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Book of Scottish Story
Grizel Cochrane

Chapter I

The age which this noble woman adorned with her life and heroic actions was that gloomy one extending between the Restoration and Revolution (from 1660 to 1688), when the Scottish nation suffered under a cruel oppression, on account of their conscientious scruples respecting the existing forms of Church and State. Three insurrections, more bold than wise, marked the impatience of the Scots under this bloody rule ; but it was with the last solely that Grizel Cochrane was connected.

Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, the father of our heroine, was the second son of the first Earl of Dundonald, and the ancestor of the present line of that noble and ingenious family. He was a distinguished friend of Sidney, Russell, and other illustrious men, who signalised themselves in England by their opposition to the court; and he had so long endeavoured in vain to procure some improvement in the national affairs, that he at length began to despair of his country altogether, and formed the design of emigrating to America. Having gone to London in 1683, with a view to a colonising expedition to South Carolina, he became involved in the deliberations of the Whig party, which at that time tended towards a general insurrection in England and Scotland, for the purpose of forcing an alteration of the royal councils, and the exclusion of the Duke of York from the throne. In furtherance of this plan, Sir John pledged himself to assist the Earl of Argyle in raising the malcontents in Scotland. This earl was, if not the acknowledged head of the party in that kingdom, at least the man of highest rank who espoused its interests.

By the treachery of some of his subordinate agents, this design was detected prematurey; and while some were unfortunately taken and executed, among whom were Sidney and Lord Russell, the rest fled from the kingdom. Of the latter number were the Earl of Argyle, Sir John Cochrane, and Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth,—the last a patriot rivalling Cochrane in talent and purity of motives, and also, like him, destined to experience the devotedness of a daughter’s love. The fugitives found safety in Holland, where they remained in peace till the death of Charles the Second, in February 1635, when the Duke of York, the object politically of their greatest detestation, became king. It was then determined to invade Scotland with a small force, to embody the Highland adherents of Argyle with the west country Presbyterians, and, marching into England, to raise the people as they moved along, and not rest till they had produced the desired melioration of the State.

The expedition sailed in May, but the Government was enabled to take such precautions as, from the very first, proved a complete frustration to their designs. Argyle lingered timidly in his own country, and finally, against the advice of Cochrane and Hume, who were his chief officers, made some unfortunate movements, which ended in the entire dissolution of his army, and his own capture and death. While this well-meaning but weak nobleman committed himself to a low disguise, in the vain hope of effecting his escape, Sir John Cochrane and Sir Patrick Hume headed a body of 200 men, formed out of the relics of the army, and bravely resolved, even with that small force, to attempt the accomplishment of their original intention—namely, a march into England. They accordingly crossed the Clyde into Renfrewshire, where they calculated on obtaining some reinforcement. The boats on this occasion being insufficient to transport the whole at once, the first party, headed by the two patriots, was obliged to contend, on the opposite bank of the river, with a large squadron of militia, while the boats returned for the remainder; after which the united force caused their opponents to retreat. The militia returned, however, in greater force, and renewed the assault at a place called Muirdykes, in the parish of Lochwinnoch. They were now commanded by Lord Ross and a Captain Clellan, and amounted to two troops, while Sir john Cochrane’s men had decreased to seventy in number.

In this predicament they were called on by the royal troops to lay down their arms, and surrender themselves prisoners. But preferring the risk of death on the field to the tender mercies of a vindictive foe, they rejected the terms with disdain. and, entering a sheepfold, used its frail sod walls as a defence against the furious attack of the enemy, whom, after a keen conflict, in which every man fought hand to hand with his opponents, they at length succeeded in beating off, with the loss of their captain and some other men, while Lord Ross was wounded. Cochrane, however, soon after learned that the enemy was returning with a great reinforcement, and fearing that he could not much longer defend himself on the field, retired with his troops to a neighbouring wilderness or morass, where he dismissed them, with the request that each man would provide the best way he could for his own safety. For himself, having received two severe contusions in the body during the engagement, and being worn out with fatigue, he sought refuge in the house of his uncle, Mr Gavin Cochrane of Craigmuir, who lived at no great distance from the place of encounter. This gentleman, however, as it unfortunately happened, had married a sister of the Captain Clellan killed in the late battle, and, filled with revenge for the death of her brother, this lady secretly informed against her guest, who was immediately seized and removed to Edinburgh, where, after being paraded through the streets, bound and bareheaded, and, conducted by the common hangman, he was lodged in the Tolbooth on the 3d of Ju1y 1685, there to await his trial as a traitor. The day of trial came, and he was condemned to death, in spite of the most strenuous exertions of his aged father, the Earl of Dundonald, who, having received his title from the hands of Charles the Second, had, from motives of honour, never conspired against him.

Where is the tongue that can express all the secret and varied anguish that penetrates the yearning heart, when about to leave for ever the warm precincts of mortality, to quit the loving charities of life, and to have all the cords which bound it to existence suddenly torn asunder? Natural strength of mind may suffice to conceal much of this mortal conflict, or even to hide it altogether from the eye of the careless observer, but still it is at work within, and grapples in deadly struggle with the spirit.

