THE ADVENTURES OF ALEXANDER GORDON
FOOLISHLY CALLED "THE BULL OF EARLSTOUN”
Written down by his wife in the Lord–JEAN HAMILTON.
THIS chronicle records the sad Defection of Janet Hamilton,
Spouse to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun–how she lied to save her husband,
and so lost the Favour of God and the Approval of her Conscience–together
with her Husband's many Distressful Adventures during the years of the
Killing Time–all newly and faithfully expressed and copied from the
Testimonies and Covenant Engagements of the aforesaid Janet Hamilton (or
Gordon) but with the religious and moral reflections thereupon carefully
Ever since Sandy, and I his unworthy spouse, wan clear out
of the weary Castle of Blackness, it has been my intent to set down in
writing the tale of my great temptations and grievous fall. First I had
written it with many cryings out and testifyings; but Sandy, with that
worldly wisdom which keeps him from being (as the good Master Vernor of
Irongray used to say) “ane earthen vessel thoroughly sanctified "–has
adjured me to leave out both appeals to Providence and animadversions on the
evil spirit of the times. But how am I to avoid these, seeing that never
since the flood was there a time so fruitful in defections–alas, poor
Well, in obedience to my goodman Sandy, I will even leave
out much matter exceedingly profitable.
The tale itself runs thus :–
As all know, the worst time of the fury of the Persecutors
was during the drear summer and hairst of the year 1685. Then were the
beasts of prey fully unchained, and they ravined along every green strath
and thrust shining steel between every blade of heather on all the moors of
the South and West, thirsting for the blood of the poor lads of the
Covenant. O these dear Wanderers–they well-nigh broke my heart when they
used to come and stand by the back window of the Earlstoun, with their white
haggard faces and ragged clothes, and what touched me more than all, the
little lump in the neuk of their plaids where they carried their Bibles.
But that was in the days when the fury of them that hated
us was still mercifully restrained. For the time came, and that speedily,
when my own man, Sandy Gordon, the pride of the countryside for strength and
beauty–God forgive me, I had meant to say for a godly walk and
conversation–became a wanderer like the rest, with a price on his head and a
stomach empty of meat, save as it might be the red haws on the hedges, and
the water from the burns that tinkle and whisper among the heather on the
hillside. But though life and lands are precious, what are they to
principle? And the best and bravest croft in all the Earlstoun is not worth
the value of one untrue or intemperate word.
But alas I the sad shifts and stratagems which even the
godly have offtimes stooped to in those days–even lying to the men of sin
that came to hunt them at the instance of the King, and urging the deceit of
David when he was with the King of the Philistines and feigned himself mad.
David, indeed!-as well might they have pled the practice of the Psalmist in
the matter of Bathsheba!
Nevertheless I have no liberty in testifying against such
practices. For I, even I, Janet Hamilton, sister to that most clear-shining
light Sir Robert of that name, have stooped to deceit. And of this I will
even now tell the tale.
Yet I will speak of the lying and deceit of others first,
and the other so-called necessities of this sad time–then of mine own. The
shame and defection began with Sandy's own lack of courage to declare
himself after the sad day at Bothwell. Ah, if my man had been as my brother
on that day, he would have taken up his testimony against the defections,
even to the dividing of the brethren and the losing of the battle. But Sandy
has ever stood for the course that would work out best according to worldly
prudence, thinking in his unhallowed conceit that, if the worst came to the
worst, he could ever drive through by the weight of his own great body and
sturdy sword-arm. For there is even yet, after he has been ten years married
to me, and hath begot of covenanted children four or it may be five,
something of the man of wrath about Alexander Gordon. And for this do I
I had in this place much more written, but in came Sandy
and took the papers away with him, saying rudely that it would fit me better
to look to my bairns' cleading–for that little Will had never a decent pair
of breeks to his back, nor yet a well-sewn point to hold them up with. But
alas I there again spake the carnal man–for what are bairns' clothes to the
concerns of the never-dying soul?
