The poor husband meanwhile said nothing, but my grandfather heard his heart panting audibly, and three or four times he was obligated to brush away his hand, for, having no arms himself, the bailie clutched at the hilt of his sword and would have drawn it from the scabbard.
The Antichrist, seeing his lemane in such great malady as she so well feigned, he at last, to her very earnest supplication, consented to leave her that night, and kissed her as he came away; but her husband broke in upon them with the rage of a hungry lion, and seizing his Grace by the cuff of the neck, swung him away from her with such vehemence that he fell into the corner of the room like a sack of duds. As for madam, she uttered a wild cry, and threw herself back on the couch where she was sitting and seemed as if she had swooned, having no other device so ready to avoid the upbraidings and just reproaches of her spouse. But she was soon roused from that fraudulent dwam by my grandfather, who, seizing a flagon of wine, dashed it upon her face.
Mrs Kilspinnie uttered a frightful screech, and, starting up, attempted to run out of the room, but her husband caught her by the arm, and my grandfather was empowered, by a signal grant of great presence of mind to think that the noise might cause alarm, whereupon he sprang instanter to the door that led into the garden just as the damsel was coming up, and the fat friar hobbling as fast as he could behind her; and he had but time to say to her, as it was with an inspiration, to keep all quiet in the garden and he would make his escape by the other door. She, on hearing this, ran back to stop the pandarus, and my grandfather closed and bolted fast that back door, going forthwith to the one by which he had been himself admitted, and which, having opened wide to the wall, he returned to the scene of commotion.
In the meantime the prelatic dragon that was so ravished from the woman had hastily risen upon his legs, and, red with a dreadful wrath, raged as if he would have devoured her husband. In sooth, to do his Grace justice, he lacked not the spirit of a courageous gentleman, and he could not, my grandfather often said, have borne himself more proudly and valiantly had he been a belted knight, bred in camps and fields of war, so that a discreet retreat and evasion of the house was the best course they could take. But Master Kilspinnie fain would have continued his biting taunts to the mistress, who was enacting a most tragical extravagance of affliction and terror. My grandfather, however, suddenly cut him short, crying, "Come, come, no more of this; an alarm is given, and we must save ourselves." With that he seized him firmly by the arm, and in a manner harled him out of the house and into the lane between the dykes, along which they ran with nimble heels. On reaching the Showgate they slackened their speed, still, however, walking as fast as they could till they came near the port, when they again drew in the bridle of their haste, going through among the guards that were loitering around the door of the wardroom, and passed out into the fields as if they had been indifferent persons.
On escaping the gate they fell in with divers persons going along the road, who, by their discourse, were returning home to Cupar, and they walked leisurely with them till they came to a cross-road, where my grandfather, giving Master Kilspinnie a nodge, turned down the one that went to the left, followed by him, and it happened to be the road to Dysart and Crail.
"This will ne'er do," said Master Kilspinnie, "they will pursue us this gait."
Upon hearing this reasonable apprehension, my grandfather stopped and conferred with himself, and received on that spot a blessed experience and foretaste of the protection wherewith, to a great age, he was all his days protected. For it was in a manner revealed to him that he should throw away the garbardine and sword which he had received in the castle, and thereby appear in his simple craftsman's garb, and that they should turn back and cross the Cupar road, and go along the other, which led to the Dundee waterside ferry. This he told to his fearful companion, and likewise, that as often as they fell in with or heard anybody coming up, the bailie should hasten on before or den himself among the brechans by the roadside, to the end that it might appear they were not two persons in company together.
But they had not long crossed the Cupar road and travelled the one leading to the ferry when they heard the whirlwind sound of horsemen coming after them, at which the honest man of Crail darted aside and lay flat on his grouff ayont a bramble bush, while my grandfather began to lilt as blithely as he could, "The Bonny Lass of Livingston," and the spring was ever after to him as a hymn of thanksgiving, but the words he then sang was an auld, ranting, godless and graceless ditty of the grooms and serving-men that sorned about his father's smiddy, and the closer that the horsemen came he was strengthened to sing the louder and the clearer.
"Saw ye twa fellows ganging this gait?" cried the foremost of the pursuers, pulling up.
"What like were they?" said my grandfather, in a simple manner.
"Ane of them was o' his Grace's guard," replied the man, "but the other, curse tak me gin I ken what he was like, but he's the bailie or provost of a burrough's town, and should by rights hae a big belly."
To this my grandfather answered briskly, "Nae sic twa ha'e past me, but as I was coming along whistling, thinking o' naething, twa sturdy loons, ane o' them no unlike the hempies o' the castle, ran skirring along, and I hae a thought that they took the road to Crail or Dysart."
"That was my thought, too," cried the horseman, as he turned his beast, and the rest that were with him doing the same, bidding my grandfather good-night, away they scampered back; by which a blessed deliverance was there wrought to him and his companion on that spot, in that night.
As soon as the horsemen had gone by, Bailie Kilspinnie came from his hiding-place, and both he and my grandfather proved that no bird-lime was on their feet till they got to the ferry-house at the waterside, where they found two boats taking passengers on board, one for Dundee and the other for Perth. Here my grandfather's great gift of foreknowledge was again proven, for he proposed that they should bargain with the skipper of the Dundee boat to take them to that town and pay him like the other passengers, at once, in an open manner, but that, as the night was cloudy and dark, they should go cannily aboard the boat for Perth, as it were in mistake, and feign not to discover their error till they were far up the river when they should proceed to the town, letting wot that by the return of the tide they would go in the morning by the Perth boat to Dundee, with which Master Kilspinnie was well acquainted, he having had many times, in the way of his traffic as a plaiding merchant, cause to use the same, and thereby knew it went twice a week, and that the morrow was one of the days. All this they were enabled to do with such fortitude and decorum that no one aboard the Perth boat could have divined that they were not honest men in great trouble of mind at discovering they had come into the wrong boat.
But nothing showed more that Providence had a hand in all this than what ensued, for all the passengers in the boat had been at St Andrews to hear the trial and see the martyrdom, and they were sharp and vehement not only in their condemnation of the mitred Antichrist, but grieved with a sincere sorrow that none of the nobles of Scotland would stand forth in their ancient bravery to resist and overthrow a race of oppressors more grievous than the Southrons that trode on the neck of their fathers in the hero-stirring times of the Wallace wight and King Robert the Bruce. Truly, there was a spirit of unison and indignation in the company on board that boat, everyone thirsting with a holy ardour to avenge the cruelties of which the papistical priesthood were daily growing more and more crouse in the perpetration, and they made the shores ring with the olden song of—
"O for my ain king, quo' gude Wallace, The rightfu' king of fair Scotlan'; Between me and my sovereign dear I think I see some ill seed sawn."
It was the grey of the morning before they reached Perth, and as soon as they were put on the land the bailie took my grandfather with him to the house of one Sawners Ruthven, a blanket-weaver with whom he had dealings, a staid and discreet man, who, when he had supplied them with breakfast, exhorted them not to tarry in the town, then a place that had fallen under the suspicion of the clergy, the lordly monks of Scoone taking great power and authority, in despite of the magistrates, against all that fell under their evil thoughts anent heresy. And he counselled them not to proceed, as my grandfather had proposed, straight on to Edinburgh by the Queensferry, but to hasten up the country to Crieff and thence take the road to Stirling. In this there was much prudence, but Bailie Kilspinnie was in sore tribulation on account of his children, whom he had left at his home in Crail, fearing that the talons of Antichrist would lay hold of them and keep them as hostages till he was given up to suffer for what he had done, none doubting that Baal, for so he nicknamed the prelatic Hamilton, would impute to him the unpardonable sin of heresy and schism, and leave no stone unturned to bring him to the stake.
But Sawners Ruthven comforted him with the assurance that his Grace would not venture to act in that manner, for it was known how Mistress Kilspinnie then lived at St Andrews as his concubine. Nevertheless, the poor man was in sore affliction, and as he and my grandfather travelled towards Crieff, many a bitter prayer did his vexed spirit pour forth in its grief that the right arm of the Lord might soon be manifested against the Roman locust that consumed the land and made its corruption naught in the nostrils of Heaven.
Thus was it manifest that there was much of the ire of a selfish revenge mixt up with the rage which was at that time kindled in so unquenchable a manner against the Beast and its worshippers, for in the history of the honest man of Crail there was a great similitude to other foul and worse things which the Roman idolaters seemed to regard among their pestiferous immunities, and counted themselves free to do without dread of any earthly retribution.
