The Prisoners of Craigmacaire
A Story of the "46."
FOUNDED UPON FACT.
By Alexander Penrose Forbes
Bishop of Brechin.
London: 1852, 70 pp.
IT is written "The memory of the Just is Blessed"blessed not only on the earth where they fought the good fight and won the crown immortal; but blessed with a deeper virtue, in the living souls of the brethren yet militant below, who from their remembered constancy may learn, like them to struggle unto the end and conquer! For even as of old it sufficed for the healing of the sick and feeble, that the shadow of the saints passing by should fall upon themso now the bright example of those who gained not their palms in Death but in the martyrdom of Life, hath power to quicken with new strength and vigour, the failing hearts and languid frames of many that go halting and wearily along the painful path of life eternal. Therefore it is indeed a work of wisdom and of love, to rescue from oblivion the memory of some of those hidden saints of CHRIST, who by their glory and their joy in the great day of Righteous Judgment, shall strike with amazement the world that ignored and scorned them, because it was not worthy of them. And such has been the object of the author of the present work, in bringing to light for the first time, some record of the patient suffering and heroic faith, that once on the rugged northern shores was displayed in the lives of men, who were obscure and all unknown in this their earthly home, but whose names were doubtless as familiar sounds within the courts of heaven.
Assuredly it will be one great element of wonder in the Dread Hour of universal revelation, that so many will come to swell the noble army of martyrs, who never here were known as soldiers of the Cross, because they carried it all silently, deep buried in their patient hearts. Bat then is the day when golden crowns shall be set upon the lowly heads that bowed before the great of this false earth, and symbols of everlasting victory be given to the hands that toiled in servitude and poverty! then shall many a humble name unknown, and yet undying in the Love of Him Who remembereth the cup of cold water given for His sake, ring through the rejoicing spheres with gratitude and praise, and then also may we look to see the humble fishermen whose deeds are recorded in these pages, brought forth as loyal defenders of that faith, for which they shrunk not from sacrificing hearth and home, and all earth's sweetest joys. Meanwhile though we might indeed safely leave them to the Equitable Balance of that hour for their due reward and meed of praise, we yet for our own sakes, as we have already said, shall do well to preserve these brief memorials of their firm and meek endurance?
The example indeed, of such as they were, has an especial value in these days of peril and unrest, when the Church of CHRIST is menaced not with fire and sword from open foes, but with subtler weapons devised by human pride and treachery, and wielded in her own children's hands; for if our self-deceiving hearts would lead us sometimes to think of those blessed saints, who won their way unto the Bosom of their LORD by steps that may be tracked in blood, as bright peculiar stars whose glorious constancy is unattainable for our poor strength, even as are these firmamental lights to the grasp of our weak hands, at least no such vain excuse may avail us in regard to these our more immediate brethren, whose lives are appointed to teach us lessons, which we dare not think too hard, and which we are in some sense called upon to practise every day.
Yet not alone for warning and for strength, is it a good thing for us to look back upon their trial and victory, but for comfort also and encouragement. It happens oftentimes in this land of ours in the present day, that to hope is the most difficult of all our duties as members of the Church. The agents of evil seem to have such large dominion within Her Sacred Fold.Principalities and Powers are arrayed against Her.By day as well as by night the enemy soweth tares amongst us while we sleep, or waking, stir not hand nor foot to hinder him, and men stand forth unrebuked to deny Her testimonies and vilify Her Ordinances, and arrogantly to set up human intellect and reason against Her holy and Eternal Truths; so that we are sometimes tempted sinfully to fear that haply we ourselves shall one day see Her wasted with misery and hear that bitter cry, "Down with Her, down with Her even to the ground!" Now when thoughts such as these assail us, it is a soothing and a blessed thing to turn and look upon that hardy northern land, where the Church has maintained Her ground and the faith has been kept alive, amid such dearth and desolation, such barrenness, and persecution, as we little dream of in the luxury of our present privileges, the wealth of our sacramental means of grace.
It were enough indeed to abide by the one fact that Scotland is still, after so great trials and danger, the seat of the True Catholic and Apostolic Church, as a strong element of hope and faith wherewith to dispel our weak despondency; but we are convinced that this lesson, cheering and invigorating as it must be in any form, will come home to our hearts with a far deeper power, when it is brought to us, in such a record as this little work affords, of the dauntless resolution and holy zeal, which made Her humble and loyal children of the North such powerful agents in Her cause. We have but to add that the task which the author had set before him in these pages, has been so well and ably performed that the office of Editor has been a complete sinecure, and we have not so much as hazarded the slightest alteration on the text as it originally stood.
S. Michael and All Holy Angels,
THE PRISONERS OF CRAIGMACAIRE.
AMONG the many graphic sketches of common life by Walter Scott there are perhaps few so pleasing as those of the fishermen, on the eastern coast of Scotland, in the Antiquary. Yet interesting as these are, there is a fact not mentioned by him which may, to the Churchman, add an additional charm even to the effects of his matchless genius, which is, that amid all the chances and changes of the times, amid all the chequered features of Scottish politics, many villages of these have faithfully adhered to that creed which, lost in the perilous days of the Reformation, was again restored through the zeal of the House of Stuart, and sealed with the blood of a murdered prelate, the third Archbishop of S. Andrew's, who perished at the hands of the reformers.
Whatever fault may be found with the Episcopal Communion in Scotland, (and we confess that they be many and grievous) she has not to accuse herself, during what may be termed her historical career, of any connivance in the matter-of-fact religionism of the day. Her course is marked with much of that chivalrous character which distinguishes both the early and mediaeval Church, and there is (if we may use the expression) a poetry about her which to sensitive minds is no small proof of her Catholicity. For the Catholic Church is the realization, embodiment, and completion of all the poetic aspirations of the soul; and all her branches, more or less, share in this attribute.
Her past associations, from the days of the Mamertine prisons and the Catacombs, down through the times of the failure of the Pagan empire, and the grand position she took during the middle age, to the present moment when there appears every prospect of the Church heading a new sera of civilisation, and subduing to herself all those consequences of the improvement of mechanical skill which hove hitherto proved too much for the past theories she has acted on, all move the heart with pity and fear. Her august ritual, her subjection and conquest of art, her consecration of all the aspiring part of man, her continued and untiring struggle against the powers of evil, her grand unselfish and superhuman motives, her unearthly wisdom, whereby she turns even the baser nature of men to her holy purposes, all possess us with mingled admiration and love. What fictions have poets imagined which can be compared with the realities which the Church produces? What is Ulysses the blind slave of chance, as a subject for the Epic, in comparison with Francis Xavier, the free follower of an unfettered will? What are the grand conceptions of the Greek drama, where an awful unrelenting Destiny, visiting to the furthest generation the guilt of the past, is the moving power, to the actual facts of the Catholic religion in which an ardent personal love of the SUPREME welling over in the heart and extending itself to all His creatures, is the overruling principle and source? And all branches partake in this character. There is poetry in the unchanging, unaltered tradition of the orthodox Easterns, but it is the poetry of sadness. There is the poetry of energetic action and of her thousand years of domination in the Latin Subjection. There is poetry too in that of our own dear land, where the village temple, with her sweet bells chiming at eventide, and the solemn chant rolling along her vast Cathedral aisles, and the happy consecrations of Christmas, blessing the affections of home and the domestic fire of the hearth, and a thousand things more, take us out of ourselves, and if they do not raise us above the world, they sober us and calm us in the world.