But I had begun to tell of Bothwell when, as I have said,
Sandy came and interrupted my reflections with his unsanctified haste and
Well, as I said, my man was ill-beset and like to be slain
as he rode through the town of Hamilton on his way home from the battle. For
he was wounded, though but slightly, and his beast could carry him no
further. Likewise the town was in the hands of one Sergeant John Crichton, a
rude and malignant persecutor. So that there was little for Sandy Gordon to
do, but like his own brave father to cry, “Have at ye–defend yourselves in
the name of the God of Battles! " And so to drive into the thickest of them
till he died. And I sometimes think it had been better for Sandy, when I see
him going to and fro on county business with Rob Grier and Lidderdale of the
Isle (men up to their necks in the blood of the Saints) had he died thus at
the charge with William Gordon that day on the road to Bothwell. But of his
father's death knew he nothing as he rode into the town of Hamilton. For he
had been with my brother Sir Robert upon the bridge-head till the last poor
remnant of our folk broke before the cannon-shots.
So as he came hanging his head nearly to his saddle-bow and
his horse limping weary-foot down the street, who should look out of a door
but John Scarlett, who had been retainer and master-at-arms to our cousin
(according to the flesh) Wat Gordon of Lochinvar–one like his master, a man
wholly without godliness, who from his youth up had companied with
blasphemers and ill-doers of all kinds.
“Hallo, Master Alec," cried John Scarlett to my husband,
using very great familiarity considering his condition, It whither away?
From the field where thy folk lie dead and dying, say ye?–why, man, so will
you also lie streekit and cold, unless there be some remedy. Black Crichton
is here in Hamilton, and with him a full troop of dragoons searching every
hole and comer. Hear ye not the clamour of them?"
“I will turn and go back! " answered my husband, wearily
tugging at his horse's head .
But it was not to be, for even as his limping steed went
about, Sandy saw the gate through which he had come in the hands of the
enemy, and he knew that he was taken, even as a rat is in a trap.
Then John Scarlett hurried him into his house, where he was
lodging with a buxom widow–and as I think in far too great favour with her
for an honest hostess and her soldier-Iodger.1
“Wife," cried Scarlett, “the boiling water, quick!"
So the goodwife brought him some scalding hot in an iron
pingle, and with that Scarlett out with his razors, being skilful at the
trade of surgeon-barber, and then and there cleanses Sandy of every hair on
his face, while the dragoons were thundering on the doors of the houses at
the head of the street.
1 Note added by Alexander Gordon–“God keep me from the
charity of ane very good Woman in a matter of her own sex!”
"Is one Alexander Gordon anyways within–a traitor with a
great red beard?" he heard them crying up and down the closes.
And Jack Scarlett laughed in his rude profane way as he
swept up the beard and threw the sweepings into the fire.
“Well would it he for you, Sandy Gordon," quoth he, "if I
could burn up your whiggish opinions as easily as I can your red beard."
Hardly had the hostess wrapped Sandy in a plaid and drugget
skirt of her own, and set a white mutch upon his head, when there came a
banging of muskets upon the outer door.
"Keep your gown low about your feet," the woman whispered
to Sandy, "they might see your horseman's boots–and such-like look
ill-becoming on a young lass."
Then aloud she cried, with her unsanctified woman's guile,
“Come away, worthy gentlemen, here is none but my man, Trooper Scarlett and
my sister Susan, in from the country with eggs and butter to the Hamilton
The soldiers clattered in, all of them crowding about the
house-place and helping themselves to whatever they desired in the way of
food and drink as was their use and wont. Then they began to ask questions.
First of all of Scarlett, as of a comrade home on furlough, and then hearing
that no rebel had been seen in Hamilton, some of the younger of them fell a-daffing
and fumbling with the women. And I dare say the buxom goodwife was nothing
loath. But a soldier knave chanced to set his arm about Sandy's waist, for
at that time he was well-faured, white and ruddy of complexion like young
David, crying, “Here is an armful of girth for an elbow to clip!" Whereat
Sandy let out his arm and dealt him a buffet with his palm on the ear that
stretched him on the floor amid shouts of laughter from his comrades.
