Hunted and Harried
by R.M. Ballantyne
Chapter One. On the Hunt.
Chapter Two. The
The True and the
False at Work.
The Hunting and
More than one
Among the Tombs.
The Darkest Hour
before the Dawn.
Chapter One. On the Hunt.
On a brilliant summer morning in the last quarter of the seventeenth
century a small troop of horsemen crossed the ford of the river Cairn,
in Dumfriesshire, not far from the spot where stands the little church
of Irongray, and, gaining the road on the western bank of the stream,
wended their way towards the moors and uplands which lie in the
neighbourhood of Skeoch Hill.
The dragoons, for such they were, trotted rapidly along the road
that led into the solitudes of the hills, with all the careless dash of
men whose interests are centred chiefly on the excitements of the
passing hour, yet with the unflagging perseverance of those who have a
fixed purpose in view — their somewhat worn aspect and the mud with
which they were bespattered, from jack-boot to iron headpiece, telling
of a long ride over rugged ground.
The officer in command of the party rode a little in advance. Close
behind him followed two troopers, one of whom was a burly middle-aged
man with a stern, swarthy countenance; the other a youth whose tall
frame was scarcely, if at all, less powerful than that of his
comrade-in-arms, though much more elegant in form, while his youthful
and ruddy, yet masculine, countenance suggested that he must at that
time have been but a novice in the art of war.
This youth alone, of all the party, had a somewhat careworn and sad
expression on his brow. It could hardly have been the result of
fatigue, for there was more of ease and vigour in his carriage than in
that of any of his companions.
“We should be near the river by this time, Glendinning,” said the
leader of the party, reining in and addressing the swarthy trooper.
“Ay, sir, the Cluden rins jist ayont the turn o' the road there,”
replied the man. “Ye'll hear the roar o' the fa' in a meenit or twa.”
Even as he spoke the dull growl of a cataract was heard, and, a few
minutes later, the party came upon the ford of the river.
It was situated not many yards below the picturesque waterfall,
which is now spanned by the Routen Bridge, but which, at that time, was
unbridged — at all events, if a bridge had previously existed, it had
fallen in or been carried away — and the wild gorge was impassable.
The sound of the fall alone told of its vicinity, for a dense mass
of foliage hid it completely from the troopers' view until they had
surmounted the steep bank on the other side of the stream.
“Are you well acquainted with this man Black?” asked the leader of
the party as they emerged from the thick belt of trees and shrubs by
which the Cluden was shaded, and continued their journey on the more
open ground beyond.
“I ken him weel, sir,” answered the trooper. “Andrew Black was an
auld freend o' mine, an' a big, stoot, angry man he is — kindly
disposed, nae doot, when ye let him alane, but a perfe't deevil
incarnate when he's roosed. He did me an ill turn ance that I've no
paid him off for yet.”
“I suppose, then,” said the officer, “that your guiding us so
willingly to his cottage is in part payment of this unsettled debt?”
“Maybe it is,” replied the trooper grimly.
“They say,” continued the other, “that there is some mystery about
the man; that somehow nobody can catch him. Like an eel he has slipped
through our fellows' fingers and disappeared more than once, when they
thought they had him quite safe. It is said that on one occasion he
managed even to give the slip to Claverhouse himself, which, you know,
is not easy.”
“That may be, sir, but he'll no slip through my fingers gin I ance
git a grup o' his thrapple,” said the swarthy man, with a revengeful
“We must get a grip of him somehow,” returned the officer, “for it
is said that he is a sly helper of the rebels — though it is as
difficult to convict as to catch him; and as this gathering, of which
our spies have brought information, is to be in the neighbourhood of
his house, he is sure to be mixed up with it.”
“Nae doot o' that, sir, an' so we may manage to kill twa birds wi'
ae stane. But I'm in a diffeeculty noo, sir, for ye ken I'm no acquaint
wi' this country nae farer than the Cluden ford, an' here we hae come
to a fork i' the road.”
The party halted as he spoke, while the perplexed guide stroked his
rather long nose and looked seriously at the two roads, or
bridle-paths, into which their road had resolved itself, and each of
which led into very divergent parts of the heathclad hills.
This guide, Glendinning, had become acquainted with Black at a time
when the latter resided in Lanarkshire, and, as he had just said, was
unacquainted with the region through which they now travelled beyond
the river Cluden. After a short conference the officer in command
decided to divide the party and explore both paths.
“You will take one man, Glendinning, and proceed along the path to
the right,” he said; “I will try the left. If you discover anything
like a house or cot within a mile or two you will at once send your
comrade back to let me know, while you take up your quarters in the
cottage and await my coming. Choose whom you will for your companion.”
“I choose Will Wallace, then,” said Glendinning, with a nod to the
young trooper whom we have already introduced.
The youth did not seem at all flattered by the selection, but of
course obeyed orders with military promptitude, and followed his
comrade for some time in silence, though with a clouded brow.
“It seems to me,” said the swarthy trooper, as they drew rein and
proceeded up a steep ascent at a walk, “that ye're no' sae pleased as
ye might be wi' the wark we hae on hand.”
“Pleased!” exclaimed the youth, whose tone and speech seemed to
indicate him an Englishman, “how can I be pleased when all I have been
called on to do since I enlisted has been to aid and abet in robbery,
cruelty, and murder? I honour loyalty and detest rebellion as much as
any man in the troop, but if I had known what I now know I would never
have joined you.”
Glendinning gazed at his companion in amazement. Having been absent
on detached service when Will Wallace had joined — about three weeks
previously — he was ignorant both as to his character and his recent
experiences. He had chosen him on the present occasion simply on
account of his youth and magnificent physique.
“I doot I've made a mistake in choosin' you,” said
Glendinning with some asperity, after a few moments, “but it's ower
late noo to rectifee't. What ails ye, lad? What hae ye seen?”
“I have seen what I did not believe possible,” answered the other
with suppressed feeling. “I have seen a little boy tortured with the
thumbscrews, pricked with bayonets, and otherwise inhumanly treated
because he would not, or could not, tell where his father was. I have
seen a man hung up to a beam by his thumbs because he would not give up
money which perhaps he did not possess. I have seen a woman tortured by
having lighted matches put between her fingers because she would not,
or could not, tell where a conventicle was being held. I did not,
indeed, see the last deed actually done, else would I have cut down the
coward who did it. The poor thing had fainted and the torture was over
when I came upon them. Only two days ago I was ordered out with a party
who pillaged the house of a farmer because he refused to take an oath
of allegiance, which seems to have been purposely so worded as to make
those who take it virtually bondslaves to the King, and which makes him
master of the lives, properties, and consciences of his subjects — and
all this done in the King's name and by the King's troops!”
“An' what pairt did you tak' in these doin's?” asked
Glendinning with some curiosity.
“I did my best to restrain my comrades, and when they were burning
the hayricks, throwing the meal on the dunghill, and wrecking the
property of the farmer, I cut the cords with which they had bound the
poor fellow to his chair and let him go free.”
“Did onybody see you do that?”
“I believe not; though I should not have cared if they had. I'm
thoroughly disgusted with the service. I know little or nothing of the
principles of these rebels — these fanatics, as you call them — but
tyranny or injustice I cannot stand, whether practised by a king or a
beggar, and I am resolved to have nothing more to do with such fiendish
“Young man,” said the swarthy comrade in a voice of considerable
solemnity, “ye hae obviously mista'en your callin'. If you werena new
to thae pairts, ye would ken that the things ye objec' to are quite
common. Punishin' an' harryin' the rebels and fanatics —
Covenanters, they ca' theirsels — has been gaun on for years ower
a' the land. In my opeenion it's weel deserved, an' naething that ye
can do or say wull prevent it, though what ye do an' say is no'
unlikely to cut short yer ain career by means o' a rope roond yer
thrapple. But losh! man, I wonder ye haena heard about thae matters
“My having spent the last few years of my life in an out-of-the-way
part of Ireland may account for that,” said Wallace. “My father's
recent death obliged my mother to give up her farm and return to her
native town of Lanark, where she now lives with a brother. Poverty and
the urgency of a cousin have induced me, unfortunately, to take service
with the dragoons.”
“After what ye've said, hoo am I to coont on yer helpin' me e'noo?”
“As long as I wear the King's uniform you may count on my obeying
orders unless I am commanded to break the plainest laws of God,”
answered the young man. “As our present business is only to discover
the cottage of Andrew Black, there seems likely to be no difficulty
between us just now.”
“H'm! I'm no' sure o' that; but if ye'll tak' my advice, lad, ye'll
haud yer tongue aboot thae matters. If Clavers heard the half o' what
ye've said to me, he'd send ye into the next warl' withoot gieing ye
time to say yer prayers. Freedom of speech is no permitted at the
present time in Scotland — unless it be the right kind of speech,
He stopped, for at that moment two young girls suddenly appeared at
a bend of the road in front of them. They gazed for a moment at the
soldiers in evident surprise, and then turned as if to fly, but
Glendinning put spurs to his horse and was beside them in a moment.
Leaping to the ground, he seized the girls roughly by their arms as
they clung together in alarm. One of the two was a dark-eyed little
child. The other was fair, unusually pretty, and apparently about
fifteen or sixteen years of age.
The trooper proceeded to question them sharply.
“Be gentle,” said Will Wallace sternly, as he rode up, and, also
dismounting, stood beside them. “No fear of their running away now.”
The swarthy trooper pretended not to hear, but nevertheless relaxed
his grip and merely rested his hand upon the fair girl's shoulder as he
said to the other—
“Now, my wee doo, ye canna be far frae hame, I's be sworn. What's
“Aggie Wilson,” answered the child at once.
“Jean Black,” replied the blonde timidly.
“Oho! an' yer faither's name is Andrew, an' his hoose is close by,
I'll be bound, so ye'll be guid eneuch to show us the way till't. But
first, my bonny lass, ye'll gie me a—”
Slipping his arm round the waist of the terrified blonde, the
trooper rudely attempted to terminate his sentence in a practical
manner; but before his lips could touch her face he received a blow
from his comrade that sent him staggering against a neighbouring tree.
Blazing with astonishment and wrath, Glendinning drew his sword and
sprang at his companion, who, already full of indignation at the memory
of what he had been so recently compelled to witness, could ill brook
the indignity thus offered to the defenceless girl. His weapon flashed
from its sheath on the instant, and for a few moments the two men cut
and thrust at each other with savage ferocity. Wallace, however, was
too young and unused to mortal strife to contemplate with indifference
the possibility of shedding the blood of a comrade. Quickly recovering
himself, he stood entirely on the defensive, which his vigorous
activity enabled him easily to do. Burning under the insult he had
received, Glendinning felt no such compunctions. He pushed his
adversary fiercely, and made a lunge at last which not only passed the
sword through the left sleeve of the youth's coat, but slightly wounded
his arm. Roused to uncontrollable anger by this, Will Wallace fetched
his opponent a blow so powerful that it beat down his guard, rang like
a hammer on his iron headpiece, and fairly hurled the man into the
ditch at the roadside.
Somewhat alarmed at this sudden result, the youth hastily pulled him
out, and, kneeling beside him, anxiously examined his head. Much to his
relief he found that there was no wound at all, and that the man was
only stunned. After the examination, Wallace observed that the girls
had taken advantage of the fray to make their escape.
Indignation and anger having by that time evaporated, and his
judgment having become cool, Wallace began gradually to appreciate his
true position, and to feel exceedingly uncomfortable. He had recklessly
expressed opinions and confessed to actions which would of themselves
ensure his being disgraced and cast into prison, if not worse; he had
almost killed one of his own comrades, and had helped two girls to
escape who could probably have assisted in the accomplishment of the
duty on which they had been despatched. His case, he suddenly
perceived, was hopeless, and he felt that he was a lost man.
Will Wallace was quick of thought and prompt in action. Carefully
disposing the limbs of his fallen comrade, and resting his head
comfortably on a grassy bank, he cast a hurried glance around him.
On his left hand and behind him lay the rich belt of woodland that
marked the courses of the rivers Cluden and Cairn. In front stretched
the moors and hills of the ancient district of Galloway, at that time
given over to the tender mercies of Graham of Claverhouse. Beside him
stood the two patient troop-horses, gazing quietly at the prostrate
man, as if in mild surprise at his unusual stillness.
Beyond this he could not see with the physical eye; but with the
mental orb he saw a dark vista of ruined character, blighted hopes, and
dismal prospects. The vision sufficed to fix his decision. Quietly,
like a warrior's wraith, he sheathed his sword and betook himself to
the covert of the peat-morass and the heather hill.
He was not the first good man and true who had sought the same
At the time of which we write Scotland had for many years been in a
woeful plight — with tyranny draining her life-blood, cupidity
grasping her wealth, hypocrisy and bigotry misconstruing her motives
and falsifying her character. Charles II filled the throne.
Unprincipled men, alike in Church and State, made use of their position
and power to gain their own ends and enslave the people. The King,
determined to root out Presbytery from Scotland, as less subservient to
his despotic aims, and forcibly to impose Prelacy on her as a
stepping-stone to Popery, had no difficulty in finding ecclesiastical
and courtly bravos to carry out his designs; and for a long series of
dismal years persecution stalked red-handed through the land.
Happily for the well-being of future generations, our covenanting
forefathers stood their ground with Christian heroism, for both civil
and religious liberty were involved in the struggle. Their so-called
fanaticism consisted in a refusal to give up the worship of God after
the manner dictated by conscience and practised by their forefathers;
in declining to attend the ministry of the ignorant, and too often
vicious, curates forced upon them; and in refusing to take the oath of
allegiance just referred to by Will Wallace.
Conventicles, as they were called — or the gathering together of
Christians in houses and barns, or on the hillsides, to worship God —
were illegally pronounced illegal by the King and Council; and
disobedience to the tyrannous law was punished with imprisonment,
torture, confiscation of property, and death. To enforce these
penalties the greater part of Scotland — especially the south and west
— was overrun by troops, and treated as if it were a conquered
country. The people — holding that in some matters it is incumbent to
“obey God rather than man,” and that they were bound “not to forsake
the assembling of themselves together” — resolved to set the
intolerable law at defiance, and went armed to the hill-meetings.
They took up arms at first, however, chiefly, if not solely, to
protect themselves from a licentious soldiery, who went about
devastating the land, not scrupling to rob and insult helpless women
and children, and to shed innocent blood. Our Scottish forefathers,
believing — in common with the lower animals and lowest savages —
that it was a duty to defend their females and little ones, naturally
availed themselves of the best means of doing so.
About this time a meeting, or conventicle, of considerable
importance was appointed to be held among the secluded hills in the
neighbourhood of Irongray; and Andrew Black, the farmer, was chosen to
select the particular spot, and make the preliminary arrangements.
Now this man Black is not easily described, for his was a curiously
compound character. To a heart saturated with the milk of human
kindness was united a will more inflexible, if possible, than that of a
Mexican mule; a frame of Herculean mould, and a spirit in which
profound gravity and reverence waged incessant warfare with a keen
appreciation of the ludicrous. Peacefully inclined in disposition, with
a tendency to believe well of all men, and somewhat free and easy in
the formation of his opinions, he was very unwilling to resist
authority; but the love of truth and justice was stronger within him
than the love of peace.
In company with his shepherd, Quentin Dick — a man of nearly his
own size and build — Andrew Black proceeded to a secluded hollow in
Skeoch Hill to gather and place in order the masses of rock which were
to form the seats of the communicants at the contemplated religious
gathering — which seats remain to this day in the position they
occupied at that time, and are familiarly known in the district as “the
Communion stones of Irongray.”
Chapter Two. The “Fanatic” and the
The night was dark and threatening when Andrew Black and his
shepherd left their cottage, and quickly but quietly made for the
neighbouring hill. The weather was well suited for deeds of secrecy,
for gusts of wind, with an occasional spattering of rain, swept along
the hill-face, and driving clouds obscured the moon, which was then in
its first quarter.
At first the two men were obliged to walk with care, for the light
was barely sufficient to enable them to distinguish the sheep-track
which they followed, and the few words they found it necessary to speak
were uttered in subdued tones. Jean Black and her cousin Aggie Wilson
had reported their rencontre with the two dragoons, and Quentin
Dick had himself seen the main body of the troops from behind a heather
bush on his way back to the farm, therefore caution was advisable. But
as they climbed Skeoch Hill, and the moon shed a few feeble rays on
their path, they began to converse more freely. For a few minutes their
intercourse related chiefly to sheep and the work of the farm, for both
Andrew and his man were of that sedate, imperturbable nature which is
not easily thrown off its balance by excitement or danger. Then their
thoughts turned to the business in hand.
“Nae fear o' the sodgers comin' here on a nicht like this,” remarked
Andrew, as a squall nearly swept the blue bonnet off his head.
“Maybe no,” growled Quentin Dick sternly, “but I've heard frae Tam
Chanter that servants o' that Papist Earl o' Nithsdale, an' o' the
scoondrel Sir Robert Dalziel, hae been seen pokin' their noses aboot at
Irongray. If they git wund o' the place, we're no likely to hae a quiet
time o't. Did ye say that the sodgers ill-used the bairns?”
“Na! — ane o' them was inclined to be impident, but the ither, a
guid-lookin' young felly, accordin' to Jean, took their pairt an'
quarrelled wi' his comrade, sae that they cam to loggerheeds at last,
but what was the upshot naebody kens, for the bairns took to their
heels an' left them fechtin'.”
“An' what if they sud fin' yer hoose an' the bairns unproteckit?”
asked the shepherd.
“They're no likely to fin' the hoose in a nicht like this, man; an'
if they do, they'll fin' naebody but Ramblin' Peter there, for I gied
the lassies an' the women strick orders to tak' to the hidy-hole at the
first soond o' horses' feet.”
By this time the men had reached a secluded hollow in the hill, so
completely enclosed as to be screened from observation on all sides.
They halted here a few moments, for two dark forms were seen in the
uncertain light to be moving about just in front of them.
“It's them,” whispered Andrew.
“Whae?” asked the shepherd.
“Alexander McCubine an' Edward Gordon.”
“Guid an' safe men baith,” responded Quentin; “ye better gie them a
Andrew did so by imitating the cry of a plover. It was replied to at
“The stanes are big, ye see,” explained Andrew, while the two men
were approaching. “It'll tak' the strength o' the fowr o' us to lift
some o' them.”
“We've got the cairn aboot finished,” said McCubine as he came up.
He spoke in a low voice, for although there was no probability of any
one being near, they were so accustomed to expect danger because of the
innumerable enemies who swarmed about the country, that caution had
almost become a second nature.
Without further converse the four men set to work in silence. They
completed a circular heap, or cairn, of stones three or four feet high,
and levelled the top thereof to serve as a table or a pulpit at the
approaching assembly. In front of this, and stretching towards a
sloping brae, they arranged four rows of very large stones to serve as
seats for the communicants, with a few larger stones between them, as
if for the support of rude tables of plank. It took several hours to
complete the work. When it was done Andrew Black surveyed it with
complacency, and gave it as his opinion that it was a “braw kirk,
capable o' accommodatin' a congregation o' some thoosands, mair or
less.” Then the two men, Gordon and McCubine, bidding him and the
shepherd good-night, went away into the darkness from which they had
“Whar'll they be sleepin' the nicht?” asked the shepherd, as he and
Andrew turned homeward.
“I' the peat-bog, I doot, for I daurna tak' them hame whan the
dragoons is likely to gie us a ca'; besides, the hidy-hole wull be ower
fu' soon. Noo, lad,” he added, as they surmounted a hillock, from which
they had a dim view of the surrounding country, “gang ye doon an' see
if ye can fin' oot onything mair aboot thae sodgers. I'll awa' hame an
see that a's right there.”
They parted, the shepherd turning sharp off to the right, while the
farmer descended towards his cottage. He had not advanced above half
the distance when an object a little to the left of his path induced
him to stop. It resembled a round stone, and was too small to have
attracted the attention of any eye save one which was familiar with
every bush and stone on the ground. Grasping a stout thorn stick which
he carried, Andrew advanced towards the object in question with catlike
caution until quite close to it, when he discovered that it was the
head of a man who was sleeping soundly under a whin-bush. A closer
inspection showed that the man wore an iron headpiece, a soldier's
coat, and huge jack-boots.
“A dragoon and a spy!” thought Andrew, while he raised his cudgel,
the only weapon he carried, and frowned. But Andrew was a merciful man;
he could not bring himself to strike a sleeping man, even though waking
him might entail a doubtful conflict, for he could see that the
trooper's hand grasped the hilt of his naked sword. For a few moments
he surveyed the sleeper, as if calculating his chances, then he quietly
dropped his plaid, took off his coat, and untying his neckcloth, laid
it carefully on one side over a bush. Having made these preparations,
he knelt beside Will Wallace — for it was he — and grasped him firmly
by the throat with both hands.
As might have been expected, the young trooper attempted to spring
up, and tried to use his weapon; but, finding this to be impossible at
such close quarters, he dropped it, and grappled the farmer with all
his might; but Andrew, holding on to him like a vice, placed his knee
upon his chest and held him firmly down.
“It's o' nae manner o' use to strive, ye see,” said Andrew, relaxing
his grip a little; “I've gotten ye, an' if ye like to do my biddin'
I'll no be hard on ye.”
“If you will let me rise and stand before me in fair fight, I'll do
your business if not your bidding,” returned Wallace in a tone of what
may be termed stern sulkiness.
“Div ye think it's likely I'll staund before you in fair fecht, as
you ca'd — you wi' a swurd, and me wi' a bit stick, my lad? Na, na,
ye'll hae to submit, little though ye like it.”
“Give me the stick, then, and take you the sword, I shall be
content,” said the indignant trooper, making another violent but
unsuccessful effort to free himself.
“It's a fair offer,” said Andrew, when he had subdued the poor youth
a second time, “an' reflec's favourably on yer courage, but I'm a man
o' peace, an' have no thirst for bloodshed — whilk is more than ye can
say, young man; but if ye'll let me tie yer hands thegither, an' gang
peaceably hame wi' me, I's promise that nae mischief'll befa' ye.”
“No man shall ever tie my hands together as long as there is life in
my body,” replied the youth.
“Stop, stop, callant!” exclaimed Andrew, as Will was about to renew
the struggle. “The pride o' youth is awful. Hear what I've gotten to
say to ye, man, or I'll hae to throttle ye ootright. It'll come to the
same thing if ye'll alloo me to tie ane o' my hands to ane o'
yours. Ye canna objec' to that, surely, for I'll be your prisoner as
muckle as you'll be mine — and that'll be fair play, for we'll leave
the swurd lyin' on the brae to keep the bit stick company.”
“Well, I agree to that,” said Wallace, in a tone that indicated
surprise with a dash of amusement.
“An' ye promise no' to try to get away when you're tied to — when
I'm tied to you?”
Hereupon the farmer, reaching out his hand, picked up the black silk
neckcloth which he had laid aside, and with it firmly bound his own
left wrist to the right wrist of his captive, talking in a grave,
subdued tone as he did so.
“Nae doot the promise o' a spy is hardly to be lippened to, but if I
find that ye're a dishonourable man, ye'll find that I'm an
uncomfortable prisoner to be tied to. Noo, git up, lad, an' we'll gang
On rising, the first thing the trooper did was to turn and take a
steady look at the man who had captured him in this singular manner.
“Weel, what d'ye think o' me?” asked Andrew, with what may be termed
a grave smile.
“If you want to know my true opinion,” returned Wallace, “I should
say that I would not have thought, from the look of you, that you could
have taken mean advantage of a sleeping foe.”
“Ay — an' I would not have thought, from the look o' you,”
retorted Andrew, “that ye could hae sell't yersel' to gang skulkin'
aboot the hills as a spy upon the puir craters that are only seekin' to
worship their Maker in peace.”
Without further remark Andrew Black, leaving his coat and plaid to
keep company with the sword and stick, led his prisoner down the hill.
Andrew's cottage occupied a slight hollow on the hillside, which
concealed it from every point of the compass save the high ground above
it. Leading the trooper up to the door, he tapped gently, and was
promptly admitted by some one whom Wallace could not discern, as the
interior was dark.
“Oh, Uncle Andrew! I'm glad ye've come, for Peter hasna come back
yet, an' I'm feared somethin' has come ower him.”
“Strike a light, lassie. I've gotten haud o' a spy here, an' canna
weel do't mysel'.”
When a light was procured and held up, it revealed the pretty face
of Jean Black, which underwent a wondrous change when she beheld the
face of the prisoner.
“Uncle Andrew!” she exclaimed, “this is nae spy. He's the man that
cam' to the help o' Aggie an' me against the dragoon.”
“Is that sae?” said Black, turning a look of surprise on his
“It is true, indeed, that I had the good fortune to protect Jean and
her friend from an insolent comrade,” answered Wallace; “and it is also
true that that act has been partly the cause of my deserting to the
hills, being starved for a day and a night, and taken prisoner now as a
“Sir,” said Andrew, hastily untying the kerchief that bound them
together, “I humbly ask your pardon. Moreover, it's my opeenion that if
ye hadna been starvin' ye wadna have been here 'e noo, for ye're
uncommon teuch. Rin, lassie, an' fetch some breed an' cheese. Whar's
Marion an' Is'b'l?”
“They went out to seek for Peter,” said Jean, as she hastened to
obey her uncle's mandate.
At that moment a loud knocking was heard at the door, and the voice
of Marion, one of the maid-servants, was heard outside. On the door
being opened, she and her companion Isabel burst in with excited looks
and the information, pantingly given, that the “sodgers were comin'.”
“Haud yer noise, lassie, an' licht the fire — pit on the parritch
pat. Come, Peter, let's hear a' aboot it.”
Ramblin' Peter, who had been thus named because of his inveterate
tendency to range over the neighbouring hills, was a quiet, undersized,
said-to-be weak-minded boy of sixteen years, though he looked little
more than fourteen. No excitement whatever ruffled his placid
countenance as he gave his report — to the effect that a party of
dragoons had been seen by him not half an hour before, searching
evidently for his master's cottage.
“They'll soon find it,” said the farmer, turning quickly to his
domestics— “Away wi' ye, lassies, and hide.”
The two servant-girls, with Jean and her cousin Aggie Wilson, ran at
once into an inner room and shut the door. Ramblin' Peter sat stolidly
down beside the fire and calmly stirred the porridge-pot, which was
nearly full of the substantial Scottish fare.
“Noo, sir,” said Black, turning to Will Wallace, who had stood
quietly watching the various actors in the scene just described, “yer
comrades'll be here in a wee while. May I ask what ye expect?”