And this, though in a very different manner, has been the character of the Scottish Church. In her there is no aesthetic charm nor much food for the imagination. Her ritual is meagre, her services few and tasteless, her outward form loveless and unattractive, but she has the higher and more ennobling poetry of earnest endurance and patient suffering for conscience sake. Her past history has been one of temporal misfortune borne unflinchingly in a noble cause. Her present is one of no less trial, though of a more subtle nature. She has her saints and confessors. She is not without something resembling the crown of martyrdom. Who shall forget the debt we owe to the holy Leighton, to the devout author of the Life of GOD in the soul of man, or to the venerable name of the late Bishop of Moray? Who shall deny that when England was lost in the distressing lukewarmness of the last century, hearts further north responded to the harmonies of Catholic truth, and sighed after Catholic unity? Who knows not that a fuller and purer service obtains in her public liturgies, that the mixed chalice, the invocation of the Blessed Spirit on the hallowed gifts, the express oblation of the same, (tam desiderata nobis,) still remain to her, and that tradition asserts that even nearer approaches to the Apostolic model from time to time obtained? Neither must we forget that other holy practices, the reservation of the most holy Eucharist, the use of the sacramental oils, confirmation in early childhood, the use of the sign of the cross in that holy ordinance, the habitual requisition of the Episcopal blessing, have maintained an unwritten acceptation within her pale. And even now that more apparently prosperous circumstances are beginning to dawn upon her, and the political causes of her former condition have passed away, from the lips of her older members the traditions of her past endurance have not yet passed away, and the memory of former confessorship still lingers around her temples, and invests with a melancholy charm her homely and simple altars.
The following tale is a collection of anecdotes gathered from the lips of the immediate descendants of the actors of them. No high-wrought tale of interest is attempted to be given, but a picture of past feelings is laid before the reader, in the hope that the practical lessons of principle and heroic suffering may not be without their usefulness.
THE little town of Craigmacaire occupies a sandy break in the rock-girt eastern coast of Scotland. Two small streams, joining at their mouth, have filled up with alluvial deposition the basin of a semicircular indentation in that precipitous line of shore, and thus a beach of about two miles long has been formed, upon which the booming German Ocean breaks with no little force. At the southern extremity of the bay stand on the height the extensive ruins of the castle of D, (at the time of our tale still habitable), while at the northern end under the cliff there rests close at the mouth of the bay, the fishing village of Covesea, above which on the rock overhanging the sea, the ruins of an ancient chapel may yet be seen, which an earlier and more imaginative religion had dedicated to our Lady of the Storms. In the very bight of the bay stood, as we have said, the town of Craigmacaire, the wooden steeple and red tiled roofs of which imparted a somewhat Dutch aspect to the scene. The spot, however, was not of that nature: high all around rose a theatre of rocky cliffs, which with the open sea and the distant Grampians added striking features to the prospect.
The afternoon of an autumn day in 1746 did not shine upon the usual quietness that generally distinguished that little place. Frightened inhabitants rushing to and fro, women shrieking, dragoons galloping up the street or hurrying along on foot with their clanking sabres echoing behind them, the occasional roll of the drum, the sound of the bugle, and the neighings of the troop horses, all suggested associations painfully in contrast with the usual genius of the place. Nor was it without cause on this occasion, for civil war is that which subverts all preconceived notions, and arrays feeling against feeling and duty against duty. And this was an episode in a civil war. It was the occupation of a Jacobite town by the Hanoverian troops. The bloody Duke of Cumberland was on his route north in pursuit of Prince Charles Edward's army. It was within a few weeks of the red field of Culloden. The night was now closing in,the billets were being distributed, the taverns were fast filling with a licentious soldiery, when the Royal Duke, surrounded by a small hand of the Whig functionaries, rode into the town. As he was conducted to the house of one of these, he was saluted by the women from the windows with hisses and epithets of hatred and contempt. Passing thither, his eye fell on the Episcopal chapel, which built in the shape of a Greek cross, raised its modest front in the very heart of the town, and on learning what its purpose was, he immediately commanded that it should be burnt to the ground. A torch was obtained from a neighbouring stithy, and the sacrilegious deed would have been perpetrated had not the sheriff, touched partly with a vague feeling of reverence, partly in reality for the reason he assigned, implored the Duke to spare the chapel, lest he should expose the whole town to the danger of a conflagration. To this he reluctantly assented. The place, however, was devoted to injury; the windows were smashed, the seats torn up, and with the rest of the furniture, carried forth and burnt at the Cross. There a pile was erected and set fire to. The Pope and the Pretender, "Arcadians both," were burnt in effigy; while the worse disposed Presbyterians began to pillage. The laird of Acquhortois hassocks and prayer books were carried off by a drunken printer, and the holy table itself was seized by a tavern keeper, who, thanks to the fears of the inhabitants, succeeded in reaching home with his unrighteous acquisition. Meanwhile the inhabitants looked on in fear, and one by one stole to their homes. The chapel was filled with the Dutch dragoons chargers, and night soon closed in upon the insulting soldiery and their terrified and unhappy victims.
THE ruined Church of our Lady of the Storms, a designation latterly softened into the Lady-Kirk, stood on the top of the cliff at the foot of which the little fishing village of Covesea already mentioned, was situated. It was an Early-Pointed edifice, with lancet windows, and as in not unusual in Scotland, where the parochial system never was fully developed, no vestiges of a chancel could be discovered. The eastern gable was nearly perfect, and the, cross still shone, over the waters, a joy to men at sea; but rank weeds grew up within its precincts, and no care seemed taken to preserve it as it was. A pleasant greensward surrounded it on the land side, which was a great resort of the fishermen in their idle hours. Here they dried their nets. Here they were interred, and to this were their Sunday walks directed. From its edge many an anxious wife and mother looked forth upon the raging ocean, watching the frail hark that bore a son or husband from his perilous daily task. But no stormy sea or angry cloud on the night we have alluded to disturbed the sweet serenity of nature: mans bad passions alone jarred the universal harmony. At that distance the shouts of the soldiery as they pressed on to their sacrilegious work in Craigmacaire, were wafted by the soft south wind, and the lurid flames of fire shot up into the darkening sky. Several groups of fishermen watched the work from a distance, and speculations of various kinds occupied their minds as to its immediate cause. They knew that the Hanoverian army had possessed itself of the town; reports, perhaps not exaggerated, of the profligacy of the soldiers in the Low Countries, had reached them. An indefinite fear had possessed them, but no idea had entered their mind of the peculiar nature of the outrage committed: an outrage beyond all other calculated to inspire a simple and devotional race with horror.
"Woes me," said an aged crone, "but those are fearful sounds, and what means the blaze?"
"Tom Craig," said a man standing by, "who is in the smuggling line t Rotterdam, says they used to burn the enemies' towns in those parts when the folks didna please them."
"Ay, and they'll be glad to spite the laird who is with the bonny chevalier," added one of the seniors, "but it canna be the town, for the fire is dying away, and we canna do nae guid, so Ill een away home to mend the auld net, she was sorely riven on the rocks last time she was used."