My grandfather and his companion hastened on in their journey, but instead of going to Stirling they crossed the river at Alloa, and so passed by the water-side way to Edinburgh, where, on entering the West-port, they separated. The bailie, who was a fearful man and in constant dread and terror of being burned as a heretic for having broke in upon the dalliance of his incontinent wife and the carnal-minded primate of St Andrews, went to a cousin of his own, a dealer in serge and temming in the Lawnmarket, with whom he concealed himself for some weeks, but my grandfather proceeded straight towards the lodging of the Earl of Glencairn to recount to his lordship the whole passages of what he had been concerned in, from the night that he departed from his presence.
It was by this time the mirkest of the gloaming, for they had purposely tarried on their journey that they might enter Edinburgh at dusk. The shops of the traders were shut, for in those days there was such a resort of sorners and lawless men among the trains of the nobles and gentry that it was not safe for honest merchants to keep their shops open after nightfall. Nevertheless the streets were not darkened, for there were then many begging-boxes, with images of the saints, and cruisies burning afore them, in divers parts of the High Street and corners of the wynds, insomuch that it was easy, as I have heard my grandfather tell, to see and know anyone passing in the light thereof. And, indeed, what befel himself was proof of it, for as he was coming through St Giles' Kirkyard, which is now the Parliament Close, and through which at that time there was a style and path for passengers, a young man, whom he had observed following him, came close up just as he reached a begging image of the Virgin Mary with its lamp that stood on a pillar at the south-east corner of the cathedral, and touching him on the left shoulder at that spot made him look round in such a manner that the light of the Virgin's lamp fell full on his face.
"Dinna be frighted," said the stranger, "I ken you, and I'm in Lord Glencairn's service; but follow me and say nothing."
My grandfather was not a little startled by this salutation; he, however, made no observe, but replied, "Go on, then."
So the stranger went forward, and, after various turnings and windings, led him down into the Cowgate and up a close on the south side thereof, and then to a dark timber stair that was so frail and creaking and narrow that his guide bade him haul himself up with the help of a rope that hung down dangling for that purpose.
When they had raised themselves to the stairhead, the stranger opened a door and they went together into a small and lonesome chamber, in the chimla-nook of which an old iron cruisie was burning with a winking and wizard light.
"I hae brought you here," said his conductor, "for secrecy, for my Lord disna want that ye should be seen about his lodging. I'm ane of three that hae been lang seeking you, and, as a token that ye're no deceived, I was bade to tell you that before parting from my lord he gi'ed you two pieces of gold out of his coffer in the chamber where he supped."
My grandfather thought this very like a proof that he had been so informed by the Earl himself, but happening to remark that he sat with his back to the light and kept his face hidden in the shadow of the darkness, Providence put it into his head to jealouse that he might nevertheless be a spy, one perhaps that had been trusted in like manner as he had himself been trusted, and who had afterwards sold himself to the perdition of the adversaries' cause; he was, accordingly, on his guard, but replied with seeming frankness that it was very true he had received two pieces of gold from the Earl at his departure.
"Then," said the young man, "by that token ye may know that I am in the private service of the Earl, who, for reasons best known to himsel', hath willed that you should tell me, that I may report the same secretly to him, what espionage you have made."
My grandfather was perplexed by this speech, but distrust having crept into his thoughts, instead of replying with a full recital of all his adventures, he briefly said that he had indeed effected nothing, for his soul was sickened by the woful martyrdom of the godly Master Mill to so great a disease that he could not endure to abide in St Andrews, and therefore he had come back.
"But you have been long on the way—how is that?—it is now many days since the burning," replied the stranger.
"You say truly," was my grandfather's answer, "for I came round by Perth, but I tarried at no place longer than was needful to repair and refresh nature."
"Perth was a wide bout gait to take frae St Andrews to come to Edinburgh. I marvel how ye went so far astray," said the young man, curiously.
"In sooth it was, but being sorely demented with the tragical end of the godly old man," replied my grandfather, "and seeing that I could do the Earl no manner of service, I wist not well what course to take, so after meickle tribulation of thought and great uncertainty of purpose I e'en resolved to come hither."
Little more passed; the young man rose and said to my grandfather he feared the Earl would be so little content with him that he had better not go near him but seek some other master. And when they had descended the stair and were come into the street he advised him to go to the house of a certain Widow Rippet, that let dry lodgings in the Grass-market, and roost there for that night. The which my grandfather in a manner signified he would do, and so they parted.
The stranger at first walked soberly away, but he had not gone many paces when he suddenly turned into a close leading up to the High-street, and my grandfather heard the pattering of his feet running as swiftly as possible, which confirmed to him what he suspected; and so, instead of going towards the Widow Rippet's house he turned back and went straight on to St Mary's Wynd, where the Earl's lodging was, and knocking at the yett was speedily admitted and conducted instanter to my Lord's presence, whom he found alone reading many papers which lay on a table before him.
"Gilhaize," said the Earl, "how is this? why have you come back? and wherefore is it that I have heard no tidings from you?"
Whereupon my grandfather recounted to him all the circumstantials which I have rehearsed, from the hour of his departure from Edinburgh up till the very time when he then stood in his master's presence. The Earl made no inroad on his narrative while he was telling it, but his countenance often changed and he was much moved at different passages—sometimes with sorrow and sometimes with anger; and he laughed vehemently at the mishap which had befallen the grand adversary of the Congregation and his concubine. The adventure, however, with the unknown varlet in the street appeared to make his Lordship very thoughtful, and no less than thrice did he question my grandfather if he had indeed given but those barren answers which I have already recited; to all which he received the most solemn asseverations that no more was said. His Lordship then sat some time cogitating with his hands resting on his thighs, his brows bent, and his lips pursed as with sharp thought. At last he said,—
"Gilhaize, you have done better in this than I ought to have expected of one so young and unpractised. The favour you won with Sir David Hamilton was no more than I thought your looks and manners would beget. But you are not only well-favoured but well-fortuned; and had you not found yourself worthily bound to your duty I doubt not you might have prospered in the Archbishop's household. The affair with Madam Kilspinnie was a thing I reckoned not of, yet therein you have proved yourself not only a very Joseph, but so ripe in wit beyond your years that your merits deserve more commendation than I can afford to give, for I have not sufficient to bestow on the singular prudence and discernment wherewith you have parried the treacherous thrusts of that Judas Iscariot, Winterton, for so I doubt not is the traitor who waylaid you. He was once in my service and is now in the Queen Regent's. In sending off my men on errands similar to yours, I was wont to give them two pieces of gold, and this the false loon has gathered to be a custom from others as well as by his own knowledge, and he has made it the key to open the breasts of my servants. To know this, however, is a great discovery. But, Gilhaize, not to waste words, you have your master's confidence. Go, therefore, I pray you, with all speed to the Widow Rippet's and do as Winterton bade you and as chance may require. In the morning come again hither, for I have this night many weighty affairs, and you have shown yourself possessed of a discerning spirit, that may, in these times of peril and perjury, help the great cause of all good Scotchmen."
In saying these most acceptable words, he clapped my grandfather on the shoulder, and encouraged him to be as true-hearted as he was sharp-witted, and he could not fail to earn both treasure and trusts. So my grand-father left him, and went to the Widow Rippet's in the Grass-market; and around her kitchen fire he found some four or five discarded knaves that were bargaining with her for beds, or for leave to sleep by the hearth; and he had not been long seated among them when his heart was grieved with pain to see Winterton come in, and behind him the two simple lads of Lithgow that had left their homes with him, whom, it appeared, the varlet had seduced from the Earl of Glencairn's service and inveigled into the Earl of Seaton's, a rampant papist, by the same wiles wherewith he thought he had likewise made a conquest of my grandfather, whom they had all come together to see; for the two Lithgow lads, like reynard the fox when he had lost his tail, were eager that he too should make himself like them. He feigned, however, great weariness, and indeed his heart was heavy to see such skill of wickedness in so young a man as he saw in Winterton. So, after partaking with them of some spiced ale which Winterton brought from the Salutation tavern, opposite the gallow's-stone, he declared himself overcome with sleep, and perforce thereof obligated to go to bed. But when they were gone, and he had retired to his sorry couch, no sleep came to his eyelids, but only hot and salt tears; for he thought that he had been in a measure concerned in bringing away the two thoughtless lads from their homes, and he saw that they were not tempered to resist the temptations of the world, but would soon fall away from their religious integrity, and become lewd and godless roisters, like the wuddy worthies that paid half-price for leave to sleep on the widow's hearth.