“Well dealt, wench!" said the sergeant, “faith, but you are
a brave one–sturdy hizzie. I declare I would I had thee in my troop. I had
even made thee corporal. For that arm of thine would keep these unruly lads
The rascal who bad received the stroke staggered to his feet
and looked about him high and low, holding the side of his head on his
“What was it that fell on me?" he said. For doubtless his
brain was spinning, Sandy's hand being no soft bairn's palm.
“It was but a lass that caressed thee of her kindness,
Davie Stenhouse," said Sergeant John Crichton, for it was he; “wilt thou try
thy luck a second time with the maid? What, man? A soldier should ,never
take a woman's 'No,' even after seven times seven–much less at the first
"I want no more–neither 'Yea' nor 'Nay' from that wench!"
growled the man who had been called David Stenhouse, making for the door.
And so, laughing and joking at their comrade's
discomfiture, the soldiers crowded out, and as the sergeant went last he set
his hand on Sandy's shoulder and said, “Bonny lass, thou art fit to be a
soldier's wife, but thou art meat for better than Davie Stenhouse. By the
mass, keep thyself to thyself till the wars be over, and God's truth, I will
even marry thee out of hand myself! "
And Sandy (so they tell) looked up at him with eyes like
the eyes of a calf, and he on his part looked at Sandy like a sheep-till my
man says that he feared that he was about to kiss him, when he would have
had to brain the fellow. However that may be, it was well that at that
moment a crying and a noise arose on the street, and a shouting was heard,
"Here is Gordon–here is the rebel!" So that Sergeant John had to hasten down
the outer stair. And after that they kenned no more of him or of his
troopers, though the noise of firing was to be heard at intervals all
through the night .
Now this story of itself might he interesting enough to the
carnally minded, and to such as sit about fire-ingles in the gloaming and
tell unspiritual tales. But I would not have condescended upon it, had it
not been that I have it laid upon me to make certain observes and pious
reflections upon these occurrents for the edification of the little
separated flock, and also for the convoying of grace down to posterity.
First then of the deceitfulness of lying women-such as the
goodwife of Hamilton, with whom John Scarlett dwelt (it is suspected) in no
Alas I alas I these so pregnant and edifying observes are all
lost. For after his looking of the sheep upon the hill, in comes Sandy, and,
casting his eyes over that which I had writ, he tears out these ensuing
eleven pages. with words that very ill became a Christian–all about charity
and thinking well of one's neighbour even if she be a woman! And so he bums
the writing I had such pains with before my eyes.” The woman saved my life!"
As if that had aught to do with the matter, or vitiated in
the least the pertinence of these most solemn warnings and
denunciations–now, alas, destroyed and lost to the world!
But as I have said, Sandy is very far from being thoroughly
sanctified. Charity, i' faith–and to a woman! An I liked I could tell this
about women which would make your blood run cold-women, too, well thought of
and making a brave show to the world. Ah, well, but to my tale.
Then after that came my man home. And the period of mine
own trial was at hand. For with the death of his father under arms, and his
own presence and deeds of arms at Bothwell (which were well known to the
authorities), the persecutors came often to our house at times unexpected,
and turned everything aloft and alow with their sword-points and
musket-butts, seeking, as they said, for Sandy and the other traitor. And
all the while Sandy himself was hid in a recess above the kitchen–a space in
which he could scarcely turn, breathing through a crevice in the wall, and
listening to the oaths of the soldiers seeking eagerly for his life, talking
all the while of the blood-money which his head would bring at Dumfries,
where was quartered John Graham of Claverhouse.
