Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Scottish Stories from the Treasure Chest
Andy McLeod

THE events I am about to relate occurred in Scotland during the year known in her annals of covenanting persecution as “the black year,” of 1665, on account of the number of godly men who then sealed their testimony with their blood, and the unoffending women and children who proved steadfast to the death.

Alexander, or, as he was usually called, Andy McLeod, was at that time barely ten years of age. He had been left an orphan too young to remember either of his parents, but the child found a home and protector in his grandfather, Adam McLeod, who, in little better circumstances than the peasant class around him, farmed some land and owned a decent dwelling-house. Adam was a man of sterling worth and rigid principles, and was likewise strongly attached to the righteous cause for which numbers of his countrymen were then suffering, by their own martyr experience, literally fulfilling the words of the apostle concerning the early Christian Church, “They wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

This cottage, situated on the edge of a deep glen or valley, and surrounded by lofty hills, was often resorted to by the persecuted men who, amid the howling of a hurricane or the wildness of a snow-storm, ventured to enjoy a brief communion with each other before the blazing ingle under Adam McLeod’s thatched roof. On many of these occasions young Andy was permitted to be present, seated, according to the deferential habits of those times, on a three-legged stool, with the sheep-dog Snath at his feet, behind the tall back of his grandfather’s chair. Andy was considered old enough to be made serviceable, at an age when children in our day are seldom trusted far abroad, unless in charge of a servant, for, as soon as he could barely be pronounced capable of work, he was sent among the hills to attend sheep, with no other assistance than a valuable well-disciplined dog. There, in the stormy as well as in the sunshiny weather, aided by Snath—whose canine intelligence and affection saved his young master from many a mishap—and correction from his worthy but austere grandfather, the little shepherd kept his flock.

More than one of the places to which the Covenanters, lying in close concealment, had fled for refuge, were in the neighborhood of Andy’s daily vocation; and among those whose lives were marked for destruction by the persecutors, was a young devoted minister, named Angus Campbell, who, by the ardor of his zeal and the power of his eloquence, had become the object of their hatred. Andy knew him more intimately than any of the other visitors the wintry wind or falling snow sent to his good grandfather’s; because Angus, perceiving the herd-boy, though shy, to be docile and intelligent, kindly noticed him, and though short and scanty was the time afforded them, he gave little Andy some instruction ; and he being a scholar most eager and willing to learn, at length advanced far enough to be able to spell his way through a chapter of the big Bible, which, from fear of sudden surprise by the troopers, was kept behind a bit of boarding, where no Uninformed eye was likely to detect it. Now Andy was an orphan, with neither brother nor sister. His grandfather having married again, this second wife had been stepmother to Andy’s father, and though a truly pious, worthy woman, she resembled her husband in possessing a cold and harsh exterior.

But Angus Campbell’s was the reverse of this. In the ordinary converse of life his manners were so peculiarly gentle and winning, that children and dumb animals seemed, as by common consent, to love and trust him. Perhaps the reason by which he drew all creatures he came in near contact with thus to love him, might be the simple but very natural one, that he was so ready to love and pity all living things himself. The little herd-boy’s affection for this his beloved teacher, if of the kind the apostle John describes, as casting out fear, and therefore perfect, had also mingled with it a feeling of the profoundest respect. Though a child in years, often did Andy feel his heart thrill with solemn awe when, at the meetings in the cottage, he beheld stern gray-haired men, like his grandfather, moved to tears as they listened to the words and joined in the prayer of the youthful preacher.

By frequent exposure during seasons the most inclement, when obliged for weeks and months together to conceal himself in places the most dreary and desolate that can be imagined, this poor young preacher had fallen ill, and soldiers being constantly in search for him, for security he was lodged in a cavern at the base of a lofty hill, which the kindness of those who were intrusted with the secret, endeavored to make as comfortable as their own harassed circumstances would permit. In that damp cave, with a bundle of straw for his pillow, a coverlet of sheep-skins, and his Bible beside him, lay, wasting by deep and rapid consumption, the holy, saint-like, gifted Campbell. Andy had been often trusted to convey provisions to the hunted men, who sometimes, for several days together, tasted naught but the berries they gathered, and a little moss-water for drink in the wild solitudes to which they were driven by the fierce, ungodly men thirsting for their blood, and was judged less likely, from his occupation, to attract suspicious observation. He was, therefore, selected when opportunity presented itself, to become a messenger to the dying youth.

On a certain morning in summer, like that so sweetly described in “The Cameronian’s Dream,” when—

"The clear shining dew
Glistened sheen on the heath-bells and mountain flowers blue;
And far up in heaven, near the white sunny cloud,
The song of the lark was melodious and loud;
And in Glenmuir’s wild solitudes, lengthened and deep,
Were the whistling of plovers and bleating of sheep."

