HOW the words seem to carry
us far, far away to the land of the mountain and the flood" with its
wild mountain fastnesses, its heather-clad moors, its desolate yet grand
old hills, its clear blue lochs, its splashing mountain streams, its
bewildering mists, and its picturesque landscapes! How beautiful it
looked on that still lovely day in early autumn! The Frith of Cree was
unusually quiet and calm, and reflected back from its bosom the clear
blue sky above it. On the land the bountiful harvest gave gladness and
rejoicing to both masters and servants, while on the sea a peaceful
serenity prevailed. A few ships floated down the frith with a scarcely
perceptible motion, with sails set, looking like some net-work tracery
in a fairy picture. On the shores of the frith stood a little cottage,
consisting of merely a but and a ben. It was humble and very small,
but inhabited by those who had learned that a mans riches consisteth
not in the abundance of things which he possesseth, but rather in that
true contentment of spirit which, while having nothing, yet possesseth
Janet Smith and Nannie Nivison were grandmother and granddaughter. They
had once passed among the rich of the land, but their adherence to the
faith had brought them sorrow, persecution, and distress. Janet was now
upward of eighty years of agefeeble, nearly blind, and bent. She was
entirely dependent upon Nannie, who was just in the bloom of her teens,
young and healthy, and never seemed weary of waiting upon her aged
grandmother, who had filled a mothers place to her when she was left
fatherless and motherless by their cruel persecutors. These two were the
sole inmates of this little cottage on the shores of the Frith of Cree.
As we said, it was a fine autumnal evening, and, attracted by the beauty
of the scene, Nannie sat in the door-way gazing out upon the clear
expanse of waters. Door and window were both open, so that Janet too
could enjoy the look-out. A fishing smack had just gone by, hailing them
in cheery tones, and another was seen in the distance making its way up.
But Nannies thoughts were not on the mariners then, nor on the scene
before her, nor on the loveliness of the evening. She was thinking of a
beloved brother, who was then, as she believed and hoped, far away.
Thomas Nivison was following in the steps of his father as an adherent
to the Covenant. That father had been coolly shot for his refusal to
attend at the parish church, and conform to an episcopalian mode of
worship, and his son Thomas could not forget his murdered blood. On
arriving at mans estate, he openly avowed himself a Covenanter, and
declared his determination to abide by the Presbyterian faith. For this
declaration he was outlawed, and a price set upon his head. Knowing that
it was certain death to remain in his Galloway home, he went forth, none
knew whither, hiding in dens and caves of the earth by day and traveling
by night. Nannie and her grandmother supposed he had gone to America. A
rumor to that effect had reached their ears, and gladly they heard it,
believing that there, at least, he could worship God according to the
dictates of his own conscience. It may seem strange to many of us in the
present day to read this, but not more than two centuries ago, torture,
confiscation of property, imprisonment and death were resorted to, to
force an episcopal church upon the people. The descendants of the
Covenanters, those who signed the solemn league and Covenant, to this
day tell, by country firesides and ingle-stanes, the tales of
persecution and cruelty handed down by their forefathers.
What were ye thinking of, Nannie, my bairn?"
said old Janet, as she noticed a look of anxiety and fear creep over the
girls face. Was Tammas in yer mind then?
Indeed he was, grandmother, replied Nannie. I wonder if he is safe,
or where he is? Mr. Gordon assured me he had sailed for America. Well,
Nannie, child, an if he has gone over the water, what need ye to fear
for him? Sure he will be better far there than ever he will be at home.
Here they will hunt him like a partridge upon the mountains, not daring
to set his foot inside his ain house. There he will be a free man, and
none will dare molest him because he does not choose to listen to a
surpliced priest. Better let him go there than be shot like a dog in
Scotland. I do wish the good Lord had seen fit to take me, that ye might
agone wi9 him, my precious bairn.
Say not so, dear grandmother, said Nannie.
And when I come to think it over, I feel glad that he is gone. I can
not bear the thought of his being shot by those brutal dragoons. I heard
to-day that Douglass and his band are at Wigton, lying in wait for all
May God help all the poor creatures that fall into his hands, said
Janet. I am glad we are living in this secluded spot. Surely no
soldiers would deem it worth while to persecute two helpless women like
And yet they did old Elspeth Wallace; they took away her cow, and tied
lighted matches between her fingers.
I know, replied Janet, with a groan. May the Lord preserve us from
falling into such hands. When he shall come to make inquisition for
blood, surely he will not forget the cry of his humble murdered ones.
Quietly the two retired to rest, little dreaming of any intrusion.
Nannie offered her simple petition, with which were blended remembrances
of her exiled brother, and then tried to compose her mind to rest. About
midnight, however, she became aware of a stealthy, subdued tapping at
the cottage door. Half frightened, she called out, Whos there?
