In speaking of this, he has been heard to say, it was a thing much to be lamented, that when the regular abolition of the monastries was decreed, no care was taken to collect the curious knowledges and ancient traditionary skill preserved therein, especially in what pertained to the cure of maladies; for it was his opinion—and many were of the same mind—that among the friars were numbers of potent physicians, and an art in the preparation of salves and syrups, that has not been surpassed by the learning of the colleges. But it is not meet that I should detain the courteous reader with such irrelevancies; the change, however, which has taken place in the realm in all things pertaining to life, laws, manners and conduct since the extirpation of the Roman idolatry, is, from the perfectest report, so wonderful, that the inhabitants can scarcely be said to be the same race of people; and, therefore, I have thought that such occasional ancestral intimations might, though they proved neither edifying nor instructive, be yet deemed worthy of notation in the brief spaces which they happen herein to occupy. But now, returning from this digression, I will take up again the thread and clue of my story.
The Earl of Glencairn, after the abbey of Kilwinning was sacked, went and slept at Eglinton Castle, then a stalwart square tower, environed with a wall and moat, of a rude and unknown antiquity, standing on a gentle rising ground in the midst of a bleak and moorland domain. And his Lordship having ordered my grandfather to come to him betimes in the morning with twenty chosen men, the discreetest of the force, for a special service in which he meant to employ him, he went thither accordingly, taking with him Dominick Callender and twelve godly lads from Paisley, with seven others, whom he had remarked in the march from Glasgow, as under the manifest guidance of a sedate and pious temper.
When my grandfather with his company arrived at the castle yett, and he was admitted to the Earl his patron, his Lordship said to him, more as a friend than a master,—
"I am in the hope, Gilhaize, that, after this day, the toilsome and perilous errands on which, to the weal of Scotland and the true church, you have been so meritoriously missioned ever since you were retained in my service, will soon be brought to an end, and that you will enjoy in peace the reward you have earned so well, that I am better pleased in bestowing it than you can be in the receiving. But there is yet one task which I must put upon you. Hard by to this castle, less than a mile eastward, stands a small convent of nuns, who have been for time out of mind under the protection of the Lord Eglinton's family, and he, having got a grant of the lands belonging to their house, is desirous that they should be flitted in an amiable manner to a certain street in Irvine called the Kirkgate, where a lodging is provided for them. To do this kindly I have bethought myself of you, for I know not in all my force any one so well qualified. Have you provided yourself with the twenty douce men that I ordered you to bring hither?"
My grandfather told his Lordship that he had done as he was ordered. "Then," resumed the Earl, "take them with you, and this mandate to the superior, and one of Eglinton's men to show you the way; and when you have conveyed them to their lodging, come again to me."
So my grandfather did as he was directed by the Earl, and marched eastward with his men till he came to the convent, which was a humble and orderly house, with a small chapel and a tower, that in after times, when all the other buildings were erased, was called the Stane Castle, and is known by that name even unto this day. It stood within a high wall, and a little gate, with a stone cross over the same, led to the porch.
Compassionating the simple and silly sisterhood within, who, by their sequestration from the world, were become as innocent as birds in a cage, my grandfather halted his men at some distance from the yett, and going forward, rung the bell; to the sound of which an aged woman answered, who, on being told he had brought a letter to the superior, gave him admittance, and conducted him to a little chamber, on the one side of which was a grating, where the superior, a short, corpulent matron, that seemed to bowl rather than to walk as she moved along, soon made her appearance within.
He told her in a meek manner, and with some gentle prefacing, the purpose of his visit, and showed her the Earl's mandate; to all which, for some time, she made no reply, but she was evidently much moved; at last she gave a wild skreigh, which brought the rest of the nuns, to the number of thirteen, all rushing into the room. Then ensued a dreadful tempest of all feminine passions and griefs, intermingled with supplications to many a saint; but the powers and prerogatives of their saints were abolished in Scotland, and they received no aid.
Though their lamentation, as my grandfather used to say, could not be recited without moving to mirth, it was yet so full of maidenly fears and simplicity at the time to him, that it seemed most tender, and he was disturbed at the thought of driving such fair and helpless creatures into the bad world; but it was his duty;—so, after soothing them as well as he could, and representing how unavailing their refusal to go would be, the superior composed her grief, and exhorting the nuns to be resigned to their cruel fate, which, she said, was not so grievous as that which many of the saints had in their day suffered, they all became calm and prepared for the removal.
My grandfather told them to take with them whatsoever they best liked in the house; and it was a moving sight to see their simplicity therein. One was content with a flower-pot; another took a cage in which she had a lintie; some of them half-finished patterns of embroidery. One aged sister, of a tall and spare form, brought away a flask of eye-water which she had herself distilled; but, saving the superior, none of them thought of any of the valuables of the chapel, till my grandfather reminded them, that they might find the value of silver and gold hereafter, even in the spiritual-minded town of Irvine.
There was one young and graceful maiden among them who seemed but little moved by the event; and my grandfather was melted to sympathy and sorrow by the solemn serenity of her deportment, and the little heed she took of anything. Of all the nuns she was the only one who appeared to have nothing to care for; and when they were ready, and came forth to the gate, instead of joining in their piteous wailings as they bade their peaceful home a long and last farewell, she walked forward alone. No sooner, however, had she passed the yett, than, on seeing the armed company without, she stood still like a statue, and, uttering a shrill cry, fainted away, and fell to the ground. Every one ran to her assistance; but when her face was unveiled to give her air, Dominick Callender, who was standing by, caught her in his arms, and was enchanted by a fond and strange enthusiasm. She was indeed no other than the young maiden of Paisley, for whom he had found his monastic rows the heavy fetters of a bondage that made life scarcely worth possessing; and when she was recovered, an interchange of great tenderness took place between them, at which the superior of the convent waxed very wroth, and the other nuns were exceedingly scandalised. But Magdalene Sauchie, for so she was called, heeded them not; for, on learning that popery was put down in the land by law, she openly declared that she renounced her vows; and during the walk to Irvine, which was jimp a mile, she leant upon the arm of her lover: and they were soon after married, Dominick settling in that town as a doctor of physic, whereby he afterwards earned both gold and reputation.
But to conclude the history of the convent, which my grandfather had in this gentle manner herret, the nuns, on reaching the foot of the Kirkgate, where the Countess of Eglinton had provided a house for them, began to weep anew with great vehemence, fearing that their holy life was at an end, and that they would be tempted of men to enter into the temporalities of the married state; but the superior, on hearing this mournful apprehension, mounted upon the steps of the Tolbooth stair, and, in the midst of a great concourse of people, she lifted her hands on high, and exclaimed, as with the voice of a prophetess, "Fear not, my chaste and pious dochters; for your sake and for my sake, I have an assurance at this moment from the Virgin Mary herself, that the calamity of the marriage-yoke will never be known in the Kirkgate of Irvine, but that all maidens who hereafter may enter, or be born to dwell therein, shall live a life of single blessedness unasked and untempted of men." Which delightful prediction the nuns were so happy to hear, that they dried their tears, and chanted their Ave Maria, joyfully proceeding towards their appointed habitation. It stood, as I have been told, on the same spot where King James the Sixth's school was afterwards erected, and endowed out of the spoils of Carmelytes' monastery, which, on the same day, was, by another division of the Earl of Glencairn's power, sacked and burnt to the ground.
When my grandfather had, in the manner rehearsed, disposed of those sisters of simplicity in the Kirkgate of Irvine, he returned back in the afternoon to the Earl of Glencairn at Eglinton Castle to report what he had done; and his Lordship again, in a most laudatory manner, commended his prudence and singular mildness of nature, mentioning to the Earl and Countess of Eglinton, then present with him, divers of the missions wherein he had been employed, extolling his zeal, and above all his piety. And the Lady Eglinton, who was a household character, striving, with great frugality, to augment the substance of her Lord, by keeping her maidens from morning to night eydent at work, some at their broidering drums, and some at their distaffs, managing all within the castle that pertained to her feminine part in a way most exemplary to the ladies of her time and degree, indeed to ladies of all times and degrees, promised my grandfather that when he was married, she would give his wife something to help the plenishing of their house, for the meek manner in which he had comported himself toward her friend, the superior of the nuns. Then the Earl of Glencairn said,—
"Gilhaize, madam, is now his own master, and may choose a bride when it pleases himself; for I have covenanted with my friend, your Lord, to let him have the mailing of Quharist, in excambio for certain of the lands of late pertaining to the abbacy of Kilwinning, the which lie more within the vicinage of this castle; and, Gilhaize, here is my warrant to take possession."
With which words the Earl rose and presented him with a charter for the lands, signed by Eglinton and himself, and he shook him heartily by the hand, saying, that few in all the kingdom had better earned the guerdon of their service than he had done.
