My grandfather, when this perfidy came to a head, was at Finlayston-house, in the shire of Renfrew, with the Earl, his master, who, when he heard of such a breach of faith, smote the table, as he was then sitting at dinner, with his right hand, and said, "Since the false woman has done this, there is nothing for us but the banner and the blade;" and starting from his seat he forthwith ordered horses, and, attended by my grandfather and ten armed servants, rode to Glasgow, where Sir Hugh Campbell of Loudon, then sheriff of Ayr, and other worthies of the time, were assembled on business before the Lords of Justiciary; and it was instanter agreed, that they should forthwith proceed to Stirling where the court was, and remonstrate with the Queen. So, leaving all temporal concerns, Sir Hugh took horse, and they arrived at Stirling about the time her Highness supped, and going straight to the castle, they stood in the ante-chamber to speak, if possible, with her as she passed.
On entering the room to pass to her table she saw them, and looked somewhat surprised and displeased; but without saying anything particular she desired the Earl to follow her, and Sir Hugh, unbidden, went also into the banquet-room. It was seldom that she used state in her household, and on this occasion, it being a popish fast, her table was frugally spread, and only herself sat at the board.
"Well, Glencairn," said she, "what has brought you hither from the west at this time? Is the realm to be forever tossed like the sea by this tempest of heresies? The royal authority is not always to be insulted with impunity, and in spite of all their friends the protestant preachers shall be banished from Scotland, aye, though their doctrines were as sound as St Paul's."
The Earl, as my grandfather heard him afterwards relate, replied, "Your Majesty gave your royal promise that the Reformed should be protected, and they have done nothing since to cause the forfeiture of so gracious a boon: I implore your Majesty to call that sacred pledge to mind."
"You lack reason, my Lord," she cried, sharply; "it becomes not subjects to burden their princes with promises which it may be inconvenient to keep."
"If these, madam, are your sentiments," replied the Earl, proudly, "the Congregation can no longer acknowledge your authority, and must renounce their allegiance to your government."
She had, at the moment, lifted the salt-cellar to sprinkle her salad,—but she was so astonished at the boldness of this speech, that she dropped it from her hand, and the salt was spilt on the floor,—an evil omen which all present noted.
"My Lord Glencairn," said she, thoughtfully, "I would execute my great duties honestly, but your preachers trouble the waters, and I know not where the ford lies that I may safest ride. Go ye away and try to keep your friends quiet, and I will consider calmly what is best to be done for the weal of all."
At these words the Earl and Sir Hugh Campbell bowed, and, retiring, went to the lodging of the Earl of Monteith, where they were minded to pass the night, but when they had consulted with that nobleman, my grandfather was ordered to provide himself with a fresh horse from Monteith's stable, and to set out for Edinburgh with letters for the Lord James Stuart.
"Gilhaize," said his master, as he delivered them, "I foresee we must buckle on our armour; but the cause of the Truth does not require that the first blow should come from our side. By this time John Knox, who has been long expected, may be hourly looked for; and as no man stands higher in the aversion of the papists than that brave, honest man, we shall know by the reception he meets with what we ought to do."
So my grandfather, putting the letters in his bosom, retired from the presence of the Earl, and by break of day reached the West-port and went straight on to the Lord James Stuart's lodging in the Canongate. But, though the household were astir, it was some time before he got admittance, for their master was a young man of great method in all things, and his chaplain was at the time reading the first prayers of the morning, during which the doors were shut, and no one, however urgent his business, could gain admission into that house while the inmates were doing their homage to the King of kings.
As my grandfather, in the grey of the morning, was waiting in the Canongate till the worship was over in the house of the Lord James Stuart, he frequently rode up and down the street as far the Luckenbooths and the Abbey's sanctuary siver, and his mind was at times smitten with the remorse of pity when he saw, as the dawn advanced, the numbers of poor labouring men that came up out of the closes and gathered round the trone, abiding there to see who would come to hire them for the day. But his compassion was soon changed into a frame of thankfulness at the boundless variety of mercies which are dealt out to the children of Adam, for he remarked, that, for the most part, these poor men, whose sustenance was as precarious as that of the wild birds of the air, were cheerful and jocund, many of them singing and whistling as blithely as the lark, that carries the sweet incense of her melodious songs in the censer of a sinless breast to the golden gates of the morning.
Hitherto he had never noted, or much considered, the complicated cares and trials wherewith the lot of man in every station is chequered and environed; and when he heard those bondmen of hard labour, jocund after sound slumbers and light suppers, laughing contemptuously as they beheld the humiliating sight, which divers gallants and youngsters, courtiers of the court, degraded with debauch, made of themselves as they stumbled homeward, he thought there was surely more bliss in the cup that was earned by the constancy of health and a willing mind, than in all the possets and malvesia that the hoards of ages could procure. So he composed his spirit, and inwardly made a vow to the Lord, that as soon as the mighty work of the redemption of the Gospel from the perdition of papistry was accomplished, he would retire into the lea of some pleasant green holm, and take, for the purpose of his life, the attainment of that happy simplicity which seeks but the supply of the few wants with which man comes so rich from the hands of his Maker, that all changes in his natural condition of tilling the ground and herding the flocks only serve to make him poorer by increasing.
While he was thus ruminating in the street, he observed two strangers coming up the Canongate. One of them had the appearance of a servant, but he was of a staider and more thoughtful aspect than belongs to men of that degree, only he bore on his shoulder a willease, and had in his hand a small package wrapt in a woollen cover and buckled with a leathern strap. The other was the master; and my grandfather halted his horse to look at him as he passed, for he was evidently no common man nor mean personage, though in stature he was jimp the ordinary size. He was bent more with infirmities than the load of his years. His hair and long flowing beard were very grey and venerable, like those of the ancient patriarchs who enjoyed immediate communion with God. But though his appearance was thus aged, and though his complexion and countenance betokened a frail tenement, yet the brightness of youth shone in his eyes, and they were lighted up by a spirit over which time had no power.
In his steps and gait he was a little hasty and unsteady, and twice or thrice he was obliged to pause in the steep of the street to draw his breath; but even in this there was an affecting and great earnestness, a working of a living soul within, as if it panted to enter on the performance of some great and solemn hest.
He seemed to be eager and zealous like the apostle Peter in his temper, and as dauntless as the mighty and courageous Paul. Many in the street stopped, and looked after him with reverence and marvelling, as he proceeded with quick and desultory steps, followed by his sedate attendant. Nor was it surprising, for he was, indeed, one of those who, in their lives, are vast and wonderful,—special creations that are sent down from heaven, with authority attested by the glowing impress of the signet of God on their hearts, to avenge the wrongs done to His truths and laws in the blasphemies of the earth.—It was John Knox!
When he had passed, my grandfather rode back to the yett of the Lord James Stuart's lodgings, which by this time was opened, and instanter, on mentioning to the porter from whom he had come, was admitted to his master.
That great worthy was at the time sitting alone in a back chamber, which looked towards Salisbury Crags, and before him, but on the opposite side of the table, among divers letters and papers of business, lay a large Bible, with brass clasps thereon, in which, it would seem, some one had been expounding to him a portion of the Scriptures.
When my grandfather presented to him the letter from the Earl of Glencairn, he took it from him without much regarding him, and broke open the seal, and began to peruse it to himself in that calm and methodical manner for which he was so famed and remarkable. Before, however, he had read above the half thereof, he gave as it were a sudden hitch, and turning round, looked my grandfather sharply in the face, and said,—
"Are you Gilhaize?"
But before any answer could be made, he waved his hand graciously, pointing to a chair, and desired him to sit down, resuming at the same time the perusal of the letter; and when he had finished it, he folded it up for a moment; but, as if recollecting himself, he soon runkled it up in his hand and put it into the fire.
"Your Lord informs me," said he, "that he has all confidence, not only in your honesty, Gilhaize, but in your discernment; and says, that in respect to the high question anent Christ's cause, you may be trusted to the uttermost. Truly, for so young a man, this is an exceeding renown. His letter has told me what passed last night with the Queen's Highness. I am grieved to hear it. She means well; but her feminine fears make her hearken to counsels that may cause the very evils whereof she is so afraid. But the sincerity of her favour to the Reformed will soon be tried, for last night John Knox arrived, and I was with him; and, strong in the assurances of his faith, he intends to lead on to the battle. This morning he was minded to depart for Fife.—'Our Captain, Christ Jesus,' said he, 'and Satan, his adversary, are now at open defiance; their banners are displayed, and the trumpet is blown on both sides for assembling their armies.' As soon as it is known that he is within the kingdom, we shall learn what we may expect, and that presently too; for this very day the clergy meet in the monastery of the Greyfriars, and doubtless they will be advertised of his coming. You had as well try if you can gain admittance among the other auditors, to hear their deliberations; afterwards come again to me, and report what takes place; by that time I shall be advised whether to send you back to Glencairn or elsewhere."
