Having finished our supper, instead of sitting by the fire, as we at first proposed to do, we thought it would be safer to take the blankets from the beds and make our lair in the barn; so we accordingly retired thither, and lay down among some unthreshed corn that was lying ready on the floor for the flail.
But we were not well down when we heard the breathings of two persons near us. As there was no light, and Mr Witherspoon guessing by what we had seen, and by this concealment, that they must be some of the family, he began to pray aloud, thereby, without letting wot they were discovered, making them to understand what sort of guests we were. At the conclusion an old woman spoke to us, telling us dreadful things which a gang of soldiers had committed that afternoon, and her sad story was often interrupted by the moans of her daughter, the farmer's wife, who had suffered from the soldiers an unspeakable wrong.
"But what has become of our men, or where the bairns hae fled, we know not,—we were baith demented by the outrage, and hid oursel's here after it was owre late," said that aged person, in a voice of settled grief that was more sorrowful to hear than any lamentation could have been, and all the sacred exhortations that Mr Witherspoon could employ softened not the obduracy of her inward sorrowing over her daughter, the dishonoured wife. He, however, persuaded them to return with us to the house; for the enemy having been there, we thought it not likely he would that night come again. As for me, during the dismal recital, I could not speak. The eye of my spirit was fixed on the treasure I had left at home. Every word I heard was like the sting of an adder. My horrors and fears rose to such a pitch, that I could no longer master them. I started up and rushed to the door, as if it had been possible to arrest the imagined guilt of the persecutors in my own unprotected dwelling.
Mr Witherspoon followed me, thinking I had gone by myself, and caught me by the arm and entreated me to be composed, and to return with him into the house. But while he was thus kindly remonstrating with me, something took his foot, and he stumbled and fell to the ground. The accident served to check the frenzy of my thoughts for a moment, and I stooped down to help him up; but in the same instant he uttered a wild howl that made me start from him; and he then added, awfully,—
"In the name of Heaven, what is this?
"What is it?" said I, filled with unutterable dread.
"Hush, hush," he replied as he rose, "lest the poor women hear us," and he lifted in his arms the body of a child of some four or five years old. I could endure no more; I thought the voices of my own innocents cried to me for help, and in the frenzy of the moment I left the godly man, and fled like a demoniac, not knowing which way I went.
A keen frost had succeeded the snow, and the wind blew piercingly cold; but the gloom had passed away. The starry eyes of the heavens were all wakefully bright, and the moon was moving along the fleecy edge of a cloud, like a lonely barque that navigates amidst the foaming perils of some dark inhospitable shore. At the time, however, I was in no frame of thought to note these things, but I know that such was then the aspect of that night; for as often yet, as the freezing wind sweeps over the fields strewed with snow, and the stars are shining vigilantly, and the moon hastily travels on the skirts of the cloud, the passion of that hour, at the sight thereof, revives in my spirit; and the mourning women, and the perished child in the arms of Mr Witherspoon, appear like palpable imagery before the eyes of my remembrance.
The speed with which I ran soon exhausted my strength.—I began to reflect on the unavailing zeal with which I was then hastening to the succour of those for whom my soul was suffering more than the tongue of the eloquent orator can express.—I stopped to collect my reason and my thoughts, which, I may well say, were scattered, like the wrack that drifts in the tempestuous air.—I considered, that I knew not a footstep of the road, that dangers surrounded me on all sides, and that the precipitation of my haste might draw me into accidents, whereby the very object would be lost which I was so eager to gain; and the storm within me abated, and the distraction of my bosom, which had so well nigh shipwrekt my understanding, was moderated, like the billows of the ocean when the blasts are gone by; so that, after I was some four or five miles away from yon house of martyrdom and mourning, a gracious dispensation of composure was poured into my spirit, and I was thereby enabled to go forward in my journey with the circumspection so needful in that woful time.
But in proportion as my haste slackened, and the fiery violence of the fears subsided wherewith I was hurried on, the icy tooth of the winter grew feller in the bite, and I became in a manner almost helpless. The mind within me was as if the faculty of its thinking had been frozen up, and about the dawn of morning I walked in a willess manner, the blood in my veins not more benumbed in its course than was the fluency of my spirit in its power of resolution.
I had now, from the time that our covenanted host was scattered on Rullion-green, travelled many miles; and though like a barque drifting rudderless on the ocean tides, as the stream flows and the blast blows, I had held no constant course, still my progress had been havenward, in so much that about sunrise I found myself, I cannot well tell how, on the heights to the south of Castlemilk, and the city of Glasgow, with her goodly array of many towers, glittering in the morning beams, lay in sight some few miles off on the north. I knew it not; but a herd that I fell in with on the hill told me what town it was, and the names of divers clachans, and the houses of men of substance in the lowlands before me.
Among others he pointed out to me Nether Pollock in the midst of a skirting of trees, the seat and castle of that godly and much-persecuted Christian and true Covenanter, Sir George Maxwell, the savour of whose piety was spread far and wide; for he had suffered much, both from sore imprisonment and the heavy fine of four thousand pounds imposed upon him, shortly after that conclave of Satan, Middleton's sederunt of the privy-council at Glasgow, where prelatic cruelty was brought to bed of her first-born, in that edict against the ministers at the beginning of the Persecution, whereof I have described the promulgation as it took place at Irvine.
Being then hungered and very cold, after discoursing with the poor herd, who was a simple stripling in the ignorance of innocence, I resolved to bend my way toward Nether Pollock, in the confident faith that the master thereof, having suffered so much himself, would know how to compassionate a persecuted brother. And often since I have thought that there was something higher than reason in the instinct of this confidence; for indeed, had I reasoned from what was commonly said—and, alas! owre truly—that the covenanted spirit was bent, if not broken, I would have feared to seek the gates of Sir George Maxwell, lest the love he had once borne to our cause had been converted, by his own sufferings and apprehensions, into dread or aversion. But I was encouraged of the spirit to proceed.
Just, however, as I parted from the herd, he cried after me, and pointed to a man coming up the hill at some distance, with a gun in his hand, and a bird-bag at his side, and two dogs at his heel, saying, "Yon'er's Sir George Maxwell himsel ganging to the moors. Eh! but he has had his ain luck to fill his pock so weel already."
Whereupon I turned my steps towards Sir George, and, on approaching him, beseeched him to have compassion on a poor famished fugitive from the Pentlands.
He stopped, and looked at me in a most pitiful manner, and shook his head, and said, with a tender grief in his voice, "It was a hasty business, and the worst of it no yet either heard nor over; but let us lose no time, for you are in much danger if you tarry so near to Glasgow, where Colonel Drummond came yesterday with a detachment of soldiers, and has already spread them over the country."
In saying these words, the worthy gentleman opened his bag, which, instead of being filled with game, as the marvelling stripling had supposed, contained a store of provisions.
"I came not for pastime to the moor this morning," said he, presenting to me something to eat, "but because last night I heard that many of the outcasts had been seen yesterday lurking about thae hills, and as I could not give them harbour, nor even let them have any among my tenants, I have come out with some of my men, as it were to the shooting, in order to succour them. But we must not remain long together. Take with you what you may require, and go away quickly; and I counsel you not to take the road to Paisley, but to cross with what speed you can to the western parts of the shire, where, as the people have not been concerned in the raid, there's the less likelihood of Drummond sending any of his force in that direction."
Accordingly, being thus plentifully supplied by the providence of that Worthy, my strength was wonderfully recruited, and my heart cheered. With many thanks I then hastened from him, praying that his private charitable intents might bring him into no trouble. And surely it was a thing hallowing to the affections of the afflicted Scottish nation to meet with such Christian fellowship. For to the perpetual renown of many honourable West Country families be it spoken, both master and men were daily in the moors at that time succouring the persecuted, like the ravens that fed Elijah in the wilderness.
After parting from Sir George Maxwell, I continued to bend my course straight westward, and having crossed the road from Glasgow to Paisley, I directed my steps to the hillier parts of the country, being minded, according to the suggestions of that excellent person, to find my way by the coast-side into the shire of Ayr. But though my anxiety concerning my family was now sharpened as it were with the anguish of fire, I began to reason with myself on the jeopardy I might bring upon them, were I to return while the pursuit was so fierce; and in the end I came to the determination only to seek to know how it fared with them, and what had become of my brother in the battle, trusting that in due season the Lord would mitigate the ire and the cruelty that was let loose on all those who had joined in the Protestation and renewed the Covenant at Lanerk.
