handwriting. We have stated the difficulties involved in this obvious falsehood. Sprot was trying every ruse to conceal his alleged source and model, Letter IV.

Sprot was next asked about a certain memorandum by Logan directed to Bower and to one John Bell, in 1605. This document was actually found in Sprot's 'pocquet' when he was arrested, and it contained certain very compromising items. Sprot replied that he forged the memorandum, in the autumn of 1606, when he forged the other letters. He copied most of it from an actual but innocent note of Logan's on business matters, and added the compromising items out of his own invention. He made three copies of this forgery, one was produced; he gave another to a man named Heddilstane or Heddilshaw, a dweller in Berwick, in September 1607; the third, 'in course hand,' he gave to another client, 'the goodman of Rentoun,' Hume. One was to be used to terrorise Logan's executors, to whom Heddilstane, but not Rentoun, was in debt. Sprot's words are important. 'He omitted nothing that was in the original' (Logan's memorandum on business matters), 'but eikit' (added) 'two articles to his copy, the one concerning Ninian Chirnside' (as to a dangerous plot-letter lost by Bower), 'the other, where the Laird ordered Bower to tear his missive letters. He grants that he wrote another copy with his course hand, copied from his copy, and gave it to the goodman of Rentoun,' while the copy given to Heddilstane 'was of his counterfeited writing,' an imitation of Logan's hand.

[Picture: Handwriting of Logan (January 1585-6)]

Perhaps Sprot had two methods and scales of blackmail. For one, he invented damning facts, and wrote them out in imitation of Logan's writing. The other species was cheaper: a copy in his 'course hand' of his more elaborate forgeries in Logan's hand. Now the two copies of Letters I and IV, which, at the end of his life, as we shall see, Sprot attested by signed endorsements, were in his 'course hand.' He had them ready for customers, when he was arrested in April 1608, and they were doubtless found in his 'kist' on the day before his death, with the alleged original of Letter IV. Up to August 11, at a certain hour, Government had neither the alleged original, nor Sprot's 'course hand copy' of Letter IV, otherwise he would not have needed to quote IV from memory, as he did on that occasion.

Among these minor forgeries, to be used in blackmailing operations, was a letter nominally from Logan to one Ninian or Ringan Chirnside. This man was a member of the family of Chirnside of Easter Chirnside; his own estate was Whitsumlaws. All these Chirnsides and Humes of Berwickshire were a turbulent and lawless gang, true borderers. Ninian is addressed, by Logan, as 'brother;' they were most intimate friends. It was Ninian who (as the endorsement shows) produced our Letter V, on April 19; he had purchased it, for the usual ends, from Sprot, being a great debtor (as Logan's will proves) to his estate.

To track these men through the background of history is to have a notion of the Day of Judgment. Old forgotten iniquities and adventures leap to light. Chirnside, like Logan and the Douglases of Whittingham, and John Colville, and the Laird of Spot, had followed the fortunes of wild Frank Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, and nephew of the Bothwell of Queen Mary. Frank Bothwell was driven into his perilous courses by a charge of practising witchcraft against the King's life. Absurd as this sounds, Bothwell had probably tried it for what it was worth. When he was ruined, pursued, driven, child of the Kirk as he seemed, into the Catholic faction, his old accomplice, Colville, took a solemn farewell of him. 'By me your lordship was cleared of the odious imputation of witchcraft . . . but God only knows how far I hazarded my conscience in making black white, and darkness light for your sake' (September 12, 1594). {198}

After Bothwell, when he trapped the King by aid of Lady Gowrie (July 1593), recovered power for a while, he defended himself on this charge of witchcraft. He had consulted and employed the wizard, Richard Graham, who now accused him of attempting the King's life by sorcery. But he had only employed Graham to heal the Earl of Angus, himself dying of witchcraft. Bothwell was charged with employing a retainer, Ninian Chirnside, to arrange more than twenty-one meetings with the wizard Graham; the result being the procurement of a poison, 'adder skins, toad skins, and the hippomanes in the brain of a young foal,' to ooze the juices on the King, 'a poison of such vehemency as should have presently cut him off.' Isobel Gowdie, accused of witchcraft in 1622, confessed to having employed a similar charm. {199a} All this Bothwell, instructed by Colville, denied, but admitted that he had sent Ninian Chirnside twice to the wizard, all in the interests of the dying Earl of Angus. {199b}

This Chirnside, then, was a borderer prone to desperate enterprises and darkling rides, and midnight meetings with the wizard Graham in lonely shepherds' cottages, as was alleged. He could also sink to blackmailing the orphan child of his 'brother,' Logan of Restalrig.