So saying he took his way homewards. Others followed his example, but a few still lingered to watch what should occur. Among these was a fisher-girl about twenty years old, who, being a good specimen of her class, merits some description. A nut-brown face over which the ruddy health mantled richly was redeemed from plainness by a fine skin, splendid teeth, straight features, and a pair of the softest brown eyes that ever beamed with goodness and kindliness. She had very small feet and hands, and a well outlined figure, not hidden certainly by the scanty pink bedgown and blue petticoat that constituted her attire; but a gentle and high-principled heart often beats beneath a bedgown, and high thoughts and noble aspirations are given to the poorest and simplest, even though they have not the power of expressing them. So it was with Fisher Maggie. Nature had been generous to her, and hers was an intellect which under more favourable circumstances would have been capable of much cultivation, but as it was, she was merely an honest girl in her quiet station, gently influencing by her worth and unconscious power of mind, all those that were round about her. The little ones looked to her as their general friend and protector, while she had a kind and a sensible word for all. Yet she had cares of her own. What maiden of twenty is without them? She viewed with indifference the attentions of her fisher-cousins, and her bright cheek seemed to argue that no severe wound had been made in her feelings, yet was she fancy-free? A glance from the young sailor who had detailed the horrors of the continental army, had the effect of calling the blood into her face, and though it could hardly be called one of consciousness, yet certain it was that no one had ever pleased her so much as the merry-hearted seaman; his gallant and unselfish nature, the tales and adventures of distant scenes he told her, the shells from the eastern seas he liberally presented to her, all had created an interest that the fisher-girl would hardly acknowledge to herself. And she was vexed with herself when she thought of it, for an insuperable objection existed in her mind between any warmer feeling. (George was the son of strict Presbyterian parents, and the girl was an attentive catechumen of worthy Mr. Greig, who had often descanted at length on the evil of mixed marriages; indeed her own excellent sense showed her, that granting a real difference between the Church and Presbyterianism, such an union must have an ill effect. Either one of the parties must sacrifice his or her convictions to regard, or else each must retain their peculiar creed and thus a sure source of indifference, and therefore of irreligion, be planted in the family. Feeling this strongly, she saw with pain the increasing regard of the sailor. "It is vain to speak of it, George," said she, as he began to urge his suit, "No blessing can rest upon it."
"But you have often said," pleaded the young man, "that you thought it would be better if you fisher-folk were to live more with your fellow-creatures and less among yourselves. Is not this at variance with what you say now?"
"It is not at variance, George" she replied in a low voice, the tone of which was eloquent;
"I know well and believe that, we should be happier and more useful were we less wedded to our own ways than we are; what can be so foolish as our belief in omens and freets, and such like? but thisthisyou are speaking of another kind."
"Do you mean," said the young man, almost angrily, "that because I am a Whig you cannot care for me? Surely they are just as good as you Prelatists."
Maggie thought the anger a little ungenerous, but turning with a smile to the still rising smoke of the fire in Craigmacaire, "that place yonder would seem to prove what you say."
"Nonsense," said he, "but do you really mean to say that this is the reason why you are so indifferent to me?"
"O, George, do not say indifferent;" and the poor girl began to cry.
"Bairns, bairns," cried a voice, suddenly interrupting them. Both turned and saw the gaunt form of old Elsie Taylor, an insane woman in the fishing village, who wandered about harmless and uncontrolled. She was a fearful looking hag, grey elf-locks covered a face almost black with exposure, toothless, and blear-eyed. "Bairns, bairns, ye seem to be sweethearts. O be godly; I had once a sweetheart, and he was a godly lad,one of our way, Maggie, yell ken what I mean, though the bonnie days of the Lord Bishops and the Deans, and the organs and the surplices are gonegone,weel he was a bonny sailor lad as any that sailed from Craigmacaire, and he aye said to me, Pray always and thought it was safety to him on the broad sea that I should pray for him on the land. And ay, he squeezed my hand at parting and said, Pray without ceasing Well, we were to be married by worthy Bishop Rait, and he had ae mair voyage to make to the Baltic before the time, and, oh, the last day he gaed, he squeezed my hand harder than ever, and his words were sadder like and slower than ever as he said Pray without ceasing. That was the last word he ever said to me, for the vessel was lost and never heard of mair, and his bonnie white corpse is bleaching at the bottom of the sea. Weel for twa years I wandered about the rocks and I fed on mussels and limpets and suchlike, and I watched the sea by day and by night to see if he would come, and he never yet has comeneverneverbut oh, bairns, be godly."
The young people were much affected with the poor old creatures simple tale. "Poor Elsie teaches us that to feel together upon the most important of all subjects is the surest bond of affection; but come down and hear what grannie will say to you. She is a wise woman and can tell you a hantle about the Church lasting frae the days of S. Peter, and of our Bishop being now in his place. She will tell you all about it, and here comes Jessie Adams with my brother Robert as usual, to say that were wanted at home. Come down and hear what she has to say."
The young man, though he did not at that moment feel much inclined to encounter an outbreak of what he thought prelatical bigotry, could not refuse the invitation, and following his companions he descended the cliff, and was; soon welcomed in old John Leys cottage.
"YOURE welcome, George Watt. Sit down, lad; but you have been late this evening, Maggie," as with a somewhat heightened complexion she introduced the young sailor.
"It is not safe for you to be out at this time of night, when so many bloody dragoons and other sarvints of Satan are 'stravaging through the country."
The cottage and its inmates into which they had entered require some description. The most remarkable feature in it was a huge wooden chimney occupying the greater part of the side of the house, within which were hung on occasion strings of fish undergoing the operation of curing. On the rafters were spread, in admired confusion, nets, bladders, buckets, ropes, buoys, spinning wheels, and the other multifarious weapons of their watery craft, interspersed with various solid looking eatables and suspicious looking casks which had a sort of contraband air about them. A large press-bed and a kitchen range decorated with crockery, a low stool or two round the embers on the hearth, and a long settle, completed the furniture of the simple abode. It was quite a scene for the Dutch painters, and the living beings who peopled it were in keeping with the rest. In among the embers grubbed two or three white-headed varlets marvellously raggedon a seat by the ingle, sat the old grandam before alluded to, exhibiting the appearance of extreme, old age, but retaining all her faculties. Age had nearly bent her double, her nose and chin approximated, and her still glittering black eyes shone out from beneath the high cap which is the fisher-matrons pride. On the opposite side sat the good man of the house, a tall stalwart old man in a blue jacket with a weather-beaten face, reddened by exposure to the weather. Round the hearth stood a goodly array of sons and daughters, from the fine young man of twenty-two, who in his sailors costume and red cap was a handsome specimen of his class, down to a pretty little maiden just older than the cinder grubbers on the hearth. The good wife bustled about, wiping dishes, shaking cloths, and every now and then rushing amid the crowd round the fire and rescuing one of the cinder grubbers aforesaid from apparently inevitable combustion, with a "Daur ye, ye little toad?" or some such similar epithet of endearment. The family party being augmented by those mentioned in the last chapter, George Watt was happy to find that he should escape a polemical argument that night, for their whole minds were occupied with the events of that stormy day in Craigmacaire. Though ignorant and unlearned, these fishers might be an example to those better informed. They were not lettered but they vividly realized what they knew; occupying their business on the great waters, and seeing the unseen things in the sublimities of the storm and in the more tranquil yet not less convincing evidence of the summer seas, their minds naturally assumed a deep religious character. Little knew they of inland habits and inland politics, mid the violent deeds of the, Hanoverians shocked and startled them. Above all things the sacrilegious violence of that afternoon had overpowered them, and deep and muttered expressions showed how deeply they were excited. They were now joined by Elspet Christie, who having beheld the whole scene was hailed with unusual interest. We shall not follow the rambling tale of the good woman, suffice it to say, the most minute details were given.