Thus it was that our family came to be settled in the shire of Ayr; for after my grandfather had taken possession of his fee, and mindful of the vow he had made in the street of Edinburgh on that blessed morning when John Knox, the champion of the true church, arrived from Geneva, he went into the east country to espouse Elspa Ruet, if he found her thereunto inclined, which happily he soon did. For their spirits were in unison; and from the time they first met, they had felt toward one another as if they had been acquaint in loving-kindness before, which made him sometimes say, that it was to him a proof and testimony that the souls of mankind have, perhaps, a living knowledge of each other before they are born into this world.
At their marriage, it was agreed that they should take with them into the west Agnes Kilspinnie, one of the misfortunate bailie's daughters. As for her mother, from the day of the overthrow and destruction of the papistry at St Andrews, she had never been heard of; all the tidings her sister could gather concerning her were, that the same night she had been conveyed away by some of the Archbishop's servants, but whither no one could tell. So they came with Agnes Kilspinnie to Edinburgh; and, for a ploy to their sober wedding, they resolved to abide there till the coming of Queen Mary from France, that they might partake of the shows and pastimes then preparing for her reception. They, however, during the season of their sojourn, feasted far better than on royal fare, in the gospel banquet of John Knox's sermons, of which they enjoyed the inexpressible beatitude three several Sabbath-days before the Queen arrived.
Of the joyous preparations to greet Queen Mary withal neither my grandfather nor grandmother were ever wont to discourse much at large, for they were holy-minded persons, little esteeming the pageantries of this world. But my aunt, for Agnes Kilspinnie being in progress of time married to my father's fourth brother, became sib to me in that degree, was wont to descant and enlarge on the theme with much wonderment and loquacity, describing the marvellous fabrics that were to have been hung with tapestry to hold the ladies, and the fountains that were to have spouted wine, which nobody was to be allowed to taste, the same being only for an ostentation, in order that the fact thereof might be recorded in the chronicles for after-times. And great things have I likewise heard her tell of the paraphernalia which the magistrates and town-council were getting ready. No sleep, in a sense, she used to say, did Maccalzean of Cliftonhall, who was then provost, get for more than a fortnight. From night to morning the sagacious bailies sat in council, exercising their sagacity to contrive devices to pleasure the Queen, and to help the custom of their own and their neighbours' shops. Busy and proud men they were, and no smaller were the worshipful deacons of the crafts. It was just a surprise and consternation to everybody, to think how their weak backs could bear such a burden of cares. No time had they for their wonted jocosity. To those who would fain have speered the news, they shook their heads in a Solomon-like manner, and hastened by. And such a battle and tribulation as they had with their vassals, the magistrates of Leith! who, in the most contumacious manner, insisted that their chief bailie should be the first to welcome the Sovereign on the shore. This pretence was thought little short of rebellion, and the provost and the bailies, and all the wise men that sat in council with them, together with the help of their learned assessors, continued deliberating anent the same for hours together. It was a dreadful business that for the town of Edinburgh. And the opinions of the judges of the land, and the lords of the council, were taken, and many a device tried to overcome the upsetting, as it was called, of the Leith magistrates; but all was of no avail. And it was thought there would have been a fight between the bailies of Leith and the bailies of Edinburgh, and that blood would have been shed before this weighty question, so important to the dearest interests of the commonweal of Scotland, could be determined. But, in the midst of their contention, and before their preparations were half finished, the Queen arrived in Leith Roads; and the news came upon them like the cry to the foolish virgins of the bridegroom in the street. Then they were seen flying to their respective places of abode to dress themselves in their coats of black velvet, their doublets of crimson satin, and their hose of the same colour which they had prepared for the occasion. Anon they met in the council-chamber—what confusion reigned there! Then how they flew down the street! Provost Maccalzean, with the silver keys in his hand, and the eldest bailie with the crimson-velvet cod, whereon they were to be delivered to her Majesty, following as fast as any member of a city corporation could be reasonably expected to do. But how the provost fell, and how the bailies and town-council tumbled over him, and how the crowd shouted at the sight, are things whereof to understand the greatness it is needful that the courteous reader should have heard my aunty Agnes herself rehearse the extraordinary particularities.
Meanwhile the Queen left her galley in a small boat, and the bailies of Leith had scarcely time to reach the pier before she was on shore. Alas! it was an ill-omened landing. Few were spectators, and none cheered the solitary lady, who, as she looked around and heard no loyal greeting, nor beheld any show of hospitable welcome, seemed to feel as if the spirit of the land was sullen at her approach, and grudged at her return to the dark abodes of her fierce ancestors. In all the way from Leith to Holyrood she never spoke, but the tear was in her eye and the sigh in her bosom; and though her people gathered when it was known she had landed, and began at last to shout, it was owre late to prevent the mournful forebodings, which taught her to expect but disappointments and sorrows from subjects so torn with their own factions, as to lack even the courtesies due to their sovereign, a stranger, and the fairest lady of all her time.
Soon after Queen Mary's return from France, my grandfather, with his wife and Agnes Kilspinnie, came from Edinburgh and took up their residence on his own free mailing of Quharist, where the Lady Eglinton was as good as her word in presenting to them divers articles of fine napery, and sundry things of plenishing both for ornament and use; and there he would have spent his days in blameless tranquillity, serving the Lord, but for the new storm that began to gather over the church, whereof it is needful that I should now proceed to tell some of the circumstantials.
No sooner had that thoughtless Princess, if indeed one could be so called, who, though reckless of all consequences, was yet double beyond the imagination of man; no sooner, I say, had she found herself at home, than, with all the craft and blandishments of her winning airs and peerless beauty, she did set herself to seduce the Lords of the Congregation from the sternness wherewith they had thrown down, and were determined to resist, the restoration of the Roman idolatry; and with some of them she succeeded so far, that the popish priests were hearkened, and, knowing her avowed partiality for their sect, the Beast began to shoot out its horns again, and they dared to perform the abomination of the mass in different quarters of the kingdom.
It is, no doubt, true, that the Queen's council, by proclamation, feigned to discountenance that resuscitation of idolatry; but the words of their edict being backed by no demonstration of resolution, save in the case of a few worthy gentlemen in the shire of Ayr and in Galloway, who took up some of the offenders in their district and jurisdiction, the evil continued to strike its roots, and to bud and nourish in its pestiferous branches.
When my grandfather heard of these things, his spirit was exceedingly moved, and he got no rest in the night, with the warsling of troubled thoughts and pious fears. Some new call, he foresaw, would soon be made on the protestants, to stand forth again in the gap that the Queen's arts had sapped in the bulwarks of their religious liberty, and he resolved to be ready against the hour of danger. So, taking his wife and Agnes Kilspinnie with him, he went in the spring to Edinburgh, and hired a lodging for them; and on the same night he presented himself at the lodging of the Lord James Stuart, who had some time before been created Earl of Murray; but the Earl was gone with the Queen to Loch Leven. Sir Alexander Douglas, however, the master of his Lordship's horse, was then on the eve of following him with John Knox, to whom the Queen had sent a peremptory message, requiring his attendance; and Sir Alexander invited my grandfather to come with them; the which invitation he very joyfully accepted, on account of the happy occasion of travelling in the sanctified company of that brave worthy.
In the journey, however, save in the boat when they crossed the ferry, he showed but little of his precious conversation; for the knight and the Reformer rode on together some short distance before their train, earnestly discoursing, and seemingly they wished not to be overheard. But when they were all seated in the ferry-boat, the ardour of the preacher, which on no occasion would be reined in, led him to continue speaking, by which it would seem that they had been conversing anent the Queen's prejudices in matters of religion and the royal authority.
"When I last spoke with her Highness," said John Knox, "she laid sore to my charge, that I had brought the people to receive a religion different from what their princes allowed, asking sharply, if this was not contrary to the Divine command, which enjoins that subjects should obey their rulers; so that I was obliged to contend plainly, that true religion derived its origin and authority, not from princes, but from God; that princes were often most ignorant respecting it, and that subjects never could be bound to frame their religious sentiments according to the pleasure of their rulers, else the Hebrews ought to have conformed to the idolatry of Pharaoh, and Daniel and his associates to that of Nebuchadnezzar, and the primitive Christians to that of the Roman emperors."
"And what could her Highness answer to this?" said Sir Alexander.
"She lacketh not the gift of a shrewd and ready wit," replied Master Knox; for she nimbly remarked, "That though it was as I had said, yet none of those men raised the sword against their princes;"—which enforced me to be more subtle than I was minded to have been, and to say, "that nevertheless, they did resist, for those who obey not the commandments given them, do in verity resist." "Ay," cried her Highness, "but not with the sword," which was a thrust not easy to be turned aside, so that I was constrained to speak out, saying, "God, madam, had not given them the means and the power." Then said she, still more eagerly, "Think you that subjects, having the power, may resist their princes?" And she looked with a triumphant smile, as if she had caught me in a trap; but I replied, "If princes exceed their bounds, no doubt they may be resisted, even by power. For no greater honour or greater obedience is to be given to kings and princes than God has commanded to be given to father or mother. But the father may be struck with a frenzy, in which he would slay his children; in such a case, if the children arise, join together, apprehend the father, take the sword from him, bind his hands and keep him in prison till the frenzy be over, think you, madam," quo' I, "that the children do any wrong? Even so is it with princes that would slay the children of God that are subject to them. Their blind zeal is nothing but frenzy, and therefore to take the power from them till they be brought to a more sober mind, is no disobedience to princes, but a just accordance to the will of God. So I doubt not," continued the Reformer, "I shall again have to sustain the keen encounter of her Highness' wit in some new controversy."