To go on with Sprot's confessions; he had forged, he said, receipts from Logan to the man named Edward or Ned Heddilstane for some of the money which Heddilstane owed him. For these forgeries his client paid him well, if not willingly. Sprot frequently blackmailed Ned, 'whenever he want siller.'

It must be granted that Sprot was a liar so complex, and a forger so skilled (for the time, that is), that nothing which he said or produced can be reckoned, as such, as evidence. On the other hand, his power of describing or inventing scenes, real or fictitious, was of high artistic merit, so that he appears occasionally either to deviate into truth, or to have been a realistic novelist born centuries too early. Why then, it may be asked, do we doubt that Sprot may have forged, without a genuine model, Letter IV? The answer will appear in due time. Letter IV, as Sprot confessed, is certainly the model of all the letters which he forged, whether those produced or those suppressed. He was afraid to wander from his model, which he repeated in Letters I (?), III, V, and in the unproduced letters, including one which we have found in twelve torn fragments, with the signature missing.


On July 16, Sprot was again examined. Spottiswoode, Archbishop of Glasgow, the historian, was present, on this occasion only, with Dunfermline, Dunbar, Sir Thomas Hamilton, Hart, and other nobles and officials. None of them signs the record, which, in this case only, is merely attested by the signature of Primrose, the Clerk of Council, one of Lord Rosebery's family. In this session Sprot said nothing about forging the letters. The Archbishop was not to know.

Asked if he had any more reminiscences, Sprot said that, in November 1602, Fastcastle having been sold, Logan asked Bower 'for God's sake' to bring him any of the letters about the Gowrie affair which he might have in keeping. Bower said that he had no dangerous papers except one letter from Alexander Ruthven, and another from 'Mr. Andro Clerk.' This Clerk was a Jesuit, who chiefly dealt between Spain and the Scotch Catholics. He was involved in the affair called 'The Spanish Blanks' (1593), and visited the rebel Catholic peers of the North, Angus, Errol, and Huntly. {202} Logan, like Bothwell, was ready to intrigue either with the Kirk or the Jesuits, and he seems to have had some personal acquaintance with Father Andrew.

Bower left Logan, to look for these letters at his own house at Brockholes, and Logan passed a night of sleepless anxiety. One of the mysteries of the case is that Logan entrusted Bower, who could not read, with all his papers. If one of them was needed, Bower had to employ a person who could read to find it: probably he used, as a rule, the help of his better educated son, Valentine. After Logan's restless night, Bower returned with the two letters, Ruthven's and Clerk's, which Logan 'burned in the fire.'

(Let it be remembered that Sprot has not yet introduced Letter IV into his depositions, though that was by far the most important.)

[Picture: Hand of Logan as forged by Sprot]

After burning Clerk's and Ruthven's letters, Logan dictated to Sprot a letter to John Baillie of Littlegill, informing him of the fact. Bower rode off with the letter, and Logan bade Sprot be silent about all these things, for he had learned, from Bower, that Sprot knew a good deal. Here the amateur of the art of fiction asks, why did Sprot drag in Mr. John Baillie of Littlegill? If Logan, as Sprot swore, informed Baillie about the burned letters, then Baillie had a guilty knowledge of the conspiracy. Poor Baillie was instantly 'put in ward' under the charge of the Earl of Dunfermline. But, on the day after Sprot was hanged, namely on August 13, Baillie was set free, on bail of 10,000 marks to appear before the Privy Council if called upon. Three of Sprot's other victims, Maul, Crockett, and William Galloway, were set free on their personal recognisances, but Mossman and Matthew Logan were kept in prison, and Chirnside was not out of danger of the law for several years, as we learn from the Privy Council Register. Nothing was ever proved against any of these men. After the posthumous trial of Logan (June 1609) the King bade the Council discharge John Baillie from his bail, 'as we rest now fully persuaded that there was no just cause of imputation against the said John.' So the Register of the Privy Council informs us. {203} Thus, if Sprot told the truth about all these men, no corroborative facts were discovered, while the only proofs of his charges against Logan were the papers which, with one exception, he confessed to be forgeries, executed by himself, for purposes of extortion.