“I expect to be imprisoned at the least, more probably shot.”
“Hm! pleasant expectations for a young man, nae doot. I'm sorry that
it's oot o' my power to stop an' see the fun, for the sodgers have
strange suspicions aboot me, so I'm forced to mak' mysel' scarce an'
leave Ramblin' Peter to do the hospitalities o' the hoose. But before I
gang awa' I wad fain repay ye for the guid turn ye did to my bairns. If
ye are willin' to shut yer eyes an' do what I tell ye, I'll put you in
a place o' safety.”
“Thank you, Mr Black,” returned Wallace; “of course I shall only be
too glad to escape from the consequences of my unfortunate position;
but do not misunderstand me: although neither a spy nor a Covenantor I
am a loyal subject, and would not now be a deserter if that character
had not been forced upon me, first by the brutality of the soldiers
with whom I was banded, and then by the insolence of my comrade-in-arms
to your daughter—”
“Niece; niece,” interrupted Black; “I wish she was my
dauchter, bless her bonny face! Niver fear, sir, I've nae doot o' yer
loyalty, though you an' yer freends misdoot mine. I claim to be as
loyal as the best o' ye, but there's nae dictionary in this
warld that defines loyalty to be slavish submission o' body an' sowl to
a tyrant that fears naether God nor man. The quastion noo is, Div ye
want to escape and wull ye trust me?”
The sound of horses galloping in the distance tended to quicken the
young trooper's decision. He submitted to be blindfolded by his captor.
“Noo, Peter,” said Andrew, as he was about to lead Wallace away, “ye
ken what to dae. Gie them plenty to eat; show them the rum bottle, let
them hae the rin o' the hoose, an' say that I bade ye treat them weel.”
“Ay,” was Ramblin' Peter's laconic reply.
Leading his captive out at the door, round the house, and
re-entering by a back door, apparently with no other end in view than
to bewilder him, Andrew went into a dark room, opened some sort of door
— to enter which the trooper had to stoop low — and conducted him
down a steep, narrow staircase.
The horsemen meanwhile had found the cottage and were heard at that
moment tramping about in front, and thundering on the door for
Wallace fancied that the door which closed behind him must be of
amazing thickness, for it shut out almost completely the sounds
On reaching the foot of the staircase, and having the napkin removed
from his eyes, he found himself in a long, low, vaulted chamber. There
was no one in it save his guide and a venerable man who sat beside a
deal table, reading a document by the light of a tallow candle stuck in
the mouth of a black bottle.
The soldiers, meanwhile, having been admitted by Ramblin' Peter,
proceeded to question that worthy as to Andrew Black and his household.
Not being satisfied of the truth of his replies they proceeded to apply
torture in order to extract confession. It was the first time that this
mode of obtaining information had been used in Black's cottage, and it
failed entirely, for Ramblin' Peter was staunch, and, although
inhumanly thrashed and probed with sword-points, the poor lad remained
dumb, insomuch that the soldiers at length set him down as an idiot,
for he did not even cry out in his agonies — excepting in a curious,
half-stifled manner — because he knew well that if his master were
made aware by his cries of what was going on he would be sure to hasten
to the rescue at the risk of his life.
Having devoured the porridge, drunk the rum, and destroyed a
considerable amount of the farmer's produce, the lawless troopers, who
seemed to be hurried in their proceedings at that time, finally left
About the time that these events were taking place in and around
Black's cottage, bands of armed men with women and even children were
hastening towards the same locality to attend the great “conventicle,”
for which the preparations already described were being made.
The immediate occasion of the meeting was the desire of the
parishioners of the Rev. John Welsh, a great-grandson of John Knox, to
make public avowal, at the Communion Table, of their fidelity to Christ
and their attachment to the minister who had been expelled from the
church of Irongray; but strong sympathy induced many others to attend,
not only from all parts of Galloway and Nithsdale, but from the distant
Clyde, the shores of the Forth, and elsewhere; so that the roads were
crowded with people making for the rendezvous — some on foot, others
on horseback. Many of the latter were gentlemen of means and position,
who, as well as their retainers, were more or less well armed and
mounted. The Rev. John Blackadder, the “auld” minister of Troqueer — a
noted hero of the Covenant, who afterwards died a prisoner on the Bass
Rock — travelled with his party all the way from Edinburgh, and a
company of eighty horse proceeded to the meeting from Clydesdale.
Preliminary services, conducted by Mr Blackadder and Mr Welsh, were
held near Dumfries on the Saturday, but at these the place of meeting
on the Sabbath was only vaguely announced as “a hillside in Irongray,”
so anxious were they to escape being disturbed by their enemies, and
the secret was kept so well that when the Sabbath arrived a
congregation of above three thousand had assembled round the Communion
stones in the hollow of Skeoch Hill.
Sentinels were posted on all the surrounding heights. One of these
sentinels was the farmer Andrew Black, with a cavalry sword belted to
his waist, and a rusty musket on his shoulder. Beside him stood a tall
stalwart youth in shepherd's costume.
“Yer ain mother wadna ken ye,” remarked Andrew with a twinkle in his
“I doubt that,” replied the youth; “a mother's eyes are keen. I
should not like to encounter even Glendinning in my present guise.”
As he spoke the rich melody of the opening psalm burst from the
great congregation and rolled in softened cadence towards the
Chapter Three. The True and the False
The face of nature did not seem propitious to the great gathering on
Skeoch Hill. Inky clouds rolled athwart the leaden sky, threatening a
deluge of rain, and fitful gusts of wind seemed to indicate the
approach of a tempest. Nevertheless the elements were held in check by
the God of nature, so that the solemn services of the day were
conducted to a close without discomfort, though not altogether without
Several of the most eminent ministers, who had been expelled from
their charges, were present on this occasion. Besides John Welsh of
Irongray, there were Arnot of Tongland, Blackadder of Troqueer, and
Dickson of Rutherglen — godly men who had for many years suffered
persecution and imprisonment, and were ready to lay down their lives in
defence of religious liberty. The price set upon the head of that
“notour traitor, Mr John Welsh,” dead or alive, was 9000 merks. Mr
Arnot was valued at 3000!
These preached and assisted at different parts of the services,
while the vast multitude sat on the sloping hillside, and the mounted
men drew up on the outskirts of the congregation, so as to be within
sound of the preachers' voices, and, at the same time, be ready for
action on the defensive if enemies should appear.
Andrew Black and his companion stood for some time listening, with
bowed heads, to the slow sweet music that floated towards them. They
were too far distant to hear the words of prayer that followed, yet
they continued to stand in reverent silence for some time, listening to
the sound — Black with his eyes closed, his young companion gazing
wistfully at the distant landscape, which, from the elevated position
on which they stood, lay like a magnificent panorama spread out before
them. On the left the level lands bordering the rivers Cairn and Nith
stretched away to the Solway, with the Cumberland mountains in the
extreme distance; in front and on the right lay the wild, romantic
hill-country of which, in after years, it was so beautifully written:—
“O bonnie hills of Galloway oft have I stood to see,
At sunset hour, your shadows fall, all darkening on the lea;
While visions of the buried years came o'er me in their might—
As phantoms of the sepulchre — instinct with inward light!
The years, the years when Scotland groaned beneath her tyrant's
And 'twas not for the heather she was called 'the purple land.'
And 'twas not for her loveliness her children blessed their
God—But for secret places of the hills, and the mountain heights
“Who was the old man I found in what you call your hidy-hole?” asked
Wallace, turning suddenly to his companion.
“I'm no' sure that I have a right to answer that,” said Black,
regarding Will with a half-serious, half-amused look. “Hooever, noo
that ye've ta'en service wi' me, and ken about my hidy-hole, I suppose
I may trust ye wi' a' my secrets.”
“I would not press you to reveal any secrets, Mr Black, yet I think
you are safe to trust me, seeing that you know enough about my own
secrets to bring me to the gallows if so disposed.”
“Ay, I hae ye there, lad! But I'll trust ye on better grunds than
that. I believe ye to be an honest man, and that's enough for me. Weel,
ye maun ken, it's saxteen year since I howkit the hidy-hole below my
hoose, an' wad ye believe it? — they've no fund it oot yet! Not even
had a suspeecion o't, though the sodgers hae been sair puzzled, mony a
time, aboot hoo I managed to gie them the slip. An' mony's the puir
body, baith gentle and simple, that I've gien food an' shelter to whae
was very likely to hae perished o' cauld an' hunger, but for the
hidy-hole. Among ithers I've often had the persecuited ministers doon
there, readin' their Bibles or sleepin' as comfortable as ye like when
the dragoons was drinkin', roarin', an' singin' like deevils ower their
heids. My certies! if Clavers, or Sherp, or Lauderdale had an inklin'
o' the hunderd pairt o' the law-brekin' that I've done, it's a gallows
in the Gressmarkit as high as Haman's wad be ereckit for me, an' my
heed an' hauns, may be, would be bleachin' on the Nether Bow. Humph!
but they've no' gotten me yet!”
“And I sincerely hope they never will,” remarked Wallace; “but you
have not yet told me the name of the old man.”
“I was comin' to him,” continued Black; “but wheniver I wander to
the doin's o' that black-hearted Cooncil, I'm like to lose the threed
o' my discoorse. Yon is a great man i' the Kirk o' Scotland. They ca'
him Donald Cargill. The adventures that puir man has had in the coorse
o' mair nor quarter o' a century wad mak' a grand story-buik. He has no
fear o' man, an' he's an awfu' stickler for justice. I'se warrant he
gied ye some strang condemnations o' the poors that be.”
“Indeed he did not,” said Wallace. “Surely you misjudge his
character. His converse with me was entirely religious, and his chief
anxiety seemed to be to impress on me the love of God in sending Jesus
Christ to redeem a wicked world from sin. I tried to turn the
conversation on the state of the times, but he gently turned it round
again to the importance of being at peace with God, and giving heed to
the condition of my own soul. He became at last so personal that I did
not quite like it. Yet he was so earnest and kind that I could not take
“Ay, ay,” said Black in a musing tone, “I see. He clearly thinks
that yer he'rt needs mair instruction than yer heed. Hm! maybe he's
right. Hooever, he's a wonderfu' man; gangs aboot the country preachin'
everywhere altho' he kens that the sodgers are aye on the look-oot for
him, an' that if they catch him it's certain death. He wad have been at
this communion nae doot, if he hadna engaged to preach somewhere near
Sanquhar this vera day.”
“Then he has left the hidy-hole by this time, I suppose?”
“Ye may be sure o' that, for when there is work to be done for the
Master, Donal' Cargill doesna let the gress grow under his feet.”
“I'm sorry that I shall not see him again,” returned the ex-trooper
in a tone of regret, “for I like him much.”
Now, while this conversation was going on, a portion of the troop of
dragoons which had been out in search of Andrew Black was sent under
Glendinning (now a sergeant) in quest of an aged couple named Mitchell,
who were reported to have entertained intercommuned, i.e.
outlawed, persons; attended conventicles in the fields; ventured to
have family worship in their cottages while a few neighbours were
present, and to have otherwise broken the laws of the Secret Council.
This Council, which was ruled by two monsters in human form, namely,
Archbishop Sharp of St. Andrews and the Duke of Lauderdale, having
obtained full powers from King Charles II. to put down conventicles and
enforce the laws against the fanatics with the utmost possible rigour,
had proceeded to carry out their mission by inviting a host of half, if
not quite, savage Highlanders to assist them in quelling the people.
This host, numbering, with 2000 regulars and militia, about 10,000 men,
eagerly accepted the invitation, and was let loose on the south and
western districts of Scotland about the beginning of the year, and for
some time ravaged and pillaged the land as if it had been an enemy's
country. They were thanked by the King for so readily agreeing to
assist in reducing the Covenanters to obedience to “Us and Our laws,”
and were told to take up free quarters among the disaffected, to disarm
such persons as they should suspect, to carry with them instruments of
torture wherewith to subdue the refractory, and in short to act very
much in accordance with the promptings of their own desires. Evidently
the mission suited these men admirably, for they treated all parties as
disaffected, with great impartiality, and plundered, tortured, and
insulted to such an extent that after about three months of unresisted
depredation, the shame of the thing became so obvious that Government
was compelled to send them home again. They had accomplished nothing in
the way of bringing the Covenanters to reason; but they had desolated a
fair region of Scotland, spilt much innocent blood, ruined many
families, and returned to their native hills heavily laden with booty
of every kind like a victorious army. It is said that the losses caused
by them in the county of Ayr alone amounted to over £11,000 sterling.
The failure of this horde did not in the least check the proceedings
of Sharp or Lauderdale or their like-minded colleagues. They kept the
regular troops and militia moving about the land, enforcing their
idiotical and wicked laws at the point of the sword. We say idiotical
advisedly, for what could give stronger evidence of mental incapacity
than the attempt to enforce a bond upon all landed proprietors,
obliging themselves and their wives, children, and servants, as well as
all their tenants and cottars, with their wives, children, and
servants, to abstain from conventicles, and not to receive, assist, or
even speak to, any forfeited persons, intercommuned ministers, or
vagrant preachers, but to use their utmost endeavours to apprehend all
such? Those who took this bond were to receive an assurance that the
troops should not be quartered on their lands — a matter of
considerable importance — for this quartering involved great expense
and much destruction of property in most cases, and absolute ruin in
After the battle of the Pentland Hills (in 1666), in which the
Covenanters, driven to desperation, made an unsuccessful effort to
throw off the tyrannical yoke, severer laws were enacted against them.
Their wily persecutor, also being well aware of the evil influence of
disagreement among men, threw a bone of contention among them in the
shape of royal acts of Indulgence, as they were styled, by which
a certain number of the ejected ministers were permitted to preach on
certain conditions, but only within their own parishes. To preach at a
separate meeting in a private house subjected the minister to a fine of
5000 merks (about £278). To preach in the fields was to incur the
penalty of death and confiscation of property. And these arbitrary laws
were not merely enacted for intimidation. They were rigorously
enforced. The curates in many cases became mere spies and Government
informers. Many of the best men in the land laid down their lives
rather than cease to proclaim the Gospel of love and peace and goodwill
in Jesus Christ. Of course their enemies set them down as self-willed
and turbulent fanatics. It has ever been, and ever will be, thus with
men who are indifferent to principle. They will not, as well as cannot,
understand those who are ready to fight, and, if need be, die for
truth! Their unspoken argument seems to be: “You profess to preach
peace, love, submission to authority, etc.; very good, stand to your
principles. Leave all sorts of carnal fighting to us. Obey us. Conform
humbly to our arrangements, whatever they are, and all will be well;
but dare to show the slightest symptom of restiveness under what you
style our injustice, tyranny, cruelty, etc., and we will teach you the
submission which you preach but fail to practise by means of fire and
sword and torture and death!”
Many good men and true, with gentle spirits, and it may be somewhat
exalted ideas about the rights of Royalty, accepted the Indulgence as
being better than nothing, or better than civil war. No doubt, also,
there were a few — neither good men nor true — who accepted it
because it afforded them a loophole of escape from persecution.
Similarly, on the other side, there were good men and true, who, with
bolder hearts, perhaps, and clearer brains, it may be, refused the
Indulgence as a presumptuous enactment, which cut at the roots of both
civil and religious liberty, as implying a right to withhold while it
professed to give, and which, if acquiesced in, would indicate a degree
of abject slavery to man and unfaithfulness to God that might sink
Scotland into a condition little better than that of some eastern
nations at the present day. Thus was the camp of the Covenanters
divided. There were also more subtle divisions, which it is not
necessary to mention here, and in both camps, of course there was an
infusion, especially amongst the young men, of that powerful element —
love of excitement and danger for their own sake, with little if any
regard to principle, which goes far in all ages to neutralise the
efforts and hamper the energies of the wise.
Besides the acts of Indulgence, another and most tyrannical measure,
already mentioned, had been introduced to crush if possible the
Presbyterians. Letters of intercommuning were issued against a
great number of the most distinguished Presbyterians, including several
ladies of note, by which they were proscribed as rebels and cut off
from all society. A price, amounting in some instances to £500
sterling, was fixed on their heads, and every person, not excepting
their nearest of kin, was prohibited from conversing with or writing to
them, or of aiding with food, clothes, or any other necessary of life,
on pain of being found guilty of the same crimes as the intercommuned
The natural result of such inhuman laws was that men and women in
hundreds had to flee from their homes and seek refuge among the dens
and caves of the mountains, where many were caught, carried off to
prison, tried, tortured, and executed; while of those who escaped their
foes, numbers perished from cold and hunger, and disease brought on by
lying in damp caves and clefts of the rocks without food or fire in all
weathers. The fines which were exacted for so-called offences tempted
the avarice of the persecutors and tended to keep the torch of
persecution aflame. For example, Sir George Maxwell of Newark was fined
a sum amounting to nearly £8000 sterling for absence from his Parish
Church, attendance at conventicles, and disorderly baptisms — i.e. for
preferring his own minister to the curate in the baptizing of his
children! Hundreds of somewhat similar instances might be given. Up to
the time of which we write (1678) no fewer than 17,000 persons had
suffered for attending field meetings, either by fine, imprisonment, or
Such was the state of matters when the party of dragoons under
command of Sergeant Glendinning rode towards the Mitchells' cottage,
which was not far from Black's farm. The body of soldiers being too
small to venture to interrupt the communion on Skeoch Hill, Glendinning
had been told to wait in the neighbourhood and gather information while
his officer, Captain Houston, went off in search of reinforcements.
“There's the auld sinner himsel',” cried the Sergeant as the party
came in sight of an old, whitehaired man seated on a knoll by the side
of the road. “Hallo! Jock Mitchell, is that you? Come doon here
directly, I want to speak t'ye.”
The old man, being stone deaf, and having his back to the road, was
not aware of the presence of the dragoons, and of course took no notice
of the summons.
“D'ye hear!” shouted the Sergeant savagely, for he was ignorant of
the old man's condition.
Still Mitchell did not move. Glendinning, whose disposition seemed
to have been rendered more brutal since his encounter with Wallace,
drew a pistol from his holster and presented it at Mitchell.
“Answer me,” he shouted again, “or ye're a deed man.”
Mitchell did not move... There was a loud report, and next moment
the poor old man fell dead upon the ground.
It chanced that Ramblin' Peter heard the report, though he did not
witness the terrible result, for he was returning home from the
Mitchells' cottage at the time, after escorting Jean Black and Aggie
Wilson thither. The two girls, having been forbidden to attend the
gathering on Skeoch Hill, had resolved to visit the Mitchells and spend
the Sabbath with them. Peter had accompanied them and spent the greater
part of the day with them, but, feeling the responsibility of his
position as the representative of Andrew Black during his absence, had
at last started for home.
A glance over a rising ground sufficed to make the boy turn sharp
round and take to his heels. He was remarkably swift of foot. A few
minutes brought him to the cottage door, which he burst open.
“The sodgers is comin', grannie!” (He so styled the old woman,
though she was no relation.)
“Did ye see my auld man?”
“Away wi' ye, bairns,” said Mrs Mitchell quickly but quietly. “Oot
by the back door an' doon the burnside; they'll niver see ye for the
“But, grannie, we canna leave you here alone,” remonstrated Jean
with an anxious look.
“An' I can fecht!” remarked Peter in a low voice, that betrayed
neither fear nor excitement.
“The sodgers can do nae harm to me,” returned the old woman
firmly. “Do my bidding, bairns. Be aff, I say!”
There was no resisting Mrs Mitchell's word of command. Hastening out
by the back door just as the troopers came in sight, Peter and his
companions, diving into the shrubbery of the neighbouring streamlet,
made their way to Black's farm by a circuitous route. There the girls
took shelter in the house, locking the door and barring the windows,
while Peter, diverging to the left, made for the hills like a hunted
Andrew was standing alone at his post when the lithe runner came in
sight. Will Wallace had left him by that time, and was listening
entranced to the fervid exhortations of Dickson of Rutherglen.
“The sodgers!” gasped Peter, as he flung himself down to rest.
“Comin' this way, lad?”
“Na. They're at the Mitchells.”
“A' safe at the ferm?” asked Andrew quickly.
“Ay, I saw the lasses into the hoose.”
“Rin to the meetin' an' gie the alarm. Tell them to send Wallace an'
Quentin here wi' sax stoot men — weel airmed — an' anither sentry,
for I'm gaun awa'.”
Almost before the sentence was finished Ramblin' Peter was up and
away, and soon the alarming cry arose from the assembly, “The dragoons
are upon us!”
Instantly the Clydesdale men mounted and formed to meet the expected
onset. The men of Nithsdale were not slow to follow their example, and
Gordon of Earlstoun, a tried and skilful soldier, put himself at the
head of a large troop of Galloway horse. Four or five companies of
foot, also well armed, got ready for action, and videttes and single
horsemen were sent out to reconnoitre. Thus, in a moment, was this
assembly of worshippers transformed into a band of Christian warriors,
ready to fight and die for their families and liberties.
But the alarm, as it turned out, was a false one. Glendinning,
informed by spies of the nature of the gathering, was much too
sagacious a warrior to oppose his small force to such overwhelming
odds. He contented himself for the present with smaller game.
After continuing in the posture of defence for a considerable time,
the assembly dispersed, those who were defenceless being escorted by
armed parties to the barns and cottages around. As they retired from
the scene the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain, which had
been restrained all day, came down in torrents, and sent the Cairn and
Cluden red and roaring to the sea.
But long before this dispersion took place, Andrew Black, with
Quentin Dick, Will Wallace, Ramblin' Peter, and six sturdy young men,
armed with sword, gun, and pistol, had hurried down the hill to succour
the Mitchells, if need be, and see to the welfare of those who had been
left behind in the farm.
Chapter Four. The Hunting and
Being ignorant, as we have said, of the cruel murder of old
Mitchell, Ramblin' Peter's report had not seriously alarmed Black. He
concluded that the worst the troopers would do would be to rob the poor
old couple of what money they found in their possession, oblige them to
take the Oath of Supremacy, drink the health of King and bishops, and
otherwise insult and plunder them. Knowing the Mitchells intimately, he
had no fear that their opposition would invite severity. Being very
fond of them, however, he resolved, at the risk of his life, to prevent
as far as possible the threatened indignity and plunder.
“They're a douce auld pair,” he remarked to Will Wallace as they
strode down the hillside together, “quiet an' peaceable, wi' naething
to speak o' in the way of opeenions — somethin' like mysel' — an'
willin' to let-be for let-be. But since the country has been ower-run
by thae Hielanders an' sodgers, they've had little peace, and the auld
man has gie'n them a heap o' trouble, for he's as deaf as a post. Peter
says the pairty o' dragoons is a sma' ane, so I expect the sight o'
us'll scare them away an' prevent fechtin'.”
“It may be so,” said Wallace, “and of course I shall not fail you in
this attempt to protect your old friends; but, to tell you the truth, I
don't quite like this readiness on the part of you Covenanters to defy
the laws, however bad they may be, and to attack the King's troops. The
Bible, which you so often quote, inculcates longsuffering and
“Hm! there speaks yer ignorance,” returned the farmer with a dash of
cynicism in his tone. “Hoo mony years, think ye, are folk to submit to
tyranny an' wrang an' fierce oppression for nae sin whatever against
the laws o' God or the land? Are twunty, thretty, or forty years no'
enough to warrant oor claim to lang-sufferin'? Does submission to
law-brekin' on the pairt o' Government, an' lang-continued, high-handed
oppression frae King, courtier, an' prelate, accompanied wi' barefaced
plunder and murder — does that no' justifiee oor claim to
patience? To a' this the Covenanters hae submitted for mony weary years
withoot rebellion, except maybe in the metter o' the Pentlands, when a
wheen o' us were driven to desperation. But I understand your feelin's,
lad, for I'm a man o' peace by natur', an' would gladly submit to
injustice to keep things quiet — if possable; but some things
are no' possable, an' the Bible itsel' says we're to live
peaceably wi' a' men only 'as much as in us lies.'“
The ex-trooper was silent. Although ignorant of the full extent of
maddening persecution to which not merely the Covenanters but the
people of Scotland generally had been subjected, his own limited
experience told him that there was much truth in what his companion
said; still, like all loyal-hearted men, he shrank from the position of
antagonism to Government.
“I agree with you,” he said, after a few minutes' thought, “but I
have been born, I suppose, with a profound respect for law and legally
“Div ye think, lad,” returned Black, impressively, “that naebody's
been born wi' a high respec' for law but yersel'? I suppose ye admit
that the King is bound to respec' the law as weel as the people?”
“Of course I do. I am no advocate of despotism.”
“Weel then,” continued the farmer with energy, “in the year saxteen
forty-ane, an' at ither times, kings an' parliaments hae stamped the
Covenants o' Scotland as bein' pairt o' the law o' this land — whereby
freedom o' conscience an' Presbyterian worship are secured to us a'.
An' here comes Chairles the Second an' breks the law by sendin' that
scoondrel the Duke o' Lauderdale here wi' full poors to dae what he
likes — an' Middleton, a man wi' nae heart an' less conscience, that
was raised up frae naething to be a noble, nae less! My word, nobles
are easy made, but they're no' sae easy unmade! An' this Lauderdale
maks a cooncil wi' Airchbishop Sherp — a traiter and a turncoat — an'
a wheen mair like himsel', and they send sodgers oot ower the land to
eat us up an' cram Prelacy doon oor throats, an' curates into oor
poo'pits whether we wull or no'. An' that though Chairles himsel'
signed the Covenant at the time he was crooned! Ca' ye that law
or legally constituted authority?”
Although deeply excited by this brief recital of his country's
wrongs, Black maintained the quiet expression of feature and tone of
voice that were habitual to him. Further converse on the subject was
interrupted by their arrival at the farm, where they found all right
save that Jean and Aggie were in a state of tearful anxiety about their
While the farmer was seeing to the security of his house and its
arrangements, preparatory to continuing the march to the Mitchells'
cottage, the rest of the party stood about the front door conversing.
Will Wallace was contemplating Jean Black with no little admiration, as
she moved about the house. There was something peculiarly attractive
about Jean. A winsome air and native grace, with refinement of manner
unusual in one of her station, would have stamped her with a powerful
species of beauty even if she had not possessed in addition a modest
look and fair young face.
The ex-trooper was questioning, in a dreamy way, whether he had ever
before seen such a pretty and agreeable specimen of girlhood, when he
experienced a shock of surprise on observing that Jean had gone to a
neighbouring spring for water and was making something very like a
signal to him to follow her.
The surprise was mingled with an uncomfortable feeling of regret,
for the action seemed inconsistent with the maiden's natural modesty.
