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Wilson's Border Tales
The Adopted Son
A Tale of the Times of the Covenanters - Chapter 1


"On, for the sword of Gideon, to rid the land of tyrants, to bring down the pride of apostates, and to smite the ungodly with confusion," muttered John Brydone to himself, as he went into the fields in the September of 1645, and beheld that the greater part of a crop of oats, which had been cut down a few days before, was carried off. John was the proprietor of about sixty acres on the south bank of the Ettriek, a little above its junction with the Tweed: At the period we speak of, the talented and ambitious Marquis of Montrose, who had long been an apostate to the cause of the Covenant, and not only an apostate, but its most powerful enemy, having, as he thought somewhat crushed its adherents in Scotland, in the pride of his heart led his followers towards England, to support the tottering cause of’ Charles in the south, and was now with his cavalry quartered at Selkirk, while his infantry were encamped at Philiphaugh, on the opposite side of the river.

Every reader has heard of Melrose Abbey—which is still venerated in its decay, majestic in its ruins—and they have read, too, of the abode of the northern wizard, who shed the halo of his genius over the surrounding scenery. But many have heard of Melrose, of Scott, and of Abbotsford, to whom the existence of Philiphaugh is unknown. It, however, is one of those places where our forefathers laid the foundation of our freedom with the bones of its enemies, and cemented it with their own blood. If the stranger who visits Melrose and Abbotsford pursue his journey a few miles farther, he may imagine that he is still following the source of the Tweed, until he arrive at Selkirk, when he finds that for some miles he has been upon the banks of the Ettrick, and that the Tweed is lost among the wooded hills to the north. Immediately below Selkirk, and where the forked river forms a sort of island, on the opposite side of the stream, he will see a spacious haugh, surrounded by wooded hills, and forming, if we may so speak, an amphitheatre bounded by the Ettrick, between the Yarrow and the Tweed. Such is Philiphaugh; where the arms of the Covenant triumphed, and where the sword of Montrose was blunted for ever.

Now, the sun had not yet risen, and a thick, dark mist covered the face of the earth, when, as we have said, John Brydone went out into his fields, and found that a quantity of his oats had been carried away. He doubted not but they had been taken for the use of Montrose’s cavalry; and it was not for the loss of his substance that he grieved, and that his spirit was wroth, but because it was taken to assist the enemies of his country, and the persecutors of the truth; for than John Brydone, humble as he was, there was not a more dauntless or a more determined supporter of the Covenant in all Scotland. While he yet stood by the side of his field, and, from the thickness of the morning, was unable to discern objects at a few yards distance, a party of horsemen rode up to where he stood. "Countryman," said one who appeared to be their leader, "can you inform us where the army of Montrose is encamped?"

John, taking them to be a party of the Royalists, sullenly replied, "There’s mony ane asks the road they ken," and was proceeding into the field.

"Answer me!" demanded the horseman angrily, and raising a pistol in his hand—"Sir David Lesly commands you."

"Sir David Lesly!" cried John, "the champion of the truth!—the defender of the good cause. If ye be Sir David Lesly, as I trow ye be, get yer troops in readiness, and, before the mist vanish on the river, I will deliver the host o’ the Philistines into your hand."

"See that ye play not the traitor," said Lesly, "or the nearest tree shall be unto thee as the gallows was to Haman which he prepared for Mordecai."

"Do even so to me, and more also," replied John, "if ye find me false. But think ye that I look as though I bore the mark of the beast upon my forehead?" he continued, taking off his Lowland bonnet and gazing General Lesly full in the face.

"I will trust you," said the General; and, as he spoke, the van of his army appeared in sight.

John having described the situation of the enemy to Sir David, acted as their guide until they came to the Shaw Burn, when the General called a halt. Each man having partaken of a hurried repast by order of Sir David, the word was given along the line that they should return thanks for being conducted to the place where the enemy of the Kirk and his army slept in imaginary security. The preachers at the head of the different divisions of the army gave out a psalm, and the entire host of the Covenanters, uncovering their heads, joined at the same moment in thanksgiving and praise. John Brydone was not a man of tears, but, as he joined in the psalm, they rolled down his cheeks, for his heart felt, while his tongue uttered praise, that a day of deliverance for the people of Scotland was at hand. The psalm being concluded, each preacher offered up a short but earnest prayer; and each man, grasping his weapon, was ready to lay down his life for his religion and his liberty.