To go on with his confessions: The Christmas of 1602 arrived, and 'The Laird keepit ane great Yule at Gunnisgreen.' On the third day of the feast, Logan openly said to Bower, at table, 'I shall sleep better this night than that night when I sent you for the letters' (in November), 'for now I am sure that none of these matters will ever come to further light, if you be true.' Bower answered, 'I protest before God I shall be counted the most damnable traitor in the world, if any man on earth know, for I have buried them.'

After supper, Bower and Logan called Sprot out on to the open hill-side. Logan said that Bower confessed to having shown Sprot a letter of Gowrie's. What, he asked, did Sprot think of the matter? Sprot, with protestations of loyalty, said that he thought that Logan had been in the Gowrie conspiracy. Logan then asked for an oath of secrecy, promising 'to be the best sight you ever saw,' and taking out 12l. (Scots) bade Sprot buy corn for his children. Asked who were present at the scene of the supper, Sprot named eight yeomen. 'The lady' (Lady Restalrig) 'was also present at table that night, and at her rising she said, "The Devil delight in such a feast, that will make all the children weep hereafter," and this she spoke, as she went past the end of the table. And, after entering the other chamber, she wept a while, 'and we saw her going up and down the chamber weeping.'

A fortnight later, Lady Restalrig blamed Bower for the selling of Fastcastle. Bower appealed to Logan; it was Logan's fault, not his. 'One of two things,' said Bower, 'must make you sell your lands; either you think your children are bastards, or you have planned some treason.' The children were not those of Lady Restalrig, but by former marriages. Logan replied, 'If I had all the land between the Orient and the Occident, I would sell the same, and, if I could not get money for it, I would give it to good fellows.' On another occasion Logan said to Bower, 'I am for no land, I told you before and will tell you again. You have not learned the art of memory.'

In fact, Logan did sell, not only Fastcastle, but Flemington and Restalrig. We know how the Scot then clung to his acres. Why did Logan sell all? It does not appear, as we have shown, that he was in debt. If he had been, his creditors would have had him 'put to the horn,' proclaimed a recalcitrant debtor, and the record thereof would be found in the Privy Council Register. But there is no such matter. Sprot supposed that Logan wished to turn his estates into money, to be ready for flight, if the truth ever came out. The haste to sell all his lands is certainly a suspicious point against Logan. He kept on giving Sprot money (hush money, and for forgeries to defraud others, sometimes) and taking Sprot's oath of secrecy.

A remarkable anecdote follows; remarkable on this account. In the letter (II) which Logan is said by Sprot to have written to Bower (July 18, 1600) occurs the phrase, 'Keep all things very secret, that my lord my brother get no knowledge of our purposes, for I rather be eirdit quik'—would rather be buried alive (p. 184). This 'my lord my brother' is obviously meant for Alexander, sixth Lord Home, whose father, the fifth lord, had married Agnes, sister of Patrick, sixth Lord Gray, and widow of Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig. By Sir Robert, Lady Restalrig had a son, the Logan of this affair; and, when, after Sir Robert's death, she married the fifth Lord Home, she had to him a son, Alexander, sixth Lord Home. Our Logan and the sixth Lord Home were, therefore, brothers uterine. {206a}

Now, if we accept as genuine (in substance) the one letter which Sprot declared to be really written by Logan (No. IV), Gowrie was anxious that Home, a person of great importance, Warden on the Border, should be initiated into the conspiracy. As Gowrie had been absent from Scotland, between August 1594 (when he, as a lad, was in league with the wild king-catcher, Francis Stewart of Bothwell), and May 1600, we ask, what did Gowrie know of Home, and why did he think him an useful recruit? The answer is that (as we showed in another connection, p. 130) Gowrie was in Paris in February-April 1600, that Home was also in Paris at the same time (arriving in Scotland, at his house of Douglas, April 18, 1600), and that Home did not go to Court, on his return, owing to the King's displeasure because of his 'trysting with Bothwell' in Brussels. {206b}