“Forgie me, sir,” she said, “for being so bold, but oh! sir, if ye
knew how anxious I am about Uncle Black, ye would understand — he is
wanted so much, an' there's them in the hidy-hole that would fare ill
if he was taken to prison just now. If — ye — would—”
“Well, Jean,” said Will, sympathising with the struggle it evidently
cost the girl to speak to him — “don't hesitate to confide in me. What
would you have me do?”
“Only to keep him back frae the sodgers if ye can. He's such an
awfu' man to fecht when he's roosed, that he's sure to kill some o'
them if he's no' killed himsel'. An' it'll be ruin to us a' an' to the
Mitchells too, if—”
She was interrupted at this point by Black himself calling her name.
“Trust me,” said Wallace earnestly, “I understand what you wish, and
will do my best to prevent evil.”
A grateful look was all the maiden's reply as she hurried away.
Our hero's perplexity as to how this promise was to be fulfilled
was, however, needless, for on reaching the Mitchells' hut it was found
that the troopers had already left the place; but the state of things
they had left behind them was enough to stir deeply the pity and the
indignation of the party.
Everything in confusion — broken furniture, meal and grain
scattered on the floor, open chests and cupboards — told that the
legalised brigands had done their worst. Poor Mrs Mitchell had objected
to nothing that they said or did or proposed to her. She feebly drank
the health of King and prelates when bidden to do so, and swore
whatever test-oaths they chose to apply to her till they required her
to admit that the King was lord over the kirk and the conscience. Then
her spirit fired, and with a firm voice she declared that no king but
Christ should rule over her kirk or conscience — to which she boldly
added that she had attended conventicles, and would do so again!
Having obtained all they wanted, the dragoons went away, leaving the
old woman among the ruins of her home, for they probably did not
consider it worth while carrying off a prisoner who would in all
likelihood have died on the road to prison.
In the midst of all the noise and confusion it had struck the old
woman as strange that they never once asked about her husband. After
they had gone, however, the arrival of two neighbours bearing his dead
body revealed the terrible reason. She uttered no cry when they laid
his corpse on the floor, but sat gazing in horror as if turned to
stone. Thus Black and his friends found her.
She could not be roused to speak, and looked, after a few minutes,
like one who had not realised the truth.
In this state she was conveyed to Black's cottage and handed over to
Jean, whom every one seemed intuitively to regard as her natural
comforter. The poor child led her into her own room, sat down beside
her on the bed, laid the aged head on her sympathetic bosom and sobbed
as if her heart was breaking. But no response came from the old woman,
save that once or twice she looked up feebly and said, “Jean, dear,
what ails ye?”
In the Council Chamber at Edinburgh, Lauderdale, learning on one
occasion that many persons both high and low had refused to take the
bond already referred to, which might well have been styled the bond of
slavery, bared his arm in fury, and, smiting the table with his fist,
swore with a terrific oath that he would “force them to take the bond.”
What we have described is a specimen of the manner in which the
force was sometimes applied. The heartless despot and his clerical
coadjutors had still to learn that tyranny has not yet forged the
weapon that can separate man from his God.
“What think ye noo?” asked Andrew Black, turning to Wallace with a
quiet but stern look, after old Mrs Mitchell had been carried in, “what
think ye noo, lad, o' us Covenanters an' oor lack o'
lang-sufferin' an' oor defyin' the laws? Aren't these laws we ought
to defy, but havena properly defied yet, laws illegally made by a
perjured King and an upstart Cooncil?”
“Mr Black,” said the ex-trooper, seizing his companion's hand with
an iron grip, “from this day forward I am with you — heart and soul.”
Little did Wallace think, when he came to this decision, that he had
still stronger reason for his course of action than he was aware of at
It was night when Mrs Mitchell was brought into the farm-house, and
preparations were being made for a hasty meal, when Ramblin' Peter came
in with the news that a number of people in the Lanarkshire district
had been intercommuned and driven from their homes — amongst others
David Spence, Will Wallace's uncle, with whom his mother had taken up
The distracted looks of poor Wallace on hearing this showed the
powerful effect the news had upon him.
“Keep yersel' quiet, noo,” said Black in an encouraging tone, as he
took the youth's arm and led him out of the house. “These are no' times
to let our hearts rin awa wi' oor heids. Yer mither must be looked
after; but i' the meantime let me tell ye that yer uncle Daavid is a
douce, cliver felly, an' fears naething i' this warld. If he did, he
wadna be amang the intercommuned. Be sure he's no' the man to leave his
sister Maggie in trouble. Of course ye'll be wantin' to be aff to look
“Of course — instantly,” said Wallace.
“Na. Ye'll hae yer supper first — an' a guid ain — for ye'll need
it. Have patience, noo, an' listen to me, for I'll do the very best I
can for ye in this strait — an' it's no muckle ye can do for yersel'
There was something so decided yet kindly and reassuring in the
farmer's tone and manner that Wallace felt relieved in spite of his
anxieties, and submitted to his guidance in all things. Black then
explained that he had a friend in Lanark who owed him money on lambs
sold to him the previous year; that he meant to send his man Quentin
Dick first to collect that money, and then proceed to Edinburgh, for
the purpose of making further arrangements there about cattle.
“Noo,” continued Black, “I've gotten a mither as weel as you, an'
she lives in the Can'lemaker Raw, close to the Greyfriars' Kirkyaird —
where they signed the Covenants, ye ken. Weel, I wad advise you to gang
to Lanark wi' Quentin, an' when ye find yer mither tak' her to Edinbro'
an' let her live wi' my mither i' the meantime, till we see what the
Lord has in store for this puir persecuted remnant. I'm sorry to pairt
wi' ye, lad, sae unexpectedly, but in thae times, when folk are called
on to pairt wi' their heids unexpectedly, we mauna compleen.”
“I'll take your advice gladly,” said Wallace. “When will Quentin
Dick be ready to start?”
“In less than an hour. The moon'll be up soon after that. It's o'
nae use startin' on sae dark a nicht till she's up, for ye'll hae to
cross some nasty grund. Noo, lad, though I'm no a minister, my advice
to ye is, to gang doon into the hidy-hole an' pray aboot this matter.
Niver mind the folk ye find there. They're used to prayin'. It's my
opeenion that if there was less preachin' an' mair prayin', we'd be a'
the better for 't. It's a thrawn warld we live in, but we're bound to
mak' the best o't.”
Although not much in the habit of engaging in prayer — save at the
formal periods of morning and evening — our ex-trooper was just then
in the mood to take his friend's advice. He retired to the place of
refuge under Black's house, where he found several people who had
evidently been at the communion on Skeoch Hill. These were engaged in
earnest conversation, and took little notice of him as he entered. The
place was very dimly lighted. One end of the low vaulted chamber was
involved in obscurity. Thither the youth went and knelt down. From
infancy his mother had taught him “to say his prayers,” and had sought
to induce him to pray. It is probable that the first time he really did
so was in that secret chamber where, in much anxiety of soul, he prayed
After a hasty but hearty supper, he and Quentin Dick set out on
their night journey. They carried nothing with them except two wallets,
filled, as Wallace could not help thinking, with a needlessly large
amount of provisions. Of course they were unarmed, for they travelled
in the capacity of peaceful drovers, with plaids on their shoulders,
and the usual staves in their hands.
“One would think we were going to travel for a month in some
wilderness, to judge from the weight of our haversacks,” observed
Wallace, after trudging along for some time in silence.
“Maybe we'll be langer than a month,” returned Quentin, “ann the
wulderness hereaway is warse than the wulderness that Moses led his
folk through. They had manna there. Mony o' us hae naething
Quentin Dick spoke with cynicism in his tone, for he was a stern
straightforward man, on whom injustice told with tremendous power, and
who had not yet been taught by adversity to bow his head to man and
restrain his indignation.
Before Wallace had time to make any rejoinder, something like the
appearance of a group of horsemen in front arrested them. They were
still so far distant as to render their tramp inaudible. Indeed they
could not have been seen at all in so dark a night but for the fact
that in passing over the crest of a hill they were for a moment or two
dimly defined against the sky.
“Dragoons — fowr o' them,” muttered Quentin. “We'll step aside here
an' let them gang by.”
Clambering up the somewhat rugged side of the road, the two men
concealed themselves among the bushes, intending to wait till the
troopers should pass.
“What can they be doing in this direction, I wonder?” whispered
“My freend,” answered Quentin, “dinna whisper when ye're hidin'. Of
a' the sounds for attractin' attention an' revealin' secrets a whisper
is the warst. Speak low, if ye maun speak, but sometimes it's wiser no
to speak ava'. Dootless the sodgers'll be giein' Andrew Black a ca',
but he kens brawly hoo to tak' care o' himsel'.”
When the horseman approached it was seen that they were driving
before them a boy, or lad, on foot. Evidently they were compelling him
to act as their guide.
“It's Ramblin' Peter they've gotten haud o', as sure as I'm a
leevin' man,” said the shepherd with a low chuckle; “I'd ken him amang
a thoosand by the way he rins.”
“Shall we not rescue him?” exclaimed Wallace, starting up.
“Wheesht! keep still, man. Nae fear o' Peter. He'll lead them in
amang the bogs o' some peat-moss or ither, gie them the slip there, an'
leave them to find their way oot.”
Just as the troop trotted past an incident occurred which
disconcerted the hiders not a little. A dog which the soldiers had with
them scented them, stopped, and after snuffing about for a few seconds,
began to bark furiously. The troop halted at once and challenged.
“Tak' nae notice,” remarked Quentin in a low voice, which went no
farther than his comrade's ear.
A bright flash and sharp report followed the challenge, and a ball
whistled through the thicket.
“Ay, fire away,” soliloquised Quentin. “Ye seldom hit when ye can
see. It's no' likely ye'll dae muckle better i' the dark.”
The dog, however, having discovered the track of the hidden men,
rushed up the bank towards them. The shepherd picked up a stone, and,
waiting till the animal was near enough, flung it with such a true aim
that the dog went howling back to the road. On this a volley from the
carbines of the troopers cut up the bushes all around them.
“That'll dae noo. Come awa', Wull,” said the shepherd, rising and
proceeding farther into the thicket by a scarce visible footpath. “The
horses canna follow us here unless they hae the legs an' airms o'
puggies. As for the men, they'd have to cut a track to let their big
boots pass. We may tak' it easy, for they're uncommon slow at loadin'.”
In a few minutes the two friends were beyond all danger. Returning
then to the road about a mile farther on, they continued to journey
until they had left the scene of the great communion far behind them,
and when day dawned they retired to a dense thicket in a hollow by the
banks of a little burn, and there rested till near sunset, when the
journey was resumed. That night they experienced considerable delay
owing to the intense darkness. Towards dawn the day following Quentin
Dick led his companion into a wild, thickly-wooded place which seemed
formed by nature as a place of refuge for a hunted creature — whether
man or beast.
Entering the mouth of what seemed to be a cavern, he bade his
companion wait. Presently a sound, as of the cry of some wild bird, was
heard. It was answered by a similar cry in the far distance. Soon after
the shepherd returned, and, taking his companion by the hand, led him
into the cave which, a few paces from its mouth, was profoundly dark.
Almost immediately a glimmering light appeared. A few steps farther,
and Wallace found himself in the midst of an extraordinary scene.
The cavern at its inner extremity was an apartment of considerable
size, and the faint light of a few lanterns showed that the place was
clouded by smoke from a low fire of wood that burned at the upper end.
Here, standing, seated, and reclining, were assembled all sorts and
conditions of men — some in the prime and vigour of life; some bowed
with the weight of years; others, both young and old, gaunt and haggard
from the influence of disease and suffering, and many giving evidence
by their aspect that their days on earth were numbered. Some, by the
stern contraction of brow and lip, seemed to suggest that submission
was the last thought that would enter their minds, but not a few of the
party wore that look of patient endurance which is due to the influence
of the Spirit of God — not to mere human strength of mind and will.
All seemed to be famishing for want of food, while ragged clothes,
shaggy beards, hollow cheeks, and unkempt locks told eloquently of the
long years of bodily and mental suffering which had been endured under
Chapter Five. Risks and Refuges.
Immediately on entering the cave in which this party of Covenanters
had found a temporary shelter, Will Wallace learned the reason of the
large supply of provisions which he and his comrade had carried.
“I've brought this for ye frae Andrew Black,” said Quentin, taking
the wallet from his shoulder and presenting it to a man in clerical
costume who advanced to welcome him. “He thought ye might stand in need
“Ever thoughtful of his friends; I thank him heartily,” said the
minister, accepting the wallet — as also that handed to him by
Wallace. “Andrew is a true helper of the persecuted; and I thank the
Lord who has put it into his heart to supply us at a time when our
provisions are well-nigh exhausted. Our numbers have been unexpectedly
increased by the arrival of some of the unfortunates recently expelled
“From Lanark!” echoed Wallace as he glanced eagerly round on the
forlorn throng. “Can you tell me, sir, if a Mr David Spence and a Mrs
Wallace have arrived from that quarter?”
“I have not heard of them,” returned the minister, as he emptied the
wallets and began to distribute their contents to those around him. —
“Ah, here is milk — I'm glad our friend Black thought of that, for we
have a poor dying woman here who can eat nothing solid. Here, Webster,
take it to her.”
With a sudden sinking at the heart Wallace followed the man to whom
the milk had been given. Might not this dying woman, he thought, be his
own mother? True, he had just been told that no one with her name had
yet sought refuge there; but, there was a bare possibility and —
anxiety does not reason! As he crossed to a spot where several persons
were bending over a couch of straw, a tremendous clap of thunder shook
the solid walls of the cavern. This was immediately followed by a
torrent of rain, the plashing of which outside suggested that all the
windows of heaven had been suddenly opened. The incident was natural
enough in itself, but the anxious youth took it as a bad omen, and
trembled as he had never before trembled at the disturbances of nature.
One glance, however, sufficed to relieve his mind. The dying woman was
young. Delicate of constitution by nature, long exposure to damp air in
caves, and cold beds on the ground, with bad and insufficient food, had
sealed her doom. Lying there, with hollow cheeks, eyes closed and lips
deathly pale, it seemed as if the spirit had already fled.
“Oh, my ain Lizzie!” cried a poor woman who knelt beside her.
“Wheesht, mither,” whispered the dying woman, slowly opening her
eyes; “it is the Lord's doing — shall not the Judge of a' the earth do
right? We'll understand it a' some day — for ever wi' the Lord!”
The last words were audible only to the mother's ear. Food for the
body, even if it could have availed her, came too late. Another moment
and she was in the land where hunger and thirst are unknown — where
the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
The mourners were still standing in silence gazing on the dead, when
a loud noise and stamping of feet was heard at the entrance of the
cave. Turning round they saw several drenched and haggard persons
enter, among them a man supporting — almost carrying — a woman whose
drooping figure betokened great exhaustion.
“Thank you, O thank you; I — I'm better now,” said the woman,
looking up with a weary yet grateful expression at her protector.
Will Wallace sprang forward as he heard the voice. “Mother! mother!”
he cried, and, next moment, he had her in his arms.
The excitement coupled with extreme fatigue was almost too much for
the poor woman. She could not speak, but, with a sigh of contentment,
allowed her head to fall upon the broad bosom of her son.
Accustomed as those hunted people were to scenes of suffering, wild
despair, and sometimes, though not often, to bursts of sudden joy, this
incident drew general attention and sympathy — except, indeed, from
the mother of the dead woman, whose poor heart was for the moment
stunned. Several women — one of whom was evidently a lady of some
position — crowded to Will's assistance, and conveyed Mrs Wallace to a
recess in the cave which was curtained off. Here they gave her food,
and changed her soaking garments. Meanwhile her brother, David Spence
— a grand-looking old man of gentle manners and refined mind — gave
his nephew an account of the manner in which they had been driven from
“What is the matter with your hands, uncle?” asked Will, observing
that both were bandaged.
“They tried the thumbscrews on me,” said Spence with a pitiful
smile, glancing at his injured members. “They wanted to force me to
sign the Bond, which I declined to do — first, because it required me
to perform impossibilities; and, second, because it was such as no
Government in the world has a right to exact or freeman to sign. They
were going to put the boot on me at first, but the officer in command
ordered them to try the thumbscrews. This was lucky, for a man may get
along with damaged thumbs, but it would have been hard to travel with
crippled legs! I held out though, until the pain became so great that I
couldn't help giving a tremendous yell. This seemed to touch the
officer with pity, for he ordered his men to let me be. Soon afterwards
your mother and I managed to give them the slip, and we came on here.”
“But why came you here, uncle?” asked Will.
“Because I don't want to be taken to Edinburgh and hanged. Besides,
after hearing of your temporary settlement with Black, I thought the
safest place for your mother would be beside yourself.”
When Wallace explained the cause of his own journey, and the
condition of the district around Black's farm, the plans of David
Spence had to be altered. He resolved, after consideration and prayer,
to take to the mountains and remain in hiding, while Mrs Wallace should
go to Edinburgh, as already planned, and live with Mrs Black.
“But it will never do to take her along with yourself, Will,” said
Spence. “She cannot walk a step farther. We must try to get her a
horse, and let her journey along with some o' the armed bands that
attended the conventicle at Skeoch Hill. They will be sure to be
returning this way in a day or two.”
“You are right,” said the minister who has already been introduced,
and who overheard the concluding remark as he came forward. “The armed
men will be passing this way in a day or two, and we will take good
care of your mother, young sir, while she remains with us.”
“Just so,” rejoined Spence. “I'll see to that; so, nephew, you and
your comrade Quentin may continue your journey with easy minds. You'll
need all your caution to avoid being taken up and convicted, for the
tyrants are in such a state of mind just now that if a man only
looks independent they suspect him, and there is but a short road
between suspicion and the gallows now.”
“Humph! we'll be as innocent-lookin' an' submissive as bairns,”
remarked Quentin Dick, with a grim smile on his lips and a frown on his
brow that were the reverse of childlike.
Convinced that Spence's arrangement for his mother's safety was the
best in the circumstances, Wallace left her, though somewhat
reluctantly, in the care of the outlawed Covenanters, and resumed his
journey with the shepherd after a few hours' rest.
Proceeding with great caution, they succeeded in avoiding the
soldiers who scoured the country until, towards evening, while crossing
a rising ground they were met suddenly by two troopers. A thicket and
bend in the road had, up to that moment, concealed them from view.
Level grass-fields bordered the road on either side, so that successful
flight was impossible.
“Wull ye fecht?” asked Quentin, in a quick subdued voice.
“Of course I will,” returned Wallace.
“Ca' canny at first, then. Be humble an' awfu' meek, till I
The troopers were upon them almost as soon as this was uttered.
“Ho! my fine fellows,” exclaimed one of them, riding up to Quentin
with drawn sword, “fanatics, I'll be bound. Where from and where away
“We come, honoured sir, frae Irongray, an' we're gaun to Ed'nbury t'
buy cattle,” answered Quentin with downcast eyes.
“Indeed, oho! then you must needs have the cash wherewith to buy the
cattle. Where is it?”
“In ma pooch,” said the shepherd with a deprecating glance at his
“Hand it over, then, my good fellow. Fanatics are not allowed to
have money or to purchase cattle nowadays.”
“But, honoured sir, we're no fannyteeks. We're honest shepherds.”
The lamb-like expression of Quentin Dick's face as he said this was
such that Wallace had considerable difficulty in restraining an
outburst of laughter, despite their critical position. He maintained
his gravity, however, and firmly grasped his staff, which, like that of
his companion, was a blackthorn modelled somewhat on the pattern of the
club of Hercules.
“Here, Melville,” said the first trooper, “hold my horse while I
ease this 'honest shepherd' of his purse.”
Sheathing his sword, he drew a pistol from its holster, and, handing
the reins to his companion, dismounted.
“Noo!” exclaimed Quentin, bringing his staff down on the
trooper's iron headpiece with a terrific thwack. Like a flash of
lightning the club of Wallace rang and split upon that of the other
horseman, who fell headlong to the ground.
Strong arms have seldom occasion to repeat a well-delivered blow.
While the soldiers lay prone upon the road their startled horses
galloped back the way they had come.
“That's unfort'nit,” said Quentin. “Thae twa look like an
advance-gaird, an' if so, the main body'll no be lang o' gallopin' up
to see what's the maitter. It behoves us to rin!”
The only port of refuge that appeared to them as they looked quickly
round was a clump of trees on a ridge out of which rose the spire of a
“The kirk's but a puir sanctuary nooadays,” remarked the shepherd,
as he set off across the fields at a quick run, “but it's oor only
They had not quite gained the ridge referred to when the danger that
Quentin feared overtook them. A small company of dragoons was seen
galloping along the road.
“We may gain the wood before they see us,” suggested Will Wallace.
“If it was a wud I wadna care for the sodgers,” replied his
comrade, “but it's only a bit plantation. We'll jist mak' for the manse
an' hide if we can i' the coal-hole or some place.”
As he spoke a shout from the troopers told that they had been seen,
and several of them leaving the road dashed across the field in
Now, it chanced that at that quiet evening hour the young curate of
the district, the Rev. Frank Selby, was enjoying a game of quoits with
a neighbouring curate, the Rev. George Lawless, on a piece of ground at
the rear of the manse. The Rev. Frank was a genial Lowlander of the
muscular type. The Rev. George was a renegade Highland-man of the
cadaverous order. The first was a harum-scarum young pastor with a
be-as-jolly-as-you-can spirit, and had accepted his office at the
recommendation of a relative in power. The second was a mean-spirited
wolf in sheep's clothing, who, like his compatriot Archbishop Sharp,
had sold his kirk and country as well as his soul for what he deemed
some personal advantage. As may well be supposed, neither of those
curates was a shining light in the ministry.
“Missed again! I find it as hard to beat you, Lawless, as I do to
get my parishioners to come to church,” exclaimed the Rev. Frank with a
good-humoured laugh as his quoit struck the ground and, having been
badly thrown, rolled away.
“That's because you treat your quoits carelessly, as you treat your
parishioners,” returned the Rev. George, as he made a magnificent throw
and ringed the tee.
“Bravo! that's splendid!” exclaimed Selby.
“Not bad,” returned Lawless. “You see, you want more decision with
the throw — as with the congregation. If you will persist in refusing
to report delinquents and have them heavily fined or intercommuned, you
must expect an empty church. Mine is fairly full just now, and I have
weeded out most of the incorrigibles.”
“I will never increase my congregation by such means, and I have no
wish to weed out the incorrigibles,” rejoined Selby, becoming grave as
he made another and a better throw.
At that moment our fugitive shepherds, dashing round the corner of
the manse, almost plunged into the arms of the Rev. Frank Selby. They
pulled up, panting and uncertain how to act.
“You seem in haste, friends,” said the curate, with an urbane smile.
“Oot o' the fryin'-pan into the fire!” growled Quentin, grasping his
staff and setting his teeth.
“If you will condescend to explain the frying-pan I may perhaps
relieve you from the fire,” said Selby with emphasis.
Wallace observed the tone and grasped at the forlorn hope.
“The dragoons are after us, sir,” he said eagerly; “unless you can
hide us we are lost!”
“If you are honest men,” interrupted the Rev. George Lawless, with
extreme severity of tone and look, “you have no occasion to hide—”
“Bub we're not honest men,” interrupted Quentin in a spirit
of almost hilarious desperation, “we're fannyteeks, — rebels, —
Covenanters, — born eediots—”
“Then,” observed Lawless, with increasing austerity, “you richly
“George!” said the Rev. Frank sharply, “you are in my parish just
now, and I expect you to respect my wishes. Throw your plaids, sticks,
and bonnets behind that bush, my lads — well out of sight — so. Now,
cast your coats, and join us in our game.”
The fugitives understood and swiftly obeyed him. While they were
hastily stripping off their coats Selby took his brother curate aside,
and, looking him sternly in the face, said— “Now, George Lawless, if
you by word or look interfere with my plans, I will give you cause to
repent it to the latest day of your life.”
If any one had seen the countenance of the Rev. George at that
moment he would have observed that it became suddenly clothed with an
air of meekness that was by no means attractive.
At the time we write of, any curate might, with the assistance of
the soldiers, fine whom he pleased, and as much as he pleased, or he
might, by reporting a parishioner an absentee from public worship,
consign him or her to prison, or even to the gallows. But though all
the curates were in an utterly false position they were not all equally
depraved. Selby was one who felt more or less of shame at the
contemptible part he was expected to play.
When the troopers came thundering round the corner of the manse a
few minutes later, Quentin Dick, in his shirt sleeves, was in the act
of making a beautiful throw, and Will Wallace was watching him with
interest. Even the Rev. George seemed absorbed in the game, for he felt
that the eyes of the Rev. Frank were upon him.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” said the officer in command of the soldiers,
“did you see two shepherds run past here?”
“No,” answered the Rev. Frank with a candid smile, “I saw no
shepherds run past here.”
“Strange!” returned the officer, “they seemed to enter your
shrubbery and to disappear near the house.”
“Did you see the path that diverges to the left and takes down to
the thicket in the hollow?” asked Selby.
“Yes, I did, but they seemed to have passed that when we lost sight
“Let me advise you to try it now,” said Selby.
“I will,” replied the officer, wheeling his horse round and
galloping off, followed by his men.
“Now, friends, I have relieved you from the fire, as I promised,”
said the Rev. Frank, turning to the shepherds; “see that you don't get
into the frying-pan again. Whether you deserve hanging or not is best
known to yourselves. To say truth, you don't look like it, but, judging
from appearance, I should think that in these times you're not unlikely
to get it. On with your coats and plaids and be off as fast as you can
— over the ridge yonder. In less than half-an-hour you'll be in
Denman's Dean, where a regiment of cavalry would fail to catch you.”
“We shall never forget you—”
“There, there,” interrupted the Rev. Frank, “be off. The troopers
will soon return. I've seen more than enough of hanging, quartering,
and shooting to convince me that Presbytery is not to be rooted out,
nor Prelacy established, by such means. Be off, I say!”
Thus urged, the fugitives were not slow to avail themselves of the
opportunity, and soon were safe in Denman's Dean.
“Now, Lawless,” said the Rev. Frank in a cheerful tone, “my
conscience, which has been depressed of late, feels easier this
evening. Let us go in to supper; and remember that no one knows
about this incident except you — and I. So, there's no chance of its
“The two rebels know it,” suggested Lawless.
“No, they don't!” replied the other airily. “They have quite
forgotten it by this time, and even if it should recur to memory their
own interest and gratitude would seal their lips — so we're quite
safe, you and I; quite safe — come along.”