And I myself-poor Janet Hamilton, his unworthy spouse, what
did I? When they asked me, first of all I declared that I would not answer,
but when they threatened to put a lighted match between my fingers and burn
them to the bone as was their custom, and to hang up William, my sweet
little lad, by the thumbs, and beat him with many stripes–I dropped on my
knees and swore with solemn oaths on my soul's salvation that I had not seen
hilt nor hair of Sandy Gordon since he rode away a week before the fatal day
For the which lie and apostacy, the Lord, if He be a just
God, will not forgive me. I perjured my soul to save my man. Yet if so be
that He forgive the perjurer and forswearer in That Day, I may indeed be
grateful for His mercy–but I shall certainly think less of Him as the God of
And it was as much that I could not abide the strain to my
conscience in lying to the persecutors (though I continued to do so, when it
was necessary), as because of the danger that some questioning spy might
discover his lurking-place, that Sandy made himself, with the help of his
brother William, a shelter in a great bushy oak in the midst of the home
Then after the enemy had put a stated garrison in the
Earlstoun, and a clanjamphrey of wild dragoons went out each morning to hunt
the poor wanderers, and returned each night with their quarry–or with oaths
and cursings at their ill success, Sandy abode up there alone in the tree
top. William and he had constructed a platform on which my distressed
goodman could stretch himself at full length and yet be entirely hidden from
observation, even should a soldier pass directly underneath. The oak tree,
which is great and very umbrageous, stands in the thickest part of the
woodland, and the platform or bed had a shelter over it sufficient to turn
any ordinary rain.
So when the soldiers of the garrison which harassed us,
were away on some of their quests–and they oftenest rode out at nights or in
the early morning, thinking so to catch the fugitives–Sandy would steal in
for an hour by his own fireside, or perchance to lay his hand on the row of
little flaxen heads safely asleep in their little trundle beds, and all
breathing lightly like the airs that bring the clover scents through the
open windows at midsummer.
Then I, that ought to have been strong for the Cause and
rejoiced in these sufferings for the Covenants' sake, would throw myself on
my husband's neck and weep like a bairn. Yes, to my shame I own it! I was no
better than a lassie that has lost her lover. For even I, Janet Hamilton,
the sister of him who stood dividing right from wrong on the day of Bothwell
(by which, they say, the battle was lost), cried and fleeched on Sandy
Gordon not to go away and leave me and the young bairns again–knowing well
that he was bound to go and that speedily. But I declare that I would have
risked prison and death, that but for one night I might wake and reach out
my hand and ken my man beside me in the darkness.
So greatly will mere human love shame a woman and humble
her pride. I, that thought I could be a Jael, to become a mere Ruth, ready
to couch at the feet of Boaz and content to warm his feet in her bosom! On
this too I would have certain humiliatory observes and confessions to make,
but that even now I see my husband coming home from the hill, and I wot well
that he would bid me leave the minister's trade to ministers bred and
ordained, and devote me to looking after my spinning maidens in the kitchen.
Well, at the time I tell of, among these maidens there was
one, Jess Gowans by name, a comely lass enough, but one with a tongue
exceedingly unruly, ever going clip-clip about the doors with the lads, and
heard above all others in the byre and at the winning of the hay. Aye, and a
wench mightily forward in her ways too, so that I have more than once had to
check her for throwing herself in my great silly Sandy's way–who (to his
shame as an elder be it spoken) upon occasion would not disdain to stand and
talk with Jess about other subjects, I opine, than the text at the last
field-preaching in the Linn of Garple.
But though I have ever held Jess Gowans to be a
light-headed and flighty quean, yet I must set it on record here that it was
her woman's quickness which saved my husband's life. And that, little as I
like the lass, I would be the last to deny. It was at the back of six of the
clock and the goodman was sitting quiet by the window talking to me, a bairn
clambering on each knee, when a herd lad came running white-faced from the
field to tell us that the house was closely invested, and that Comet Graham,
the new officer of the garrison at Kenmure, had watchers posted at all the
doors, and a cordon drawn to catch my husband as he came forth–all for the
price that the government had put on his head in the matter of the Rye House
Plot–with which, God be my Judge, he had as little to do as the babe that
can but smile at the bright light of a candle.
Sandy started to his feet in a moment, and drew his
broadsword, which there was not a man in all Galloway could wield save
himself. But to my man it was no more than a brittle stick of sourock grass
that a lad carries between his finger and thumb on Sabbath afternoons when
be goes up Garple side to court his joe.