At the first blink of the grey eye of the morning my grandfather rose, and, quitting the house of the Widow Rippet, went straight to the Earl's lodgings, and was admitted. The porter at the door told him that their master, having been up all night, had but just retired to bed; but while they were speaking, the Earl's page, who slept in the ante-chamber, called from the stairhead to inquire who it was that had come so early, and being informed thereof, he went into his master, and afterwards came again and desired my grandfather to walk up, and conducted him to his Lordship, whom he found on his couch, but not undressed, and who said to him on his entering, when the page had retired,—
"I am glad, Gilhaize, that you have come thus early, for I want a trusty man to go forthwith into the west country. What I wish you to do cannot be written, but you will take this ring;" and he took one from the little finger of his right hand, on the gem of which his cipher was graven, and gave it to my grandfather. "On showing it to Lord Boyd, whom you will find at the Dean Castle, near Kilmarnock, he will thereby know that you are specially trusted of me. The message whereof you are the bearer is to this effect,—That the Lords of the Congregation have, by their friends in many places, received strong exhortations to step forward and oppose the headlong fury of the churchmen; and that they have in consequence deemed it necessary to lose no time in ascertaining what the strength of the Reformed may be, and to procure declarations for mutual defence from all who are joined in professing the true religion of Christ. Should he see meet to employ you in this matter, you will obey his orders and instructions, whatsoever they may be."
The Earl then put his hand aneath his pillow and drew out a small leathern purse, which he gave to my grandfather, who, in the doing of this, observed that he had several other similar purses ready under his head. In taking it, my grandfather was proceeding to tell him what he had observed at the Widow Rippet's, but his Lordship interrupted him, saying,—
"Such things are of no issue now, and your present duty is in a higher road; therefore make haste, and God be with you."
With these words, his Lordship turned himself on his couch, and composed himself to sleep, which my grandfather, after looking on for about a minute or so, observing, came away; and having borrowed a frock and a trot-cozey for the journey from one of the grooms of the hall, he went straight to Kenneth Shelty's, a noted horse-setter in those days, who lived at the West-port, and bargained with him for the hire of a beast to Glasgow, though Glasgow was not then the nearest road to Kilmarnock; but he thought it prudent to go that way, in case any of the papistical emissaries should track his course.
There was, however, a little oversight in this, which did not come to mind till he was some miles on the road, and that was the obligation it put him under of passing through Lithgow, where he was so well known, and where all his kith and kin lived—there being then no immediate route from Edinburgh to Glasgow but by Lithgow. And he debated with himself for a space of time whether he ought to proceed, or turn back and go the other way, and his mind was sorely troubled with doubts and difficulties. At last he considered that it was never deemed wise or fortunate to turn back in any undertaking, and besides, having for the service of the Saviour left his father's house and renounced his parents, like a bird that taketh wing and knoweth the nest where it was bred no more, he knit up his ravelled thoughts into resolution, and clapping spurs to his horse, rode bravely on.
But when he beheld the towers of the palace, and the steeples of his native town, rising before him, many remembrances came rushing to his heart, and all the vexations he had suffered there were lost in the sunny recollections of the morning of life, when everyone was kind, and the eyes of his parents looked on him with the brightness of delight, in so much, that his soul yearned within him, and his cheeks were wetted with fast-flowing tears. Nevertheless, he overcame this thaw of his fortitude, and went forward in the strength of the Lord, determined to swerve not in his duty to the Earl of Glencairn, nor in his holier fealty to a far greater Master. But the softness that he felt in his nature made him gird himself with a firm purpose to ride through the town without stopping. Scarcely, however, had he entered the port, when his horse stumbled and lost a shoe, by which he was not only constrained to stop, but to take him to his father's smiddy, which was in sight when the mischance happened.
On going to the door, he found, as was commonly the case, a number of grooms and flunkies of the courtiers, with certain friars, holding vehement discourse concerning the tidings of the time, the burden of which was the burning of the aged Master Mill, a thing that even the monks durst not, for humanity, venture very strenuously to defend. His father was not then within; but one of the prentice lads, seeing who it was that had come with a horse to be shod, ran to tell him; and at the sight of my grandfather, the friars suspended their controversies with the serving-men, and gathered round him with many questions. He replied, however, to them all with few words, bidding the foreman to make haste and shoe his horse, hoping that he might thereby be off and away before his father came.
But, while the man was throng with the horse's foot, both father and mother came rushing in, and his mother was weeping bitterly, and wringing her hands, chiding him as if he had sold himself to the Evil One, and beseeching him to stop and repent. His father, however, said little, but inquired how he had been, what he was doing, and where he was going; and sent the prentice lad to bring a stoup of spiced ale from a public hard by, in which he pledged him, kindly hoping he would do well for himself and he would do well for his parents. The which fatherliness touched my grandfather more to the quick than all the loud lament and reproaches of his mother; and he replied that he had entered into the service of a nobleman, and was then riding on his master's business to Glasgow; but he mentioned no name, nor did his father inquire. His mother, however, burst out into clamorous revilings, declaring her dread that it was some of the apostate heretics; and, giving vent to her passion, was as one in a frenzy, or possessed of a devil. The very friars were confounded at her distraction, and tried to soothe her and remove her forth the smiddy, which only made her more wild, so that all present compassionated my grandfather, who sat silent and made no answer, wearying till his horse was ready.
But greatly afflicted as he was by this trial, it was nothing to what ensued, when, after having mounted, and shaken his father by the hand, he galloped away to the West-port. There, on the outside, he was met by two women and an old man, parents of the lads whom he had taken with him to Edinburgh. Having heard he was at his father's smiddy, instead of going thither, they had come to that place, in order that they might speak with him more apart, and free from molestation, concerning their sons.
One of the women was a poor widow, and she had no other child, nor the hope of any other bread-winner for her old age. She, however, said nothing, but stood with the corner of her apron at her eyes, sobbing very afflictedly, while her friends, on seeing my grandfather coming out of the port, stepped forward, and the old man caught the horse by the bridle, and said gravely,—
"Ye maun stop and satisfy three sorrowful parents! What hae ye done with your twa thoughtless companions?"
My grandfather's heart was as if it would have perished in his bosom; for the company he had seen the lads with, and the talk they had held, and above all their recklessness of principle, came upon him like a withering flash of fire. He, however, replied soberly, that he had seen them both the night before, and that they were well in health and jocund in spirit.
The mother that was standing near her husband was blithe to hear this, and reminded her gudeman, how she had often said, that when they did hear tidings of their son her words would be found true, for he had ever been all his days a brisk and a valiant bairn.
But the helpless widow was not content, and she came forward drying her tears, saying, "And what is my poor fatherless do-na-gude about? I'm fearfu, fearfu to be particular; for, though he was aye kind-hearted to me, he was easily wised, and I doubt, I doubt he'll prove a blasting or a blessing, according to the hands he fa's among."
"I hope and pray," said my grandfather, "that he'll be protected from scaith, and live to be a comfort to all his friends." And, so saying, he disengaged his bridle with a gentle violence from the old man's hold, telling them he could not afford to stop, being timed to reach Glasgow that night. So he pricked the horse with his rowals, and shot away; but his heart, all the remainder of his day's journey, was as if it had been pierced with many barbed arrows, and the sad voice of the poor anxious widow rung in his ears like the sound of some doleful knell.
Saving this affair at Lithgow, nothing befell him till he came to the gates of Glasgow; by which time it was dark, and the ward and watch set, and they questioned him very sharply before giving him admission. For the Queen Regent was then sojourning in the castle, and her fears and cares were greatly quickened at that time, by rumours from all parts of the kingdom concerning the murder, as it was called, of Master Mill. On this account the French guards, which she had with her, were instructed to be jealous of all untimeous travellers, and they being joined with a ward of burghers, but using only their own tongue, caused no small molestation to every Scotsman that sought admission after the sun was set: for the burghers, not being well versed in military practices, were of themselves very propugnacious in their authority, making more ado than even the Frenchmen. It happened, however, that there was among those valiant traders and craftsmen of Glasgow one Thomas Sword, the deacon of the hammermen, and he having the command of those stationed at the gate, overheard what was passing with my grandfather, and coming out of the wardroom, inquired his name, which when he heard, and that he was son to Michael Gilhaize, the Lithgow ferrier, he advised to let him in, saying he knew his father well, and that they had worked together, when young men, in the King's armoury at Stirling; and he told him where he lived, and invited him, when his horse was stabled, to come to supper, for he was glad to see him for his father's sake.