Our travellers met with no further interruption until they reached
Edinburgh. It was afternoon when they arrived, and, entering by the
road that skirts the western base of the Castle rock, proceeded towards
Pushing through the crowd gathered in that celebrated locality,
Quentin and Wallace ascended the steep street named Candlemaker Row,
which led and still leads to the high ground that has since been
connected with the High Street by George IV. Bridge. About half-way up
the ascent they came to a semicircular projection which encroached
somewhat on the footway. It contained a stair which led to the interior
of one of the houses. Here was the residence of Mrs Black, the mother
of our friend Andrew. The good woman was at home, busily engaged with
her knitting needles, when her visitors entered.
A glance sufficed to show Wallace whence Andrew Black derived his
grave, quiet, self-possessed character, as well as his powerful frame
and courteous demeanour.
She received Quentin Dick, to whom she was well known, with a
mixture of goodwill and quiet dignity.
“I've brought a freend o' Mr Black's to bide wi' ye for a wee while,
if ye can take him in,” said Quentin, introducing his young companion
as “Wull Wallace.”
“I'm prood to receive an' welcome ony freend o' my boy Andry,”
returned the good woman, with a slight gesture that would have become a
“Ay, an' yer son wants ye to receive Wallace's mither as weel.
She'll likely be here in a day or twa. She's been sair persecooted of
late, puir body, for she's a staunch upholder o' the Covenants.”
There have been several Covenants in Scotland, the most important
historically being the National Covenant of 1638, and the Solemn League
and Covenant of 1643. It was to these that Quentin referred, and to
these that he and the great majority of the Scottish people clung with
intense, almost superstitious veneration; and well they might, for
these Covenants — which some enthusiasts had signed with their blood
— contained nearly all the principles which lend stability and dignity
to a people — such as a determination to loyally stand by and “defend
the King,” and “the liberties and laws of the kingdom,” to have before
the eyes “the glory of God, the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ, the honour and happiness of the King and his
posterity, as well as the safety and peace of the people; to preserve
the rights and privileges of Parliament, so that arbitrary and
unlimited power should never be suffered to fall into the hands of
rulers, and to vindicate and maintain the liberties of the subjects in
all these things which concern their consciences, persons, and
estates.” In short, it was a testimony for constitutional government in
opposition to absolutism.
Such were the principles for which Mrs Black contended with a
resolution equal, if not superior, to that of her stalwart son; so that
it was in a tone of earnest decision that she assured her visitors that
nothing would gratify her more than to receive a woman who had suffered
persecution for the sake o' the Master an' the Covenants. She then
ushered Wallace and Quentin Dick into her little parlour — a humble
but neatly kept apartment, the back window of which — a hole not much
more than two feet square — commanded a view of the tombstones and
monuments of Greyfriars' Churchyard.
Chapter Six. Tells of Overwhelming
Mrs Black was a woman of sedate character and considerable knowledge
for her station in life — especially in regard to Scripture. Like her
son she was naturally grave and thoughtful, with a strong tendency to
analyse, and to inquire into the nature and causes of things. Unlike
Andrew, however, all her principles and her creed were fixed and well
defined — at least in her own mind, for she held it to be the bounden
duty of every Christian to be ready at all times to give a “reason” for
the hope that is in him, as well as for every opinion that he holds.
Her natural kindness was somewhat concealed by slight austerity of
She was seated, one evening, plying her ever active needle, at the
same small window which overlooked the churchyard. The declining sun
was throwing dark shadows across the graves. A ray of it gleamed on a
corner of the particular tombstone which, being built against her
house, slightly encroached upon her window. No one was with the old
woman save a large cat, to whom she was in the habit of addressing
occasional remarks of a miscellaneous nature, as if to relieve the
tedium of solitude with the fiction of intercourse.
“Ay, pussie,” she said, “ye may weel wash yer face an' purr, for
there's nae fear o' you bein' dragged before Airchbishop Sherp
to hae yer thoombs screwed, or yer legs squeezed in the—”
She stopped abruptly, for heavy footsteps were heard on the spiral
stair, and next moment Will Wallace entered.
“Well, Mrs Black,” he said, sitting down in front of her, “it's all
settled with Bruce. I'm engaged to work at his forge, and have already
“So I see, an' ye look business-like,” answered the old woman, with
a very slight smile, and a significant glance at our hero's costume.
A considerable change had indeed taken place in the personal
appearance of Will Wallace since his arrival in Edinburgh, for in place
of the shepherd's garb, with which he had started from the “bonnie
hills of Galloway,” he wore the leathern apron and other habiliments of
a blacksmith. Moreover his hair had been allowed to grow in luxuriant
natural curls about his head, and as the sun had bronzed him during his
residence with Black, and a young beard and moustache had begun to
assert themselves in premature vigour, his whole aspect was that of a
grand heroic edition of his former self.
“Yes, the moment I told your friend,” said Wallace, “that you had
sent me to him, and that I was one of those who had good reason to
conceal myself from observation, he gave me a hearty shake of the hand
and accepted my offer of service; all the more that, having already
some knowledge of his craft, I did not require teaching. So he gave me
an apron and set me to work at once. I came straight from the forge
just as I left off work to see what you would think of my disguise.”
“Ye'll do, ye'll do,” returned Mrs Black, with a nod of approval.
“Yer face an' hands need mair washin' than my pussie gies her nose! But
wheesht! I hear a fit on the stair. It'll be Quentin Dick. I sent him
oot for a red herrin' or twa for supper.”
As she spoke, Quentin entered with a brown paper parcel, the
contents of which were made patent by means of scent without the aid of
The shepherd seemed a little disconcerted at sight of a stranger,
for, as Wallace stood up, the light did not fall on his face; but a
second glance sufficed to enlighten him.
“No' that bad,” he said, surveying the metamorphosed shepherd, “but
I doot yer auld friends the dragoons wad sune see through 't —
considerin' yer size an' the soond o' yer voice.”
So saying he proceeded to place the red herrings on a gridiron, as
if he were the recognised cook of the establishment.
Presently Bruce himself — Mrs Black's friend the blacksmith — made
his appearance, and the four were soon seated round a supper of
oat-cakes, mashed potatoes, milk, and herring. For some time they
discussed the probability of Wallace being recognised by spies as one
who had attended the conventicle at Irongray, or by dragoons as a
deserter; then, as appetite was appeased, they diverged to the
lamentable state of the country, and the high-handed doings of the
“The Airchbishop cam' to the toon this mornin',” remarked Mrs Black,
“so there'll be plenty o' torterin' gaun on.”
“I fear you're right,” said Bruce, who, having sojourned a
considerable time in England, had lost much of his northern language
and accent. “That horrible instrument, the boot, was brought
this very morning to my smiddy for repair. They had been so hard on
some poor wretch, I suppose, that they broke part of it, but I put a
flaw into its heart that will force them to be either less cruel or to
come to me again for repairs!”
“H'm! if ye try thae pranks ower often they'll find it oot,” said
Quentin. “Sherp is weel named, and if he suspects what ye've done,
ye'll get a taste of the buit yersel'.”
The hatred with which by far the greater part of the people of
Scotland regarded Archbishop Sharp of St. Andrews is scarcely a matter
of wonder when the man's character and career is considered. Originally
a Presbyterian, and Minister of Crail, he was sent to Court by his
brethren and countrymen as their advocate and agent, and maintained
there at their expense for the express purpose of watching over the
interests of their church. Sharp not only betrayed his trust but went
over to what might well at that time be described as “the enemy,” and
secretly undermined the cause which he was bound in honour to support.
Finally he threw off all disguise, and was rewarded by being made
Archbishop of St. Andrews and Primate of Scotland! This was bad enough,
but the new Prelate, not satisfied with the gratification of his
ambition, became, after the manner of apostates, a bitter persecutor of
the friends he had betrayed. Charles II., who was indolent, incapable
and entirely given over to self-indulgence, handed over the affairs of
Scotland to an unprincipled cabal of laymen and churchmen, who may be
fittingly described as drunken libertines. By these men — of whom
Middleton, Lauderdale, and Sharp were the chief — all the laws passed
in favour of Presbytery were rescinded; new tyrannical laws such as we
have elsewhere referred to were enacted and ruthlessly enforced;
Prelacy was established; the Presbyterian Church was laid in ruins, and
all who dared to question the righteousness of these transactions were
pronounced rebels and treated as such. There was no impartial tribunal
to which the people could appeal. The King, who held Presbyterianism to
be unfit for a gentleman, cared for none of these things, and even if
he had it would have mattered little, for those about him took good
care that he should not be approached or enlightened as to the true
state of affairs in Scotland.
Sharp himself devised and drafted a new edict empowering any officer
or sergeant to kill on the spot any armed man whom he found returning
from or going to a conventicle, and he was on the point of going to
London to have this edict confirmed when his murderous career was
In the days of James VI. and Charles I. the bishops, although forced
on the Scottish Church and invested with certain privileges, were
subject to the jurisdiction of the General Assembly, but soon after
Charles II. mounted the throne ecclesiastical government was vested
entirely in their hands, and all the ministers who refused to recognise
their usurped authority were expelled.
It was in 1662 that the celebrated Act was passed by Middleton and
his colleagues in Glasgow College. It provided that all ministers must
either submit to the bishops or remove themselves and families out of
their manses, churches, and parishes within a month. It was known as
the “Drunken Act of Glasgow,” owing to the condition of the
legislators. Four hundred brave and true men left their earthly all at
that time, rather than violate conscience and forsake God. Their
example ultimately saved the nation from despotism.
The Archbishop of St. Andrews was chief in arrogance and cruelty
among his brethren. He afterwards obtained permission to establish a
High Commission Court in Scotland — in other words, an Inquisition —
for summarily executing all laws, acts, and orders in favour of
Episcopacy and against recusants, clergy and laity. It was under this
authority that all the evil deeds hitherto described were done, and of
this Commission Sharp was constant president.
It may be well to remark here that the Prelacy which was so detested
by the people of Scotland was not English Episcopacy, but Scotch
Prelacy. It was, in truth, little better at that time than Popery
disguised — a sort of confused religio-political Popery, of which
system the King was self-constituted Pope, while his unprincipled
minions of the council were cardinals.
No wonder, then, that at the mere mention of Sharp's name Mrs Black
shook her head sorrowfully, Bruce the blacksmith frowned darkly, and
Quentin Dick not only frowned but snorted vehemently, and smote the
table with such violence that the startled pussie fled from the scene
“Save us a'! Quentin,” said Mrs Black, “ye'll surely be hanged or
shot if ye dinna learn to subdue yer wrath.”
“Subdue my wrath, wumman!” exclaimed the shepherd, grinding his
teeth; “if ye had seen the half o' what I've seen ye wad — but ye ken
'maist naething aboot it! Gie me some mair tatties an' mulk, it'll
quiet me maybe.”
In order that the reader may know something of one of the things
about which Mrs Black, as well as Quentin Dick himself, was happily
ignorant at that time, we must change the scene once more to the
neighbourhood of Andrew Black's cottage.
It was early in the day, and the farmer was walking along the road
that led to Cluden Ford, bent on paying a visit to Dumfries, when he
was overtaken by a troop of about twenty horsemen. They had ridden out
of the bush and come on the road so suddenly that Black had no time to
secrete himself. Knowing that he was very much “wanted,” especially
after the part he had played at the recent conventicle on Skeoch Hill,
he at once decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and
took to his heels.
No man in all the country-side could beat the stout farmer at a race
either short or long, but he soon found that four legs are more than a
match for two. The troopers soon gained on him, though he ran like a
mountain hare. Having the advantage, however, of a start of about three
hundred yards, he reached the bend in the road where it begins to
descend towards the ford before his pursuers overtook him. But Andrew
felt that the narrow strip of wood beside which he was racing could not
afford him shelter and that the ford would avail him nothing. In his
extremity he made up his mind to a desperate venture.
On his right an open glade revealed to him the dark gorge through
which the Cluden thundered. The stream was in flood at the time, and
presented a fearful aspect of seething foam mingled with black rocks,
as it rushed over the lynn and through its narrow throat below. A path
led to the brink of the gorge which is now spanned by the Routen
Bridge. From the sharp-edged cliff on one side to the equally sharp
cliff on the other was a width of considerably over twenty feet.
Towards this point Andrew Black sped. Close at his heels the dragoons
followed, Glendinning, on a superb horse, in advance of the party. It
was an untried leap to the farmer, who nevertheless went at it like a
thunderbolt and cleared it like a stag. The troopers behind, seeing the
nature of the ground, pulled up in time, and wheeling to the left, made
for the ford. Glendinning, however, was too late. The reckless
sergeant, enraged at being so often baulked by the farmer, had let his
horse go too far. He tried to pull up but failed. The effort to do so
rendered a leap impossible. So near was he to the fugitive that the
latter was yet in the midst of his bound when the former went over the
precipice; head foremost, horse and all. The poor steed fell on the
rocks below and broke his neck, but the rider was shot into the deep
dark pool round which the Cluden whirled in foam-flecked eddies. In the
midst of its heaving waters he quickly arose flinging his long arms
wildly about, and shouting for help with bubbling cry.
The iron helm, jack-boots, and other accoutrements of a seventeenth
century trooper were not calculated to assist flotation. Glendinning
would have terminated his career then and there if the flood had not
come to his aid by sweeping him into the shallow water at the lower end
of the pool, whence some of his men soon after rescued him. Meanwhile,
Andrew Black, plunging into the woods on the opposite side of the
river, was soon far beyond the reach of his foes.
But escape was not now the chief anxiety of our farmer, and
selfishness formed no part of his character. When he had left home, a
short time before, his niece Jean was at work in the dairy, Ramblin'
Peter was attending to the cattle, Marion Clark and her comrade, Isabel
Scott were busy with domestic affairs, and old Mrs Mitchell — who
never quite recovered her reason — was seated in the chimney corner
calmly knitting a sock.
To warn these of their danger was now the urgent duty of the farmer,
for well he knew that the disappointed soldiers would immediately visit
his home. Indeed, he saw them ride away in that direction soon
afterwards, and started off to forestall them if possible by taking a
short cut. Glendinning had borrowed the horse of a trooper and left the
dismounted man to walk after them.
But there was no particularly short cut to the cottage, and in spite
of Andrew's utmost exertions the dragoons arrived before him. Not,
however, before the wary Peter had observed them, given the alarm, got
all the inmates of the farm — including Mrs Mitchell — down into the
hidy-hole and established himself in the chimney corner with a look of
imbecile innocence that was almost too perfect.
Poor Peter! his heart sank when the door was flung violently open
and there entered a band of soldiers, among whom he recognised some of
the party which he had so recently led into the heart of a morass and
so suddenly left to find their way out as they best could. But no
expression on Peter's stolid countenance betrayed his feelings.
“So, my young bantam cock,” exclaimed a trooper, striding towards
him, and bending down to make sure, “we've got hold of you at last?”
“Eh?” exclaimed Peter interrogatively.
“You're a precious scoundrel, aren't you?” continued the trooper.
“Ay,” responded Peter.
“I told you the lad was an idiot,” said a comrade. The remark was
not lost upon the boy, whose expression immediately became still more
idiotic if possible.
“Tell me,” said Glendinning, grasping Peter savagely by one ear,
“where is your master?”
“I dinna ken, sir.”
“Is there nobody in the house but you?”
“Naebody but me,” said Peter, “an' you,” he added, looking
vacantly round on the soldiers.
“Now, look 'ee here, lad, I'm not to be trifled with,” said the
sergeant. “Where are the rest of your household hidden? Answer; quick.”
Peter looked into the sergeant's face with a vacant stare, but was
silent. Glendinning, whose recent misfortune had rendered him unusually
cruel, at once knocked the boy down and kicked him; then lifting him by
the collar and thrusting him violently into the chair, repeated the
question, but received no answer.
Changing his tactics he tried to cajole him and offered him money,
but with similar want of success.
“Hand me your sword-belt,” cried the sergeant to a comrade.
With the belt he thrashed Peter until he himself grew tired, but
neither word nor cry did he extract, and, again flinging him on the
floor, he kicked him severely.
“Here's a rope, sergeant,” said one of the men at this point, “and
there's a convenient rafter. A lad that won't speak is not fit to
“Nay, hanging is too good for the brute,” said Glendinning, drawing
a pistol from his belt. “Tie a cloth over his eyes.”
Peter turned visibly paler while his eyes were being bandaged, and
the troopers thought that they had at last overcome his obstinacy, but
they little knew the heroic character they had to deal with.
“Now,” said the sergeant, resting the cold muzzle of his weapon
against the boy's forehead, “at the word three your brains are on the
floor if you don't tell me where your people are hid — one — two—”
“Stop, sergeant, let him have a taste of the thumbscrews before you
finish him off,” suggested one of the men.
“So be it — fetch them.”
The horrible instrument of torture was brought. It was constantly
used to extract confession from the poor Covenanters during the long
years of persecution of that black period of Scottish history. Peter's
thumbs were placed in it and the screw was turned. The monsters
increased the pressure by slow degrees, repeating the question at each
turn of the screw. At first Peter bore the pain unmoved, but at last it
became so excruciating that his cheeks and lips seemed to turn grey,
and an appalling shriek burst from him at last.
Talk of devils! The history of the human race has proved that when
men have deliberately given themselves over to high-handed contempt of
their Maker there is not a devil among all the legions in hell who
could be worse: he might be cleverer, he could not be more cruel. The
only effect of the shriek upon Glendinning was to cause him to order
another turn of the screw.
Happily, at the moment the shriek was uttered Andrew Black arrived,
and, finding the troop-horses picketed outside, with no one apparently
to guard them, he looked in at the window and saw what was going on.
With a fierce roar of mingled horror, surprise, and rage, he sprang
into the room, and his huge fist fell on the brow of Glendinning like
the hammer of Thor. His left shot full into the face of the man who had
worked the screws, and both troopers fell prone upon the floor with a
crash that shook the building. The act was so quick, and so
overpoweringly violent that the other troopers were for a moment
spellbound. That moment sufficed to enable Black to relieve the screws
and set Peter free.
“C'way oot, lad, after me!” cried Andrew, darting through the
doorway, for he felt that without more space to fight he would be
easily overpowered. The dragoons, recovering, darted after him. The
farmer caught up a huge flail with which he was wont to thresh out his
oats. It fell on the headpiece of the first trooper, causing it to ring
like an anvil, and stretching its owner on the ground. The second
trooper fared no better, but the head of the flail broke into splinters
on his iron cap, and left Andrew with the stump only to continue the
combat. This, however, was no insignificant weapon, and the stout
farmer laid about him with such fierce rapidity as to check for a few
moments the overwhelming odds against him. Pistols would certainly have
been used had not Glendinning, recovering his senses, staggered out and
shouted, “Take him alive, men!” This was quickly done, for two
troopers leaped on Andrew behind and pinioned his arms while he was
engaged with four in front. The four sprang on him at the same instant.
Even then Andrew Black's broad back — which was unusually “up” —
proved too strong for them, for he made a sort of plunging somersault
and carried the whole six along with him to the ground. Before he could
rise, however, more troopers were on the top of him. Samson himself
would have had to succumb to the dead weight. In a few seconds he was
bound with ropes and led into the house. Ramblin' Peter had made a bold
assault on a dragoon at the beginning of the fray, but could do nothing
with his poor maimed hands, and was easily secured.
“Let him taste the thumbscrews,” growled Glendinning savagely, and
pointing to Black.
“Dae yer warst, ye born deevil,” said Black recklessly — for
oppression driveth even a wise man mad.
“Very good — fetch the boot,” said the sergeant.
The instrument of torture was brought and affixed to the farmer's
right leg; the wedge was inserted, and a blow of the mallet given.
Black's whole visage seemed to darken, his frowning brows met, and
his lips were compressed with a force that meant endurance unto the
At that moment another party of dragoons under Captain Houston
galloped up, the captain entered, and, stopping the proceedings of his
subordinate, ordered Black and Peter to be set on horseback and bound
“Fire the place,” he added. “If there are people in it anywhere,
that will bring them out.”
“Oh dear!” gasped Peter, “the hidy—”
“Wheesht, bairn,” said Black in a low voice. “They're safe enough.
The fire'll no' touch them, an' besides, they're in the Lord's hands.”
A few minutes more and the whole farm-steading was in flames. The
dragoons watched the work of destruction until the roof of the cottage
fell in; then, mounting their horses, they descended to the road with
the two prisoners and turned their faces in the direction of Edinburgh.
Chapter Seven. More than one Narrow
One day, about a week after the burning of Black's farm, a select
dinner-party of red-hot rebels — as Government would have styled them;
persecuted people as they called themselves — assembled in Mrs Black's
little room in Candlemaker Row. Their looks showed that their meeting
was not for the purpose of enjoyment. The party consisted of Mrs Black,
Mrs Wallace, who had reached Edinburgh in company with her brother
David Spence, Jean Black, Will Wallace, Quentin Dick, and Jock Bruce
“But I canna understand, lassie,” said Mrs Black to Jean, “hoo ye
werena a' roasted alive i' the hidy-hole, or suffocated at the best;
an' hoo did ye ever get oot wi' the ruckle o' burning' rafters abune
“It was easy enough,” answered the girl, “for Uncle Andry made the
roof o' the place uncommon thick, an' there's a short tunnel leadin' to
some bushes by the burn that let us oot at a place that canna be seen
frae the hoose. But oh, granny, dinna ask me to speak aboot thae
things, for they may be torturin' Uncle Andry at this vera moment. Are
you sure it was him ye saw?” she added, turning to Bruce.
“Quite sure,” replied the smith. “I chanced to be passing the
Tolbooth at the moment the door opened. A party of the City Guard
suddenly came out with Black in the midst, and led him up the High
“I'm sure they'll torture him,” said the poor girl, while the
tears began to flow at the dreadful thought. “They stick at naethin'
“I think,” said Will Wallace, in a tone that was meant to be
comforting, “that your uncle may escape the torture, for the Archbishop
does not preside at the Council to-day. I hear that he has gone off
suddenly to St. Andrews.”
“That won't serve your uncle much,” remarked Bruce sternly, “for
some of the other bishops are nigh as bad as Sharp, and with that
raving monster Lauderdale among them they're likely not only to torture
but to hang him, for he is well known, and has been long and
In his indignation the smith did not think of the effect his
foreboding might have on his friend's mother, but the sight of her pale
cheeks and quivering lips was not lost upon Wallace, whose sympathies
had already been stirred deeply not only by his regard for Black, but
also by his pity for tender-hearted Jean.
“By heaven!” he exclaimed, starting up in a sudden burst of
enthusiasm, “if you will join me, friends, I am quite ready to attempt
a rescue at once.”
A sort of pleased yet half-cynical smile crossed the grave visage of
Quentin Dick as he glanced at the youth.
“Hoots, man! sit doon,” he said quietly; “ye micht as weel try to
rescue a kid frae the jaws o' a lion as rescue Andry Black frae the
fangs o' Lauderdale an' his crew. But something may be dune when
they're takin' him back to the Tolbooth — if ye're a' wullin' to help.
We mak' full twunty-four feet amangst us, an' oor shoothers are braid!”
“I'm ready,” said David Spence, in the quiet tone of a man who
usually acts from principle.
“An' so am I,” cried Bruce, smiting the table with the fist of a man
who usually acts from impulse.
While Wallace calmed his impatient spirit, and sat down to hatch a
plot with his brother conspirators, a strange scene was enacting in the
Council Chamber, where the perjured prelates and peers were in the
habit of practising cruelty, oppression, and gross injustice under the
name of law.
They sat beside a table which was covered with books and parchments.
In front of them, seated on a chair with his arms pinioned, was Andrew
Black. His face was pale and had a careworn look, but he held his head
erect, and regarded his judges with a look of stern resolution that
seemed to exasperate them considerably. On the table lay a pair of
brass-mounted thumbscrews, and beside them the strange-looking
instrument of torture called the boot. In regard to these machines
there is a passage in the Privy Council Records which gives an idea of
the spirit of the age about which we write. It runs thus: “Whereas the
boots were the ordinary way to explicate matters relating to the
Government, and there is now a new invention and engine called the
Thumbkins, which will be very effectual to the purpose aforesaid,
the Lords ordain that when any person shall by their order be put to
the torture, the said boots and thumbkins be applied to them, as it
shall be found fit and convenient.”
Lauderdale on this occasion found it fit and convenient to apply the
torture to another man in the presence of Black, in order that the
latter might fully appreciate what he had to expect if he should remain
contumacious. The poor man referred to had not been gifted with a
robust frame or a courageous spirit. When asked, however, to reveal the
names of some comrades who had accompanied him to a field-preaching he
at first loyally and firmly refused to do so. Then the boot was
applied. It was a wooden instrument which enclosed the foot and lower
limb of the victim. Between it and the leg a wedge was inserted which,
when struck repeatedly, compressed the limb and caused excruciating
agony. In some cases this torture was carried so far that it actually
crushed the bone, causing blood and marrow to spout forth. It was so in
the case of that well-known martyr of the Covenant, Hugh McKail, not
long before his execution.
The courage of the poor man of whom we now write gave way at the
second stroke of the mallet, and, at the third, uttering a shriek of
agony, he revealed, in short gasps, the names of all the comrades he
could recall. Let us not judge him harshly until we have undergone the
same ordeal with credit! A look of intense pity overspread the face of
Andrew Black while this was going on. His broad chest heaved, and drops
of perspiration stood on his brow. He had evidently forgotten himself
in his strong sympathy with the unhappy martyr. When the latter was
carried out, in a half fainting condition, he turned to Lauderdale,
and, frowning darkly, said—
“Thou meeserable sinner, cheeld o' the deevil, an' enemy o' a'
righteousness, div 'ee think that your blood-stained haund can owerturn
the cause o' the Lord?”
This speech was received with a flush of anger, quickly followed by
a supercilious smile.
“We shall see. Get the boot ready there. Now, sir,” (turning to
Black), “answer promptly — Will you subscribe the oath of the King's
“No — that I wull not. I acknowledge nae king ower my
conscience but the King o' Kings. As for that perjured libertine on the
throne, for whom there's muckle need to pray, I tell ye plainly that I
consider the freedom and welfare o' Scotland stands higher than the
supposed rights o' king and lords. Ye misca' us rebels! If ye ken the
history o' yer ain country — whilk I misdoot — ye would ken that the
Parliaments o' baith Scotland an' England have laid it doon, in
declaration and in practice, that resistance to the exercise o'
arbitrary power is lawfu', therefore resistance to Chairles and
you, his shameless flunkeys, is nae mair rebellion than it's rebellion
in a cat to flee in the face o' a bull-doug that wants to worry her
kittens. Against the tyrant that has abused his trust, an' upset oor
constitution, an' broken a' the laws o' God and man, I count it to be
my bounden duty to fecht wi' swurd an' lip as lang's I hae an airm to
strike an' a tongue to wag. Noo, ye may dae yer warst!”
