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Wilson's Border Tales
The Adopted Son
A Tale of the Times of the Covenanters - Chapter 2

More than ten years had passed since Philip had left the house of John Brydone. The Commonwealth was at an end, and the second Charles had been recalled; but exile had not taught him wisdom, nor the fate of his father discretion. He madly attempted to be the lord and ruler of the people’s conscience, as well as King of Britain. He was a libertine with some virtues—a bigot without religion. In the pride, or rather folly of his heart, he attempted to force Prelacy upon the people of Scotland; and he let his blood-hounds loose, to hunt the followers of the Covenant from hill to hill, to murder them on their own hearths, and, with the blood of his victims, to blot out the word conscience from the vocabulary of Scotchmen. The Covenanters sought their God in the desert and on the mountains which he had reared; they worshipped him in the temples which his own hands had framed; and there the persecutor sought them, the destroyer found them, and the sword of the tyrant was bathed in the blood of the worshipper! Even the family altar was profaned; and, to raise the voice of prayer and praise in the cottage to the King of kings, was held to be as treason against him who professed to represent him on earth. At this period, too, Graham of Claverhouse—whom some have painted as an angel, but whose actions were worthy of a fiend—at the head of his troopers, who were called by the profane, the ruling elders of the kirk, was carrying death and cold-blooded cruelty throughout the land.

Now, it was on a winter night in the year 1677, a party of troopers were passing near the house of old John Brydone, and he was known to them not only as being one who was a defender of the Covenant, but also as one who harboured the preachers, and whose house was regarded as a conventicle.

"Let us rouse the old psalm-singing heretic who lives here, from his knees," said one of the troopers.

"Ay, let us stir him up," said the sergeant, who had the command of the party; "he is an old offender, and I don’t see we can make a better night’s work than drag him along, bag and baggage, to the Captain. I have heard as how it was he that betrayed our commander’s kinsman, the gallant Montrose."

"Hark!—hark!—softly! softly!" said another, "let us dismount—hear how the nasal drawl of the conventical moans through the air! My horse pricks his ears at the sound already. We shall catch them in the act."

Eight of the party dismounted, and, having given their horses in charge of four of their comrades, who remained behind, walked on tiptoe to the door of the cottage. They heard the words given, and sung—

"When cruel men against us rose
To make of us their prey."

"Why, they are singing treason," said one of the troopers. "What more do we need?"

The sergeant placed his forefinger on his lips, and, for about ten minutes they continued to listen. The song of praise ceased, and a person commenced to read a chapter. They heard him also expound to his hearers as he read.

"It is enough!" said the sergeant; and, placing their shoulders against the door, it was burst open "You are our prisoner!" exclaimed the troopers, each man grasping a sword in his right hand, and a pistol in the left.

"It is the will of Heaven!" said the Rev. Mr. Duncan; for it was him who had been reading and expounding the Scriptures; "but, if ye stretch forth your hands against a hair o’ our heads, HE, without whom a sparrow cannot fall to the ground, shall remember it against ye at the great day o’ reckoning, when the trooper shall be stripped of his armour, and his right hand shall be a witness against him!"

The soldiers burst into a laugh of derision. "No more of your homily, revered oracle," said the sergeant; "I have an excellent recipe for short sermons here; uttered another Word, and you shall have it!" The troopers laughed again, and the sergeant; as he spoke, held his pistol in the face of the preacher.

Besides the clergyman there were in the room old John Brydone, his son Daniel, and Mary.

"Well, old greybeard," said the sergeant, addressing John, "you have been reported as a dangerous and disaffected Presbyterian knave, as we find you to be; you are also accused of being a harbourer and an accomplice of the preachers of sedition; and, lo! we have found that also your house is used as a conventicle. We have caught you in the act, and we shall take every soul of you as evidence against yourselves. So come along, old boy—I should only be doing my duty by blowing your brains against the wall; but that is a ceremony which our commander may wish to see performed in his own presence!"

"Sir," said John, "I neither fear ye nor your armed men. Tak me to the bluidy Claverhouse, if ye will, and at the day o’ judgment it shall be said— ‘Let the murderers o’ John Brydone stand forth!"

"Let us despatch them at once," said one of the troopers. "Nay," said the sergeant.; "bind them together, and drive them before us to the Captain: I don’t know but he may wish to do justice to them with his own hand."

"The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel," groaned Mr. Duncan.

Mary wrung her hands—"Oh, spare my father!" she cried.