At this time an ancient controversy between the Archbishops of St Andrews and of Glasgow, touching their respective jurisdictions, had been resuscitated with great acrimony, and in the debates concerning the same the Glasgow people took a deep interest, for they are stouthearted and of an adventurous spirit, and cannot abide to think that they or their town should, in anything of public honour, be deemed either slack or second to the foremost in the realm, and none of all the worthy burgesses thereof thought more proudly of the superiority and renown of their city than did Deacon Sword. So it came to pass, as he was sitting at supper with my grandfather, that he enlarged and expatiated on the inordinate pretensions of the Archbishop of St Andrews, and took occasion to diverge from the prelate's political ambition to speak of the enormities of his ecclesiastical government, and particularly of that heinous and never-to-be-forgotten act, the burning of an aged man of fourscore and two years, whose very heresies, as the deacon mercifully said, ought rather to have been imputed to dotage than charged as offences.
My grandfather was well pleased to observe such vigour of principle and bravery of character in one having such sway and weight in so great a community as to be the chief captain of the crafts who were banded with the hammermen, namely, the cartwrights, the saddlers, the masons, the coopers, the mariners, and all whose work required the use of edge-tools, the hardiest and buirdliest of the trades, and he allowed himself to run in with the deacon's humour, but without letting wot either in whose service he was, or on what exploit he was bound, sowing however, from time to time, hints as to the need that seemed to be growing of putting a curb on the bold front wherewith the Archbishop of St Andrews, under the pretext of suppressing heresies, butted with the horns of oppression against all who stood within the reverence of his displeasure.
Deacon Sword had himself a leaning to the reformed doctrines, which, with his public enmity to the challenger of his own Archbishop, made him take to those hints with so great an affinity, that he vowed to God, shaking my grandfather by the hand over the table, that if some steps were not soon taken to stop such inordinate misrule, there were not wanting five hundred men in Glasgow who would start forward with weapons in their grip at the first tout of a trump to vindicate the liberties of the subject, and the wholesome administration by the temporal judges of the law against all offenders as of old. And, giving scope to his ardour, he said there was then such a spirit awakened in Glasgow that men, women and children thirsted to see justice executed on the churchmen, who were daily waxing more and more wroth and insatiable against everyone who called their doctrines or polity in question.
Thus out of the very devices which had been devised by those about the Queen Regent to intercept the free communion of the people with one another was the means brought about whereby a chosen emissary of the Congregation came to get at the emboldening knowledge of the sense of the citizens of Glasgow with regard to the great cause which at that period troubled the minds and fears of all men.
My grandfather was joyfully heartened by what he heard, and before coming away from the deacon who, with the hospitality common to his townsmen, would fain have had him to prolong their sederunt over the gardevine, he said that if Glasgow were as true and valiant as it was thought, there could be no doubt that her declaration for the Lords of the Congregation would work out a great redress of public wrongs. For, from all he could learn and understand, those high and pious noblemen had nothing more at heart than to procure for the people the free exercise of their right to worship God according to their conscience and the doctrines of the Old and New Testaments.
But though over the liquor-cup the deacon had spoken so dreadless and like a manly citizen, my grandfather resolved with himself to depart betimes for Kilmarnock, in case of any change in his temper. Accordingly, he requested the hostler of the hostel where he had taken his bed, to which his day's hard journey early inclined him, to have his horse in readiness before break of day. But this hostel, which was called the Cross of Rhodes, happened to be situated at the Water-port, and besides being a tavern and inn, was likewise the great ferryhouse of the Clyde when the tide was up, or the ford rendered unsafe by the torrents of the speats and inland rains—the which caused it to be much frequented by the skippers and mariners of the barks that traded to France and Genoa with the Renfrew salmon, and by all sorts of travellers at all times even to the small hours of the morning. In short it was a boisterous house, the company resorting thereto of a sort little in unison with the religious frame of my grandfather. As soon, therefore, as he came from the deacon's, he went to bed without taking off his clothes, in order that he might be fit for the road as he intended; and his bed being in the public room, with sliding doors, he drew them upon him, hoping to shut out some of the din and to win a little repose. But scarcely had he laid his head on the pillow when he heard the voice of one entering the room, and listening eagerly, he discovered that it was no other than the traitor Winterton's, the which so amazed him with apprehension that he shook as he lay, like the aspen leaf on the tree.
Winterton called like a braggart for supper and hot wine, boasting he had ridden that day from Edinburgh, and that he must be up and across his horse by daylight in the morning, as he had need to be in Kilmarnock by noon. In this, which vanity made him tell in bravado, my grandfather could not but discern a kind Providence admonishing himself, for he had no doubt that Winterton was in pursuit of him, and thankful he was that he had given no inkling to anyone in the house as to whence he had come and where he was going. But had this thought not at once entered his head, he would soon have had cause to think it, for while Winterton was eating his supper he began to converse with their host, and to inquire what travellers had crossed the river. Twice or thrice, in as it were an off-hand manner, he spoke of one whom he called a cousin, but, in describing his garb, he left no doubt in my grandfather's bosom that it was regarding him he seemed at once both so negligent and so anxious. Most providential therefore it was that my grandfather had altered his dress before leaving Edinburgh, for the marks which Winterton gave of him were chiefly drawn from his ordinary garb, and by them their host in consequence said he had seen no such person.
When Winterton had finished his repast, and was getting his second stoup of wine heated, he asked where he was to sleep, to the which question the host replied that he feared he would, like others, be obligated to make a bench by the fireside his couch, all the beds in the house being already bespoke or occupied. "Every one of them is double," said the man, "save only one, the which is paid for by a young man that goes off at break of day and who is already asleep."
At this Winterton swore a dreadful oath that he would not sleep by the fire after riding fifty miles while there was half a bed in the house, and commanded the host to go and tell the young man that he must half blankets with him.
My grandfather knew that this could only refer to him; so, when their host came and opened the sliding doors of the bed, he feigned himself to be very fast asleep at the back of the bed, and only groaned in drowsiness when he was touched.
"O, let him alane," cried Winterton, "I ken what it is to be tired; so, as there's room enough at the stock, when I have drank my posset I'll e'en creep in beside him."
My grandfather, weary as he was, lay panting with apprehension, not doubting that he should be speedily discovered; but when Winterton had finished his drink and came swaggering and jocose to be his bedfellow, he kept himself with his face to the wall, and snored like one who was in haste to sleep more than enough, insomuch that Winterton, when he lay down, gave him a deg with his elbow and swore at him to be quiet. His own fatigue, however, soon mastered the disturbance which my grandfather made, and he began himself to echo the noise in defenceless sincerity.
On hearing him thus fettered by sleep, my grandfather began to consider with himself what he ought to do, being both afraid and perplexed he knew not wherefore; and he was prompted by a power that he durst not and could not reason with to rise and escape from the jeopardy wherein he then was. But how could this be done, for the house was still open, and travellers and customers were continually going and coming. Truly his situation was one of great tribulation, and escape therefrom a thing seemingly past hope and the unaided wisdom of man.
After lying about the period of an hour in great perturbation, he began to grow more collected, and the din and resort of strangers in the house also subsided, by which he was enabled, with help from on high, to gather his scattered thoughts and to bind them up into the sheaves of purpose and resolution. Accordingly, when all was still, and several young men that were sitting by the fire on account of every bed being occupied, gave note, by their deep breathing, that sleep had descended upon them, and darkened their senses with her gracious and downy wings, he rose softly from the side of Winterton, and stepping over him, slipped to the door, which he unbarred, and the moon shining bright he went to the stable to take out his horse. It was not his intent to have done this, but to have gone up into the streets of the city and walked the walls thereof till he thought his adversary was gone, but seeing the moon so fair and clear he determined to take his horse and forthwith proceed on his journey, for the river was low and fordable, and trintled its waters with a silvery sheen in the stillness of the beautiful light.
Scarcely, however, had he pulled the latch of the stable door—even as he was just entering in—when he heard Winterton coming from the house rousing the hostler, whom he profanely rated for allowing him to oversleep himself. For, wakening just as his bedfellow rose, he thought the morning was come and that his orders had been neglected.
In this extremity my grandfather saw no chance of evasion. If he went out into the moonshine he would to a surety be discovered, and in the stable he would to a certainty be caught. But what could he do and the danger so pressing? He had hardly a choice; however, he went into the stable, shut the door, and running up to the horses that were farthest ben, mounted into the hack, and hid himself among the hay.