At a signal the executioner promptly fitted the boot to the bold
man's right leg.
Black's look of indignant defiance passed away, and was replaced by
an expression of humility that, strangely enough, seemed rather to
intensify than diminish his air of fixed resolve. While the instrument
of torture was being arranged he turned his face to the Bishop of
Galloway, who sat beside Lauderdale silently and sternly awaiting the
result, and with an almost cheerful air and quiet voice said—
“God has, for His ain wise ends, made the heart o' the puir man that
has just left us tender, an' He's made mine teuch, but tak' notice,
thou wolf in sheep's clothing, that it's no upon its teuchness but upon
the speerit o' the Lord that I depend for grace to withstand on this
“Strike!” said the Duke, in a low stern voice.
The mallet fell; the wedge compressed the strong limb, and Andrew
compressed his lips.
A second time the mallet fell, but no sign did the unhappy man give
of the pain which instantly began to shoot through the limb. After a
few more blows the Duke stayed the process and reiterated his
questions, but Black took no notice of him whatever. Large beads of
sweat broke out on his brow. These were the only visible signs of
suffering, unless we except the deathly pallor of his face.
“Again!” said the merciless judge.
The executioner obeyed, but the blow had been barely delivered when
a loud snap was heard, and the tortured man experienced instant relief.
Jock Bruce's little device had been successful, the instrument of
torture was broken!
“Thanks be to Thy name, O God, for grace to help me thus far,” said
Black in a quiet tone.
“Fix on the other boot,” cried Lauderdale savagely, for the
constancy as well as the humility of the martyr exasperated him
The executioner was about to obey when a noise was heard at the door
of the Council Chamber, and a cavalier, booted and spurred and splashed
with mud, as if he had ridden fast and far, strode hastily up to the
Duke and whispered in his ear. The effect of the whisper was striking,
for an expression of mingled surprise, horror, and alarm overspread for
a few moments even his hard visage. At the same time the Bishop of
Galloway was observed to turn deadly pale, and an air of consternation
generally marked the members of Council.
“Murdered — in cold blood!” muttered the Duke, as if he could not
quite believe the news, — and perhaps realised for the first time that
there were others besides the Archbishop of St. Andrews who richly
deserved a similar fate.
Hastily ordering the prisoner to be removed to the Tolbooth, he
retired with his infamous companions to an inner room.
The well-known historical incident which was thus announced shall
receive but brief comment here. There is no question at all as to the
fact that Sharp was unlawfully killed, that he was cruelly slain,
without trial and without judicial condemnation, by a party of
Covenanters. Nothing justifies illegal killing. The justice of even
legal killing is still an unsettled question, but one which does not
concern us just now. We make no attempt to defend the deed of those
men. It is not probable that any average Christian, whether in favour
of the Covenanters or against them, would justify the killing of an old
man by illegal means, however strongly he might hold the opinion that
the old man deserved to die. In order to form an unprejudiced opinion
on this subject recourse must be had to facts. The following are
briefly the facts of the case.
A merchant named William Carmichael, formerly a bailie of Edinburgh,
was one of Sharp's favourites, and one of his numerous commissioners
for suppressing conventicles in Fife. He was a licentious profligate,
greedy of money, and capable of undertaking any job, however vile. This
man's enormities were at last so unbearable that he became an object of
general detestation, and his excessive exactions had ruined so many
respectable lairds, owners, and tenants, that at last nine of these
(who had been outlawed, interdicted the common intercourse of society,
and hunted like wild beasts on the mountains) resolved, since all other
avenues of redressing their unjust sufferings were denied them, to take
the law into their own hands and personally chastise Carmichael.
Accordingly, hearing that the commissioner was hunting on the moors in
the neighbourhood of Cupar, they rode off in search of him. They failed
to find him, and were about to disperse, when a boy brought
intelligence that the coach of Archbishop Sharp was approaching.
Baffled in their previous search, and smarting under the sense of
their intolerable wrongs, the party regarded this as a providential
deliverance of their arch-enemy into their hands. Here was the chief
cause of all their woes, the man who, more almost than any other, had
been instrumental in the persecution and ruin of many families, in the
torture and death of innumerable innocent men and women, and the
banishment of some of their nearest and dearest to perpetual exile on
the plantations, where they were treated as slaves. They leaped at the
sudden and unexpected opportunity. They reasoned that what had been
done in the past, and was being done at the time, would continue to be
done in the future, for there was no symptom of improvement, but rather
of increasing severity in the Government and ecclesiastics. Overtaking
the coach, which contained the Prelate and his daughter, they stopped
it, made Archbishop Sharp step out, and slew him there on Magus Moor.
It was a dark unwarrantable deed, but it was unpremeditated, and
necessarily unknown, at first, to any but the perpetrators, so that it
would be inexcusably unfair to saddle it upon the great body of the
Covenanters, who, as far as we can ascertain from their writings and
opinions, condemned it, although, naturally, they could not but feel
relieved to think that one of their chief persecutors was for evermore
powerless for further evil, and some of them refused to admit
that the deed was murder. They justified it by the case of Phinehas. A
better apology lies in the text, “oppression maketh a wise man mad.”
This event had the effect, apparently, of causing the Council to
forget our friends Black and Ramblin' Peter for a time, for they were
left in the Tolbooth for about three weeks after that, whereat Andrew
was much pleased, for it gave his maimed limb time to recover. As Peter
remarked gravely, “it's an ill wund that blaws naebody guid!”
A robust and earnest nation cannot be subdued by persecution. The
more the Council tyrannised over and trampled upon the liberties of the
people of Scotland, the more resolutely did the leal-hearted and brave
among them resist the oppressors. It is ever thus. It ever should
be thus; for while an individual man has a perfect right, if he
chooses, to submit to tyranny on his own account, he has no right to
stand tamely by and see gross oppression and cruelty exercised towards
his family, and neighbours, and country. At least, if he does so, he
earns for himself the character of an unpatriotic poltroon. True
patriotism consists in a readiness to sacrifice one's-self to the
national well-being. As far as things temporal are concerned, the
records of the Scottish Covenanters prove incontestably that those
long-tried men and women submitted with unexampled patience for full
eight-and-twenty years to the spoiling of their goods and the ruin of
their prospects; but when it came to be a question of submission to the
capricious will of the King or loyalty to Jesus Christ, thousands of
them chose the latter alternative, and many hundreds sealed their
testimony with their blood.
When at last the question arose, “Shall we consent to the free
preaching of the Gospel being suppressed altogether, or shall we assert
our rights at the point of the sword?” there also arose very
considerable difference of opinion among the Covenanters. Many of those
who held the peace-at-almost-any-price principle, counselled
submission. Others, such as Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill, and Thomas
Douglas, who believed in the right of self-defence, and in such a text
as “smite a scorner and the simple will beware,” advocated the use of
carnal weapons for protection alone, although, when driven to
desperation, they were compelled to go further. Some of the ejected
ministers, such as Blackadder and Welsh, professed to be undecided on
this point, and leant to a more or less submissive course.
Matters were now hastening to a crisis. A lawless Government had
forced a law-abiding people into the appearance, though not the
reality, of rebellion. The bands of armed men who assembled at
conventicles became so numerous as to have the appearance of an army.
The council, exasperated and alarmed, sent forth more troops to
disperse and suppress these, though they had been guilty of no act of
At this crisis, Cargill and his friends, the “ultra-Covenanters,” as
they were styled, resolved to publish to the world their “Testimony to
the cause and truth which they defended, and against the sins and
defections of the times.” They chose the 29th of May for this purpose,
that being the anniversary of the King's birth and restoration. Led by
Robert Hamilton, a small party of them rode into the royal burgh of
Rutherglen; and there, after burning various tyrannical Acts — as
their adversaries had previously burnt the Covenants — they nailed to
the cross a copy of what is now known as the Declaration of Rutherglen,
in which all their grievances were set forth.
The news of this daring act spread like wildfire, and the notorious
Graham of Claverhouse was sent to seize, kill, and destroy, all who
took any part in this business. How Claverhouse went with his
disciplined dragoons, seized John King, chaplain to Lord Cardross, with
about fourteen other prisoners, in passing through Hamilton, tied them
in couples, drove them before the troops like sheep, attacked the
Covenanters at Drumclog, received a thorough defeat from the
undisciplined “rebels,” who freed the prisoners, and sent the dragoons
back completely routed to Glasgow, is matter of history.
While these stirring events were going on, our friend Andrew Black
and Ramblin' Peter were languishing in the unsavoury shades of the
One forenoon Andrew was awakened from an uneasy slumber. They bade
him rise. His arms were bound with a rope, and he was led up the
Canongate towards the well-remembered Council Chamber, in company with
Ramblin' Peter, who, owing to his size and youth, was not bound, but
merely held in the grasp of one of the guards.
At the mouth of one of the numerous closes which lead down to the
Cowgate and other parts of the old town stood Will Wallace, Quentin
Dick, David Spence, and Jock Bruce, each armed with a heavy blackthorn.
Bruce had been warned by a friendly turnkey of what was pending —
hence their opportune presence.
As soon as the prison party was opposite the close, the rescue party
made a united rush — and the united rush of four such strapping
fellows was worth seeing. So thought the crowd, and cheered. So thought
not the City Guard, four of whom went down like ninepins. Black's bonds
were cut and himself hurried down the close almost before the guard had
recovered from the surprise. No doubt that guard was composed of brave
men; but when they met two such lions in the mouth of the close as
Wallace and Quentin — for these two turned at bay — they paused and
levelled their pikes. Turning these aside like lightning the lions
felled their two foremost adversaries. The two who followed them met a
similar fate. Thinking that four were sufficient to block the entry, at
least for a few moments, our heroes turned, unlionlike, and fled at a
pace that soon left the enemy far behind.
This delay had given time to Black and his other friends to make
good their retreat. Meanwhile Ramblin' Peter, taking advantage of the
confusion, wrenched himself suddenly free from the guard who held him,
and vanished down another close. The rescue having been effected, the
party purposely scattered. Black's leg, however, prevented him from
running fast. He therefore thought it best to double round a corner,
and dash into a doorway, trusting to having been unobserved. In this,
however, he was mistaken. His enemies, indeed, saw him not, but
Ramblin' Peter chanced to see him while at some distance off, and made
for the same place of refuge.
Springing up a spiral stair, three steps at a time, Black did not
stop till he gained the attics, and leaped through the open doorway of
a garret, where he found an old woman wailing over a bed on which lay
the corpse of a man with a coffin beside it.
“What want ye here?” demanded the old creature angrily.
“Wow! wumman, I'm hard pressed! They're at my heels!” said Black,
looking anxiously at the skylight as if meditating a still higher
“Are ye ane o' the persecuted remnant?” asked the woman in a changed
“Ay, that am I.”
“Hide, then, hide, man — haste ye!”
“Where?” asked the perplexed fugitive. “There,” said the woman,
removing the coffin lid. Andrew hesitated. Just then hurrying footsteps
were heard on the stair. He hesitated no longer. Stepping into the
coffin he lay down, and the woman covered him up.
“Oh, wumman!” said Black, lifting the lid a little, “tak' care ye
dinna meddle wi' the screw-nails. They may—”
“Wheesht! Haud yer tongue!” growled the woman sharply, and reclosed
the lid with a bang, just as Ramblin' Peter burst into the room.
“What want ye here, callant?”
Peter drew back in dismay.
“I'm lookin' for — I was thinkin' — Did 'ee see a man—?”
The lid of the coffin flew off as he spoke, and his master sprang
“Man, Peter,” gasped the farmer, “yours is the sweetest voice I've
heard for mony a day. I verily thocht I was doomed — but come awa',
lad. Thank 'ee kindly, auld wife, for the temporary accommodation.”
The intruders left as abruptly as they had entered. That night the
whole party was reassembled in Mrs Black's residence in Candlemaker
Row, where, over a supper “o' parritch an' soor mulk,” Andrew Black
heard from Jock Bruce all about the Declaration of Rutherglen, and the
defeat of Claverhouse by the Covenanters at Drumclog.
“The thundercloods are gatherin',” said Black with a grave shake of
the head, as the party broke up and were about to separate for the
night. “Tak' my word for 't, we'll hear mair o' this afore lang.”
We need scarcely add that on this occasion Andrew was a true
Chapter Eight. Bothwell Bridge.
Matters had now come to such a pass that it was no longer possible
to defer the evil day of civil war.
Persecuted inhumanly and beyond endurance, with every natural avenue
of redress closed, and flushed with recent victory, the Covenanters
resolved not only to hold together for defensive purposes, but to take
the initiative, push their advantage, and fight for civil and religious
liberty. It was the old, old fight, which has convulsed the world
probably since the days of Eden — the uprising of the persecuted many
against the tyrannical few. In the confusions of a sin-stricken world,
the conditions have been occasionally and partially reversed; but, for
the most part, history's record tells of the abuse of power on the part
of the few who possess it, and the resulting consequence that
“Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn”—
until the down-trodden have turned at bay, and, like the French in
1793, have taken fearful vengeance, or, as in the case of the
Covenanters at the time of which we write, have reaped only disaster
and profounder woe.
There were, however, two elements of weakness among the Covenanters
in 1679 which rendered all their efforts vain, despite the
righteousness of their cause. One was that they were an undisciplined
body, without appointed and experienced officers; while their leader,
Robert Hamilton, was utterly unfitted by nature as well as training for
a military command. The other weakness was, that the unhappy
differences of opinion among them as to lines of duty, to which we have
before referred, became more and more embittered, instead of being
subordinated to the stern necessities of the hour.
The earnest men of God amongst them could no doubt have brought
things to a better state in this crisis if their counsels had
prevailed, but the men whose powers of endurance had at last given way
were too many and strong for these; so that, instead of preparing for
united action, the turbulent among them continued their dissensions
until too late.
After Drumclog, Hamilton led his men to Glasgow to attack the
enemy's headquarters there. He was repulsed, and then retired to
Hamilton, where he formed a camp.
The Privy Council meanwhile called out the militia, and ordered all
the heritors and freeholders to join with the Regulars in putting down
the insurrection. A good many people from all quarters had joined the
Covenanters after the success at Drumclog; but it is thought that their
numbers never exceeded 4000. The army which prepared to meet them under
the command of the Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch was said to be 10,000
strong — among them were some of the best of the King's troops.
The Duke was anxious to delay matters, apparently with some hope of
reconciliation. Many of the Covenanters were like-minded; and it is
said that Mr Welsh visited the royal camp in disguise, with a view to a
peaceful solution; but the stern spirits in both camps rendered this
impossible. Some from principle, others from prejudice, could not see
their way to a compromise; while the unprincipled on either side “cried
havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!”
It was on Sabbath the 22nd of June that the Duke's army reached
Bothwell Moor; the advanced guards entering Bothwell town within a
quarter of a mile of the bridge which spans the Clyde. The Covenanters
lay encamped on Hamilton Moor, on the southern side of the river.
That morning a company of stalwart young men, coming from the
direction of Edinburgh, had crossed Bothwell Bridge before the arrival
of the royal army and joined the Covenanters. They were preceded by two
men on horseback.
“It seems a daft-like thing,” said one horseman to the other as they
traversed the moor, “that the likes o' me should be ridin' to battle
like a lord, insteed o' trudgin' wi' the men on futt; but, man, it's
no' easy to walk far efter wearin' a ticht-fittin' buit — though it
was only for a wee while I had it on. It's a' verra weel for you, Wull,
that's oor eleckit captain, an' can sit yer horse like a markis; but as
for me, I'll slip aff an' fecht on my legs when it comes to that.”
“There's no military law, Andrew, against fighting on foot,”
returned the captain, who, we need scarcely say, was Will Wallace; “but
if you are well advised you'll stick to the saddle as long as you can.
See, yonder seems to be the headquarters of the camp. We will report
our arrival, and then see to breakfast.”
“Ay — I'll be thankfu' for a bite o' somethin', for I'm fair
famished; an' there's a proverb, I think, that says it's ill fechtin'
on an emp'y stammack. It seems to me there's less order an' mair noise
yonder than befits a camp o' serious men — specially on a Sabbath
“The same thought occurred to myself,” said Wallace. “Perhaps they
have commenced the services, for you know there are several ministers
“Mair like disputation than services,” returned the farmer with a
grave shake of his head.
Finding that Andrew was correct, and that the leaders of the little
army were wasting the precious moments in irrelevant controversy, the
Edinburgh contingent turned aside and set about preparing a hasty
breakfast. This reinforcement included Quentin Dick, Jock Bruce, David
Spence, and Ramblin' Peter; also Tam Chanter, Edward Gordon, and
Alexander McCubine, who had been picked up on the march.
Of course, while breaking their fast they discussed the pros
and cons of the situation freely.
“If the King's troops are as near as they are reported to be,” said
Wallace, “our chances of victory are small.”
“I fear ye're richt,” said Black. “It becomes Ignorance to haud its
tongue in the presence o' Knowledge, nae doot — an' I confess to bein'
as ignorant as a bairn o' the art o' war; but common sense seems to say
that haverin' aboot theology on the eve o' a fecht is no sae wise-like
as disposin' yer men to advantage. The very craws might be ashamed o'
sic a noise!”
Even while he spoke a cry was raised that the enemy was in sight;
and the confusion that prevailed before became redoubled as the
necessity for instant action arose. In the midst of it, however, a few
among the more sedate and cool-headed leaders did their best to reduce
the little army to something like order, and put it in battle array.
There was no lack of personal courage. Men who had, for the sake of
righteousness, suffered the loss of all things, and had carried their
lives in their hands for so many years, were not likely to present a
timid front in the hour of battle. And leaders such as John Nisbet of
Hardhill, one of the most interesting sufferers in the twenty-eight
years' persecution; Clelland, who had fought with distinguished courage
at Drumclog; Henry Hall of Haughhead; David Hackston of Rathillet; John
Balfour of Burley; Turnbull of Bewlie; with Major Learmont and Captain
John Paton of Meadowhead — two veterans who had led the Westland
Covenanters in their first battle at the Pentland Hills — such men
were well able to have led a band of even half-disciplined men to
victory if united under a capable general. But such was not to be. The
laws of God, whether relating to physics or morals, are inexorable. A
divided army cannot conquer. They had assembled to fight; instead of
fighting they disputed, and that so fiercely that two opposing parties
were formed in the camp, and their councils of war became arenas of
strife. The drilling of men had been neglected, officers were not
appointed, stores of ammunition and other supplies were not provided,
and no plan of battle was concerted. All this, with incapacity at the
helm, resulted in overwhelming disaster and the sacrifice of a body of
brave, devoted men. It afterwards intensified persecution, and
postponed constitutional liberty for many years.
In this state of disorganisation the Covenanters were found by the
royal troops. The latter were allowed quietly to plant their guns and
make arrangements for the attack.
But they were not suffered to cross Bothwell Bridge with impunity.
Some of the bolder spirits, leaving the disputants to fight with tongue
and eye, drew their swords and advanced to confront the foe.
“It's every man for himsel' here,” remarked Andrew Black
indignantly, wiping his mouth with his cuff, as he rose from the meal
which he was well aware might be his last. “The Lord hae mercy on the
puir Covenanters, for they're in sair straits this day. Come awa', Wull
Wallace — lead us on to battle.”
Our hero, who was busily forming up his men, needed no such
exhortation. Seeing that there was no one in authority to direct his
movements, he resolved to act “for his own hand.” He gave the word to
march, and set off at a quick step for the river, where the fight had
already begun. Soon he and his small band were among those who held the
bridge. Here they found Hackston, Hall, Turnbull, and the lion-like
John Nisbet, each with a small band of devoted followers sternly and
steadily defending what they knew to be the key to their position.
Distributing his men in such a way among the coppices on the river's
bank that they could assail the foe to the greatest advantage without
unnecessarily exposing themselves, Wallace commenced a steady fusillade
on the King's foot-guards, who were attempting to storm the bridge. The
Covenanters had only one cannon and about 300 men with which to meet
the assault; but the gun was effectively handled, and the men were
On the central arch of the old bridge — which was long and narrow
— there stood a gate. This had been closed and barricaded with beams
and trees, and the parapets on the farther side had been thrown down to
prevent the enemy finding shelter behind them. These arrangements aided
the defenders greatly, so that for three hours the gallant 300 held the
position in spite of all that superior discipline and numerous guns
could do. At last, however, the ammunition of the defenders began to
“Where did ye tether my horse?” asked Will Wallace, addressing
Peter, who acted the part of aide-de-camp and servant to his commander.
“Ayont the hoose there,” replied Peter, who was crouching behind a
“Jump on its back, lad, and ride to the rear at full speed. Tell
them we're running short of powder and ball. We want more men, too, at
once. Haste ye!”
“Ay, an' tell them frae me, that if we lose the brig we lose the
day,” growled Andrew Black, who, begrimed with powder, was busily
loading and firing his musket from behind a thick bush, which, though
an admirable screen from vision, was a poor protection from bullets, as
the passage of several leaden messengers had already proved. But our
farmer was too much engrossed with present duty to notice trifles!
Without a word, except his usual “Ay,” Ramblin' Peter jumped up and
ran to where his commander's steed was picketed. In doing so he had to
pass an open space, and a ball striking his cap sent it spinning into
the air; but Peter, like Black, was not easily affected by trifles.
Next moment he was on the back of Will's horse — a great long-legged
chestnut — and flying towards the main body of Covenanters in rear.
The bullets were whistling thickly past him. One of these, grazing
some tender part of his steed's body, acted as a powerful spur, so that
the alarmed creature flew over the ground at racing speed, much to its
rider's satisfaction. When they reached the lines, however, and he
attempted to pull up, Peter found that the great tough-mouthed animal
had taken the bit in its teeth and bolted. No effort that his puny arm
could make availed to check it. Through the ranks of the Covenanters he
sped wildly, and in a short time was many miles from the battlefield.
How long he might have continued his involuntary retreat is uncertain,
but the branch of a tree brought it to a close by sweeping him off the
saddle. A quarter of an hour later an old woman found him lying on the
ground insensible, and with much difficulty succeeded in dragging him
to her cottage.
Meanwhile the tide of war had gone against the Covenanters. Whatever
may be said of Hamilton, unquestionably he did not manage the fight
well. No ammunition or reinforcements were sent to the front. The stout
defenders of the bridge were forced to give way in such an unequal
conflict. Yet they retired fighting for every inch of the ground.
Indeed, instead of being reinforced they were ordered to retire; and at
last, when all hope was gone, they reluctantly obeyed.
“Noo this bates a'!” exclaimed Black in a tone of ineffable disgust,
as he ran to the end of the bridge, clubbed his musket, and laid about
him with the energy of despair. Will Wallace was at his side in a
moment; so was Quentin Dick. They found Balfour and Hackston already
there; and for a few moments these men even turned the tide of battle,
for they made an irresistible dash across the bridge, and absolutely
drove the assailants from their guns, but, being unsupported, were
compelled to retire. If each had been a Hercules, the gallant five
would have had to succumb before such overwhelming odds. A few minutes
more and the Covenanters were driven back. The King's troops poured
over the bridge and began to form on the other side.
Then it was that Graham of Claverhouse, seeing his opportunity, led
his dragoons across the bridge and charged the main body of the
Covenanters. Undisciplined troops could not withstand the shock of such
a charge. They quickly broke and fled; and now the battle was changed
to a regular rout.
“Kill! kill!” cried Claverhouse; “no quarter!”
His men needed no such encouragement. From that time forward they
galloped about the moor, slaying remorselessly all whom they came
The gentle-spirited Monmouth, seeing that the victory was gained,
gave orders to cease the carnage; but Claverhouse paid no attention to
this. He was like the man-eating tigers, — having once tasted blood he
could not be controlled, though Monmouth galloped about the field doing
his best to check the savage soldiery.
It is said that afterwards his royal father — for he was an
illegitimate son of the King — found fault with him for his leniency
after Bothwell. We can well believe it; for in a letter which he had
previously sent to the council Charles wrote that it was “his royal
will and pleasure that they should prosecute the rebels with fire and
sword, and all other extremities of war.” Speaking at another time to
Monmouth about his conduct, Charles said, “If I had been present there
should have been no trouble about prisoners.” To which Monmouth
replied, “If that was your wish, you should not have sent me but a
In the general flight Black, owing to his lame leg, stumbled over a
bank, pitched on his head, and lay stunned. Quentin Dick, stooping to
succour him, was knocked down from behind, and both were captured.
Fortunately Monmouth chanced to be near them at the time and prevented
their being slaughtered on the spot, like so many of their countrymen,
of whom it is estimated that upwards of four hundred were slain in the
pursuit that succeeded the fight — many of them being men of the
neighbourhood, who had not been present on the actual field of battle
at all. Among others Wallace's uncle, David Spence, was killed. Twelve
hundred, it is said, laid down their arms and surrendered at
Wallace himself, seeing that the day was lost and further resistance
useless, and having been separated from his friends in the general
mêlée, sought refuge in a clump of alders on the banks of the
river. Another fugitive made for the same spot about the same time. He
was an old man, yet vigorous, and ran well; but the soldiers who
pursued soon came up and knocked him down. Having already received
several dangerous wounds in the head, the old man seemed to feel that
he had reached the end of his career on earth, and calmly prepared for
death. But the end had not yet come. Even among the blood-stained
troops of the King there were men whose hearts were not made of flint,
and who, doubtless, disapproved of the cruel work in which it was their
duty to take part. Instead of giving the old man the coup de grâce, one of the soldiers asked his name.
“Donald Cargill,” answered the wounded man.
“That name sounds familiar,” said the soldier. “Are not you a
“Yea, I have the honour to be one of the Lord's servants.”
Upon hearing this the soldiers let him go, and bade him get off the
field as fast as possible.
Cargill was not slow to obey, and soon reached the alders, where he
fell almost fainting to the ground. Here he was discovered by Wallace,
and recognised as the old man whom he had met in Andrew Black's
hidy-hole. The poor man could scarcely walk; but with the assistance of
his stout young friend, who carefully dressed his wounds, he managed to
escape. Wallace himself was not so fortunate. After leaving Cargill in
a place of comparative safety, he had not the heart to think only of
his own escape while uncertain of the fate of his friends. He was
aware, indeed, of his uncle's death, but knew nothing about Andrew
Black, Quentin Dick, or Ramblin' Peter. When, therefore, night had put
an end to the fiendish work, he returned cautiously to search the field
of battle; but, while endeavouring to clamber over a wall, was suddenly
pounced upon by half a dozen soldiers and made prisoner.