"And did ye see the Hanoverian Duke?"
"Deed did I, and an awfu sight it was. I was standing by the water-gate as he rode by, and aye as the hisses and the hootins began frae the windows, he gnashed his teeth and turned blue-like wi anger; and the sheriff and the laird of Uras, and two or three others that were wi him, looked feared at him."
"And did ye hear him speak? What did he say?"
"Well he was just opposite our bonnie chapel, and he said with his English tongue, (fiend rive him!) What building is that? and they said something I didna hear. Burn it down this moment cried he, and a soldier ran to the smithy, hut the lairds stood round him and begged and prayed o him something, for he cried out on them no to do it, but to gut it; that was the word he said,just as we would say to gut a haddock; weel they took the things out o the chapel and burnt them at the Cross, and when the fire began the folk began to steal,Johnny Caird carried off the pulpit cushions, and Drunken Willie took the laird of Acquhortois muckle prayer book, and John Craig lifted the altar on his shoulders, and they say hes put it in his taproom." "The altar in the taproom!" rose like a burst of horror from all. "Revenge, revenge!" cried Robert Leys, the eldest son, stung beyond endurance. "Revenge!" cried one or two other young men, who hearing of Elspets arrival had quietly slipped into the cottage during the conversation. "Whisht, bairns," said the old grandam, "Does vengeance belong to such as you? leave these spoilers to the punishment of their own evil deeds. His judgments are not less sure because they are unseen."
Two days after this was the Sunday, a day which in Scotland, if possessing neither the peculiar quiet charm of an English one, nor the innocent mirth of a continental one, is not without its striking features. Making allowance for the effect of the dull puritanical gloom wherewith Presbyterianism has turned the joyous feast of the Resurrection into the semblance of a Friday in Lent, there is yet something not to be lightly passed over in the solemn observance of that day. The decent groups slowly wending their way to their common centre the place of worship,the stillness and utter absence of all traffic or country labour,the outward decorum and gravity all affect one with a pleasing calm. But on the day which we chronicle these usual demonstrations were not seen. Noise and drunken revelry still broke the silence of the morning,troopers reeled through the streets, orderlies galloped out and in, and every trace of military occupation was observable. Meanwhile as the usual hour of service came near, the inhabitants might be seen stealing cautiously up a back street, looking to the right and to the left, to see whether they were observed, and then diving down an obscure alley till they were lost in darkness. At the top of an old house, to which this dark alley gave entrance, was a large attic or gallery within which, and divided from it by a doorway, was an inner room. In the first were assembled many devout worshippers on their knees, while from the inner one, from some unseen mouth proceeded the solemn words of the Litany. This was done to evade the penalty of transportation to which the solemnization of the liturgy rendered Scotch clergymen liable. The supplication was the same as that used by us now, save that the Sovereign prayed for was "James, our most gracious king and governor," for "Charles, prince of Wales, and the rest of the royal progeny," and there was in addition to the usual prayer for "all that travelled by land or by water," a special and affecting suffrage in behalf of "exiles," that is, for those that had to leave their country for the part they had taken in the affair of 1715. Nothing could exceed the devoutness of the people, their being there at all was evidence of their sincerity, and the dangers by which they were surrounded had called forth all their better feelings. Then followed the sermon; the text of which was from Lamentations. The unseen preacher detailed to them in moving terms the ruthless deeds of the last few days, dwelling on the visitation as being the means whereby their steadfast ness should be tested, and as being a punishment for their past sins. He referred to the fortunes of the Jewish Church under an earlier dispensation, and showed how in an infinitely less degree temporal success should be the guerdon of a more spiritual dispensation. He encouraged them not to despair, as persecution and success under persecution was the ordained condition of the Church in all ages, and that if their title to a share in that Israel was good, such would be their fortunes also. Long he dwelt on Israel in Egypt growing up strong and healthy in spite of the oppression of Pharaoh, to whom in no equivocal terms he likened the profligate German who sat on the English throne. Then he proceeded with a learning that all would admire, however much they might doubt its taste or appropriateness, to rake up from ecclesiastical history what he considered parallel cases to the present, concluding by an earnest prayer for the success of the House of Stuart, and for the preservation of the retreating army of the prince, "then engaged in warfare against the enemies of the Holy Faith." This was a subject of deep interest to many present who had brothers and husbands amid that devoted band. Comforted by the sermon they proceeded to sing a Psalm, but no sooner had they sung a verse of Sternholds version than they were rudely burst in upon by a company of dragoons and (as the phrase ran in those days) were "rabbled," that is, they were ejected amid the oaths and execrations of the soldiery, while the aged priest, a hoary-headed man, was dragged from the inner chamber, and amidst contumely and insult consigned to the common jail.
THE next morning found but one tenant on the Lady Kirk Hill, and that person was in a passion of tears. It was Jessie Adams, a fisher-girl, who was accidentally mentioned in a former chapter. She was the great friend of Margaret Leys, and regarded with even stronger feeling by her handsome brother. The world however said that the saucy little Nereid did not smile upon him, and certainly, except that she plagued him more incessantly than any one else, no evidence of her favour was to be found. What between much friendship with half the young men of the place and a mixture of indifference and encouragement to himself, she had managed to obtain, as his mother expressed it, "a sair hank" over Robert, and it was hard to say whether this gave him greater pleasure or pain. In fact she was as gay and careless as her ally and friend Margaret was serious and steady; but this was only on the surface, for she had a fund of honesty, high feeling and rigid principle. All who knew her did her justice, and her merry ringing laugh was welcome to all both young and old. People do not make allowance enough for the merry-heartedness of the young. Because sin assumes it to conceal its inward pain, and because the devil gives carelessness and present excitement in exchange for the real happiness of a good conscience, some proper persons fancy that it is the mark of an unimpressed mind. There can be no such mistake; innocence and joyous health will be happy, for gloom and sorrow are only the consequence of sin. And what was it that was vexing this light-hearted child of the waters, that she wept as if the fountain of tears had been broken up? It was even for him of those existence she was the alternate plague and delight. This is often the case with all of us; we never know what we feel till circumstances call us out. Adversity is the grand touchstone of all feeling and of all character. "Waes me! Waes me!" sobbed the poor girl, "I could hae borne loss or misfortune, tyne of gear, or even of life, but not disgrace and sin."
"Whats the matter, Jessie?" said her friend Margaret, joining her, "what is it that is vexing you, bairn?"
"Oh, have ye not heard?Robert's in the jail."