Towards the afternoon I found myself among the solitudes of the Renfrewshire moors. Save at times the melancholious note of the peese-weep, neither the sound nor the voice of any living thing was heard there. Being then wearied in all my limbs, and willingly disposed to sleep, I laid myself down on a green hollow on the banks of the Gryffe, where the sun shone with a pleasing warmth for so late a period of the year. I was not, however, many minutes stretched on the grass when I heard a shrill whistle of some one nigh at hand, and presently also the barking of a dog. From the kindly experience I had received of Sir George Maxwell's care this occasioned at first no alarm; but on looking up I beheld at some distance three soldiers with a dog, on the other side of the river.
Near the spot where I lay there was a cloven rock overspread with brambles and slae-bushes. It seemed to me as if the cleft had been prepared on purpose by Providence for a hiding-place. I crept into it, and forgetting Him by whom I was protected, I trembled with a base fear. But in that very moment He at once rebuked my infirmity, and gave me a singular assurance of His holy wardenship, by causing an adder to come towards me from the roots of the bushes, as if to force me to flee into the view of the pursuers. Just, however, as in my horror I was on the point of doing so, the reptile looked at me with its glittering eyes, and then suddenly leapt away into the brake;—at the same moment a hare was raised by the dog, and the soldiers following it with shouts and halloes, were soon carried, by the impetuosity of the natural incitement which man has for the chase, far from the spot, and out of sight.
This adventure had for a time the effect of rousing me from out the weariness with which I had been oppressed, and I rose and continued my course westward, over the hills, till I came in sight of the Shaw's-water,—the stream of which I followed for more than a mile with a beating heart; for the valley through which it flows is bare and open, and had any of the persecutors been then on the neighbouring hills, I must have soon been seen; but gradually my thoughts became more composed, and the terrors of the poor hunted creature again became changed into confidence and hope.
In this renewed spirit I slackened my pace, and seeing, at a short distance down the stream, before me a tree laid across a bridge, I was comforted with the persuasion that some farm-town could not be far off, so I resolved to linger about till the gloaming, and then to follow the path which led over the bridge. For, not knowing how the inhabitants in those parts stood inclined in their consciences, I was doubtful to trust myself in their power until I had made some espionage. Accordingly, as the sun was still above the hills, I kept the hollowest track by the river's brink, and went down its course for some little time, till I arrived where the hills come forward into the valley; then I climbed up a steep hazel bank, and sat down to rest myself on an open green plot on the brow, where a gentle west wind shook the boughs around me, as if the silent spirits of the solitude were slowly passing by.
In this place I had not been long when I heard, as if it were not far off, a sullen roar of falling waters rising hoarsely with the breeze, and listening again another sound came solemnly mingled with it, which I had soon the delight to discover was the holy harmony of worship, and to my ears it was as the first sound of the rushing water which Moses brought from the rock to those of the thirsty Israelites, and I was for some time so ravished with joy that I could not move from the spot where I was sitting.
At last the sweet melody of the psalm died away, and I arose and went towards the airt from which it had come; but as I advanced, the noise of the roaring waters grew louder and deeper, till they were as the breaking of the summer waves along the Ardrossan shore, and presently I found myself on the brink of a cliff, over which the river tumbled into a rugged chasm, where the rocks were skirted with leafless brambles and hazel, and garmented with ivy.
On a green sloping bank, at a short distance below the waterfall, screened by the rocks and trees on the one side, and by the rising ground on the other, about thirty of the Lord's flock, old and young, were seated around the feet of an aged grey-haired man, who was preaching to them,—his left hand resting on his staff,—his right was raised in exhortation,—and a Bible lay on the ground beside him.
I stood for the space of a minute looking at the mournful yet edifying sight,—mournful it was, to think how God's people were so afflicted, that they durst not do their Heavenly King homage but in secrecy,—and edifying, that their constancy was of such an enduring nature that persecution served but to test it, as fire does the purity of gold.
As I was so standing on the rock above the linn, the preacher happened to lift his eyes towards me, and the hearers who were looking at him, turned round, and hastily rising, began to scatter and flee away. I attempted to cry to them not to be afraid, but the sound of the cataract drowned my voice. I then ran as swiftly as I could towards the spot of worship, and reached the top of the sloping bank just as a young man was assisting Mr Swinton to mount a horse which stood ready saddled, tied to a tree; for the preacher was no other than that godly man; but the courteous reader must from his own kind heart supply what passed at our meeting.
Fain he was at that time to have gone no farther on with the exercise, and to have asked many questions of me concerning the expedition to the Pentlands; but I importuned him to continue his blessed work, for I longed to taste the sweet waters of life once more from so hallowed a fountain; and, moreover, there was a woman with a baby at her bosom, which she had brought to be baptized from a neighbouring farm, called the Killochenn,—and a young couple of a composed and sober aspect, from the Back-o'-the-world, waiting to be joined together, with his blessing, in marriage.
When he had closed his sermon and done these things, I went with him, walking at the side of his horse, discoursing of our many grievous anxieties; and he told me that, after being taken to Glasgow and confined in prison there like a malefactor for thirteen days, he had been examined by the Bishop's court, and through the mediation of one of the magistrates, a friend of his own, who had a soft word to say with the Bishop, he was set free with only a menace, and an admonishment not to go within twenty miles of his own parish, under pain of being dealt with according to the edict.
Conversing in this manner, and followed by divers of those who had been solaced with his preaching, for the most part pious folk belonging to the town of Inverkip, we came to a bridge over the river.
"Here, Ringan," said he, "we must part for the present, for it is not meet to create suspicion. There are many of the faithful, no doubt, in thir parts, but it's no to be denied that there are likewise goats among the sheep. The Lady of Dunrod, where I am now going, is, without question, a precious vessel free of crack or flaw, but the Laird is of a courtly compliancy, and their neighbour, Carswell, she tells me, is a man of the dourest idolatry, his mother having been a papistical woman, and his father, through all the time of the First King Charles, an eydent ettler for preferment."
So we then parted, he going his way to Dunrod Castle, and one of the hearers, a farmer hard by, offering me shelter for the night, I went with him.
The decent, thoughtful, elderly man, who so kindly invited me to his house, was by name called Gideon Kemp; and as we were going towards it together, he told me of divers things that worthy Mr Swinton had not time to do; among the rest, that the preaching I had fallen in with at the linn, which should thenceforth be called the Covenanters' Linn, was the first taste of Gospel-fother that the scattered sheep of those parts had tasted for more than eight months.
"What's to come out o' a' this oppression," said he, "is wonderful to think o'. It's no in the power of nature that ony government or earthly institution framed by the wit and will of man can withstand a whole people. The prelates may persecute, and the King's power may back their iniquities, but the day and the hour cannot be far off when both the power and the persecutors will be set at nought, and the sense of what is needful and right, no what is fantastical and arbitrary, govern again in the counsels of this realm. I say not this in the boast of prediction and prophecy, but as a thing that must come to pass; for no man can say, that the peaceful worshipping according to the Word is either a sin, a shame, or an offence against reason; but the extortioning of fines, and the desolation of families, for attending the same, is manifestly guilt of a dark dye, and the Judge of Righteousness will avenge it."
As we were thus walking sedately towards his dwelling, I observed and pointed out to him a lassie coming running towards us. It was his daughter; and when she came near, panting and out of breath with her haste she said—
"O, father ye manna gang hame;—twa of Carswell's men hae been speering for you and they had swords and guns. They're o'er the hill to the linn, for wee Willie telt them ye were gane there to a preaching."
"This comes," says the afflicted Gideon, "of speaking of secret things before bairns; wha could hae thought, that a creature no four years old would have been an instrument of discovery?—It'll no be safe now for you to come hame wi' me, which I'm wae for, as ye're sae sorely weary't; but there's a frien o' ours that lives ayont the Holmstone-hill, aboon the auld kirk; I'll convey you thither, and she'll gi'e you a shelter for the night."
So we turned back, and again crossed the bridge before spoken of, and held our course towards the house of Gideon Kemp's wife's stepmother. But it was not ordained that I was yet to enjoy the protection of a raftered dwelling; for just as we came to the Daff-burn, down the glen of which my godly guide was mindet to conduct me, as being a less observable way than the open road, he saw one of Ardgowan's men coming towards us, and that family being of the progeny of the Stuarts, were inclined to the prelatic side.
"Hide yoursel," said he, "among the bushes."
And I den't myself in a nook of the glen, where I overheard what passed.
"I thought, Gideon," said the lad to him, "that ye would hae been at the conventicle this afternoon. We hae heard o't a'; and Carswell has sworn that he'll hae baith doited Swinton and Dunrod's leddy at Glasgow afore the morn, or he'll mak a tawnle o' her tower."
"Carswell shouldna crack sae croose," replied Gideon Kemp; "for though his castle stands proud in the green valley, the time may yet come when horses and carts will be driven through his ha', and the foul toad and the cauld snail be the only visitors around the unblest hearth o' Carswell."
