The noise of taking up my brother and Esau Wardrop to the tolbooth by the soldiers bred a great wonderment in the town, and the magistrates came into the prison to see them. Then it was that they recognised their friendly adviser among those in authority. But he signified by winking to them that they should not know him; to which they comported themselves so, that it passed as he could have wished.
"Provost," said he to the chief magistrate, who was then present with them, "though thir honest men be concerned in a fret against the King's government, they're no just iniquitous malefactors, and therefore it behoves us, for the little time they are to bide here, to deal compassionately with them. This is a damp and cauld place. I'm sure we might gi'e them the use of the council-chamber, and direk a bit spunk o' fire to be kindl't. It's, ye ken, but for this night they are to be in our aught; and their crime, ye ken, provost, was mair o' the judgment than the heart, and therefore we should think how we are a' prone to do evil."
By this sort of petitionary exhorting that worthy man carried his point, and the provost consented that the prisoners should be removed to the council-chamber, where he directed a fire to be lighted for their solace.
"Noo, honest men," said their friend the deacon, when he was taking leave of them, after seeing them in the council-room, "I hope you'll make yoursels as comfortable as men in your situation can reasonably be; and look ye," said he to my brother, "if the wind should rise, and the smoke no vent sae weel as ye could wis, which is sometimes the case in blowy weather when the door's shut, just open a wee bit jinkie o' this window," and he gave him a squeeze on the arm—"it looks into my yard. Heh! but it's weel mindet, the bar on my back-yett's in the want o' reparation—I maun see til't the morn."
There was no difficulty in reading the whumplet meaning of this couthiness anent the reeking o' the chamber; and my brother and Esau, when the door was locket on them for the night, soon found it expedient to open the window, and next morning the kind counsellor had more occasion than ever to get the bar o' his back-yett repaired; for it had yielded to the grip of the prisoners, who, long afore day, were far beyond the eye and jurisdiction of the magistrates of Paisley.
They took the straight road to Kilmarnock, intending, if possible, to hide themselves among some of my brother Jacob's wife's friends in that town. He had himself been dead some short time before; but in the course of their journey, in eschewing the high-road as much as possible, they found a good friend in a cottar who lived on the edge of the Mearns moor, and with him they were persuaded to bide till the day of that night when we met in so remarkable a manner on the sands of Ardrossan; and the cause that brought him there was one of the severest trials to which he had yet been exposed, as I shall now rehearse.
James Greig, the kind cottar who sheltered them for the better part of three weeks, was but a poor man, and two additional inmates consumed the meal which he had laid in for himself and his wife, so that he was obligated to apply twice for the loan of some from a neighbour, which caused a suspicion to arise in that neighbour's mind; and he being loose-tongued, and a talking man, let out what he thought in a public at Kilmarnock, in presence of some one connected with the soldiers then quartered in the Dean-castle. A party, in consequence, had that morning been sent out to search for them; but the thoughtless man who had done the ill was seized with a remorse of conscience for his folly, and came in time to advise them to flee; but not so much in time as to prevent them from being seen by the soldiers, who no sooner discovered them than they pursued them. What became of Esau Wardrop was never known; he was no doubt shot in his flight; but my brother was more fortunate, for he kept so far before those who in particular pursued him, that, although they kept him in view, they could not overtake him.
Running in this way for life and liberty, he came to a house on the road-side, inhabited by a lanerly woman, and the door being open he darted in, passing through to the yard behind, where he found himself in an enclosed place, out of which he saw no other means of escape but through a ditch full of water. The depth of it at the time he did not think of, but plunging in, he found himself up to the chin; at that moment he heard the soldiers at hand; so the thought struck him to remain where he was, and to go under a bramble-bush that overhung the water. By this means he was so effectually concealed, that the soldiers, losing sight of him, wreaked their anger and disappointment on the poor woman, dragging her with them to the Dean-castle, where they threw her into the dungeon, in the darkness of which she perished, as was afterwards well known through all that country-side.
After escaping from the ditch, my brother turned his course more northerly, and had closed his day of suffering on Kilbride-hill, where, drawn by his affections to seek some knowledge of his wife and daughter, he had resolved to risk himself as near as possible to Quharist that night; and coming along with the shower on his back, which blew so strong in our faces, he saw us by the glimpses of the tempestuous moonlight as we were approaching, and had denned himself on the road-side till we should pass, being fearful we might prove enemies. Some accidental lament or complaint, uttered unconsciously by me, made him, however, think he knew the voice, and moved thereby, he started up, and had just joined us when he was discovered in so awakening a manner.
Thus came my brother and I to meet after the raid of Pentland; and having heard from me all that he could reasonably hope for, regarding the most valued casket of his affections, he came along with Mr Witherspoon; and we were next morning safely ferried over into the wee Cumbrae, by James Plowter the ferryman, to whom we were both well known.
There was then only a herd's house on the island; but there could be no truer or kinder Christians than the herd and his wife. We staid with them till far in the year, hearing often, through James Plowter, of our friends; and above all the joyous news, in little more than a week after our landing, of Sarah Lochrig having been permitted to leave the tolbooth of Irvine, without further dule than a reproof from Provost Reid, that had more in it of commendation than reproach.
It is well set forth in all the various histories of this dismal epoch, that the cry of blood had gone so vehemently up to heaven from the graves of the martyred Covenanters, that the Lord moved the heart of Charles Stuart to more merciful measures, but only for a season. The apostate James Sharp and the other counsellors, whose weakness or wickedness fell in with his tyrannical proselytising purposes, were wised from the rule of power, and the Earls of Tweeddale and Kincardine, with that learned sage and philosopher, Sir John Murray, men of more beneficent dispositions, were appointed to sit in their places in the Privy Council at Edinburgh;—so that all in our condition were heartened to return to their homes.
As soon as we heard that the ravenous soldiery were withdrawn from the shire of Ayr, my brother and I, with Mr Witherspoon, after an abode of more than seven months in yon solitary and rocky islet, returned to Quharist. But, O courteous reader, I dare not venture to tell of the joy of the meeting, and the fond intermingling of embraces, that was too great a reward for all our sufferings;—for now I approach the memorials of those things, by which the terrible Heavens have manifested that I was ordained from the beginning to launch the bolt that was chosen from the quiver in the armoury of the Almighty avenger, to overthrow the oppressor and oppression of my native land. It is therefore enough to state that, upon my return home, where I expected to find my lands waste and my fences broken down, I found all things in better order than they maybe would have been had the eye of the master been over them; for our kind neighbours, out of a friendly consideration for my family, had in the spring tilled the ground and sown the seed by day-and-day-about labour; and surely it was a pleasant thing, in the midst of such a general depravity of the human heart, so prevalent at that period, to hear of such constancy and Christian-mindedness; for it was not towards my brother and me only that such things were done; the same was common throughout the country towards the lands and families of the persecuted.
But the lown of that time was as a pet day in winter. In the harvest, however, when the proposal came out that we should give bonds to keep the peace, I made no scruple of signing the same, and of getting my wife's father, who was not out in the raid, to be my cautioner. In the doing of this I did not renounce the Covenant; but, on the contrary, I considered that by the bonds the King was as much bound to preserve things in the state under which I granted the bond as I was to remain in the quiet condition I was when I signed it.
After the bonds of peace came the indulgence, and the chief heritors of our parish having something to say with the Lord Tweeddale, leave was obtained for Mr Swinton to come back, and we had made a paction with Andrew Dornock, the prelatic curate and incumbent, to let him have his manse again. But although Mr Swinton did return, and his family were again gathered around him, he would not, as he said himself to me, so far bow the knee to Baal as to bring the church of Christ in any measure or way into Erastian dependence on the civil magistrate. So he neither would return to the manse nor enter the pulpit, but continued, for the space of several years, to reside at Quharist, and to preach on the summer Sundays from the window in the gable.
In the spring, however, of the year 1674, he, after a lingering illness, closed his life and ministry. For some time he had felt himself going hence, and the tenour of his prayers and sermons had for several months been of a high and searching efficacy; and he never failed, Sabbath after Sabbath, just before pronouncing the blessing, to return public thanks that the Lord was drawing him so softly away from the world, and from the storms that were gathering in the black cloud of prelacy which still overhung and darkened the ministry of the Kirk of Scotland,—a method of admonition that was awfully awakening to the souls of his hearers, and treasured by them as a solemn breathing of the inspiration of prophecy.
When he was laid in the earth, and Mr Witherspoon, by some handling on my part, was invited to fill the void which his removal had left among us, the wind again began to fisle, and the signs of a tempest were seen in the changes of the royal Councils. The gracious-hearted statesmen before spoken of were removed from their benignant spheres like falling stars from the firmament, and the Duke of Lauderdale was endowed with the power to persecute and domineer.