My grandfather, after this and some farther discourse, retired to the hall, and took breakfast with the household, where he was much edified with the douce deportment of all present, so unlike that of the lewd and graceless varlets who rioted in the houses of the other nobles. Verily, he used to say, the evidences of a reforming spirit were brightly seen there; and, to rule every one into a chaste sobriety of conversation, a pious clerk sate at the head of the board, and said grace before and after the meal, making it manifest how much all things about the Lord James Stuart were done in order.
Having taken breakfast, and reposed himself some time, for his long ride had made him very weary, he rose, and, changing his apparel, went to the Greyfriars church, where the clergy were assembling, and elbowing himself gently into the heart of the people waiting around for admission, he got in with the crowd when the doors were opened.
The matter that morning to be considered concerned the means to be taken, within the local jurisdictions of those there met, to enforce the process of the summons which had been issued against the reformed preachers to appear at Stirling.
But while they were busily conversing and contriving how best to aid and further that iniquitous aggression of perfidious tyranny, there came in one of the brethren of the monastery, with a frightened look, and cried aloud, that John Knox was come, and had been all night in the town. At the news the spectators, as if moved by one spirit, gave a triumphant shout,—the clergy were thunderstruck,—some started from their seats, unconscious of what they did,—others threw themselves back where they sat,—and all appeared as if a judgment had been pronounced upon them. In the same moment the church began to skail,—the session was adjourned,—and the people ran in all directions. The cry rose everywhere, "John Knox is come!" All the town came rushing into the streets,—the old and the young, the lordly and the lowly, were seen mingling and marvelling together,—all tasks of duty, and servitude, and pleasure, were forsaken,—the sick-beds of the dying were deserted,—the priests abandoned their altars and masses, and stood pale and trembling at the doors of their churches,—mothers set down their infants on the floors, and ran to inquire what had come to pass,—funerals were suspended, and the impious and the guilty stood aghast, as if some dreadful apocalypse had been made;—travellers, with the bridles in their hands, lingering in profane discourse with their hosts, suddenly mounted, and speeded into the country with the tidings. At every cottage door and wayside bield, the inmates stood in clusters, silent and wondering, as horseman came following horseman, crying, "John Knox is come!" Barks that had departed, when they heard the news, bore up to tell others that they saw afar at sea. The shepherds were called in from the hills;—the warders on the castle, when, at the sound of many quickened feet approaching, they challenged the comers, were answered, "John Knox is come!" Studious men were roused from the spells of their books;—nuns, at their windows, looked out fearful and inquiring,—and priests and friars were seen standing by themselves, shunned like lepers. The whole land was stirred as with the inspiration of some new element, and the hearts of the persecutors were withered.
"No tongue," often said my grandfather, "could tell the sense of that great event through all the bounds of Scotland, and the papistical dominators shrunk as if they had suffered in their powers and principalities, an awful and irremediable overthrow."
When my grandfather left the Greyfriars, he went to the lodging of the Lord James Stuart, whom he found well instructed of all that had taken place, which he much marvelled at, having scarcely tarried by the way in going thither.
"Now, Gilhaize," said my Lord, "the tidings fly like wildfire, and the Queen Regent, by the spirit that has descended into the hearts of the people, will be constrained to act one way or another. John Knox, as you perhaps know, stands under the ban of outlawry for conscience sake. In a little while we shall see whether he is still to be persecuted. If left free, the braird of the Lord, that begins to rise so green over all the land, will grow in peace to a plentiful harvest. But if he is to be hunted down, there will come such a cloud and storm as never raged before in Scotland. I speak to you thus freely, that you may report my frank sentiments to thir noble friends and trusty gentlemen, and say to them that I am girded for the field, if need be."
He then put a list of several well-known friends of the Reformation ayont the frith into my grandfather's hands, adding, "I need not say that it is not fitting now to trust to paper, and therefore much will depend on yourself. The confidence that my friend the Earl, your master, has in you, makes me deal thus openly with you; and I may add, that if there is deceit in you, Gilhaize, I will never again believe the physiognomy of man—so go your ways; see all these, wheresoever they may be,—and take this purse for your charges."
My grandfather accepted the paper and the purse; and reading over the paper, imprinted the names in it on his memory, and then said—
"My Lord, I need not risk the possession of this paper; but it may be necessary to give me some token by which the lords and lairds therein mentioned may have assurance that I come from you."
For some time the Lord James made no reply, but stood ruminating, with the forefinger of his left hand pressing his nether lip; then he observed,—
"Your request is very needful;" and taking the paper, he mentioned divers things of each of the persons named in it, which he told my grandfather had passed between him and them severally, when none other was present. "By remembering them of these things," said he, "they will know that you are in verity sent from me."
Being thus instructed, my grandfather left the Lord James, and proceeding forthwith to the pier of Leith, embarked in the Burntisland ferry-boat—and considering with himself, that the farthest way of those whom he was missioned to see ought to be the first informed, as the nearer had other ways and means of communion, he resolved to go forward to such of them as dwelt in Angus and Merns; by which resolution he reached Dundee shortly after the arrival there of the champion of the Reformation, John Knox.
This resolution proved most wise and fortunate, for, on landing in that town, he found a great concourse of the Reformed from the two shires assembled there, and among them many of those to whom he was specially sent. They had come to go with their ministers before the Queen Regent's counsel at Stirling, determined to avow their adherence to the doctrines of which those pious men were accused. And it being foreseen that, as they went forward others would join, my grandfather thought he could do no better in his mission than mingle with them, the more especially as John Knox was also to be of that great company.
On the day following, they accordingly all set forward towards Perth,—and they were a glorious army, mighty with the strength of their great ally the Lord of the hosts of heaven. No trumpet sounded in their march, nor was the courageous drum heard among them,—nor the shouts of earthly soldiery,—nor the neigh of the war-horse,—nor the voice of any captain. But they sang hymns of triumph, and psalms of the great things that Jehovah had of old done for his people; and though no banner was seen there, nor sword on the thighs of men of might, nor spears in the grasp of warriors, nor crested helmet, nor aught of the panoply of battle, yet the eye of faith beheld more than all these, for the hills and heights of Scotland were to its dazzled vision covered that day with the mustered armies of the dreadful God: the angels of his wrath in their burning chariots; the archangels of his omnipotence, calm in their armour of storms and flaming fires, and the Rider on the white horse, were all there.
As the people with their ministers advanced, their course was like a river, which continually groweth in strength and spreadeth its waters as it rolls onward to the sea. On all sides came streams of new adherents to their holy cause, in so much that when they arrived at Perth it was thought best to halt there, lest the approach of so great a multitude, though without weapons, should alarm the Queen Regent's government. Accordingly they made a pause, and Erskine of Dun, one of the Lord James Stuart's friends, taking my grandfather with him, and only two other servants, rode forward to Stirling to represent to her Highness the faith and the firmness of the people.
When they arrived, they found the town in consternation. Busy were the bailies, marshalling such of the burgesses as could be persuaded to take up arms, but all who joined them were feckless aged men, dealers and traffickers in commodities for the courtiers. Proud was the provost that day, and a type of the cause for which he was gathering his papistical remnants. At the sight of Dun and his three followers riding up the street to the castle, he was fain to draw out his sword and make a salutation; but it stuck sae dourly in that he was obligated to gar ane of the town-officers hold the scabbard, while he pulled with such might and main at the hilt, that the blade suddenly broke off, and back he stumbled, and up flew his heels, so that even my grandfather was constrained, notwithstanding the solemnity of the occasion, to join in the shout of laughter that rose thereat from all present. But provosts and bailies, not being men of war, should not expose themselves to such adversities.
Nor was the fyke of impotent preparation within the walls of the castle better. The Queen had been in a manner lanerly with her ladies when the sough of the coming multitude reached her. The French guards had not come from Glasgow, and there was none of the warlike nobles of the papistical sect at that time at Stirling. She had therefore reason both for dread and panic, when the news arrived that all Angus and Merns had rebelled, for so it was at first reported.
On the arrival of Dun, he was on the instant admitted to her presence; for she was at the time in the tapestried chamber, surrounded by her priests and ladies, and many officers, all consulting her according to their fears. The sight, said my grandfather, for he also went into the presence, was a proof to him that the cause of the papacy was in the dead-thraws, the judgments of all present being so evidently in a state of discomfiture and desertion.
Dun going forward with the wonted reverences, the Queen said to him abruptly,—
"Well, Erskine, what is this?"
Whereupon he represented to her, in a sedate manner, that the Reformed ministers were not treated as they had been encouraged to hope; nevertheless, to show their submission to those in temporal authority over them, they were coming, in obedience to the citation, to stand trial.
