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Book of Scottish Story
A Tale of the Martyrs


By James Hogg (The Ettrick Shepherd)

Red Tam Harkness came into the farm-house of Garrick, in the parish of Closeburn, one day, and began to look about for some place to hide in, when the gudewife, whose name was Jane Kilpatrick, said to him in great alarm, "What’s the matter, what’s the matter, Tam Harkness!”

"Hide me, or else I’m a dead man : that’s the present matter, gudewife," said he. "But yet, when I have time— if ever I hae mair time—I have heavy news for you. For Christ’s sake, hide me, Jane, for the killers are hard at hand."

Jane Kilpatrick sprung to her feet, but she was quite beuumbed and powerless. She ran to one press and opened it, and then to another; there was not room to stuff a clog into either of them. She looked into a bed; there was no shelter there, and her knees began to bend under her weight with terror. The voices of the troopers were by this time heard fast approaching, and Harknesshad no other shift but in one moment to conceal himself behind the outer door, which was open, but the place where he stood was quite dark. He heard one of them say to another, "I fear the scoundrel is not here after all. Guard all the outhouses.”

On that three or four of the troop rushed by him, and began to search the house and examine the inmates. Harkness that moment slid out without being observed, and tried to escape up a narrow glen called Kinrivah, immediately behind the house, but unluckily two troopers, who had been in another chase, there met him in the face. When he perceived them, he turned and ran to the eastward; on which they both fired, which raised the alarm, and instantly the whole pack were after him. It was afterwards conjectured that one of the shots had wounded him, for though he, with others, had been nearly surrounded that morning, and twice waylaid, he had quite outrun the soldiers ; but now it was observed that some of them began to gain ground on him, and they still continued firing, till at length he fell into a kind of slough east from the farm-house of Locherben, where they came up to him, and ran him through with their bayonets. The spot is called Red Tam’s Gutter to this day.

Jane Kilpatrick was one of the first who went to his mangled corpse—a woeful sight, lying in the slough, and sore did she lament the loss of that poor and honest man. But there was more : she came to his corpse by a sort of yearning impatience to learn what was the woeful news he had to communicate to her. But, alas! the intelligence was lost, and the man to whose bosom alone it had haply been confided was no more ; yet Jane could scarcely prevail on herself to have any fears for her own husband, for she knew him to be in perfectly safe hiding in Glen Govar; still Tam’s last words hung heavy on her mind. They were both suspected to have been at the harmless rising at Enterkin for the relief of a favourite minister, which was effected ; and that was the extent of their crime. And though it was only suspicion, four men were shot on the hills that morning without trial or examination, and their bodies forbidden Christian burial.

One of these four was John Weir of Garrick, the husband of Jane Kilpatrick, a man of great worth and honour, and universally respected. He had left his hiding-place in order to carry some intelligence to his friends, and to pray with them, but was entrapped among them and slain. Still there was no intelligence brought to his family, save the single expression that fell from the lips of Thomas Harkness in a moment of distraction. Nevertheless, Jane could not rest, but set out all the way to her sister’s house in Glen Govar, in Crawford Muir, and arrived there at eleven o’clock on a Sabbath evening. The family being at prayers when she went, and the house dark, she stood still behind the hallan, and all the time was convinced that the voice of the man that prayed was the voice of her husband, John Weir. All the time that fervent prayer lasted the tears of joy ran from her eyes, and her heart beat with gratitude to her Maker as she drank into her soul every sentence of the petitions and thanksgiving. Accordingly, when worship was ended, and the candle lighted, she went forward with a light heart and joyful countenance. Her sister embraced her, though manifestly embarrassed and troubled at seeing her there at such a time. From her she flew to embrace her husband, but he stood still like a statue, and did not meet her embrace. She gazed at him—she grew pale, and, sitting down, she covered her face with her apron. This man was one of her husband’s brothers, likewise in hiding, whom she had never before seen; but the tones of his voice, and even the devotional expressions that he used, were so like her husband’s, that she mistook them for his.

All was now grief and consternation, for John Weir had not been seen or heard of there since Wednesday evening, when he had gone to warn his friends of some impending danger; but they all tried to comfort each other as well as they could, and, in particular, by saying they were all in the Lord’s hand, and it behoved Him to do with them as seemed to Him good, with many other expressions of piety and submission. But the next morning, when the two sisters were about to part, the one says to the other,—"Jane, I cannot help telling you a strange confused dream that I had just afore ye wakened me. Ye ken I put nae faith in dreams, and I dinna want you to regard it ; but it is as well for friends to tell them to ane anither, and then, if aught turn out like it in the course o’ Providence, it may bring it to baith their minds that their spirits had been conversing with God."

" Na, na, Aggie, I want nane o’ your confused dreams. I hae other things to think o’, and mony’s the time and oft ye hae deaved me wi’ them, an’ sometimes made me angry."

"I never bade ye believe them, Jeanie, but I likit aye to tell them to you ; and this I daresay rose out o’ our conversation yestreen. But I thought I was away (ye see I dinna ken where I was); and I was feared and confused, thinking I had lost my way. And then I came to an auld man, an’ he says to me, ‘ Is it the road to heaven that you are seeking, Aggie ?" An’ I said, ‘ Ay,’ for I didna like to deny’t.