This was the chief substance of what my grandfather heard pass in the boat; and when they were again mounted, the knight and preacher set forward as before, some twenty paces or so in advance of the retinue.
On reaching Kinross, Master Knox rode straight to the shore, and went off in the Queen's barge to the castle, that he might present himself to her Highness before supper, for by this time the sun was far down. In the meantime, my grandfather went to the house in Kinross where the Earl of Murray resided, and his Lordship, though albeit a grave and reserved man, received him with the familiar kindness of an old friend, and he was with him when the Reformer came back from the Queen, who had dealt very earnestly with him to persuade the gentlemen of the west country to desist from their interruption of the popish worship.
"But to this," said the Reformer to the Earl, "I was obligated, by conscience and the fear of God, to say, that if her Majesty would exert her authority in executing the laws of the land, I would undertake for the peaceable behaviour of the protestants; but if she thought to evade them, there were some who would not let the papists offend with impunity."
"Will you allow," exclaimed her Highness, "that they shall take my sword in their hands?"
"The sword of justice is God's," I replied, "and is given to princes and rulers for an end, which if they transgress, sparing the wicked and oppressing the innocent, they who in the fear of God execute judgment where God has commanded, offend not God, although kings do it not. The gentlemen of the west, madam, are acting strictly according to law; for the act of parliament gave power to all judges within their jurisdiction to search for and punish those who transgress its enactments;" and I added, "it shall be profitable to your Majesty to consider what is the thing your Grace's subjects look to receive of your Majesty, and what it is that ye ought to do unto them by mutual contract. They are bound to obey you, and that not but in God; ye are bound to keep laws to them—ye crave of them service, they crave of you protection and defence. Now, madam, if you shall deny your duty unto them (which especially craves that ye punish malefactors), can ye expect to receive full obedience of them? I fear, madam, ye shall not."
"You have indeed been plain with her Highness," said the Earl, thoughtfully; "and what reply made she?"
"None," said the Reformer; "her countenance changed; she turned her head abruptly from me, and, without the courtesy of a good-night, signified with an angry waving of her hand, that she desired to be rid of my presence; whereupon I immediately retired, and, please God, I shall, betimes in the morning, return to my duties at Edinburgh. It is with a sad heart, my Lord, that I am compelled to think, and to say to you, who stand so near to her in kin and affection, that I doubt she is not only proud but crafty; not only wedded to the popish faith, but averse to instruction. She neither is nor will be of our opinion; and it is plain that the lessons of her uncle, the Cardinal, are so deeply printed in her heart, that the substance and quality will perish together. I would be glad to be deceived in this, but I fear I shall not; never have I espied such art in one so young; and it will need all the eyes of the Reformed to watch and ward that she circumvent not the strong hold in Christ, that has been but so lately restored and fortified in this misfortunate kingdom."
Nothing farther passed that night; but the servants being called in, and the preacher having exhorted them in their duties, and prayed with even more than his wonted earnestness, each one retired to his chamber, and the Earl gave orders for horses to be ready early in the morning, to convey Master Knox back to Edinburgh. This, however, was not permitted; for by break of day a messenger came from the castle, desiring him not to depart until he had again spoken with her Majesty; adding, that as she meant to land by sunrise with her falconer, she would meet him on the fields where she intended to take her pastime, and talk with him there.
In the morning, all those who were in the house with the Earl of Murray and John Knox were early afoot, and after prayers had been said, they went out to meet the Queen at her place of landing from the castle, which stands on an islet at some distance from the shore; but, before they reached the spot, she was already mounted on her jennet and the hawks unhooded, so that they were obligated to follow her Highness to the ground, the Reformer leaning on the Earl, who proffered him his left arm as they walked up the steep bank together from the brim of the lake.
The Queen was on the upland when they drew near to the field, and on seeing them approach she came ambling towards them, moving in her beauty, as my grandfather often delighted to say, like a fair rose caressed by the soft gales of the summer. A smile was in her eye, and it brightened on her countenance like the beam of something more lovely than light; the glow, as it were, of a spirit conscious of its power, and which had graced itself with all its enchantments to conquer some stubborn heart. Even the Earl of Murray was struck with the unwonted splendour of her that was ever deemed so surpassing fair; and John Knox said, with a sigh, "THE MAKER had indeed taken gracious pains with the goodly fashion of such perishable clay."
When she had come within a few paces of where they were advancing uncovered, she suddenly checked her jennet, and made him dance proudly round till she was nigh to John Knox, where, seeming in alarm, she feigned as if she would have slipped from the saddle, laying her hand on his shoulder for support; and while he, with more gallantry than it was thought in him, helped her to recover her seat, she said, with a ravishing look, "The Queen thanks you, Master Knox, for this upholding," dwelling on the word this in a special manner; which my grandfather noticed the more, as he as well as others of the retinue observed, that she was playing as it were in dalliance.
She then inquired kindly for his health, grieving she had not given orders for him to bed in the castle; and turning to the Earl of Murray, she chided his Lordship with a gentleness that was more winning than praise, why he had not come to her with Master Knox, saying, "We should then perhaps have not been so sharp in our controversy." But, before the Earl had time to make answer, she noticed divers gentlemen by name, and taking off her glove, made a most sweet salutation with her lily hand to the general concourse of those who had by this time gathered around.
In that gracious gesture, it was plain, my grandfather said, that she was still scattering her feminine spells; for she kept her hand for some time bare, and though enjoying the pleasure which her beautiful presence diffused, like a delicious warmth into the air, she was evidently self-collected, and had something more in mind than only the triumph of her marvellous beauty.
Having turned her horse's head, she moved him a few paces, saying, "Master Knox, I would speak with you." At which he went towards her, and the rest of the spectators retired and stood aloof.
They appeared for some time to be in an easy and somewhat gay discourse on her part; but she grew more and more earnest, till Mr Knox made his reverence and was coming away, when she said to him aloud, "Well, do as you will, but that man is a dangerous man."
Their discourse was concerning the titular Bishop of Athens, a brother of the Earl of Huntly, who had been put in nomination for a superintendent of the church in the West Country, and of whose bad character her Highness, as it afterwards proved, had received a just account.
But scarcely had the Reformer retired two steps when she called him back, and holding out to him her hand, with which, when he approached to do his homage, she familiarly took hold of his and held it, playing with his fingers as if she had been placing on a ring, saying, loud enough to be heard by many on the field,—
"I have one of the greatest matters that have touched me since I came into this realm to open to you, and I must have your help in it."
Then, still holding him earnestly by the hand, she entered into a long discourse concerning, as he afterwards told the Earl of Murray, a difference subsisting between the Earl and Countess of Argyle.
"Her Ladyship," said the Queen, for my grandfather heard him repeat what passed, "has not perhaps been so circumspect in everything as one could have wished, but her lord has dealt harshly with her."
Master Knox having once before reconciled the debates of that honourable couple, told her Highness he had done so, and that not having since heard anything to the contrary, he had hoped all things went well with them.
"It is worse," replied the Queen, "than ye believe. But, kind sir, do this much for my sake, as once again to put them at amity, and if the Countess behave not herself as she ought to do, she shall find no favour of me; but in no wise let Argyle know that I have requested you in this matter."
Then she returned to the subject of their contest the preceding evening, and said, with her sweetest looks and most musical accents, "I promise to do as ye required. I shall order all offenders to be summoned, and you shall see that I shall minister justice."
To which he replied, "I am assured then, madam, that you shall please God, and enjoy rest and tranquillity within your realm, which to your Majesty is more profitable than all the Pope's power can be." And having said this much he made his reverence, evidently in great pleasure with her Highness.
Afterwards, in speaking to the Earl of Murray, as they returned to Kinross, my grandfather noted that he employed many terms of soft courtliness, saying of her that she was a lady who might, he thought, with a little pains, be won to grace and godliness, could she be preserved from the taint of evil counsellors; so much had the winning sorceries of her exceeding beauty and her blandishments worked even upon his stern honesty and enchanted his jealousy asleep.
When Master Knox had, with the Earl, partaken of some repast, he requested that he might be conveyed back to Edinburgh, for that it suited not with his nature to remain sorning about the skirts of the court; and his Lordship bade my grandfather be of his company, and to bid Sir Alexander Douglas, the master of his horse, choose for him the gentlest steed in his stable.
But it happened before the Reformer was ready to depart, that Queen Mary had finished her morning pastime, and was returning to her barge to embark for the castle, which the Earl hearing, went down to the brim of the loch to assist at her embarkation. My grandfather, with others, also hastened to the spot.