"But their retinue—when have delinquents come to trial so attended?" she exclaimed eagerly.
"The people, please your Highness," said Dun, with a steadfastness of manner that struck every one with respect for him, "the people hold the same opinions and believe the same doctrines as their preachers, and they feel that the offence, if it be offence, of which the ministers are accused, lies equally against them, and therefore they have resolved to make their case a common cause."
"And do they mean to daunt us from doing justice against seditious schismatics?" cried her Highness somewhat in anger.
"They mean," replied Dun, "to let your Highness see whether it be possible to bring so many to judgment. Their sentiment, with one voice, is, Cursed be they that seek the effusion of blood, or war, or dissension. Let us possess the evangile, and none within Scotland shall be more obedient subjects. In sooth, madam, they hold themselves as guilty of the crime charged as their ministers are, and they will suffer with them."
"Suffer! Call you rebellion suffering?" exclaimed the Queen.
"They have not yet rebelled," said Dun, calmly; "they come to remonstrate with your Highness first; for, as Christians, they are loth to draw the sword. They have no arms with them, to the end that no one may dare to accuse them of any treason."
"It is a perilous thing when subjects," said the Queen, much troubled, "declare themselves so openly against the authority of their rulers."
"It is a bold thing for rulers," replied Dun, "to meddle with the consciences of their subjects."
"How!" exclaimed the Queen, startled and indignant.
"I will deal yet more plainly with your Highness," said he, firmly. "This pretended offence of which the Reformed are accused is not against the royal authority. They are good and true subjects, and, by their walk and conversation, bear testimony to the excellence and purity of those doctrines for which they are resolved to sacrifice their lives rather than submit to any earthly dictation. Their controversies pertain to things of Christ's kingdom,—it is a spiritual warfare. But the papists, conscious of their weakness in the argument, would fain see your Highness abandon that impartial justice which you were called of Heaven to administer in your great office, and to act factiously on their side, as if the cause of the Gospel could be determined by the arm of flesh."
"What has brought you here?" exclaimed the Queen, bursting into tears.
"To claim the fulfilment of your royal promises," said Dun, making a lowly reverence that by its humility took away all arrogance from the boldness of the demand.
"I will," said she. "I am ever willing to be just, but this rising has shaken me with apprehensions; therefore, I pray you, Erskine, write to your brethren; bid them disperse; and tell them from me, that their ministers shall neither be tried nor molested."
At these words, she took the arm of one of her ladies and hastily retired. Dun also withdrew, and the same hour sent my grandfather back to Perth with letters to the Congregation to the effect of her request and assurance.
That same evening the multitude broke up and returned to their respective homes, rejoicing with an exceeding great joy at so blessed a termination of their weaponless Christian war. Dun, however, distrusting the influence of some of those who were of the Queen's council, and who had arrived at the castle soon after my grandfather's departure, did not return, as he had intended, next morning to Perth, but resolved to wait over the day of trial; or, at least, until the ministers were absolved from attendance on the summons, either by proclamation or other forms of law.
John Knox, among all the ministers who remained at Perth after the Congregation of the Reformed had dispersed, was the only one, my grandfather has been heard to say, that expressed no joy nor exultation at the assurances of the Queen Regent. "We shall see, we shall see," was all he said to those among them who gloried in the victory; adding, "But if there is truth in the Word of God, it is not in the nature of the Beast to do otherwise than evil," and his words of discernment and of wisdom were soon verified.
Erskine of Dun, while he remained at Stirling, had his eyes and ears open; and in their porches he placed for sentinels, Distrust and Suspicion. He knew the fluctuating nature of woman; how every succeeding wave of feeling washes away the deepest traces that are traced on the quicksands of her unstable humours; and the danger having passed, he jealoused that the Queen Regent would forget her terrors, and give herself up to the headlong councils of the adversaries, whom, from her known adherence to the Romish ritual, he justly feared she was inclined to favour. Nor was he left long in doubt.
On the evening before the day which had been appointed for the trial, no proclamation or other token was promulged to appease the anxiety of the cited preachers. He, therefore, thought it needful to be prepared for the worst; so, accordingly, he ordered his two serving-men to have his horses in readiness forth the town in the morning, and there to abide his orders.
Without giving any other about him the slightest inkling of what he had conceited, he went up betimes to the castle, having learnt that the Queen Regent was that day to hold a council. And being a man held in great veneration by all parties, and well known to the household of the court, he obtained access to the ante-chamber after the council was met; and standing there, he was soon surprised by her Highness coming out, leaning on the arm of the Lord Wintoun, and seemingly much disturbed. On seeing him she was startled, and paused for a moment, but soon collecting all her pride, she dropped the Lord Wintoun's arm, and walked straight through the apartment without noticing any one, and holding herself aloft with an air of resolute dignity.
Dun augured no good from this; but following till the Lord Wintoun had attended her to the end of the long painted gallery, where she stopped at the door that opened to her private apartments, he there awaited that nobleman's return, and inquired of him if the process against the protestant ministers had been rescinded.
"No," said Wintoun, peevishly; "the summons have been called over, and they have not appeared, either in person or by agents."
"Say you so, my Lord?" cried Dun; "and what is the result?"
"Outlawry, for non-appearance, is pronounced against them," replied Wintoun, haughtily, and went straight back into the council-chamber.
Dun thought it unnecessary to inquire farther; so, without making more ado, he instanter left the castle, and, going down the town, went to the spot where his horses stood ready, and, mounting, rode off with the tidings to Perth, grieving sorely at the gross perfidy and sad deceit which the Queen Regent had been so practised on, by the heads of the papist faction, to commit.
It happened on the same day, that John Knox, who remained at Perth, a wakeful warder on a post of peril, was moved by the Spirit of God to preach a sermon, in which he exposed the idolatry of the mass and the depravity of image-worship. My grandfather was present, and he often said that preaching was an era and epoch worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance. It took place in the Greyfriars church. There was an understanding among the people that it was to be there; but many fearing the monks might attempt to prevent it, a vast concourse, chiefly men, assembled at the ordinary mass hour, and remained in the church till the Reformer came, so that, had the friars tried to keep him out, they could not have shut the doors.
A lane was made through the midst of the crowd to admit the preacher to the pulpit; and when he was seen advancing, aged and feeble, and leaning on his staff, many were moved with compassion, and doubted if it could be the wonderful man of whom every tongue spoke. But when he had ascended and began, he seemed to undergo a great transfiguration. His abject mien and his sickly visage became majestic and glorious. His eyes lightened; his countenance shone as with the radiance of a spirit that blazed within; and his voice dirled to the heart like vehement thunder.
Sometimes he spoke to the understandings of those who heard him, of that insane doctrine which represented the mission of the Redeemer to consist of believing, in despite of sight, and smell, and touch, and taste, that wafers and wine were actually the flesh and blood of a man that was crucified, with nails driven through his feet and hands, many hundred years ago. Then, rising into the contemplation of the divinity of the Saviour, he trampled under the feet of his eloquence a belief so contrary to the instincts and senses with which Infinite Wisdom has gifted his creatures; and bursting into ecstasy at the thought of this idolatrous invention, he called on the people to look at the images and the effigies in the building around them, and believe, if they could, that such things, the handy-works of carpenters and masons, were endowed with miraculous energies far above the faculties of man. Kindling into a still higher mood, he preached to those very images, and demanded of them, and those they represented, to show any proof that they were entitled to reverence. "God forgive my idolatry!" he exclaimed. "I forget myself—these things are but stocks and stones."
Not one of all who heard him that day ever gave ear again to papistry.
When he had made an end, and retired from the church, many still lingered, discoursing of his marvellous lecture, and among others, my grandfather.
An imprudent priest belonging to the convent, little aware of the great conversion which had been wrought, began to prepare for the celebration of the mass, and a callan who was standing near, encouraged by the contempt which some of those around expressed at this folly, jibed the priest, and he drove him away. The boy, however, returned, and levelling a stone at a crucifix on the altar, shattered it to pieces. In an instant, as if caught by a whirlwind, the whole papistical trumpery was torn down and dashed into fragments. The cry of "Down with the idols!" became universal: hundreds on hundreds came rushing to the spot. The magistrates and the ministers came flying to beseech order and to soothe the multitude; but a Divine ire was upon the people, who heard no voice but only the cry of "Down with the idols!" and their answer was, "Burn, burn, and destroy!"
The monasteries of the Black and the Grey Friars were sacked and rendered desolate, and the gorgeous edifice of the Carthusian monks levelled to the ground.