"‘Then I’ll tell you where you maun gang,’ said he; ‘ye maun gang up by the head of you dark, mossy cleueh, an’ you will find ane there that will show you the road to heaven ;’ and I said ‘Ay,’ for I didna like to refuse, although it was an uncouth looking road, and ane that I didna like to gang. But when I gaed to the cleuch-head, wha do I see sitting there but your ain gudeman, John Weir, and I thought I never saw him look sae weel ; and when I gaed close up to him, there I saw another John Weir, lying strippet to the sark, and a’ bedded in blood. He was cauld dead, and his head turned to ae side, and when I saw siccan a sight, I was terrified, an’ held wide aff him. But I gaed up to the living John Weir, and said to him,—‘Gudeman, how’s this?’

"‘Dinna ye see how it is, sister Aggie? says he, ‘I’m just set to herd this poor rnan that’s lying here.”

"‘Then I think ye’ll no hae a sair post, John,’ says I, ‘for he disna look as if he wad rin far away.’ It was very unreverend o’ me to speak that gate, sister, but these were the words that I thought I said ; an’ as it is but a dream, ye ken ye needna heed it.

"‘Alas, poor Aggie’ says he, ‘ye are still in the gall o’ bitterness. Look ower your right shoulder, an’ ye will see what I hae to do. An’ sae I looked ower my right shoulder, and there saw a hale drove o’ foxes and wulcats, an’ fumarts, an’ rnartins, an’ corby-craws, an’ a hunder vile beasts, a’ staunin’ round wi’ glaring een, eager to be at the corpse of the dead John Weir; an’ then I was terribly astoundit, an’ I says to him. ‘ Gudernan, how is this?’

"‘I am commissioned to keep these awa,’ said he. ‘Do you think these een that are yet open to the light o’ heaven, and that tongue that has to syllable the praises of a Redeemer far within yon sky, should be left to become a prey o’ siccan vermin as these? ’

"‘Will it make sae vera muckle difference, John Weir,’ said I, ‘whether the carcass is eaten up by these or by the worms?’

"‘Ah, Aggie, Aggie! worms are worms; but ye little wot what these are,’ says he. ‘But John Weir has warred wi’ them a’ his life, an’ that to some purpose, and they maunna get the advantage o’ him now.’

"‘But which is the right John Weir?’ said I; ‘for here is ane lying stiff and lappered in his blood, and another in health and strength and sound mind.’

"‘I am the right John Weir,’ says he. ‘ Did you ever think the good man o’ Garrick could die ! Na, na, Aggie ; Clavers could only kill the body, an’ that’s but the poorest part o’ the man. But where are you gaun this wild gate?’

"‘I was directed this way on my road to heaven,’ said I.

" ‘Ay, an’ ye were directed right, then,’ says he; ‘for this is the direct path to heaven, and there is no other.’

"‘That is very extraordinary,’ says I. ‘And, pray, what is the name of this place, that I may direct my sister Jane, your wife, and all my friends by the same way.’

"‘This is Faith’s Hope,’ says he.

At the mention of this place, Jane Kilpatrick of Garrick rose slowly up to her feet, and held up both her hands. " Hold, hold, sister Aggie," cried she, " you have told enough. Was it in the head of Faith’s Hope that you saw this vision of my dead husband?"

"Yes; but at the same time I saw your husband alive."

"Then I fear your dream has a double meaning,” she answered ; "for though it appears like a religious allegory, you do not know that there really is such a place, and that not very far from our house. I have often laughed at your dreams, sister, but this one hurries me from you to-day with a heavy and trembling heart."

Jane left Glen Govar by the break of day, and took her way through the wild ranges of Crawford Muir, straight for the head of Faith’s Hope. She had some bread in her lap, and a little Bible that she always carried with her; and without one to assist or comfort her, she went in search of her lost husband. Before she reached the head of that wild glen, the day was far spent, and the sun wearing down. The valley of Nith lay spread far below her in all its beauty, but around her there was nothing but darkness, dread, and desolation. The mist hovered on the hills, and on the skirts of the mist the ravens sailed about in circles, croaking furiously, which had a most ominous effect on the heart of poor Jane. As she advanced further up, she perceived a fox and an eagle sitting over against each other, watching something which yet they seemed terrified to approach ; and right between them, in a little green hollow, surrounded by black haggs, she found the corpse of her husband in the same manner as described by her sister. He was stripped of his coat and vest, which it was thought he had thrown from him when flying from the soldiers, to enable him to effect his escape. He was shot through the heart with two bullets, but nothing relating to his death was ever known, whether he died praying, or was shot as he fled ; but there was he found lying bathed in his blood, in the wilderness, and none of the wild beasts of the forest had dared to touch his lifeless form.

The bitterness of death was now past with poor Jane. Her staff and shield was taken from her right hand, and laid low in death by the violence of wicked men. True, she had still a home to go to, although that home was robbed and spoiled ; but she found that without him it was no home, and that where his beloved form reposed, there was the home of her rest. She washed his wounds and the stains of blood from his body, tied her napkin round his face, covered him with her apron, and sat down and watched beside him all the livelong night, praying to the Almighty, and singing hymns and spiritual songs alternately. The next day she warned her friends and neighbours, who went with her the following night, and buried him privately in the north-west corner of the churchyard of Morton.


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