Andy wended his way to the cavern; right carefully he carried a pitcher of sweet new milk, and his shaggy servant an osier basket containing a pot of honey and some thin cakes made by Andy’s grandmother of the best and whitest meal. To this day no semblance of a path can be discerned leading in the direction of Angus Campbell’s place of refuge, though the peasantry are well acquainted with the spot; but the herd-boy knew each track among the hills, and adown their deepest recesses, familiarly enough to traverse them amid the darkness of night, or the blinding storms of winter, with feet near as sure as a mountain goat’s.


When Andy reached the mouth of the cavern, with cautious hand he put aside the bushes and the branches of heather brush, which, growing from the turf on the roof, spread downward like a thick veil, while from the lower part a broken bush had sprung up, spreading itself abroad like a feathery fan till met by the pendant heather, and these slender barriers had so completely hidden the entrance that few passers-by would possibly detect it, however near they might approach. A low, deep sound from within made Andy pause, and then reverently doffing his bonnet, he knelt down—Snath, still as a stone, crouching beside him—till Angus Campbell had finished his devotions. Coming in from the clear light without, some moments elapsed before even the sharp eyes of the herd-boy could discern any thing in the dim interior of the place, which a single adventurous sunbeam, struggling in through a chink, lit so feebly that this single ray of golden brightness only served to make its gloom and forlornness more apparent.

The young minister, kneeling by his rude couch, was too wrapt in communion with his God, whose presence had often made that cheerless cave appear to him bright as the “threshold of heaven,” to be conscious of the presence of his young visitor. The hair falling back in clusters, showed the wasted features, down which the trickling drops fell upon the coarse coverlet. At length the clasped hands were relaxed, the eyelid slowly opened, and when with difficulty he raised himself up, Angus perceived a fair young face, ruddy as the morning sky, turned wistfully toward him. A smile came over his fading lips, neither did he fail to bestow a pat on Snath’s shaggy head in return for the dog’s caresses. “Andy,” said he, after taking a draught of the rich, sweet milk, “Allen Frazer and his brother were here last night, and they stayed till it was far spent. The captain and his troopers, it seems, are still scouring moor and glen after me. Even here I have surely caught the sound of horses* feet as they thundered heavily over the turf above me. These Frazers prayed me to keep my head under cover as much as possible, lest the tell-tale echo should report my hacking cough to the hill above us. The Lord’s enemies are bent on taking me, but he hath sent loving tokens that I shall soon be removed far out of their reach forever. Child, ye know in part what I mean, but ye can not imagine how* I long to put off the wasting, fleshly garments in which these poor limbs are wrapt, and put on the shining robe which I know awaits me—to leave this cave for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Here his deep hollow cough interrupted him, and shook his poor feeble frame to a degree that was pitiable to witness. When come a little to himself he said: “ Andy, I think you love me.” “Love you!” sobbed the boy; “aye, better,” he was about to answer, “than ane ither I ken of,” but remembering his grandfather, a sense of duty checked his tongue, and with simple meaning he answered, "Sir, ye maun feel I do.”

“Be it so,” said the young minister, as, still gasping for breath, he rested his head against the lad’s sturdy shoulder. “And by that love, Andy, promise me”—clasping a little, much-worn Bible in his long, thin, slender fingers— “ promise me to observe the request I am about to make to you.”

Andy earnestly signified perfect readiness to do whatever he might enjoin.

“It is simply this,” said Angus, “never let a day pass, if you can help it, without reading a chapter in the Bible. I wish I had taught ye more; but strive, pray to God, and the Holy Spirit will help you, as by themselves my poor teachings never could. After I am gone from iience may be ye will find—at least I design so— my Bible lying there,” pointing to his pillow of straw. “It is little enough, too, for ye to carry under your plaid to the hills, without eyes, keen as the hawk’s when he darteth on his prey, espying it.” Then, with wonderful simplicity and sweetness, Angus Campbell spoke a few words of solemn truth and love, which sunk in the weeping herd-boy’s heart like precious seed in a soil made soft by showers of early rain. “Remember,” said the weak, hoarse voice, which once among the hills and valleys of the land, in its clear, ringing sweetness, the people of the Lord had been wont to compare to a silver trumpet, sounding melodiously afar—“remember,” and he laid his hand on young Andy’s head like one in the act of bestowing a benediction, “whether God wills thy-days to be long upon earth, or short, like mine, and ye hear Him call ye to come home by a shorter road than other of his children, give to his service the best of those he giveth; and of all times to begin serving the Lord there is no time like the time of youth.”

“I shall come back this way,” said Andy, on taking his leave, “when the sheep are faulded, after sunset.”