So dreadful a tumult had never before been heard of within the realm. Many of the best of the Reformed deplored the handle it would give to the blasphemies of their foes. Even my grandfather was smitten with consternation and grief; for he could not but think that such a temporal outrage would be followed by a terrible temporal revenge as ruthless and complete. Sober minds shuddered at the sudden and sacrilegious overthrow of such venerable structures; and many that stood on the threshold of the house of papistical bondage, and were on the point of leaving it, retired in again, and barred the doors against the light, and hugged their errors as blameless compared with such enormities. To no one did the event give pleasure but to John Knox. "The work," said he, "has been done, it is true, by the rascal multitude; but when the nests are destroyed the rooks will fly away."
The thing, however, most considered at that time was the panic which this intemperance would cause to the Queen Regent; and my grandfather, seeing it had changed the complexion of his mission, resolved to return the same evening by the Queensferry to the Lord James Stuart at Edinburgh. For the people no sooner cooled and came to a sense of reflection, than they discerned that they had committed a heinous offence against the laws, and, apprehending punishment, prepared to defend themselves.
Thus, by the irresolute and promise-breaking policy of the Queen was the people maddened into grievous excesses, and many of those who submitted quietly in the faith of her assurances, and had returned to their respective homes, considered the trumpet as sounded, and began to gird themselves for battle.
It's far from my hand and intent to write a history of the tribulations which ensued from the day of the uproar and first outbreaking of the wrath of the people against the images of the Romish idolatry; and therefore I shall proceed, with all expedient brevity, to relate what farther, in those sore times, fell under the eye of my grandfather, who, when he returned to Edinburgh, found the Lord James Stuart on the point of proceeding to the Queen Regent at Stirling, and he went with him thither.
On arriving at the castle, they found the French soldiery all collected in the town, and her Highness, like another fiery Bellona, vowing to avenge the calamities that had befallen the idols and images of Perth; and summoning and envoking the nobility, and every man of substance she could think of, to come with their vassals, that she might be enabled to chastise such sacrilegious rebellion.
The Lord James Stuart seeing her so bent on extremities, and knowing by his secret intelligences, that strong powers were ready to start forward at a moment's warning, both in the West, and in Fife, Angus and Merns, entreated her to listen to more moderate councils than those of revenge and resentment, and rather to think of pacification than of punishment. But she was fiery with passion, and a blinded instrument in the hands of Providence to work out the deliverance of the land, even by the crooked policy that her papistical counsellors hurried her into. So that the Lord James, seeing she was transported beyond reason, sent my grandfather and other secret emissaries to warn the Lords and leaders of the Congregation, and to tell them that her Highness was minded to surprise Perth as soon as she had gathered a sufficient array.
The conduct of that great worthy was in this full of wisdom, and foresight, and policy. By staying with the Queen he incurred the suspicion of the Reformed, to whom he was a devoted friend; but he gained a knowledge of the intents of their enemies, by which he was enabled to turn aside the edge of vengeance when it was meant to be most deadly. Accordingly, reckless of the opinions of men, he went forward with the Queen's army towards Perth; but before they had crossed the Water of Earn, word was brought to her Highness that the Earl of Glencairn, at the head of two thousand five hundred of the Reformed, was advancing from the shire of Ayr.
Such were the fruits of my grandfather's mission to the Lord Boyd, and he heard likewise that the bold and free lairds of Angus and Merns, with all their followers, had formed themselves in battle-array to defend the town. Still, however, her Highness was resolute to go on; for she was instigated by her feminine anger, even as much as by the wicked councils of the papist lords by whom she was surrounded.
But when she reached the heights that overlooked the sweet valley of the Tay, whose green and gentle bosom was then sparkling with the glances of warlike steel, her heart was softened, and she called to her the Lord James Stuart and the young Earl of Argyle—the old Lord, his father, had died some time prior,—and sent them to the army of the Congregation, that peace might still be preserved. They accordingly went into the town, and sending notice to the leaders of the Reformed to appoint two of their party to confer with them, John Knox and the Master Willocks were nominated. My grandfather, who attended the Lord James on this occasion, was directed by him to receive the two deputies at the door and to conduct them in; and when they came he was much troubled to observe the state of their minds; for Master Willocks was austere in his looks as if resolved on quarrel, and the Reformer was agitated and angry, muttering to himself as he ascended the stairs, making his staff often dirl on the steps. No sooner were they shown into the presence of the two lords, even before the door was shut, than John Knox began to upbraid the Lord James for having broken the covenant and forsaken the Congregation.
Much to that effect, my grandfather afterwards learnt, passed; but the Lord James pacified him with the assurance that his heart and spirit were still true to the cause, and that he had come with Argyle to prevent, if possible, the shedding of blood; he likewise declared both for himself and the Earl, who had hitherto always abided by the Queen, that if she refused to listen to reasonable terms, or should break any treaty entered into, they would openly take part against her.
Upon these assurances a treaty was concluded, by which it was agreed that both armies should retire peaceably to their respective habitations; that the town should be made accessible to the Queen Regent; that no molestation should be given to those who were then in arms for the Congregation, and no persecutions undertaken against the Reformed,—with other covenants calculated to soothe the Congregation and allay men's fears. But no sooner was this treaty ratified, the army of the Congregation dispersed, and her Highness in possession of the town, than it was manifest no vows nor obligations were binding towards the heretics, as the Reformed were called. The Queen's French guards, even when attending her into the town, fired into the house of a known zealous protestant and killed his son; the inhabitants were plundered and insulted with impunity, and the magistrates were dismissed to make way for men devoted to papistry.
The Earl of Argyle and Lord James Stuart, filled with wrath and indignation at such open perfidy, went straight into her Highness' presence without asking audience, and reproached her with deceit and craftiness; and having so vented their minds, instanter quitted the court and the town, and, attended by my grandfather and a few other servants, departed for Fife, to which John Knox had also retired after the dispersion of the Congregation at Perth. The Lord James, in virtue of being Prior of St Andrews, went thither attended by the Earl, and sent my grandfather to Crail, where the Reformer was then preaching, to invite him to meet them and others of the Congregation with all convenient expedition.
My grandfather never having been before in Crail, and not knowing how the people there might stand affected, instead of inquiring for John Knox, bethought himself of his acquaintance with Bailie Kilspinnie, and so speired his way to his dwelling, little hoping, from the fearful nature of that honest man, he would find him within. But, contrary to his expectation, he was not only there, but he welcomed my grandfather as an old and very cordial friend, leading him into his house and making much of him, telling him, with a voice of cheerfulness, that the day of reckoning had at last overtaken the lascivious idolaters.
Then he caused to be brought in before my grandfather the five pretty babies that his wife had abandoned for her papistical paramour, the eldest of whom was but turned of nine years. The thoughts of their mother's shame overcame their father at that moment, and the tears coming into his eyes he sobbed aloud as he looked at them, and wept bitterly, while they flocked around, and wreathed him, as it were, with their caresses and innocent blandishments. So tender a scene melted my grandfather's spirit into sadness; and he could not remain master of himself, when the eldest, a mild and meek little maiden, said to him, as if to excuse her father's sorrow, "A foul friar made my mother an ill-doer, and took her away ae night when she was just done wi' harkening our prayers."
At this juncture, a blooming and modest-eyed damsel came into the room; but, seeing a stranger, she drew back and was going away, when the bailie, drying his eyes, said,—
"Come ben, Elspa; this is the young man that ye hae heard me sae commend for his kind friendship to me, in that dotage-dauner that I made in my distraction to St Andrews. This," he added, turning to my grandfather, "is Elspa Ruet, the sister of that misfortunate woman;—to my helpless bairns she does their mother's duty."
Elspa made a gentle beck as her brother-in-law was speaking, and, turning round, dropt a tear on the neck of the youngest baby, as she leant down to take it up for a screen to hide her blushing face, that reddent with the thought at seeing one who had so witnessed her sister's shame.
From that hour her image had a dear place in my grandfather's bosom, and after the settlement of the Reformation throughout the realm, he courted her, and she became his wife, and in process of time my grandmother. But of her manifold excellencies I shall have occasion to speak more at large hereafter, for she was no ordinary woman, but a saint throughout life, returning in a good old age to her Maker, almost as blameless as she came from His pure hands; and nothing became her more in all her piety, than the part she acted towards her guilty sister.
Having taken away the children, she then brought in divers refreshments, and a flagon of posset; but she remained not with the bailie and my grandfather while they partook thereof; so that they were left free to converse as they listed, and my grandfather was glad to find, as I have already said, that the poor man had triumphed over his fond grief, and was reconciled to his misfortunes as well as any father could well be, with so many deserted babies, and three of them daughters.
He likewise learnt, with no less solace and satisfaction, that the Reformed were strong in Crail, and that the magistrates and beinest burgesses had been present on the day before at the preaching of John Knox, and had afterwards suffered the people to demolish the images and all the monuments of papistry, without molestation or hinderance; so that the town was cleansed of the pollution of idolatry, and the worship of humble and contrite hearts established there, instead of the pagan pageantry of masses and altars.