At an earlier part of the evening he would certainly have been
murdered on the spot, but by that time the royalists were probably
tired of indiscriminate slaughter, for they merely bound his arms and
led him to a spot where those Covenanters who had been taken prisoners
The guarding was of the strangest and cruellest. The prisoners were
made to lie flat down on the ground — many of them having been
previously stripped nearly naked; and if any of them ventured to change
their positions, or raise their heads to implore a draught of water,
they were instantly shot.
Next day the survivors were tied together in couples and driven off
the ground like a herd of cattle. Will Wallace stood awaiting his turn,
and watching the first band of prisoners march off. Suddenly he
observed Andrew Black coupled to Quentin Dick. They passed closed to
him. As they did so their eyes met.
“Losh, man, is that you?” exclaimed Black, a gleam of joy lighting
up his sombre visage. “Eh, but I am gled to see that yer still
“Not more glad than I to see that you're not dead,” responded Will
quickly. “Where's Peter and Bruce?”
A stern command to keep silence and move on drowned the answer, and
in another minute Wallace, with an unknown comrade-in-arms, had joined
Thus they were led — or rather driven — with every species of
cruel indignity, to Edinburgh; but the jails there were already full;
there was no place in which to stow such noxious animals! Had Charles
II. been there, according to his own statement, he would have had no
difficulty in dealing with them; but bad as the Council was, it was not
quite so brutal, it would seem, as the King.
“Put them in the Greyfriars Churchyard,” was the order — and to
that celebrated spot they were marched.
Seated at her back window in Candlemaker Row, Mrs Black observed,
with some surprise and curiosity, the sad procession wending its way
among the tombs and round the church. The news of the fight at Bothwell
Bridge had only just reached the city, and she knew nothing of the
details. Mrs Wallace and Jean Black were seated beside her knitting.
“Wha'll they be, noo?” soliloquised Mrs Black.
“Maybe prisoners taken at Bothwell Brig,” suggested Mrs Wallace.
Jean started, dropped her knitting, and said in a low, anxious
voice, as she gazed earnestly at the procession, “If — if it's them,
uncle Andrew an' — an' — the others may be amang them!”
The procession was not more than a hundred yards distant — near
enough for sharp, loving eyes to distinguish friends.
“I see them!” cried Jean eagerly.
Next moment she had leaped over the window, which was not much over
six feet from the ground. She doubled round a tombstone, and, running
towards the prisoners, got near enough to see the head of the
procession pass through a large iron gate at the south-west corner of
the churchyard, and to see clearly that her uncle and Quentin Dick were
there — tied together. Here a soldier stopped her. As she turned to
entreat permission to pass on she encountered the anxious gaze of Will
Wallace as he passed. There was time for the glance of recognition,
that was all. A few minutes more and the long procession had passed
into what afterwards proved to be one of the most terrible prisons of
which we have any record in history.
Jean Black was thrust out of the churchyard along with a crowd of
others who had entered by the front gate. Filled with dismay and
anxious forebodings, she returned to her temporary home in the Row.
Chapter Nine. Among the Tombs.
The enclosure at the south-western corner of Greyfriars Churchyard,
which had been chosen as the prison of the men who were spared after
the battle of Bothwell Bridge, was a small narrow space enclosed by
very high walls, and guarded by a strong iron gate — the same gate,
probably, which still hangs there at the present day.
There, among the tombs, without any covering to shelter them from
the wind and rain, without bedding or sufficient food, with the dank
grass for their couches and graves for pillows, did most of these
unfortunates — from twelve to fifteen hundred — live during the
succeeding five months. They were rigorously guarded night and day by
sentinels who were held answerable with their lives for the safe
keeping of the prisoners. During the daytime they stood or moved about
uneasily. At nights if any of them ventured to rise the sentinels had
orders to fire upon them. If they had been dogs they could not have
been treated worse. Being men, their sufferings were terrible —
inconceivable. Ere long many a poor fellow found a death-bed among the
graves of that gloomy enclosure. To add to their misery, friends were
seldom permitted to visit them, and those who did obtain leave were
chiefly females, who were exposed to the insults of the guards.
A week or so after their being shut up here, Andrew Black stood one
afternoon leaning against the headstone of a grave on which Quentin
Dick and Will Wallace were seated. It had been raining, and the grass
and their garments were very wet. A leaden sky overhead seemed to have
deepened their despair, for they remained silent for an unusually long
“This is awfu'!” said Black at last with a deep sigh. “If
there was ony chance o' makin' a dash an' fechtin' to the end, I wad
tak' comfort; but to be left here to sterve an' rot, nicht an' day, wi'
naethin' to do an' maist naethin' to think on — it's — it's awfu'!”
As the honest man could not get no further than this idea — and the
idea itself was a mere truism — no response was drawn from his
companions, who sat with clenched fists, staring vacantly before them.
Probably the first stage of incipient madness had set in with all of
“Did Jean give you any hope yesterday?” asked Wallace languidly; for
he had asked the same question every day since the poor girl had been
permitted to hold a brief conversation with her uncle at the iron gate,
towards which only one prisoner at a time was allowed to approach. The
answer had always been the same.
“Na, na. She bids me hope, indeed, in the Lord — an' she's right
there; but as for man, what can we hope frae him?”
“Ye may weel ask that!” exclaimed Quentin Dick, with sudden and
bitter emphasis. “Man indeed! It's my opeenion that man, when left to
hissel', is nae better than the deevil. I' faith, I think he's waur,
for he's mair contemptible.”
“Ye may be right, Quentin, for a' I ken; but some men are no' left
to theirsel's. There's that puir young chiel Anderson, that was shot i'
the lungs an' has scarce been able the last day or twa to crawl to the
yett to see his auld mither — he's deeing this afternoon. I went ower
to the tombstane that keeps the east wund aff him, an' he said to me,
'Andry, man,' said he, 'I'll no' be able to crawl to see my mither the
day. I'll vera likely be deid before she comes. Wull ye tell her no' to
greet for me, for I'm restin' on the Lord Jesus, an' I'll be a free man
afore night, singing the praises o' redeeming love, and waitin' for
her to come?'“
Quentin had covered his face with his hands while Black spoke, and a
low groan escaped him; for the youth Anderson had made a deep
impression on the three friends during the week they had suffered
together. Wallace, without replying, went straight over to the tomb
where Anderson lay. He was followed by the other two. On reaching the
spot they observed that he lay on his back, with closed eyes and a
smile resting on his young face.
“He sleeps,” said Wallace softly.
“Ay, he sleeps weel,” said Black, shaking his head slowly. “I ken
the look o' that sleep. An' yonder's his puir mither at the
yett. Bide by him, Quentin, while I gang an' brek it to her.”
It chanced that Mrs Anderson and Jean came to the gate at the same
moment. On hearing that her son was dead the poor woman uttered a low
wail, and would have fallen if Jean had not caught her and let her
gently down on one of the graves. Jean was, as we have said, singularly
sympathetic. She had overheard what her uncle had said, and forthwith
sat down beside the bereaved woman, drew her head down on her breast
and tried to comfort her, as she had formerly tried to comfort old Mrs
Mitchell. Even the guards were softened for a few minutes; but soon
they grew impatient, and ordered them both to leave.
“Bide a wee,” said Jean, “I maun hae a word wi' my uncle.”
She rose as she spoke, and turned to the gate.
“Weel, what luck?” asked Black, grasping both her hands through the
“No luck, uncle,” answered Jean, whimpering a little in spite of her
efforts to keep up. “As we ken naebody o' note here that could help us,
I just went straight to the Parliament Hoose an' saw Lauderdale
himsel', but he wouldna listen to me. An' what could I say? I couldna
tell him a lee, ye ken, an' say ye hadna been to conventicles or
sheltered the rebels, as they ca' us. But I said I was sure ye
were sorry for what ye had done, an' that ye would never do it again,
if they would only let you off—”
“Oh, Jean, Jean, ye're a gowk, for that was twa lees ye telt him!”
interrupted Black, with a short sarcastic laugh; “for I'm no' a bit
sorry for what I've done; an' I'll do't ower again if ever I git the
chance. Ne'er heed, lass, you've done your best. An' hoo's mither an'
“They're baith weel; but awfu' cast doon aboot you, an' — an' —
Wull and Quentin. An' — I had maist forgot — Peter has turned up safe
an' soond. He says that—”
“Come, cut short your haverin',” said the sentinel who had been
induced to favour Jean, partly because of her sweet innocent face, and
partly because of the money which Mrs Black had given her to bribe him.
“Weel, tell Peter,” said Black hurriedly, “to gang doon to the ferm
an' see if he can find oot onything aboot Marion Clerk an' Isabel
Scott. I'm wae for thae lassies. They're ower guid to let live in peace
at a time like this. Tell him to tell them frae me to flee to the
hills. Noo that the hidy-hole is gaen, there's no' a safe hoose in a'
the land, only the caves an' the peat-bogs, and even they are but puir
“Uncle dear, is not the Lord our hiding-place until these calamities
be overpast?” said Jean, while the tears that she could not suppress
ran down her cheeks.
“Ye're right, bairn. God forgi'e my want o' faith. Rin awa' noo. I
see the sentry's getting wearied. The Lord bless ye.”
The night chanced to be very dark. Rain fell in torrents, and wind
in fitful gusts swept among the tombs, chilling the prisoners to the
very bone. It is probable that the guards would, for their own comfort,
have kept a slack look-out, had not their own lives depended a good
deal on their fidelity. As it was, the vigil was not so strict as it
might have been; and they found it impossible to see the whole of that
long narrow space of ground in so dark a night. About midnight the
sentry fancied he saw three figures flitting across the yard. Putting
his musket through the bars of the gate he fired at once, but could not
see whether he had done execution; and so great was the noise of the
wind and rain that the report of his piece was not audible more than a
few paces from where he stood, except to leeward. Alarms were too
frequent in those days to disturb people much. A few people, no doubt,
heard the shot; listened, perchance, for a moment or two, and then,
turning in their warm beds, continued their repose. The guard turned
out, but as all seemed quiet in the churchyard-prison when they peered
through the iron bars, they turned in again, and the sentinel recharged
Close beside one of the sodden graves lay the yet warm body of a
dead man. The random bullet had found a billet in his heart, and
“Nature's sweet restorer” had been merged into the sleep of death.
Fortunate man! He had been spared, probably, months of slow-timed
misery, with almost certain death at the end in any case.
Three men rose from behind the headstone of that grave, and looked
sorrowfully on the drenched figure.
“He has passed the golden gates,” said one in a low voice. “A
“Ay, Wull,” responsed another of the trio; “but it's noo or niver
wi' us. Set yer heid agin' the wa', Quentin.”
The shepherd obeyed, and the three proceeded to carry out a plan
which they had previously devised — a plan which only very strong and
agile men could have hoped to carry through without noise. Selecting a
suitable part of the wall, in deepest shadow, where a headstone
slightly aided them, Quentin planted his feet firmly, and, resting his
arms on the wall, leaned his forehead against them. Black mounted on
his shoulders, and, standing erect, assumed the same position. Then
Wallace, grasping the garments of his friends, climbed up the living
ladder and stood on Black's shoulders, so that he could just grip the
top of the wall and hang on. At this point in the process the
conditions were, so to speak, reversed. Black grasped Wallace with both
hands by one of his ankles, and held on like a vice. The living ladder
was now hanging from the top of the wall instead of standing at the
foot of it, and Quentin — the lowest rung, so to speak — became the
climber. From Wallace's shoulders, he easily gained the top of the
wall, and was able to reach down a helping hand to Black as he made his
way slowly up Wallace's back. Then both men hauled Wallace up with some
trouble, for the strain had been almost too much for him, and he could
hardly help himself.
At this juncture the sentinel chanced to look up, and, dark though
it was, he saw the three figures on the wall a little blacker than the
sky behind. Instantly the bright flash of his musket was seen, and the
report, mingled with his cry of alarm, again brought out the guard. A
volley revealed the three prisoners for a moment.
“Dinna jump!” cried Black, as the bullets whizzed past their heads.
“Ye'll brek yer legs. Tak' it easy. They're slow at loadin'; an' 'the
mair hurry the less speed!'“
The caution was only just in time, for the impulsive Wallace had
been on the point of leaping from the wall; instead of doing which he
assisted in reversing the process which has just been described. It was
much easier, however; and the drop which Wallace had to make after his
friends were down was broken by their catching him in their arms.
Inexperience, however, is always liable to misfortune. The shock of
such a heavy man dropping from such a height gave them a surprise, and
sent them all three violently to the ground; but the firing, shouting,
and confusion on the other side of the wall caused them to jump up with
“Candlemaker Raw!” said Black in a hoarse whisper, as they dashed
off in different directions, and were lost in blackness of night.
With a very sad face, on which, however, there was an air of calm
resignation, Mrs Black sat in her little room with her Bible open
before her. She had been reading to Mrs Wallace and Jean, preparatory
to retiring for the night.
“It's awful to think of their lying out yonder, bedless, maybe
supperless, on a night like this,” said Mrs Wallace.
Jean, with her pretty face in that condition which the Scotch and
Norwegian languages expressively call begrutten, could do nothing but
Just then hurried steps were heard on the stair, and next moment a
loud knocking shook the door.
“Wha's that?” exclaimed Mrs Black, rising.
“It's me, mither. Open; quick!”
Next moment Andrew sprang in and looked hastily round.
“Am I the first, mither?”
Before the poor woman could recover from her joy and amazement
sufficiently to reply, another step was heard on the stair.
“That's ane o' them,” said Black, turning and holding the door, so
as to be ready for friend or foe. He was right. Mrs Wallace uttered a
little scream of joy as her son leaped into the room.
“Whaur's Quentin?” asked Black.
The question was scarcely put when the shepherd himself bounded up
“They've gotten sight o' me, I fear,” he said. “Have ye a garret,
wummin — onywhere to hide?”
“No' a place in the hoose big enough for a moose to hide in,” said
Mrs Black with a look of dismay.
As she spoke a confused noise of voices and hurrying steps was heard
in the street. Another moment and they were at the foot of the stair.
The three men seized the poker, tongs, and shovel. Mrs Black opened her
back window and pointed to the churchyard.
“Yer only chance!” she said.
Andrew Black leaped out at once. Wallace followed like a harlequin.
Quentin Dick felt that there was no time for him to follow without
being seen. Dropping his poker he sprang through the doorway, and,
closing the door on himself, began to thunder against it, just as an
officer leading some of the town-guard reached the landing.
“Open, I say!” cried Quentin furiously, “I'm sure the rebels
cam in here. Dinna be keepin' the gentlemen o' the gaird waitin' here.
Open, I say, or I'll drive the door in!”
Bursting the door open, as though in fulfilment of his threat,
Quentin sprang in, and looking hastily round, cried, as if in towering
wrath, “Whaur are they? Whaur are thae pestiferous rebels?”
“There's nae rebels here, gentlemen,” said Mrs Black. “Ye're welcome
“They maun hae gaen up the next stair,” said Quentin, turning to the
“And pray, who are you, that ye seem so anxious to catch the
“Wha am I?” repeated Quentin with glaring eyes, and a sort of
grasping of his strong fingers that suggested the idea of tearing some
one to pieces. “Div 'ee no see that I'm a shepherd? The sufferin's than
I hae gaen through an' endured on accoont o' thae rebels is past— But
c'way, sirs, they'll escape us if we stand haverin' here.”
So saying the bold man dashed down the stair and into the next
house, followed by the town-guards, who did not know him. The
prisoners' guards were fortunately searching in another direction. A
strict search was made in the next house, at which Quentin assisted.
When they were yet in the thick of it he went quietly down-stairs and
walked away from the scene, as he expressed it, “hotchin'“ — by which
he meant chuckling.
But poor Andrew Black and Will Wallace were not so fortunate. A
search which was made in the outer churchyard resulted in their being
discovered among the tombs, and they were forthwith conducted to the
When Ramblin' Peter, after many narrow escapes, reached the farm in
Dumfries in a half-famished state, he sat down among the desolate ruins
and howled with grief. Having thus relieved his feelings, he dried his
eyes and proceeded in his usual sedate manner to examine things in
detail. He soon found that his master had been wrong in supposing that
the hidy-hole had been discovered or destroyed. As he approached the
outer end of the tunnel a head suddenly appeared above ground, and as
“Hallo!” exclaimed Peter in surprise.
“Hallo!” echoed the head, and reappeared blazing with astonishment.
“Is that you, Peter?”
“Ay, McCubine, that's me. I thought ye was a' deid. Hae ye ony
parritch i' the hole? I'm awfu' hungry.”
“C'way in, lad: we've plenty to eat here, an guid company as weel —
the Lord be thankit.”
The man led the way — familiar enough to Peter; and in the
hidy-hole he found several persons, some of whom, from their costume,
were evidently ministers. They paid little attention to the boy at
first, being engaged in earnest conversation.
“No, no, Mr Cargill,” said one. “I cannot agree with you in the
stern line of demarcation which you would draw between us. We are all
the servants of the most high God, fighting for, suffering for, the
truth as it is in Jesus. It is true that rather than bow to usurped
power I chose to cast in my lot with the ejected; but having done that,
and suffered the loss of all things temporal, I do not feel called on
to pronounce such absolute condemnation on my brethren who have
accepted the Indulgence. I know that many of them are as earnest
followers of Christ as ourselves — it may be more so — but they think
it right to bow before the storm rather than risk civil war; to accept
what of toleration they can get, while they hope and pray for more.”
“In that case, Mr Welsh,” replied Cargill, “what comes of their
testimony for the truth? Is not Christ King in his own household?
Charles is king in the civil State. The oath which he requires of every
minister who accepts the Indulgence distinctly recognises him — the
king — as lord of the conscience, ruler of the spiritual kingdom of
this land. To take such an oath is equivalent to acknowledging the
justice of his pretensions.”
“They do not see it in that light,” returned Mr Welsh. “I agree with
your views, and think our Indulged brethren in the wrong; but I counsel
forbearance, and cannot agree with the idea that it is our duty to
refuse all connection with them, and treat them as if they belonged to
the ranks of the malignants. See what such opinions have cost us
already in the overwhelming disaster at Bothwell Brig.”
“Overwhelming disaster counts for nothing in such a cause as this,”
rejoined Cargill gravely. “The truth has been committed to us, and we
are bound to be valiant for the truth — even to death. Is it not so,
The young man to whom the old Covenanter turned was one of the most
noted among the men who fought and died for the Covenant. An earnest
godly young minister, he had just returned from Holland with the
intention of taking up the standard which had been almost dropped in
consequence of the hotter persecutions which immediately followed the
battle of Bothwell Bridge.
“Of course you know that I agree with you, Mr Cargill. When you
licensed me to preach the blessed Gospel, Mr Welsh, you encouraged me
to independent thought. Under the guidance, I believe, of the Holy
Spirit, I have been led to see the sinfulness of the Indulgence, and I
am constrained to preach against it. Truly my chief concern is for the
salvation of souls — the bringing of men and women and children to the
Saviour; but after that, or rather along with that, to my mind, comes
the condemnation of sin, whether public or private. Consider what the
Indulgence and persecution together have done now. Have they not
well-nigh stopped the field-preaching altogether, so that, with the
exception of yourselves and Mr Thomas Douglas and a few others, there
is no one left to testify? Part of my mission has been to go round
among the ministers on this very point, but my efforts have been in
vain as far as I have yet gone. It has been prophesied,” continued
Cameron with a sad smile, “that I shall yet lose my head in this cause.
That may well be, for there is that in my soul which will not let me
stand still while my Master is dishonoured and sin is triumphant. As to
the King, he may, so far as I know, be truly descended from the race of
our kings, but he has so grievously departed from his duty to the
people — by whose authority alone magistrates exist — and has so
perjured himself, usurped authority in Church matters, and tyrannised
in matters civil, that the people of Scotland do no longer owe him
allegiance; and although I stand up for governments and governors, such
as God's Word and our covenants allow, I will surely — with all who
choose to join me — disown Charles Stuart as a tyrant and a usurper.”
The discussion had continued so long that the ministers, as if by
mutual consent, dropped it after this point, and turned to Ramblin'
Peter, who was appeasing his hunger with a huge “luggie o' parritch.”
But the poor boy had no heart to finish his meal on learning that
Marion Clark and Isabel Scott — of whom he was very fond — had been
captured by the soldiers and sent to Edinburgh. Indeed nothing would
satisfy him but that he should return to the metropolis without delay
and carry the bad news to his master.
That same night, when darkness rendered it safe, Cargill, Cameron,
Welsh, and Douglas, with some of their followers, left Black's place of
concealment, and went off in different directions to risk, for a brief
space, the shelter of a friendly cottage, where the neighbours would
assemble to hear the outlawed ministers while one of them kept watch,
or to fulfil their several engagements for the holding of conventicles
among the secret places of the hills.
Chapter Ten. Fiercer and Fiercer.
After his escape, Quentin Dick, hearing of the recapture of his
comrades, and knowing that he could not in any way help them, resolved
to go back to Dumfries to make inquiries about the servant lassies
Marion and Isabel, being ignorant of the fact that Ramblin' Peter had
been sent on the same errand before him.
Now, although the one was travelling to, and the other from,
Edinburgh, they might easily have missed each other, as they travelled
chiefly at night in order to escape observation. But, hearing on the
way that the much-loved minister, Mr Welsh, was to preach in a certain
locality, they both turned aside to hear him, and thus came together.
A price of £500 sterling had been set on the head of Mr Welsh, and
for twenty years he had been pursued by his foes, yet for that long
period he succeeded in eluding his pursuers — even though the resolute
and vindictive Claverhouse was among them, — and in continuing his
work of preaching to the people. Though a meek and humble man, Welsh
was cool, courageous, and self-possessed, with, apparently, a dash of
humour in him — as was evidenced by his preaching on one occasion in
the middle of the frozen Tweed, so that either he “might shun giving
offence to both nations, or that two kingdoms might dispute his crime!”
The evening before the meeting at which Quentin and Peter
unwittingly approached each other, Mr Welsh found himself at a loss
where to spend the night, for the bloodhounds were already on his
track. He boldly called at the house of a gentleman who was personally
unknown to him, but who was known to be hostile to field-preachers in
general, and to himself in particular. As a stranger Mr Welsh was
kindly received. Probably in such dangerous times it was considered
impolite to make inquiry as to names. At all events the record says
that he remained unknown. In course of conversation his host referred
to Welsh and the difficulty of getting hold of him.
“I am sent,” said Welsh, “to apprehend rebels. I know where
Mr Welsh is to preach to-morrow, and will give you the rebel by the
Overjoyed at this news the gentleman agreed to accompany him to the
meeting on the morrow. Arriving next day at the rendezvous, the
congregation made way for the minister and his host. The latter was
then invited to take a seat, and, to his great amazement, his guest of
the previous night stood up and preached. At the close of the sermon Mr
Welsh held out his hand to his host.
“I promised,” he said, “to give you Mr Welsh by the hand.”
“Yes,” returned the gentleman, who was much affected, as he grasped
the hand, “and you said that you were sent to apprehend rebels. Let me
assure you that I, a rebellious sinner, have been apprehended this
It was at this interesting moment that Quentin and Peter recognised
each other, and, forgetting all other points of interest, turned aside
to discuss their own affairs.
“Then there's nae use o' my gaun ony farer,” said the shepherd
“Nane whatever,” said Peter; “ye'd best c'way back t' toon wi' me.
Ye'll be safer there nor here, an' may chance to be o' service to the
Alas for the poor lassies! They were in the fangs of the wolves at
that very time. In that council-room where, for years, the farce of
“trial” and the tragedy of cruel injustice had been carried on, Marion
Clark and Isabel Scott were standing before their civil and clerical
inquisitors. The trial was nearly over. Proceeding upon their mean
principle of extracting confession by the method of entrapping
questions, and thus obtaining from their unsuspecting victims
sufficient evidence — as they said — to warrant condemnation, they
had got the poor serving-maids to admit that they had attended
field-preachings; had conversed with some whom the Government denounced
as rebels; and other matters which sufficed to enable them to draw up a
libel. Those two innocent girls were then handed over to the Justiciary
Court, before which they were charged with the crime of receiving and
corresponding with Mr Donald Cargill, Mr Thomas Douglas, Mr John Welsh,
and Mr Richard Cameron; with the murderers of Archbishop Sharp; and
with having heard the said ministers preach up treason and rebellion!
When the indictment was read to them the poor things meekly admitted
that it was correct, except in so far as it called the ministers rebels
and asserted that they preached up treason. The jury were exceedingly
unwilling to serve on the trial, but were compelled to do so under
threat of fine. After deliberating on the evidence they found the girls
both guilty, by their own confession, of holding the opinions charged
against them, but that as actors, or receivers of rebels, the charge
was not proven.
Upon this they were condemned to die, but before leaving the court
Isabel Scott said impressively: “I take all witness against another at
you to your appearance before God, that your proceeding against us this
day is only for owning Christ, His Gospel, and His members.” (See A
Cloud of Witnesses, p. 122 (ed. 1871.)) They were then led back to
When Quentin and Peter arrived in Edinburgh, two days later, they
passed under the West Port, which was decorated with the shrivelled
heads and hands of several martyrs, and made their way to the
Grassmarket, which they had to traverse in going towards Candlemaker
Row. Here they found a large crowd surrounding the gallows-tree which
did such frequent service there. Two female figures were swinging from
“The auld story,” said the shepherd in a low sad voice. “What was
their crime?” he inquired of a bystander.
“They tried to serve the Lord, that was a',” replied the man
bitterly. “But they ended their coorse bravely. Ane sang the 84th Psalm
and the ither spake of God's great love an' free grace to her and to
“Puir things!” exclaimed Quentin with tremulous voice. “It's ower
noo. They're fairly inside o' the celestial gates.”
The sight was all too common in those dark days to induce delay, but
the two friends had to pass near the gallows, and naturally looked up
“Quentin!” gasped Peter, stretching out both hands towards the
martyrs, whose now soulless frames were hanging there, “it's — it's
A low wail followed, as the poor boy fell over in a swoon.
The shepherd's heart almost stood still, and his great chest
quivered for a moment as he gazed, but he was a man of strong will and
iron mould. Stooping, he picked up his little friend and carried him
Their grief was, however, diverted to other channels on reaching the
abode of Mrs Black, for there they found her and Mrs Wallace and Jean
in deepest sorrow over the terrible news just brought to them by Jock
Andrew Black, he told them, had been sent a prisoner to the Bass
Rock, and Will Wallace, with two hundred others, had been banished to
the plantations in Barbadoes, where they were to be sold as slaves.