Scarcely was he seated in the Council when the edicts of oppression were renewed. The prelates became clamorous for his interference, and the penalties of the bonds of peace presented the means of supplying the inordinate wants of his rapacious wife. Steps were accordingly soon taken to appease and pleasure both. The court-contrived crime of hearing the Gospel preached in the fields, as it was by John in the Wilderness and Jesus on the Mount, was again prohibited with new rigour; and I for one soon felt that, in the renewed persecution of those who attended the conventicles, the King had again as much broken the conditions under which I gave the bond of peace as he had before broken the vows of the Solemn League and Covenant; so that when the guilty project was ripened in his bloody councils, that the West Country should be again exasperated into rebellion, that a reason might be procured for keeping up a standing army, in order that the three kingdoms might be ruled by prerogative instead of parliament, I freely confess that I was one of those who did refuse to sign the bonds that were devised to provoke the rebellion,—bonds, the terms whereof sufficiently manifested the purpose that governed the framers in the framing. We were required by them, under severe penalties, to undertake that neither our families, nor our servants, nor our tenants, nor the servants of our tenants, nor any others residing upon our lands, should withdraw from the churches or adhere to conventicles, or succour field preachers, or persons who had incurred the penalties attached to these prelate-devised offences. And because we refused to sign these bonds, and continued to worship God in the peacefulness of the Gospel, the whole country was treated by the Duke of Lauderdale as in a state of revolt.
The English forces came mustering against us on the borders, the Irish garrisons were drawn to the coast to invade us, and the lawless Highlanders were tempted, by their need and greed, and a royal promise of indemnity for whatsoever outrages they might commit, to come down upon us in all their fury. By these means ten thousand ruthless soldiers and unreclaimed barbarians were let loose upon us, while we were sitting in the sun listening, I may say truly, to those gracious counsellings which breathe nothing but peace and good-will. When, since the burning days of Dioclesian, the Roman Emperor,—when, since the massacre of the protestants by orders of the French king on the eve of St Bartholomew, was so black a crime ever perpetrated by a guilty government on its own subjects? But I was myself among the greatest of the sufferers; and it is needful that I should now clothe my thoughts with sobriety, and restrain the ire of the pen of grief and revenge.—Not revenge! No; let the word be here—justice.
The Highland host came on us in want, and, but for their license to destroy, in beggary. Yet when they returned to their wild homes among the distant hills, they were laden as with the household wealth of a realm, in so much that they were rendered defenceless by the weight of their spoil. At the bridge of Glasgow the students of the College and the other brave youths of that town, looking on them with true Scottish hearts, and wrathful to see that the barbarians had been such robbers of their fellow-subjects, stopped above two thousand of them, and took from them their congregations of goods and wares, wearing apparel, pots, pans, and gridirons, and other furniture, wherewith they had burdened themselves like bearers at a flitting. My house was stript to a wastage, and every thing was taken away; what was too heavy to be easily transported was, after being carried some distance, left on the road. The very shoes were taken off my wife's feet, and "ye'll no be a refuse to gi'e me that," said a red-haired reprobate as he took hold of Sarah Lochrig's hand and robbed her of her wedding-ring. I was present and saw the deed; I felt my hands clench, but in my spirit I discovered that it was then the hour of outrage, and that the Avenger's time was not yet come.
Rarely has it fallen to the lot of man to be so blessed with such children as mine; but surely I was unworthy of the blessing. And yet, though maybe unworthy, Lord, thou knowest by the nightly anthems of thankfulness that rose from my hearth, that the chief sentiment in my breast, in those moments of melody, was my inward acknowledgment to Thee for having made this world so bright to me, with an offspring so good and fair, and with Sarah Lochrig, their mother, she whose life was the sweetness in the cup of my felicity. Let me not, however, hurry on, nor forget that I am but an historian, and that it befits not the juridical pen of the character to dwell upon my own woes when I have to tell of the sufferings of others.
The trials and the tribulations which I had heard so much of, and whereof I had witnessed so many, made me in a sense but little liable to be moved when told of any new outrage. But the sight of that Highlander wrenching from Sarah Lochrig's finger our wedding-ring did, in its effects and influences, cause a change in my nature as sudden and as wonderful as that which the rod of Moses underwent in being quickened into a serpent.
For some time I sat as I was sitting while the deed was doing; and when my wife, after the plunderers had departed, said to me, soothingly, that we had reason to be thankful for having endured no other loss than a little world's gear, she was surprised at the sedateness with which I responded to her pious condolements. Michael, our first-born, then in the prime beauty of his manhood, had been absent when the robbery was committed, and coming in, on hearing what had been done, flamed with the generous rage of youth, and marvelled that I had been so calm. My blithe and blooming Mary joined her ingenuous admiration to theirs, but my mild and sensible Margaret fell upon my neck, and weeping, cried, "O! father, it's no worth the doure thought that gars your brows sae gloom;" while Joseph, the youngest of the flock, then in his twelfth year, brought the Bible and laid it on my knees.
I opened the Book, and would have read a portion, but the passage which caught my eye was the beginning of the sixth chapter of Jeremiah, "O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Beth-haccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction." And I thought it was a voice calling me to arm, and to raise the banner against the oppressor; and thereupon I shut the Book, and retiring to the fields, communed with myself for some time.
Having returned into the house, and sent Michael to my brother's to inquire how it had fared with him and his family, I at the same time directed Joseph to go to Irvine, and tell our friends there to help us with a supply of blankets, for the Highlanders had taken away my horses and driven off my cattle, and we had no means of bringing any thing.
But Joseph was not long gone when Michael came flying back from my brother's, and I saw by his looks that something very dreadful had been committed, and said,—
"Are they all in life?"
"Aye in life!" and, the tears rushing into his eyes, he exclaimed, "But O! I wish that my cousin Bell had been dead and buried!"
Bell Gilhaize, my brother's only daughter, was the lightest-hearted maiden in all our parish. It had long been a pleasure both to her father and me to observe a mingling of affections between her and Michael, and the year following had been fixt for their marriage.
"The time of weeping, Michael," said I, "is past, and the time of warring will soon come. It is not in man to bear always aggression, nor can it be required of him ever to endure contumely."
"What has befallen Bell?" said his mother to him; but instead of making her any answer, he uttered a dreadful sound, like the howl of madness, and hastily quitted the house.
Sarah Lochrig, who was a woman of a serene reason, and mild and gracious in her nature, looked at me with a silent sadness, that told all the anguish with which the horror that she guessed had darted into her soul; and then, with an energy that I never saw in her before, folded her own two daughters to her bosom, as if she was in terror for them, and bathed their necks with tears.
While we were in this state my brother himself came in. He was now a man well stricken in years, but of a hale appearance, and usually of an open and manly countenance. Nor on this occasion did he appear greatly altered; but there was a fire in his eye, and a severity in his aspect, such as I'd never seen before, yet withal a fortitude that showed how strong the self-possession was, which kept the tempest within him from breaking out in word or gesture.
"Ringan," said he, "we have met with a misfortune. It's the will of Providence, and we maun bear it. But surely in the anger that is caused by provocation, our Creator tells us to resent. From this hour, all obligation, obedience, allegiance, all whatsoever that as a subject I did owe to Charles Stuart is at an end. I am his foe; and the Lord put strength into my arm to revenge the ruin of my bairn!"
There was in the utterance of these words a solemnity at first terrifying to hear; but his voice in the last clause of the sentence faltered, and he took off his bonnet and held it over his face, and wept bitterly.
I could make him no answer for some time; but I took hold of his hand, and when he had a little mastered his grief, I said, "Brother, we are children of the same parents, and the wrongs of one are the wrongs of both. But let us not be hasty."
He took the bonnet from his face, and looked at me sternly for a little while, and then he said,—
"Ringan Gilhaize, till you have felt what I feel, you ne'er can know that the speed o' lightning is slow to the wishes and the will of revenge."
At that moment his daughter Bell was brought in, led by my son Michael. Her father, at the sight of her, clasped his hands wildly above his head, and rushed out of the house. My wife went towards her, but stopped and fell back into my arms at the sight of her demented look. My daughters gazed, and held up their trembling hands.
"Speak to her," said Michael to his sisters; "she'll maybe heed you;" and he added, "Bell, it's Mary and Peggy," and dropping her hand, he went to lead Mary to her, while she stood like a statue on the spot.
"Dear Bell," said I, as I moved myself gently from the arms of my afflicted wife, "come wi' me to the open air;" and I took her by the hand which poor Michael had dropped, and led her out to the green, but still she looked the same demented creature.