"Wheesht, Mary!" said the old man; "as soon wad a camel pass through the eye o’ a needle, as ye wad find compassion in the hands o’ these men!"

"Bind the girl and the preacher together," said the sergeant.

"Nay, by your leave, sergeant," interrupted one of the troopers, "I wouldn’t be the man to lift a hand against a pretty girl like that, if you would give me a regiment for it."

"Ay, ay, Macdonald," replied the sergeant—"this comes of your serving under that canting fellow, Lieutenant Mowbray—he has no love for the service; and confound me if I don’t believe he is half a Roundhead in his heart. Tie the hands of the girl, I command you."

"I will not!" returned Macdonald; "and hang me if any one else shall!"—And, with his sword in his hand, he placed himself between Mary and his comrades.

"If you do not bind her hands, I shall cause others to bind yours," said the sergeant.

"They may try that who dare!" returned the soldier, who was the most powerful man of the party; "but what I’ve said I’ll stand to."

"You shall answer for this to-morrow," said the sergeant, sullenly, who feared to provoke a quarrel with the trooper.

"I will answer it," replied the other.

John Brydone, his son Daniel, and the Rev. Mr. Duncan, were bound together with strong cords, and driven from the house. They were fastened, also, to the horses of the troopers; and, as they were dragged along, the cries and the lamentations of Mary followed them; and the troopers laughed at her wailing, or answered her cries with mockery, till the sound of her grief became inaudible in the distance, when again they imitated her cries, to harrow up the feelings of her father.

Claverhouse, and a party of his troops, were then in the neighbourhood of Traquair; and before that man, who knew not what mercy was, John Brydone, and his son, and the preacher, were brought. It was on the afternoon of the day following that on, which they had been made prisoners, that Claverhouse ordered them to be brought forth. He was sitting, with wine before him, in the midst of his officers; and amongst them was Lieutenant Mowbray, whose name was alluded to by the sergeant.

"Well, knaves!" began Claverhouse, "ye have been singing, praying, preaching, and holding conventicles.— Do ye know how Graham of Claverhouse rewards such rebels?"

As the prisoners entered, Lieutenant Mowbray turned away his head, and placed his hand upon his brow.

"Sir," said John, addressing Claverhouse, "I’m neither knave nor rebel—I hae lifted up my voice to the God o’ my faithers, according to my conscience; and, unworthy as I am o’ the least o’ His benefits, for threescore years and ten He has been my shepherd and deliverer, and, if it be good in His sight, He will deliver me now. My trust is in Him, and I fear neither the frown nor the sword o’ the persecutor."

"Have done, grey-headed babbler!" cried Claverhouse.

Lieutenant Mowbray, who still sat with his face from the prisoners, raised his handkerchief to his eyes.

"Captain," said Mr. Duncan, "there’s a day coming when ye shall stand before the great Judge, as we now stand before you; and when the remembrance o’ this day, and the blood o’ the righteous which ye has shed, shall be written with letters o’ fire on yer ain conscience, and recorded against ye; and ye shall call upon the rocks and mountains to cover ye"—

"Silence!" exclaimed Claverhouse. "Away with them!" he added, waving his hand to his troopers—"shoot them before sunrise!"

Shortly after the prisoners had been conveyed from the presence of Claverhouse, Lieutenant Mowbray withdrew; and having sent for the soldier who had interfered on behalf of Mary—"Macdonald," he began, "you were present yesterday when the prisoners, who are to die to-morrow, were taken. Where did you find them?"

"In the old man’s house," replied the soldier; and he related all that he had seen, and how he had interfered to save the daughter. The heart of the officer was touched, and he walked across his room, as one whose spirit was troubled. "You did well, Macdonald!" said he, at length—"You did well!" He was again silent, and again he added—"And you found the preacher in the old man’s house—you found HIM there!" There was an anxious wildness in the tone of the lieutenant.

"We found him there," replied the soldier.

The officer was again silent—again he thoughtfully paced across the floor of his apartment. At length, turning to the soldier, he added—"I can trust you, Macdonald. When night has set in, take your horse and ride to the house of the elder prisoner, and tell his daughter—the maiden whom you saved—to have horses in readiness for her father, her brother, and—and her—her husband," said the lieutenant, faltering as he spoke; and when he had pronounced the word husband, he again paused, as though his heart was full. The soldier was retiring—"Stay," added the officer, "tell her, her father, her brother, and— the preacher, shall not die; before day-break she shall see them again; and give her this ring as a token that ye speak truly."

