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Book of Scottish Story
The Covenanters - Chapter 3


A Traditional Tale of Lanarkshire

Chapter 3

Mary was too generous to be happy in the safety of her father, when that was bought with the life of his brave deliverer. When Graham was taken away, she felt a pang as if he had been led to execution. Instead, therefore, of indulging in selfish congratulation, her whole soul was taken up in the romantic and apparently hopeless scheme of extricating him from his danger. There was not a moment to lose; and she asked her father if he could think of any way in which a rescue might be attempted.

"Mary, my dear, I know of none," was his answer. "We live far from any house, and before assistance could be procured, they would be miles beyond our reach."

“Yes, father, there is a chance," said she, with impatience. "Gallop over to Allister Wilson’s on the other side of the hills. He is a strong and determined man, and, as well as some of his near neighbours, is accustomed to contest. You know he fought desperately at Drumclog; and though he blamed you for not joining the cause, he will not be loth to assist in this bitter extremity.”

Allan, at these words, started up as if awakened from a reverie. "That will do, my dear bairn. I never thought of it; but your understanding is quicker than mine. I shall get out the horse ; follow me on foot, as hard as you can."

This was the work of a minute. The horse was brought from the stable, and Allan lashed him to his full speed across the moor. Most fortunately he arrived at Allister’s house as the latter was on the point of leaving it. He carried a musket over his shoulder, and a huge claymore hung down from a belt girded round his loins.

"You have just come in time,” said this stern son of the Covenant, after Allan had briefly related to him what had happened. "I am on my way to hear that precious saint, Mr Hervey, hold forth. You see I am armed to defend myself against temporal foes, and so are many others of my friends and brethren in God, who will be present on that blessed occasion. Come away, Allan Hamilton, you are one of the timid and faint-hearted flock of Jacob, but we will aid you as you wish, and peradventure save the young man who has done you such a good turn."

They went on swiftly to a retired spot at the distance of half a mile; it was a small glen nearly surrounded with rocks. There they beheld the Reverend Mr Hervey standing upon a mound of earth, and preaching to a congregation, the greater part of the males of which were armed with muskets, swords, or pikes; they formed, as it were, the outworks of the assembly, —the women, old men, and children being placed in the centre. These were a few of the devoted Christians who, from the rocks and caves of their native land, sent up their fearless voices to heaven—who, disowning the spiritual authority of a tyrannic government, thought it nowise unbecoming or treasonable to oppose the strong arm of lawless power with its own weapons ; and who finally triumphed in the glorious contest, establishing that pure religion, for which posterity has proved, alas, too ungrateful !

ln the pressing urgency of the case, Allister did not scruple to go up to the minister, in the midst of his discourse. Such interruptions indeed were common in these distracted times, when it was necessary to skulk from place to place, and perform divine worship as if it was an act of treason against the state. Mr Hervey made known to his flock in a few words what had been communicated to him, taking care to applaud highly the scheme proposed by Wilson. There was no time to be lost, and under the guidance of Allister the whole of the assemblage hurried to a gorge of the mountains through which the troopers must necessarily pass. As the route of the latter was circuitous, time was allowed to this sagacious leader to arrange his forces. This he did by placing all the armed men—about twenty-live in number—in two lines across the pass. Those who were not armed, together with the women and children, were sent to the rear. When, therefore, the soldiers came up, they found to their surprise a formidable body ready to dispute the passage.

"What means this interruption?" said Ross, who acted the part of spokesman to the rest. Whereupon Mr Hervey advanced in front—"Release," said he, "that young man whom ye have in bonds. "

“Release him!" replied Ross. "Would you have us release a murderer? Are you aware that he has shot his officer? ”

"I am aware of it," Mr Hervey answered, "and I blame him not for the deed. Stand forth, Allan Hamilton, and say if that is the soldier who saved your life ; and you, Mary Hamilton, stand forth likewise.”