John Brydone, with his bonnet in hand, approaching Sir David, said—"Now, sir, I that ken the ground, and the situation o’ the enemy, would advise ye, as a man who has seen some service mysel, to halve your men; let the one party proceed by the river to attack them on the one side, and the other go round the hills to cut off their retreat."

["But halve your men in equal parts,
Your purpose to fulfil;
Let ae half keep the water side,
The rest gae round the hill."
Battle of Philiphaugh.—Border Ballad.]

"Ye speak skilfully," said Sir David, and he gave orders as John Brydone had advised.

The Marquis of Montrose had been disappointed in reinforcements from his sovereign. Of two parties which had been sent to assist him in his raid into England, one had been routed in Yorkshire, and the other defeated on Carlisle sands, and only a few individuals from both parties joined him at Selkirk. A great part of his Highlanders had returned home to enjoy their plunder; but his army was still formidable, and he imagined that he had Scotland at his feet, and that he had nothing to fear from anything the Covenanters could bring against him. He had been writing despatches throughout the night; and he was sitting in the best house in Selkirk, penning a letter to his sovereign, when he was startled by the sounds of cannon and of musketry. He rushed to the street, the inhabitants were hurrying from their houses--many of his cavalry were mingling, half-dressed, with the crowd. "To horse!—to horse!" shouted Montrose. His command was promptly obeyed; and, in a few moments, at the head of his cavalry, he rushed down the street leading to the river towards Philiphaugh. The mist was breaking away, and he beheld his army fleeing in every direction. The Covenanters had burst upon them as a thunderbolt. A thousand of his best troops lay dead upon the field. He endeavoured to rally them, but in vain; and, cutting his way through the Covenanters, he fled at his utmost speed, and halted not until he had arrived within a short distance of where the delightful watering town of Innerleithen now stands, when he sought a temporary resting-place in the house of Lord Traquair.

John Brydone, having been furnished with a sword, had not been idle during the engagement; but, as he had fought upon foot, and the greater part of Lesly’s army were cavalry, he had not joined in the pursuit; and, when the battle was over, he conceived it to be as much his duty to act the part of the Samaritan, as it had been to perform that of a soldier. He was busied, therefore, on the field in administering, as he could, to the wounded; and whether they were Cavalier or Covenanter, it was all one to John; for he was not one who could trample on a fallen foe, and in their hour of need he considered all men as brothers. He was passing within about twenty yards of a tent upon the Haugh, which had a superior appearance to the others—it was larger, and the cloth which covered it was of a finer quality; when his attention was arrested by a sound unlike all that belonged to a battle-field—the wailing and the cries of an infant! He looked around, and near him lay the dead body of a lady, and on her breast, locked in her cold arms, a child of a few months old was struggling. He ran towards them—he perceived that the lady was dead—he took the child in his arms—he held it to his bosom—he kissed its cheek—"Puir thing!—puir thing!" said John; "the innocent hae been left to perish amang the unrighteous." He was bearing away the child, patting its cheek—and caressing it as he went, and forgetting the soldier in the nurse, when he said unto himself—"Puir innocent!—an’, belike yer wrang-headed faither is fleeing for his life, an’ thinking aboot ye an’ yer mother as he flees! Weel, ye may be claimed some day, an’ I maun do a’ in my power to gie an account o’ ye." So, John turned back towards the lifeless body of the child’s mother; and he perceived that she wore a costly ring upon her finger, and bracelets on her arms; she also held a small parcels, resembling a book, in her hands, as though she had fled with it, without being able to conceal it, and almost at the door of her tent she had fallen with her child in her arms, and her treasure in her hand. John stooped upon the ground, and he took the ring from her finger, and the bracelets from her arms; he took also the packet from her hands, and in it he found other jewels, and a purse of gold pieces. "These may find thee a faither, puir thing," said he; "or if they do not, they may befriend thee when John Brydone cannot."