Her father, who had by this time again overcome his distress, seeing us on the green, came towards us, while my wife and daughters also came out; but Michael could no longer endure the sight of the rifled rose that he had cherished for the ornament of his bosom, and he remained to hide his grief in the house.
"Her mind's gone, Ringan," said my brother, "and she'll ne'er be better in this world!" Nor was she; but she lived many months after, and in all the time never shed a tear, nor breathed a sigh, nor spoke a word; where she was led she went; where she was left, she stood. At last she became so weak that she could not stand; and one day, as I was sitting at her bedside, I observed that she lay unusually still, and touching her hand, found that all her sorrows were over.
From the day of the desolation of his daughter, my brother seldom held any communion with me; but I observed that with Michael he had much business, and though I asked no questions, I needed not to be told that there was a judgment and a doom in what they did. I was therefore fearful that some rash step would be taken at the burial of Bell; for it was understood that all the neighbours, far and near, intended to be present to testify their pity for her fate. So I spoke to Mr Witherspoon concerning my fears, and by his exhortations the body was borne to the kirk-yard in a solemn and peaceable manner.
But just as the coffin was laid in the grave, and before a spadeful of earth was thrown, a boy came running crying, "Sharp's kill't!—the apostate's dead!" which made every one turn round and pause; and while we were thus standing, a horseman came riding by, who confirmed the tidings, that a band of men whom his persecutions had made desperate, had executed justice on the apostate as he was travelling in his carriage with his daughter on Magus-moor. While the stranger was telling the news, the corpse lay in the grave unburied; and dreadful to tell! when he had made an end of his tale, there was a shout of joy and exultation set up by all present, except by Michael and my brother. They stood unmoved, and I thought—do I them any wrong?—that they looked disconsolate and disappointed.
But though the judgment on James Sharp was a cause of satisfaction to all covenanted hearts, many were not yet so torn by the persecution as entirely to applaud the deed. I shall not therefore enter upon the particulars of what was done anent those who dealt his doom, for they were not of our neighbourhood.
The crime, however, of listening peacefully in the fields to the truths of the Gospel became, in the sight of the persecutors, every day more and more heinous, and they gave themselves up to the conscience-soothing tyranny of legal ordinances, as if the enactment and execution of bloody laws, contrary to those of God, and against the unoffending privileges of our nature, were not wickedness of as dark a stain as the murderer's use of his secret knife. Edict and proclamation against field-preachings and conventicles came following each other, and the latest was the fiercest and fellest of all which had preceded. But the cause of truth, and the right of communion with the Lord, was not to be given up: "It is not for glory," we said in the words of those brave Scottish barons that redeemed, with King Robert the Bruce, their native land from the thraldom of the English Edward, "nor is it for riches, neither is it for honour, but it is for liberty alone we contend, which no true man will lose but with his life;" and therefore it was that we would not yield obedience to the tyranny, which was revived with new strength by the death of James Sharp, in revenge for his doom, but sought, in despite of decrees and statutes, to hear THE WORD where we believed it was best spoken.
The laws of God, which are above all human authority, require that we should worship him in truth and in holiness, and we resolved to do so to the uttermost, and prepared ourselves with arms to resist whoever might be sent to molest us in the performance of that the greatest duty. But in so exercising the divine right of resistance, we were not called upon to harm those whom we knew to be our adversaries. Belting ourselves for defence, not for war, we went singly to our places of secret meeting in the glens and on the moors, and when the holy exercise was done, we returned to our homes as peacefully as we went thither.
Many a time I have since thought, that surely in no other age or land was ever such a solemn celebration of the Sabbath as in those days. The very dangers with which we were environed exalted the devout heart; verily it was a grand sight to see the fearless religious man moving from his house in the grey of the morning, with the Bible in his hand, and his sword for a staff, walking towards the hills for many a weary mile, hoping the preacher would be there, and praying as he went that there might be no molestation.
Often and often on those occasions has the Lord been pleased to shelter his worshippers from their persecutors by covering them with the mantle of His tempest; and many a time at the dead of night, when the winds were soughing around, and the moon was bowling through the clouds, we have stood on the heath of the hills and the sound of our psalms has been mingled with the roaring of the gathering waters.
The calamities which drove us thus to worship in the wilderness, and amidst the storm, rose to their full tide on the back of the death of the arch-apostate James Sharp; for all the religious people in the realm were in a manner regarded by the government as participators in the method of his punishment. And Claverhouse, whom I have now to speak of, got that special commission on which he rode so wickedly, to put to the sword whomsoever he found with arms at any preaching in the fields; so that we had no choice in seeking to obtain the consolations of religion, which we then stood so much in need of, but to congregate in such numbers as would deter the soldiers from venturing to attack us. This it was which caused the second rising, and led to the fatal day of Bothwell-brigg, whereof it is needful that I should particularly speak, not only on account of the great stress that was thereon laid by the persecutors, in making out of it a method of fiery ordeal to afflict the covenanted, but also because it was the overflowing fountain-head of the deluge that made me desolate. And herein, courteous reader, should aught of a fiercer feeling than belongs to the sacred sternness of truth and justice escape from my historical pen, thou wilt surely pardon the same, if there be any of the gracious ruth of Christian gentleness in thy bosom; for now I have to tell of things that have made the annals of the land as red as crimson and filled my house with the blackness of ashes and universal death.
For a long period there had been, from the causes and circumstances premised, sore difficulties in the assembling of congregations, and the sacrament of the Supper had not been dispensed in many parts of the shire of Ayr from the time of the Highland host; so that there was a great longing in the hearts of the covenanted to partake once again of that holy refreshment; and shortly after the seed-time it began to be concerted, that early in the summer a day should be set apart, and a place fixed for the celebration of the same. About the time of the interment of my brother's desolated daughter, and the judgment of the death executed on James Sharp, it was settled that the moors of Loudon-hill should be the place of meeting, and that the first Sabbath of June should be the day. But what ministers would be there was not settled; for who could tell which, in those times, would be spared from prison?
It was, however, forethought and foreseen, that the assemblage of communicants would be very considerable; for, in order that there might be the less risk of molestation, a wish that it should be so was put forth among us, to the end that the King's forces might swither to disperse us. Accordingly, with my disconsolate brother and son, I went to be present at that congregation, and we carried our arms with us, as we were then in the habit of doing on all occasions of public testimony by worship.
In the meantime a rent had been made in the Covenant, partly by the over-zeal of certain young preachers, who, not feeling, as we did, that the duty of presbyterians went no farther than defence and resistance, strove, with all the pith of an effectual eloquence, to exasperate the minds of their hearers into hostility against those in authority; and it happened that several of those who had executed the judgment on James Sharp, seeing no hope of pardon for what they had done, leagued themselves with this party, in the hope of thereby making head against their pursuers.
I have been the more strict in setting down these circumstantials, because in the bloody afterings of that meeting they were altogether lost sight of; and also because the implacable rage with which Claverhouse persecuted the Covenanters has been extenuated by some discreet historians, on the plea of his being an honourable officer, deduced from his soldierly worth elsewhere; whereas the truth is, that his cruelties in the shire of Ayr, and other of our western parts, were less the fruit of his instructions, wide and severe as they were, than of his own mortified vanity and malignant revenge.
It was in the cool of the evening, on Saturday, the last day of May, when my brother came over to my house, where, with Michael, I had prepared myself to go with him to Loudon-hill. Our intent was to walk that night to Kilmarnock, and abide till the morning with our brother Jacob's widow, not having seen her for a long time.
We had in the course of that day heard something of the publication of "The Declaration and Testimony," which, through the vehemence of the preachers before spoken of, had been rashly counselled at Ruglen, the twenty-ninth of the month; but there was no particulars, and what we did hear was like, as all such things are, greatly magnified beyond the truth. We, however, were grieved by the tidings; for we feared some cause of tribulation would be thereby engendered detrimental to the religious purposes of our journey.
This sentiment pressing heavily on our hearts, we parted from my family with many misgivings, and the bodements of further sorrows. But the outward expression of what we all felt was the less remarkable, on account of what so lately had before happened in my brother's house. Nor indeed did I think at the time, that the foretaste of what was ordained so speedily to come to a head was at all so lively in his spirit, or that of my son, as it was in mine, till, in passing over the top of the Gowan-brae, he looked round on the lands of Quharist, and said,—
"I care nae, Ringan, if I ne'er come back; for though we hae lang dwelt in affection together yon'er, thae that were most precious to me are now both aneath the sod,"—alluding to his wife who had been several years dead,—and poor Bell, that lovely rose which the ruthless spoiler had so trampled into the earth.