On seeing his Lordship, she inquired for "her friend," as she then called John Knox, and signified her regret that he had been so list to leave her, expressing her surprise that one so infirm should think so soon of a second journey; whereby the good Earl being minded to cement their happy reconciliation, from which he augured a great increase of benefits both to the realm and the cause of religion, was led to speak of his concern thereat likewise, and of his sorrow that all his own horses at Kinross being for the chase and road, he had none well-fitting to carry a person so aged, and but little used to the toil of riding.
Her Highness smiled at the hidden counselling of this remark, for she was possessed of a sharp spirit; and she said, with a look which told the Earl and all about her that she discerned the pith of his Lordship's discourse, she would order one of her own palfreys to be forthwith prepared for him.
When the Earl returned from the shore and informed Master Knox of the Queen's gracious condescension, he made no reply, but bowed his head in token of his sense of her kindness; and soon after, when the palfrey was brought saddled with the other horses to the door, he said, in my grandfather's hearing, to his Lordship, "It needs, you see, my Lord, must be so; for were I not to accept this grace, it might be thought I refused from a vain bravery of caring nothing for her Majesty's favour;" and he added, with a smile of jocularity, "whereas I am right well content to receive the very smallest boon from so fair and blooming a lady."
Nothing of any particularity occurred in the course of the journey; for the main part of which Master Knox was thoughtful and knit up in his own cogitations, and when from time to time he did enter into discourse with my grandfather, he spoke chiefly of certain usages and customs that he had observed in other lands, and of things of indifferent import; but nevertheless there was a flavour of holiness in all he said, and my grandfather treasured many of his sweet sentences as pearls of great price.
Before the occurrence of the things spoken of in the foregoing chapter, the great Earl of Glencairn, my grandfather's first and constant patron, had been dead some time; but his son and successor, who knew the estimation in which he had been held by his father, being then in Edinburgh, allowed him, in consideration thereof, the privilege of his hall. It suited not, however, with my grandfather's quiet and sanctified nature to mingle much with the brawlers that used to hover there; nevertheless, out of a respect to the Earl's hospitality, he did occasionally go thither, and where, if he heard little to edify the Christian heart, he learnt divers things anent the Queen and court that made his fears and anxieties wax stronger and stronger.
It seemed to him, as he often was heard to say, that there was a better knowledge of Queen Mary's true character and secret partialities among those loose varlets than among their masters; and her marriage being then in the parlance of the people, and much dread and fear rife with the protestants that she would choose a papist for her husband, he was surprised to hear many of the lewd knaves in Glencairn's hall speak lightly of the respect she would have to the faith or spirituality of the man she might prefer.
Among those wuddy worthies he fell in with his ancient adversary Winterton, who, instead of harbouring any resentment for the trick he played him in the Lord Boyd's castle, was rejoiced to see him again: he himself was then in the service of David Rizzio, the fiddler, whom the Queen some short time before had taken into her particular service.
This Rizzio was by birth an Italian of very low degree; a man of crouched stature, and of an uncomely physiognomy, being yellow-skinned and black-haired, with a beak-nose, and little quick eyes of a free and familiar glance, but shrewd withal, and possessed of a pleasant way of winning facetiously on the ladies, to the which his singular skill in all manner of melodious music helped not a little; so that he had great sway with them, and was then winning himself fast into the Queen's favour, in which ambition, besides the natural instigations of his own vanity, he was spirited on by certain powerful personages of the papistical faction, who soon saw the great efficacy it would be of to their cause, to have one who owed his rise to them constantly about the Queen, and in the depths of all her personal correspondence with her great friends abroad. But the subtle Italian, though still true to his papal breeding, built upon the Queen's partiality more than on the favour of those proud nobles, and, about the time of which I am now speaking, he carried his head at court as bravely as the boldest baron amongst them. Still in this he had as yet done nothing greatly to offend. The protestant Lords, however, independent of their aversion to him on account his religion, felt, in common with all the nobility, a vehement prejudice against an alien, one too of base blood, and they openly manifested their displeasure at seeing him so gorgeous and presuming even in the public presence of the Queen, but he regarded not their anger.
In this fey man's service Winterton then was, and my grandfather never doubted that it was for no good he came so often to the Earl of Glencairn's, who, though not a man of the same weight in the realm as the old Earl his father, was yet held in much esteem, as a sincere protestant and true nobleman, by all the friends of the Gospel cause; and, in the sequel, what my grandfather jealoused was soon very plainly seen. For Rizzio learning, through Winterton's espionage and that of other emissaries, how little the people of Scotland would relish a foreign prince to be set over them, had a hand in dissuading the Queen from accepting any of the matches then proposed for her; and the better to make his own power the more sicker, he afterwards laid snares in the water to bring about a marriage with that weak young prince, the Lord Henry Darnley. But it falls not within the scope of my narrative to enter into any more particulars here concerning that Italian, and the tragical doom which, with the Queen's imprudence, he brought upon himself; for, after spending some weeks in Edinburgh, and in visiting their friends at Crail, my grandfather returned with his wife and Agnes Kilspinnie to Quharist, where he continued to reside several years, but not in tranquillity.
Hardly had they reached their home, when word came of quarrels among the nobility; and though the same sprung out of secular debates, they had much of the leaven of religious faction in their causes, the which greatly exasperated the enmity wherewith they were carried on. But even in the good Earl of Murray's raid, there was nothing which called on my grandfather to bear a part. Nevertheless, those quarrels disquieted his soul, and he heard the sough of discontents rising afar off, like the roar of the bars of Ayr when they betoken a coming tempest.
After the departure of the Earl of Murray to France, there was a syncope in the land, and men's minds were filled with wonder and with apprehensions to which they could give no name; neighbours distrusted one another: the papists looked out from their secret places, and were saluted with a fear that wore the semblance of reverence. The Queen married Darnley, and discreet men marvelled at the rashness with which the match was concluded, there being seemingly no cause for such uncomely haste, nor for the lavish favours that she heaped upon him. It was viewed with awe, as a thing done under the impulses of fraud, or fainness, or fatality. Nor was their wedding-cheer cold when her eager love changed into aversion. Then the spirit of the times, which had long hovered in willingness to be pleased with her intentions, began to alter its breathings, and to whisper darkly against her. At last the murder of Rizzio, a deed which, though in the main satisfactory to the nation, was yet so foul and cruel in the perpetration, that the tidings of it came like a thunder-clap over all the kingdom.
The birth of Prince James, which soon after followed, gave no joy; for about the same time a low and terrible whispering began to be heard of some hideous and universal conspiracy against all the protestants throughout Europe. None ventured to say that Queen Mary was joined with the conspirators; but many preachers openly prayed that she might be preserved from their leagues in a way that showed what they feared; besides this suspicion, mournful things were told of her behaviour, and the immoralities of her courtiers and their trains rose to such a pitch, compared with the chastity and plain manners of her mother's court, that the whole land was vexed with angry thoughts, and echoed to the rumours with stern menaces.
No one was more disturbed by these things than my pious grandfather; and the apprehensions which they caused in him came to such a head at last, that his wife, becoming fearful of his health, advised him to take a journey to Edinburgh, in order that he might hear and see with his own ears and eyes; which he accordingly did, and on his arrival went straight to the Earl of Glencairn, and begged permission to take on again his livery, chiefly that he might pass unnoticed, and not be remarked as having neither calling nor vocation. That nobleman was surprised with his request; but, without asking any questions, gave him leave, and again invited him to use the freedom of his hall; so he continued as one of his retainers till the Earl of Murray's return from France. But, before speaking of what then ensued, there are some things concerning the murder of the the Queen's protestant husband—the blackest of the sins of that age—of which, in so far as my grandfather participated, it is meet and proper I should previously speak.
While the cloud of troubles, whereof I have spoken in the foregoing chapter was thickening and darkening over the land, the event of the King's dreadful death came to pass; the which, though in its birth most foul and monstrous, filling the hearts of all men with consternation and horror, was yet a mean in the hands of Providence, as shall hereafter appear, whereby the kingdom of THE LORD was established in Scotland.
Concerning that fearful treason, my grandfather never spoke without taking off his bonnet, and praying inwardly with such solemnity of countenance that none could behold him unmoved. Of all the remarkable passages of his long life it was indeed the most remarkable; and he has been heard to say that he could not well acquit himself of the actual sin of disobedience in not obeying an admonition of the Spirit which was vouchsafed to him on that occasion.
For some time there had been a great variance between the King and Queen. He had given himself over to loose and low companions; and though she kept her state and pride, ill was said of her, if in her walk and conversation she was more sensible of her high dignity. All at once, however, when he was lying ill at Glasgow of a malady, which many scrupled not to say was engendered by a malignant medicine, there was a singular demonstration of returning affection on her part, the more remarkable and the more heeded of the commonality, on account of its suddenness, and the events that ensued; for while he was at the worst she minded not his condition, but took her delights and pastimes in divers parts of the country. No sooner, however, had his strength overcome the disease, than she was seized with this fond sympathy, and came flying with her endearments, seemingly to foster his recovery with caresses and love. The which excessive affection was afterwards ascribed to a guilty hypocrisy; for in the sequel it came to light that, while she was practising all those winning blandishments, which few knew the art of better, and with which she regained his confidence, she was at the same time engaged in unconjugal correspondence with the Earl of Bothwell. The King, however, was won by her kindness, and consented to be removed from among the friends of his family at Glasgow to Edinburgh, in order that he might there enjoy the benefits of her soft cares and the salutary attendance of the physicians of the capital. The house of the provost of Kirk o' Field, which stood not far from the spot where the buildings of the college now stand, was accordingly prepared for his reception, on account of the advantages which it afforded for the free and open air of a rising ground; but it was also a solitary place—a fit haunt for midnight conspirators and the dark purposes of mysterious crime.