Here then we have, in March 1600, Gowrie and Home, in Paris, and Bothwell, the King-catcher, meeting Home in Brussels. Therefore, when Letter IV represents Gowrie as anxious to bring Home, who had been consulting Bothwell, into his plot, nothing can be more natural. Gowrie himself conceivably met his old rebellious ally, Bothwell; he was certain to meet Home in Paris, and Home, owning Douglas Castle and Home Castle near the Border, would have been a most serviceable assistant. It must also be remembered that Home was, at heart, a Catholic, a recent and reluctant Protestant convert, 'compelled to come in,' by the Kirk. Bothwell was a Catholic; Gowrie, he declared, was another; Logan was a trafficker with Jesuits, and an 'idolater' in the matter of 'keeping great Yules.' Logan, however, if Letter IV is genuine, in substance, wrote that he 'utterly dissented' from Gowrie's opinion. He would not try his brother's, Home's, mind in the matter, or 'consent that he ever should be counsellor thereto, for, in good faith, he will never help his friend, nor harm his foe.'

Such being the relations (if we accept Letter IV as in substance genuine) between Gowrie, Home, and Logan, we can appreciate Sprot's anecdote, now to be given, concerning Lady Home. Logan, according to Sprot, said to him, in Edinburgh, early in 1602, 'Thou rememberest what my Lady Home said to me, when she would not suffer my lord to subscribe my contract for Fentoun, because I would not allow two thousand marks to be kept out of the security, and take her word for them? She said to me, which was a great knell to my heart, that since her coming to the town, she knew that I had been in some dealing with the Earl of Gowrie about Dirleton.' Now Dirleton, according to Sprot, was to have been Logan's payment from Gowrie, for his aid in the plot.

Logan then asked Sprot if he had blabbed to Lady Home, but Sprot replied that 'he had never spoken to her Ladyship but that same day, although he had read the contract' (as to Fentoun) 'before him and her in the abbey,' of Coldingham, probably. Logan then requested Sprot to keep out of Lady Home's sight, lest she should ask questions, 'for I had rather be eirdit quick than either my Lord or she knew anything of it.'

Now, in Letter II (July 18, 1600), from Logan to Bower, Logan, as we saw, is made to write, 'See that my Lord, my brother, gets no knowledge of our purposes, for I (sic) rather be eirdit quik.' The phrase recurs in another of the forged letters not produced in court.

It is thus a probable inference that Logan did use this expression to Sprot, in describing the conversation about Lady Home, and that Sprot inserted it into his forged Letter II (Logan to Bower). But, clever as Sprot was, he is scarcely likely to have invented the conversation of Logan with Lady Home, arising out of Logan's attempt to do some business with Lord Home about Fentoun. A difficulty, raised by Lady Home, led up to the lady's allusion to Dirleton, 'which was a great knell to my heart,' said Logan. This is one of the passages which indicate a basis of truth in the confessions of Sprot. Again, as Home and Gowrie were in Paris together, while Bothwell was in Brussels, in February 1600, and as Home certainly, and Gowrie conceivably, met Bothwell, it may well have been that Gowrie heard of Logan from Bothwell, the old ally of both, and marked him as a useful hand. Moreover, he could not but have heard of Logan's qualities and his keep, Fastcastle, in the troubles and conspiracies of 1592-1594. After making these depositions, Sprot attested them, with phrases of awful solemnity, 'were I presently within one hour to die.' He especially insisted that he had written, to Logan's dictation, the letter informing John Baillie of Littlegill that all Gowrie's papers were burned. As we saw, in November 1609, the King deliberately cleared Baillie of all suspicion. There could be no evidence. Bower, the messenger, was dead.

Baillie was now called. He denied on oath that he had ever received the letter from Logan. He had never seen Gowrie, 'except on the day he came first home, and rode up the street of Edinburgh.' Confronted with Baillie, 'Sprot abides by his deposition.'

Willie Crockett was then called. He had been at Logan's 'great Yule' in Gunnisgreen, where Logan, according to Sprot, made the imprudent speeches. Crockett had also been at Dundee with Logan, he said, but it was in the summer of 1603. He did not hear Logan's imprudent speech to Bower, at the Yule supper. As to the weeping of Lady Restalrig, he had often seen her weep, and heard her declare that Logan would ruin his family. He only remembered, as to the Yule supper, a quarrel between Logan and Willie Home.