"I feel," said Michael, "as if I were going to a foreign land, there is sic a farewell sadness upon me."
But we strove to overcome this, and walked leisurely on the high road towards Kilmarnock, trying to discourse of indifferent things; and as the gloaming faded, and the night began to look forth, from her watch-tower in the heavens, with all her eyes of beautiful light, we communed of the friends that we trusted were in glory, and marvelled if it could be that they saw us after death, or ever revisited the persons and the scenes that they loved in life. Rebellion or treason, or any sense of thoughts and things that were not holy, had no portion in our conversation: we were going to celebrate the redemption of fallen man; and we were mourning for friends no more; our discourse was of eternal things, and the mysteries of the stars and the lights of that world which is above the firmament.
When we reached Kilmarnock we found that Jacob's widow had, with several other godly women, set out towards the place of meeting, to sojourn with a relation that night, in order that they might be the abler to gather the manna of the word in the morning. We therefore resolved not to halt there, but to go forward to the appointed place, and rest upon the spot. This accordingly doing, we came to the eastern side of Loudon-hill, the trysted place, shortly after the first scad of the dawn.
Many were there before us, both men and women and little children, and horses intermingled, some slumbering, and some communing with one another; and as the morning brightened, it was a hallowed sight to behold from that rising ground the blameless persecuted coming with sedate steps to worship their Maker on the mountain.
The Reverend Mr Thomas Douglas, who was to open the action, arrived about the rising of the sun with several other ministers, and behind them four aged men belonging to Strathaven bearing the elements.
A pious lady, whose name I never heard, owing to what ensued, spread with her own hands a damask tablecloth on the ground, and the bread and wine were placed upon it with more reverence than ever was in kirk.
Mr Douglas having mounted upon a rock nigh to where this was done, was about to give out the psalm, when we observed several country lads, that were stationed as watchers afar off, coming with great haste in; and they brought word, that Claverhouse and his dragoons were coming to disperse us, bringing with them the Reverend Mr King, a preacher of the gospel at Hamilton, and others that they had made prisoners, tied with cords two and two.
The tidings for a moment caused panic and consternation; but as the men were armed, and resolved to resist, it was thought, in consideration of the women and children, that we ought to go forward, and prevent the adversaries from advancing. Accordingly, to the number of forty horsemen, and maybe near to two hundred foot, we drew ourselves apart from the congregation, and marched to meet Claverhouse, thinking, perhaps, on seeing us so numerous, that he would not come on,—while Mr Douglas proceeded with the worship, the piety of none with him being abated by this grievous visitation.
Mr William Clelland, with Mr Hamilton, who had come with Mr Douglas, were our leaders, and we met Claverhouse on the moor of Drumclog.
The dragoons were the first to halt, and Claverhouse, having ordered his prisoners to be drawn aside, was the first who gave the word to fire. This was without any parley or request to know whether we came with hostile intent or no. Clelland, on seeing the dragoons make ready, cried to us all to den ourselves among the heather; by which forethought the shot flew harmless. Then we started up, and every one, with the best aim he could, fired at the dragoons as they were loading their carabines. Several men and horses were killed, and many wounded. Claverhouse seeing this, commanded his men to charge upon us; but the ground was rough, the heather deep, and the moss broken where peats had been dug, and the horses floundered, and several threw their riders, and fell themselves.
We had now loaded again, and the second fire was more deadly than the first. Our horsemen also seeing how the dragoons were scattered, fell in the confusion as it were man for man upon them. Claverhouse raged and commanded, but no one now could or would obey. In that extremity his horse was killed, and, being thrown down, I ran forward to seize him, if I could, prisoner; but he still held his sword in his hand, and rising as I came up, used it manfully, and with one stroke almost hewed my right arm from my shoulder. As he fled I attempted for a moment to follow, but staggered and fell. He looked back as he escaped, and I cried—"Blood for blood;" and it has been so, as I shall hereafter in the sequel relate.
When the day was won, we found we numbered among the slain on the side of the vanquished nearly twenty of the dragoons: on our side we lost but one man, John Morton—a ripe saint; but several were wounded; and John Weir and William Daniel died of their wounds. Such was the day of Drumclog.
Being wounded, I was carried to a neighbouring farm, attended by my brother and son, and there put upon a cart and sent home to Quharist, as it was thought I would be best attended there. They then returned to the rest of the host, who, seeing themselves thus brought into open war, resolved forthwith to proceed to Glasgow, and to raise again the banner of the Covenant.
But Claverhouse had fled thither, burning with the thought of being so shorn in his military pride by raw and undisciplined countrymen, whom, if we had been bred soldiers, maybe he would have honoured, but being what we were, though our honour was the greater, he hated us with the deadly aversion that is begotten of vanity chastised; for that it was which incited him to ravage the West Country with such remorselessness, and which, when our men were next day repulsed at Glasgow with the loss of lives, made him hinder the removal of the bodies from the streets, till it was said the butchers' dogs began to prey upon them.
But not to insist on matters of hearsay, nor to dwell at any greater length on those afflicting events, I must refer the courteous reader to the history of the times for what followed, it being enough for me to state here that as soon as the news spread of the battle and the victory, the persecuted ran flocking in from all quarters, by which the rope of sand, that the Lord permitted Monmouth to break at Bothwell-brigg, was soon formed. My brother and my son were both there, and there my gallant Michael lies. My brother, then verging on threescore, being among the prisoners, was, after sore sufferings in the Greyfriars church-yard of Edinburgh, sent on board a vessel as a bondsman to the plantations in America. His wrongs, however, were happily soon over; for the ship in which he was embarked perished among the Orkney islands, and he, with two hundred other sufferers, received the crown of martyrdom from the waves.
O Charles Stuart, king of Scotland! and thou, James Sharp!—false and cruel men—But ye are called to your account; and what avails it now to the childless father to rail upon your memory?
Before proceeding farther at this present time with the doleful tale of my own sufferings, it is required of me, as an impartial historian, to note here a very singular example of the spirit of piety which reigned in the hearts of the Covenanters, especially as I shall have to show that such was the cruel and implacable nature of the Persecution, that time had not its wonted influence to soften in any degree its rigour. Thirteen years had passed from the time of the Pentland raid; and surely the manner in which the country had suffered for that rising might, in so long a course of years, have subdued the animosity with which we were pursued; especially, as during the Earl of Tweeddale's administration the bonds of peace had been accepted. But Lauderdale, now at the head of the councils, was rapacious for money; and therefore all offences, if I may employ that courtly term, by which our endeavours to taste of the truth were designated,—all old offences, as I was saying, were renewed against us as recent crimes, and an innocent charity to the remains of those who had suffered for the Pentland raid was made a reason, after the battle of Bothwell-brigg, to revive the persecution of those who had been out in that affair.
The matter particularly referred to arose out of the following circumstances:
The number of honest and pious men who were executed in different places, and who had their heads and their right hands with which they signed the Covenant at Lanerk cut off, and placed on the gates of towns and over the doors of tolbooths, had been very great. And it was very grievous, and a sore thing to the friends and acquaintances of those martyrs, when they went to Glasgow, or Kilmarnock, or Irvine, or Ayr, on their farm business, to tryst or market, to see the remains of persons, whom they so loved and respected in life, bleaching in the winds and the rains of Heaven. It was, indeed, a matter of great heart-sadness, to behold such animosity carried beyond the grave; and few they were who could withstand the sight of the orphans that came thither, pointing out to one another their fathers' bones, and weeping as they did so, and vowing, with an innocent indignation, that they would avenge their martyrdom.
Well do I remember the great sorrow that arose one market-day in Irvine, some five or six years after the Pentland raid, when Mrs M'Coul came, with her four weans and her aged gudemother, to look at the relics of her husband, who was martyred for his part in that rising. The bones were standing, with those of another martyr of that time, on a shelf which had been put up for the purpose, below the first wicket-hole in the steeple, just above the door. The two women were very decent in their apparel, rather more so than the common country wives. The gudemother, in particular, had a cast of gentility both in her look and garments; and I have heard the cause of it expounded, from her having been the daughter of one of the Reformation preachers in the Gospel-spreading epoch of John Knox. She had a crimson satin plaid over her head, and she wore a black silk apron and a grey camlet gown. With the one hand she held the plaid close to her neck, and the youngest child, a lassie of seven years or so, had hold of her by the fore-finger of the other.
Mrs M'Coul was more of a robust fabric, and she was without any plaid, soberly dressed in the weeds of a widow, with a clean cambric handkerchief very snodly prined over her breast. The children were likewise beinly apparelled, and the two sons were buirdly and brave laddies, the one about nine, and the other maybe eleven years old.