The way in which that gifted man said these words made my heart dinle; but I hae lived to hear that the spirit of prophecy was assuredly in them: for, since the Revolution, Carswell's family has gone all to drift, and his house become a wastege;—folk say, a new road that's talked o' between Inverkip and Greenock is to go through the very middle o't, and so mak it an awful monument of what awaits and will betide all those who have no mercy on their fellow-creatures, and would exalt themselves by abetting the strength of the godless and the wrength of the oppressors.
Ardgowan's man was daunted by the words of Gideon Kemp, and replied in a subdued manner, "It's really a melancholious thing to think that folk should hae gane so wud about ministers and religion;—but tak care of yoursel, Gideon, for a party of soldiers hae come the day to Cartsdyke to take up ony of the Rullion-green rebels that hae fled to thir parts, and they catcht, I hear, in a public in the Stenners, three men, and have sent them to Glasgow to be hanged."
I verily thought my heart would at this have leapt out of my bosom.
"Surely," replied Gideon Kemp, "the wrath of government is no so unquenchable, that a' the misguided folk concernt in the rising are doom't to die. But hae ye heard the names of the prisoners, or where they belong to?"
"They're o' the shire o' Ayr, somewhere frae the skirts o' Irvine or Kilwinning; and I was likewise told their names, but they're no of a familiarity easy to be remembered."
The horror which fell upon me at hearing this made me forget my own peril, and I sprung out of the place of my concealment, and cried,—
"Do you ken if any of them was of the name of Gilhaize?"
Ardgowan's man was astounded at seeing me standing before him in so instanter a manner, and before making any response, he looked at Gideon Kemp with a jealous and troubled eye.
"Nay," said I, "you shall deal honestly with me, and from this spot you shall not depart till you have promised to use nae scaith to this worthy man." So I took hold of him by the skirts of his coat, and added, "Ye're in the hands of one that tribulation has made desperate. I, too, am a rebel, as ye say, from Rullion-green, and my life is forfeited to the ravenous desires of those who made the laws that have created our offence. But fear no wrong, if you have aught of Christian compassion in you. Was Gilhaize the name of any of the prisoners?"
"I'll no swear't," was his answer; "but I think it was something like that;—one of them, I think, they called Finnie."
"Robin Finnie," cried I, dropping his coat, "he was wi' my brother; I canna doubt it;" and the thought of their fate flooded my heart, and the tears flowed from my eyes.
The better nature of Ardgowan's man was moved at the sight of my distress, and he said to Gideon Kemp,—
"Ye needna be fear't, Gideon; I hope ye ken mair o' me than to think I would betray either friend or acquaintance. But gang na' to the toun, for a' yon'er's in a state o' unco wi' the news o' what's being doing the day at Cartsdyke, and every body's in the hourly dread and fear o' some o' the black-cuffs coming to devour them."
"That's spoken like yoursel, Johnnie Jamieson," said Gideon Kemp; "but this poor man," meaning me, "has had a day o' weary travel among the moors, and is greatly in need of refreshment and a place of rest. When the sword, Johnnie, is in the hand, it's an honourable thing to deal stoutly wi' the foe; but when forlorn and dejectit, and more houseless than the beasts of the field, he's no longer an adversary, but a man that we're bound by the laws of God and nature to help."
Jamieson remained for a short space in a dubious manner, and looking mildly towards me, he said, "Gang you your ways, Gideon Kemp, and I'll ne'er say I saw you; and let your friend den himsel in the glen, and trust me: naebody in a' Inverkip will jealouse that ony of our house would help or harbour a covenanted rebel; so I'll can bring him to some place o' succour in the gloaming, where he'll be safer than he could wi' you."
Troubled and sorrowful as I was, I could not but observe the look of soul-searching scrutiny that Gideon Kemp cast at Jamieson, who himself was sensible of his mistrust, for he replied,—
"Dinna misdoot me, Gideon Kemp; I would sooner put my right hand in the fire, and burn it to a cinder, than harm the hair of a man that was in my power."
"And I'll believe you," said I; "so guide me wheresoever you will."
"Ye'll never thrive, Johnnie Jamieson," added honest Gideon, "if ye're no sincere in this trust."
So after some little farther communing, the worthy farmer left us, and I followed Jamieson down the Daff-burn, till we came to a mill that stood in the hollow of the glen, the wheel whereof was happing in the water with a pleasant and peaceful din that sounded consolatory to my hearing after the solitudes, the storms and the accidents I had met with.
"Bide you here," said Jamieson; "the gudeman's ane o' your folk, but his wife's a thought camstrarie at times, and before I tak you into the mill I maun look that she's no there."
So he hastened forward, and going to the door, went in, leaving me standing at the sluice of the mill-lade, where, however, I had not occasion to wait long, for presently he came out, and beckoned to me with his hand to come quickly.
Sauners Paton, as the miller was called, received me in a kindly manner, saying to Jamieson,—
"I aye thought, Johnnie, that some day ye would get a cast o' grace, and the Lord has been bountiful to you at last, in putting it in your power to be aiding in such a Samaritan work. But," he added, turning to me, "it's no just in my power to do for you what I could wis; for, to keep peace in the house, I'm at times, like many other married men, obligated to let the gudewife tak her ain way; for which reason, I doubt ye'll hae to mak your bed here in the mill."
While he was thus speaking, we heard the tongue of Mrs Paton ringing like a bell.
"For Heaven's sake, Johnnie Jamieson," cried the miller, "gang out and stop her frae coming hither till I get the poor man hidden in the loft."
Jamieson ran out, leaving us together, and the miller placing a ladder, I mounted up into the loft, where he spread sacks for a bed to me, and told me to lie quiet, and in the dusk he would bring me something to eat. But before he had well descended, and removed the ladder from the trap-door, in came his wife.
"Noo, Sauners Paton," she exclaimed, "ye see what I hae aye prophesied to you is fast coming to pass. The King's forces are at Cartsdyke, and they'll be here the morn, and what's to come o' you then, wi' your covenanted havers? But, Sauners Paton, I hae ae thing to tell ye, and that's no twa; ye'll this night flit your camp; ye'll tak to the hills, as I'm a living woman, and no bide to be hang't at your ain door, and to get your right hand chappit aff, and sent to Lanerk for a show, as they say is done an doing wi' a' the Covenanters."
"Naebody, Kate, will meddle wi' me, dinna ye be fear't," replied the miller; "I hae done nae ill, but patiently follow't my calling at home, so what hae I to dread?"
"Did na ye sign the remonstrance to the laird against the curate's coming; ca' ye that naething? Ye'll to the caves this night, Sauners Paton, if the life bide in your body. What a sight it would be to me to see you put to death, and maybe to fin a sword of cauld iron running through my ain body, for being colleague wi' you; for ye ken that it's the law now to mak wives respondable for their gudemen."
"Kate Warden," replied the miller, with a sedate voice, "in sma' things I hae ne'er set mysel vera obdoorately against you."
"Na! if I e'er heard the like o' that!" exclaimed Mrs Paton. "A cross-graint man, that has just been as a Covenant and Remonstrance to happiness, submitting himsel in no manner o' way, either to me or those in authority over us, to talk o' sma' things! Sauners Paton, ye're a born rebel to your King, and kintra, and wife. But this night I'll put it out of your power to rebel on me. Stop the mill, Sauners Paton, and come out, and tak the door on your back. I hae owre meikle regard for you to let you bide in jeopardy ony langer here."
"Consider," said Sauners, a little dourly, as if he meditated rebellion, "that this is the season of December; and where would ye hae me to gang in sic a night?"
"A grave in the kirk-yard's caulder than a tramp on the hills. My jo, ye'll hae to conform; for positeevely, Sauners Paton, I'm positive, and for this night, till the blast has blawn by, ye'll hae to seek a refuge out o' the reach of the troopers' spear.—Hae ye stoppit the mill?"
The mistress was of so propugnacious a temper, that the poor man saw no better for't than to yield obedience so far, as to pull the string that turned off the water of the mill-lade from the wheel.
"Noo," said he, "to pleasure you, Kate, I hae stoppit the mill, and to pleasure me, I hope ye'll consent to stop your tongue; for, to be plain wi' you, frae my ain house I'll no gang this night; and ye shall hae't since ye will hae't, I hae a reason of my ain for biding at hame, and at hame I will bide;—na, what's mair, Kate, it's a reason that I'll no tell to you."
"Dear pity me, Sauners Paton!" cried his wife; "ye're surely grown o' late an unco reasonable man. But Leddy Stuart's quadrooped bird they ca' a parrot, can come o'er and o'er again ony word as weel as you can do reason; but reason here or reason there, I'll ne'er consent to let you stay to be put to the sword before my e'en; so come out o' the mill and lock the door."