He took a ring from his finger, and gave it into the hands of the soldier.

It was drawing towards midnight. The troops of Claverhouse were quartered around the country, and his three prisoners, still bound to each other, were confined in a small farm-house, from which the inhabitants had been expelled.

They could hear the heavy and measured tread of the sentinel pacing backward and forward in front of the house; the sound of his footsteps seemed to measure out the moments between them and eternity. After they had sung a psalm and prayed together—"I am auld," said John Brydone, "and I fear not to die, but rather glory to lay down my life for the great cause—but, oh, Daniel! My heart yearns that yer bluid also should be shed—had they only spared ye, to hae been a protector to oor puir Mary!— or had I no driven Philip frae the house"—

"Mention not the name of the cast-away," said the minister.

"Dinna mourn, faither," answered Daniel, "an arm mair powerful than that of man will be her supporter and protector." -

"Amen," responded Mr. Duncan. "She has aye been cauld to me, and has turned the ear o’ the deaf adder to the voice o’ my affection; but even noo, when my thochts should be elsewhere, the thocht o’ her burns in my heart like a coal o’ my fire."

While they yet spoke, a soldier, wrapt up in a cloak, approached the sentinel, and said—

"It is a cold night, brother."

"Piercing," replied the other, striking his feet upon the ground.

"You are welcome to a mouthful of my spirit-warmer," added the first, taking a bottle from beneath his cloak.

"Thank ye!" rejoined the sentinel: "but I don’t know your voice. You don’t belong to our corps, I think."

"No," answered the other; "but it matters not for that—brother soldiers should give and take."

The sentinel took the bottle and raised it to his lips; he drank, and swore the liquor was excellent.

"Drink again," said the other; "you are welcome; it is as good as a double cloak around you." And the sentinel drank again.

"Good night, comrade," said the trooper. "Good night," replied the sentinel; and the stranger passed on.

Within half an hour, the same soldier, still muffled up in his cloak, returned. The sentinel had fallen against the door of the house, and was fast asleep. The stranger proceeded to the window—he raised it—he entered. "Fear nothing," he whispered to the prisoners, who were bound to staples that had been driven into the opposite wall of the room. He cut the cords with which their hands and their feet were fastened.

"Heaven reward ye for the mercy o’ yer heart, and the courage o’ this deed," said John.

"Say nothing," whispered their deliverer, "but follow me."

Each man crept from the window, and the stranger again closed it behind them. "Follow me, and speak not," whispered he again; and, walking at his utmost speed, he conducted them for several miles across the hills; but still he spoke not. Old John marvelled at the manner of their deliverer; and he marvelled yet more when he led them to Philiphaugh, and to the very spot where, more than thirty years before, he had found the child on the bosom of its dead mother; and there the stranger stood still, and, turning round to those he had delivered—"Here we part," said he; "hasten to your own house, but tarry not, You will find horses in readiness, and flee into Westmoreland; inquire there for the person to whom this letter is addressed; he will protect you." And he put a sealed letter into the hands of the old man, and, at the same time he placed a purse in the hands of Daniel, saying, "This will bear your expenses by the way—Farewell!—farewell!" They would have detained him, but he burst away, again exclaiming, as he ran—"Farewell!"

"This is a marvellous deliverance," said John; "it is a mystery, an’ for him to leave us on this spot—on this very spot—where puir Philip"—And here the heart of the old man failed him.

We need not describe the rage of Claverhouse, when he found, on the following day, that the prisoners had escaped; and how he examined and threatened the sentinels with death, and cast suspicious glances upon Lieutenant Mowbray; but he feared to accuse him, or quarrel with him openly.

As John, with the preacher and his son, approached the house, Mary heard their footsteps, and rushed out to meet them, and fell weeping upon her father’s neck. "My bairn!" cried the old man; "we are restored to ye as from the dead! Providence has dealt wi’ us in mercy an’ in mystery."

His four farm horses were in readiness for their flight; and Mary told him how the same soldier who had saved her from sharing their fate, had come to their house at midnight, and assured her that they should not die, and to prepare for their flight. "And," added she, "in token that he who had sent him would keep his promise towards you, he gave me this ring, requesting me to wear it for your deliverer’s sake."

"It is Philip’s ring!" cried the old man, striking his hand before his eyes, "it is Philip’s ring!"

"My Philip’s!" exclaimed Mary; "oh, then, he lives! he lives!"

The preacher leaned his brow against the walls of the cottage and groaned.