Quentin sat down, covered his face with both hands, and groaned
aloud on hearing this. Peter, who had recovered by that time, looked
about him with the expressionless face of one whose reason has been
unseated. Observing that Jean was sitting apart, sobbing as if her
heart would break, he went quietly to her, and, taking one of her
hands, began to stroke it gently. “Dinna greet, Jean,” he said; “the
Lord will deliver them. Marion aye telt me that, an' I believe she was
Truly these unfortunate people needed all the consolation that the
Word could give them, for banishment to the plantations usually meant
banishment for life, and as to the hundreds who found a prison on the
bleak and rugged Bass Rock at the mouth of the Forth, many of these
also found a grave.
After the battle of Bothwell Bridge the persecutions which had been
so severe for so many years were continued with intensified bitterness.
Not only were all the old tyrannical laws carried into force with
increased severity, but new and harsher laws were enacted. Among other
things the common soldiers were given the right to carry these laws
into effect — in other words, to murder and plunder according to their
own will and pleasure. And now, in 1680, began what has been termed
the killing-time; in which Graham of Claverhouse (afterwards
Viscount Dundee), Grierson of Lagg, Dalziel, and others, became
pre-eminently notorious for their wanton cruelty in slaughtering men,
women, and even children.
On 22nd June 1680 twenty armed horsemen rode up the main street of
the burgh of Sanquhar. The troop was headed by Richard Cameron and his
brother Michael, who, dismounting, nailed to the cross a paper which
the latter read aloud. It was the famous “Declaration of Sanquhar,” in
which Charles Stuart was publicly disowned.
While the fields of Scotland were being traversed and devastated by
a lawless banditti, authorised by a lawless and covenant-breaking king
and Government, those indomitable men who held with Cameron and Cargill
united themselves more closely together, and thus entered into a new
bond pledging themselves to be faithful to God and to each other in
asserting their civil and religious rights, which they believed could
only be secured by driving from the throne that “perfidious
covenant-breaking race, untrue both to the most high God and to the
people over whom for their sins they were set.”
If the Cameronians were wrong in this opinion then must the whole
nation have been wrong, when, a few years later, it came to hold the
same opinion, and acted in accordance therewith! As well might we find
fault with Bruce and Wallace as with our covenanting patriots.
Be this as it may, Richard Cameron with his followers asserted the
principle which afterwards became law — namely, that the House of
Stuart should no longer desecrate the throne. He did not, however, live
to see his desire accomplished.
At Airsmoss — in the district of Kyle — with a band of his
followers, numbering twenty-six horse and forty foot, he was surprised
by a party of upwards of one hundred and twenty dragoons under command
of Bruce of Earlshall. The Cameronians were headed by Hackston of
Rathillet, who had been present at the murder of Sharp, though not an
active participator. Knowing that no mercy was to be expected they
resolved to fight. Before the battle Cameron, engaging in a brief
prayer, used the remarkable words: “Lord, take the ripe, but spare the
green.” The issue against such odds was what might have been expected.
Nearly all the Covenanters were slain. Richard Cameron fell, fighting
back to back with his brother. Some of the foot-men escaped into the
moss. Hackston was severely wounded and taken prisoner. Cameron's head
and hands were cut off and taken to Edinburgh, where they were cruelly
exhibited to his father — a prisoner at the time. “Do ye know them?”
asked the wretch who brought them. The old man, kissing them, replied,
“Ay, I know them! They are my son's — my own dear son's! It is the
Lord; good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me nor mine, but
has made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.” A wonderful
speech this from one suffering under, perhaps, the severest trial to
which poor human nature can be subjected. Well might be applied to him
the words — slightly paraphrased — “O man, great was thy faith!”
Hackston was taken to Edinburgh, which he entered on a horse with
his head bare and his face to the tail, the hangman carrying Cameron's
head on a halter before him. The indignities and cruelties which were
perpetrated on this man had been minutely pre-arranged by the Privy
Council. We mention a few in order that the reader may the better
understand the inconceivable brutality of the Government against which
the Scottish Covenanters had to contend. Besides the barbarities
connected with poor Cameron's head and hands, it was arranged that
Hackston's body was to be drawn backward on a hurdle to the cross of
Edinburgh, where, in the first place, his right hand was to be struck
off, and after some time his left hand. Thereafter he was to be hanged
up and cut down alive; his bowels to be taken out and his heart shown
to the people by the hangman, and then to be burnt in a fire on the
scaffold. Afterwards his head was to be cut off, and his body, divided
into four quarters, to be sent respectively to St. Andrews, Glasgow,
Leith, and Burntisland.
In carrying out his fiendish instructions the bungling executioner
was a long time mangling the wrist of Hackston's right arm before he
succeeded in separating the hand. Hackston quietly advised him to be
more careful to strike in the joint of the left. Having been drawn up
and let fall with a jerk, three times, life was not extinct, for it is
said that when the heart was torn out it moved after falling on the
Several others who had been with Cameron were betrayed at this time,
by apostate comrades, tried under torture, and executed; and the
persecution became so hot that field-preaching was almost extinguished.
The veteran Donald Cargill, however still maintained his ground.
This able, uncompromising, yet affectionate and charitable man had
prepared a famous document called the “Queensferry Paper,” of which it
has been said that it contains “the very pith of sound constitutional
doctrine regarding both civil and ecclesiastical rights.” Once,
however, he mistook his mission. In the presence of a large
congregation at Torwood he went so far as to excommunicate Charles II.;
the Dukes of York, Lauderdale, and Rothes; Sir C. McKenzie and Dalziel
of Binns. That these despots richly deserved whatever excommunication
might imply can hardly be denied, but it is equally certain that
prolonged and severe persecution had stirred up poor Cargill upon this
occasion to overstep his duty as a teacher of love to God and man.
Heavily did Cargill pay for his errors — as well as for his long
and conscientious adherence to duty. Five thousand merks were offered
for him, dead or alive. Being captured, he was taken to Edinburgh on
the 15th of July, and examined by the Council. On the 26th he was tried
and condemned, and on the 27th he was hanged, after having witnessed a
good confession, which he wound up with the words: “I forgive all men
the wrongs they have done against me. I pray that the sufferers may be
kept from sin and helped to know their duty.”
About this time a test oath was ordered to be administered to
all men in position or authority. The gist of it was that King Charles
II. was the only supreme governor in the realm over all causes, as well
ecclesiastical as civil, and that it was unlawful for any subject upon
pretence of reformation, or any pretence whatever, to enter into
covenants or leagues, or to assemble in any councils, conventicles,
assemblies, etc., ecclesiastical or civil, without his special
Pretty well this for a king who had himself signed the covenant —
without which signing the Scottish nation would never have consented to
assist in putting him on the throne! The greater number of the men in
office in Scotland took the oath, though there were several exceptions
— the Duke of Argyll, the Duke of Hamilton, John Hope of Hopetoun, the
Duchess of Rothes, and others — among whom were eighty of the
conforming clergy whose loyalty could not carry them so far, and who
surrendered their livings rather than their consciences.
It would require a volume to record even a bare outline of the deeds
of darkness that were perpetrated at this time. We must dismiss it all
and return to the actors in our tale.
Will Wallace, after being recaptured, as already stated, was sent
off to the plantations in a vessel with about two hundred and fifty
other unfortunates, many of whom were seriously ill, if not dying, in
consequence of their long exposure in the Greyfriars' Churchyard.
Packed in the hold of the ship so closely that they had not room to lie
down, and almost suffocated with foul air and stench, the sufferings
which they endured were far more terrible than those they experienced
when lying among the tombs; but God sent most of them speedy
deliverance. They were wrecked on the coast of Orkney. At night they
were dashed on the rocks. The prisoners entreated to be let out of
their prison, but the brutal captain ordered the hatches to be chained
down. A tremendous wave cleft the deck, and a few of the more energetic
managed to escape and reach the shore. The remainder — at least two
hundred — were drowned in the hold. Will Wallace was among the saved,
but was taken to Leith and transferred to another vessel. After several
months of tossings on the deep he reached his destination and was sold
Many months — even years — passed away, but no news reached
Candlemaker Row regarding the fate of the banished people. As to Andrew
Black, the only change that took place in his condition during his long
captivity was his transference — unknown to his kindred — from the
gloomy prison of the Bass Rock to the still gloomier cells of Dunnottar
During all this time, and for some years after, the persecutions
were continued with ever-increasing severity: it seemed as if nothing
short of the extirpation of the Covenanters altogether was
contemplated. In short, the two parties presented at this period an
aspect of human affairs which may well be styled monstrous. On the one
hand a people suffering and fighting to the death to uphold law, and on
the other a tyrant king and arrogant ecclesiastics and nobles, with
their paid slaves and sycophants, deliberately violating the same!
Quentin Dick and Ramblin' Peter had been drawn closer together by
powerful sympathy after the imprisonment of Black and the banishment of
Will Wallace. They were like-minded in their aspirations, though very
dissimilar in physical and mental endowment. Feeling that Edinburgh was
not a safe place in which to hide after his recent escape, Quentin
resolved to return to Dumfries to inquire after, and if possible to
aid, his friends there.
Peter determined to cast in his lot with him. In size he was still a
boy though he had reached manhood.
“We maun dae our best to help the wanderers” said the shepherd, as
they started on their journey.
“Ay,” assented Peter.
Arrived in Galloway they were passing over a wide moorland region
one afternoon when a man suddenly appeared before them, as if he had
dropped from the clouds, and held out his hand.
“What! McCubine, can that be you?” exclaimed Quentin, grasping the
proffered hand. “Man, I am glad to see ye. What brings ye here?”
McCubine explained that he and his friend Gordon, with four
comrades, were hiding in the Moss to avoid a party of dragoons who were
pursuing them. “Grierson of Lagg is with them, and Captain Bruce is in
command,” he said, “so we may expect no mercy if they catch us. Only
the other day Bruce and his men dragged puir old Tam McHaffie out o'
his bed, tho' he was ill wi' fever, an' shot him.”
Having conducted Quentin and Peter to the secret place where his
friends were hidden, McCubine was asked anxiously, by the former, if he
knew anything about the Wilsons.
“Ay, we ken this,” answered Gordon, “that although the auld folk
have agreed to attend the curates for the sake o' peace, the twa
lassies have refused, and been driven out o' hoose an' hame. They maun
hae been wanderin' amang the hills noo for months — if they're no
catched by this time.”
Hearing this, Quentin sprang up.
“We maun rescue them, Peter,” he said.
“Ay,” returned the boy. “Jean Black will expect that for Aggie's
sake; she's her bosom freend, ye ken.”
Refusing to delay for even half an hour, the two friends hurried
away. They had scarcely left, and the six hunted men were still
standing on the road where they had bidden them God-speed, when Bruce
with his dragoons suddenly appeared — surprised and captured them all.
With the brutal promptitude peculiar to that well-named “killing-time,”
four of them were drawn up on the road and instantly shot, and buried
where they fell, by Lochenkit Moor, where a monument now marks their
The two spared men, Gordon and McCubine, were then, without reason
assigned, bound and carried away. Next day the party came to the Cluden
Water, crossing which they followed the road which leads to Dumfries,
until they reached the neighbourhood of Irongray. There is a field
there with a mound in it, on which grows a clump of old oak-trees. Here
the two friends were doomed without trial to die. It is said that the
minister of Irongray at that time was suspected of favourable leanings
toward the Covenanters, and that the proprietor of the neighbouring
farm of Hallhill betrayed similar symptoms; hence the selection of the
particular spot between the two places, in order to intimidate both the
minister and the farmer. This may well have been the case, for history
shows that a very strong and indomitable covenanting spirit prevailed
among the parishioners of Irongray as well as among the people of the
South and West of Scotland generally. Indeed Wodrow, the historian,
says that the people of Irongray were the first to offer strenuous
opposition to the settlement of the curates.
When Gordon and McCubine were standing under the fatal tree with the
ropes round their necks, a sorrowing acquaintance asked the latter if
he had any word to send to his wife.
“Yes,” answered the martyr; “tell her that I leave her and the two
babes upon the Lord, and to his promise: 'A father to the fatherless
and a husband to the widow is the Lord in His holy habitation.'“
Hearing this, the man employed to act the part of executioner seemed
touched, and asked forgiveness.
“Poor man!” was the reply, “I forgive thee and all men.”
They died, at peace with God and man. An old tombstone, surrounded
by an iron rail, marks to this day the spot among the old oak-trees
where the bodies of McCubine and Gordon were laid to rest.
Commenting on this to his friend Selby, the Rev. George Lawless gave
it as his opinion that “two more fanatics were well out of the world.”
To which the Rev. Frank replied very quietly:
“Yes, George, well out of it indeed; and, as I would rather die with
the fanatics than live with the godless, I intend to join the
Covenanters to-night — so my pulpit shall be vacant to-morrow.”
Chapter Eleven. Coming Events Cast
In February 1685 Charles II. died — not without some suspicion of
foul play. His brother, the Duke of York, an avowed Papist, ascended
the throne as James II. This was a flagrant breach of the Constitution,
and Argyll — attempting to avert the catastrophe by an invasion of
Scotland at the same time that Monmouth should invade England — not
only failed, but was captured and afterwards executed by the same
instrument — the “Maiden” — with which his father's head had been cut
off nigh a quarter of a century before. As might have been expected,
the persecutions were not relaxed by the new king.
When good old Cargill was martyred, a handsome fair young man was
looking on in profound sorrow and pity. He was a youth of great moral
power, and with a large heart. His name was James Renwick. From that
hour this youth cast in his lot with the persecuted wanderers, and,
after the martyrdom of Cameron and Cargill, and the death of Welsh, he
was left almost alone to manage their affairs. The “Strict Covenanters"
had by this time formed themselves into societies for prayer and
conference, and held quarterly district meetings in sequestered places,
with a regular system of correspondence — thus secretly forming an
organised body, which has continued down to modern times.
It was while this young servant of God — having picked up the
mantle which Cargill dropped — was toiling and wandering among the
mountains, morasses, and caves of the west, that a troop of dragoons
was seen, one May morning, galloping over the same region “on duty.”
They swept over hill and dale with the dash and rattle of men in all
the pride of youth and strength and the panoply of war. They were
hasting, however, not to the battlefield but to the field of
agriculture, there to imbrue their hands in the blood of the unarmed
and the helpless.
At the head of the band rode the valiant Graham of Claverhouse. Most
people at that time knew him as the “bloody Clavers,” but as we look at
the gay cavalier with his waving plume, martial bearing, beautiful
countenance, and magnificent steed, we are tempted to ask, “Has there
not been some mistake here?” Some have thought so. One or two literary
men, who might have known better, have even said so, and attempted to
defend their position!
“Methinks this is our quarry, Glendinning,” said Claverhouse,
drawing rein as they approached a small cottage, near to which a man
was seen at work with a spade.
“Yes — that's John Brown of Priesthill,” said the sergeant.
“You know the pestilent fanatic well, I suppose?”
“Ay. He gets the name o' being a man of eminent godliness,” answered
the sergeant in a mocking tone; “and is even credited with having
started a Sabbath-school!”
John Brown, known as the “Christian carrier,” truly was what
Glendinning had sneeringly described him. On seeing the cavalcade
approach he guessed, no doubt, that his last hour had come, for many a
time had he committed the sin of succouring the outlawed Covenanters,
and he had stoutly refused to attend the ministry of the worthless
curate George Lawless. Indeed it was the information conveyed to
Government by that reverend gentleman that had brought Claverhouse down
upon the unfortunate man.
The dragoons ordered him to proceed to the front of his house, where
his wife was standing with one child in her arms and another by her
side. The usual ensnaring questions as to the supremacy of the King,
etc., were put to him, and the answers being unsatisfactory,
Claverhouse ordered him to say his prayers and prepare for immediate
death. Brown knew that there was no appeal. All Scotland was well aware
by that time that soldiers were empowered to act the part of judge,
jury, witness, and executioner, and had become accustomed to it. The
poor man obeyed. He knelt down and prayed in such a strain that even
the troopers, it is said, were impressed — at all events, their
subsequent conduct would seem to countenance this belief. Their
commander, however, was not much affected, for he thrice interrupted
his victim, telling him that he had “given him time to pray, but not to
“Sir,” returned Brown, “ye know neither the nature of preaching nor
praying if ye call this preaching.”
“Now,” said Claverhouse, “take farewell of your wife and children.”
After the poor man had kissed them, Claverhouse ordered six of his
men to fire; but they hesitated and finally refused. Enraged at this
their commander drew a pistol, and with his own hand blew out John
“What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?” he said, turning to
“I ever thought much good of him,” she answered, “and as much now as
“It were but justice to lay thee beside him,” exclaimed the
“If you were permitted,” she replied, “I doubt not but your cruelty
would go that length.”
Thus far the excitement of the dreadful scene enabled the poor
creature to reply, but nature soon asserted her sway. Sinking on her
knees by the side of the mangled corpse, the widow, neither observing
nor caring for the departure of the dragoons, proceeded to bind up her
husband's shattered skull with a kerchief, while the pent-up tears
The house stood in a retired, solitary spot, and for some time the
bereaved woman was left alone with God and her children; but before
darkness closed in a human comforter was sent to her in the person of
On his arrival in Wigtown, Quentin, finding that his friends the
Wilson girls had been imprisoned with an old covenanter named Mrs
McLachlan, and that he could not obtain permission to see them,
resolved to pay a visit to John Brown, the carrier, who was an old
friend, and who might perhaps afford him counsel regarding the Wilsons.
Leaving Ramblin' Peter behind to watch every event and fetch him word
if anything important should transpire, he set out and reached the
desolated cottage in the evening of the day on which his friend was
Quentin was naturally a reserved man, and had never been able to
take a prominent part with his covenanting friends in conversation or
in public prayer, but the sight of his old friend's widow in her agony,
and her terrified little ones, broke down the barrier of reserve
completely. Although a stern and a strong man, not prone to give way to
feeling, he learned that night the full meaning of what it is to “weep
with those that weep.” Moreover, his tongue was unloosed, and he poured
forth his soul in prayer, and quoted God's Word in a way that cheered,
in no small degree, his stricken friend. During several days he
remained at Priesthill, doing all in his power to assist the family,
and receiving some degree of comfort in return; for strong sympathy and
fellowship in sorrow had induced him to reveal the fact that he loved
Margaret Wilson, who at that time lay in prison with her young sister
Agnes, awaiting their trial in Wigtown.
Seated one night by the carrier's desolated hearth, where several
friends had assembled to mourn with the widow, Quentin was about to
commence family worship, when he was interrupted by the sudden entrance
of Ramblin' Peter. The expression of his face told eloquently that he
brought bad news. “The Wilsons,” he said, “are condemned to be drowned
with old Mrs McLachlan.”
“No' baith o' the lasses,” he added, correcting himself, “for the
faither managed to git ane o' them off by a bribe o' a hundred pounds
— an' that's every bodle that he owns.”
“Which is to be drooned?” asked Quentin in a low voice.
“Marget — the auldest.”
A deep groan burst from the shepherd as the Bible fell from his
“Come!” he said to Peter, and passed quickly out of the house,
without a word to those whom he left behind.
Arrived in Wigtown, the wretched man went about, wildly seeking to
move the feelings of men whose hearts were like the nether millstone.
“Oh, if I only had siller!” he exclaimed to the Wilsons' father,
clasping his hands in agony. “Hae ye nae mair?”
“No' anither plack,” said the old man in deepest dejection. “They
took all I had for Aggie.”
“Ye are strang, Quentin,” suggested Peter, who now understood the
reason of his friend's wild despair. “Could ye no' waylay somebody an'
rob them? Surely it wouldna be coonted wrang in the circumstances.”
“Sin is sin, Peter. Better death than sin,” returned Quentin with a
“Aweel, we maun just dee, then,” said Peter in a tone of
Nothing could avert the doom of these unfortunate women. Their
judges, of whom Grierson, Laird of Lagg, was one, indicted this young
girl and the old woman with the ridiculous charge of rebellion, of
having been at the battles of Bothwell Bridge and Airsmoss and present
at twenty conventicles, as well as with refusing to swear the
The innocent victims were carried to the mouth of the river
Bladenoch, being guarded by troops under Major Winram, and followed by
an immense crowd both of friends and spectators. Quentin Dick and his
little friend Peter were among them. The former had possessed himself
of a stick resembling a quarter-staff. His wild appearance and
bloodshot eyes, with his great size and strength, induced people to
keep out of his way. He had only just reached the spot in time. No word
did he speak till he came up to Major Winram. Then he sprang forward,
and said in a loud voice, “I forbid this execution in the name of God!”
at the same time raising his staff.
Instantly a trooper spurred forward and cut him down from behind.
“Take him away,” said Winram, and Quentin, while endeavouring to
stagger to his feet, was ridden down, secured, and dragged away. Poor
Peter shared his fate. So quickly and quietly was it all done that few
except those quite close to them were fully aware of what had occurred.
The blow on his head seemed to have stunned the shepherd, for he made
no resistance while they led him a considerable distance back into the
country to a retired spot, and placed him with his back against a
cliff. Then the leader of the party told off six men to shoot him.
Not until they were about to present their muskets did the shepherd
seem to realise his position. Then an eager look came over his face,
and he said with a smile, “Ay, be quick! Maybe I'll git there first to
A volley followed, and the soul of Quentin Dick was released from
its tenement of clay.
Peter, on seeing the catastrophe, fell backwards in a swoon, and the
leader of the troop, feeling, perhaps, a touch of pity, cast him loose
and left him there. Returning to the sands, the soldiers found that the
martyrdom was well-nigh completed.
The mouth of the Bladenoch has been considerably modified. At this
time the river's course was close along the base of the hill on which
Wigtown stands. The tide had turned, and the flowing sea had already
reversed the current of the river. The banks of sand were steep, and
several feet high at the spot to which the martyrs were led, so that
people standing on the edge were close above the inrushing stream. Two
stakes had been driven into the top of the banks — one being some
distance lower down the river than the other. Ropes of a few yards in
length were fastened to them, and the outer ends tied round the
martyrs' waists — old Mrs McLachlan being attached to the lower post.
They were then bidden prepare for death, which they did by kneeling
down and engaging in fervent prayer. It is said that the younger woman
repeated some passages of Scripture, and even sang part of the 25th
At this point a married daughter of Mrs McLachlan, named Milliken,
who could not believe that the sentence would really be carried out,
gave way to violent lamentations, and fainted when she saw that her
mother's doom was fixed. They carried the poor creature away from the
The old woman was first pushed over the brink of the river, and a
soldier, thrusting her head down into the water with a halbert, held it
there. This was evidently done to terrify the younger woman into
submission, for, while the aged martyr was struggling in the agonies of
death, one of the tormentors asked Margaret Wilson what she thought of
“What do I see?” was her reply. “I see Christ in one of His members
wrestling there. Think ye that we are sufferers? No! it is Christ in
us; for He sends none a warfare on his own charges.”
These were her last words as she was pushed over the bank, and, like
her companion, forcibly held, down with a halbert. Before she was quite
suffocated, however, Winram ordered her to be dragged out, and, when
able to speak, she was asked if she would pray for the King.
“I wish the salvation of all men,” she replied, “and the damnation
“Dear Margaret,” urged a bystander in a voice of earnest entreaty,
“say 'God save the King,' say 'God save the King.'“
“God save him if He will,” she replied. “It is his salvation I
“She has said it! she has said it!” cried the pitying bystanders
“That won't do,” cried the Laird of Lagg, coming forward at the
moment, uttering a coarse oath; “let her take the test-oaths.”
As this meant the repudiation of the Covenants and the submission of
her conscience to the King — to her mind inexcusable sin — the martyr
firmly refused to obey. She was immediately thrust back into the water,
and in a few minutes more her heroic soul was with her God and Saviour.
The truth of this story — like that of John Brown of Priesthill,
though attested by a letter of Claverhouse himself (See Dr.
Cunningham's History of the Church of Scotland, vol. ii. p.
239.) — has been called in question, and the whole affair pronounced a
myth! We have no space for controversy, but it is right to add that if
it be a myth, the records of the Kirk-sessions of Kirkinner and
Penninghame — which exist, and in which it is recorded — must also be
mythical. The truth is, that both stories have been elaborately
investigated by men of profound learning and unquestionable capacity,
and the truth of them proved “up to the hilt.”
As to Graham of Claverhouse — there are people, we believe, who
would whitewash the devil if he were only to present himself with a
dashing person and a handsome face! But such historians as Macaulay,
McCrie, McKenzie, and others, refuse to whitewash Claverhouse. Even Sir
Walter Scott — who was very decidedly in sympathy with the Cavaliers
— says of him in Old Mortality: “He was the unscrupulous agent
of the Scottish Privy Council in executing the merciless seventies of
the Government in Scotland during the reigns of Charles II. and James
II.;” and his latest apologist candidly admits that “it is impossible
altogether to acquit Claverhouse of the charges laid to his account.”
We are inclined to ask, with some surprise, Why should he wish to
acquit him? But Claverhouse himself, as if in prophetic cynicism,
writes his own condemnation as to character thus: “In any service I
have been in, I never inquired further in the laws than the orders of
my superior officer.” An appropriate motto for a “soldier of fortune,”
which might be abbreviated and paraphrased into “Stick at nothing!”
Coupling all this with the united testimony of tradition, and nearly
all ancient historians, we can only wonder at the prejudice of those
who would still weave a chaplet for the brow of “Bonnie Dundee.”
Turning now from the south-west of Scotland, we direct attention to
the eastern seaboard of Kincardine, where, perched like a sea-bird on
the weatherbeaten cliffs, stands the stronghold of Dunnottar Castle.
Down in the dungeons of that rugged pile lies our friend Andrew
Black, very different from the man whose fortunes we have hitherto
followed. Care, torment, disease, hard usage, long confinement, and
desperate anxiety have graven lines on his face that nothing but death
can smooth out. Wildly-tangled hair, with a long shaggy beard and
moustache, render him almost unrecognisable. Only the old unquenchable
fire of his eye remains; also the kindliness of his old smile, when
such a rare visitant chances once again to illuminate his worn
features. Years of suffering had he undergone, and there was now little
more than skin and bone of him left to undergo more.