He carried home the child to his own house, and his wife had at that time an infant daughter at her breast, and she took the foundling from her husband’s arms, and became unto it as a mother, nursing it with her own child. But John told not his wife of the purse, nor the ring, nor the rich jewels.

The child had been in their keeping for several weeks, but no one appeared to claim him. "The bairn may hae been baptized," said John; "b"t it wad be after the fashion o’ the sons o’ Belial; but he is a brand plucked from the burning—he is my bairn noo, and I shall be unto him as a faither—I’ll tak upon me the vows—and, as though he were flesh o’ my ain flesh, I will fulfil them." So the child was baptized; and, in consequence of his having been found on Philiphaugh, and, of the victory there gained, he was called Philip; and, as John had adopted him as his son, he bore also the name of Brydone. It is unnecessary for us to follow the foundling through his years of boyhood. John had two children—a son named Daniel, and Mary, who was nursed at her mother’s breast with the orphan Philip. As the boy grew up, he called his protectors by the name of father and mother; but he knew they were not such, for John had shown him the spot upon the Haugh where he had found him wailing on the bosom of his deed mother. Frequently, too, when he quarrelled with his playfellows, they would call him the "Philiphaugh foundling," and "the cavalier’s brat;" and on such occasions Mary was wont to take his part, and, weeping, say, "he was her brother." As he grew up, however, it grieved his protector to observe, that he manifested but little of the piety, and less of the sedateness of his own children. "What is born i’ the bane, isna easily rooted out o’ the flesh," said John; and in secret he prayed and wept that his adopted son might be brought to a knowledge of the truth. The days of the Commonwealth had come, and John and his son Daniel rejoiced in the triumphs of the Parliamentary armies, and the success of its fleets; but while they spoke, Philip would mutter between his teeth—"It is the triumph of murderers!" He believed that but for the ascendancy of the Commonwealth, and he might have obtained some tidings of his family; and this led him to hate a cause which the activity of his spirit might have tempted him to embrace.

Mary Brydone had always been dear to him; and, as he grew towards manhood. he gazed on her beautiful features with delight; but it was not the calm delight of a brother contemplating the fair face of a sister; for Philip’s heart glowed as he gazed, and the blush gathered on his cheek. One summer evening, they were returning from the fields together, the sun was sinking in the west, the Etterick murmured along by their side, and the plaintive voice of the wild-dove was heard from the copse-wood which covered the hills.

"Why are you so sad, brother Philip?" said Mary, "would you hide anything from your own sister?"

"Do not call me brother, Mary," said he earnestly—"do not call me brother!"

"Who would call you brother, Philip, if I did not?" returned she affectionately.

"Let Daniel call me brother," said he, eagerly; "but not you—not you!"

She burst into tears. "When did I offend you, Philip?" she added, "that I may not call you brother?"

"Never, Mary!—never!" he exclaimed; "call me Philip—your Philip!—anything but brother!" He took her hand within his--he pressed it to his bosom. "Mary," he added, "I have neither father, mother, brother, nor kindred—I am alone in the world—let there be something that I can call mine—something that will love me in return! Do you understand me, Mary?"

"You are cruel, Philip," said she, sobbing as she spoke; "you know I love you—I have always loved you!"

"Yes! as you love Daniel—as you love your father; but not as"—

"You love Mr. Duncan," he would have said; but his heart upraided him for the suspicion, and he was silent. It is here necessary to inform the reader that Mr. Duncan was a preacher of the Covenant, and John Brydone revered him much. He was much older than Mary, but his heart cleaved to her, and he had asked her father’s consent to become his son-in-law. John, though a stern man, was not one who would force the inclination of his daughter; but Mr. Duncan was, as he expressed it, "one of the faithful in Israel," and his proposal was pleasing to him. Mary, however, regarded the preacher with awe, but not with affection.