It would seem that this had been the first of their pilgrimages of sorrow; for they stood some time in a row at the foot of the tolbooth stair, looking up at the remains, and wondering, with tears in their eyes, which were those they had come to see.
Their appearance drew around them many onlookers, both of the country folk about the Cross and inhabitants of the town; but every one respected their sorrow, and none ventured to disturb them with any questions; for all saw that they were kith or kin to the godly men who had testified to the truth and the Covenant in death.
It happened, however, that I had occasion to pass by, and some of the town's folk who recollected me, said whisperingly to one another, but loud enough to be heard, that I was one of the persecuted; whereupon Mrs M'Coul turned round and said to me, with a constrained composure,—
"Can ye tell me whilk o' yon's the head and hand o' John M'Coul, that was executed for the covenanting at Lanerk?"
I knew the remains well, for they had been pointed out to me and I had seen them very often, but really the sight of the two women and the fatherless bairns so overcame me that I was unable to answer.
"It's the head and the hand beside it, that has but twa fingers left, on the Kirkgate end o' the shelf!" replied a person in the crowd, whom I knew at once by his voice to be Willy Sutherland the hangman, although I had not seen him from the night of my evasion. And here let me not forget to set down the Christian worth and constancy of that simple and godly creature, who, rather than be instrumental in the guilty judgment by which John M'Coul and his fellow-sufferer were doomed to die, did himself almost endure martyrdom, and yet never swerved in his purpose, nor was abated in his integrity, in so much, that when questioned thereafter anent the same by the Earl of Eglinton, and his Lordship, being moved by the simplicity of his piety, said, "Poor man, you did well in not doing what they would have had you to do."
"My Lord," replied Willy, "you are speaking treason! and yet you persecute to the uttermost, which shows that you go against the light of your conscience."
"Do you say so to me, after I kept you from being hanged?" said his Lordship.
"Keep me from being drowned, and I will still tell you the verity." The which honesty in that poor man begat for him a compassionate regard that the dignities of many great and many noble in that time could never command.
When the sorrowful M'Couls had indulged themselves in their melancholy contemplation, they went away, followed by the multitude with silence and sympathy, till they had mounted upon the cart which they had brought with them into the town. But from that time every one began to speak of the impiety of leaving the bones so wofully exposed; and after the skirmish at Drumclog, where Robin M'Coul, the eldest of the two striplings above spoken of, happened to be, when Mr John Welsh, with the Carrick men that went to Bothwell-brigg, was sent into Glasgow to bury the heads and hands of the martyrs there, Robin M'Coul came with a party of his friends to Irvine to bury his father's bones. I was not myself present at the interment, being, as I have narrated, confined to my bed by reason of my wound. But I was told by the neighbours, that it was a very solemn and affecting scene. The grieved lad carried the relics of his father in a small box in his hands, covered with a white towel; and the godly inhabitants of the town, young and old, and of all denominations, to the number of several hundreds, followed him to the grave where the body was lying; and Willy Sutherland, moved by a simple sorrow, was the last of all; and he walked, as I was told, alone, behind, with his bonnet in his hand; for, from his calling, he counted himself not on an equality with other men. But it is time that I should return from this digression to the main account of my narrative.
Being wounded, as I have rehearsed, at Drumclog, and carried to my own house, Sarah Lochrig, while she grieved with a mother's grief for the loss of our first-born and the mournful fate of my honest brother, advanced my cure more by her loving ministrations to my aching mind, than by the medicaments that were applied to the bodily wound, in so much that something like a dawn of comfort was vouchsafed to me.
Our parish was singularly allowed to remain unmolested when, after the woful day of Bothwell-brigg, Claverhouse came to ravage the shire of Ayr, and to take revenge for the discomfiture which he had suffered, in his endeavour to disturb the worship and sacrament at Loudon-hill. Still, however, at times clouds overcame my spirit; and one night my daughter Margaret had a remarkable dream, which taught us to expect some particular visitation.
It was surely a mysterious reservation for the greater calamity which ensued, that while the vial of wrath was pouring out around us, my house should have been allowed to remain so unmolested. Often indeed when in our nightly worship I returned thanks for a blessing so wonderful in that time of general woe, has a strange fear fallen upon me and I have trembled in thought, as if the thing for which I sent up the incense of my thanks to heaven, was a device of the Enemy of man, to make me think myself more deserving of favour than the thousands of covenanted brethren who then, in Scotland, were drinking of the bitterness of the suffering. But in proportion as I was then spared, the heavier afterwards was my trial.
Among the prisoners taken at Bothwell-brigg were many persons from our parish and neighbourhood, who, after their unheard-of sufferings among the tombs and graves of the Greyfriars church-yard at Edinburgh, were allowed to return home. Though in this there was a show of clemency, it was yet but a more subtle method of the tyranny to reach new victims. For those honest men were not long home till grievous circuit-courts were set agoing, to bring to trial not only all those who were at Bothwell, or approved of that rising, but likewise those who had been at the Pentland raid; and the better to ensure condemnation and punishment, sixteen persons were cited from every parish to bear witness as to who, among their neighbours, had been out at Bothwell, or had harboured any of those who were there. The wicked curates made themselves, in this grievous matter, engines of espionage, by giving in the names of those, their parishioners, whom they knew could bear the best testimony.
Thus it was, that many who had escaped from the slaughter—from the horrors of the Greyfriars church-yard—and from the drowning in the Orkneys,—and, like myself, had resumed their quiet country labour, were marked out for destruction. For the witnesses cited to Ayr against us were persons who had been released from the Greyfriars church-yard, as I have said, and who, being honest men, could not, when put to their oaths, but bear witness to the truth of the matters charged against us. And nothing surely could better show the devilish spirit with which those in authority were at that time actuated, nor the unchristian nature of the prelacy, than that the prisoners should thus have been set free to be made the accusers of their neighbours; and that the curates, men professing to be ministers of the Gospel, should have been such fit instruments for such unheard-of machinations. But to hasten forward to the fate and issue of this self-consuming tyranny, I shall leave all generalities, and proceed with the events of my own case; and, in doing so, I shall endeavour what is in me to inscribe the particulars with a steady hand; for I dare no longer now trust myself with looking to the right or to the left of the field of my matter. I shall, however, try to narrate things just as they happened, leaving the courteous reader to judge what passed at the time in the suffocating throbs wherewith my heart was then affected.
It was the last day of February, of the year following Bothwell-brigg, that, in consequence of these subtle and wicked devices, I was taken up. I had, from my wound, been in an ailing state for many months, and could then do little in the field; but the weather for the season was mild, and I had walked out in the tranquillity of a sunny afternoon to give my son Joseph some instructions in the method of ploughing; for, though he was then but in his thirteenth year, he was a by-common stripling in capacity and sense. He was indeed a goodly plant; and I had hoped, in my old age, to have sat beneath the shelter of his branches; but the axe of the feller was untimely laid to the root, and it was too soon, with all the blossoms of the fairest promise, cast down into the dust. But my task now is of vengeance and justice, not of sorrowing, and I must more sternly grasp the iron pen.
A party of soldiers, who had been that afternoon sent out to bring in certain persons (among whom I was one) in a list malignantly transmitted to the Archbishop of Glasgow, by Andrew Dornoch, the prelatic usurper of our minister's place, as I was leaving the field where my son was ploughing, saw me from the road, and ordered me to halt till they came up, or they would fire at me.
It would have been unavailing of me, in the state I then was, to have attempted to flee, so I halted; and, after some entreaty with the soldiers, got permission from them to have my horse and cart yoket, as I was not very well, and so to be carried to Ayr. And here I should note down that, although there was in general a coarse spirit among the King's forces, yet in these men there was a touch of common humanity. This was no doubt partly owing to their having been some months quartered in Irvine, where they became naturally softened by the friendly spirit of the place. It was not, however, ordained that men so merciful should be permitted to remain long there.
As it was an understood thing that the object of the trials to which the Covenanters were in this manner subjected was chiefly to raise money and forfeitures for the rapacious Duke of Lauderdale, then in the rule and power of the council at Edinburgh, my being carried away prisoner to Ayr awakened less grief and consternation in my family than might have been expected from the event. Through the humane permission of my guard, having a little time to confer with Sarah Lochrig before going away, it was settled between us that she should gather together what money she could procure, either by loan or by selling our corn and cattle, in order to provide for the payment of the fine that we counted would be laid upon us. I was then taken to the tolbooth of Ayr, where many other covenanted brethren were lying to await the proceedings of the circuit-court, which was to be opened by the Lord Kelburne from Glasgow, on the second day after I had been carried thither.