There, for some time, the Queen lavished upon him all the endearing gentleness of a true and loving wife, being seldom absent by day, and sleeping near his sick-chamber at night. The land was blithened with such assurances of their reconciliation; and the King himself, with the frank ardour of flattered youth, was contrite for his faults, and promised her the fondest devotion of all his future days. In this sweet cordiality, on Sunday, the 9th of February, A.D. 1567, she parted from him to be present at a masquing in the palace; for the Reformation had not so penetrated into the habits and business of men as to hallow the Sabbath in the way it has since done amongst us. But before proceeding farther, it is proper to resume the thread of my grandfather's story.
He had passed that evening, as he was wont to tell, in pleasant gospel conversation with several acquaintances in the house of one Raphael Doquet, a pious lawyer in the Canongate; for even many writers in those days were smitten with the love of godliness; and as he was returning to his dry lodgings in an entry now called Baron Grant's Close, he encountered Winterton, who, after an end had been put to David Rizzio, became a retainer in the riotous household of the Earl of Bothwell. This happened a short way aboon the Netherbow, and my grandfather stopped to speak with him; but there was a haste and confusion in his manner which made him rather eschew this civility. My grandfather at the time, however, did not much remark it; but scarcely had they parted ten paces when a sudden jealousy of some unknown guilt or danger, wherein Winterton was concerned, came into his mind like a flash of fire, and he felt as it were an invisible power constraining him to dog his steps, in so much that he actually did turn back. But on reaching the Bow he was obligated to stop, for the ward was changing; and observing that the soldiers then posting were of the Queen's French guard, his thoughts began to run on the rumour that was bruited of a league among the papist princes to cut off all the Reformed with one universal sweep of the scythe of persecution, and he felt himself moved and incited to go to some of the Lords and leaders of the Congregation to warn them of what he feared; but, considering that he had only a vague and unaccountable suspicion for his thought, he wavered, and finally returned home. Thus, though manifestly and marvellously instructed of the fruition of some bloody business in hand that night, he was yet overruled by the wisdom which is of this world to suppress and refuse obedience to the promptings of the inspiration.
On reaching his chamber, he unbuckled his belt, as his custom was, and laid down his sword and began to undress, when again the same alarm from on high fell upon him, and the same warning spirit whispered to his mind's ear unspeakable intimations of dreadful things. Fear came upon him and trembling, which made all his bones to shake, and he lifted his sword and again buckled on his belt. But again the prudence of this world prevailed, and, heeding not the admonition to warn the Lords of the Congregation, he threw himself on his bed, without, however, unbuckling his sword, and in that condition fell asleep. But though his senses were shut, his mind continued awake, and he had fearful visions of bloody hands and glimmering daggers gleaming over him from behind his curtains, till in terror he started up, gasping like one that had struggled with a stronger than himself.
When he had in some degree composed his thoughts, he went to the window and opened it, to see by the stars how far the night had passed. The window overlooked the North Loch and the swelling bank beyond, and the distant frith and the hills of Fife. The skies were calm and clear, and the air was tempered with a bright frost. The stars in their courses were reflected in the still waters of the North Loch, as if there had been an opening through the earth showing the other concave of the spangled firmament. But the dark outline of the swelling bank on the northern side was like the awful corpse of some mighty thing prepared for interment.
As my grandfather stood in contemplation at the window, he heard the occasional churme of discourse from passengers still abroad, and now and then the braggart flourish of a trumpet resounded from the royal masquing at the palace,—breaking upon the holiness of the night with the harsh dissonance of a discord in some solemn harmony.—And as he was meditating on many things, and grieving in spirit at the dark fate of poor Scotland, and the woes with which the children of salvation were environed, he was startled by the apparition of a great blaze in the air, which for a moment lighted up all the land with a wild and fiery light, and he beheld in the glass of the North Loch, reflected from behind the shadow of the city, a tremendous eruption of burning beams and rafters burst into the sky, while a horrible crash, as if the chariots of destruction were themselves breaking down, shook the town like an earthquake.
He was for an instant astounded; but soon roused by the clangour of an alarm from the castle; and while a cry rose from all the city, as if the last trumpet itself was sounding, he rushed into the street, where the inhabitants, as they had flown from their beds, were running in consternation like the sheeted dead startled from their graves. Drums beat to arms;—the bells rang;—some cried the wild cry of fire, and there was wailing and weeping, and many stood dumb with horror, and could give no answer to the universal question.—"God of the heavens, what is this?" Presently a voice was heard crying, "The King, the King!" and all, as if moved by one spirit, replied, "The King, the King!" Then for a moment there was a silence stiller than the midnight hour, and drum, nor bell, nor voice was heard, but a rushing of the multitude towards St Mary's Port, which leads to the Kirk o' Field.
Among others, my grandfather hastened to the spot by Todrick's Wynd; and as he was running down towards the postern gate, he came with great violence against a man who was struggling up through the torrent of the people, without cap or cloak, and seemingly maddened with terrors. Urged by some strong instinct, my grandfather grasped him by the throat; for, by the glimpse of the lights that were then placing at every window, he saw it was Winterton. But a swirl of the crowd tore them asunder, and he had only time to cry, "It's ane of Bothwell's men."
The people caught the Earl's name; but instead of seizing the fugitive, they repeated, "Bothwell, Bothwell, he's the traitor!" and pressed more eagerly on to the ruins of the house, which were still burning. The walls were rent, and in many places thrown down; the west gable was blown clean away, and the very ground, on the side where the King's chamber had been, was torn as with a hundred ploughshares. Certain trees that grew hard by were cleft and riven as with a thunderbolt, and stones were sticking in their timber like wedges and the shot of cannon.
It was thought, that in such a sudden blast of desolation, nothing in the house could have withstood the shock, but that all therein must have been shivered to atoms. When, however, the day began to dawn, it was seen that many things had escaped unblemished by the fire; and the King's body, with that of the servant who watched in his chamber, was found in a neighbouring garden, without having suffered any material change,—the which caused the greater marvelling; for it thereby appeared that they were the only sufferers in that dark treason, making the truth plain before the people, that the contrivance and firing thereof was concerted and brought to maturity by some in authority with the Queen,—and who that was the people answered by crying as the royal corpse was carried to the palace, "Bothwell, Lord Bothwell, he is the traitor!"
All the next day, and for many days after, consternation reigned in the streets of the city, and horror sat shuddering in all her dwelling-places. Multitudes stood in amazement from morning to night around the palace; for the Earl of Bothwell was within, and still honoured with all the homages due to the greatest public trusts. Ever and anon a cry was heard, "Bothwell is the murderer!" and the multitude shouted, "Justice, justice!" But their cry was not heard.
Night after night the trembling citizens watched with candles at their casements, dreading some yet greater alarm; and in the stillness of the midnight hour a voice was heard crying, "The Queen and Bothwell are the murderers!" and another voice replied, "Vengeance, vengeance!—Blood for blood!"
Every morning on the walls of the houses writings were seen, demanding the punishment of the regicides—and the Queen's name, and the name of Bothwell, and the names of many more, with the Archbishop of St Andrews at their head, were emblazoned on all sides as the names of the regicides. But Bothwell, with the resolute bravery of guilt in the confidence of power, heeded not the cry that thus mounted continually against him to Heaven, and the Queen feigned a widow's sorrow.
The whole realm was as when the ark of the covenant of the Lord was removed from Israel and captive in the hands of the Philistines. The injured sought not the redress of their wrongs; even the guilty were afraid of one another, and by the very cowardice of their distrust were prevented from banding at a time when they might have rioted at will. What aggravated these portents of a kingdom falling asunder, was the mockery of law and justice which the court attempted. Those who were accused of the King's death ruled the royal councils, and were greatest in the Queen's favour. The Earl of Bothwell dictated the very proceedings by which he was himself to be brought to trial,—and when the day of trial arrived, he came with the pomp and retinue of a victorious conqueror—to be acquitted.
But acquitted, as the guilty ever needs must be whom no one dares to accuse, nor any witness hazards to appear against, his acquittal served but to prove his guilt, and the forms thereof the murderous participation of the Queen. Thus, though he was assoilzied in form of law, the libel against him was nevertheless found proven by the universal verdict of all men. Yet, in despite of the world, and even of the conviction recorded within their own bosoms, did the infatuated Mary and that dreadless traitor, in little more than three months from the era of their crime, rush into an adulterous marriage; but of the infamies concerning the same, and of the humiliated state to which poor Scotland sank in consequence, I must refer the courteous reader to the histories and chronicles of the time—while I return to the narrative of my grandfather.