"It is still a mystery," said the old man, yet pressing his hands before his eyes in agony; "but it is—it maun be him. It was Philip that saved us—that conducted us to the very spot where I found him! But, oh," he added, "I wud rather I had died, than lived to ken that he has drawn his sword in the ranks o’ the oppressor, and to murder the followers after the truth."

"Oh, dinna think that o’ him, father!" exclaimed Mary; "Philip wudna—he couldna draw his sword but to defend the helpless!"

Knowing that they had been pursued and sought after, they hastened their flight to England, to seek the refuge to which their deliverer had directed them. But as they drew near to the Borders, the Rev. Mr Duncan suddenly exclaimed: "Now, here we must part—part for ever! It is not meet that I should follow ye farther. When the sheep are pursued by the wolves, the shepherd should not flee from them. Farewell, dear friends—and, oh! farewell to you, Mary! Had it been sinful to hae loved you, I would hae been a guilty man this day—for, oh! beyond a’ that is under the sun, ye hae been dear to my heart, and your remembrance has mingled wi’ my very devotions. But I maun root it up, though, in so doing, I tear my very heartstrings; Fareweel! fareweel! Peace be wi’ you; and may ye a’ be happier than will ever be the earthly lot o’ Andrew Duncan!"

The tears fell upon Mary’s cheeks; for, though she could not love, she respected the preacher, and she esteemed him for his worth. Her father and brother entreated him to accompany them. "No, no!" he answered; "I see how this flight will end. Go—there is happiness in store for you; but my portion is with the dispersed and the persecuted." And he turned and left them.

Lieutenant Mowbray was disgusted with the cold-blooded butchery of the service in which he was engaged; and, a few days after the escape of John Brydone and his son, he threw up his commission and proceeded to Dumfriesshire. It was a Sabbath evening, and near nightfall; he had wandered into the fields alone, for his spirit was heavy. Sounds of rude laughter broke upon his ear; and, mingled with the sound of laughter, was a voice as if in earnest prayer. He hurried to a small wood from whence ths sounds proceeded, and there he beheld four troopers, with their pistols in their hands, and before them was a man who appeared to be a preacher, bound to a tree.

"Come, old Psalmody!" cried one of the troopers, raising his pistol, and addressing their intended victim, who was engaged in prayer; "make ready—we have other jobs on hand—and we gave you time to speak a prayer, but not to preach."

Mowbray rushed forward. He sprang between the troopers and their victim. "Hold! ye murderers, hold!" he exclaimed. "Is it thus that ye disgrace the name of soldiers by washing your hands in the blood of the innocent?"

They knew Mowbray, and they muttered, "You are no officer of ours now; he is our prisoner, and our orders are to shoot every conventical knave who falls into our hands."

"Shame on him who would give such orders," said Mowbray; "and shame on those who would execute them., There," he added, "there is money; I will ransom him."

With an imprecation, they took the money that was offered them, and left their prisoner to Mowbray. He approached the tree where they had bound him—he started back—it was the Rev. Andrew Duncan.

"Rash man!" exclaimed Mowbray, as he again stepped forward to unloose the cords that bound him. "Why have ye again cast yourself into the hands of the men who seek your blood? Do ye hold your life so cheap, that, in one week, ye would risk to sell it twice? Why did not ye, with your father, your brother, and your wife, flee into England, where protection was promised?"

"My father!—my brother!—my wife!—mine!—mine!" repeated the preacher wildly. "There are no such names for my tongue to utter!—none!—none to drop their love as morning dew upon the solitary soul o’ Andrew Duncan!"

"Are they murdered?" exclaimed Mowbray, suddenly, in a voice of agony.

"Murdered!" said the preacher, with increased bewilderment. "What do ye mean?—or wha do ye mean?"

"Tell me," cried Mowbray, eagerly, "are not you the husband of Mary Brydone?"

"Me!—me!" cried the preacher. "No, no!—I loved her as the laverock loves the blue lift in spring, and her shadow cam between me and my ain soul; but she wadna hearken unto my voice; she is nae wife o’ mine."

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed Mowbray; and he clasped his hands together.

It is necessary, however, that we now accompany John Brydone and his family in their flight into Westmoreland. The letter which their deliverer had put into their hands was addressed to a Sir Frederic Mowbray; and, when they arrived at the house of the old knight, the heart of the aged Covenanter almost failed him for a moment; for it was a proud-looking mansion, and those whom he saw around wore the dress of the Cavaliers.