After the repast was finished, the bailie conducted my grandfather to the house where John Knox then lodged, to whom he communicated his message from the Lord James Stuart.
"Tell your master," was the reply of the Reformer, "that I will be with him, God willing; and God is willing, for this invitation, and the state of men's minds, maketh His will manifest. Yea, I was minded myself to go thither; for that same city of St Andrews is the Zion of Scotland. Of old, the glad tidings of salvation were first heard there,—there, amidst the damps and the darkness of ages, the ancient Culdees, men whose memory is still fragrant for piety and purity of faith and life, supplied the oil of the lamp of the living God for a period of four hundred years, independent of pope, prelate, or any human supremacy. There it was that a spark of their blessed embers was, in our own day, first blown into a flame,—and there, please God, where I, His unworthy instrument, was condemned as a criminal for His truth's sake, shall I, in His strength, be the herald of His triumph and great victory."
When my grandfather had returned to the bailie's house after delivering his message to the Reformer, he spent an evening of douce but pleasant pastime with him and the modest Elspa Ruet, whose conversation was far above her degree, and seasoned with the sweet savour of holiness. But ever and anon, though all parties strove to eschew the subject, they began to speak of her erring sister, the bailie compassionating her continuance in sin as a man and a Christian should, but showing no wish nor will to mind her any more as kith or kin to him or his; a temper that my grandfather was well content to observe he had attained. Not so was that of Elspa; but her words were few and well chosen, and they made a deep impression on my grandfather; for she seemed fain to hide what was passing in her heart.
Twice or thrice she spoke of the ties of nature, intimating that they were as a bond and obligation laid on by THE MAKER, whereby kindred were bound to stand by one another in weal or in woe, lest those who sinned should be utterly abandoned by all the world. The which tender and Christian sentiment, though it was melodious to my grandfather's spirit, pierced it with a keen pain; for he thought of the manner in which he had left his own parents, even though it was for the blessed sake of religion, and his bosom was at the moment filled with sorrow. But, when he said how much he regretted and was yet unrepentant of that step, Elspa cheered him with a consolation past utterance, by reminding him, that he had neither left them to want nor to sin; that, by quitting the shelter of their wing, he had but obeyed the promptings of nature, and that if, at any time hereafter, father or mother stood in need of his aid or exhortation, he could still do his duty.
Without well considering what he said, the bailie observed on this, that he was surprised to hear her say so, and yet allow her sister to remain so long unreproved in her offences.
Elspa Ruet to this made no immediate reply,—she was indeed unable; and my grandfather sympathised with her, for the sting had plainly penetrated to the very marrow of her soul. At last, however, she said,—
"Your reproach is just, I hae been to blame baith to Heaven and man—but the thing has na been unthought, only I kent na how to gang about the task; and yet what gars me say sae but a woman's weakness, for the road's no sae lang to St Andrews, and surely iniquity does not there so abound, that no ane would help me to the donsie woman's bower."
My grandfather, on hearing this, answered, that if she was indeed minded to try to rescue her sister, he was ready and willing to do all with her and for her that she could desire; but, bearing in mind the light woman's open shame, he added, "I'm fearful it's yet owre soon to hope for her amendment: she'll hae to fin the evil upshot of her ungodly courses, I doubt, before she'll be wrought into a frame of sincere penitence."
"Nevertheless," replied Elspa Ruet, "I will try; it's my duty, and my sisterly love bids me no to be slothful in the task." At which words she burst into sore and sorrowful weeping, saying, "Alas, alas! that she should have so fallen!—I loved her—oh! naebody can tell how dearly—even as I loved myself. When I first saw my ain face in a looking-glass I thought it was her, and kissed it for the likeness, in pity that it didna look sae fair as it was wont to be. But it's the Lord's pleasure, and in permitting her to sink so low HE has no doubt some lesson to teach."
Thus, from less to more, as they continued conversing, it was agreed that Elspa Ruet should ride on a pad ahint my grandfather next morning to St Andrews, in order to try if the thing could be to move her sister to the humiliation of contrition for her loose life. And some small preparations being needful, Elspa departed and left the bailie and my grandfather together.
"But," said my grandfather to him, after she had been some time away, "is't your design to take the unfortunate woman back among your innocent lassie bairns?"
"No," replied the bailie; "that's no a thing to be now thought of; please Providence, she'll ne'er again darken my door; I'll no, however, allow her to want. Her mother, poor auld afflicted woman, that has ne'er refraint from greeting since her flight, she'll tak her in; but atween her and me there's a divorce for ever."
By daylight my grandfather had his horse at the door; and Elspa having borrowed the provost's lady's pad overnight, it was buckled on, and they were soon after on the road.
It was a sunny morning in June, and all things were bright, and blithe, and blooming. The spirits of youth, joy and enjoyment were spread about on the earth. The butterflies, like floating lilies, sailed from blossom to blossom, and the gowans, the bright and beautiful eyes of the summer, shone with gladness, as Nature walked on bank and brae, in maiden pride, spreading and showing her new flowery mantle to the sun. The very airs that stirred the glittering trees were soft and genial as the breath of life; and the leaves of the aspine seemed to lap the sunshine like the tongues of young and happy creatures that delight in their food.
As my grandfather and Elspa Ruet rode along together, they partook of the universal benignity with which all things seemed that morning so graciously adorned, and their hearts were filled with the hope that their united endeavours to save her fallen sister would be blessed with success. But when they came in sight of the papal towers and gorgeous edifices of St Andrews, which then raised their proud heads, like Babel, so audaciously to the heavens, they both became silent.
My grandfather's thoughts ran on what might ensue if the Archbishop were to subject him to his dominion, and he resolved, as early as possible, to make known his arrival to the Lord James Stuart, who, in virtue of being head of the priory, was then resident there, and to claim his protection. Accordingly he determined to ride with Elspa Ruet to the house of the vintner in the Shoegate, of which I have already spoken, and to leave her under the care of Lucky Kilfauns, as the hostess was called, until he had done so. But fears and sorrows were busy with the fancy of his fair companion; and it was to her a bitter thing, as she afterwards told him, to think that the purpose of her errand was to entreat a beloved sister to leave a life of shame and sin, and sadly doubting if she would succeed.
Being thus occupied with their respective cogitations, they entered the city in silence, and reached the vintner's door without having exchanged a word for several miles. There Elspa alighted, and being commended to the care of Lucky Kilfauns, who, though of a free outspoken nature, was a most creditable matron, my grandfather left her, and rode up the gait to the priory yett, where, on his arrival, he made himself known to the porter, and was admitted to the Lord Prior, as the Lord James was there papistically called.
Having told his Lordship that he had delivered his message to John Knox, and that the Reformer would not fail to attend the call, he then related partly what had happened to himself in his former sojourn at St Andrews, and how and for what end he had brought Elspa Ruet there that day with him, entreating the Lord James to give him his livery and protection, for fear of the Archbishop; which, with many pleasing comments on his devout and prudent demeanour, that noble worthy most readily vouchsafed, and my grandfather returned to the vintner's.
When my grandfather had returned to the vintner's, he found that Elspa had conferred with Lucky Kilfauns concerning the afflicting end and intent of her journey to St Andrews; and that decent woman sympathising with her sorrow, telling her of many woful things of the same sort she had herself known, and how a cousin of her mother's, by the father's side, had been wiled away from her home by the abbot of Melrose, and never heard tell of for many a day, till she was discovered, in the condition of a disconsolate nun, in a convent, far away in Nithsdale. But the great difficulty was to get access to Marion Ruet's bower, for so, from that day, was Mrs Kilspinnie called again by her sister; and, after no little communing, it was proposed by Lucky Kilfauns, that Elspa should go with her to the house of a certain Widow Dingwall, and there for a time take up her abode, and that my grandfather, after putting on the Prior's livery, should look about him for the gilly, his former guide, and, through him, make a tryst, to meet the dissolute madam at the widow's house. Accordingly the matter was so settled, and while Lucky Kilfauns, in a most motherly and pitiful manner, carried Elspa Ruet to the house of the Widow Dingwall, my grandfather went back to the priory to get the cloak and arms of the Lord James' livery.
When he was equipped, he then went fearless all about the town, and met with no molestation; only he saw at times divers of the Archbishop's men, who recollected him, and who, as he passed, stopped and looked after him, and whispered to one another and muttered fierce words. Much he desired to fall in with that humane Samaritan, Leonard Meldrum, the seneschal of the castle, and fain would he have gone thither to inquire for him; but, until he had served the turn of the mournful Elspa Ruet, he would not allow any wish of his own to lead him to aught wherein there was the hazard of any trouble that might balk her pious purpose.