When the Earl of Bothwell, as I have been told by those who heard him speak of these deplorable blots on the Scottish name, had been created Duke of Orkney, the people daily expected the marriage. But instead of the ordinary ceremonials used at the marriages of former kings and princes, the Queen and all about her, as if they had been smitten from on high with some manifest and strange phrenzy, resolved, as it were in derision and blasphemy, notwithstanding her own and the notour popery of the Duke, to celebrate their union according to the strictest forms of the protestants; and John Knox being at the time in the West Country, his colleague, Master Craig, was ordered by the Queen in council to publish the bans three several Sabbaths in St Giles' kirk.
On the morning of the first appointed day my grandfather went thither; a vast concourse of the people were assembled, and the worthy minister, when he rose in the pulpit with the paper in his hand, trembled and was pale, and for some time unable to speak; at last he read the names and purpose of marriage aloud, and he paused when he had done so, and an awful solemnity froze the very spirits of the congregation. He then laid down the paper on the pulpit, and lifting his hands and raising his eyes, cried with a vehement sadness of voice,—"Lord God of the pure heavens, and all ye of the earth that hear me, I protest, as a minister of the gospel, my abhorrence and detestation of this hideous and adulterous sin; and I call all the nobility and all of the Queen's council to remonstrate with her Majesty against a step that must cover her with infamy for ever and ruin past all remede." Three days did he thus publish the bans, and thrice in that manner did he boldly proclaim his protestation; for which he was called before the privy council, where the guilty Bothwell was sitting; and being charged with having exceeded the bounds of his commission, he replied with an apostolic bravery,—
"My commission is from the word of God, good laws, and natural reason, to all which this proposed marriage is obnoxious. The Earl of Bothwell, there where he sits, knows that he is an adulterer,—the divorce that he has procured from his wife has been by collusion,—and he knows likewise that he has murdered the king and guiltily possessed himself of the Queen's person."
Yet, notwithstanding, Mr Craig was suffered to depart, even unmolested by the astonished and overawed Bothwell; but, as I have said, the marriage was still celebrated; and it was the last great crime of papistical device that the Lord suffered to see done within the bounds of Scotland. For the same night letters were sent to the Earl of Murray from divers of the nobility, entreating him to return forthwith; and my grandfather, at the incitement of the Earl of Argyle, was secretly sent by his patron Glencairn to beg the friends of the state and the lawful prince, the son whom the Queen had born to her murdered husband, to meet without delay at Stirling.
Accordingly, with the flower of their vassals and retainers, besides Argyle and Glencairn, came many of the nobles; and having protested their detestation of the conduct of the Queen, they entered into a Solemn League and Covenant, wherein they rehearsed, as causes for their confederating against the misrule with which the kingdom was so humbled, that the Scottish people were abhorred and vilipendit amongst all Christian nations; declaring that they would never desist till they had revenged the foul murder of the King, rescued the Queen from her thraldom to the Earl of Bothwell, and dissolved her ignominious marriage.
The Queen and her regicide, for he could not be called her husband, were panic-struck when they heard of this avenging paction. She issued a bold proclamation, calling on her insulted subjects to take arms in her defence, and she published manifestoes, all lies. She fled with Bothwell from Edinburgh to the castle of Borthwick; but scarcely were they within the gates when the sough of the rising storm obliged him to leave her, and the same night, in the disguise of man's apparel, the Queen of all Scotland was seen flying, friendless and bewildered, to her sentenced paramour.
The covenanting nobles in the meantime were mustering their clans and their vassals; and the Earls of Morton and Athol having brought the instrument of the League to Edinburgh, the magistrates and town-council signed the same, and, taking the oaths, issued instanter orders for the burghers to prepare themselves with arms and banners, and to man the city walls. The whole kingdom rung with the sound of warlike preparations, and the ancient valour of the Scottish heart was blithened with the hope of erasing the stains that a wicked government had brought upon the honour of the land.
Meanwhile the regicide and the Queen drew together what forces his power could command and her promises allure, and they advanced from Dunbar to Carberry Hill, where they encamped. The army of the Covenanters at the same time left Edinburgh to meet them. Mary appeared at the head of her troops; but they felt themselves engaged in a bad cause, and refused to fight. She exhorted them with all the pith of her eloquence;—she wept, she implored, she threatened, and she reproached them with cowardice, but still they stood sullen.
To retreat in the face of an enemy who had already surrounded the hill on which she stood was impracticable. In this extremity she called with a voice of despair for Kirkcaldy of Grange, a brave man, whom she saw at the head of the cavalry by whom she was surrounded, and he having halted his horse and procured leave from his leaders, advanced toward her. Bothwell, with a few followers, during the interval, quitted the field; and, as soon as Kirkcaldy came up, she surrendered herself to him, and was conducted by him to the headquarters of the Covenanters, by whom she was received with all the wonted testimonials of respect, and was assured, if she forsook Bothwell and governed her kingdom with honest councils, they would honour and obey her as their sovereign. But the common soldiers overwhelmed her with reproaches, and on the march back to Edinburgh poured upon her the most opprobrious names.
"Never was such a sight seen," my grandfather often said, "as the return of that abject Princess to her capital. On the banner of the League was depicted the corpse of the murdered king, her husband, lying under a tree, with the young prince, his son, kneeling before it, and the motto was, 'Judge and revenge my cause, O Lord.' The standard-bearer rode with it immediately before the horse on which she sat weeping and wild, and covered with dust, and as often as she raised her distracted eye the apparition of the murder in the flag fluttered in her face. In vain she supplicated pity—yells and howls were all the answers she received, and volleys of execrations came from the populace, with Burn her, burn her, bloody murderess! Let her not live!"
In that condition she was conducted to the provost's house, into which she was assisted to alight, more dead than alive, and next morning she was conveyed a prisoner to Lochleven Castle, where she was soon after compelled to resign the crown to her son, and the regency to the Earl of Murray, by whose great wisdom the Reformation was established in truth and holiness throughout the kingdom—though for a season it was again menaced when Mary effected her escape, and dared the cause of the Lord to battle at Langside. But of that great day of victory it becomes not me to speak, for it hath received the blazon of many an abler pen; it is enough to mention, that my grandfather was there, and after the battle that he returned with the army to Glasgow, and was present at the thanksgiving. The same night he paid his last respects to the Earl of Murray, who permitted him to take away, as a trophy and memorial, the gloves which his Lordship had worn that day in the field; and they have ever since been sacredly preserved at Quharist, where they may be still seen. They are of York buff; the palm of the one for the right hand is still blue with the mark of the sword's hilt, and the fore-finger stool is stained with the ink of a letter which the Earl wrote on the field to Argyle, who had joined the Queen's faction; the which letter, it has been thought, caused the swithering of that nobleman in the hour of the onset, by which Providence gave the Regent the victory—a conquest which established the Gospel in his native land for ever.
After the battle of Langside, many of the nobles and great personages of the realm grew jealous of the good Regent Murray, and, by their own demeanour, caused him to put on towards them a reserve and coldness of deportment, which they construed as their feelings and fancies led them, much to his disadvantage; for he was too proud to court the good-will that he thought was his due. But to all people of a lower degree, like those in my grandfather's station, he was ever the same punctual and gracious superior, making, by the urbanity of his manner, small courtesies recollected and spoken of as great favours, in so much that, being well-beloved of the whole commonality, his memory, long after his fatal death, was held in great estimation among them, and his fame as the sweet odour of many blessings.
Few things, my grandfather often said, gave him a sorer pang than the base murder by the Hamiltons of that most eminent worthy; and in all the labours and business of his long life, nothing came ever more pleasant to his thoughts than the remembrance of the part he had himself in the retribution with which their many bloody acts were in the end overtaken and punished. Indeed, as far as concerns their guiltiest instigator and kinsman, the adulterous Antichrist of St Andrews, never was a just vengeance and judgment more visibly manifested, as I shall now, with all expedient brevity, rehearse, it being the last exploit in which my grandfather bore arms for the commonweal.
Bailie Kilspinnie of Crail having dealings with certain Glasgow merchants, who sold plaiding to the Highlanders of Lennox and Cowal, finding them dour in payment, owing, as they said, to their customers lengthening their credit of their own accord, on account of the times, the west having been from the battle of Langside unwontedly tranquil, he, in the spring of 1571, came in quest of his monies, and my grandfather having notice thereof, took on behind him on horseback, to see her father, Agnes Kilspinnie, who had lived in his house from the time of his marriage to her aunt, Elspa Ruet. And it happened that Captain Crawford of Jordanhill, who was then meditating his famous exploit against the castle of Dumbarton, met my grandfather by chance in the Trongait, and knowing some little of him, and of the great regard in which he was held by many noblemen, for one of his birth, spoke to him cordially, and asked him to be of his party, assigning, among other things, as a motive, that the great adversary of the Reformation, the Archbishop of St Andrews, had, on account of the doom and outlawry pronounced upon him, for being accessory both to the murder of King Henry, the Queen's protestant husband, and of the good Regent Murray, taken refuge in that redoubtable fortress.