Among the prisoners were several who knew me well, and who condoled as Christians with me for the loss I had sustained at Bothwell; so, but for the denial of the fresh and heavenly air, and the freedom of the fields, the time of our captivity might have been a season of much solace: for they were all devout men, and the tolbooth, instead of resounding with the imprecations of malefactors, became melodious with the voice of psalms and of holy communion, and the sweet intercourse of spirits that delighted in one another for the constancy with which they had borne their testimony.
When the Lord Kelburne arrived, on the first day that the court opened, I was summoned to respond to the offences laid to my charge, if any charge of offence it may be called, wherein the purpose of the court was seemingly to search out opinions that might serve as matter to justify the infliction of the fines,—the whole end and intent of those circuits not being to award justice, but to find the means of extorting money. In some respects, however, I was more mercifully dealt by than many of my fellow-sufferers; but in order to show how, even in my case, the laws were perverted, I will here set down a brief record of my examination or trial, as it was called.
The council-room was full of people when I was taken thither, and the Lord Kelburne, who sat at the head of the table, was abetted in the proceedings by Murray, an advocate from Edinburgh. They were sitting at a wide round table, within a fence which prevented the spectators from pressing in upon them. There were many papers and letters folded up in bundles lying before them, and a candle burning, and wax for sigillation. Besides Lord Kelburne and his counsellor, there were divers gentlemen seated at the table, and two clerks to make notations.
Lord Kelburne, in his appearance, was a mild-looking man, and for his years his hair was very hoary; for though he was seemingly not passing fifty, it was in a manner quite blanched. In speech he was moderate, in disposition indulgent, and verily towards me he acted in his harsh duty with much gentleness.
But Murray had a doure aspect for his years, and there was a smile among his features not pleasant to behold, breeding rather distrust and dread than winning confidence or affection, which are the natural fruit of a countenance rightly gladdened. He looked at me from aneath his brows as if I had been a malefactor, and turning to the Lord Kelburne, said,—
"He has the true fanatical yellow look."
This was a base observe; for naturally I was of a fresh complexion, but my long illness, and the close air of the prison, had made me pale.
After some more impertinences of that sort, he then said,—
"Ringan Gilhaize, you were at the battle of Bothwell-brigg."
"I was not," said I.
"You do not mean to say so, surely?"
"I have said it," was my answer.
Whereupon one of the clerks whispered to him that there were three of the name in the list.
"O!" cried he, "I crave your pardon, Ringan; there are several persons of your name; and though you were not at Bothwell yourself, maybe ye ken those of your name who were there,—Do you?"
"I did know two," was my calm answer; "one was my brother, and the other my son."
All present remained very silent as I made this answer; and the Lord Kelburne bending forward, leant his cheek on his hand as he rested his elbow on the table, and looked very earnestly at me. Murray resumed,—
"And pray now, Ringan, tell us what has become of the two rebels?"
"They were covenanted Christians," said I; "my son lies buried with those that were slain on that sore occasion."
"But your brother; he was of course younger than you?"
"No; he was older."
"Well, well, no matter as to that; but where is he?"
"I believe he is with his Maker; but his body lies among the rocks at the bottom of the Orkney seas."
The steadiness of the Lord Kelburne's countenance saddened into the look of compassion, and he said to Murray,—
"There is no use in asking him any more questions about them; proceed with the ordinary interrogatories."
There was a murmur of satisfaction towards his Lordship at this; and Murray said,—
"And so you say that those in the late rebellion at Bothwell were not rebels?"
"I said, sir, that my son and my brother were covenanted Christians."
This I delivered with a firm voice, which seemed to produce some effect on the Lord Kelburne, who threw himself back in his chair, and crossing his arms over his breast, looked still more eagerly towards me.
"Do you mean then to deny," said Murray, "that the late rebellion was not a rebellion?"
"It would be hard, sir, to say what it was; for the causes thereto leading," replied I, "were provocations concerning things of God, and to those who were for that reason religiously there, I do not think, in a right sense, it can be called rebellion. Those who were there for carnal motives, and I doubt not there were many such, I fancy every honest man may say it was with them rebellion."
"I must deal more closely with him," said Murray to his Lordship; but his Lordship, before allowing him to put any more questions, said himself to me,—
"But you know, to state the thing plainly, that the misguided people who were at Bothwell had banded themselves against the laws of the realm, whether from religious or carnal motives is not the business we are here to sift, that point is necessarily remitted to God and their consciences."
Murray added, "It is most unreasonable to suppose that every subject is free to determine of what is lawful to be obeyed. The thought is ridiculous. It would destroy the end of all laws which are for the advantage of communities, and which speak the sense of the generality, touching the matter and things to which they refer."
"My Lord," said I, addressing myself to Lord Kelburne, "it surely will ne'er be denied that every subject is free to exercise his discretion with respek to his ain conduct; and your Lordship kens vera weel that it is the duty of subjects to know the laws of the land; and your Lordship likewise knows that God has given laws to all rulers as well as subjects, and both may and ought to know His laws. Now if I, knowing both the laws of God and the laws of the land, find the one contrary to the other, undoubtedly God's laws ought to hae the preference in my obedience."
His Lordship looked somewhat satisfied with this answer; but Murray said to him,—
"I will pose him with this question. If presbyterian government were established, as it was in the year 1648, and some ministers were not free to comply with it, and a law were made that none should hear them out o' doors, would you judge it reasonable that such ministers or their people should be at liberty to act in contempt of that law."
And he looked mightily content with himself for this subtlety; but I said,—
"Really, sir, I canna see a reason why hearkening to a preaching in the fields should be a greater guilt than doing the same thing indoors."
"If I were of your principles," said the advocate, "and thought in my conscience that the laws of the land were contrary to the laws of God, and that I could not conform to them, I would judge it my duty rather to go out of the nation and live elsewhere, than disturb the peace of the land."
"That were to suppose two things," said I; "first, that rulers may make laws contrary to the laws of God, and that when such laws are once made, they ought to be submitted to. But I think, sir, that rulers being under the law of God act wickedly and in rebellion to Him, when they make enactments contrary to His declared will; and surely it can ne'er be required that we should allow wickedness to be done."
"I am not sure," said Murray to his Lordship, "that I do right in continuing this irrelevant conversation."
"I am interested in the honest man's defence," replied Lord Kelburne; "and as 'tis in a matter of conscience, let us hear what makes it so."
"Well, then," resumed the advocate, "what can you say to the barbarous murder of Archbishop Sharp?—You will not contend that murder is not contrary to the law of God?"
"I ne'er contended," said I, "that any sin was permitted by the law of God—far less murder, which is expressly forbidden in the Ten Commands."
"Then ye acknowledge the murder of the Archbishop to have been murder?"
"That's between those that did it and God."
"Hooly, hooly, friend!" cried Murray; "that, Ringan, winna do; was it or was it not murder?"
"Can I tell, who was not there?"
"Then to satisfy your conscience on that score, Ringan, I would ask you, if a gang of ruffians slay a defenceless man, do or do they not commit murder?"
"I can easily answer that."
Lord Kelburne again bent eagerly forward, and rested his cheek again on his hand, placing his elbow on the table, while I continued,—
"A gang of ruffians coming in wantonness, or for plunder, upon a defenceless man, and putting him to death, there can be no doubt is murder; but it has not yet been called murder to kill an enemy in battle; and therefore, if the captain of a host go to war without arms, and thereby be defenceless, it cannot be said that those of the adverse party, who may happen to slay him, do any murder."
"Do you mean to justify the manner of the death of the Archbishop?" exclaimed the advocate, starting back and spreading out his arms in wonderment.
"'Deed no, sir," replied I, a little nettled at the construction he would put upon what I said; "but I will say, even here, what Sir Davie Lindsay o' the Mount said on the similar event o' Cardinal Beaton's death,—
'As for this Cardinal, I grant He was the man we might well want; God will forgive it soon: But of a truth, the sooth to say, Although the loon be well away, The fact was foully done.'"
There was a rustle of gratification among all in the court as I said the rhyme, and Lord Kelburne smiled; but Murray, somewhat out of humour, said,—
"I fancy, my Lord, we must consider this as an admission that the killing of the Archbishop was murder."
"I fear," said his Lordship, "that neither of the two questions have been so directly put as to justify me to pronounce any decision, though I am willing to put the most favourable construction on what has passed." And then his Lordship, looking to me, added,—
"Do you consider the late rebellion, being contrary to the King's authority, rebellion?"
"Contrary to the King's right authority," replied I, "it was not rebellion; but contrary to an authority beyond the right taken by him, despite the law of God, it was rebellion."