After daunering from place to place, and seeing nothing of the stripling, he was obligated to give twalpennies to a stabler's lad to search for him, who soon brought him to the vintner's, where my grandfather, putting on the look of a losel and roister, gave him a groat, and bade him go to the madam's dwelling, and tell her that he would be, from the gloaming, all the night at the Widow Dingwall's, where he would rejoice exceedingly if she could come and spend an hour or two.
The stripling, so fee'd, was right glad, and made himself so familiar towards my grandfather, that Lucky Kilfauns observing it, the better to conceal their plot, feigned to be most obstreperous, flyting at him with all her pith and bir, and chiding my grandfather, as being as scant o' grace as a gaberlunzie, or a novice of the Dominicans. However, they worked so well together, that the gilly never misdoubted either her or my grandfather, and took the errand to his mistress, from whom he soon came with a light foot and a glaikit eye, saying she would na fail to keep the tryst.
That this new proof of the progress she was making in guilt and sin might be the more tenderly broken to her chaste and gentle sister, Lucky Kilfauns herself undertook to tell Elspa what had been covenanted to prepare her for the meeting. My grandfather would fain have had a milder mediatrix, for the vintner's worthy wife was wroth against the concubine, calling her offence redder than the crimson of schism, and blacker than the broth of the burning brimstone of heresy, with many other vehement terms of indignation, none worse than the wicked woman deserved, though harsh to be heard by a sister, that grieved for her unregenerate condition far more than if she had come from Crail to St Andrews only to lay her head in the coffin.
The paction between all parties being thus covenanted, and Lucky Kilfauns gone to prepare the fortitude of Elspa Ruet for the trial it was to undergo, my grandfather walked out alone to pass the time till the trysted hour. It was then late in the afternoon, and as he sauntered along he could not but observe that something was busy with the minds and imaginations of the people. Knots of the douce and elderly shopkeepers were seen standing in the streets with their heads laid together; and as he walked towards the priory he met the provost between two of the bailies, with the dean of guild, coming sedately, and with very great solemnity in their countenances, down the crown of the causey, heavily laden with magisterial fears. He stopped to look at them, and he remarked that they said little to one another, but what they did say seemed to be words of weight; and when any of their friends and acquaintances happened to pass, they gave them a nod that betokened much sadness of heart.
The cause of all this anxiety was not, in its effects and influence, meted only to the men and magistrates: the women partook of them even to a greater degree. They were seen passing from house to house, out at one door and into the next, and their faces were full of strange matters. One in particular, whom my grandfather noticed coming along, was often addressed with brief questions, and her responses were seemingly as awful as an oracle's. She was an aged carlin, who, in her day, had been a midwife, but having in course of time waxed old, and being then somewhat slackened in the joints of the right side by a paralytic, she eked out the weakly remainder of her thread of life in visitations among the families that, in her abler years, she had assisted to increase and multiply. She was then returning home after spending the day, as my grandfather afterwards heard from the Widow Dingwall, with the provost's daughter, at whose birth she had been the howdy, and who, being married some months, had sent to consult her anent a might-be occasion.
As she came toddling along, with pitty-patty steps, in a rose satin mantle that she got as a blithemeat gift when she helped the young master of Elcho into the world, drawn close over her head, and leaning on a staff with her right hand, while in her left she carried a Flanders pig of strong ale, with a clout o'er the mouth to keep it from jawping, scarcely a door or entry mouth was she allowed to pass, but she was obligated to stop and speak, and what she said appeared to be tidings of no comfort.
All these things bred wonder and curiosity in the breast of my grandfather, who, not being acquaint with any body that he saw, did not like for some time to inquire; but at last his diffidence and modesty were overcome by the appearance of a strong party of the Archbishop's armed retainers, followed by a mob of bairns and striplings, yelling, and scoffing at them with bitter taunts and many titles of derision; and on inquiring at a laddie what had caused the consternation in the town, and the passage of so many soldiers from the castle, he was told that they expected John Knox the day following, and that he was mindet to preach, but the Archbishop has resolved no to let him. It was even so; for the Lord James Stuart, who possessed a deep and forecasting spirit, had, soon after my grandfather's arrival with the Reformer's answer, made the news known to try the temper of the inhabitants and burghers. But, saving this marvelling and preparation, nothing farther of a public nature took place that night; so that, a short time before the hour appointed, my grandfather went to the house of Widow Dingwall, where he found Elspa Ruet sitting very disconsolate in a chamber by herself, weeping bitterly at the woful account which Lucky Kilfauns had brought of her sister's loose life, and fearing greatly that all her kind endeavours and humble prayers would be but as water spilt on the ground.
As the time of appointment drew near, Elspa Ruet was enabled to call in her wandering and anxious thoughts, and, strengthened by her duty, the blessing of the tranquil mind was shed upon her. Her tears were dried up, and her countenance shone with a serene benignity. When she was an aged, withered woman, my grandfather has been heard to say that he never remembered her appearance without marvelling at the special effusion of holiness and beauty which beamed and brightened upon her in that trying hour, nor without thinking that he still beheld the glory of its twilight glowing through the dark and faded clouds of her old age.
They had not sat long when a tapping was heard at the widow's door, and my grandfather, starting up, retired into a distant corner of the room, behind a big napery press, and sat down in the obscurity of its shadow. Elspa remained in her seat beside the table, on which a candle was burning, and, as it stood behind the door, she could not be seen by any coming in till they had passed into the middle of the floor.
In little more than the course of a minute, the voice of her sister was heard, and light footsteps on the timber stair. The door was then opened, and Marion swirled in with an uncomely bravery. Elspa started from her seat. The guilty and convicted creature uttered a shriek; but in the same moment her pious sister clasped her with loving-kindness in her arms, and bursting into tears, wept bitterly, with sore sobs, for some time on her bosom, which was wantonly unkerchiefed.
After a short space of time, with confusion of face, and frowns of mortification, and glances of rage, the abandoned Marion disengaged herself from her sister's fond and sorrowful embraces, and, retreating to a chair, sat down, and seemed to muster all the evil passions of the guilty breast,—fierce anger, sharp hatred, and gnawing contempt; and a bad boldness of look that betokened a worse spirit than them all.
"It was na to see the like of you I cam' here," said she, with a scornful toss of her head.
"I ken that, Marion," replied Elspa, mournfully.
"And what business then hae ye to come to snool me?"
Elspa for a little while made no answer to this, but, drying her eyes, she went to her seat composedly, and then said,—
"'Cause ye're my sister, and brought shame and disgrace on a' your family. O, Marion, I'm wae to say this! but ye're owre brave in your sin."
"Do ye think I'll e'er gae back to that havering, daunering cuif o' a creature, the Crail bailie?"
"He's a man o' mair worth and conduct, Marion," replied her sister, firmly, "than to put that in your power—even, woman, if ye were penitent, and besought him for charity."
"Weel, weel, no to clishmaclaver about him. How's a' wi' the bairns?"
"Are ye no frighted, Marion, to speer sic a question, when ye think how ye left them, and what for ye did sae?"
"Am na I their mither, have na I a right to speer?"
"No," said Elspa; "when ye forgot that ye were their father's wife, they lost their mother."
"Ye need na be sae snell wi' your taunts," exclaimed Marion, evidently endeavouring to preserve the arrogance she had assumed; "ye need na be sae snell; I'm far better off, and happier than e'er I was in James Kilspinnie's aught."
"That's no possible," said her sister. "It would be an unco thing of Heaven to let wickedness be happier than honesty."
"But, Marion, dinna deceive yoursel, ye hae nae sure footing on the steading where ye stan'. The Bishop will nae mair, than your guidman, thole your loose life to him. If he kent ye were here, I doubt he would let you bide, and what would become of you then?"
"He's no sic a fool as to be angry that I am wi' my sister."
"That may be," replied Elspa: "I'm thinking, however, if in my place here he saw but that young man," and she pointed to my grandfather, whom her sister had not till then observed, "he would have some cause to consider."
Marion attempted to laugh scornfully, but her heart gurged within her, and instead of laughter, her voice broke out into wild and horrid yells, and falling back in her chair, she grew stiff and ghastly to behold, in so much that both Elspa and my grandfather were terrified, and had to work with her for some time before they were able to recover her; nor indeed did she come rightly to herself till she got relief by tears; but they were tears of rage, and not shed for any remorse on account of her foul fault. Indeed, no sooner was she come to herself, than she began to rail at her sister and my grandfather, calling them by all the terms of scorn that her tongue could vent. At last she said,—
"But nae doubt ye're twa Reformers."
"Ay," replied Elspa, "in a sense we are sae, for we would fain help to reform you."