To this the honest man made no immediate answer; but, after a short silence, he said,—
"Kate, my queen, I'll no say that what ye say is far wrang; it may be as weel for me to tak a dauner to the top o' Dunrod; but some providing should be made for a sojourn a' night in the wilderness. The sun has been set a lucky hour, and ye may as weel get the supper ready, and a creel wi' some vivers prepared."
"Noo, that's like yoursel, Sauners Paton," replied his wife; "and surely my endeavour shall not be wanting to mak you comfortable."
At these words Jamieson came also into the mill, and said, "I hope, miller, the wife has gotten you persuaded o' your danger, and that ye'll conform to her kind wishes." By which I discernt, that he had purposely egget her on to urge her gudeman to take the moors for the advantage of me.
"O, aye," replied the miller; "I could na but be consenting, poor queen, to lighten her anxieties; and though for a season," he added, in a way that I well understood, "the eyes above may be closed in slumber, a watch will be set to gi'e the signal when it's time to be up and ready; therefore let us go into the house, and cause no further molestation here."
The three then retired, and, comforted by the words of this friendly mystery, I confided myself to the care of the defenceless sleeper's ever-wakeful Sentinel, and for several hours enjoyed a refreshing oblivion from all my troubles and fears.
Considering the fatigue I had undergone for so many days and nights together, my slumber might have been prolonged perhaps till morning, but the worthy miller, who withstood the urgency of his terrified wife to depart till he thought I was rested, soon after the moon rose came into the mill and wakened me to make ready for the road. So I left my couch in the loft, and came down to him; and he conducted me a little way from the house, where, bidding me wait, he went back, and speedily returned with a small basket in his hand of the stores which the mistress had provided for himself.
Having put the handle into my hand, he led me down to a steep shoulder of a precipice nigh the sea-shore, where, telling me to follow the path along the bottom of the hills, he shook me with a brotherly affection by the hand, and bade me farewell,—saying, in a jocose manner, to lighten the heaviness with which he saw my spirit was oppressed,—that the gudewife would make baith him and Johnnie Jamieson suffer in the body for the fright she had gotten. "For ye should ken," said he, "that the terror she was in was a' bred o' Johnnie's pawkerie. He knew that she was aye in a dread that I would be laid hands on ever since I signed the remonstrance to the laird; and Johnnie thought, that if he could get her to send me out provided for the hills, we would find a way to make the provision yours. So, Gude be wi' you, and dinna be overly downhearted, when ye see how wonderfully ye are ta'en care o'."
Being thus cherished, cheered, and exhorted, by the worthy miller of Inverkip, I went on my way with a sense of renewed hope dawning upon my heart. The night was frosty, but clear, and the rippling of the sea glittered as with a sparkling of gladness in the beams of the moon then walking in the fulness of her beauty over those fields of holiness whose perennial flowers are the everlasting stars. But though for a little while my soul partook of the blessed tranquillity of the night, I had not travelled far when the heaven of my thoughts was overcast. Grief for my brother in the hands of the oppressors, and anxiety for the treasures of my hearth, whose dangers were doubtless increased by the part I had taken in the raid, clouded my reason with many fearful auguries and doleful anticipations. All care for my own safety was lost in those overwhelming reflections, in so much that when the morning air breathed upon me as I reached the brow of Kilbride-hill, had I been then questioned as to the manner I had come there, verily I could have given no account, for I saw not, neither did I hear, for many miles, aught, but only the dismal tragedies with which busy imagination rent my heart with affliction, and flooded my eyes with the gushing streams of a softer sorrow.
But though my journey was a continued experience of inward suffering, I met with no cause of dread, till I was within sight of Kilwinning. Having purposed not to go home until I should learn what had taken place in my absence, I turned aside to the house of an acquaintance, one William Brekenrig, a covenanted Christian, to inquire, and to rest myself till the evening. Scarcely, however, had I entered on the path that led to his door when a misgiving of mind fell upon me, and I halted and looked to see if all about the mailing was in its wonted state. His cattle were on the stubble—the smoke stood over the lumhead in the lown of the morning—the plough lay unyoked on the croft, but it had been lately used, and the furrows of part of a rig were newly turned. Still there was a something that sent solemnity and coldness into my soul. I saw nobody about the farm, which at that time of the day was strange and unaccountable; nevertheless I hastened forward, and coming to a park-yett, I saw my old friend leaning over it with his head towards me. I called to him by name, but he heeded me not; I ran to him and touched him, but he was dead.
The ground around where he had rested himself and expired was covered with his blood; and it was plain he had not been shot long, for he was warm, and the stream still trickled from the wound in his side.
I have no words to tell what I felt at the sight of this woful murder; but I ran for help to the house; and just as I turned the corner of the barn, two soldiers met me, and I became their prisoner.
One of them was a ruthless reprobate, who wanted to put me to death; but the other beggit my life: at the moment, however, my spirit was as it were in the midst of thunders and a whirlwind.
They took from me my pistols and my grandfather's sword and I could not speak; they tied my hands behind me with a cutting string, and I thought it was a dream. The air I breathed was as suffocating as sulphur; I gasped with the sandy thirst of the burning desert, and my throat was as the drowth of the parched earth in the wilderness of Kedar.
Soon after this other soldiers came from another farm, where they had been committing similar outrages, and they laughed and were merry as they rehearsed their exploits of guilt. They taunted me and plucked me by the lip; but their boasting of what they had done flashed more fiercely over my spirit than even these indignities, and I inwardly chided the slow anger of the mysterious Heavens for permitting the rage of those agents of the apostate James Sharp and his compeers, whom a mansworn king had so cruelly dressed with his authority.
But even in the midst of these repinings and bitter breathings, it was whispered into the ears of my understanding, as with the voice of a seraph, that the Lord in all things moveth according to His established laws; and I was comforted to think that in the enormities whereof I was a witness and partaker, there was a tempering of the hearts of the people, that they might become as swords of steel, to work out the deliverance of the land from the bloody methods of prelatic and arbitrary domination; in so much, that when the soldiers prepared to return to their quarters in Irvine, I walked with them—their captive, it is true; but my steps were firm, and they marvelled to one another at the proudness of my tread.
There was at the time a general sorrowing throughout the country, at the avenging visitations wherewith all those who had been in the raid, or who had harboured the fugitives, were visited. Hundreds that sympathised with the sufferings of their friends, flocked to the town to learn who had been taken, and who were put to death or reserved for punishment. The crowd came pressing around as I was conducted up the gait to the tolbooth; the women wept, but the men looked doure, and the children wondered whatfor an honest man should be brought to punishment. Some who knew me, cheered me by name to keep a stout heart; and the soldiers grew fear't for a rescue, and gurled at the crowd for closing so closely upon us.
As I was ascending the tolbooth-stair, I heard a shriek; and I looked around, and beheld Michael, my first-born, a stripling then only twelve years old, amidst the crowd, stretching out his hands and crying, "O, my father, my father!"
I halted for a moment, and the soldiers seemed to thaw with compassion; but my hands were tied,—I was a captive on the threshold of the dungeon, and I could only shut my eyes and bid the stern agents of the persecutors go on. Still the cry of my distracted child knelled in my ear, and my agony grew to such a pitch, that I flew forward up the steps, and, in the dismal vaults within, sought refuge from the misery of my child.
I was conducted into a straight and dark chamber, and the cord wherewith my hands were bound was untied, and a shackle put upon my right wrist; the flesh of my left was so galled with the cord, that the jailor was softened at the sight, and from the humanity of his own nature, refrained from placing the iron on it, lest the rust should fester the quick wound.
Then I was left alone in the gloomy solitude of the prison-room, and the ponderous doors were shut upon me, and the harsh bolts driven with a horrid grating noise, that caused my very bones to dinle. But even in that dreadful hour an unspeakable consolation came with the freshness of a breathing of the airs of paradise to my soul. Methought a wonderful light shone around me, that I heard melodious voices bidding me be of good cheer, and that a vision of my saintly grandfather, in the glorious vestments of his heavenly attire, stood before me, and smiled upon me with that holy comeliness of countenance which has made his image in my remembrance ever that of the most venerable of men; so that, in the very depth of what I thought would have been the pit of despair, I had a delightful taste of those blessed experiences of divine aid, by which the holy martyrs were sustained in the hours of trial, and cheered amidst the torments in which they sealed the truth of their testimony.
After the favour of that sweet and celestial encouragement, I laid myself down on a pallet in the corner of the room, and a gracious sleep descended upon my eyelids, and steeped the sense and memory of my griefs in forgetfulness. When I woke the day was far spent, and the light through the iron stainchers of the little window showed that the shadows of the twilight were darkening over the world. I raised myself on my elbow, and listened to the murmur of the multitude that I heard still lingering around the prison; and sometimes I thought that I discovered the voice of a friend.