"Wherefore, honest man," rejoined his Lordship kindly, "would you make a distinction that may bring harm on your own head? Is not the King's authority instituted by law and prerogative, and knowing that, cannot ye say that those who rise in arms against it are rebels?"
"My Lord," said I, "you have my answer; for in truth and in conscience I can give none other."
There was a pause for a short space, and one of the clerks looking to Lord Kelburne, his Lordship said, with a plain reluctance, "It must even be so; write down that he is not clear the late rebellion should be called a rebellion;" and casting his eyes entreatingly towards me, he added, "But I think you acknowledge that the assassination of Archbishop Sharp was a murder?"
"My Lord," said I, "your questions are propounded as tests and therefore, as an honest man, I cannot suffer that my answers should be scant, lest I might be thought to waver in faith and was backward in my testimony. No, my Lord, I will not call the killing of Sharp murder; for on my conscience, I do verily think he deserved the death: First, because of his apostacy; second, because of the laws of which he was the instigator, whereby the laws of God have been contravened; and, third, for the woes that those laws have brought upon the land, the which stirred the hearts of the people against him. Above all, I think his death was no murder, because he was so strong in his legalities, that he could not be brought to punishment by those to whom he had caused the greatest wrong;" and I thought, in saying these words, of my brother's desolated daughter—of his own sad death in the stormy seas of the Orkneys—and of my brave and gallant Michael, that was lying in his shroudless grave in the cold clay of Bothwell.
Lord Kelburne was troubled at my answer, and was about to remonstrate; but seeing the tear start into my eye as those things came into my mind, he said nothing, but nodding to the clerk, he bade him write down that I would not acknowledge the killing of the Archbishop a murder. He then rose and adjourned the court, remanding me to prison, saying that he would send me word what would be the extent of my punishment.
The same night it was intimated to me that I was fined in five hundred marks, and that bonds were required to be given for the payment; upon the granting of which, in consideration of my ill-health, the Lord Kelburne had consented I should be set free.
This was, in many respects, a more lenient sentence than I had expected; and in the hope that perhaps Sarah Lochrig might have been able to provide the money, so as to render the granting of the bonds and the procuring of cautioners unnecessary, I sent over a man on horseback to tell her the news, and the man in returning brought my son Joseph behind him, sent by his mother to urge me to give the bonds at once, as she had not been able to raise so much money; and the more to incite me, if there had been need for incitement, she had willed Joseph to tell me that a party of Claverhouse's dragoons had been quartered on the house that morning, to live there till the fine was paid.
Of the character of those freebooters I needed no certificate. They had filled every other place wherever they had been quartered with shame and never-ceasing sorrow, and therefore I was indeed roused to hear that my defenceless daughters were in their power, so I lost no time in sending my son to entreat two of his mother's relations, who were bein merchants in Ayr, to join me in the bond,—a thing which they did in the most compassionate manner;—and, the better to expedite the business, I got it to be permitted by the Lord Kelburne that the bonds should be sent the same day to Irvine, where I hoped to be able next morning to discharge them. All this was happily concerted and brought to a pleasant issue before sunset;—at which time I was discharged from the tolbooth, carrying with me many pious wishes from those who were there, and who had not been so gently dealt by.
It was my intent to have proceeded home the same night, but my son was very tired with the many errands he had run that day, and by his long ride in the morning; moreover, I was myself in need of repose, for my anxiety had brought on a disturbance in my blood, and my limbs shook, and I was altogether unable to undertake any journey. I was therefore too easily entreated of Archibald Lochrig, my wife's cousin, and one of my cautioners, to stop in his house that evening. But next morning, being much refreshed with a pleasant sleep and the fallacious cheering of happy dreams, I left Ayr, with my son, before the break of day, and we travelled with light feet, for our hearts were lifted up with hope.
Though my youth was long past, and many things had happened to sadden my spirit, I yet felt on that occasion an unaccountable sense of kindliness and joy. The flame of life was as it were renewed, and brightened in the pure and breezy air of the morning, and a bounding gladness rose in my bosom as my eye expatiated around in the freedom of the spacious fields. On the left-hand the living sea seemed as if the pulses of its moving waters were in unison with the throbbings of my spirit; and, like jocund maidens disporting themselves in the flowing tide, the gentle waves, lifting their heads, and spreading out their arms and raising their white bosoms to the rising sun, came as it were happily to the smooth sands of the sparkling shore. The grace of enjoyment brightened and blithened all things. There was a cheerfulness in the songs of the little birds that enchanted the young heart of my blooming boy to break forth into singing, and his carol was gayer than the melody of the lark. But that morning was the last time that either of us could ever after know pleasure any more in this world.
Eager to be home, and that I might share with Sarah Lochrig and our children the joy of thankfulness for my deliverance, I had resolved to call, in passing through Irvine, at the clerk's chamber, to inquire if the bonds had been sent from Ayr, that my cautioners might be as soon as possible discharged. But we had been so early a-foot that we reached the town while the inhabitants were yet all asleep, so that we thought it would be as well to go straight home; and accordingly we passed down the gait and through the town-end port without seeing any person in the street, save only the town-herd, as he was going with his horn to sound for the cows to be sent out to go with him to the moor.
The sight of a town in the peacefulness of the morning slumbers, and of a simple man going forth to lead the quiet cattle to pasture filled my mind with softer thoughts than I had long known, and I said to my son,—
"Surely those who would molest the peace of the poor hae ne'er rightly tasted the blessing of beholding the confidence with which they trust themselves in the watches of the night, and amidst the perils of their barren lot." And I felt my heart thaw again into charity with all men, and I was thankful for the delight.
As I was thus tasting again the luxury of gentle thoughts, a band of five dragoons came along the road, and Joseph said to me that they were the same who had been quartered in our house. I looked at them as they passed by, but they turned their heads aside.
"I wonder," said my son, "that they did na speak to me: I thought they had a black look."
"No doubt, Joseph," was my answer, "the men are no lost to a' sense of shame. They canna but be rebuked at the sight of a man that, maybe against their will, poor fellows, they were sent to oppress."
"I dinna like them the day, father, they're unco like ill-doers," said the thoughtful and observing stripling.
But my spirit was at the time full of good-will towards all men, and I reasoned with him against giving way to unkind thoughts, expounding, to the best of my ability, the nature of Gospel-charity, and the heavenlyness of good-will, saying to him,—
"The nature of charity's like the light o' the sun, by which all things are cherished. It is the brightness of the soul, and the glorious quality which proves our celestial descent. Our other feelings are common to a' creatures, but the feeling of charity is divine. It's the only thing in which man partakes of the nature of God."
Discoursing in this scriptural manner, we reached the Gowan-brae. My heart beat high with gladness. My son bounded forward to tell his mother and sisters of my coming. On gaining the brow of the hill he leapt from the ground with a frantic cry and clasped his hands. I ran towards him—but I remember no more—though at times something crosses my mind, and I have wild visions of roofless walls, and a crowd of weeping women and silent men digging among ashes, and a beautiful body, all dropping wet, brought on a deal from the mill-dam, and of men, as it was carried by, seizing me by the arms and tying my hands,—and then I fancy myself in a house fastened to a chair;—and sometimes I think I was lifted out and placed to beek in the sun and to taste the fresh air. But what these things import I dare only guess, for no one has ever told me what became of my benign Sarah Lochrig and our two blooming daughters;—all is phantasma that I recollect of the day of my return home. I said my soul was iron, and my heart converted into stone. O that they were indeed so! But sorrowing is a vain thing, and my task must not stand still.
When I left Ayr the leaves were green, and the fields gay, and the waters glad; and when the yellow leaf rustled on the ground, and the waters were drumly, and the river roaring, I was somehow, I know not by what means, in the kirk-yard, and a film fell from the eyes of my reason, and I looked around, and my little boy had hold of me by the hand, and I said to him, "Joseph, what's yon sae big and green in our lair?" and he gazed in my face, and the tears came into his eyes, and he replied,—
"Father, they are a' in the same grave." I took my hand out of his;—I walked slowly to the green tomb;—I knelt down, and I caused my son to kneel beside me, and I vowed enmity for ever against Charles Stuart and all of his line; and I prayed, in the words of the Psalmist, that when he was judged he might be condemned. Then we rose; but my son said to me,—
"Father, I canna wish his condemnation; but I'll fight by your side till we have harlt him down from his bloody throne."
And I felt that I had forgotten I was a Christian, and I again knelt down and prayed, but it was for the sin I had done in the vengeance of the latter clause. "Nevertheless, Lord," I then cried, "as Thou Thyself didst take the sceptre from Saul, and gave the crown to David, make me an instrument to work out the purposes of Thy dreadful justice, which in time will come to be."