Mary felt that she understood Philip—that she loved him, and not as a brother. She hid her face upon his shoulder, and her hand returned the pressure of his. They entered the house together, and her father perceived that his daughter’s face was troubled. The manner of both was changed. He was a shrewd man as well as a stern man, and he also suspected the cause.

"Philip," said he calmly, "for twenty years hae I protected ye an’ watched ower ye wi’ a faither’s care, an’ I fear that, in return for my care, ye hae brought sorrow into the bosom o’ my family, an’ instilled disobedience into the flesh o’ my ain flesh. But, though ye has cleaved—as it maun hae been inherent in your bluid—after the principles o’ the sons o’ this warld, yet, as I ne’er found ye guilty o’ a falsehood, an’ as I believe ye incapable o’ ane, tell me truly, why is yer countenance, an’ that o’ Mary, changed—and why are ye baith troubled to look me straight in the face? Answer me—hae ye taught her to forget that she is yer sister?"

"Yes!" answered Philip; "and can it offend the man who saved me, who has watched over me, and sheltered me from infancy till now, that I should wish to be his son in more than in name?"

"It does offend me, Philip," said the Covenantor; "even unto death it offends me! I hae consented that my dochter shall gie her hand to a guid an’ a godly man, who will look after her weelfare baith here and hereafter. And ye kenned this—she kenned it, and she didna refuse; but ye hae come like the son o’ darkness, an’ sawn tares amang the wheat."

"Father," said Philip, "if you will still allow me to call you by that name—foundling though I am—unknown as I am—in what am I worse than him to whom ye would sacrifice your daughter’s happiness?"

"Sacrifice her happiness!" interrupted the old man; "hoo daur ye speak o’ happiness, wha kens nae meanin’ for the word but the vain pleasures o’ this sinfu’ warld! Think ye that, as a faither, an’ as ane that has my offspring to answer for, that I daur sacrifice the eternal happiness o’ my bairn, for the gratification o’ a temporary feelin’ which ye encourage the day and may extinguish the morn. Na, sir; they wha wad ken what true happiness is, maun first learn to crucify human passions. Mary," added he, sternly, turning to his daughter, "repeat the fifth commandment."

She had been weeping before, and she now wept aloud.

"Repeat it," replied her father yet more sternly.

"Honour thy father and thy mother," added she, sobbing as she spoke.

"See, then, bairn," rejoined her father, "that ye remember that commandment on yer heart, as weel as on yer tongue. Remember, too, that o’ a’ the commands, it’s the only ane to which a promise is attached; and, noo, mark what I say, an’ as ye wadna disobey me, see, at yer peril, that ye ne’er permit this young man to speak to ye again, save only as a brither."

"Sir," said Philip, "we have grown up together like twin tendrils on the same vine, and can ye wonder that our hearts have become entwined round each other, or that they can tear asunder because ye command it! Or, could I look on the face of an angel"—

"Out on ye, blasphemer!" interrupted the Covenanter— "wad ye apply siccan epithets to a bairn o’ mine? Once for all, hear me, Philip; there are but twa ways o’t, and ye can tak yer choice. It’s the first time I hae spoken to ye roughly, but it isna the first time my spirit has mourned owar ye. I hae tried to lead ye in the right path; ye hae had baith precept and example afore ye; but the leaven o’ this warld—the leaven o’ the persecutors o’ the Kirk and the Covenant—was in yer very bluid; an’ I believe, if opportunity had offered, ye wad hae drawn yer sword in the unholy cause. A’ that I could say, an’ a’ that I could do, religion has ne’er had ony place in yer heart; but ye hae yearned aboot yer faither, and ye hae mourned aboot yer mother—an’ that was natural aneugh—but, oh! ye hae also desired to cling to the cauld formality o’ Episcopacy, as they nae doot did: an’ should ye e’er discover that yer parents hae been Papists, I believe that ye wad become ane too! An’ often, when the conversation turned upon the apostate Montrose, or the gallant Lesly, I hae seen ye manifest the spirit an’ the very look o’ a persecutor. Were I to gie up my dochter to such a man, I should be worse than the heathen wha sacrifice their offspring to the abomination o’ idols. Noo, Philip, as I hae tauld ye, there are but twa ways o’t: Either this very hour gie me yer solemn promise that ye will think o’ Mary as to be yer wife nae mair, or, wi’ the risin’ o’ to-morrow’s sun, leave this house for ever!"