In that situation, and thinking of all those dear cares which filled my heart with tenderness and fear, and of the agonising grief of my little boy, the sound of whose cries still echoed in my bosom, I rose upon my knees and committed myself entirely to the custody of Him that can give the light of liberty to the captive even in the gloom of the dungeon. And when I had done so I again prepared to lay myself on the ground; but a rustle in the darkness of the room drew my attention, and in the same moment a kind hand was laid on mine.
"Sarah Lochrig," said I, for I knew my wife's gentle pressure,—"How is it that you are with me in this doleful place? How found you entrance, and I not hear you come in?"
But before she had time to make any answer, another's fond arms were round my neck, and my affectionate young Michael wept upon my shoulder.
Bear with me, courteous reader, when I think of those things,—that wife and that child, and all that I loved so fondly, are no more! But it is not meet that I should yet tell how my spirit was turned into iron and my heart into stone. Therefore will I still endeavour to relate, as with the equanimity of one that writes but of indifferent things, what further ensued during the thirteen days of my captivity.
Sarah Lochrig, with the mildness of her benign voice, when we had mingled a few tears, told me that, after I went to Galloway with Martha Swinton, she had been moved by our neighbours to come with our children into the town, as being safer for a lanerly woman and a family left without its head; and a providential thing it was that she had done so; for on the very night that my brother came off with the men of the parish to join us, as I have noted down in its proper place, a gang of dragoons plundered both his house and mine; and but that our treasures had been timeously removed, his family having also gone that day into Kilmarnock, the outrages might have been unspeakable.
We then had some household discourse, anent what was to be done in the event of things coming to the worst with me; and it was an admiration to hear with what constancy of reason, and the gifts of a supported judgment, that Gospel-hearted woman spoke of what she would do with her children, if it was the Lord's pleasure to honour me with the crown of martyrdom.
"But," said she, "I hae an assurance within that some great thing is yet in store for you, though the hope be clouded with a doubt that I'll no be spar't to see it, and therefore let us not despond at this time, but use the means that Providence may afford to effect your deliverance."
While we were thus conversing together the doors of the prison-room were opened, and a man was let in who had a cruisie in the one hand and a basket in the other. He was lean and pale-faced, bordering on forty years, and of a melancholy complexion; his eye was quick, deep set, and a thought wild; his long hair was carefully combed smooth, and his apparel was singularly well composed for a person of his degree.
Having set down the lamp on the floor, he came in a very reverential manner towards where I was sitting, with my right hand fettered to the ground, between Sarah Lochrig and Michael our son, and he said, with a remarkable and gentle simplicity of voice, in the Highland accent, that he had been requested by a righteous woman, Provost Reid's wife, to bring me a bottle of cordial wine and some little matters that I might require for bodily consolation.
"It's that godly creature, Willie Sutherland, the hangman," said my wife. "Though Providence has dealt hardly with him, poor man, in this life, every body says he has gotten arles of a servitude in glory hereafter."
When he had placed the basket at the knees of Michael, he retired to a corner of the room, and stood in the shadow, with his face turned towards the wall, saying, "I'm concern't that it's no in my power to leave you to yoursels till Mungo Robeson come back, for he has lockit me in, but I'll no hearken to what ye may say;" and there was a modesty of manner in the way that he said this, which made me think it not possible he could be of so base a vocation as the public executioner, and I whispered my opinion of him to Sarah Lochrig. It was, however, the case; and verily in the life and conduct of that simple and pious man there was a manifestation of the truth, that to him whom the Lord favours it signifieth not whatsoever his earthly condition may be.
After I had partaken with my wife and son of some refreshment which they had brought with them, and tasted of the wine that Provost Reid's lady had sent, we heard the bolts of the door drawn, and the clanking of keys, at which Willie Sutherland came forward from the corner where he had stood during the whole time, and lifting the lamp from the floor, and wetting his fore-finger with spittle as he did so, he trimmed the wick, and said, "The time's come when a' persons not prisoners must depart forth the tolbooth for the night; but, Master Gilhaize, be none discomforted thereat, your wife and your little one will come back in the morning, and your lot is a lot of pleasure; for is it not written in the book of Ecclesiastes, fourth and eighth, 'There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother?' and such an one am I."
The inner door was thrown open, and Mungo Robeson, looking in, said, "I wae to molest you, but ye'll hae to come out, Mrs Gilhaize." So that night we were separated; and when Sarah Lochrig was gone, I could not but offer thanksgiving that my lines had fallen in so pleasant a place, compared with the fate of my poor brother, suffering among strangers in the doleful prison of Glasgow, under the ravenous eyes of the prelate of that city, then scarcely less hungry for the bodies of the faithful and the true, than even the apostate James Sharp himself.
The deep sleep into which I had fallen when Sarah Lochrig and my son were admitted to see me, and during the season of which they had sat in silence beside me till revived nature again unsealed my eyes, was so refreshing, that after they were gone away I was enabled to consider my condition with a composed mind, and free from the heats of passion and anxiety wherewith I had previously been so greatly tossed. And calling to mind all that had taken place, and the ruthless revenge with which the cruel prelates were actuated, I saw, as it were written in a book, that for my part and conduct I was doomed to die. I felt not, however, the sense of guilt in my conscience; and I said to myself, that this sore thing ought not to be, and that, as an innocent man and the head of a family, I was obligated by all expedient ways to escape, if it were possible, from the grasps of the tyranny. So from that time, the first night of my imprisonment, I set myself to devise the means of working out my deliverance; and I was not long without an encouraging glimmer of hope.
It seemed to me, that in the piety and simplicity of Willie Sutherland, instruments were given by which I might break through the walls of my prison; and accordingly, when he next morning came in to see me, I failed not to try their edge. I entered into discourse with him, and told him of many things which I have recorded in this book, and so won upon his confidence and the singleness of his heart, that he shed tears of grief at the thought of so many blameless men being ordained to an untimely end. "It has pleased God," said he, "to make me as it were a leper and an excommunicant in this world, by the constraints of a low estate, and without any fault of mine. But for this temporal ignominy, He will, in His own good time, bestow an exceeding great reward;—and though I may be called on to fulfil the work of the persecutors, it shall yet be seen of me, that I will abide by the integrity of my faith, and that, poor despised hangman as I am, I have a conscience that will not brook a task of iniquity, whatsoever the laws of man may determine, or the King's judges decree."
I was, as it were, rebuked by this proud religious declaration, and I gently inquired how it was that he came to fall into a condition so rejected of the world.
"Deed, sir," said he, "my tale is easy told. My parents were very poor needful people in Strathnavar, and no able to keep me; and it happened that, being cast on the world, I became a herd, and year by year, having a desire to learn the Lowland tongue, I got in that way as far as Paisley, where I fell into extreme want and was almost famished; for the master that I served there being in debt, ran away, by which cause I lost my penny fee, and was obligated to beg my bread. At that time many worthy folk in the shire of Renfrew having suffered great molestation from witchcraft, divers malignant women, suspectit of that black art, were brought to judgment, and one of them being found guilty, was condemned to die. But no executioner being in the town, I was engaged, by the scriptural counsel of some honest men, who quoted to me the text, 'Suffer not a witch to live,' to fulfil the sentence of the law. After that I bought a Question-book, having a mind to learn to read, that I might gain some knowledge of THE WORD. Finding, however, the people of Paisley scorn at my company, so that none would give me a lesson, I came about five years since to Irvine, where the folk are more charitable; and here I act the part of an executioner when there is any malefactor to put to death. But my Bible has instructed me, that I ought not to execute any save such as deserve to die; so that, if ye should be condemned, as like is you will be, my conscience will ne'er allow me to execute you, for I see you are a Christian man."
I was moved with a tender pity by the tale of the simple creature; but a strong necessity was upon me, and it was needful that I should make use of his honesty to help me out of prison. So I spoke still more kindly to him, lamenting my sad estate, and that in the little time I had in all likelihood to live, the rigour of the jailor would allow but little intercourse with my family, wishing some compassionate Christian friend would intercede with him in order that my wife and children, if not permitted to bide all night, might be allowed to remain with me as long and as late as possible.
The pious creature said that he would do for me in that respect all in his power, and that, as Mungo Robeson was a sober man, and aye wanted to go home early to his family, he would bide in the tolbooth to let out my wife, though it should be till ten o'clock at night—"for," said he, piteously, "I hae nae family to care about."
Accordingly, he so set himself, that Mungo Robeson consented to leave the keys of the tolbooth with him; and for several nights everything was so managed that he had no reason to suspect what my wife and I were plotting; for he being of a modest and retiring nature, never spoke to her when she parted from me, save when she thanked him as he let her out; and that she did not do every night lest it should grow into a habit of expectation with him, and cause him to remark when the civility was omitted.
