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Book of Scottish Story
The Covenanters - Chapter 2


A Traditional Tale of Lanarkshire

Chapter 2

When Allan and his daughter sat down to their homely breakfast, the morning presented a pleasing contrast to the previous night. The sky was perfectly clear and serene. Every mountain sparkled, and the earth had a peculiar freshness diffused over its surface. The few clouds visible were at a great elevation, and were hurrying away, as if not to leave a stain on the transparent concave of heaven. There was little wind on the lower regions, scarcely sufficient to ruffle the surface of a slumbering lake. The dampness of the grass, the clay washed from the pebbles, and the rivulet swollen and turbid, were the only relics of the tempest. The weather continued beautifully serene, and when the sun was at its height, one of the finest days was presented that ever graced this most gorgeous month of the year.

It was about the middle of the day when Mary, who happened to look out, perceived six armed troopers approaching. They were on foot, their broadswords hanging at their sides, and carbines swung over their shoulders. In addition to this, each had a couple of pistols stuck in his belt. As soon as she saw them she ran in to her father with manifest looks of alarm, and informed him of their approach. Allan could not help feeling uneasy at this intelligence ; for the military were then universally dreaded, and whenever a number were seen together, it was almost always on some errand of destruction. He went to the door; but just as he reached it the soldiers were on the point of entering. The leader of this body he recognised to be the ferocious Captain Clobberton, who had rendered himself universally infamous by his cruelties; and who, it was reported, had in his career of persecution caused no less than seventeen persons to be put to death, in cold blood, without even the formality of a trial. He was one of the chief favourites of Dalzell, who used to call him his "lamb." The man’s aspect did not belie his heart, for it was fierce, lowering, and cruel. His companions, with a single exception, seemed well suited to their leader, and fit instruments to carry his bloody mandates into execution. Allan, when he confronted this worthy agent of tyranny, turned back, followed by him and his crew into the house.

"Shut the door, my dear chucks,” said Clobberton ; "we must have some conversation with this godly man. So, Mr Hamilton, you have taken up with that pious remnant : you have turned a psalm-singer, eh? Come, don’t stare at me as if you saw an owl ; answer my question—yes or no. " Allan looked at him with a steady eye. " Captain Clobberton, you have asked me no question. I shall not scruple to answer anything which may be justly commanded of me."

"Answer me, then, sir," continued the captain. " Were you not present at the field-preaching near Lanark, when one of the king’s soldiers was slain, in attempting with several others to disperse it? "

"I was not," answered Allan; "I never in my life attended a field-preaching.”

"Or a conventicle?"

"Nor a conventicle either.”

"Do you mean to deny that you are one of that hypocritical set, who preach their absurd and treasonable jargon in defiance of the law? In a word, do you deny that you are one of
the sworn members of the Covenant?"

"I do deny it, stoutly.”

"Acknowledge it, and save your wretched life. Acknowledge it, or I will confront you with a proof which will perhaps astonish you, and cost you more than you are aware of. ”

"I will tell no untruth, even to save my life."

"Then on your own stupid head rest the consequences. Do you know one Hervey, a preacher? "

"I do," said Allan, firmly.

"Ha, here it comes ! You have then spoken to that man, most godly Allan?"

"I have spoken to him."

"He has been in your house?"

"I do not mean to deny that he has.”

"Has he not sung psalms in your house, and prayed in your house, and lodged in your house? Eh? And was it not last night that these doings were going on?"

“I will gainsay nothing of what you have said."

"Then Allan Hamilton," said the other, " I tell you plainly that you have harboured a traitor ; and that unless you deliver him up, or tell where he may be found, I shall hold you guilty
of treason, and punish you accordingly,"

"The Lord’s will be done," answered Hamilton, with a deep sigh. "What I did was an act of common charity. The old man applied to me in his distress; and it would have been cruel to have closed my door against him. Wreak your will upon me as it pleases you. Where he has gone I know not; and though I did know, I should hardly consider myself justified in telling you."

"Then we shall make short work with you," rejoined Clobberton with an oath. "Ross, give him ten minutes to say his prayers, and then bind up his eyes. It is needless to palaver with him. We have other jobs of a like kind to manage to-day."

Here Mary, who stood in a corner listening with terrified heart, uttered a loud scream when she heard her father’s doom pronounced. She rushed forth into the middle of the room, and fell upon her knees before Clobberton.

"Oh, captain, do not slay my father! Take my life. It was my fault alone that the old man was let into the house. My father refused to admit him. Take my life and save his. I shall be his murderess if he die—for I brought him into this trouble.”

She continued some moments in this attitude, gazing up at him with looks of fear and entreaty, and clasping his knees. He had, however, been too long accustomed to scenes of this afflicting nature to be much moved ; and he extricated himself from the unhappy girl with brutal rudeness. She fell speechless at his feet.

"Confound the wench ! Was there ever seen the like of it? She takes me for one of your chicken-hearted milksops,—out of the way with the ninny."

He was about to lay rough hands upon her, when a trooper, stepping forward, raised her gently up and placed her on a seat. This was the only one of Clobberton's followers whose appearance was at all indicative of humanity. He was a handsome and strongly-built young man of six feet. His countenance was well formed; but its expression was rather dissolute, and rendered stern, apparently by the prevalence of some fierce internal passion. The marks of a generous heart were, notwithstanding, imprinted upon its bold outlines; and whoever looked upon him could not help thinking that his natural disposition had been perverted by the wicked characters and scenes among which he was placed.

"Captain," said he, "I do not see the use of shooting this old fool. I begin to feel that we have had a surfeit of this work. Besides, if what the girl declares is correct, there is no great matter of treason in the case. At all events, I would vote to leave the business to the Justiciary."