And I own that I loved to see him so manly and tall, though
I know that there is no pleasure, rightly considered, in the bodily beauty
of any man. Yet for my life I could not help the pride of the eye, even at
that moment. So there (or a space Sandy stood with his sword held fiercely,
ready to run the first through that should come at him.
But it was Jess Gowans that found the way out, and (or the
quickness of her wit she shall have a christening kirtle and a short gown
for each of her baims–aye, even if she have four and twenty–which may well
enough be, (or six in four years is far from canny!
“Haste ye, master," she cried; “doff that long-tailed coat,
and on wi' Jock Webster's auld leather jacket and his working brogues all
overclarted with byre-stuff.”
So in a trice she had him out at the back door of the yard,
with a weather-worn bonnet without a tassel on his head, drawn low upon his
brows. She thrust an axe into hit hand and set him at the hag-clog to cut
firewood, heaping faggots and uncut pieces about him. And hardly was Sandy
drawing his first stroke when the noise of the soldiery was heard at the
gate. They came bustling within the courtyard, and their leader made
straight for the wrangling pair in the middle of the courtyard.
“I tell ye what, silly Jock, Q Jess was crying shrilly,” if
ye canna split the kindling wood better than that, and be sharper aboot it
too, I'll draw a stick stiffly across your lazy back."
And Sandy, pretending to be stupid like one that hath the
sullens, only mumbled and shrugged his shoulders. Which to provoked the
lass, that what did the impudent besom but take up the shank of the
yard-broom and lay it soundly across her master's shoulders–all the time
crying out upon the stupidity of men.
The captain of the soldiers, a man of some humour, stayed
his men with a movement of his hand that he might observe the scene, and
when Jess had given Sandy a good warm jacket she paused and looked about
her. Then suddenly becoming conscious of the presence of observers, as it
seemed, she dropped the broomstick and screamed.
“0 kind sirs," she cried, "dinna shoot me–I was only
correctin' this silly Jock for no cuttin' the firewood cleverly eneuch. The
like o’ him wad try the patience o' Job! “
The soldiers laughed, like the jolly sons of Belial that
many of them are.
"Well done, lass–you were in the right to keep yon lout in
subjection. He seems a sorry knave and you drew many a good stroke across
his lazy back. E'en warm his jacket at your pleasure. But we come here to
look once more for your master, lass–hast seen him?"
"Nay," said Jess, "he does not often come this way. I think
he is over the moors looking the sheep between Knockman and Lochinvar."
"Like enough! " said the captain, "and a clever wench he
has for a maid. We want some one to point out the various rooms of the
house, and the lofts of the out-buildings. We are well advised that your
master is within, and we have sentinels all round, so that he cannot escape
from our hands this time."
"I will come and show you all the hiding-places! " cried
Jess eagerly–so eagerly that I trembled, for the reprobate deceiver seemed
“No, no, my pretty," the soldier returned her answer,
smiling. “I thank you, but I think not. You are somewhat too clever, my
lass, and had better just bide here where you are. We will take this country
Jock. Hey!" he cried, turning to Sandy, who had gone on sturdily splitting
the kindling roots, "drop that axe and come show us the rooms of the castle,
and miss not a nook or corner on your life. Sergeant, set your pistol to his
head, and if he flinch or hesitate, let him have the full dose. It will
sting him worse that this good wench's besom asess his back.”
At this Sandy promptly dropped the cleaver and marched
solemnly indoors with a hulking unconcern, as if the bunting of Whigs were
all the same to him as chopping firewood, both being equally in the day's
work. The soldiers followed him from garret to cellar, while Sandy stolidly
pointed out each place and gave the name of it with sulky acquiescence.
"Kitchen!" he would say stupidly as he came to the door
where Jess was now clattering among the dishes,
The soldiers laughed, as at another time I might have done
"We can see as much for ourselves, man!" said their
commander, somewhat testily.
“Larder!" announced Sandy with unconcern, opening another
door in which a sheep was hanging.