In that concealment he was scarcely well down when Winterton, with an hostler that was half asleep, came with a lantern to the door, banning the poor knave as if he had been cursing him with bell, book and candle, the other rubbing his eyes and declaring it was still far from morning, and saying he was sure the other traveller was not gone. To the which there was speedy evidence, for on going towards Winterton's horse the hostler saw my grandfather's in its stall and told him so.
At that moment a glimpse of the lantern fell on the horse's legs, and its feet being white, "Oho!" cried Winterton, "let us look here—Kenneth Shelty's Lightfoot—the very beast; and hae I been in the same hole wi' the tod and no kent it. The deil's black collie worry my soul, but this is a soople trick. I did nae think the sleekit sinner had art enough to play't. Nae doubt he's gane to hide himsel in the town till I'm awa, for he has heard what I said yestreen. But I'll be up sides wi' him. The de'il a foot will I gang this morning till he comes back for his horse." And with these words he turned out of the stable with the hostler and went back to the house.
No sooner were they well gone than my grandfather came from his hiding-place, and twisting a wisp of straw round his horse's feet, that they might not dirl or make a din on the stones, he led it cannily out and down to the river's brink, and, there mounting, took the ford, and was soon free on the Gorbals side. Riding up the gait at a brisk trot, he passed on for a short time along the road that he had been told led to Kilmarnock, but fearing he would be followed, he turned off at the first wynd he came to on the left, and a blessed thing it was that he did so, for it led to the Reformation-leavened town of Paisley, where he arrived an hour before daylight. Winterton, little jealousing what had happened, went again to bed, as my grandfather afterwards learnt, and had fallen asleep. In the morning when he awoke and was told that both man and horse were flown, he flayed the hostler's back and legs in more than a score of places, believing he had connived at my grandfather's secret flight.
My grandfather had never before been in the town of Paisley, but he had often heard from Abercorn's serving-men that were wont to sorn about his father's smiddy, of a house of jovial entertainment by the water-side, about a stone-cast from the abbey-yett, the hostess whereof was a certain canty dame called Maggy Napier, then in great repute with the shavelings of the abbey. Thither he directed his course, the abbey towers serving him for her sign, and the moonlight and running river were guides to her door, at the which he was not blate in chapping. She was, however, long of giving entrance, for it happened that some nights before the magistrates of the town had been at a carousal with the abbot and chapter, the papistical denomination for the seven heads and ten horns of a monastery, and when they had come away and were going home, one of them, Bailie Pollock, a gaucy widower, was instigated by the devil and the wine he had drunk to stravaig towards Maggy Napier's—a most unseemly thing for a bailie to do—especially a bailie of Paisley, but it was then the days of popish sinfulness. And when Bailie Pollock went thither the house was full of riotous swankies, who, being the waur of drink themselves, had but little reverence for a magistrate in the same state, so they handled him to such a degree that he was obliged to keep his bed and put collops to his eyes for three days. The consequence of which was that the house fell under the displeasure of the Town Council, and Maggie was admonished to keep it more orderly and doucely—though the fault came neither from her nor her customers, as she told my grandfather, for detaining him so long, it being requisite that she should see he was in a condition of sobriety before letting him in. But, when admitted, he was in no spirit to enjoy her jocosity concerning Bailie Pollock's spree, so he told her that he had come far and had far to go, and that having heard sore tidings of a friend, he was fain to go to bed and try if he could compose himself with an hour or two of sleep.
Maggie accordingly refrained from her jocularity, and began to soothe and comfort him, for she was naturally of a winsome way, and prepared a bed for him with her best sheets, the which, she said, were gi'en her in gratus gift frae the Lord Abbot, so that he undressed himself and enjoyed a pleasant interregnum of anxiety for more than five hours; and when he awoke and was up, he found a breakfast worthy of the abbot himself ready, and his hostess was most courtly and kind, praising the dainties, and pressing him to eat. Nor when he proposed to reckon with her for the lawin would she touch the money, but made him promise, when he came back, he would bide another night with her, hoping he would then be in better spirits, for she was wae to see so braw a gallant sae casten down, doless and dowie.
When they had settled their contest, and my grandfather had come out to mount his beast, which a stripling was holding ready for him at a louping-on-stane near the abbey-yett, as he was going thither, a young friar, who was taking a morning stroll along the pleasant banks of the Cart, approached towards him, and, after looking hard at him for some time, called him by name and took him by both the hands, which he pressed with a brotherly affection.
This friar was of Lithgow parentage and called Dominick Callender, and when he and my grandfather were playing-bairns, they had spent many a merry day of their suspicion-less young years together. As he grew up, being a lad of shrewd parts, and of a very staid and orderly deportment, the monks set their snares for him, and before he could well think for himself he was wiled into their traps, and becoming a novice, in due season professed himself a monk. But it was some time before my grandfather knew him again, for the ruddy of youth had fled his cheek, and he was pale and of a studious countenance; and when the first sparklings of his pleasure at the sight of his old play-marrow had gone off, his eyes saddened into thoughtfulness, and he appeared like one weighed down with care and heavy inward dule.
After Dominick Callender and my grandfather had conversed some time, with many interchanges of the kindly remembrances of past pleasures, the gentle friar began to bewail his sad estate in being a professed monk, and so mournfully to deplore the rashness with which inexperienced youth often takes upon itself a yoke it can never lay down, that the compassion of his friend was sorrowfully awakened, for he saw he was living a life of bitterness and grief. He heard him, however, without making any reply or saying anything concerning his own lot of hazard and adventure; for, considering Dominick to be leagued with the papistical orders, he did not think him safe to be trusted, notwithstanding the unchanged freshness of the loving-kindness which he still seemed to bear in his heart; nor even, had he not felt this jealousy, would he have thought himself free to speak of his errand, far less to have given to any stranger aught that might have been an inkling of his noble master's zealous, but secret, stirrings for the weal of Scotland and the enfranchisement of the worshippers of the true God.
When my grandfather had arrived at his horse, and prepared to mount, Dominick Callender said to him if he would ride slowly for a little way he would walk by his side, adding, "For maybe I'll ne'er see you again—I'm a-weary of this way of life, and the signs of the times bode no good to the church. I hae a thought to go into some foreign land where I may taste the air of a freeman, and I feel myself comforted before I quit our auld, hard-favoured but warm-hearted Scotland, in meeting wi' ane that reminds me how I had once sunny mornings and summer days."
This was said so much in the sincerity of a confiding spirit that my grandfather could not refrain from observing, in answer, that he feared his friar's cloak did not sit easy upon him, which led him on to acknowledge that it was so.
"I am speaking to you, Gilhaize," said he, "with the frank heart of auld langsyne, and I dinna scruple to confess to one that I hae often thought of, and weary't to see again, and wondered what had become of, that my conscience has revolted against the errors of the papacy, and that I am now upon the eve of fleeing my native land and joining the Reformed at Geneva. And maybe I'm no ordain'd to spend a' my life in exile, for no man can deny that the people of Scotland are not inwardly the warm adversaries of the church. That last and cruellest deed, the sacrifice of the feckless old man of fourscore and upward, has proven that the humanity of the world will no longer endure the laws and pretensions of the church, and there are few in Paisley whom the burning of auld Mill has not kindled with the spirit of resistance."
The latter portion of these words was as joyous tidings to my grandfather, and he tightened his reins and entered into a more particular and inquisitive discourse with his companion, by which he gathered that the martyrdom of Master Mill had indeed caused great astonishment and wrath among the pious in and about Paisley, and not only among them, but had estranged the affections even of the more worldly from the priesthood, of whom it was openly said that the sense of pity towards the commonalty of mankind was extinguished within them, and that they were all in all for themselves.
But as they were proceeding through the town and along the road, conversing in a familiar but earnest manner on these great concerns, Dominick Callender began to inveigh against the morals of his brethren, and to lament again, in a very piteous manner, that he was decreed, by his monastic profession, from the enjoyment of the dearest and tenderest pleasures of man. And before they separated, it came out that he had been for some time touched with the soft enchantments of love for a young maiden, the daughter of a gentleman of good account in Paisley, and that her chaste piety was as the precious gum wherewith the Egyptians of old preserved their dead in everlasting beauty, keeping from her presence all taint of impurity and of thoughts sullying to innocence, insomuch that, even were he inclined, as he said many of his brethren would have been, to have acted the part of a secret canker to that fair blossom, the gracious and holy embalmment of her virtues would have proved an incorruptible protection.