Some concern for the state of his wife and young family weighed with my grandfather while he was in communion with Jordanhill; but after parting from him, and going back to the Saracen's inn in the Gallowgait, where Bailie Kilspinnie and his daughter were, he had an inward urging of the spirit, moving him to be of the enterprise, on a persuasion, as I have heard him tell himself, that without he was there something would arise to balk the undertaking. So he was in consequence troubled in thought, and held himself aloof from the familiar talk of his friends all the remainder of the day, wishing that he might be able to overcome the thirst which Captain Crawford had bred within him to join his company.
Bailie Kilspinnie seeing him in this perplexity of soul, spoke to him as a friend, and searched to know what had taken possession of him, and my grandfather, partly moved by his entreaty and partly by the thought of the great palpable Antichrist of Scotland, who had done the bailie's fireside such damage and detriment, being in a manner exposed to their taking, told him what had been propounded by Jordanhill.
"Say you so," cried the bailie, remembering the offence done to his family, "say you so; and that he is in a girn that wants but a manly hand to grip him. Body and soul o' me, if the thing's within the power of the arm of flesh he shall be taken and brought to the wuddy, if the Lord permits justice to be done within the realm of Scotland."
The which bold and valorous breathing of the honest magistrate of Crail kindled the smoking yearnings of my grandfather into a bright and blazing flame, and he replied,—
"Then, sir, if you be so minded, I cannot perforce abide behind, but will go forth with you to the battle, and swither not with the sword till we have effected some notable achievement."
They accordingly went forthwith to Captain Crawford and proffered to him their service; and he was gladdened that my grandfather had come to so warlike a purpose; but he looked sharply at the bailie, and twice smiled to my grandfather, as if in doubt of his soldiership, saying, "But, Gilhaize, since you recommend him, he must be a good man and true."
So the same night they set out at dusk, with a chosen troop and band of not more than two hundred men. A boat, provided with ladders, dropped down the river with the tide, to be before them.
By midnight the expedition reached the bottom of Dumbuckhill, where, having ascertained that the boat was arrived, Jordanhill directed those aboard to keep her close in with the shore, and move with their march.
The evening when they left Glasgow was bright and calm, and the moon, in her first quarter, shed her beautiful glory on mountain and tower and tree, leading them as with the light of a heavenly torch; and when they reached the skirts of the river, it was soon manifest that their enterprise was favoured from on high. The moon was by that time set, and a thick mist came rolling from the Clyde and the Leven, and made the night air dim as well as dark, veiling their movements from all mortal eyes.
Jordanhill's guide led them to a part of the rock which was seldom guarded, and showed them where to place their ladders. He had been in the service of the Lord Fleming, the governor, but on account of contumelious usage had quitted it, and had been the contriver of the scheme.
Scarcely was the first ladder placed when the impatience of the men brought it to the ground; but there was a noise in the ebbing waters of the Clyde that drowned the accident of their fall, and prevented it from alarming the soldiers on the watch. This failure disconcerted Jordanhill for a moment; but the guide fastened the ladder to the roots of an ash tree which grew in a cleft of the rock, and to the first shelf of the precipice they all ascended in safety.
The first ladder was then drawn up and placed against the upper story, as it might be called, of the rock, reaching to the gap where they could enter into the fortress, while another ladder was tied in its place below. Jordanhill then ascended, leading the way, followed by his men, the bailie of Crail being before my grandfather.
They were now at a fearful height from the ground; but the mist was thick, and no one saw the dizzy eminence to which he had attained. It happened, however, that just as Jordanhill reached the summit, and while my grandfather and the bailie were about half-way up the ladder, the mist below rolled away, and the stars above shone out, and the bailie, casting his eyes downward, was so amazed and terrified at the eagle flight he had taken, that he began to quake and tremble, and could not mount a step farther.
At that juncture delay was death to success. It was impossible to pass him. To tumble him off the ladder and let him be dashed to pieces, as some of the men both above and below roughly bade my grandfather do, was cruel. All were at a stand.
Governed, however, by a singular inspiration, my grandfather took off his own sword-belt and also the bailie's, and fastened him with them to the ladder by the oxters and legs, and then turning round the ladder, leaving him so fastened pendent in the air on the lower side, the assailants ascended over his belly, and courageously mounted to their perilous duty.
Jordanhill shouted as they mustered on the summit. The officers and soldiers of the garrison rushed out naked, but sword in hand. The assailants seized the cannon. Lord Fleming, the governor, leaped the wall into the boat that had brought the scaling ladders and was rowed away. The garrison, thus deserted, surrendered, and the guilty prelate was among the prisoners.
As soon as order was in some degree restored, my grandfather went with two other soldiers to where the bailie had been left suspended, and having relieved him from his horror, which the breaking daylight increased by showing him the fearful height at which he hung, he brought him to Jordanhill, who, laughing at his disaster, ordered him to be one of the guard appointed to conduct the Archbishop to Stirling.
In that service the worthy magistrate proved more courageous, and upbraided the prisoner several times on the road for the ill he had done to him. But that traitorous high priest heard his taunts in silence, for he was a valiant and proud man; such, indeed, was his gallant bearing in the march that the soldiers were won by it to do him homage as a true knight: and had he been a warrior as he was but a priest, it was thought by many that, though both papist and traitor, they might have been worked upon to set him free. To Stirling, however, he was carried; and on the fourth day from the time he was taken he was executed on the gallows, where, notwithstanding his guilty life, he suffered with the bravery of a gentleman dying in a righteous cause, in so much that the papists honoured his courage as if it had been the virtue of a holy martyr; and Bailie Kilspinnie all his days never ceased to wonder how so wicked a man could die so well.
Having thus set forth the main passages in my grandfather's life, I should now quit the public highway of history, and turn for a time into the pleasant footpath of his domestic vineyard, the plants whereof, under his culture, and the pious waterings of Elspa Ruet, my excellent progenitrix, were beginning to spread their green tendrils and goodly branches, and to hang out their clusters to the gracious sunshine, as it were in demonstration to the heavens that the labourer was no sluggard, and as an assurance that in due season, under its benign favour, they would gratefully repay his care with sweet fruit. But there is yet one thing to be told, which, though it may not be regarded as germane to the mighty event of the Reformation, grew so plainly out of the signal catastrophe related in the foregoing chapter, that it were to neglect the instruction mercifully intended were I not to describe all its circumstances and particularities as they came to pass.
Accordingly to proceed. In the winter after the storming of Dumbarton Castle, Widow Ruet, the mother of my grandmother, hearing nothing for a long time of her poor donsie daughter Marion, had, from the hanging of Archbishop Hamilton, the anti-Christian paramour of that misguided creature, fallen into a melancholy state of moaning and inward grief, in so much that Bailie Kilspinnie wrote a letter invoking my grandfather to come with his wife to Crail, that they might join together in comforting the aged woman; which work of duty and of charity they lost no time in undertaking, carrying with them Agnes Kilspinnie to see her kin.
Being minded both in the going and the coming to partake of the feast of the heavenly and apostolic eloquence of the fearless Reformer's life-giving truths, they went by the way of Edinburgh; and in going about while there to show Agnes Kilspinnie the uncos of the town, it happened as they were coming down from the Castlehill, in passing the Weigh-house, that she observed a beggar woman sitting on a stair seemingly in great distress, for her hands were fervently clasped, and she was swinging her body backwards and forwards like a bark without a rudder on a billowy sea, when the winds of an angry heaven are let loose upon't.
What made this forlorn wretch the more remarkable was a seeming remnant of better days in something about herself, besides the silken rags of garments that had once been costly. For, as she from time to time lifted her delicate hands aloft in her despairing ecstasy, the scrap of blanket, which was all her mantle, fell back and showed such lily and lady-like arms that it was impossible to look upon her without compassion, and not also to wonder from what high and palmy estate she had fallen into such abject poverty.
My grandfather and his wife, with Agnes, stopped for a moment, and conferred together about what alms they would offer to a gentlewoman brought so low; when she, observing them, came wildly towards them crying, "For the Mother of God, to save a famishing outcast from death and perdition."
Her frantic gesture, far more than her papistical exclamation, made their souls shudder; and before they had time to reply, she fell on her knees, and taking Elspa by the hand, repeated the same vehement prayer, adding, "Do, do, even though I be the vilest and guiltiest of womankind."
"Marion Ruet!—O, my sister!—O, my dear Marion!" as wildfully and as wofully did my grandmother in that instant also cry aloud, falling on the beggar-woman's neck, and sobbing as if her heart would have burst; for it was indeed the bailie's wife, and the mother of Agnes, that supplicated for a morsel.
This sad sight brought many persons around, among others a decent elderly carlin that kept a huxtry shop close by, who pitifully invited them to come from the public causey into her house; and with some difficulty my grandfather removed the two sisters thither. Agnes Kilspinnie, poor thing, following like a demented creature, not even able to drop a tear at so meeting with her humiliated parent, who, from the moment that she was known, could only gaze like the effigy of some extraordinary consternation carved in alabaster stone.