"Sir," said Philip, bitterly, "your last command I can obey, though it would be with a sad heart—though it would be in despair!—your first I cannot--I will not!"

"You must--you shall!" replied the Covenanter.

"Never!" answered Philip.

"Then," replied the old man, "leave the roof that has sheltered ye frae yer cradle!"

"I will!" said Philip, and the tears ran down his cheeks. He walked towards Mary, and, with a faltering voice, said—"Farewell, Mary!—Farewell! I did not expect this; but do not forget me—do not give your hand to another— and we shall meet again!"

"You shall not," interrupted the inexorable old man.

Mary implored her father, for her sake, and for the sake of her departed mother, who had loved Philip as her own son, that he would not drive him from the house, and Daniel, too, entreated; but their supplications were vain.

"Farewell, then," said Philip; "and, though I depart in misery, let it not be with thy curse, but let the blessing of him who has been to me a father until now, go with me."

"The blessin’ o’ Heaven be wi’ ye and around ye, Philip!" groaned the Covenanter, struggling to conceal a tear: "but, if ye will follow the dictates o’ yer rebellious heart and leave us, tak wi’ ye yer property."

"My property!" repeated Philip.

"Yer property," returned the old man. "Twenty years has it lain in that drawer, an’ during that time eyes hae not seen it, nor fingers touched it. It will assist ye noo; an’, when ye enter the warld, may throw some light upon yer parentage."

He went to a small drawer, and, unlocking it, he took out the jewels, the bracelet, the ring, and the purse of gold, and, placing them in Philip’s hand, exclaimed—"Fareweel!—fareweel!—but it maun be!" and he turned away his head.

"O Mary!" cried Philip, "keep—keep this in remembrance of me," as he attempted to place the ring in her hand.

"Awa, sir!" exclaimed the old man, vehemently, "wad ye bribe my bairn into disobedience, by the ornaments o’ folly an’ iniquity! Awa, ye son o’ Belial, an’ provoke me not to wrath!"

Philip groaned, he dashed his hand upon his brow, and rushed from the house. Many wept long and bitterly, and Daniel walked to and fro across the room, mourning for one whom he loved as a brother. The old man went out into the fields to conceal the agony of his spirit; and, when he had wandered for a while, he communed with himself, saying, "I hae dune foolishly, an’ an ungodly action hae I performed this nicht; I hae driven oot a young man upon a wicked warld, wi’ a’ his sins an’ his follies on his head; an’, evil come upon him, or he plunge into the paths o’ wickedness, his bluid an’ his guilt will be laid at my hands! Puir Philip," he added; "after a’ he had a kind heart!" And the stern old man drew the sleeve of his coat across his eyes. In this frame of mind he returned to the house. "Has Philip not come back?" said he, as he entered. His son shook his head sorrowfully, and Mary sobbed more bitterly.

"Rin ye awa doun to Melrose, Daniel," said he, "an’ I’ll awa up to Selkirk, an’ inquire for him, an’ bring him back. Yer faither has allowed passion to get the better o’ him, an’ to overcome baith the man an’ the Christian."

"Run, Daniel, run !" cried Mary eagerly. And the old man and his son went out in search of him.

Their inquiries were fruitless. Days, weeks, and months rolled on, but nothing more was heard of poor Philip. Mary refused to be comforted; and the exhortations, the kindness, and the tenderness shown towards her by the Rev. Mr. Duncan, if not hateful, were disagreeable. Dark thoughts, too, had taken possession of her father’s mind, and he frequently sank into melancholy; for the thought haunted him that his adopted son, on being driven from his house, had laid violent hands upon his own life; and this idea embittered every day of his existence.


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