"But," he exclaimed, with a sorrowful voice, "that which is her glory and my admiration and praise is converted by the bondage of my unnatural vows into a curse to us both. The felicity that we might have enjoyed together in wedded life is forbidden to us as a great crime. But the laws of God are above the canons of the church, the voice of Nature is louder than the fulminations of the Vatican, and I have resolved to obey the one and give ear to the other despite the horrors that await on apostacy. Can you, Gilhaize, in aught assist my resolution?"
There was so much vehemence and the passion of grief in these ejaculations, that my grandfather wist not well what to say. He told him, however, not to be rash in what he did, nor to disclose his intents save only to those in whom he could confide, for the times were perilous to everyone that slackened in reverence to the papacy, particularly to such as had pastured within the chosen folds of the church.
"Bide," said he, "till you see what issue is ordained to come from this dreadful deed which so shaketh all the land, making the abbey towers topple and tremble to their oldest and deepest foundations. Truth is awakened and gone forth conquering and to conquer. It cannot be that ancient iniquities will be much longer endured, the arm of Wrath is raised against them, the sword of Revenge is drawn forth from its scabbard by Justice, and Nature has burst asunder the cords of the Roman harlot and stands in her freedom, like Samson, when the Spirit of the Lord was mightily poured upon him, as he awoke from the lap of Delilah."
The gentle friar, as my grandfather often told, stood for some time astounded at this speech, and then he said,—
"I dreamt not, Gilhaize, that beneath a countenance so calm and comely, the zealous fires of a warrior's bravery could have been kindled to so vehement a heat. But I will vex you with no questions. Heaven is on your side, and may its redeeming promptings never allow its ministers to rest till the fetters are broken and the slaves are set free."
With these words he stepped forward to shake my grandfather by the hand and to bid him farewell, but just as he came to the stirrup he halted and said,—
"It is not for nothing that the remembrance of you has been preserved so much brighter and dearer to me than that of all my kin. There was aye something about you in our heedless days that often made me wonder, I could not tell wherefore, and now, when I behold you in the prime of manhood, it fills me with admiration and awe and makes me do homage to you as a master."
Much more he added to the same effect, which the modesty of my grandfather would not allow him to repeat; but when they had parted, and my grandfather had ridden forward some two or three miles, he recalled to mind what had passed between them, and he used to say that this discourse with his early friend first opened to him a view of the grievous captivity which Nature suffered in the monasteries and convents, notwithstanding the loose lives imputed to their inmates; and he saw that the Reformation would be hailed by many that languished in the bondage of their vows as a great and glorious deliverance. But still he was wont to say, even with such as these, it was overly mingled with temporal concernments, and that they longed for it less on account of its immortal issues than for its sensual emancipations.
And as he was proceeding on his way in this frame of mind, and thinking on all that he had seen and learnt from the day in which he bade adieu to his father's house, he came to a place where the road forked off in two different airts, and not knowing which to take, he stopped his horse and waited till a man drew nigh whom he observed coming towards him. By this man he was told that the road leading leftward led to Kilmarnock and Ayr, and the other on the right to Kilwinning; so, without saying anything, he turned his horse's head into the latter, the which he was moved to do by sundry causes and reasons. First, he had remarked that the chances in his journey had, in a very singular manner, led him to gain much of that sort of knowledge which the Lords of the Congregation thirsted for; and second, he had no doubt that Winterton was in pursuit of him to Kilmarnock, for some purpose of frustration or circumvention, the which, though he was not able to divine, he could not but consider important, if it was, as he thought, the prime motive of that varlet's journey.
But he was chiefly disposed to prefer the Kilwinning road, though it was several miles more of bout-gait, on account of the rich abbacy in that town, hoping he might glean and gather some account how the clergy there stood affected, the meeting with Dominick Callender having afforded him a vista of friends and auxiliaries in the enemy's camp little thought of. Besides all this, he reflected, that as it was of consequence he should reach the Lord Boyd in secrecy, he would be more likely to do so by stopping at Kilwinning and feeing someone there to guide him to the Dean Castle by moonlight. I have heard him say, however, the speakable motives of his deviation from the straight road were at the time far less effectual in moving him thereto than a something which he could not tell, that with an invisible hand took his horse, as it were, by the bridle-rings and constrained him to go into the Kilwinning track. In the whole of this journey there was indeed a very extraordinary manifestation of a special providence, not only in the protection vouchsafed towards himself, but in the remarkable accidents and occurrences by which he was enabled to enrich himself with the knowledge so precious at that time to those who were chosen to work the great work of the Gospel in Scotland.
As my grandfather came in sight of Kilwinning, and beheld the abbey with its lofty horned towers and spiky pinnacles and the sands of Cunningham between it and the sea, it seemed to him as if a huge leviathan had come up from the depths of the ocean and was devouring the green inland, having already consumed all the herbage of the wide waste that lay so bare and yellow for many a mile, desert, and lonely in the silent sunshine, and he ejaculated to himself that the frugal soil of poor Scotland could ne'er have been designed to pasture such enormities.
As he rode on, his path descended from the heights into pleasant tracks along banks feathered with the fragrant plumage of the birch and hazel, and he forgot, in hearkening to the cheerful prattle of the Garnock waters, as they swirled among the pebbles by the roadside, the pageantries of that mere bodily worship which had worked on the ignorance of the world to raise such costly monuments of the long-suffering patience of Heaven, while they showed how much the divine nature of the infinite God and the humility of His eternal Son had been forgotten in this land among professing Christians.
When he came nigh the town he inquired for an hostel, and a stripling, the miller's son, who was throwing stones at a flock of geese belonging to the abbey, then taking their pleasures uninvited in his father's mill-dam, guided him to the house of Theophilus Lugton, the chief vintner, horse-setter and stabler in the town, where, on alighting, he was very kindly received; for the gudewife was of a stirring, household nature, and Theophilus himself, albeit douce and temperate for a publican, was a man obliging and hospitable, not only as became him in his trade but from a disinterested good-will. He was, indeed, as my grandfather came afterwards to know, really a person holden in great respect and repute by the visitors and pilgrims who resorted to the abbey, and by none more than by the worthy wives of Irvine, the most regular of his customers. For they being then in the darkness of papistry, were as much given to the idolatry of holidays and masses as, thanks be and praise! they are now to the hunting out of sound gospel preachers and sacramental occasions. Many a stoup of burnt wine and spiced ale they were wont at Pace and Yule and other papistal high times to partake of together in the house of Theophilus Lugton, happy and well content when their possets were flavoured with the ghostly conversation of some gawsie monk well versed in the mysteries of requiems and purgatory.
Having parted with his horse to be taken to the stable by Theophilus himself, my grandfather walked into the house, and Dame Lugton set for him an elbow-chair by the chimla lug, and while she was preparing something for a repast they fell into conversation, in the course of which she informed him that a messenger had come to the abbey that forenoon from Edinburgh, and a rumour had been bruited about soon after his arrival that there was great cause to dread a rising among the heretics, for, being ingrained with papistry, she so spoke of the Reformers.
This news troubled my grandfather not a little, and the more he inquired concerning the tidings the more reason he got to be alarmed and to suspect that the bearer was Winterton, who being still in the town, and then at the abbey—his horse was in Theophilus Lugton's stable—he could not but think that in coming to Kilwinning instead of going right on to Kilmarnock he had run into the lion's mouth. But, seeing it was so, and could not be helped, he put his trust in the Lord and resolved to swerve in no point from the straight line which he had laid down for himself.
While he was eating of Dame Lugton's fare with the relishing sauce of a keen appetite, in a manner that no one who saw him could have supposed he was almost sick with a surfeit of anxieties, one James Coom, a smith, came in for a mutchkin-cap of ale, and he, seeing a traveller, said,—
"Thir's sair news! The drouth of cauld iron will be slockened in men's blood ere we hear the end o't."
"'Deed," replied my grandfather, "it's very alarming; Lucky, here, has just been telling me that there's likely to be a straemash among the Reformers. Surely they'll ne'er daur to rebel."
"If a' tales be true, that's no to do," said the smith, blowing the froth from the cap in which Dame Lugton handed him the ale, and taking a right good-willy waught.
"But what's said?" inquired my grandfather, when the smith had fetched his breath.