In the meantime all things being concerted between us, through the mean of a friend a cart was got in readiness, loaded with seemingly a hogget of tobacco and grocery wares, but the hogget was empty and loose in the head.
This was all settled by the nineteenth of December; on the twenty-fourth of the month the Commissioners appointed to try the Covenanters in the prisons throughout the shire of Ayr were to open their court at Ayr, and I was, by all who knew of me, regarded in a manner as a dead man. On the night of the twentieth, however, shortly before ten o'clock, James Gottera, our friend, came with the cart in at the town-head port, and in going down the gait stopped, as had been agreed, to give his beast a drink at the trough of the cross-well, opposite the tolbooth-stair foot.
When the clock struck ten, the time appointed, I was ready dressed in my wife's apparel, having, in the course of the day, broken the chain of the shackle on my arm; and the door being opened by Willie Sutherland in the usual manner, I came out, holding a napkin to my face and weeping in sincerity very bitterly, with the thought of what might ensue to Sarah Lochrig, whom I left behind in my place.
In reverence to my grief the honest man said nothing, but walked by my side till he had let me out at the outer stair-head door, where he parted from me, carrying the keys to Mungo Robeson's house, aneath the tolbooth, while I walked towards James Gottera's cart, and was presently in the inside of the hogget.
With great presence of mind and a soldierly self-possession, that venturous friend then drew the horse's head from the trough, and began to drive it down the street to the town-end port, striving as he did so to whistle, till he was rebuked for so doing, as I heard, by an old woman then going home, who said to him that it was a shame to hear such profanity in Irvine when a martyr doomed to die was lying in the tolbooth. To the which he replied scoffingly, "that martyr was a new name for a sworn rebel to king and country,"—words which so kindled the worthy woman's ire, that she began to ban his prelatic ungodliness to such a degree that a crowd collected, which made me tremble. For the people sided with the zealous carlan, and spoke fiercely, threatening to gar James Gottera ride the stang for his sinfulness in so traducing persecuted Christians. What might have come to pass is hard to say, had not Providence been pleased, in that most critical and perilous time, to cause a foul lum in a thacket house in the Sea-gate to take fire, by which an alarm was spread that drew off the mob, and allowed James Gottera to pass without farther molestation out at the town-end port.
From the time of my evasion from the tolbooth, and during the controversy between James Gottera and the mob in the street, there was a whirlwind in my mind that made me incapable of reason. But when we had passed through the town-end port, and the cart had stopped at the minister's carse till I could throw off my female weeds and put on a sailor's garb, provided for the occasion, tongue nor pen cannot express the passion wherewith my yearning soul was then affected.
The thought of having left Sarah Lochrig within bolts and bars, a ready victim to the tyranny which so thirsted for blood, lightened within me as the lightnings of heaven in a storm. I threw myself on the ground,—I grasped the earth,—I gathered myself as it were into a knot, and howled with horror at my own selfish baseness. I sprung up and cried, "I will save her yet!" and I would have run instanter to the town; but the honest man who was with me laid his grip firmly upon my arm, and said in a solemn manner,—
"This is no Christian conduct, Ringan Gilhaize; the Lord has not forgotten to be gracious."
I glowered upon him, as he has often since told me, with a shudder, and cried, "But I hae left Sarah Lochrig in their hands, and, like a coward, run away to save mysel."
"Compose yoursel, Ringan, and let us reason together," was his discreet reply. "It's vera true ye hae come away and left your wife as it were an hostage in the prison, but the persecutors and oppressors will respek the courageous affection of a loving wife, and Providence will put it in their hearts to spare her."
"And if they do not, what shall I then be? and what's to become of my babies?—Lord, Lord, thou hast tried me beyond my strength!"
And I again threw myself on the earth, and cried that it might open and swallow me; for, thinking but of myself, I was becoming unworthy to live.
The considerate man stood over me in compassionate silence for a season, and allowed me to rave in my frenzy till I had exhausted myself.
"Ringan," said he at last, "ye were aye respekit as a thoughtful and discreet character, and I'll no blame you for this sorrow; but I entreat you to collek yersel, and think what's best to be done, for what avails in trouble the cry of alas, alas! or the shedding of many tears? Your wife is in prison, but for a fault that will wring compassion even frae the brazen heart of the remorseless James Sharp, and bring back the blood of humanity to the mansworn breast of Charles Stuart. But though it were not so, they daurna harm a hair of her head; for there are things, man, that the cruellest dread to do for fear o' the world, even when they hae lost the fear o' God. I count her far safer, Ringan, frae the rage of the persecutors, where she lies in prison aneath their bolts and bars, than were she free in her own house; for it obligates them to deal wi' her openly and afore mankind, whose goodwill the worst of princes and prelates are from an inward power forced to respek; whereas, were she sitting lanerly and defenceless, wi' naebody near but only your four helpless wee birds, there's no saying what the gleds might do. Therefore be counselled, my frien, and dinna gi'e yoursel up utterly to despair; but, like a man, for whom the Lord has already done great things, mak use of the means which, in this jeopardy of a' that's sae dear to you, he has so graciously put in your power."
I felt myself in a measure heartened by this exhortation, and rising from the ground completed the change I had begun in my apparel; but I was still unable to speak,—which he observing, said,—
"Hae ye considered the airt ye ought now to take, for it canna be that ye'll think of biding in this neighbourhood!"
"No; not in this land," I exclaimed; "would that I might not even in this life!"
"Whisht! Ringan Gilhaize, that's a sinful wish for a Christian," said a compassionate voice at my side, which made us both start; and on looking round we saw a man who, during the earnestest of our controversy, had approached close to us unobserved.
It was that Gospel-teacher, my fellow-sufferer, Mr Witherspoon; and his sudden apparition at that time was a blessed accident, which did more to draw my thoughts from the anguish of my affections than any thing it was possible for James Gottera to have said.
He was then travelling in the cloud of night to the town, having, after I parted from him in Lanerkshire, endured many hardships and perils, and his intent was to pass to his friends, in order to raise a trifle of money, to transport himself for a season into Ireland.
But James Gottera, on hearing this, interposed his opinion, and said a rumour was abroad that in all ports and towns of embarkation orders were given to stay the departure of passengers, so that to a surety he would be taken if he attempted to quit the kingdom.
By this time my mind had returned into something like a state of sobriety; so I told him how it had been concerted between me and Sarah Lochrig that I should pass over to the wee Cumbrae, there to wait till the destroyers had passed by; for it was thought not possible that such an inordinate thirst for blood, as had followed upon our discomfiture at Rullion-green, could be of a long continuance; and I beseeched him to come with me, telling him that I was provided with a small purse of money in case need should require it, but in the charitable hearts of the pious we might count on a richer store.
Accordingly, we agreed to join our fortunes again; and having parted from James Gottera at Kilwinning, we went on our way together, and my heart was refreshed by the kind admonitions and sweet converse of my companion, though ever and anon the thought of my wife in prison, and our defenceless lambs, shot like a fiery arrow through my bosom. But man is by nature a sordid creature, and the piercing December blast, the threatening sky, and the frequent shower, soon knit up my thoughts with the care of my worthless self: maybe there was in that the tempering hand of a beneficent Providence; for when I have at divers times since considered how much the anguish of my inner sufferings exceeded the bodily molestation, I could not but confess, though it was with a humbled sense of my own selfishness, that it was well for me, in such a time, to be so respited from the upbraidings of my tortured affections.
But, not to dwell on the specialities of my own feelings on that memorable night, let it suffice, that after walking some four or five miles towards Pencorse ferry, where we meant to pass to the island, I became less and less attentive to the edifying discourse of Mr Witherspoon, and his nature also yielding to the influences of the time, we travelled along the bleak and sandy shore between Ardrossan and Kilbride hill without the interchange of conversation. The wind came wild and gurly from the sea,—the waves broke heavily on the shore,—and the moon, swiftly wading the cloud, threw over the dreary scene a wandering and ghastly light. Often to the blast we were obligated to turn our backs, and, the rain being in our faces, we little heeded each other.
In that state, so like sullenness, we had journeyed onward, it might be better than a mile, when, happening to observe something lying on the shore, as if it had been cast out by the sea, I cried, under a sense of fear,—
"Stop, Mr Witherspoon; what's that?"
In the same moment he uttered a dreadful sound of horror, and, on looking round, I saw we were three in company.
"In the name of Heaven," exclaimed Mr Witherspoon, "who and what are you that walk with us?"
But instanter our fears and the mystery of the appearance were dispelled, for it was my brother.