"Who are ye?" inquired the servant who admitted them to the house.

"Deliver this letter into the hands of your master," said the Covenanter; "our business is with him."

"It is the handwriting of Master Edward," said the servant, as he took the letter into his hand; and, having conducted them to a room, he delivered it to Sir Frederic.

In a few minutes the old knight hurried into the room where the Covenantor, and his son and his daughter stood.

"Welcome, thrice welcome," he cried, grasping the hand of the old man; "here you shall find a resting-place and a home, with no one to make you afraid."

He ordered wine and food to be placed before them, and he sat down with them.

Now John marvelled at the kindness of his host, and his heart burned within him—and, in the midst of all, he thought of the long lost Philip, and how he had driven him from his house—and his cheek glowed and his heart throbbed with anxiety. His son marvelled also, and Mary’s bosom swelled with strange thoughts—tears gathered in her eyes, and she raised the ring that had been the token of her father’s deliverance to her lips.

"Oh, sir," said the Covenanter, "pardon the freedom o’ a plain blunt man, and o’ ane whose bosom is burning wi’ anxiety;—but there is a mystery, there is somethsng attending my deliverance, and the letter, and your kindness, that I canna see through—and I hope, and I fear—and I canna—I daurna comprehend how it is!—but, as it were, the past—the lang bygane past, and the present, appear to hae met thegither! It is makin’ my head dizzy wi’ wonder, for there seems in a’ this a something that concerns you, and that concerns me, and one that I mayna name."

"Your perplexity," said Sir Frederic, "may be best relieved, by stating to you, in a few words, one or two circumstances of my history. Having, from family affliction, left this country, until within these four years, I held a commission in the army of the Prince of Orange. I was present at the battle of Seneff; it was my last engagement; and in the regiment which I commanded, there was a young Scottish volunteer, to whose bravery, during the battle, I owed my life. In admiration and gratitude for his conduct, I sent for him after the victory, to present him to the prince. He came. I questioned him respecting his birth and his family. He was silent—he burst into tears. I urged him to speak. He said, of his real name he knew nothing—of his family he knew nothing—all that he knew, was, that he had been the adopted son of a good and a Christian man, who had found him on Philiphaugh, on the lifeless bosom of his mother!"

"Merciful Heaven! my puir, injured Philip!" exclaimed the aged Covenantor, wringing his hands.

"My brother!" cried Daniel, eagerly. Mary wept.

"Oh, sir!" continued Sir Frederic, "words cannot paint my feelings as he spoke! I had been at the battle of Philiphaugh! and, not dreaming that a conflict was at hand, my beloved wife, with our infant boy, my little Edward, had joined me but the day before. At the first noise of Lesly’s onset, I rushed from our tent—I left my loved ones there!--our army was stricken with confusion—I never beheld them again! I grasped the hand of the youth—I gazed in his face as though my soul would have leaped from my eyelids. ‘Do not deceive me!’ I cried; and he drew from his bosom the ring and the bracelets of my Elizabeth!"

Here the old knight paused and wept, and the tears ran down the cheeks of John Brydone, and the cheeks of his children.

They had not been many days in Westmoreland, and they were seated around the hospitable hearth of the good knight in peace, when two horsemen arrived at the door.

"It is our friend, Mr. Duncan, and a stranger!" said the Covenanter, as he beheld them from the window.

"They are welcome—for your sake, they are welcome." said Sir Frederic; and while he yet spoke, the strangers entered. "My son, my son!" he continued, and hurried forward to meet him.

"Say also your daughter!" said Edward Mowbray, as he approached towards Mary, and pressed her to his breast.

"Philip!—my own Philip!" exclaimed Mary, and speech failed her.

"My brother!" said Daniel. "He was dead and is alive again—he was lost and is found," exclaimed John. "O Philip, man! Do you forgi’e me?"

The adopted son pressed the hand of his foster-father.

"Yes, he forgives you!" exclaimed Mr. Duncan; "and he has forgiven me. When we were in prison and in bonds waiting for death, he risked his life to deliver us, and he did deliver us; and a second time he has rescued me from the sword of the destroyer, and from the power of the men who thirsted for my blood. He is no enemy o’ the Covenant—he is the defender o’ the persecuted; and the blessing o’ Andrew Duncan is all he can bequeath for a life twice saved, upon his deliverer, and Mary Brydone."

Need we say that Mary bestowed her hand upon Edward Mowbray; but in the fondness of her heart she still called him "her Philip!"

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