“After sunset!” repeated Angus Campbell, very softly, and he smiled; but the smile was so exceeding bright and lovely that the herd-boy felt his heart lightened while thinking of it, as with Snath trotting on before, he walked quickly across a neighboring heath. Andy had not proceeded two miles ere, to his consternation, he beheld a party of soldiers coming directly toward him. His first thought was of flight. Yet, if the soldiers should see him, their suspicions would be instantly aroused; therefore, throwing himself flat upon his face, trusting to the grass and bushes for concealment, he hoped they might pass by without observing him. Alas! one of them had already done so, and, turning to take a second look at the little advancing figure, perceived that it had suddenly disappeared, as if the ground had opened to receive him. Giving his comrades a hint, very few minutes elapsed before Andy was discovered, and a tall trooper, sunk to the knees in large boots, with a bear-skin cap on his head, and a long scab-2 bard rattling at his heels, demanded gruffly what he did crouching there like a hare on her form. Before the frightened child could frame a fitting reply, his empty basket suggested darker thoughts. They immediately surmised that he had been carrying provisions to some hidden Covenanters, and, without further interrogation, decided on taking him before their captain, who was but a little way off, and' was nearly as much dreaded as the notorious Colonel Graham, of Claverhouse, who, to this day, is familiarly known to the Scottish people as “the bluidy Clavers.” Andy’s arms were now roughly tied; and Snath, striving to keep close by the side of his master, received a kick from the iron-shod boot of a soldier, and a thrust in his shoulder from his rapier, that sent him bleeding and howling with pain down among the heather.


Captain Dalziel, seated upon a prancing war-horse, up to whose bridle-reins he would not have scrupled to ride in the blood of the persecuted Covenanters, threw a glance of scorn on the little prisoner, whom his troopers dragged, bareheaded, to his stirrup.

He was a man with tawny hair and beard, and a complexion of somewhat the same hue; his gray eyes, fierce yet cold, had looked unmoved on torture, and beheld scenes of horror, the mere recital of which would now be thought too shocking for human ear to listen to. On his men tell-mg him the reason of their bringing Andy before him, Dalziel, in a voice which few in his power could hear without quailing, bade him at once confess who were the rebels lurking in the neighborhood, to whom he had carried food. “Speak the truth, whelp,” said the captain, drawing a short sword from his belt, “or ye will have short shrift.” Now, Andy had been taught that “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.* Old Adam McLeod, would have preferred death to attaining his tongue with falsehood. No princely descendant of a hundred kings could hold the divine royalty of truth more sacred than did this man of peasant birth; and his grandson, rather than givs the least hint of the secret intrusted to him, would have been slain on the spot rather than betray the place of the Covenanter’s concealment. The very thought of Angus Campbell’s danger nerved him. “I can na’ tell ye,” said he; and his clear blue eyes met the dreadful frown of Dalziel unshrinkingly.

Something flashed in the sunlight, and Andy felt the edge of the rapier touch the fringe of curls which his grandmother, when she cut close the rest of his huir with her scissors, as a matter of female taste, left in a formal ring round his head.

"Dost wish thy head cloven? Choose quick!" shouted the captain.

“I will, sir,” answered the little herd-boy, firmly, “an’ tell ye, I dare na!"

Bad and cruel as was this remorseless Dalziel, still, in the daring recklessness of his own fearless and savage nature, he could not forbear to admire the dauntless courage of the child. To the marvel of those around him, his sword drank not the blood of this innocent victim. But the order that immediately followed showed that neither pity nor compunction had aught to do with the change of purpose. “Bind this whelp, tight as cords can do it, to yonder stone,” cried Dalziel, pointing to a massive fragment sunk deep in the earth, which had made part of an ancient cairn. “I’ll not cut the tongue-string of this young rebel too hastily,” said the captain; “and the stubborn stuff he is made of will take more time to come out of him than I can spare until I come back from my riding.” Andy was bound, as commanded, and the troopers, thinking a victim so weak and insignificant in that unfrequented solitude required no further guarding, departed in various directions, tie had not been left alone long when the sound of something moving stealthily along struck his ear.

A low whine followed, and his poor dog tried to jump up and embrace him. “Snath, my ane Snath, I’m sae glad to see ye alive still,” cried his little master, jerking his pinioned arms; then, after reflecting a minute, he added, gravely, “ A tho’t’s come into my mind, doggie.” Snath turned his face up attentively toward Andy. “Ye can do me na’ guid biding here and licking my shoon; but there is a thing I’d fain ha* ye try to do”—Snath wagged his tail eagerly— “Noo hearken, lad, ye must gang hame, aye-, gang hame, and at once.” To this request Snath’s first response was to seat himself at his master’s knee, with a very dog-like determination not to move. “I see you no ken my meaning, the wicked saber of that big trooper has made yer pate dull,” said Andy. At this imputation Snath got up, and shook his head, as if to signify that all there was right. “Ah! ” continued poor Andy, “if they at home saw ye all bluidy”—here his own pent-up feelings gave way in a burst of tears—“an’ ye’d strength left, puir beastie, to guide ’em ’ither, Jamie Gray’s knife would soon cut the cords that are riving me maist to the bane.” The dog now, by some language Andy had now got the key of, informed his master that he partly understood him; and when the “gang hame, I tell ye, for dear pity’s sake,” was given-, and “gang hame” was reiterated in the voice of all others he loved best to hear and obey, Snath, giving the fondest and wistfullest look of farewell that ever shone out of. dog’s eyes, turned round, and as fast as his lameness would permit, went dutifully in the direction Andy had requested.