When they had been some time in the house of old Ursie Firikins, as the kind carlin was called, Elspa Ruet all the while weeping like a constant fountain and repeating, "Marion, Marion!" with a fond and sorrowful tenderness that would allow her to say no more, my grandfather having got a drink of meal and water prepared, gave it to the famished outcast, and she gradually recovered from her stupor.
For many minutes, however, she sat still and said nothing, and when she did speak it was in a voice of such misery of soul that my grandfather never liked to tell what terrible thoughts the remembrance of it ever gave him. I shall therefore not venture to repeat what she said, farther than to mention that, having sunk down on her knees, she spread her hands aloft and exclaimed, "Ay, the time's come now, and the words of her prophecy, that never ceased to dirl in my soul, are fulfilled. I will go back to Crail—my penitence shall be seen in my shame;—I will go openly, that all may take warning—and before all, in the face of day, will I confess the wrongs I hae done to my gudeman and bairns."
She then rose and said to her sister, "Elspa, ye hae heard my vow, and this very hour I will begin my pilgrimage."
Some further conversation ensued, in which she told them that she had run a woful course after the havock at St Andrews; but, though humbled to the dust, and almost perishing of hunger, pride had still warsled with penitence, and would not let her return to seek shelter from her mother. "But at last," said she, "all has now come to pass, and it is meet I submit to what is so plainly required of me." Then turning to her daughter she looked at her for some time with a watery and inquiring eye, and would have spoken, but her heart filled full and she could only weep.
By way of consolation my grandfather told her they were then on their way to Crail, and that as soon as they had procured for her some fit apparel, they would take her with them. At these words she lifted the skirt of her ragged gown, and looking at it for a moment, smiled, as if in contempt of all things, saying,—
"No, this is the livery of Him that I hae served so weel. It is fit that my friends should behold the coat of many colours, and the garment of praise wherewith He rewards all those that serve Him as I hae done." And no admonition, nor any affectionate petition, could shake her sad purpose.
"But," said she, "I ought not to shame you on the road; and yet, Elspa, at least till the entrance of the town, let me travel with you; for when I hae dreed my penance, we must part, never to meet again. Darkness and dule is my portion now in this world. I hae earnt them, and it is just that I should enjoy them. They are my ain conquest, bought wi' the price of everything but my soul, and wha kens but for this meeting that it might hae been bartered away too."
In nothing, however, of all that then passed was there anything which so moved the tranquil heart of my grandfather as the looks which, from time to time, the desolate woman cast at her daughter. Fain she seemed to speak and to catch her in her arms; but ever and anon the sense of her own condition came upon her, and she began to weep, crying, "No, no, I darena do that—I darena even mysel' to a parent's privilege after what I hae done."
The poor lassie sat unable to make any answer; but at last, in a timid manner, she took her mother softly by the hand, and the fond and lowly penitent for a few moments allowed it to linger in her grip, willing to have left it there; but suddenly stung by her conscience she snatched it away, and again broke out into piercing lamentations and confessions of unworthiness.
Meanwhile the charitable Ursie Firikins had made ready a mess of porridge, and the mournful Magdalen being soothed and consoled, was persuaded to partake. And afterwards, when they had sat some time, and the crowd which had gathered out of doors in the street was dispersed, my grandfather went to his lodgings; and having paid his lawin, returned to the two sisters and Agnes Kilspinnie, and they all walked to the shore of Leith together, where they found a boat going to Kinghorn, into which they embarked; and having slept there, they hired a cart to take them to Crail next morning, everyone who saw them wondering at the dejected and ruinous appearance of the penitent. The particulars, however, of their journey and of her reception in her native place, will furnish matter for another chapter.
When they came within a mile of the town, where a small public stood that wayfaring men were wont to stop and refresh themselves at, my grandfather urged the disconsolate Marion, who had come all the way from Kinghorn without speaking a single word, to alight from the cart, and remain there till the cloud of night, when she might go to her mother's unafflicted by the gaze of the pitiless multitude.
To this, at first, she made no answer; but leaping out of the cart, and standing still for a moment, she looked wistfully at her sister and daughter, and then began to weep, crying, "Gang ye awa, and no mind me; ye canna thole, and oughtna to share what I maun bear; and I'll never break another vow: so, in the face o' day, and of a' people, I'm constrained to enter Crail—first, to confess my guilt at the door of the honest man and his bairns that I hae sae disgraced; and syne to beg my mother to take in the limmer that was scofft frae door to door, till the blessed time when ye were sent to stop me laying desperate hands on mysel'."
Elspa remonstrated with her for some time, but she was not to be entreated: "My guilt and my shamelessness were public," said she, "and it is meet that the world should behold what hae been the wages I hae earnt, and the depth of the humiliation to which my vain and proud heart has been brought; so, go ye on wi' your gudeman and Agnes, and let me come by mysel'."
"No, Marion," replied her sister, "that sha'na be; I'll no let you do that. If you will make sic a pilgrimage, I'll bear you company, for I can ne'er be ashamed nor mortified in being wi' you, when ye are seeking again the path of righteousness that ye were sae beguil't to quit."
"Say nae I was beguil't; say naething to gar me think less o' my fault than I should: there was nae beguiler but my ain vain and sinful nature."
Her daughter, who had all this time stood silent with the tear in her e'e, then said, "I'll gang wi' you, mother, too."
"Mother!—O Agnes Kilspinnie, dinna sae wrang yoursel', and your honest father, as to ca' the like o' me mother. But did ye say ye would come wi' me?" and she dropped vehemently on her knees, and, spreading her arms to the skies, cried out with a loud and wild voice,—
"God, God! is thy goodness so great, that thou canst already vouchsafe to me a mercy like this?"
Seeing her so bent on going into the town in her miserable estate, and his wife and her daughter so mindit to go with her, my grandfather said it would be as well for him to run forward and prepare her mother for her coming; so he left them, and hastened into the town, thinking they would come in the cart; but when he was gone, Marion, still in the hope she might get her sister and daughter dissuaded from accompanying her, told them that she was resolved to go on her bare feet, which, however, made them in pity still adhere the more closely to their determination; and, having paid the Kinghorn man for his cart, the three set forward together, Elspa on the right hand and Agnes on the left hand of the lowly penitent.
In the meantime my grandfather hastened to the dwelling of Widow Ruet, his gude-mother, to tell her who was coming, and to prepare her aged mind for the sore shock. For though she was a sectarian of the Roman seed, she was nevertheless a most devout character, and abided more in the errors of her religion, because she thought herself too old to learn a new faith, than from that obstinacy of spirit which in those days so abounded in the breasts of the papisticals.
The news was at first as glad tidings to the humane old woman; but every now and then she began to start, and to listen—and a tear fell from her eye. When she heard the voice of anyone talking in the street, or the sound of a foot passing, she hurried to the window and looked hastily out. The struggle within her was great, and it grew every minute stronger and stronger; and after walking very wofully divers times across the floor, she went and closed the shutters of her window, and sitting down gave full vent to her grief. In that state she had not been long, when the sough of a din gathering at a distance was heard.
"Mother of Christ!" she cried, starting up, clapping her hands; "Mother of Jesus, thou hast seen the fruit of thy womb exposed to ignominy. By thine own agonies in that hour, I implore thy support. O blessed Mary, thy sorrow was light compared to my burden, for thy bairn was holy, and meek, and kind, and without sin. But thou hast known what it was to sit by thy baby sleeping in its innocence; thou hast known what it was to love it for the very troubles it then gave thee. By the remembrance of that sweet watching and care, O pity me, and help me to receive my erring bairn!"
My grandfather could not stand her lament and ejaculations, and hearing the sound drawing nearer and nearer, he went out of the house to see if his presence might be any protection; but the sight he saw was even more sorrowful than the aged mother's grief.
Instead of the cart in which he expected to see the women, he beheld them coming along, side by side, together attended by a great multitude; doors and windows flew open as they came along, and old and young looked out. Many cried, "She has been well serv't for her shame." Some laughed; and the young turned aside their heads to hide their tears. Among others that ran from the causey-side to look in the face of Marion—still beautiful, though faded, but shining with something brighter than beauty—there was a little boy that went up close to her, and took her by the hand, without speaking, and led her along. He was her own son; but still she moved not her solemn heavenward eye, though a universal sobbing burst from ail the multitude; and my grandfather, at the piteous pageantry, was no longer able to remain master of his feelings. Seeing, however, that the mournful actors therein were going on towards Bailie Kilspinnie's, and not intending to stop, as he expected they would, at Widow Ruet's door, he ran forward to warn his old friend; but in this he was too late; some one had been already there; and he found the poor man, with his three other children, standing at the door, seemingly utterly at a loss to know what his duty should be; nor was my grandfather in any condition of mind to help him with advice.
At that juncture the multitude came rushing on before the women, and halted in front of the bailie's house; for, seeing him and his bairns, they were taught, by some sense of gentle sympathy, to divide and retire to a distance, leaving an open and silent space for the penitent to go forward.