“In the King's name, make that at least a prisoner of war'
" cried the captain, touching the swinging meat with his sword.
And it was the same as he took them round the outbuildings.
“Cart-shed–pig-stye–midden!” he mandated as the captain put
a daintily-scented handkerchief to his nostrils; “would it please you, sir,
to climb in and see that my muter is not hiding there?"
When the search was ended, the officer looked a little
blank. “He seems to have escaped us again," he said; It yet the spy
Mardrochat swore that we had nipped him cleanly this time. II
Then he turned sharply to Sandy.
“Rascal!” he said sternly, with his hand on his raged
collar, “do you know anything of your master'. hiding-place in the woods?
Tell us, or we may take another way with you!”
Sandy lifted an eye to the questioner, as stupid as that of
an ox over a dyke. and slowly shook his head.
“My master,” quoth he, “has no hiding-place that I know of.
I ken well he can always find me when he wants to set me a piece of work–and
that is often enough. And I am sure if he thought you kind gentlemen wanted
to speak with him, he would immediately show himself to you. For such is
ever his way."
The soldiers laughed again, and the officer clapped Sandy
on the back as he marched his men away.
“You are a kindly enough nowt, man,” he said; “take care
you come to no harm in such a rebel service. Better enlist in his Majesty's
dragoons, where they might make something of you, and where at any rate the
drill-sergeant would straighten those bent shoulders of yours.”
" I wad rather hae Jess Gowans' besom across them than the
drum-major's cat-o'-nine-tails!" said Sandy, looking up cunningly.
“There I grant you show your good taste, “smiled the
officer, It for your Jess is both a blythe and a heartsome lass!”
For in some things men are all alike.
Then when all was clear, I would somewhat have reprimanded
Jess for her freedoms with her master. But the daft quean had the assurance
to tell me, her mistress, that unbonny as the master looked with Jock
Webster’s leathern jerkin on him and the besom shank across his back, he
would haft looked infinitely worse lying at the dykeback with his brains
scattered here and there, like a bowl of porridge spilt on the grass.
And when I would have answered the forward minx as she
descended, Sandy cried. “Goodwife, hand your tongue, for let me tell ye that
ye owe your man and the bairns their father to that lass’s ready wit!”
And indeed so true it was, that I thanked Jess that way day
with kind words when we were by ourselves in the byre. I only did not wish
to cocker her up with conceit in the presense of Sandy, who indeed is ever
more careful of interests of well-looking maids than becomes a man in his
But it is not the least of the troubles which continually
beset my soul that I find none-no, not even suffering and contending
ministers like Mr. Shields and Mr. Alexander Peden–wholly clear of this
complicity with deceit. Jess Gowans is but a daft lassie without sense in
the things of the spirit, more careful about the adorning of her frail
tabernacle than concerned about the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.
Sandy, with all his high report as a leader among them that strive for the
truth, is after all a fighter with carnal weapons rather than with
spiritual. Even I myself, tender of conscience though I be and humbly eager
to keep me unspotted from the world, am but a poor weak woman. What wonder
if such as we fall into the error of deceit, in order to shield ourselves or
those that are dear to us?
But that the very watchmen on the towers of Zion–those who
go about her walls and ask, "What of the night?" should stumble and fall!
Woe is me, for Scotland is poor indeed and fallen very low!
But of this matter I have a one tale to tell, and then I am
done. These carnal matters of war, and the strife of men with men do but
keep me from the review of my spiritual welfare. And what is worse, they
keep me from the oft renewing of my covenant engagements undertaken in the
Bass, at Darmead (that well-kenned place), and especially within the blessed
weary prison of Blackness, where with my man Sandy I was confined so long,
in a dark hole without a fireplace or any peep of the light of the sun.
I will tell the thing briefly. Once it chanced that Sandy
was returning in haste to Galloway. It was in the darkest deeps of
oppression, when Clavers and Lag had made of Galloway a hunting field–a
hunting field with few hares and many hounds. For most of those that waited
on the Lord had fled over-seas, and the few who remained were far in the
deserts, darned deep in moss-hags or shivering under some granite block on
the mountains of Minnigaff or Carrick.