"Our Robert," said Margaret, meaning her brother, "impossible!What do you mean? Hae the bloody Whigs taken him for being at the chapel, when they carried off the minister to the jail? Ochone!"
"Worse than that, far worse than that. George Stevens has just passed by, and he said that Robert and James Taylor and Sandy Masson had been last night at John Craigs public, and had got fou and made a disturbance, and after burning the chairs and the tables and knocking John Craig down, they had been carried off to the jail."
"Impossible," said Margaret, "for I know Robert is a sober lad as ever was, forebye it was Sunday night, and the Holy Church in such captivity. Impossible!"
"Did he sleep at home?" asked Jessie.
Margaret paused,he had not returned,they had sat up an hour for him, and supposing that he had gone to sleep at some of the single mens cottages to be ready for an early start to the sea, had all gone to bed. Jessie recapitulated her story, which was given with a circumstantiality that looked suspicious, concluding with"Had it been for the bonnie Prince, or for helpin the poor old minister, or for the good o the Church, though ye ken mair than me about time things, or even" (a little of her wonted vivacity gleaming out in the midst of her distress), "if it had been for rabblin yon ugly Hanoverian Duke or the other Whig loons, I wouldna so much have minded; but for sic a disgrace as this," and she again burst into a flood of tears.
Margaret was surprised at her emotion, and amidst her own distress pleased with the view her friend took. She, saw that Jessie, had made a painful discovery of the degree to which she had allowed herself to be interested in the young fisherman, and at the same time that the disgraceful and indecent nature of the outrage committed under such aggravating circumstances, had made him descend far in the scale of her respect. The very fact of his imprisonment was pain enough, for the Scotch are a decent people, but the cause of it conveyed the sting of the misfortune. No wonder she was unhappy. It is painful to discover some heart-secrets at all, how much more so when with the knowledge comes the fear that its object is unworthy. Margaret was equally shocked with her friend, but her excellent sense made her suspect that there was some mystery behind the scenes. Robert, though sometimes violent and headstrong, was a well-principled lad, with a very strong feeling of devotion. That he should engage in a drunken riot was most unlike him, that he should do it on that calamitous Sunday was next to impossible. Maggie, to soothe her own feelings and to assuage the violent grief of her cousin, now proposed that they should go "to the tide" to fulfil that daily task of the fisher-women, the gathering of the bait for the next days lines. This and the subsequent task of baiting the six hundred hooks, which constitute each man's share in the boat, soon occupied all their attention.
WE must return to the prison of Craigmacaire, whither poor Mr. Greig was carried. It was a rude old building, formerly used as a grange by the Lords-Superior of the barony, and standing on a low ledge of rock close by the water-side at the month of the harbour. Here the comity meetings were held, and beneath the principal story some low and ill-ventilated stone chambers, not much above the level of the sea, wore used for the confinement of the prisoners. The energies of the Duke of Cumberland had done much towards filling this inadequate stronghold, and accordingly Mr. Greig was ushered into a room where three other persons were seated at a table. Two of them, from their long black cassocks, were evidently ecclesiastics like himself, and were, in fact, the Episcopal Clergy of two neighbouring cures, who within the last week had had their houses and chapels burnt, and their persons seized and committed to jail for contravening the statute passed anno decimo nono Georgii Secundi Regis, by officiating where five or more persons, over and above those of the household, were met together for divine service. They were rather advanced in years, with meek patient faces, men whose whole earthly career had been one of endurance and danger, not the less heroic because there was no excitement in the daily obloquy they underwent. Calm and resigned, yet with the true dignity of undeserved suffering, they rose to greet their venerable brother in adversity. It was an affecting salutation, and drew the attention of their remaining fellow-prisoner. He was a tall dark man in a half-dress military costume, and had been incarcerated upon the serious charge of belonging to the rebel army, and being found in arms against the so-styled lawful sovereign. His white cockade indeed vouched for his politics, and the military sword and undress seemed to argue the soldier, but the fragile form, and hollow cheek, and deep pensive though not melancholy eye, seemed to tell another tale. And in truth in no service was Ninian Leslie enlisted save in that of the Commander under whom all Christians are marshalled. Born of a noble family in shire, the votary of a faith to which few of his countrymen belong, he had from his earliest years sighed for that more excellent way which an ensnaring world permits few to follow, and accordingly before youth was well passed, dying to the world, he hid himself under the Cowl of Francis of Assisium. Nowhere was a stricter rule maintained than among the poor Capuchins of Ritsell, and of these, none was so devoted as the high-born Scotchman. Of all mundane affections, now that his mother and favourite sister had been numbered among the departed, one only remained, intense devotion to the ill-fated House of Stuart, so that when it was hinted from an influential quarter, in a certain Italian city, that some spiritual guide should be with the Highland expedition, in order to influence the mind of the future conqueror of S. James, and the young Leslie pointed out as a fitting person for that purpose, Ninian at once accepted a task he otherwise would have shrunk from, and ostensibly as a Commissary followed the fortunes of the young prince. What he had seen in the camp had shocked his moral sense, for acquainted with the evil of human nature only when prostrate at his feet in the real or assumed contrition of the confessional, he had never encountered it in all its waywardness and sinfulness, unchecked and uncorrected. The scenes of bloodshed he had been mixed up in, the loose gaiety of the wandering court shocked and offended him, and highly as he venerated the sacred cause he adhered to, he was vexed with the actors therein.
The army retreated northwards. A strong desire seized him of revisiting the scenes of his mountain home, and quitting his friends for a short time he struck across the country into shire, and spent some days in wandering through his early haunts. Most of his brothers adherents were with the insurgent army, and few of the women and older servants who remained were likely to recognize in the hollow-eyed ascetic, the sunny-cheeked Master Ninian, of whose, childish goodness and gentleness so many traditions still remained. The housekeeper, indeed, a new arrival, did wonder as the stranger stood before a fine Vandyke of a Sir Reginald Leslie of the day, at the marvellous likeness between the picture and the man, but on casting a second look at the face of the latter, it was as emotionless as the former, and she at once fancied it must be imagination.
It was in attempting to regain his friends that Ninian Leslie fell into the hands of the Electors troops, and bound hand and foot, and mounted on a sorry horse, between two dragoons, he was carried along with the army till he was consigned to the jail of Craigmacaire.