"Naebody can weel tell," was his response; "a' that's come this length is but the sough afore the storm. Within twa hours there has been a great riding hither and yon, and a lad straight frae Embro' has come to bid my Lord Abbot repair to the court; and three chiels hae been at me frae Eglinton Castle to get their beast shod for a journey. My Lord there is hyte and fykie; there's a gale in his tail, said they, light where it may. Now, atween oursels, my Lord has na the heart of a true bairn to that aged and worthy grannie of the papistry, our leddy the Virgin Mary—here's her health, poor auld deaf and dumb creature—she has na, I doubt, the pith to warsle wi' the blast she ance in a day had."
"Haud that heretical tongue o' thine, Jamie Coom," exclaimed Dame Lugton. "It's enough to gaur a body's hair stand on end to hear o' your familiarities wi' the Holy Virgin. I won'er my Lord Abbot has na langsyne tethert thy tongue to the kirk door wi' a red-het nail for sic blasphemy. But fools are privileged, and so's seen o' thee."
"And wha made me familiar wi' her, Dame Lugton, tell me that?" replied James; "was na it my Lord himself at last Marymas, when he sent for me to make a hoop to mend her leg that sklintered aff as they were dressing her for the show. Eh! little did I think that I was ever to hae the honour and glory of ca'ing a nail intil the timber hip o' the Virgin Mary! Ah, Lucky, ye would na hae tholed the dirl o' the dints o' my hammer as she did. But she's a saint, and ye'll ne'er deny that ye're a sinner."
To this Dame Lugton was unable to reply, and the smith, cunningly winking, dippet his head up to the lugs in the ale-cap.
"But," said my grandfather, "no to speak wi' disrespeck of things considered wi' reverence, it does na seem to me that there is ony cause to think the Reformers hae yet rebelled."
"I am sure," replied the smith, "if they hae na they ought, or the de'il a spunk's amang them. Isna a' the monks frae John o' Groat's to the Border getting ready their spits and rackses, frying-pans and branders to cook them like capons and doos for Horney's supper? I never hear my ain bellows snoring at a gaud o' iron in the fire but I think o' fat Father Lickladle, the abbey's head kitchener, roasting me o'er the low like a laverock in his collop-tangs; for, as Dame Lugton there weel kens, I'm ane o' the Reformed. Heh! but it's a braw thing this Reformation. It used to cost me as muckle siller for the sin o' getting fu', no aboon three or four times in the year, as would hae kept ony honest man blithe and ree frae New'erday to Hogmanae; but our worthy hostess has found to her profit that I'm now ane of her best customers. What say ye, Lucky?"
"Truly," said Dame Lugton, laughing, "thou's no an ill swatch o' the Reformers; and naebody need be surprised at the growth o' heresy wha thinks o' the dreadfu' cost the professors o't used to be at for pardons. But maybe they'll soon find that the de'il's as hard a taxer as e'er the kirk was; for ever since thou has refraint frae paying penance, thy weekly calks ahint the door ha'e been on the increase, Jamie, and no ae plack has thou mair to spare. So muckle gude thy reforming has done thee."
"Bide awee, Lucky," cried the smith, setting down the ale-cap which he had just emptied; "bide awee, and ye'll see a change. Surely it was to be expecket, considering the spark in my hass, that the first use I would mak' o' the freedom o' the Reformation would be to quench it, which I never was allowed to do afore; and whenever that's done, ye'll see me a geizen't keg o' sobriety, tak the word o' a drouthy smith for't."
At this jink o' their controversy who should come into the house, ringing ben to the hearth-stane with his iron heels and the rattling rowels o' his spurs, but Winterton, without observing my grandfather, who was then sitting with his back to the window light, in the arm-chair at the chimla lug; and when he had ordered Dame Lugton to spice him a drink of her best brewing, he began to joke and jibe with the blacksmith, the which allowing my grandfather time to compose his wits, which were in a degree startled. He saw that he could not but be discovered, so he thought it was best to bring himself out. Accordingly, in as quiet a manner as he was able to put on, he said to Winterton,—
"I hae a notion that we twa ha'e forgathered no lang sincesyne."
At the sound of these words Winterton gave a loup, as if he had tramped on something no canny, syne a whirring sort of triumphant whistle, and then a shout, crying,—
"Ha, ha! tod lowrie! hae I yirded you at last?" But instanter he recollected himsel', and giving my grandfather a significant look, as if he wished him no to be particular, he said, "I heard o' you, Gilhaize, on the road, and I was fain to hae come up wi' you, that we might hae travelled thegither. Howsever, I lost scent at Glasgow." And then he continued to haver with him, in his loose and profligate manner, anent the Glasgow damsels, till the ale was ready, when he pressed my grandfather to taste, never letting wot how they had slept together in the same bed; and my grandfather, on his part, was no less circumspect, for he discerned that Winterton intended to come over him, and he was resolved to be on his guard.
When Winterton had finished his drink, which he did hastily, he proposed to my grandfather that they should take a stroll through the town; and my grandfather being eager to throw stour in his eyes, was readily consenting thereto.
"Weel," said the knave, when he had warily led him into the abbey kirk-yard, "I didna think ye would hae gane back to my Lord; but it's a' very weel, since he has looked o'er what's past, and gi'en you a new dark."
"He's very indulgent," replied my grandfather, "and I would be looth to wrang so kind a master;" and he looked at Winterton. The varlet, however, never winced, but rejoined lightly,—
"But I wish you had come back to Widow Rippet's, for ye would hae spar't me a hard ride. Scarcely had ye ta'en the road when my Lord mindit that he had neglekit to gie you the sign, by the which ye were to make yoursel and message kent to his friends, and I was sent after to tell you."
"I'm glad o' that," replied my grandfather; "what is't?" Winterton was a thought molested by this thrust of a question, and for the space of about a minute said nothing, till he had considered with himself, when he rejoined,—
"Three lads were sent off about the same time wi' you, and the Earl was nae quite sure, he said, whilk of you a' he had forgotten to gie the token whereby ye would be known as his men. But the sign for the Earl of Eglinton, to whom I guess ye hae been sent, by coming to Kilwinning, is no the same as for the Lord Boyd, to whom I thought ye had been missioned; for I hae been at the Dean Castle, and finding you not there, followed you hither."
"I'll be plain wi' you," said my grandfather to this draughty speech. "I'm bound to the Lord Boyd; but coming through Paisley, when I reached the place where the twa roads branched, I took the ane that brought me here, instead of the gate to Kilmarnock; so, as soon as my beast has eaten his corn, I mean to double back to the Dean Castle."
"How, in the name of the saints and souls, did ye think, in going frae Glasgow to Kilmarnock, o' taking the road to Paisley?"
"'Deed, an' ye were acquaint," said my grandfather, "wi' how little I knew o' the country, ye would nae speir that question; but since we hae fallen in thegither, and are baith, ye ken, in my Lord Glencairn's service, I hope you'll no objek to ride back wi' me to the Lord Boyd's."
"Then it's no you that was sent to the Earl of Eglinton?" exclaimed Winterton, pretending more surprise than he felt; "and all my journey has been for naething. Howsever, I'll go back wi' you to Kilmarnock, and the sooner we gang the better."
Little farther discourse then passed, for they returned to the hostel, and ordering out their horses, were soon on the road; and as they trotted along, Winterton was overly outspoken against the papisticals, calling them all kinds of ill names, and no sparing the Queen Regent. But my grandfather kept a calm tongue, and made no reflections.
"Howsever," said Winterton, pulling up his bridle and walking his horse as they were skirting the moor of Irvine, leaving the town about a mile off on the right, "you and me, Gilhaize, that are but servants, need nae fash our heads wi' sic things. The wyte o' wars lie at the doors of kings, and the soldiers are free o' the sin o' them. But how will ye get into the presence and confidence of the Lord Boyd?"
"I thought," replied my grandfather, pawkily, "that ye had gotten our master's token; and I maun trust to you."
"Oh," cried Winterton, "I got but the ane for the lad sent to Eglinton Castle."
"And ha'e ye been there?" said my grandfather.
Winterton didna let wot that he heard this, but, stooping over on the off-side of his horse, pretended he was righting something about his stirrup-leather. My grandfather was, however, resolved to prob him to the quick; so, when he was again sitting upright, he repeated the question, if he had been to Eglinton Castle.
"O, ay," cried the false loon; "I was there, but the bird was flown."
"And how got he the ear of the Earl," said my grandfather, "not having the sign?"
"In for a penny in for a pound," was Winterton's motto, and ae lie with him was father to a race. "Luckily for him," replied he, "some of the serving-men kent him as being in Glencairn's service, so they took him to their master."