Sandy had been in Holland, but was returning as fast as his
feet could carry him. For the thought of his bairns was upon Him–and
especially of another, the youngest, by his father yet all unseen.
My Sandy had grown tired on the long way betwixt Newcastle
and the fair vale of the Glenkens. So on the sides of the Water of Crichope
he had laid him down to sleep a while.
And so behind a whin bush he lay, drowned in sleep and
slack with weariness, when it chanced that a noted King's man–Dalyell is the
name that God will one day damn him by-passed that way riding to a meet of
the men-hunters. As he rode his horse started and reared, for almost had he
stumbled over the body of a sleeping man.
Sandy leaped up, and ere he could draw his sword, Dalyell
called upon him to surrender. For the look of a Wanderer was stamped upon
Sandy. And indeed, man to man there upon the wild moor, to give Alexander
Gordon his due, little was it in his thought to deny it.
Then began a fight, which, but for the fear of the lust of
the eye and the pride of life taking possession of me, I had been glad and
proud to see. For the man on the black horse fought, with the man with his
bare feet on the heather, the cuirassed soldier with the man without armour
defensive, save his ragged coat, or weapon offensive, except the long-bladed
Andrea in his right hand.
And oft it seemed that Sandy Gordon must be overborne, for
Dalyell rode well and fought furiously. But ever Sandy leaped lightly aside,
and ever he kept on the side furthest from his enemy's sword arm, and cut at
his left hand when Dalyell would have drawn his pistols out of the holster
to shoot him down.
For, though often weak as other men in the things that are
highest, few there be that can touch my man at the play with the steel blade
(saving Wat Gordon of Lochinvar alone). I am, I trust, not over proud of
this excelling in worldly warfare. But I set it down here because the tale
must be told, and if I tell it not, none else will.
So Sandy's sword, after they had fought a long while,
appeared to wrap itself about the blade of the King's man, and presently
Dalyell's weapon was jerked out of his hand and fell on the heather. Ere he
could draw pistol or pull trigger, Dalyell was lying beside his sword, and a
foot was on his breast and the shining steel at his throat.
“Quarter!” he cried with what breath was left him.
Then it was that Sandy ought to have remembered the
well-considered motto of our Covenant battles. “No quarter for the active
enemies of the Covenant! " But he was ever a man soft of heart, as most
strong muckle men are. So be listened, instead of slaying the foul
persecutor out of hand, as his duty was.
“And what for thy life?” he asked of his prisoner.
“I will promise thee aught save disloyalty to the King!”
Then Sandy made a pact with 'the man ere he would undertake
to save his life. He made him swear that whenever he should be in command of
a party sent to disperse a conventicle or field meeting, if he should see a
white flag hoisted midway up two banner staffs, he would draw off his men
and permit the worshippers to retire in safety. Because he would then know
that the man who had spared his life was amongst those that worshipped the
Lord in that place.
This at the time seemed but little to promise as against
his life. So Dalyell swore a great oath. And for a while he saw little of
the banner, Sandy being gone to Holland again on a mission. But soon the
promise became known, and, turn he east or west, on Solway-side or
Edinburgh-ward, Dalyell and his troop were confronted with the white flag
half-mast high on its double staves, till in his disgust he cried, “Surely
this Whig must be the Devil himself–for ever going to and fro upon the
earth, and walking up and down in it."
But though doubtless many lives were saved by this mean, to
me it is a thing passing grievous that these many noted preachers and men of
God should have set up the Iying standard which proclaimed as clearly as
spoken word. “Alexander Gordon is here,” instead of the beautiful banner of
all true saints, "No quarter for open enemies of the Covenants. "
But I am well aware that most are against me in this.
Indeed I fear me much that poor Jean Hamilton, and perhaps (I do not know)
her brother Sir Robert, are all that are left faithful to the true faith in
all this weary realm of Scotland. And that is as much as to say in the
Alas, how few there be that shall he saved!
The End of the MSS. written by Jean Hamilton.