Its me, Nannie; its Tammas.
Oh Tammas! she gasped, and in another moment she admitted him. Old
Janet became aware, by the stir, that something unusual had occurred,
and eagerly inquired the cause. By this time Nannie had struck a light,
and by its aid Thomas revealed himself to his grandmother.
The good Lord help us, was the old womans exclamation. Do ye ken the
awful risk ye are running, Tammas, in coming here?
Yes, grandmother, I do; but home is home, all the world over, and I
could not rest without seeing you both once more.
But, interrupted Nannie, we thought you were gone to America. We
hoped you had arrived there by this time.
I did hope to have been there by this time, replied the fugitive, but
the vessel in which I sailed was wrecked off the Isle of Arran, and
there I have been ever since, helping the fishermen, and getting a days
employment where I could.
How did you come home? inquired Nannie.
I got on board a fishing smack bound for Creetown, and got in there
this morning. I hid myself in the binns all day, and since dark came on
Are you sure no one saw you? said Nannie, fearfully. Her apprehensions
of danger were lively, and the more so because constantly fed by news of
the doings of the soldiery.
Well, I can not be sure, replied Thomas, for just as I was in hiding,
a smugglerI know he wasstumbled over me; and when I taxed him with his
doings he threatened to inform on me for a Covenanter. If he does, I am
done for. Where is Clavers and the rest of them ?
I canna say where Clavers is, replied Janet, but Douglass is at
Wigton with his troop. If that man fulfilled his threat, they could be
here before the morning.
At this Thomas Nivison started up. Poor hunted fugitive! how constantly
present to his mind were capture and death! So would it be to yours and
mine were we driven to hide in the mountains, there to baffle, for
months and years, pursuers who were bent upon taking dear life. Can
they? he said. Then Im a lost man; for as sure as I am here that
fellow has told them by this time. He threatened that he would. Had I
known they were so near as Wigton I would not have come home for the
world. Down he sat again, and the three poor creatures looked at each
other as if mentally considering the best course of action. Nothing but
flight, instant flight, appeared available.
Oh Tammas! groaned the old woman, the Philistines killed your father
without law and mercy, and they willna scruple to do the same wi the
Not they, said Thomas, and glad of the chance to get me. They will
never forget the wound I gave Rory Ferguson at that time. I suppose they
will follow me up till they finish me. Look at me/ and he drew himself
up. I am destitute of money, clothes, and food. I can not dare to
travel by day, but am obliged to spend it crouching in heather, or
covered with damp moss, and that alone is bringing me to a speedy grave.
Well, then, if I live through that, I am liable any day to be a mark for
six or eight bullets. Is it not enough to make any man desperate? And
were it not for the good cause in which I suffer, I could not hold on.
Aye, it is, it is, sobbed Nannie, who, however, had the presence of
mind to pack up, amid her tears, nearly all the food she had in the
house for her brother to take with him.
And now I must be going, said the young man. I thought I could have
staid here tonight, and perhaps for a few days, but I dare not expose
you to the soldiers wrath. It is bad enough for me, but would be ten
times worse for you. Good-by. With these words, he wrung the hands of
his two relatives, and taking up the little bundle of eatables, stepped
out into the dark, still night. Nannie and Janet, after talking awhile
of Thomas, who, until now, they had believed safe in that land of
freedom, America, again tried to compose themselves to rest.
Morning broke, fine and gray. Almost with the first dawn of light Nannie
was up and astir. Just as she was going to the spring, which ran by the
side of the cottage, she was startled by observing a company of soldiers
galloping toward the little pathway leading to their door. The foremost
one accosted her: Wheres Thomas Nivison? Do you know any thing of the
My brother, sir?
Yes, your brother, if it be so. I heard he had a sister somewhere in
these parts, and I have received information that he is lurking about
here. Now, if this is the case, he will have to be unearthed, for we11
pull down every sod in the old cabin yonder but what well find him
I hope you will never find him, replied Nannie, steadily. I can not
tell you where he is.
But you can tell us if he has been here lately, said the officer. Did
he not come home last night?
I can not tell you that. I dare not inform upon my own brother.
Oh, I see. There is a little nest of Covenanters snugly packed in a
quiet corner. We 11 see if we cant burn out the secret, though. Once
more, will you inform me of your brothers whereabouts?
I can not, sir.
Will you tell me when you last saw him? That I can not do, she
replied, firmly, all alive to the dreadful doom which probably awaited
Very well. See to her, a couple of you, there, he said, as he strode
on and passed into the cottage. By the time he reached it, old Janet was
curiously peering forth to see who her visitors were. The sound of
voices in the garden path had aroused her, and hastily dressing herself,
she was just groping her way toward the door when Douglass met her.