My grandfather had no doubt that there was some truth in this, though he was sure Winterton knew little about it; for it agreed with what James Coom, the smith, had said about the lads from Eglinton that had been at his smiddy to get the horses shod, and remembering the leathern purses under the Earl his master's pillow, he was persuaded that there had been a messenger sent to the head of the Montgomeries, and likewise to other lords, friends of the Congregation; but he saw that Winterton went by guess, and lied at random. Still, though not affecting to notice it, nor expressing any distrust, he could not help saying to him, that he had come a long way, and after all it looked like a gowk's errand.
The remark, however, only served to give Winterton inward satisfaction, and he replied with a laugh, that it made little odds to him where he was sent, and that he'd as lief ride in Ayrshire as sorn about the causey of Enbrough.
In this sort of talk and conference they rode on together, the o'ercome every now and then of Winterton's discourse being concerning the proof my grandfather carried with him, whereby the Lord Boyd would know he was one of Glencairn's men. But, notwithstanding all his wiles and devices to howk the secret out of him, his drift being so clearly discerned, my grandfather was enabled to play with him till they were arrived at Kilmarnock, where Winterton proposed to stop till he had delivered his message to the Lord Boyd, at the Dean Castle.
"That surely cannot be," replied my grandfather; "for ye ken, as there has been some mistak about the sign whereby I am to make myself known, ye'll ha'e to come wi' me to expound, in case of need. In trooth, now that we hae forgatherit, and as I ha'e but this ae message to a' the shire of Ayr, I would fain ha'e your company till I see the upshot."
Winterton could not very easily make a refusal to this, but he hesitated and swithered, till my grandfather urged him again;—when, seeing no help for it, and his companion, as he thought, entertaining no suspicion of him, he put on a bold face and went forward.
When they had come to the Dean Castle, which stands in a pleasant green park about a mile aboon the town-head of Kilmarnock, on entering the gate, my grandfather hastily alighted, and giving his horse a sharp prick of his spur as he lap off, the beast ran capering out of his hand, round the court of the castle.
With the well-feigned voice of great anxiety, my grandfather cried to the servants to shut the gate and keep it in; and Winterton alighting, ran to catch it, giving his own horse to a stripling to hold. At the same moment, however, my grandfather sprung upon him, and seizing him by the throat, cried out for help to master a spy.
Winterton was so confounded that he gasped and looked round like a man demented, and my grandfather ordered him to be taken by the serving-men to their master, before whom, when they were all come, he recounted the story of his adventures with the prisoner, telling his Lordship what his master, the Earl of Glencairn, suspected of him. To which, when Winterton was asked what he had to say, he replied bravely, that it was all true, and he was none ashamed to be so catched, when it was done by so clever a fellow.
He was then ordered by the Lord Boyd to be immured in the dungeon-room, the which may be seen to this day; and though his captivity was afterwards somewhat relaxed, he was kept a prisoner in the castle till after the death of the Queen Dowager, and the breaking-up of her two-faced councils. This exploit won my grandfather great favour, and he scarcely needed to show the signet-ring when he told his message from the Lords of the Congregation.
By such devices and missions, as my grandfather was engaged in for the Earl Glencairn with the Lord Boyd, a thorough understanding was concerted among the Reformed throughout the kingdom; and encouraged by their great strength and numbers, which far exceeded what was expected, the Lords of the Congregation set themselves roundly to work, and the protestant preachers openly published their doctrines.
Soon after my grandfather had returned from the shire of Ayr, there was a weighty consultation held at the Earl his patron's lodging in Edinburgh, whereat, among others present, was that pious youth, afterwards the good Regent Murray. He was, by office and appointment, then the head and lord of the priory of St Andrews; but his soul cleaving to the Reformation and the Gospel, he laid down the use of that title, and about this time began to be called the Lord James Stuart.
The Lords of the Congregation, feeling themselves strong in the goodness of their cause and the number of their adherents, resolved at this council, that they should proceed firmly but considerately to work, and seek redress as became true lieges, by representation and supplication. Accordingly a paper was drawn up, wherein they set forth how, for conscience sake, the Reformed had been long afflicted with banishment, confiscation of goods, and death in its cruellest forms. That continual fears darkened their lives till, being no longer able to endure such calamities, they were compelled to beg a remedy against the oppressions and tyranny of the Estate Ecclesiastical, which had usurped an unlimited domination over the minds of men,—the faggot and the sword being the weapons which the prelates employed to enforce their mandates,—plain truths that were thus openly stated in order to show that the suppliants were sincere; and they concluded with a demand, that the original purity of the Christian religion should be restored, and the government so improved as to afford them security in their persons, opinions, and property.
Sir James Calder of Sandilands was the person chosen to present this memorial to the Queen Regent; and never, said my grandfather, was an agent more fitly chosen to uphold the dignity of his trust, or to preserve the respect which, as good subjects, the Reformed desired to maintain and manifest towards the authority regal. He was a man far advanced in life; but there was none of the infirmities of age under the venerable exterior with which time had clothed his appearance. Of great honour and a pure life, he was reverenced by all parties, and had acquired both renown and affection, through his services to the realm and his manifold virtues.
On a day appointed by the Queen Regent, the Lords and leaders of the Congregation attended Sandilands, each with a stately retinue, to Holyrood House; my grandfather having leave from the Earl, his master, to wait on his person on that occasion.
It was a solemn day to the worshippers of the true God, who came in great multitudes to the town, many from distant parts, to be present, and to hear the issue of a conference that was to give liberty to the consciences of all devout Scotchmen. From the house in the Lawnmarket, where the Lords assembled, down to the very yetts of the palace, the sight was as if the street had been paved with faces, and windows over windows, roofs and lum-heads, were clustered with women and children. All temporal cares and businesses were that day suspended: in the accents and voices of men there was an awful sobriety, few speaking, and what was said, sounded as if every one was affected with the sense of some high and everlasting interest at stake.
When the Lords went down into the street, there was, for a brief interval, a stir and a murmur in the multitude, which opened to the right and left as when the waves of the Red Sea were opened, and through the midst thereof prepared a miraculous road for the children of Israel. A deep silence succeeded, and Sandilands, with his hoary head uncovered, bearing in his hand the supplication and remonstrance, walked forward; and the Lords went after also all bareheaded, and every one with them followed in like manner as reverentially as their masters. The people, as they passed along, slowly and devoutly, took off their caps and bonnets, and bowed their heads as when the ark of the covenant of the Lord was of old brought back from the Philistines; and many wept, and others prayed aloud, and there was wonder, and awe, and dread, mingled with thoughts of unspeakable confidence and glory.
When Sandilands and those with him were conducted into the presence of the Queen Dowager, she was standing under a canopy of state, surrounded by many of the nobles and prelates, and by her maidens of honour. My grandfather had not seen her before, and having often heard her suspected of double-dealing, and of a superstitious zeal and affection for the papal abominations and cruelties, he had pictured to himself a lean and haggard woman, with a pale and fierce countenance, and was therefore greatly amazed when he beheld a lady of a most sweet and gracious aspect, with mild dark eyes beaming with a chaste dignity, and a high and fair forehead, bright and unwrinkled with any care, and lips formed to speak soft and gentle sentences. In her apparel she was less gay than her ladies, but nevertheless she was more queenly. Her dress and mantle were of the richest purple Genoese unadorned with embroidery, and round her neck she wore a ruff of fine ermine and a string of princely pearls. A small golden cross of curious graven gold dangled to her waist from a loup in the vale of her bosom.
Sandilands advanced several paces before the Lords by whom he was attended, and falling on his knees, read with a loud and firm voice the memorial of the Reformed; and when he had done so and was risen, the Queen received a paper that was given to her by her secretary, who stood behind her right shoulder, and also read an answer which had been prepared, and in which she was made to deliver many comfortable assurances, that at the time were received as a great boon with much thankfulness by all the Reformed, who had too soon reason to prove the insincerity of those courtly flatteries. For no steps were afterwards taken to give those indulgences by law that were promised; but the papists stirring themselves with great activity, and foreign matters and concerns coming in aid of their stratagems, long before a year passed the mind of the Queen and government was fomented into hostility against the protestants. She called into her favour and councils the Archbishop of St Andrews, with whom she had been at variance; and the devout said, when they heard thereof, that when our Saviour was condemned, on the same day Herod and Pilate were made friends, applying the text to this reconcilation; and boding therefrom woe to the true church. Moved by the hatred which his Grace bore to the Reformers, the Queen cited the protestant preachers to appear at Stirling to answer to the charges which might there be preferred against them.