IT was a curious psychological study to note the contrast between the character of the disguised capuchin and that of the other victims of the Political anger. Both good specimens of their class, both earnest, conscientious, and devout; how like, yet how different! It was the contrast between the practical and the poetic, the active and the contemplative; between human nature dignified by the zealous, conscientious discharge of duties, and human nature elevated above the world on the wings of devotion and love. It was that difference which the Church has illustrated and the poet has adorned by the characters of Leah and Rachel. Both were studies from the observation of which the heart would be bettered. Both were calculated by their example to elevate and purify. It is curious to observe the different effect of an opposite cultivation on an honest and good heart. The English Church and her branches seem never to have taken kindly to the vita contemplative; with the exception of the case of Nicholas Ferrar and the few followers of Fenelon and Madame Guyon, the dry, shrewd English character has never developed in that direction, whereas where there has been a natural tendency in that direction, institutions in their origin and intention essentially practical, have as it were in spite of themselves taken the opposite direction. On the present occasion these elements apparently somewhat discordant, amalgamated well. There is a sort of freemasonry in goodness, which at once establishes a sympathy between those who possess it. In the present instance, suffering in a common cause had further united them, and we may hope that there were deeper though unseen harmonies unrecognized by themselves, that in the midst of apparent discordance bound them together. When hearts are really chastened, the spirit of polemics assumes no repulsive form, its weapon is prayer, its retaliation earnest intercession. Too many of the religious wars in the world have been the device of Satan poisoning the well-springs of Christian love; no doubt the truth is to be earnestly contended for,no doubt as the verity impugned is dear to us, so we shall feel hurt and pained at its insult: still mans anger works not heavens righteousness, and zeal for goodness is no excuse for hatred or insult. It was in this gentle spirit that the opposing religionists met. Ninian was surprised to hear that the Scotchmen had so much to say for themselves. He had hitherto classed all the reformed bodies under one category, of course varying more or less, but all built on a sandy foundation. He was now surprised to find principles boldly asserted, which though to his mind grossly misapplied were nevertheless true principles, and which they ratified by appeals to the early Church, an authority to which he gave due weight. The Scotch clergy on the other hand were agreeably surprised to find that a man of his opinions might yet be a good Christian, and that the votary of a religion connected in their idea with fire, faggot, and the Spanish Inquisition, might yet be gentle and holy and meek-hearted.
"And so you do not apprehend the destruction of your religion from the fall of that noble house in whose cause we are engaged?"
"On the contrary," said Mr. Troup, the elder of the two clergymen originally imprisoned, "I do believe that the Church has ever prospered in persecution and that the present is no exception to that rule."
"But do you think that the law applies in the case, considering how completely your fortune has been identified with the Race of Stuart, ever sharing their successes and misfortunes?"
"Were our Church merely a human institution your question would be a pertinent one, but as we do believe it to be something; beyond this, we trust that we sire under the highest protection: but even looking at it in a more worldly point of view, may not the loss of the great heretical element of the Presbyterian leaven which has so long infected us, be itself a boon? No one would estimate a Church by the number of souls under its nominal obedience: Athanasius once stood against the world, and to a faithful mind what has happened may be full of success."
"But surely you have reduced the Church to a very small limit."
"The Church weighs and does not count her subjects."
"Yes; but do not your claims assume a Donatist complexion, so much assumption, so small a subjection?"
"Were we to rest content as we are there would be much in your remark. Indeed, I cannot enter into those views of some of the greatest divines of the Church of England, who seem practically to limit the covenanted mercies of GOD to their own island,nay to England,nay to their own communion, nay possibly to their own party in that communion." (The Commissary smiled.) "I repeat, were we to remain contented as we are, that would be an unhappy state of things, it would be a serious argument against our position; but are you not aware that since the usurpation of William, a treaty has been entered into with the orthodox Easterns for a reconciliation? and though matters are suspended at present we have, yet good hope that negotiations may be renewed."
"Indeed! O had not heard of this; how was it?"
"As early as 1572, communications took place between the English Church and the Easterns, but it was not till Arsenius, the Metropolitan of the Thebais, visited London in 1710, soliciting assistance for his afflicted brethren in Alexandria, that any definite steps were taken to a Concordate. Various letters passed between the parties, and separate negociations were likely to be undertaken with the Russian Synod, when the death of Peter the Czar stopped proceedings. Her present imperial majesty has expressed herself favourable to the scheme, but the matter is at this moment in abeyance."
"This is a curious history; I had no idea that your views were of that definite nature as to be placed in symbolic form before the Easterns. I thought your teaching was similar to the English Church, and I cannot see how that can agree with those who though separated from us on vital points yet in practice assimilate more to us than to any of the reformed bodies."
"We fancy that as we start on the common ground of Scripture interpreted by tradition, being the rule of faith, our discrepancies may be accommodated."
"But how do you get over the great points of variance?"
"We esteem them to be questions of words, and both have agreed that it is sufficient to believe on these points what our Head has taught."
"But how do you arrange in the matter of the Panagia? The Greek regards her with the same feelings that we do."
"This indeed was one of our difficulties, as well as the respect paid to pictures. On these points we anticipate great difficulties. Still for so great a matter as unity, both parties should stretch a point or two."
"Were it attainable," said the Commissary with a sigh.
"We conceive," continued the Scotch Churchman, "that the points of difference between us and the Easterns, would resolve themselves into those matters that were the fruit rather of an unwritten tradition, than of any direct dogmatic teaching; that difference of temperament and climate must be considered, and that mutual forbearance would help to smooth much."
"But are you not aware of the bigoted and unreasoning attachment of the Easterns to forms? Did you never hear of the resistance of the Russians to the alteration in their service-books even whilst that alteration was merely the expunging of errors that had crept in? Have not the forms of the early Church been embodied in their present practice? Do not deceive yourselves. So liberal and enlightened a policy is not to be expected from the withered stem of the Greek Church. Smile as you please, you have a better chance of a calm hearing from the Latins."
THE outrage of the fishers in the public house, which had excited so much regret at Covesea, was one for which much sympathy was due. Stung to irritation by the sacrilege that had been committed in their chapel, they determined at once to wreak what vengeance they could upon the abettors, and to prevent by destruction the desecration of what they deemed sacred, they selected the old drunken innkeeper who had carried off the altar as the first subject of their vengeance. On entering the smoky little place sure enough there stood the misapplied table in the middle of the room, and while the host, unconscious of what was coming, hastened to bring according to their order spirits and tobacco, Robert Leys employed himself in stirring the fire which burned upon the hearth. As soon as the landlord had left the room, they began to pretend to be very noisy, and under cover of the disturbance two of them proceeded not irreverently to break the table to pieces and to consign it to the flames. The increased smoke which this necessarily entailed, and the noise which some of the party made to screen what they were doing, brought in the unlucky landlord, who at once saw what they went about and attempted to retreat; but George Watt, who had accompanied the fishers from that vague love of adventure which distinguishes the young, and who, without knowing well the rights of the case, had an obscure idea that this effort of zeal would please Margaret, caught hold of him and drew him in among the rest. A good thrashing was his well-earned meed, but his abject cries for mercy alarmed his wife who rushed out screaming for the police, who arrived in some force at her summons. Most of the fishers effected their escape. George Watt unfortunately was collared and secured, while Robert Leys would have effected his exit had he not stopped to push further into the fire the last half-consumed panel of the table. To do this he was separated from the rest of the body just as they rushed off, and the result of the fray was that three prisoners, George Adams, Robert Leys, and George Watt, were made and speedily marched off to the prison. They were not put into the same chamber with the clergy, but the jail arrangements in those days were so unsatisfactory that access to every room in the building was to be had. Indeed communication from without was managed by a certain Jean Chalmers, who was supposed by an economical fiction to clean the place, and from the beginning of their incarceration supplies of all kinds began to pour in upon the captives. "Master Manes duty and four fowls for your reverence." "A stone of meal from the big miller of Uras." "A fine codfish and some crab-claws from the fisher folk." All this tended to alleviate their discomfort, and they willingly shared what the respect of the people afforded them with their companion in bonds, who otherwise would have fared very ill; the prison discipline in Scotland at this time being most deplorable. Indeed the sympathies of the whole town were enlisted in the strangers behalf; his crime was a capital one, and he must early be removed to the metropolis to take his trial. An attempt at rescue would have been made, but the place was full of soldiers, and though the old "strength" could easily have been carried, yet at that moment such an attempt was out of the question. The young rioters entered somewhat crestfallen, and received from their pastor, on telling their story, an admonition in which praise and blame were so justly distributed that they soon viewed what they had done in its real light. George Watt, who had been brought into the fray from the force of circumstances and not from zeal, was much struck with the pious mans observations, and could not help revering the resignation and unselfishness of the aged mans tone. "There certainly is something about these prelatists," muttered he as a small thought of the pastor and a great one of Margaret, (so great that he had no room for it without sighing,) came into his mind, "but what will she say to me for getting into jail in this way? Its certainly an odd way of pleasing her," and so sitting down by the fire he proceeded to make the best of it.