Both, to the astonishment of the soldiers, came in front of the crowd. "That,” said Allan, “is the man, and may God bless him for his humanity? —"It is the same," cried his daughter; "I saw him with these eyes shoot the cruel Clobberton. On my knees I begged him to sue for mercy, and his kind heart had pity upon me, and saved my father."

"Soldiers," said Mr Hervey, "I have nothing more to say to you. That young man has slain your captain, but he has done no murder. His deed was justifiable : yea, it was praiseworthy, in so far as it saved an upright man, and rid the earth of a cruel persecutor. Deliver him up, and go away in peace, or peradventure ye may fare ill among these, armed men who stand before you.’

The troopers consulted together for a short time, till, seeing that resistance would be utter madness against such odds, they reluctantly let go their prisoner. The first person who came up to him was Mary Hamilton. She loosened the cords that tied him, and presented him with conscious pride to those of her own sex who were assembled round.

"Good bye, Graham," cried Ross, with a sneer;—"you have bit us once, but it will puzzle you to do so again. We shall soon ‘harry’ you and your puritanical friends from your strong-holds. An ell of strong hemp is in readiness for you at the Grassmarket or Edinburgh. Take my defiance for a knave, as you are," added he, with an imprecation.

He had scarcely pronounced the last sentence when Graham unsheathed the weapon which hung at his side, sprang from the middle of the crowd, and stood before his defier.

"Ross, you have challenged me, and you shall abide it — draw!" Here there was an instantaneous movement among the Covenanters, who rushed in between the two fierce soldiers, who stood with their naked weapons, their eyes glancing fire at each other. Mary Hamilton screamed aloud with terror, and cries of "separate them!" were heard from all the women. Mr Hervey came forward and entreated them to put up their swords. and he was seconded by most of the old men; but all entreaties were in vain. They stood fronting each other, and only waiting for free ground to commence their desperate game.

"Let me alone," said Graham, furiously, to some who were attempting to draw him back; "am I to be bearded to my teeth by that swaggering ruffian? "

"Come on, my sweet cock of the Covenant," cries Ross, with the most insulting derision, "you or any one of your canting crew—or a dozen of you, one after the other."

"Let Graham go," was heard from the deep stern voice of Allister Wilson; "let him go, or I will meet that man with my own weapon. Mr Hervey, your advice is dear to us all, and well do we know that the blood of God’s creatures must not be shed in vain; but has not that man of blood openly shed us, and shall we hinder our champion from going forward to meet him? No; let them join in combat and try which is the better cause. If the challenger overcomes, we shall do him no harm, but let him depart in peace: if he be overcome, let him rue the consequences of his insolence."

This proposition, though violently opposed by the women and the aged part of the crowd, met the entire approbation of the young men. Each felt himself personally insulted, and allowed, for a time, the turbulent passions of his nature to get the better of every milder feeling. A space of ground was immediately cleared for the combat, the friends of Ross being allowed to arrange matters as they thought fit. They went about it with a coolness and precision which showed that to them this sort of pastime was nothing new. " All is right—fall on," was their cry, and in a moment the combatants met in the area. The three troopers looked on with characteristic sang froid, but it was otherwise with the rest of the bystanders, who gazed upon the scene with the most intense interest. Some of the females turned away their eyes from it, and among them Mary Hamilton, who almost sank to the earth, and was with difficulty supported by her father.

The combat was desperate, for the men were of powerful strength, and of tried courage and skill in their weapons. The blows were parried for some time on both sides with consummate address, and neither could be said to have the advantage. At length, after contending fiercely, Ross exhibited signs of exhaustion—neither guarding himself nor assaulting his opponent so vigorously as at first. Graham, on noticing this, redoubled his efforts. He acted now wholly on the offensive, sending blow upon blow with the rapidity of lightning. His last and most desperate stroke was made at the head of his enemy. The sword of the latter, which was held up in a masterly manner to receive it, was beat down by Graham’s weapon, which descended forcibly upon his helmet. The blow proved decisive, and Ross fell senseless upon the ground. His conqueror immediately wrested the weapon from him, while a shout was set up by the crowd in token of victory. The troopers looked mortified at this result of the duel, which was by them evidently unexpected. Their first care was to raise up their fellow comrade. On examination, no wound was perceived upon his head. His helmet had been penetrated by the sword, which, however, did not go further. His own weapon had contributed to deaden the blow, by partially arresting that of Graham in its furious descent. It was this only which saved his life. In a few minutes he so far recovered as to get up and look around him. The first object which struck him was his opponent standing in the ring wiping his forehead.