This was the only examination at which Archbishop Spottiswoode attended. Neither he nor any of the Lords (as we have said already) signed the record, which is attested only by James Primrose, Clerk of Council, signing at the foot of each page. Had the Lords 'quitted the diet'?

The next examination was held on July 22, Dunfermline, Dunbar, Sir Thomas Hamilton, the President of the Court of Session, and other officials, all laymen, being present. Sprot incidentally remarked that Logan visited London, in 1603, after King James ascended the English throne. Logan appears to have gone merely for pleasure; he had seen London before, in the winter of 1586. On his return he said that he would 'never bestow a groat on such vanities' as the celebration of the King's holiday, August 5, the anniversary of the Gowrie tragedy; adding 'when the King has cut off all the noblemen of the country he will live at ease.' But many citizens disliked the 5th of August holiday as much as Logan did.

[Picture: Handwriting of Sprot]

In the autumn of 1605, Logan again visited London. In Sprot's account of his revels there, and his bad reception, we have either proof of Logan's guilt, if the tale be true, or high testimony to Sprot's powers as an artist in fiction. He says that Matthew Logan accompanied the Laird to town in September 1605, and in November was sent back with letters to Bower. Eight days later, Matthew took Sprot to Coldingham, to meet Bower, and get his answer to the letters. It was a Sunday; these devotees heard sermon, and then dined together at John Corsar's. After dinner Bower took Sprot apart, and showed him two letters. Would Sprot read to him the first few words, that he might know which letter he had to answer? The first letter shown (so Sprot writes on the margin of his recorded deposition) referred to the money owed to Logan, by the Earl of Dunbar, for Gunnisgreen and the lands of Remington. Logan had expected to get the purchase money from Dunbar in London; he never got more than 18,000 out of 33,000 marks. Sprot wrote for Bower the answer to this business letter, and gave it to Matthew Logan to be sent to Logan in London. Matthew, being interrogated, denied that he sent any letter back to Logan, though he owned that Sprot wrote one; and he denied that Sprot and Bower had any conference at all on the occasion. But Sprot had asserted that the conference with Bower occurred after Matthew Logan left them at Corsar's house, where they dined, as Matthew admitted, after sermon. Matthew denied too much.

A curious conference it was. Bower asked Sprot to read to him the other of Logan's two letters, directed to himself. It ran, 'Laird Bower,—I wot not what I should say or think of this world! It is very hard to trust in any man, for apparently there is no constancy or faithfulness. For since I cam here they whom I thought to have been my most entire friends have uttered to me most injurie, and have given me the defiance, and say I am not worthy to live, "and if the King heard what has moved you to put away all your lands, and debosch yourself, you would not make such merryness, and play the companion in London, as you do so near his Majestie."'

Logan went on to express his fear that Bower's rash speeches had roused these suspicions of 'the auld misterie ye ken of.' 'God forgive you, but I have had no rest since these speeches were upcast to me.' Bower was to take great care of this letter, 'for it is within three letters enclosed,' and is confided to Matthew Logan (who travelled by sea) as a trusty man.

Bower was much moved by this melancholy letter, and denied that he had been gossiping. He had twice, before Logan rode south, advised him to be very careful never even to mention the name of Gowrie.

Sprot said that he, too, was uneasy, for, if anything came out, he himself was in evil case. Logan visited France, as well as London, at this time; he returned home in the spring of 1606, but Bower expressed the belief that he would go on to Spain, 'to meet Bothwell and Father Andrew Clerk, and if he come home it will be rather to die in his own country than for any pleasure he has to live.' Bothwell and Father Andrew, of course, were both Catholic intriguers, among whom Bothwell reckoned Logan and Gowrie.

Now the letter to Bower here attributed to Logan, telling of the new 'knell at his heart' when he is rebuked and insulted as he plays the merry companion in London, and near the Court; his touching complaint of the falseness of the world (he himself being certainly the blackest of traitors), with the distress of Bower, do make up a very natural description. The ghost of his guilt haunts Logan, he cannot drown it in a red sea of burgundy: life has lost its flavour; if he returns, it will be with the true Scottish desire to die in his own country, though of his ancient family's lands he has not kept an acre. Pleasant rich Restalrig, strong Fastcastle, jolly Gunnisgreen of the 'great Yules,' all are gone. Nothing is left.

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