Good-morning, Mother Cantaway, he said, with a sneer. Look here; I
want that precious scoundrel of yours, Thomas Nivison. I have the
warrant for his apprehension; and if I catch him its little mercy that
hell get, Ill promise him. Is nt he your grandson?
He is my grandson, replied the old woman, feebly and fearfully. His
father was my own eldest son.
And he was one of your whining, canting Covenanters, brutally remarked
the officer. I remember him well.
And so will God remember those who murdered him, said Janet. Dinna
think because he seems to be quiet, he forgets.
Douglass burst out with an oath, That wont go down with me, old woman.
I received trustworthy information, last night, that this grandson of
yours was seen loitering around here, and of course he would come in.
Now, what time was he here?
I canna satisfy you on that point.
But you shall; and if you wont by fair means you shall by foul. Tell
me at once, which way did he take? what time did he leave? If you tell
me that, you and your granddaughter shall be left unmolested; but if
not and the silence supplied his meaning.
As truly as God is in heaven, said the old woman, slowly and solemnly,
I canna tell ye. What! do ye no ken that it would be against nature for
me to inform agin my ain flesh and bluid ? I canna tell ye.
You mean to say that you can tell me, but wont, Douglass vociferated.
Is not that it?
What I ken about Tammas Nivison I canna tell ye or any body else,
Very well, then, take the consequences,and he strode away to his
soldiers. Again he tried to extract the facts relating to Thomas recent
visit from the trembling girl, but in vain. Neither persuasion nor
threats availed with her. Douglass rage was unconquerable. He seemed
ready to use any means to attain his end. After conferring with a
subordinate officer for a few moments, he issued orders for two stakes
to be driven into the frith, at unequal distances from the shore. The
tide being out, the soldiers experienced but little difficulty in
obeying this command. He watched them perform it, then turned again to
Janet, who had remained all this time inside the cottage door, asking as
often as she dared for Nannie. The poor girl witnessed these
preparations with wonder and terror. Now, old woman, he said, I have
had a couple of stakes driven down into the sand yonder. I shall just
tie you to one and that girl outside to the other, unless you tell me
all you know of Thomas Nivison. If you are tied there you will sure-4 ly
be drowned as the tide advances. Choose quickly.
I can die, but I canna tell" she replied firmly.
Then die" he said, as he turned on his heel. In ten minutes more the
poor old creature was secured to a post. It was placed so far out that
she could feel the first flow of the tide. Even then it had commenced
coming in. Now it was Nannies turn. Weeping and beseeching, she saw her
grandmother fastened to the stake, but she would not give way. She would
not inform upon her brother. No, she would sooner die. 80 she had to
die. She was led out to the nearest stake, and securely fastened to it.
Douglass anticipated that the sight of her grandmothers death would
have terrified her into a confession, but the sequel proved how little
he understood a womans love or a womans faith. Weak though she was in
physical strength, compared with either of those brawny troopers, she
was yet far beyond them in moral courage and Christian confidence. She
knew in whom she had believed. The tide was now foiling in; ever and
anon a dragoon would ride out to the old woman to question her, but she
was firm. Beside, she felt that she was going to her Savior, to the
mansions he had prepared for her. Earth had no attraction now. Presently
her head sank upon her bosom. Janet Smith gave up the ghost, literally
chilled to death.
Nannie watched her grandmother die, and then calmly waited her own fate.
By and by the waters rose, higher, higher, higherstill they come, until
they reached her chest. Douglass himself rode out to her. His
questioning was, however, in vain. She said she could die, but she could
not inform. With an oath he left her. Presently the waters reached her
chin. They played and rippled round her mouth. It would not be long now.
One of the dragoons, less brutalized than the others, rode out to her,
vainly hoping to save her life. Although he could get nothing definite
from her lips, he called oat to his commander, Oh, sir, she has said it
"Said what? Has she told where her brother is?
No, no, repeated the drowning girl; no, no, never, nev and the
waves closed her eyes in death. A few minutes struggling, a few bubbles
on the surface, and Nannie Nivison was no more of earth. You may say,
readers, could these things be? and almost question the veracity of
the story. You need not. Scottish history attests the truth of the
circumstance, and the annals of the Covenanters preserve the honored
names of Janet Smith and Nannie Nivison to this day. The poor fugitive
Thomas, for whose sake his sister and grandmother sacrificed their
lives, after many hair-breadth escapes from the hands of his enemies,
succeeded in reaching America, where, for several years, he lived ere he
learned the sad tidings of his grandmothers and sisters dreadful
death. Oh how much greater love should we show to our Savior! how much
greater zeal in his service, who hath placed us in these peaceful times,
where we can sit under our own vine and fig-tree, none daring to molest
or make us afraid!