How often in this world when we least expect it do we find the kind hand of heaven at work with us; how often do circumstances in the world's affairs, which seem the most unpropitious, turn out to our eventual good: nay, oh Mystery of Beneficence! our very errors are by the Cross turned into medicines. It was so with George Watt; the fact of that nights riot brought him into contact with these good men, which ended in his eventual conversion.
THE next river to the south which enters the sea below Craigmacaire is the beautiful and picturesque Ess. Between the village and the valley through which the river runs, is a low ridge of hills across which are many paths trodden nightly by the smugglers ponies. Gleness, the valley through which the river passes, is in some places considerably wide, and though the cultivation was at this time somewhat scanty, a hardy population was able to maintain itself in a very primitive simplicity. The glen ran about five and twenty miles into the Grampians, and at the head was a picturesque mountain-lake tiled Lochess, surrounded by high hills, at the embouchure of which stood the ruined chapel of S. Drostan, the burial place of the ancient family of the Lindsays. Down through the glen were little square towers, now nearly in ruin, surrounded by a few miserable farm-buildings in wretched repair. The old fortalices of the smaller lairds were now used by the tenants of the great family to whom the whole country belonged; but these were few and far between, and there was an air of savage wildness everywhere which was but little redeemed by the scanty patches of cultivation. For miles and miles nothing but rock and heather were to be seen, while down the sides of the hills the mountain-torrents dashed in foam.
Nothing could be simpler than the lives or more secluded than the habitations of the people of the glen. For many a long year after the date of this story, a knife and fork were unknown there. Kail brose, a broth made of cabbages, was the universal food, and though there was a good deal of sociability among the people, (all of whom had intermarried and were of course cousins) yet their habits were of the simplest nature. The glen was to them the world. The glen had its own ways of thinking, its own ways of acting, its own morality. Its politics were the lairds, its religion Episcopacy. One tie it had with the external world, and that was smuggling. Often might the sportsman in the wildest part of the scenery see a little blue smoke arising apparently from the bare heather, and if he had the courage to pursue his investigations, he would have found an under-ground apartment, with two or three men and barelegged girls, busy in the art of fabricating ardent spirits. And yet we must not judge them too hardly. The excise-laws were an imposition of the Hanoverian government which they did not adhere to, and thus an evasion of the Electors revenue was at once both patriotic and profitable,for here devotion to the House of Stuart and to the main chance for a wonder agreed; and the clergyman, a staunch Jacobite, was not very urgent in his repudiation of the practice.
Craigmacaire was the place where the contraband merchandise was disposed of, both for home and foreign consumption; nay, a close interchange took place between the foreign tobacco and the spirits of the glen, and occasionally silk handkerchiefs and other productions of a foreign loom might be seen on the shoulders of the glen beauties, at chapel, or at the great Padie fair, which in honour of the patron saint of the district had been held from time immemorial at the foot of the valley. Into Craigmacaire accordingly, at stated times, the aggregate ponies of the glen, in number about forty, each with an anker of whiskey at either side, used to make their nocturnal entries, and so weak was the executive and so strong was public opinion, that though they entered the town at night with every possible care and circumspection, yet when they had deposited the corpus delicti, all danger was over, arid the hardy smugglers might be seen next day, after the weekly market, starting on their ponies, in full glee to return home, with the empty ankers jingling at their sides, as if in defiance of the constituted authorities.
The connection between the glen and Craigmacaire though irregular was pretty frequent, for though the two parties were occupied in very different ways, there was occasionally an interchange of information, and lately the Stuart revolution had tended to draw them together, in that it was believed that some of the persons who had been concerned in the late rebellion were supposed to be in hiding somewhere among the fastnesses around Lochness. This was indeed the ease. A few weeks after the, circumstances related in the last chapter, a stout young man might have been seen with a basket in his arm climbing up one of the wild watercourses down which a mountain torrent was lashing. Just keeping out of the spray he availed himself of the water-worn stone to ascend, till he came to a sort of ledge, on which he rested; as soon as he had drawn breath he uttered a low whistle, which was distinctly heard over the roaring of the stream, and soon answered from what seemed to be the bowels of the earth a few feet beyond him. Presently a bundle of brushwood, moved by an invisible hand, fell down upon the ledge, and the mouth of a small cave was disclosed. Kneeling at the entrance, for he could not stand upright in it, is a tall man in a worn out blue uniform, who in spite of an unshaven beard and a starved and wretched appearance, had the indescribable look of a gentleman.
"Yere late of coming this evening, Willie?"
"True, your honour, but I waited to hear what the lads had to say who came from Craigmacaire,bonnie doings they have; had, they say. They have harried the chapel, and put the minister in prison. Its many weeks since theyve been down, and the town is full o' swearing dragoons and deboshed Dutch officers."
"Yes, and they have got a poor lad of a commissary that was with the Princes army, that they say they're going to send to Carlisle to be tried, if they dun a hang him on the road. They took him before Culloden."
"Commissary, did you say, it can't be Ninian; was his name Leslie?"
"Leslie; yes, thats the very name; they said he was a thin, pale lad, and that he spoke with something like a foreign tongue."
"It must be Ninian: heaven protect the poor lad, he was missed some weeks before the battle. But something must be done. Hark ye, Willie, is there any spirit in the glen, or have these bloody Hanoverians dung down the courage along with the faith of the glen?"
"Deed, sir, if by the faith of the glen, ye mean the chapel, its na been long dung down, for they all met three days ago, and never left working till it was finished. It's no great things to look at, but we'll all be fairly housed by the time the minister is letten out of the prison. Hell no ken his new chapel."
"Your spirit, then, is not dead," continued the laird, for it was no other than the Laird of Acquhortois who was thus in hiding. "Listen, tell John Will, and Sandy Low, that I want to speak to them this evening as soon as it is dark, and say, that the Laird of Acquhortois wouldn't bid them come if he hadnt somewhat important to say to them. And now, my faithful friend, let's see what you have in your basket, for faith, your mountain air has a somewhat sharpening effect upon the stomach of one of his most Christian majesty's bodyguards."
"Ise do your bidding, your honour, to John Will, and the other," said Willie, as he said good-bye to the laird, who drawing the supplies into his den, was for a time seen no more.