"Weel, Ringan," said my brother, "we have met again in this world; it's a blessing I never looked for;" and he held out his two hands to take hold of mine, but the broken links of the shackle still round my wrist made him cry out,—
"What's this?—Whare hae ye come fra? But I need na inquire."
"I have broken out of the tolbooth o' Irvine," said I, "and I am fleeing here with Mr Witherspoon."
"I, too," replied my brother, mournfully, "hae escaped from the hands of the persecutors."
We then entered into some conversation concerning what had happened to us respectively, from the fatal twenty-eighth of November, when our power and host were scattered on Rullion-green, wherein Mr Witherspoon, with me, rehearsed to him the accidents herein set forth, with the circumstantials of some things that befel the godly man after I left him with the corpse of the baby in his arms; but which being in some points less of an adventurous nature than had happened to myself, I shall be pardoned by the courteous reader for not enlarging upon it at greater length. I should, however, here note, that Mr Witherspoon was not so severely dealt with as I was; for though an outcast and a fugitive, yet he was not a prisoner; on the contrary, under the kindly cover of the Lady Auchterfardel, whose excellent and truly covenanted husband was a sore sufferer by the fines of the year 1662, he received great hospitality for the space of sixteen days, and was saved between two feather beds, on the top of which the laird's aged mother, a bed-rid woman, was laid, when some of Drummond's men searched the house on an information against him.
But disconsolatory as it was to hear of such treatment of a Gospel-minister, though lightened by the reflection of the saintly constancy that was yet to be found in the land, and among persons too of the Lady of Auchterfardel's degree, and severe as the trials were, both of body and mind, which I had myself undergone, yet were they all as nothing compared to the hardships of my brother, a man of a temperate sobriety of manner, bearing all changes with a serene countenance and a placable mind, while feeling them in the uttermost depths of his capacious affections.
"On the night of the battle," said he, "it would not be easy of me to tell which way I went, or what ensued, till I found myself with three destitute companions on the skirts of the town of Falkirk. By that time the morning was beginning to dawn, and we perceived not that we had approached so nigh unto any bigget land; as the day, however, broke, the steeple caught our eye, and we halted to consider what we ought to do. And as we were then standing in a field diffident to enter the town, a young woman came from a house that stands a little way off the road, close to Graham's dyke, driving a cow to grass with a long staff, which I the more remarked as such, because it was of the Indian cane, and virled with silver, and headed with ivory.
"'Sirs,' said Menie Adams, for that was the damsel's name, 'I see what ye are; but I'll no speir; howsever, be ruled by me, and gang na near the town of Falkirk this morning, for atwish the hours of dark and dawn there has been a congregationing o' horses and men, and other sediments o' war, that I hae a notion there's owre meikle o' the King's power in the place for any Covenanter to enter in, save under the peril o' penalties. But come wi' me, and I'll go back wi' you, and in our hay-loft you may scog yoursels till the gloaming.'
"Who could have thought," said my brother, "that in such discourse from a young woman, not passing four-and-twenty years of age, and of a pleasant aspect, any guilty stratagem of blood was hidden!"
He and his friends never questioned her truth, but went with her, and she conducted them to her father's house, and lodged them in the hay-loft.
It seems that Menie Adams was, however, at the time betrothed to the prelatic curate that had been laid upon the parish, and that, in consequence, aneath her courtesy, she had concealed a very treacherous and wicked intent. For no sooner had she got my brother and his three companions into the hay-loft, than she hies herself away to the town, and, in the hope of pleasing her prelatic lover, informs the captain of the troop there of the birds she had ensnared.
As soon as the false woman had thus committed the sin of perfidy, she went to the curate to brag how she had done a service to his cause; but he, though of the prelatic germination, being yet a person who had some reverence for truth and the gentle mercies of humanity, was so disturbed by her unwomanly disposition, that he bade her depart from his presence for ever, and ran with all possible speed to waken the poor men whom she had so betrayed.
On his way to the house he saw a party of the soldiers, whom their officer, as in duty bound, was sending to seize the unsuspecting sleepers, and running on before them, he just got forward in time to give the alarm. My brother and one of them, Esau Wardrop, the wife's brother of James Gottera, who had been so instrumental in my evasion, were providentially enabled to get out and flee; but the other two were taken by the soldiers and carried to prison.
The base conduct of that Menie Adams, as we some years after heard, did not go long unvisited by the displeasure of Heaven, for, some scent of her guilt taking wind, the whole town, in a sense, grew wud against her, and she was mobbet, and the wells pumped upon her by the enraged multitude; and she never recovered from the handling that she therein suffered.
My brother and Esau Wardrop, on getting into the open fields, made all the speed they could, like the panting hart when pursued by the hunter, and distrusting the people of that part of the country, they travelled all day, not venturing to approach any reeking house. Towards gloaming, however, being hungry and faint, the craving of nature overcame their fears, and they went up to a house where they saw a light burning.
As they approached the door they faltered a little in their resolution, for they heard the dissonance of riot and revelry within. Their need, however, was great, and the importunities of hunger would not be pacified, so they knocked, and the door was soon opened by a soldier, the party within being a horde of Dalziel's men, living at free quarters in the house of that excellent Christian and much-persecuted man, the Laird of Ringlewood.
The moment that the man who came to the door saw, by the glimpse of the light, that both my brother and Esau Wardrop had swords at their sides, he uttered a cry of alarm, thinking the house was surrounded, at which all the riotous soldiers within flew to their arms, while the man who opened the door seized my brother by the throat and harl't him in. The panic, however, was but of short duration; for my brother soon expounded that they were two perishing men who came to surrender themselves; so the door was again opened and Esau Wardrop commanded to come in.
"It's but a justice to say of those rampageous troopers," said my brother, "that, considering us as prisoners of war, they were free and kind enough, though they mocked at our cause, and derided the equipage of our warfare. But it was a humiliating sight to see in what manner they deported themselves towards the unfortunate family."
Ringlewood himself, who had remonstrated against their insolence to his aged leddy, they had tied in his arm-chair and placed at the head of his own table, round which they sat carousing, and singing the roister ribaldry of camp songs. At first, when my brother was taken into this scene of military domination, he did not observe the laird; for in the uproar of the alarm the candles had been overset and broken, but new ones being sworn for and stuck into the necks of the bottles of the wine they were lavishly drinking, he discovered him lying as it were asleep where he sat, with his head averted, and his eyes shut on the iniquity of the scene of oppression with which he was oppressed.
Some touch of contrition had led one of the soldiers to take the aged matron under his care; and on his intercession she was not placed at the table, but allowed to sit in a corner, where she mourned in silence, with her hands clasped together, and her head bent down over them upon her breast. The laird's grandson and heir, a stripling of some fifteen years or so, was obligated to be page and butler, for all the rest of the house had taken to the hills at the approach of the troopers.
As the drinking continued the riot increased, and the rioters growing heated with their drink, they began to quarrel: fierce words brought angry answers, and threats were followed by blows. Then there was an interposition, and a shaking of hands, and a pledging of renewed friendship.
But still the demon of the drink continued to grow stronger and stronger in their kindling blood, and the tumult was made perfect by one of the men, in the capering of his inebriety, rising from his seat, and taking the old leddy by the toupie to raise her head as he rudely placed his foul cup to her lips. This called up the ire of the fellow who had sworn to protect her, and he, not less intoxicated than the insulter, came staggering to defend her; a scuffle ensued, the insulter was cast with a swing away, and falling against the laird, who still remained as it were asleep, with his head on his shoulder, and his eyes shut, he overthrew the chair in which the old gentleman sat fastened, and they both fell to the ground.
The soldier, frantic with wine and rage, was soon, like a tiger, on his adversary; the rest rose to separate them. Some took one side, some another; bottles were seized for weapons, and the table was overthrown in the hurricane. Their sergeant, who was as drunk as the worst of them, tried in vain to call them into order, but they heeded not his call, which so enraged him, that he swore they should shift their quarters, and with that seizing a burning brand from the chumla, he ran into a bedchamber that opened from the room where the riot was raging, and set fire to the curtains.
My brother seeing the flames rising, and that the infuriated war-wolves thought only of themselves, ran to extricate Ringlewood from the cords with which he was tied; and calling to the leddy and her grandson to quit the burning house, every one was soon out of danger from the fire.
The sense of the soldiers were not so overborne by their drink as to prevent them from seeing the dreadful extent of their outrage; but instead of trying to extinguish the flames, they marched away to seek quarters in some other place, cursing the sergeant for having so unhoused them in such a night.
At first they thought of carrying my brother and Esau Wardrop with them as prisoners; but one of them said it would be as well to give the wyte of the burning, at headquarters, to the rebels; so they left them behind.