But after a long, faithful, and undaunted endeavour on the part of Elspa, in this manner, to reach the sore of her sinful conscience, she saw that all her ettling was of no avail, and her heart sank, and she began to weep, saying, "O, Marion, Marion, ye were my dear sister ance; but frae this night, if ye leave me to gang again to your sins, I hope the Lord will erase the love I bear you utterly out of my heart, and leave me but the remembrance of what ye were when we were twa wee playing lassies, clapping our young hands, and singing for joy in the bonny spring mornings that will never, never come again."
The guilty Marion was touched with her sorrow, and for a moment seemed to relent and melt, replying in a softened accent,—
"But tell me, Eppie, for ye hae na telt me yet, how did ye leave my weans?"
"Would you like to see them?" said Elspa, eagerly.
"I would na like to gang to Crail," replied her sister, thoughtfully; "but if—" and she hesitated.
"Surely, Marion," exclaimed Elspa, with indignation, "ye're no sae lost to all shame as to wish your innocent dochters to see you in the midst of your iniquities?"
Marion reddened, and sat abashed and rebuked for a short time in silence, and then reverting to her children, she said, somewhat humbly,—
"But tell me how they are—poor things!"
"They are as weel as can be hoped for," replied Elspa, moved by her altered manner; "but they'll lang miss the loss of their mother's care. O, Marion, how could ye quit them! The beasts that perish are kinder to their young, for they nourish and protect them till they can do for themselves; but your wee May can neither yet gang nor speak. She's your very picture, Marion, as like you as—God forbid that she ever be like you!"
The wretched mother was unable to resist the energy of her sister's appeal, and, bursting into tears, wept bitterly for some time.
Elspa, compassionating her contrition, rose, and, taking her kindly by the hand, said, "Come, Marion, we'll gang hame—let us leave this guilty city—let us tarry no longer within its walls—the curse of Heaven is darkening over it, and the storm of the hatred of its corruption is beginning to lighten:—let us flee from the wrath that is to come."
"I'll no gang back to Crail—I dare na gang there—everyone would haud out their fingers at me—I canna gang to Crail—Eppie, dinna bid me—I'll mak away wi' mysel' before I'll gang to Crail."
"Dinna say that," replied her sister: "O, Marion, if ye felt within the humiliation of a true penitent, ye would na speak that way, but would come and hide your face in your poor mother's bosom; often, often, Marion, did she warn you no to be ta'en up wi' the pride an' bravery of a fine outside."
"Ye may gang hame yoursel'," exclaimed the impenitent woman, starting from her seat; "I'll no gang wi' you to be looket down on by every one. If I should hae had a misfortune, nane's the sufferer but mysel'; and what would I hae to live on wi' my mother? She's pinched enough for her ain support. No; since I hae't in my power, I'll tak my pleasure o't. Onybody can repent when they like, and it's no convenient yet for me. Since I hae slippit the tether, I may as well tak a canter o'er the knowes. I won'er how I could be sae silly as to sit sae lang willy-waing wi' you about that blethering bodie, James Kilspinnie. He could talk o' naething but the town-council, the cost o' plaiding, and the price o' woo'. No, Eppie, I'll no gang wi' you, but I'll be glad if ye'll gang o'er the gait and tak your bed wi' me. I hae a braw bower—and, let me tell you, this is no a house of the best repute."
"Is yours ony better?" replied Elspa, fervently. "No, Marion; sooner would I enter the gates of death, than darken your guilty door. Shame upon you, shame!—But the sweet Heavens, in their gracious hour of mercy, will remember the hope that led me here, and some day work out a blessed change. The prayers of an afflicted parent, and the cries of your desolate babies, will assuredly bring down upon you the purifying fires of self-condemnation. Though a wicked pride at this time withholds you from submitting to the humiliation which is the just penalty of your offences, still the day is not far off when you will come begging for a morsel of bread to those that weep for your fall, and implore you to eschew the evil of your way."
To these words, which were spoken as with the vehemence of prophecy, the miserable woman made no answer, but plucked her hand sharply from her sister's earnest pressure, and quitted the room with a flash of anger. My grandfather then conveyed the mournful Elspa back to the house of Lucky Kilfauns, and returned to the priory.
The next day, Elspa Ruet, under the escorting of my grandfather, was minded to have gone home to Crail, but the news that John Knox was to preach on the morrow at St Andrews had spread far and wide; no man could tell by what wonderful reverberation the tidings had awakened the whole land. From all quarters droves of the Reformed and the pious came pressing to the gates of the city, like sheep to the fold and doves to the windows. The Archbishop and the priests and friars were smitten with dread and consternation; the doom of their fortunes was evident in the distraction of their minds—but the Earl of Argyle and the Lord James Stuart, at the priory, remained calm and collected.
Foreseeing that the step they had taken would soon be visited by the wrath of the Queen Regent, they resolved to prepare for the worst, and my grandfather was ordered to hold himself in readiness for a journey. Thus was he prevented from going to Crail with Elspa Ruet, who, with a heavy heart, went back in the evening with the man and horses that brought the Reformer to the town. For John Knox, though under the ban of outlawry, was so encouraged with inward assurances from on High, that he came openly to the gate, and passed up the crown of the causey on to the priory, in the presence of the Archbishop's guards, of all the people, and of the astonished and dismayed priesthood.
As soon as the Antichrist heard of his arrival, he gave orders for all his armed retainers, to the number of more than a hundred men-at-arms, to assemble in the cloisters of the monastery of the Blackfriars; for he was a man of a soldierly spirit, and though a loose and immoral churchman, would have made a valiant warrior; and going thither himself, he thence sent word to the Lord James Stuart at the priory, that if John Knox dared to preach in the cathedral, as was threatened, he would order his guard to fire on him in the pulpit.
My grandfather, with others of the retinue of the two noblemen, had accompanied the Archbishop's messenger into the Prior's chamber, where they were sitting with John Knox when this bold challenge to the champion of Christ's cause was delivered; and it was plain that both Argyle and the Lord James were daunted by it, for they well knew the fearlessness and the fierceness of their consecrated adversary.
After the messenger had retired, and the Lord James, in a particular manner, had tacitly signified to my grandfather to remain in the room, and had taken a slip of paper, he began to write thereon, while Argyle said to the Reformer,—
"Master Knox, this is what we could na but expect; and though it may seem like a misdooting of our cause now to desist, I'm in a swither if ye should mak the attempt to preach."
The Reformer made no answer; and the Lord James, laying down his pen, also said, "My thoughts run wi' Argyle's,—considering the weakness of our train and the Archbishop's preparations, with his own regardless character,—I do think we should for a while rest in our intent. The Queen Regent has come to Falkland wi' her French force, and we are in no condition to oppose their entrance into the town; besides, your appearance in the pulpit may lead to the sacrifice of your own most precious life, and the lives of many others who will no doubt stand forth in your defence. Whether, therefore, you ought, in such a predicament, to think of preaching, is a thing to be well considered."
"In the strength of the Lord," exclaimed John Knox, with the voice of an apostle, "I will preach. God is my witness that I never preached in contempt of any man, nor would I willingly injure any creature; but I cannot delay my call to-morrow if I am not hindered by violence. As for the fear of danger that may come to me, let no man be solicitous; for my life is in the custody of HIM whose glory I seek, and threats will not deter me from my duty when Heaven so offereth the occasion. I desire neither the hand nor the weapon of man to defend me; I only crave audience, which, if it be denied to me here at this time, I must seek where I may have it."
The manner and confidence with which this was spoken silenced and rebuked the two temporal noblemen, and they offered no more remonstrance, but submitted as servants, to pave the way for this intent of his courageous piety. Accordingly, after remaining a short time, as if in expectation to hear what the Earl of Argyle might further have to say, the Lord James Stuart took up his pen again, and when he had completed his writing, he gave the paper to my grandfather (it was a list of some ten or twelve names) saying, "Make haste, Gilhaize, and let these, our friends in Angus, know the state of peril in which we stand. Tell them what has chanced; how the gauntlet is thrown; and that our champion has taken it up, and is prepared for the onset."
My grandfather forthwith departed on his errand, and spared not the spur till he had delivered his message to every one whose names were written in the paper; and their souls were kindled and the spirit of the Lord quickened in their hearts.
The roads sparkled with the feet of summoning horsemen, and the towns rung with the sound of warlike preparations.
On the third day, towards the afternoon, my grandfather embarked at Dundee on his return, and was landed at the Fife water-side. There were many in the boat with him; and it was remarked by some among them, that, for several days, no one had been observed to smile, and that all men seemed in the expectation of some great event.
The weather being loun and very sultry, he travelled slowly with those who were bound for St Andrews, conversing with them on the troubles of the time, and the clouds that were gathering and darkening over poor Scotland; but every one spoke from the faith of his own bosom, that the terrors of the storm would not be of long duration—so confident were those unlettered men of the goodness of Christ's cause in that epoch of tribulation.