The object of his interview with Will and Low was to concert a plan of escape for Ninian. They were two determined smugglers, had dared the revenue officers, and therefore were well fitted for the work he had to put upon them, but with the usual caution of Scotsmen, they were unwilling to embark in a venture which promised them no immediate profit. At last, however, urged, by the instance with which he pressed them, they consented to make the attempt. The laird proposed two schemes to them,either they must break the prison and carry off the captive into the glen, or they must get him on board a smuggling lugger and send him to the Continent. To the first plan they positively demurred, as they felt it would bring the vengeance of the government upon the glen, and they had already learnt that that vengeance was no light matter. The other plan was therefore adopted. On this the laird bethought himself that the country was rather too hot to hold him, and he determined to avail himself of this means of escaping for a time, from Scotland, so Low agreed to go down to Craigmacaire to see what could be done. The smuggler was as good as his word. Entering the town, suspicione major, that is, without his usual accompaniments of kegs of contraband spirits, he soon found out how the land lay. First he established a communication with his own clergyman who was one of the imprisoned ones, and from him he received encouragement how to proceed. Leys, Watt, and Adam, (who were by this time set free) were suggested as "likely to prove safe companions in the attempt" for they had all been deeply interested in the poor young commissary, and had expressed more than once their sorrow for his fate. Accordingly the smuggler sought out the fishers, and much surprised was he with their peculiar ways, as he picked his steps among the pools of filthy water, the sleeping ducks, the crab-creels, skulls, baskets, and other piscatory implements. It was with some difficulty that the men of the sea and land came to understand each other, and it was not till a fisher girl had been up to the prison of Craigmacaire to know their own clergymans mind in the matter, that they entered heartily into the service. Maggie Leys, the emissary on this occasion, had been luckily chosen, and her good sense and vigorous mind were of no small use in organizing the forces. George Watt, of course, was enlisted in the cause. "Od, lassie, yere a snell one, tho ye are but fisher born," was the concluding remark of Sandy Low.
THE conspirators did their work well. The fishers communicated with a Dutch smuggling vessel, which agreed to lie in the offing. George Watt and his two friends had a boat ready at the foot of the water-gate, and it only remained for the men Gleness to come down in force to break the prison and Sir Ninian would be free. It was a night which they selected, for success depended chiefly on the suddenness and decision of their movements. They had determined not to risk a conflict with the authorities, but to retire if opposed, as with blackened faces shirts over the rest, of their dress, they defied recognition.
Meanwhile all was quiet in the prison. The Episcopalian clergy, who were cognizant of the matter, were a little nervous; they felt for the young man, who had endeared himself to them, and though they did not apprehend any unpleasant consequences to themselves, as they neither intended to leave the prison, nor had had other than verbal communication with the conspirators, yet they felt that strange excitation of spirit that possesses men before, the actual advent of an expected danger.
Their young friend had retired to his cell for some hours, and they did not like to disturb him. At length wondering at his prolonged absence, one of them went to the door of his cell, whence he heard softly uttered the following words:
"Quoniam Ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium et a verbo aspero.
"Scapulis Suis obumbravit tibi et sub pennis Ejus sperabis.
"Scuto circumdabit te veritas Ejus."
A solitude so employed he did not like to disturb, and he returned to his companions on tiptoe.
It is not for us to describe the breaking of the prison of Craigmacaire with the recollection of a similar scene in Guy Mannering in our minds. The moon shone brightly in the old street of Craigmacaire, and the old prison close by the water looked grim and forbidding in the cold moonlight. All was stillthe last lights were extinguished in the street and in the ships in the harbour; the splash of the sea upon the rocks, the mewing of a wakeful cat here and there, and the monotonous bell of the Earl Mareschals clock in the town-hall as it struck the quarters was all that broke the dead silence.
Suddenly it was broken by a rush of some dozen men from a dark alley in Peter Cushneys entry down to the prison door.
Bangbangbangthe stout old door is assaulted, for a time in vain, the oak that had stood so long, resisted for a time their efforts. BangbangbangThe town will be alarmed by the noise
"Keep on," said a loud commanding voice.
"Ay, ay, laird, never fear," answers another.
Bangbangbang. Heads are beginning to be protruded from the windows, but hurrah! the door begins to shake on its hinges,another bang, "hurrah! in with you, down with the whigs, hurrah, hurrah! forward, forward!" and in a moment the prison was entered,--the turnkeys overpowered, and the place their own.
"Quick; where is the commissary?" Ninian was among them.
"Dont hurt the jailors, they have only done their duty," was his only word as he hurried from the scene of his confinement. A friendly hand caught his, and surrounded by his unknown deliverers they made a sally for the water-gate; the town was now thoroughly alarmed, but the few of the town authorities who had risen from their beds were speedily knocked down and overpowered by the compact body of assailants. The water-gate was a low passage under the first story of a house communicating on one side with the main street, on the other with the sea. There were Watt and the fishers in a boat; the commissary was tumbled into it by his deliverer, who pushed in after him, and a few vigorous strokes of the oar placed him beyond immediate danger. The other actors in this daring outrage had now to run for it, but in a country disaffected to the government concealment was easy, and, thanks to hard running and the connivance of friends, not one of those engaged in this daring outrage had to suffer for it.
It caused a few months additional imprisonment to the clergy, who were, not without good reason, supposed to have aided and abetted in his matter, but they did not care. They regretted their enforced absence from their flocks, but they knew that conquest comes by suffering, and trusted that they should be delivered. Many a child was held up to the bars of the prison windows to receive the grace of regeneration, and though absent in person they were present in spirit among their people. At length the anger of the government was appeased and they were set at liberty.
It remains for us to give some account of the other actors in this little story. We need hardly say that Maggie Leys rewarded the young sailor for his share in that night's transaction with her small and beautifully formed hand, and among the marriages that were celebrated on good Mr. Greigs emancipation from prison, that of Robert Leys and Jessie Adams was not the least noted. The smugglers continued their usual life till an advanced age, and the laird of Acquhortois returning to France where he had in former years been in service, remained there till the bill of attainder against him was reversed. He returned to his native land, and amid many healths drunk in honour of "the king over the water," used often to hint, that he had had harder beds to sleep on than in the house of Acquhortois, and that the streets of Craigmacaire were easier travelled by day than by moonlight.
As for the commissary, he never returned to Scotland. Three copies of Kempiss work found their way to the three clergymen through some contraband channel, with the words "In memoriam" written in them, but this all they ever heard of their interesting friend, but they ever expressed a strong conviction, that, not from their own merits, yet in very sooth, the four inhabitants of the prison of Craigmacaire should meet again.
THE main circumstance of this story is purely fiction, but the actors arc all historical. The Commissary finds his prototype in the family of the premier baron of Scotland. The Laird of Acquhortois is the well-known Carnegy of Balnamon, whose cave is still shown in Glenesk. The three clergy were Mr. Greig, Mr. Troup, and Mr. Petrie, the Incumbents of the Churches of Stonehaven, Muchalls, and Drumlithie, all in the diocese of Brechin and county of Kincardine. The subordinate actors may still be seen in their descendants at the present time, with this happy difference that smuggling has ceased to be practised. The fishers are a devout race, with many touching remains of the old faith about them, and the inhabitants of the glen are still in the main attached to the religion of their fathers.