Then I rose again, and went towards the place where my home had been; but when I saw the ruins I ran back to the kirk-yard, and threw myself on the grave, and cried to the earth to open and receive me.
But the Lord had heard my prayer, and while I lay there he sent down his consoling angel, and the whirlwind of my spirit was calmed, and I remembered the promise of my son to fight by my side, and I rose to prepare myself for the warfare.
While I was lying on the ground several of the neighbours had heard my wild cries, and came into the kirk-yard; but by that time the course of the tempest had been staid, and they stood apart with my son, who told them I was come again to myself, and they thought they ought not to disturb me; when, however, they saw me rise, they drew near and spoke kindly to me, and Zachariah Smylie invited me to go back with him to his house; for it was with him that I had been sheltered during the frenzy. But I said,—
"No: I will neither taste meat nor drink, nor seek to rest myself, till I have again a sword." And I entreated him to give me a little money, that, with my son, we might go into Irvine and provide ourselves with weapons.
The worthy man looked very sorrowful to hear me so speak, and some of the others, that were standing by, began to reason with me, and to represent the peril of any enterprise at that time. But I pointed to the grave, and said,—
"Friens, do you ken what's in yon place, and do ye counsel me to peace?" At which words they turned aside and shook their heads; and Zachariah Smylie went and brought me a purse of money, which having put into my bosom, I took my son by the hand, and bidding them all farewell, we walked to the town silently together, and I thought of my brother's words in his grief, that the speed of lightning was slow to the wishes of revenge.
On arriving in Irvine, we went to the shop of Archibald Macrusty, a dealer in iron implements, and I bought from him two swords without hilts, which he sold, wrapt in straw-rope, as scythe-blades,—a method of disguise that the ironmongers were obligated to have recourse to at that time, on account of the search now and then made for weapons by the soldiers, ever from the time that Claverhouse came to disarm the people; and when I had bought the two blades we went to Bailie Girvan's shop, which was a nest of a' things, and bought two hilts, without any questions being asked; for the bailie was a discreet man, with a warm heart to the Covenant, and not selling whole swords, but only hilts and hefts, it could not be imputed to him that he was guilty of selling arms to suspected persons.
Being thus provided with two swords, we went into James Glassop's public, where, having partaken of some refreshment, we remained solemnly sitting by ourselves till towards the gloaming, when, recollecting that it would be a comfort to us in the halts of our undertaking, I sent out my son to buy a Bible, and while he was absent I fell asleep.
On awaking from my slumber I felt greatly composed and refreshed. I reflected on the events of the day, and the terrible truths that had broken in upon me, and I was not moved with the same stings of desperation that, on my coming to myself, had shot like fire through my brain; so I began to consider of the purpose whereon I was bowne, and that I had formed no plan, nor settled towards what airt I should direct my steps. But I was not the less determined to proceed, and I said to my son, who was sitting very thoughtful with THE BOOK lying on the table before him,—
"Open the Bible, and see what the Lord instructs us to do at this time." And he opened it, and the first words he saw and read were those of the nineteenth verse of the forty-eighth chapter of the Prophet Jeremiah,—
"O inhabitant of Aroer, stand by the way and espy; ask him that fleeth, and her that escapeth, and say, What is done?"
So I rose, and bidding my son close the Book, and bring it with him, we went out, with our sword-hilts, and the blades still with the straw-rope about them in our hands, into the street together, where we had not long been when a soldier on horseback passed us in great haste; and many persons spoke to him as he rode by, inquiring what news he had brought; but he was in trouble of mind, and heeded them not till he reached the door of the house where the captain of the soldiers then in Irvine was abiding.
When he had gone into the house and delivered his message, he returned to the street, where by that time a multitude, among which we were, had assembled, and he told to the many, who inquired, as it were, with one voice,—That Mr Cargill, and a numerous party of the Cameronians, had passed that afternoon through Galston, and it was thought they meditated some disturbance on the skirts of Kilmarnock, which made the commander of the King's forces in that town send for aid to the captain of those then in Irvine.
As soon as I heard the news, I resolved to go that night to Kilmarnock, and abide with my sister-in-law, the widow of my brother Jacob, by whose instrumentality I thought we might hear where the Cameronians then were. For, although I approved not of their separation from the general presbyterian kirk of Scotland, nor was altogether content with their declaration published at Sanquhar, there was yet one clause which, to my spirit, impoverished of all hope, was as food and raiment; and that there may be no perversion concerning the same in after times, I shall here set down the words of the clause, and the words are these:—
"Although we be for government and governors such as the Word of God and our Covenant allows, yet we for ourselves, and all that will adhere to us, do, by thir presents, disown Charles Stuart, that has been reigning (or rather tyrannizing as we may say) on the throne of Britain these years bygone, as having any right or title to, or interest in, the crown of Scotland for government, he having forfeited the same several years since by his perjury and breach of Covenant both to God and His kirk;" and further, I did approve of those passages wherein it was declared, that he "should have been denuded of being king, ruler, or magistrate, or having any power to act or to be obeyed as such:" as also, "we being under the standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, Captain of Salvation, do declare a war with such a tyrant and usurper, and all the men of his practices, as enemies to our Lord."
Accordingly, on hearing that the excommunicated and suffering society of the Cameronians were so near, I resolved, on receiving the soldier's information, and on account of that recited clause of the Sanquhar declaration, to league myself with them, and to fight in their avenging battles; for, like me, they had endured irremediable wrongs, injustice, and oppressions, from the persecutors, and for that cause had, like me, abjured the doomed and papistical race of the tyrannical Stuarts. With my son, therefore, I went toward Kilmarnock, in the hope and with the intent expressed; and though the road was five long miles, and though I had not spoken more to him all day, nor for days, and weeks, and months before, than I have set down herein, we yet continued to travel in silence.
The night was bleak, and the wind easterly, but the road was dry, and my thoughts were eager; and we hastened onward, and reached the widow's door, without the interchange of a word in all the way.
"Wha do ye want?" said my son, "for naebody hae lived here since the death of aunty."
I was smote upon the heart, by these few words, as it were with a stone; for it had not come into my mind to think of inquiring how long the eclipse of my reason had lasted, nor of what had happened among our friends in the interim. This shock, however, had a salutary effect in staying the haste which was still in my thoughts, and I conversed with my son more collectedly than I could have done before it, and he told me of many things very doleful to hear, but I was thankful to learn that the end of my brother's widow had been in peace, and not caused by any of those grievous unchances which darkened the latter days of so many of the pious in that epoch of the great displeasure.
But the disappointment of finding that Death had barred her door against us, made it needful to seek a resting-place in some public, and as it was not prudent to carry our blades and hilts into any such place of promiscuous resort, we went up the town, and hid them by the star-light in a field at a dyke-side, and then returning as wayfarers, we entered a public, and bespoke a bed for the night.
While we were sitting in that house by the kitchen fire, I bethought me of the Bible which my son had in his hand, and told him that it would do us good if he would read a chapter; but just as he was beginning, the mistress said,—
"Sirs, dinna expose yoursels; for wha kens but the enemy may come in upon you. It's an unco thing now-a-days to be seen reading the Bible in a change-house."
So, being thus admonished, I bade my son put away the Book, and we retired from the fireside and sat by oursels in the shadow of a corner; and well it was for us that we did so, and a providential thing that the worthy woman had been moved to give us the admonition; for we were not many minutes within the mirk and obscurity into which we had removed, when two dragoons, who had been skirring the country, like blood-hounds, in pursuit of Mr Cargill, came in and sat themselves down by the fire. Being sorely tired with their day's hard riding, they were wroth and blasphemous against all the Covenanters for the trouble they gave them; and I thought when I heard them venting their bitterness, that they spoke as with the voice of the persecutors that were the true cause of the grievances whereof they complained; for no doubt it was a hateful thing to persons dressed in authority not to get their own way, yet I could not but wonder how it never came into the minds of such persons that if they had not trodden upon the worm it would never have turned. As for the Cameronians they were at war with the house of Stuart, and having disowned King Charles, it was a thing to be looked for, that all of his sect and side would be their consistent enemies. So I was none troubled by what the soldiers said of them, but my spirit was chafed into the quick to hear the remorselessness of their enmity against all the Covenanters and presbyterians, respecting whom they swore with the hoarseness of revenge, wishing in such a frightful manner the whole of us in the depths of perdition, that I could no longer hear them without rebuking their cruel hatred and most foul impiety.
"What gars you, young man," said I to the fiercest of the two dragoons, an Englisher, "what gars you in that dreadful manner hate and blaspheme honest men, who would, if they were permitted, dwell in peace with all mankind?"