“Let me hae a turn at the crack noo,” he said, coming forward to a
part of the foul miry dungeon where a crowd of male and female
prisoners were endeavouring to inhale a little fresh air through a
crevice in the wall. “I'm fit to choke for want o' a breath o' caller
As he spoke a groan from a dark corner attracted his attention. At
once forgetting his own distress, he went to the place and discovered
one of the prisoners, a young man, with his head pillowed on a stone,
and mire some inches deep for his bed.
“Eh, Sandy, are ye sae far gane?” asked Black, kneeling beside him
in tender sympathy.
“Oh, Andry, man — for a breath o' fresh air before I dee!”
“Here! ane o' ye,” cried Black, “help me to carry Sandy to the
crack. Wae's me, man,” he added in a lower voice, “I could hae carried
you ye wi' my pirlie ance, but I'm little stronger than a bairn noo.”
Sandy was borne to the other side of the dungeon, and his head put
close to the crevice, through which he could see the white ripples on
the summer sea far below.
A deep inspiration seemed for a moment to give new life — then a
prolonged sigh, and the freed happy soul swept from the dungeons of
earth to the realms of celestial, light and liberty.
“He's breathin' the air o' Paradise noo,” said Black, as he assisted
to remove the dead man from the opening which the living were so eager
“Ye was up in the ither dungeon last night,” he said, turning to the
man who had aided him; “what was a' the groans an' cries aboot?”
“Torturin' the puir lads that tried to escape,” answered the man
with a dark frown.
“Hm! I thoucht as muckle. They were gey hard on them, I dar'say?”
“They were that! Ye see, the disease that's broke oot amang them —
whatever it is — made some o' them sae desprit that they got through
the wundy that looks to the sea an' creepit alang the precipice. It was
a daft-like thing to try in the daylight; but certain death would hae
been their lot, I suspec', if they had ventured on a precipice like
that i' the dark. Some women washin' doon below saw them and gied the
alarm. The gairds cam', the hue and cry was raised, the yetts were shut
and fifteen were catched an' brought back — but twenty-five got away.
My heart is wae for the fifteen. They were laid on their backs on
benches; their hands were bound doon to the foot o' the forms, an'
burnin' matches were putt atween every finger, an' the sodgers blew on
them to keep them alight. The governor, ye see, had ordered this to
gang on withoot stoppin' for three oors! Some o' the puir fallows were
deid afore the end o' that time, an' I'm thinkin' the survivors'll be
crippled for life.”
While listening to the horrible tale Andrew Black resolved on an
attempt to escape that very night.
“Wull ye gang wi' me?” he asked of the only comrade whom he thought
capable of making the venture; but the comrade shook his head. “Na,” he
said, “I'll no' try. They've starved me to that extent that I've nae
strength left. I grow dizzy at the vera thoucht. But d'ye think the
wundy's big enough to let ye through?”
“Oo ay,” returned Black with a faint smile. “I was ower stoot for't
ance, but it's an ill wund that blaws nae guid. Stervation has made me
thin enough noo.”
That night, when all — even the harassed prisoners — in Dunnottar
Castle were asleep, except the sentinels, the desperate man forced
himself with difficulty through the very small window of the dungeon.
It was unbarred, because, opening out on the face of an almost sheer
precipice, it was thought that nothing without wings could escape from
it. Black, however, had been accustomed to precipices from boyhood. He
had observed a narrow ledge just under the window, and hoped that it
might lead to something. Just below it he could see another and
narrower ledge. What was beyond that he knew not — and did not much
Once outside, with his breast pressed against the wall of rock, he
passed along pretty quickly, considering that he could not see more
than a few yards before him. But presently he came to the end of the
ledge, and by no stretching out of foot or hand could he find another
projection of any kind. He had now to face the great danger of sliding
down to the lower ledge, and his heart beat audibly against his ribs as
he gazed into the profound darkness below. Indecision was no part of
Andrew Black's character. Breathing a silent prayer for help and
deliverance, he sat down on the ledge with his feet overhanging the
abyss. For one moment he reconsidered his position. Behind him were
torture, starvation, prolonged misery, and almost certain death. Below
was perhaps instantaneous death, or possible escape.
He pushed off, again commending his soul to God, and slid down. For
an instant destruction seemed inevitable, but next moment his heels
struck the lower ledge and he remained fast. With an earnest “Thank
God!” he began to creep along. The ledge conducted him to safer ground,
and in another quarter of an hour he was free!
To get as far and as quickly as possible from Dunnottar was now his
chief aim. He travelled at his utmost speed till daybreak, when he
crept into a dry ditch, and, overcome by fatigue, forgot his sorrow in
profound unbroken slumber. Rising late in the afternoon, he made his
way to a cottage and begged for bread. They must have suspected what he
was and where he came from, but they were friendly, for they gave him a
loaf and a few pence without asking questions.
Thus he travelled by night and slept by day till he made his way to
Edinburgh, which he entered one evening in the midst of a crowd of
people, and went straight to Candlemaker Row.
Mrs Black, Mrs Wallace, Jean Black, and poor Agnes Wilson were in
the old room when a tap was heard at the door, which immediately
opened, and a gaunt, dishevelled, way-worn man appeared. Mrs Black was
startled at first, for the man, regardless of the other females,
advanced towards her. Then sudden light seemed to flash in her eyes as
she extended both hands.
“Mither!” was all that Andrew could say as he grasped them, fell on
his knees, and, with a profound sigh, laid his head upon her lap.
Chapter Twelve. The Darkest Hour
before the Dawn.
Many months passed away, during which Andrew Black, clean-shaved,
brushed-up, and converted into a very respectable, ordinary-looking
artisan, carried on the trade of a turner, in an underground cellar in
one of the most populous parts of the Cowgate. Lost in the crowd was
his idea of security. And he was not far wrong. His cellar had a way of
escape through a back door. Its grated window, under the level of the
street, admitted light to his whirling lathe, but, aided by dirt on the
glass, it baffled the gaze of the curious.
His evenings were spent in Candlemaker Row, where, seated by the
window with his mother, Mrs Wallace, and the two girls, he smoked his
pipe and commented on Scotland's woes while gazing across the tombs at
the glow in the western sky. Ramblin' Peter — no longer a beardless
boy, but a fairly well-grown and good-looking youth — was a constant
visitor at the Row. Aggie Wilson had taught him the use of his tongue,
but Peter was not the man to use it in idle flirtation — nor Aggie the
girl to listen if he had done so. They had both seen too much of the
stern side of life to condescend on trifling.
Once, by a superhuman effort, and with an alarming flush of the
countenance, Peter succeeded in stammering a declaration of his
sentiments. Aggie, with flaming cheeks and downcast eyes, accepted the
declaration, and the matter was settled; that was all, for the subject
had rushed upon both of them, as it were, unexpectedly, and as they
were in the public street at the time and the hour was noon, further
demonstration might have been awkward.
Thereafter they were understood to be “keeping company.” But they
were a grave couple. If an eavesdropper had ventured to listen, sober
talk alone would have repaid the sneaking act, and, not unfrequently,
reference would have been heard in tones of deepest pathos to dreadful
scenes that had occurred on the shores of the Solway, or sorrowful
comments on the awful fate of beloved friends who had been banished to
One day Jean — fair-haired, blue-eyed, pensive Jean — was seated
in the cellar with her uncle. She had brought him his daily dinner in a
tin can, and he having just finished it, was about to resume his work
while the niece rose to depart. Time had transformed Jean from a pretty
girl into a beautiful woman, but there was an expression of profound
melancholy on her once bright face which never left it now, save when a
passing jest called up for an instant a feeble reminiscence of the
sweet old smile.
“Noo, Jean, awa' wi' ye. I'll never get thae parritch-sticks
feenished if ye sit haverin' there.”
Something very like the old smile lighted up Jean's face as she
rose, and with a “weel, good-day, uncle,” left the cellar to its busy
Black was still at work, and the shadows of evening were beginning
to throw the inner end of the cellar into gloom, when the door slowly
opened and a man entered stealthily. The unusual action, as well as the
appearance of the man, caused Black to seize hold of a heavy piece of
wood that leaned against his lathe. The thought of being discovered and
sent back to Dunnottar, or hanged, had implanted in our friend a
salutary amount of caution, though it had not in the slightest degree
affected his nerve or his cool promptitude in danger. He had
deliberately made up his mind to remain quiet as long as he should be
let alone, but if discovered, to escape or die in the attempt.
The intruder was a man of great size and strength, but as he seemed
to be alone, Black quietly leaned the piece of wood against the lathe
again in a handy position.
“Ye seem to hae been takin' lessons frae the cats lately, to judge
from yer step,” said Black. “Shut the door, man, behint ye. There's a
draft i' this place that'll be like to gie ye the rheumatiz.”
The man obeyed, and, advancing silently, stood before the lathe.
There was light enough to reveal the fact that his countenance was
handsome, though bronzed almost to the colour of mahogany, while the
lower part of it was hidden by a thick beard and a heavy moustache.
Black, who began to see that the strange visitor had nothing of the
appearance of one sent to arrest him, said, in a half-humorous,
“Maybe ye're a furriner, an' dinna understan' mainners, but it's as
weel to tell ye that I expec' men to tak' aff their bannets when they
come into my hoose.”
Without speaking the visitor removed his cap. Black recognised him
in an instant.
“Wull Wallace!” he gasped in a hoarse whisper, as he sprang forward
and laid violent hands on his old friend. “Losh, man! are my een
leein'? is't possable? Can this be you?”
“Yes, thank God, it is indeed—”
He stopped short, for Andrew, albeit unaccustomed, like most of his
countrymen, to give way to ebullitions of strong feeling, threw his
long arms around his friend and fairly hugged him. He did not, indeed,
condescend on a Frenchman's kiss, but he gave him a stage embrace and a
squeeze that was worthy of a bear.
“Your force is not much abated, I see — or rather, feel,” said Will
Wallace, when he was released.
“Abated!” echoed Black, “it's little need, in thae awfu' times. But,
man, your force has increased, if I'm no mista'en.”
“Doubtless — it is natural, after having toiled with the slaves in
Barbadoes for so many years. The work was kill or cure out there. But
tell me — my mother — and yours?”
“Oh, they're baith weel and hearty, thank the Lord,” answered Black.
“But what for d'ye no speer after Jean?” he added in a somewhat
“Because I don't need to. I've seen her already, and know that she
“Seen her!” exclaimed Andrew in surprise.
“Ay, you and Jean were seated alone at the little window in the
Candlemaker Raw last night about ten o'clock, and I was standing by a
tombstone in the Greyfriars Churchyard admiring you. I did not like to
present myself just then, for fear of alarming the dear girl too much,
and then I did not dare to come here to-day till the gloamin'. I only
“Weel, weel! The like o' this bates a'. Losh man! I hope it's no a
dream. Nip me, man, to mak sure. Sit doon, sit doon, an' let's hear a'
The story was a long one. Before it was quite finished the door was
gently opened, and Jean Black herself entered. She had come, as was her
wont every night, to walk home with her uncle.
Black sprang up.
“Jean, my wummin,” he said, hastily putting on his blue bonnet,
“there's no light eneuch for ye to be intryduced to my freend here, but
ye can hear him if ye canna see him. I'm gaun oot to see what sort o' a
night it is. He'll tak' care o' ye till I come back.”
Without awaiting a reply he went out and shut the door, and the girl
turned in some surprise towards the stranger.
“Jean!” he said in a low voice, holding out both hands.
Jean did not scream or faint. Her position in life, as well as her
rough experiences, forbade such weakness, but it did not forbid —
well, it is not our province to betray confidences! All we can say is,
that when Andrew Black returned to the cellar, after a prolonged and no
doubt scientific inspection of the weather, he found that the results
of the interview had been quite satisfactory — eminently so!
Need we say that there were rejoicing and thankful hearts in
Candlemaker Row that night? We think not. If any of the wraiths of the
Covenanters were hanging about the old churchyard, and had peeped in at
the well-known back window about the small hours of the morning, they
would have seen our hero, clasping his mother with his right arm and
Jean with his left. He was encircled by an eager group — composed of
Mrs Black and Andrew, Jock Bruce, Ramblin' Peter, and Aggie Wilson —
who listened to the stirring tale of his adventures, or detailed to him
the not less stirring and terrible history of the long period that had
elapsed since he was torn from them, as they had believed, for ever.
Next morning Jean accompanied her lover to the workshop of her
uncle, who had preceded them, as he usually went to work about
“Are ye no feared,” asked Jean, with an anxious look in her
companion's face, “that some of your auld enemies may recognise you?
You're so big and — and—” (she thought of the word handsome, but
“There is little fear, Jean. I've been so long away that most of the
people — the enemies at least — who knew me must have left; besides,
my bronzed face and bushy beard form a sufficient disguise, I should
“I'm no sure o' that,” returned the girl, shaking her head
doubtfully; “an' it seems to me that the best thing ye can do will be
to gang to the workshop every mornin' before it's daylight. Have ye
fairly settled to tak' to Uncle Andrew's trade?”
“Yes. Last night he and I arranged it while you were asleep. I must
work, you know, to earn my living, and there is no situation so likely
to afford such effectual concealment. Bruce offered to take me on
again, but the smiddy is too public, and too much frequented by
soldiers. Ah, Jean! I fear that our wedding-day is a long way off yet,
for, although I could easily make enough to support you in comfort if
there were no difficulties to hamper me, there is not much chance of my
making a fortune, as Andrew Black says, by turning parritch-sticks and
Wallace tried to speak lightly, but could not disguise a tone of
“Your new King,” he continued, “seems as bad as the old one, if not
worse. From all I hear he seems to have set his heart on bringing the
country back again to Popery, and black will be the look-out if he
succeeds in doing that. He has quarrelled, they say, with his bishops,
and in his anger is carrying matters against them with a high hand. I
fear that there is woe in store for poor Scotland yet.”
“It may be so,” returned Jean sadly. “The Lord knows what is best;
but He can make the wrath of man to praise Him. Perhaps,” she added,
looking up with a solemn expression on her sweet face, “perhaps, like
Quentin Dick an' Margaret Wilson, you an' I may never wed.”
They had reached the east end of the Grassmarket as she spoke, and
had turned into it before she observed that they were going wrong, but
Wallace explained that he had been directed by Black to call on
Ramblin' Peter, who lived there, and procure from him some
turning-tools. On the way they were so engrossed with each other that
they did not at first observe the people hurrying towards the lower end
of the market. Then they became aware that an execution was about to
“The old story,” muttered Wallace, while an almost savage scowl
settled on his face.
“Let us hurry by,” said Jean in a low tone. At the moment the
unhappy man who was about to be executed raised his voice to speak, as
was the custom in those times.
Jean started, paused, and turned deadly pale.
“I ken the voice,” she exclaimed.
As the tones rose in strength she turned towards the gallows and
almost dragged her companion after her in her eagerness to get near.
“It's Mr Renwick,” she said, “the dear servant o' the Lord!”
Wallace, on seeing her anxiety, elbowed his way through the crowd
somewhat forcibly, and thus made way for Jean till they stood close
under the gallows. It was a woeful sight in one sense, for it was the
murder of a fair and goodly as well as godly man in the prime of life;
yet it was a grand sight, inasmuch as it was a noble witnessing unto
death for God and truth and justice in the face of prejudice, passion,
and high-handed tyranny.
The martyr had been trying to address the crowd for some time, but
had been barbarously interrupted by the beating of drums. Just then a
curate approached him and said, “Mr Renwick, own our King, and we will
pray for you.”
“It's that scoundrel, the Rev. George Lawless,” murmured Wallace in
a deep and bitter tone.
“I am come here,” replied the martyr, “to bear my testimony against
you, and all such as you are.”
“Own our King, and pray for him, whatever ye say of us,” returned
“I will discourse no more with you,” rejoined Renwick. “I am in a
little to appear before Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, who
shall pour shame, contempt, and confusion on all the kings of the earth
who have not ruled for Him.”
After this Renwick — as was usual with the martyrs when about to
finish their course — sang, read a portion of Scripture, and prayed,
in the midst of considerable interruption from the drums. He also
managed to address the spectators. Among the sentences that reached the
ears of Jean and Wallace were the following:—
“I am come here this day to lay down my life for adhering to the
truths of Christ... I die as a Presbyterian Protestant... I own the
Word of God as the rule of faith and manners... I leave my testimony
against... all encroachments made on Christ's rights, who is the Prince
of the kings of the earth.”
The noise of the drums rendered his voice inaudible at this point,
and the executioner, advancing, tied a napkin over his eyes. He was
then ordered to go up the ladder. To a friend who stood by him he gave
his last messages. Among them were the words—
“Keep your ground, and the Lord will provide you teachers and
ministers; and when He comes He will make these despised truths
glorious in the earth.”
His last words were— “Lord, into thy hands I commit my spirit; for
thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth.”
Thus fell the last, as it turned out, of the martyrs of the
Covenants, on the 17th of February 1688. But it did not seem to Will
Wallace that the storm of twenty-eight long years had almost blown
over, as he glanced at the scowling brows and compressed lips of the
upturned faces around him.
“Come — come away, Jean,” he said quickly, as he felt the poor girl
hang heavily on his arm, and observed the pallor of her face.
“Ay, let's gang hame,” she said faintly.
As Will turned to go he encountered a face that was very familiar.
The owner of it gazed at him inquiringly. It was that of his old
comrade in arms, Glendinning. Stooping over his companion as if to
address her, Wallace tried to conceal his face and pushed quickly
through the crowd. Whether Glendinning had recognised him or not, he
could not be sure, but from that day forward he became much more
careful in his movements, went regularly to his work with Andrew Black
before daylight, and did not venture to return each night till after
dark. It was a weary and irksome state of things, but better — as
Black sagaciously remarked — than being imprisoned on the Bass Rock or
shut up in Dunnottar Castle. But the near presence of Jean Black had,
no doubt, more to do with the resignation of our hero to his position
than the fear of imprisonment.
As time passed, things in the political horizon looked blacker than
ever. The King began to show himself more and more in his true colours
— as one who had thoroughly made up his mind to rule as an absolute
monarch and to reclaim the kingdom to Popery. Among other things he
brought troops over from Ireland to enforce his will, some of his
English troops having made it abundantly plain that they could not be
counted on to obey the mandates of one who wished to arrogate to
himself unlimited power, and showed an utter disregard of the rights of
the people. Indeed, on all hands the King's friends began to forsake
him, and even his own children fell away from him at last.
Rumours of these things, more or less vague, had been reaching
Edinburgh from time to time, causing uneasiness in the minds of some
and hope in the hearts of others.
One night the usual party of friends had assembled to sup in the
dwelling of Mrs Black. It was the Sabbath. Wallace and Black had
remained close all day — with the exception of an hour before daylight
in the morning when they had gone out for exercise. It was one of those
dreary days not unknown to Auld Reekie, which are inaugurated with a
persistent drizzle, continued with a “Scotch mist,” and dismissed with
an even down-pour. Yet it was by no means a dismal day to our friends
of Candlemaker Row. They were all more or less earnestly religious as
well as intellectual, so that intercourse in reference to the things of
the Kingdom of God, and reading the Word, with a free-and-easy
commentary by Mrs Black and much acquiescence on the part of Mrs
Wallace, and occasional disputations between Andrew and Bruce, kept
them lively and well employed until supper-time.
The meal had just been concluded when heavy footfalls were heard on
the stair outside, and in another moment there was a violent knocking
at the door. The men sprang up, and instinctively grasped the weapons
that came first to hand. Wallace seized the poker — a new and heavy
one — Andrew the shovel, and Jock Bruce the tongs, while Ramblin'
Peter possessed himself of a stout rolling-pin. Placing themselves
hastily in front of the women, who had drawn together and retreated to
a corner, they stood on the defensive while Mrs Black demanded to know
who knocked so furiously “on a Sabbath nicht.”
Instead of answering, the visitors burst the door open, and
half-a-dozen of the town-guard sprang in and levelled their pikes.
“Yield yourselves!” cried their leader. “I arrest you in the King's
But the four men showed no disposition to yield, and the resolute
expression of their faces induced their opponents to hesitate.
“I ken o' nae King in this realm,” said Andrew Black in a deep stern
voice, “an' we refuse to set oor necks under the heel o' a usurpin'
“Do your duty, men,” said a man who had kept in the background, but
who now stepped to the front.
“Ha! this is your doing, Glendinning,” exclaimed Wallace, who
recognised his old comrade. The sergeant had obviously been promoted,
for he wore the costume of a commissioned officer.
“Ay, I have an auld score to settle wi' you, Wallace, an' I hope to
see you an' your comrades swing in the Grassmarket before lang.”
“Ye'll niver see that, my man,” said Black, as he firmly grasped the
shovel. “Ye ha'ena gotten us yet, an' it's my opeenion that you an'
your freends'll be in kingdom-come before we swing, if ye try to tak'
us alive. Oot o' this hoose, ye scoondrels!”
So saying, Black made a spring worthy of a royal Bengal tiger,
turned aside the pike of the foremost man, and brought the shovel down
on his iron headpiece with such force that he was driven back into the
passage or landing, and fell prostrate. Black was so ably and promptly
seconded by his stalwart comrades that the room was instantly cleared.
Glendinning, driven back by an irresistible blow from the rolling-pin,
tripped over the fallen man and went headlong down the winding stairs,
at the bottom of which he lay dead, with his neck broken by the fall.
But the repulse thus valiantly effected did not avail them much, for
the leader of the guard had reinforcements below, which he now called
up. Before the door could be shut these swarmed into the room and drove
the defenders back into their corner. The leader hesitated, however, to
give the order to advance on them, partly, it may be, because he wished
to induce submission and thus avoid bloodshed, and partly, no doubt,
because of the terrible aspect of the four desperate men, who, knowing
that the result of their capture would be almost certain death,
preceded by imprisonment, and probably torture, had evidently made up
their minds to fight to the death.
At that critical moment a quick step was heard upon the stair, and
the next moment the Rev. Frank Selby entered the room.
“Just in time, I see,” he said in a cool nonchalant manner that was
habitual to him. “I think, sir,” he added, turning to the leader of the
guard, “that it may be as well to draw off your men and return to the
“I'll do that,” retorted the man sharply, “when I receive orders
from my superiors. Just now I'll do my duty.”
“Of course you will do what is right, my good sir,” replied the Rev.
Frank; “yet I venture to think you will regret neglecting my advice,
which, allow me to assure you, is given in quite a friendly and
disinterested spirit. I have just left the precincts of the Council
Chamber, where I was told by a friend in office that the Councillors
have been thrown into a wild and excusable state of alarm by the news
that William, Prince of Orange, who, perhaps you may know, is James's
son-in-law and nephew, has landed in Torbay with 15,000 Dutchmen. He
comes by invitation of the nobles and clergy of the kingdom to take
possession of the Crown which our friend James has forfeited, and James
himself has fled to France — one of the few wise things of which he
has ever been guilty. It is further reported that the panic-stricken
Privy Council here talks of throwing open all the prison-doors in
Edinburgh, after which it will voluntarily dissolve itself. If it could
do so in prussic acid or some chemical solvent suited to the purpose,
its exit would be hailed as all the more appropriate. Meanwhile, I am
of opinion that all servants of the Council would do well to retire
into as much privacy as possible, and then maintain a careful look-out
Having delivered this oration to the gaping guard, the Rev. Frank
crossed the room and went through the forbidden and dangerous
performance of shaking hands heartily with the “rebels.”
He was still engaged in this treasonable act, and the men of the
town-guard had not yet recovered from their surprise, when hurrying
footsteps were again heard on the stair, and a man of the town-guard
sprang into the room, went to his chief, and whispered in his ear. The
result was, that, with a countenance expressing mingled surprise and
anxiety, the officer led his men from the scene, and left the
long-persecuted Covenanters in peace.
“Losh, man! div 'ee railly think the news can be true?” asked Andrew
Black, after they had settled down and heard it all repeated.
“Indeed I do,” said the Rev. Frank earnestly, “and I thank God that
a glorious Revolution seems to have taken place, and hope that the
long, long years of persecution are at last drawing to a close.”
And Frank Selby was right. The great Revolution of 1688, which set
William and Mary on the throne, also banished the tyrannical and
despotic house of Stuart for ever; opened the prison gates to the
Covenanters; restored to some extent the reign of justice and mercy;
crushed, if it did not kill, the heads of Popery and absolute power,
and sent a great wave of praise and thanksgiving over the whole land.
Prelacy was no longer forced upon Scotland. The rights and liberties of
the people were secured, and the day had at last come which crowned the
struggles and sufferings of half a century. As Mrs Black remarked—
“Surely the blood o' the martyrs has not been shed in vain!”
But what of the fortunes of those whose adventures we have followed
so long? Whatever they were, the record has not been written, yet we
have been told by a man whose name we may not divulge, but who is an
unquestionable authority on the subject, that soon after the
persecution about which we have been writing had ceased, a farmer of
the name of Black settled down among the “bonnie hills of Galloway,”
not far from the site of the famous Communion stones on Skeoch Hill,
where he took to himself a wife; that another farmer, a married man
named Wallace, went and built a cottage and settled there on a farm
close beside Black; that a certain R. Peter became shepherd to the
farmer Black, and, with his wife, served him faithfully all the days of
his life; that the families of these men were very large, the men among
them being handsome and stalwart, the women modest and beautiful, and
that all of them were loyal subjects and earnest, enthusiastic
Covenanters. It has been also said, though we do not vouch for the
accuracy of the statement, that in the Kirk-session books of the
neighbouring kirk of Irongray there may be found among the baptisms
such names as Andrew Wallace and Will Black, Quentin Dick Black, and
Jock Bruce Wallace; also an Aggie, a Marion, and an Isabel Peter,
besides several Jeans scattered among the three families.
It has likewise been reported, on reliable authority, that the
original Mr Black, whose Christian name was Andrew, was a famous teller
of stories and narrator of facts regarding the persecution of the
Covenanters, especially of the awful killing-time, when the powers of
darkness were let loose on the land to do their worst, and when the
blood of Scotland's martyrs flowed like water.
Between 1661, when the Marquis of Argyll was beheaded, and 1668,
when James Renwick suffered, there were murdered for the cause of
Christ and Christian liberty about 18,000 noble men and women, some of
whom were titled, but the most of whom were unknown to earthly fame. It
is a marvellous record of the power of God; and well may we give all
honour to the martyr band while we exclaim with the “Ayrshire Elder”:—
“O for the brave true hearts of old,
That bled when the banner perished!
O for the faith that was strong in death—
The faith that our fathers cherished.
“The banner might fall, but the spirit lived,
And liveth for evermore;
And Scotland claims as her noblest names
The Covenant men of yore.”