"Well, Ross," said one of his companions, "I always took you to be the best swordsman in the regiment; but I think you have met your match.”

"My match? confound me!" returned the vanquished man, "I thought I would have made minced meat of him. There, for three years, have I had the character of being one of the best men in the army at my weapon, and here is all this good name taken out of me in a trice. How mortifying—and to lose my good sword too!"

"Here is your sword, Ross, and keep it," said Graham. "You have behaved like a brave man; and I honour such a fellow, whether he be my friend or foe. Only don’t go on with your insolent bragging—that is all the advice I have to give you ; nor call any man a knave till you have good proof that he is so. "

"Well, well, Graham,” answered the other, "I retract what I said; I have a better opinion of you than I had ten minutes ago. Take care of old Dalzell - his "lambs" will be after you, and you had better keep out of the way. Take this advice in return for my weapon which you have given me back. It would, after all, be a pity to tuck up such a pretty fellow as you are; although I would care very little to see your long-faced acquaintances there dangling by their necks. Give us your hand for old fellowship, and shift your quarters as soon as you choose. Good bye." So saying, he and his three comrades departed.

After these doings, it was considered imprudent for the principal actors to remain longer in this quarter. Mr Hervey retired about twenty miles to the northward, in company with Allan Hamilton and his daughter, and Allister Wilson. Graham went by a circuitous route to Argyleshire, where he secreted himself so judiciously, that though the agents of government got information of his being in that country, they could never manage to lay hand upon him. These steps were prudent in all parties ; for the very day after the rescue, a strong body of dragoons was sent to the Lowthers, to apprehend the above named persons. They behaved with great cruelty, burning the cottages of numbers of the inhabitants, and destroying their cattle. They searched Allan Hamilton’s house, took from it everything that could be easily carried away, and such of his cattle as were found on the premises. Among other things, they carried off the body of the sanguinary Clobberton, which they found on the spot where it had been left, and interred it in Lanark churchyard, with military honours. None of the individuals, however, whom they sought for were found.

For a short time after this, the persecution raged with great violence in the south of Lanarkshire; but happier days were beginning to dawn; and the arrival of King William, and the dethronement of the bigoted James, put an end to such scenes of cruelty. When these events occurred, the persecuted came forth from their hiding-places. Mr Hervey, among others, returned to the Lowthers, and enjoyed many happy days in this seat of his ministry and trials. Allan and his daughter were among the first to make their appearance. Their house soon recovered its former comfort; and in the course of time every worldly concern went well with them. Mary, however, for a month or more after their return, did not feel entirely satisfied. She was duller than was her wont, and neither she nor her father could give any explanation why it should be so. At this time a tall young man paid them a visit, and, strange to say, she became perfectly happy. This visitor was no other than the wild fighting fellow Graham,—now perfectly reformed from his former evil courses, by separation from his profligate companions, and by the better company and principles with which his late troubles had brought him acquainted.

A few words more will end our story. This bold trooper and the beautiful daughter of Allan Hamilton were seen five weeks thereafter going to church as man and wife. It was allowed that they were the handsomest couple ever seen in the Lowthers. Graham proved a kind husband; and it is hardly necessary to say that Mary was a most affectionate and exemplary wife. Allan Hamilton attained a happy old age, and saw his grandchildren ripening into fair promise around him. His daughter, many years after his death, used to repeat to them the story of his danger and escape, which we have here imperfectly related. The tale is not fictitious. It is handed down in tradition over the upper and middle wards of Lanarkshire, and with a consistency which leaves no doubt of its truth.


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