Esau Wardrop, with the young laird and my grandfather, seeing it was in vain to stop the progress of the fire, did all that in them lay to rescue some of the furniture, while poor old Ringlewood and his aged and gentle lady, being both too infirm to lend any help, stood on the green, and saw the devouring element pass from room to room, till their ancient dwelling was utterly destroyed. Fortunately, however, the air was calm, and the out-houses escaping the ruinous contagion of the flames, there was still a beild left in the barn to which they could retire.
In the meantime the light of the burning spread over the country; but the people knowing that soldiers were quartered in Ringlewood, stood aloof in the dread of firearms, thinking the conflagration might be caused by some contest of war; so that the mansion of a gentleman much beloved of all his neighbours was allowed to burn to the ground before their eyes, without any one venturing to come to help him, to so great a degree had distrust and the outrages of military riot at that epoch altered the hearts of men.
My brother and Esau Wardrop staid with Ringlewood till the morning, and had, for the space of three or four hours, a restoring sleep. Fain would they have remained longer there, but the threat of the soldiers to accuse them as the incendiaries made Ringlewood urge them to depart; saying, that maybe a time would come when it would be in his power to thank them for their help in that dreadful night. But he was not long exposed to many sufferings; for the leddy on the day following, as in after-time we heard, was seized with her dead-ill, and departed this life in the course of three days; and the laird also, in less than a month, was laid in the kirk-yard, with his ancestors, by her side.
After leaving Ringlewood, the two fugitives, by divers journeyings and sore passages through moss and moor, crossed the Balloch ferry, and coming down the north side of the Clyde frith to Ardmore, they boated across to Greenock, where, in little more than an hour after their arrival, they were taken in Euphan Blair's public in Cartsdyke, and the same night marched off to Glasgow; of all which I have already given intimation in recording my own trials at Inverkip.
But in that march, as my brother and Esau Wardrop were passing with their guard at the Inchinnan ferry, the soldiers heedlessly laying their firelocks all in a heap in the boat, the thought came into my brother's head, that maybe it might be turned to an advantage if he was to spoil the powder in the firelocks; so, as they were sitting in the boat, he, with seeming innocence, drew his hand several times through the water, and in lifting it took care to drop and sprinkle the powder-pans of the firelocks, in so much, that by the time they were ferried to the Renfrew side, they were spoiled for immediate use.
"Do as I do," said he softly to Esau Wardrop, as they were stepping out, and with that he feigned some small expedient for tarrying in the boat, while the soldiers, taking their arms, leapt on shore. The ferryman also was out before them; and my brother seeing this, took up an oar, seemingly to help him to step out; but pretending at the time to stumble, he caught hold of Esau's shoulder, and pushing with, the oar, shoved off the boat in such a manner, that the rope was pulled out of the ferryman's hand, who was in a great consternation. The soldiers, however, laughed at seeing how the river's current was carrying away their prisoners; for my brother was in no hurry to make use of the oar to pull the boat back; on the contrary he pushed her farther and farther into the river, until one of the guards, beginning to suspect some stratagem, levelled his firelock, and threatened to shoot. Whereupon my brother and Esau quickened their exertions, and soon reached the opposite side of the river, while the soldiers were banning and tearing with rage to be so outwitted, and their firelocks rendered useless for the time.
As soon as the fugitives were within wadeable reach of the bank, they jumpit out of the boat and ran, and were not long within the scope of their adversaries' fire.
By this time the sun was far in the west, and they knew little of the country about where they were; but, before embarking, the ferryman had pointed out to them the abbey towers of Paisley, and they knew that, for a long period, many of the humane inhabitants of that town had been among the faithfullest of Scottishmen to the cause of the Kirk and Covenant; and therefore they thought that, under the distraction of their circumstances maybe it would be their wisest course to direct their steps in the dusk of evening towards the town, and they threw aside their arms, that they might pass as simple wayfaring men.
Accordingly, having loitered in the way thither, they reached Paisley about the heel of the twilight, and searching their way into the heart of the town, they found a respectable public near the Cross, into which they entered, and ordered some consideration of vivers for supper, just as if they had been on market business. In so doing nothing particular was remarked of them; and my brother, by way of an entertainment before bed-time, told his companion of my grandfather's adventure in Paisley, the circumstantials whereof are already written in this book; drawing out of what had come to pass with him cheering aspirations of happier days for themselves.
While they were thus speaking, one of the town-council, Deacon Fulton, came in to have a cap and a crack with any stranger that might be in the house. This deacon was a man who well represented and was a good swatch of the plain honesty and strict principles which have long governed within that ancient borough of regality. He seeing them, and being withal a man of shrewd discernment, eyed them very sharply, and maybe guessing what they were and where they had come from entered into a discreet conversation with them anent the troubles of the time. In this he showed the pawkrie, that so well becomes those who sit in council, with a spicerie of that wholesome virtue and friendly sympathy of which all the poor fugitives from the Pentland raid stood in so great need. For, without pretending to jealouse any thing of what they were, he spoke of that business as the crack of the day, and told them of many of the afflicting things which had been perpetrated after the dispersion of the Covenanters, saying,—
"It's a thing to be deplored in all time coming, that the poor, misguided folk, concern't in that rash wark, didna rather take refuge in the towns, and amang their brethren and fellow-subjects, than flee to the hills, where they are hunted down wi' dog and gun, as beasts o' an ill kind. Really every body's wae for their folly; though to be sure, in a government sense, their fault's past pardon. It's no indeed a thing o' toleration, that subjects are to rise against rulers."
"True," said my brother, "unless rulers fall against subjects."
The worthy magistrate looked a thought seriously at him; no in reproof for what he had said, or might say, but in an admonitory manner, saying,—
"Ye're owre douce a like man, I think, to hae been either art or part in this headstrong Reformation, unless ye had some great cause to provoke you; and I doubt na ye hae discretion enough no to contest without need points o' doctrine; at least for me, I'm laith to enter on ony sort o' polemtic, for it's a Gude's truth, I'm nae deacon at it."
My brother discerning by his manner that he saw through them, would have refrain't at the time from further discourse; but Esau Wardrop was, though a man of few words, yet of such austerity of faith, that he could not abide to have it thought he was in any time or place afraid for himself to bear his testimony, even when manifestly uncalled on to do; so he here broke in upon the considerate and worthy counsellor, and said,—
"That a covenanted spirit was bound at a' times and in a' situations, conditions, and circumstances, to uphold the cause."
"True, true, we are a' Covenanters," replied the deacon, "and Gude forbid that I should e'er forget the vows I took when I was in a manner a bairn; but there's an unco difference between the auld covenanting and this Lanerk New-light. In the auld times, our forbears and our fathers covenanted to show their power, that the King and government might consider what they were doing. And they betook not themselves to the sword, till the quiet warning of almost all the realm united in one league had proved ineffectual; and when at last there was nae help for't, and they were called by their conscience and dangers to gird themselves for battle, they went forth in the might and power of the arm of flesh, as weel as of a righteous cause. But, sirs, this donsie business of the Pentland raid was but a splurt, and the publishing of the Covenant, after the poor folk had made themselves rebels, was, to say the least o't, a weak conceit."
"We were not rebels," cried Esau Wardrop.
"Hoot toot, friend," said the counsellor, "ye're owre hasty. I did na ca' the poor folk rebels in the sense of a rebellion, where might takes the lead in a controversy wi' right, but because they had risen against the law."
"There can be nae rebellion against a law that teaches things over which man can have no control, the thought and the conscience," said Esau Wardrop.
"Aye, aye," replied the counsellor, "a' that's vera true; but if it please the wisdom of the King, by and with the advice of his privy counsellors, to prohibit certain actions,—and surely actions are neither thoughts nor consciences,—do ye mean to say that the subject's no bound to obey such royal ordinances?"
"Aye, if the acts are in themselves harmless, and trench not upon any man's rights of property and person."
"Weel, I'll no debate that wi' you," replied the worthy counsellor; "but surely ye'll ne'er maintain that conventicles, and the desertion of the regular and appointed places of worship, are harmless; nor can it be denied that sic things do not tend to aggrieve and impair the clergy baith in their minds and means?"
"I confess that," said Esau; "but think, that the conventicles and desertions, whereof ye speak, sprang out of an arbitrary and uncalled-for disturbance of the peaceful worship of God. Evil counselling caused them, and evil counselling punishes them till the punishment can be no longer endured."
"Ye're a doure-headed man," said Deacon Fulton, "and really ye hae gi'en me sic a cast o' your knowledge that I can do no less than make you a return; so tak this, and bide nae langer in Paisley than your needs call." With that he laid his purse on the table and went away. But scarcely had he departed the house when who should enter but the very soldiers from whom my brother and Esau had so marvellously escaped.