After a warm summer’s night, a storm follow-ing high noon in the hill districts of Scotland is not infrequent. The sun having dried the dew, small dense clouds with bright edges begin to appear; these gradually increase and menace each other till, in a short time, a mass of teeming vapor overspreads the sky, and the thunder of the explosion when they meet and the rush of plunging rain which follows, are terrific enough to fill the stoutest heart with dread. Fiery bolts falling on the hills, tear up the surface, and the tumultuous descent of the waters cover their green sides with a foaming torrent, in which mass, soil and even rocks are hurried down to the valleys beneath. The herd-boy, whose out-of-door life made him familiar with each change of the atmosphere, now perceived #in the sky sure signs of an approaching tempest of this kind; but the distant galloping of horses and shouting of their riders, borne up to him more distinctly on account of the oppressive stillness of the air, directed Andy’s attention to the quarter whence the sounds proceeded. He saw that the soldiers were just entering the flat of pasture ground before-mentioned, and there wheeling into a half circle came to a dead halt.

Captain Dalziel was easily recognizable as he rode in advance of the others. Though Andy was much too far off to hear aught save a faint confused noise, produced by the snorting of the horses, mingled with the swearing of their riders, he had the keen, far-reaching vision of a mountaineer; and with a kind of fearful fascination he fixed his eyes on the scene enacting below, for, in an agony of dread, he fancied one of the soldiers had a prisoner fastened behind him. Andy was not deceived, $nd when the person was lifted off the horse on to the open space left between the soldiers, with a wild cry he discerned the form of Angus Campbell. Too weak to stand, the young minister had fallen on his knees, and by the attitude of his graceful head, turned calmly heavenward. Andy felt that he was beholding his beloved friend and teacher in the act of offering his last prayer on earth. Then a trooper, less brutal than his comrades, tied a kerchief across the pale young face which ho was never more to behold in the flesh. Dalziel impatiently gave his men the signal, but at the rattling discharge of the musketry which sent the body of Angus Campbell to the ground, and his soul to become “one of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held,” all further consciousness of what was passing forsook the herd-boy.

How long he remained in this merciful state of insensibility he learned when, after many faint struggles, his languid eyes again opened to the light, and the first object that met his eye was his grandfather looking earnestly upon him. Then something warm and moist licked his hands. This must be Snath’s tongue; and he soon perceived he was laid on a pallet before the cottage hearth. As Andy slowly revived, he was told that the fury of the gathering storm burst forth like the voice of an avenging God at the very moment the soldiers discharged their muskets; and the murderers of Angus Campbell, panic-struck, and finding their horses quite unmanageable from terror, fled before its blast totally forgetful of their poor little victim on the hill. His faithful dog had, however, done his master’s bidding; and, as Andy conjectured, Snath’s arrival home brought him succor. The raging storm did not frighten good men like Adam McLeod, Jamie Gray, and others beside, who, guided by the devoted dog, found Andy apparently dead. Wrapped in his grandfather’s plaid, he was brought home, as they believed, a stiffened corpse. But though to them it seemed there was no breath left in him, Andy’s grandmother could not believe that life was quite extinct in that young, strong, healthful frame. The good woman continued her efforts to restore him, and at last a light quiver of the eyelids showed that life still flickered there, though feebly, as in a weakly new-born child. Suffice it to say, he lived, and lived to pay his debt of gratitude by the reverent tenderness with which he watched over her own old age. The herd-boy, to his dying day, observed the promise he gave to his dying friend.

As soon as he could bring himself to speak on the subject, he besought Allen Frazer to search in the cave for the little Bible of Angus Campbell; which, being done, the Bible was found and delivered to Andy. And long after peace was restored, and liberty proclaimed throughout his native land to those who preached freely “the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ,” Andy, a gray-haired man of fourscore years, on the still, quiet Sabbath evenings he so much loved, might be seen leading his grandchildren to one of those Scottish martyr graves, and telling some soul-stirring tale, always ending thus in the words of his beloved friend, “Of all times to begin serving the Lord, there’s no time like the time of youth.”

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus