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Book of Scottish Story
Basil Rolland - Chapter 4


“With forkis and flales they lait grip flappis,
And flang-togedder lyk freggis,
With bougars of barnis they beft blew kappis,
Quhyle they with bernis made briggis;
The reird rais rudeli with the rappis,
Quhen rungis were layd on riggis,
The wyffis cam furth with cryis and clappis,
‘Lo! Quhair my lyking liggis,’
Quo they:
At Christis Kirk on the Grene that day.” – King James I.

Basil was dreaming about Mary Leslie when he was awakened by the dreadful note of preparation. The bugles were sounding, men and horses hurrying to and fro, and a body of Cameronians- or "hill-fouk "—had formed themselves into a conventicle beside his tent, and were listening with the greatest attention to a favourite preacher. When he came out, the scene was beyond measure animating. There was no trace of the late storm, and the little birds sang their accustomed songs. All was bustle, both in the camp of the Covenanters and that of the royalists. The latter were repairing the fortifications of the bridge, which had suffered in the last night’s attack. The royalists were already under arms, but Montrose had no design of attacking them, till the ebbing of the tide should render the lower fords passable in case he should be unable to force the bridge. The Covenanters remained idle during the forenoon, while the royalists stood in order of battle, uncertain as to the time of attack.

About two in the afternoon, the shrill sound of a bugle collected the Covenanters to their standards ; and Aboyne’s sentinels, who till now had kept on the south bank of the river, fell back to the main body. Our hero was ordered by Montrose to lead a body of horsemen to the lower ford, to remain there till informed of the bridge’s being taken, when he was to push to the town and guard Aboyne’s house from being plundered, and seize on all papers that might be found in it. He departed accordingly.

Aboyne, being aware that Montrose’s intention was to storm the bridge, drew all his forces to its defence. In a valley, at a small distance from the bridge, Montrose stationed the flower of his army, and, with the rest, including the waggoners and other followers of the camp, to make a more formidable appearance, made a feint as if he intended to ford the river above the bridge. This stratagem succeeded, for Aboyne instantly withdrew the greater part of his forces to oppose them, and thus left the most important station almost at the mercy of the enemy. The ambuscade rose immediately and advanced even to the cannons’ mouths. The artillery, however, of that period, was not so formidable as it is now. It was ill•served, ill-directed, and did little execution. A brisk engagement took place at the bridge, which, however, was maintained but a few minutes ; for the Covenanters, clearing the bridge of its defenders, and quickly removing the barricades, opened to the right and left a path for their cavalry, who drove the citizens off the field with considerable loss. Aboyne returned quickly with his men to assist the citizens, but their courage was now damped with their loss ; so that, by the first charge of the Covenanters, their ranks were broken, and they began to fly in every direction. It was no longer a battle but a rout. The Covenanters hewed down without mercy their flying enemies; and, so exasperated were they at their obstinate fickleness in former times, that the more merciful among them were hardly able to obtain quarter for those who confessed themselves vanquished. Aboyne, with great exertion, having rallied one hundred horse, made for the town, determined if possible to defend it. Montrose dispatched a party after him, and both, plunging their rowels into their horses' sides, dashed forward over friends and enemies indiscriminately, and arrived close at each other’s heels in the town. There was no possibility of shutting the gates; so both entered by St Nicholas Port at the same instant. The intention of Aboyne was thus frustrated, and he found it not an easy matter to escape with his followers by the Gallowgate Port.

The inhabitants had waited with breathless expectation the event of this day’s battle, and had in some measure made up their minds in case of Aboyne’s failure. But the anticipation fell far short of the reality. The town was in the possession of the enemy. At every turning of the streets there were parties engaged in desperate combat, while the troops of cavalry that occasionally passed sometimes trampled down both friend and foe, never more to rise. The poor citizens were endeavouring to escape from the place with whatever of their effects they could lay hands on. The aged were feebly endeavouring to leave the resting-place of their youth. Wives, mothers, and sisters were searching in tears for their friends, while a loud and piercing shriek announced the agony of the maidens when informed of the death of their betrothed. The innocent children in the confusion were left to wander, neglected by their guardians, --- and the records from which this tale is compiled say, that a little boy and girl, who were twins, while wandering hand-in-hand in the streets, unconscious of danger, were crushed by the coursers’ hoofs, while their mother was hastening to remove them from danger. But why dwell upon the horrors of this scene?

On a signal given, Basil forded the Dee with his followers, and advanced to the city. Having taken possession of his post, he kept himself on the alert, to restrain any irregularity among his men, which the scene before them was but too well calculated to superinduce. The town was given up to be pillaged. It had been set on fire in different places; therefore it required the utmost attention to prevent his followers from mingling with their companions. He had remained at his post a considerable time, when he heard a piercing shriek in a voice well known to him. He sprang to the place whence it seemed to come, and beheld Mary Leslie struggling with a Covenanter, who was plundering her of the trinkets that adorned her dress. "Villain ! " said he, drawing his sword ; but the exclamation put the Covenanter on his guard. He aimed a fearful blow at him, but the Covenanter’s blade, being of better temper than Basil’s, stood the blow, while the other was shivered into a thousand pieces. The Covenantefs weapon was now within a few inches of his breast, when Basil, in a state of desperation, enveloped his hand in his cloak, and seizing the blade, suddenly, bent it with such force that it snapped at the hilt—when, seizing a partisan that lay near him, he dealt the Covenanter such a blow with it as felled him to the earth. Basil then hastily asked Mary what she did here.

She informed him that the soldiers had broken into the house in search of plunder, and that she had been obliged to fly when she met with the Covenanter. He asked her where her father was. She told him, weeping, that forty-eight of the principal citizens, along with her father, had been bound, and cast into the common prison.

"Then," said he, "you must allow me to conduct you to a place of safety. ”

"No, Basil, I cannot. My dear father”—

"He is in no danger; and this is no place for maidens;" and running speedily for his horse, he placed her, more dead than alive, behind him, and galloped out of the town.

When he returned, which was about eight, the confusion had in a great measure ceased; the magistrates, by a largess of 7000 rnerks, having prevailed on Montrose to put a stop to the pillage. When Basil came near to his post, he discovered that the house had been plundered, and that an attempt had been made to set it on fire. Montrose and his suite were standing before it; his father was also there, and ran to meet him.

"Thank God, my son, that thou art come. This,” looking round him, "this looks not like treason."

"Come hither, Basil Rolland," said Montrose, "and answer me truly. My bowels yearn for thee; yet if what is testified against thee be true, though thou wert my mother’s son, God do so to me, and more also, if thou shalt not die the death. Why, why, young man, didst thou desert the important trust assigned to thee ?"

Basil told the naked truth.

"Thou hast done wrong, young man; yet thy father, thy youth, thine inexperience, all—all plead with me for thee."

"Heaven bless you, my lord, for the word,” said Isaac Rolland. "My life for it, he is innocent !"

"Believe me," said Montrose, "I would fain that he were so. There is not in his eye the alarmed glance of conscious guiltiness. Answer me again, didst thou not join the camp with traitorous intent? Didst thou not, last night, under cloud of darkness, betake thee to the camp of the enemy to tell the Viscount of Aboyne what thou knewest about the strength and intentions of the host?”

The truth and falsehood were here so blended together, that Basil betrayed signs of the greatest confusion, and was silent.

"Nay, now," said Montrose, "he denies it not; his confusion betrays him. One of the sentinels discovered him,—the very man against whom he this day drew the sword for a prelate-monging maiden. Young man, this hath destroyed my aversion to sacrifice thee; and the good cause demands that such treachery pass not unpunished. If thou hast any unrepented sin, prepare thyself ; for yet two days, and thou art with the dead. Bind him, soldiers ; and on the second day hence let him suffer the punishment due to his crimes."

"Stop, my lord,” said Isaac Rolland, "and shed not innocent blood. O cut not down the flower in the bud! Exhaust your vengeance on me ; but spare, oh, spare my son !"

"Entreaty avails not. My duty to the host demands it. And know, I do nothing but what I wish may be my own lot if I betray the good cause. If I betray it, may my best blood be spilled on the scaffold, and may the hangmen put on my shroud !”

This was spoken in an inflexible and enthusiastic tone ; but he knew not that he was condemning himself. His wish was accomplished; for they who had that day witnessed his proud desire, ere many years, saw one of his mangled limbs bleaching over the city gates,. Basil was led off by the guards; while his father, unable to follow, stood speechless and motionless as a statue.


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