"Graham," said Clobberton, eyeing him sternly, "give me none of your cursed whining palaver. What is your liver made of? When there is anything in the way of justice to be done, you are as mealy and cream-faced as if you saw the devil. A fine fellow to wear the king’s uniform! If you say another word," added he, with a frightful oath, "I’ll have you reported to the general!"

"Captain," said Graham, stepping modestly but firmly forward, "you may speak of me as you please—you are my officer—(though neither you nor any man of the regiment need be told that when my service was needed in real danger, I was never behind); but I cannot stand by unmoved and see downright butchery. If you have anything to urge against this man, let him be brought to Edinburgh, and there tried by the commission, which will punish him severely enough, in all conscience, if he be really guilty. I have assisted in some of these murders ; but my conscience tells me that I have done wrong ; and whatever the consequences be, I shall assist at them no more."

"Ay," said Clobberton, "you are a pretty dainty fellow—fitter to strut about in regimentals before wenches than behave like a man ; but, Mr John Graham, let me tell you that your eloquence, instead of retarding, has hastened the fate of this rascally traitor. And, let me tell you farther, that on my arrival at headquarters, I shall have you arraigned for mutiny and disobedience of orders. Ross, blindfold Hamilton and lead him out."

His command was instantly executed; while Mary, in a fit of distraction, flew up to her father, cast her arms round his neck, and kissed him with the most heart-rending affliction.

"My father, my father, I am your murderess! I will die with you! Ye cruel-hearted men, will none of you save him from this bloody death?”

"My dear Mary, may God protect you, and send you a happier lot than mine," was all that the unhappy parent could articulate. He was then torn from her with violence, and hurried out to the green before the house. Mary, on this separation, fell into a short swoon ; on awakening from which she found herself in the chamber with no one except Graham. His face was flushed with anger, and he walked impatiently up and down. By a sudden impulse she ran to the window, and the first sight which caught her eye was her father kneeling down, and opposite to him the four troopers, seemingly waiting for the signal of Clobberton, who looked intently at his watch. At this terrifying spectacle, and in an agony of desperation, she threw herself on her knees before the soldier.

"Young man …. young man, save my father’s life! Oh, try at least to save him. I will love you, and work for you, and be your slave for ever. Blessings on your kind heart, you will do it —yes, you will do it." And she rose up and threw her arms round his neck, and kissed him on the cheek. A tear rolled from Graham’s manly eye, and his soul was moved with compassion for the lovely being who clung to him and implored him so feelingly. He turned an instant to the window.

"Let me go, my dear-the accursed miscreant is putting up his watch and has told them to present; there is not a second to lose."

Without saying another word, he unslung his carbine, rushed to the open air—and shot Clobberton dead on the spot.

The troopers were confounded at this sudden action. They lowered the weapons which they had that instant raised to their shoulders, and stood for some time gazing confusedly at each other—then at Graham——then at the body of their captain. When they recovered their self-possession, they raised up the latter to see if any spark of life remained. He was perfectly dead. The following colloquy then ensued between them.

Russell:—Why, I thinks as how he be dead.

Smith:—Dead! ay, as dead as Julius Caesar. I wonder what old Dalzell will say when he hears of his dear " lamb" being butchered thus?

Russell: — Now hang it, Smith, don’t speak ill of the captain. He was a worthy man—that is to say, after his own fashion; and no one ever served his country better in the way of ridding it of crop-eared preachers: he was worth a score of hangmen.

Ross:—Gentlemen, there is no occasion to stand jesting and talking nonsense. Here is as pretty a piece of murder as ever was committed ; and it remains for us to decide what we will do, first with the traitor, Hamilton, and secondly with the murderer, Graham.

Graham:—Whatever you do with me, I hope you will not harm that poor man. Let him go; and thus do a charitable action for once in your lives.

Russell:—I always, do you see, gentlemen, goes with the majority. Hang it, shoot or not is all one to Dick Russell. If you make up your minds to let him go scot-free, why, l’se not oppose it.

Jones:—Well, well, let him go and sing psalms in his own canting fashion.

The fact is, these men were getting sick of shedding innocent blood, and although ready to spill more on being ordered, rather shunned it than otherwise-- especially when their victims were unresisting.

"I see, comrades, you are agreed to let the old fool go unharmed," said Ross. Then walking up to Allan, who still knelt—his daughter with her arms around him, awaiting in terrible suspense the result of their deliberation, "Get up," said he, "and bless your stars; but take care in future of your treasonable Covenanting tricks under the cloak of charity. It is not every day you will get a young fellow to shoot your executioner and save your life. As for you, Graham," turning to his companion, “I hold you prisoner. You must accompany us to headquarters, and there take your trial for this business. You have committed a black murder on the body of your officer; and if we failed to bring you up, old Dalzell would have us shot like so many pyets the minute after."

Graham’s carbine and pistols were immediately taken from him, and his hands tied behind his back by the remaining troopers.

"Farewell, young woman," said he to Mary, who looked at him with tears of gratitude, "farewell! I have saved your father’s life and forfeited my own: don’t forget Jack Graham."

The unfortunate girl was distracted at this heartrending sight; and she rushed, forward to entreat his guards to give him liberty. One of them presented his carbine at her—

"Off mistress; blast my heart, if it were not for your pretty face, I would send an ounce of cold lead through you. What the devil—haven’t we spared your fathers life, and you would have us connive at the escape of a murderer, to the risk of our own necks!”

"Do not distress yourself about me, my sweet girl,” cried Graham— “farewell once more!”

And she turned back weeping, while the troopers held their way forwards the western outlets of the valley.

END OF CHAPTER II


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