Such was the state of Cochrane’s mind on the night of his condemnation, when left once more to the gloomy solitude of his prison. It was not the parting stroke of death he feared, however sharp. He was a father, loving and beloved ; and the thoughts of the sorrow his children were doomed to suffer on his account, wrung his heart, and burning tears, which his own fate could not have called forth, were shed for them. No friend or relative had been permitted to see him from the time of his apprehension; but it was now signified to him, that any of his family that he desired to communicate with might be allowed to visit him. Anxious, however, to deprive his enemies of an opportunity of an accusation against his sons, he immediately conveyed to them his earnest entreaties, and indeed commands, that they should refrain from availing themselves of this leave till the night before his execution. This was a sacrifice which it required his utmost fortitude to make ; and it had left him to a sense of the most desolate loneliness, insomuch that when, late in the evening, he heard his prison door unlocked, he lifted not his eyes towards it, imagining that the person who entered could only be the jailer, who was particularly repulsive in his countenance and manner. What, then, was his surprise and momentary delight, when he beheld before him his only daughter, and felt her arms entwining his neck! Yet, when he looked on her face, and saw the expression it bore of mute despairing agony, more fearful than the most frantic manifestations of misery, and marked her pale cheeks, which no longer bloomed with the tints of health and happiness, and felt the cold dampness of her brow, he thought himself wrong for having given way for an instant to the joy her presence had created, and every other sensation fled before the fear of what might be the consequence to her of this interview. He had no sooner, however, expressed his feelings on this subject, than she became sensible that, in order to palliate his misery, she must put a strong curb upon her own, and in a short time was calm enough to enter into conversation with her father upon the dismal subject of his present situation, and to deliver a message from the old earl, her grandfather, by which he was informed that an appeal had been made from him to the king, and means taken to propitiate Father Peters, his Majesty’s confessor, who, it was well known, often dictated to him in matters of State. It appeared evident, however, by the turn which their discourse presently took, that neither father nor daughter was at all sanguine in their hopes from this negotiation. The Earl of Argyle had been executed but a few days before, as had also several of his principal adherents, though men of less consequence than Sir john Cochrane ; and it was therefore improbable that he, who had been so conspicuously active in the insurrection, should be allowed to escape the punishment which it was now in their power to inflict. Besides all this, the treaty to be entered into with Father Peters would require some time to adjust, and meanwhile the arrival of the warrant for execution must every day be looked for.

Under these circumstances, several days passed, each of which found Miss Grizel Cochrane an inmate of her father’s prison for as many hours as she was permitted. During these interviews of the father and daughter, while heart clung unto heart, they reaped all the consolation which an undisguised knowledge of the piety and courage of each could bestow. Still, after such intercourse, the parting scene which they anticipated seemed more and more dreadful to think of; and, as the daughter looked on the pale and dejected countenance of her parent, her bosom was penetrated. with the sharpest pangs. The love of her father might be termed a component part of her nature. She had cherished this filial love ever since she possessed a consciousness of thought, and it was now strong and absorbing, in proportion to the danger in which he stood. Grizel Cochrane was only at that period eighteen years old; but it is the effect of such perilous times as those in which she lived to sober the reckless spirit of youth, and make men and women of children. She had, however, a natural strength of character, that would, on all extraordinary occasions, have displayed itself without such a tuition, and which, being now joined with what she conceived the necessity of the case, rendered her capable of a deed which has caused her history to vie with that of the most distinguished of heroines.

Ever since her father’s condemnation, her daily and nightly thoughts had dwelt on the fear of her grandfather’s communication with the king’s confessor being rendered unavailable, for want of the time necessary for enabling the friends in London, to whom it was trusted, to make their application, and she boldly determined to execute a plan, whereby the arrival of the death warrant would be retarded. A short time, therefore, before it was expected by the council in Edinburgh, she thought it necessary, in her visit to her father, to mention that some urgent affair would prevent her from seeing him again for a few days. Alarmed at this, and penetrating her design of effecting somewhat in his favour, he warned her against attempting impossibilities.

"Nothing is impossible to a determined mind,” said she; "and fear nothing for me.”

"But the inexperience of youth, my child," he replied, "may involve you in danger and in blame; and did you but know the characters of those you must encounter, while vainly pleading for your father’s life, you would fear, as I do, the sullying of your fair fame.”

"I am a Cochrane, my father!” said the heroic girl—an answer how brief, but to him how expressive! He could say no more; he beheld in his child, so young, so beautiful, and so self-devoted, all the virtues of her race combined, and he felt for the moment that the courage she had prayed for would be granted to carry her through the undertaking she meditated, whatever that might be. She felt grateful to her father that he did not urge her further; but she trembled as she turned, at her departure, to catch another look of those loved and venerated features: for his eye appeared to be following her with a parting expression, which seemed to say it was the last fond look.

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