While they were thus communing together, they came in sight of the city, with its coronal of golden spires, and Babylonian pride of idolatrous towers, and they halted for a moment to contemplate the gorgeous insolence with which Antichrist had there built up and invested the blood-stained throne of his blasphemous usurpation.
"The walls of Jericho," said one of the travellers, "fell at the sound but of ram's horns, and shall yon Babel withstand the preaching of John Knox?"
Scarcely had he said the words, when the glory of its magnificence was wrapt with a shroud of dust; a dreadful peal of thunder came rolling soon after, though not a spark of vapour was seen in all the ether of the blue sky; and the rumble of a dreadful destruction was then heard. My grandfather clapped spurs to his horse, and galloped on towards the town. The clouds rose thicker and filled the whole air. Shouts and cries, as he drew near, were mingled with the crash of falling edifices. The earth trembled, and his horse stood still, regardless of the rowels, as if it had seen the angel of the Lord standing in his way. On all sides monks and nuns came flying from the town, wringing their hands as if the horrors of the last judgment had surprised them in their sins. The guards of the Archbishop were scattered among them like chaff in the swirl of the wind: then his Grace came himself on Sir David Hamilton's fleet mare, with Sir David and divers of his household fast following. The wrath of heaven was behind them, and they rattled past my grandfather like the distempered phantoms that hurry through the dreams of dying men.
My grandfather's horse at last obeyed the spur, and he rode on and into the city, the gates of which were deserted. There he beheld on all sides that the Lord had indeed put the besom of destruction into the hands of the Reformers; and that not one of all the buildings which had been polluted by the papistry—no, not one—had escaped the erasing fierceness of its ruinous sweep. The presence of the magistrates lent the grace of authority to the zeal of the people, and all things were done in order. The idols were torn down from the altars, and deliberately broken by the children with hammers into pieces. There was no speaking; all was done in silence; the noise of the falling churches, the rending of the shrines, and the breaking of the images were the only sounds heard. But for all that, the zeal of not a few was, even in the midst of their dread solemnity, alloyed with covetousness. My grandfather himself saw one of the town-council slip the bald head, in silver, of one of the twelve apostles into his pouch.
The triumph of the truth at St Andrews was followed by the victorious establishment, from that day thenceforward, of the Reformation in Scotland. The precautions taken by the deep forecasting mind of the Lord James Stuart, through the instrumentality of my grandfather and others, were of inexpressible benefit to the righteous cause. It was foreseen that the Queen Regent, who had come to Falkland, would be prompt to avenge the discomfiture of her sect, the papists; but the zealous friends of the Gospel, seconding the resolution of the Lords of the Congregation, enabled them to set all her power at defiance.
With an attendance of few more than a hundred horse, and about as many foot, the Earl of Argyle and the Lord James set out from St Andrews to frustrate, as far as the means they had concerted might, the wrathful measures which they well knew her Highness would take. But this small force was by the next morning increased to full three thousand fighting men; and so ardently did the spirit of enmity and resistance against the papacy spread, that the Queen Regent, when she came with her French troops and her Scottish levies, under the command of the Duke of Chatelherault, to Cupar, found that she durst not encounter in battle the growing strength of the Congregation, so she consented to a truce, and, as usual in her dissimulating policy, promised many things which she never intended to perform. But the protestants, by this time knowing that the papists never meant to keep their pactions with them, discovering the policy of her Highness, silently moved onward. They proceeded to Perth, and having expelled the garrison, took the town, and fired the abbey of Scone. But as my grandfather was not with them in those raids, being sent on the night of the great demolition at St Andrews to apprise the Earl of Glencairn, his patron, of the extremities to which matters had come there, it belongs not to the scope of my story to tell what ensued, farther than that from Perth the Congregation proceeded to Stirling, where they demolished the monasteries;—then they went to Lithgow, and herret the nests of the locusts there; and proceeding bravely on, purging the realm as they went forward, they arrived at Edinburgh, and constrained the Queen Regent, who was before them with her forces there, to pack up her ends and her awls, and make what speed she could with them to Dunbar. But foul as the capital then was, and covered with the leprosy of idolatry, they were not long in possession till they so medicated her with the searching medicaments of the Reformation, that she was soon scrapit of all the scurf and kell of her abominations. There was not an idol or an image within her bounds that, in less than three days, was not beheaded like a traitor and trundled to the dogs, even with vehemence, as a thing that could be sensible of contempt. But as all these things are set forth at large in the chronicles of the kingdom, let suffice it to say that my grandfather continued for nearly two years after this time a trusted emissary among the Lords of the Congregation in their many arduous labours and perilous correspondencies, till the Earl of Glencairn was appointed to see idolatry banished and extirpated from the West Country; in which expedition his Lordship, being minded to reward my grandfather's services in the cause of the Reformation, invited him to be of his force; to which my grandfather, not jealousing the secularities of his patron's intents, joyfully agreed, hoping to see the corner-stone placed on the great edifice of the Reformation, which all good and pious men began then to think near completion.
Having joined the Earl's force at Glasgow, my grandfather went forward with it to Paisley. Before reaching that town, however, they were met by a numerous multitude of the people, half way between it and the castle of Cruikstone, and at their head my grandfather was blithened to see his old friend, the gentle monk Dominick Callender, in a soldier's garb, and with a ruddy and emboldened countenance, and by his side, with a sword manfully girded on his thigh, the worthy Bailie Pollock, whose nocturnal revels at the abbey had brought such dule to the winsome Maggy Napier.
For some reason, which my grandfather never well understood, there was more lenity shown to the abbey here than usual; but the monks were rooted out, the images given over to destruction, and the old bones and miraculous crucifixes were either burnt or interred. Less damage, however, was done to the buildings than many expected, partly through the exhortations of the magistrates, who were desirous to preserve so noble a building for a protestant church, but chiefly out of some paction or covenant secretly entered into anent the distribution of the domains and property, wherein the house of Hamilton was concerned, the Duke of Chatelherault, the head thereof, notwithstanding the papistical nature of his blood and kin, having some time before gone over to the cause of the Congregation.
The work of the Reformation being thus abridged at Paisley, the Earl of Glencairn went forward to Kilwinning, where he was less scrupulous; for having himself obtained a grant of the lands of the abbacy, he was fain to make a clean hand o't, though at the time my grandfather knew not of this.
As soon as the army reached the town, the soldiers went straight on to the abbey, and entering the great church, even while the monks were chanting their paternosters, they began to show the errand they had come on. Dreadful was the yell that ensued, when my grandfather, going up to the priest at the high altar, and pulling him by the scarlet and fine linen of his pageantry, bade him decamp, and flung the toys and trumpery of the mass after him as he fled away in fear.
This resolute act was the signal for the general demolition, and it began on all sides; my grandfather giving a leap, caught hold of a fine effigy of the Virgin Mary by the leg to pull it down; but it proved to be the one which James Coom the smith had mended, for the leg came off, and my grandfather fell backwards, and was for a moment stunned by his fall. A band of the monks, who were standing trembling spectators, made an attempt, at seeing this, to raise a shout of a miracle; but my grandfather, in the same moment recovering himself, seized the Virgin's timber leg, and flung it with violence at them, and it happened to strike one of the fattest of the flock with such a bir, that it was said the life was driven out of him. This, however, was not the case; for, although the monk was sorely hurt, he lived many a day after, and was obligated, in his auld years, when he was feckless, to be carried from door to door on a hand-barrow begging his bread. The wives, I have heard tell, were kindly to him, for he was a jocose carl; but the weans little respected his grey hairs, and used to jeer him as auld Father Paternoster, for even to the last he adhered to his beads. It was thought, however, by a certain pious protestant gentlewoman of Irvine, that before his death he got a cast of grace; for one day, when he had been carried over to beg in that town, she gave him a luggie of kail ower het, which he stirred with the end of the ebony crucifix at his girdle, thereby showing, as she said, a symptom that it held a lower place in his spiritual affections than if he had been as sincere in his errors as he let wot.
Although my grandfather had sustained a severe bruise by his fall, he was still enabled, after he got on his legs, to superintend the demolishment of the abbey till it was complete. But in the evening, when he took up his quarters in the house of Theophilus Lugton with Dominick Callender, who had brought on a party of the Paisley Reformers, he was so stiff and sore that he thought he would be incompetent to go over next day with the force that the Earl missioned to herry the Carmelyte convent at Irvine. Dominick Callender had, however, among other things, learnt, in the abbey at Paisley, the salutary virtues of many herbs, and how to decoct from them their healing juices; and he instructed Dame Lugton to prepare an efficacious medicament, that not only mitigated the anguish of the pain, but so suppled the stiffness that my grandfather was up by break of day, and ready for the march, a renewed man.