« AnteriorContinuar »
Bellenden, and her hand-maiden Jenny Dennison, the beloved of the exiled Cuddie.. The result of their conference, is an attempt on the part of the young lady to secure her lover's safety, through the mediation of her uncle, Major Bellenden, an old cavalier by whom he was known and well-esteemed. She has an opportunity of trying her influence the next morning, when the celebrated Graham of Claverhouse, afterwards Viscount of Dundee, arrives at the castle with the regiment of horse, which he commanded, in search of the refractory covenanters, who were making head on the moors in the vicinity. We will extract the portrait of this celebrated commander, whom one party exalted into a hero, while the other degraded him into a demon, as a favourable specimen of the author's powers of description.
'Grahame of Claverhouse was in the prime of life, rather low of stature, and slightly, though elegantly, formed; his gesture, language, and manners, were those of one whose life had been spent among the noble and the gay. His features exhibited even feminine regularity. An oval face, a straight and well-formed nose, dark hazel eyes, a complexion just sufficiently tinged with brown to save it from the charge of effeminacy, a short upper lip, curved upward like that of a Grecian statue, and slightly shaded by small mustachios of light-brown, joined to a profusion of long curled locks of the same colour, which fell down on each side of his face, contributed to form such a countenance as limmers love to paint and ladies to look upon.
The severity of his character, as well as the higher attributes of undaunted and enterprising valour which even his enemies were compelled to admit, lay concealed under an exterior which seemed adapted to the court or the saloon rather than to the field. The same gentleness and gaiety of expression which reigned in his features seemed to inspire his actions and gestures; and, on the whole, he was generally esteemed, at first sight, rather qualified to be the votary of pleasure than of ambition. But under this soft exterior was hidden a spirit unbounded in daring and in aspiring, yet cautious and prudent as that of Machiavel himself. Profound in politics, and imbued, of course, with that disregard for individual rights which its intrigues usually generate, this leader was cool and collected in danger, fierce and ardent in pursuing success, careless of death himself, and ruthles in inflicting it upon others. Such are the characters formed in times of civil discord, when the highest qualities, perverted by party spirit, and inflamed by habitual opposition, are too often combined with vices and excesses which deprive them at once of their merit and of their lustre.'-vol. ii. pp. 286–289.
Major Bellenden's intercession in favour of Morton proves in vain. Claverhouse, with all the politeness of a soldier, exhibited the remorseless rigour which characterized one who had so much distinguished himself in the persecution. A file of dragoons is drawn out for summary execution, when Edith, in the distracting emergency, applies to a young nobleman, holding a subordinate
commission in Claverhouse's regiment, but possessing, from his rank and political importance, great influence with that officer. Lord Evandale, himself an admirer of Edith, and more than suspecting her partiality for the rival who is now on the point of destruction, yet generously complies with her request, and makes it a point of personal favour with Claverhouse, that the execution of Morton shall not proceed. The following speech expresses the hard and determined character of the superior officer, and his obduracy in the execution of his supposed duty.
"Be it so then," replied Grahame;-" but, young man, should you wish in your future life to rise to eminence in the service of your king and country, let it be your first task to subject to the public in terest, and to the discharge of your duty, your private passions, affections, and feelings. These are not times to sacrifice to the dotage of greybeards, or the tears of silly women, the measures of salutary severity, which the dangers around compel us to adopt. And remember that if I now yield this point, in compliance with your urgency, my present concession must exempt me from future solicitations of the same nature."
He then stepped forwards to the table, and bent his eyes keenly on Morton, as if to observe what effect the pause of awful suspense between death and life, which seemed to freeze the by-standers with horror, should produce upon the prisoner himself. Morton maintained a degree of firmness, which nothing but a mind which had nothing left on earth to love, or to hope, could have supported at such a crisis.
"You see him," said Claverhouse, in a half whisper to Lord Evandale," he is tottering on the verge between time and eternity, a situation more appalling than the most hideous certainty; yet his is the only cheek unblanched, the only eye that is calm, the only heart that keeps its usual time, the only nerves that are not quivering. Look at him well, Evandale-If that man heads an army of rebels, you will have much to answer for on account of this morning's work." -vol. ii, 335-337.
Morton is therefore carried off in the rear of the forces, which now are moving towards a place called Loudoun-hill. He finds himself united with three companions in affliction, namely, Kettledrummle, a presbyterian preacher, taken in the act of exhorting a conventicle, and Mause with her forlorn son Cuddie, who had been apprehended among the audience.
Claverhouse finds the insurgents strongly drawn up. They are summoned to surrender, but fire upon the officer (a nephew of Claverhouse, according to the story) and kill him on the spot. The soldiers then rush to the assault, and the various incidents and fluctuations of the battle are described with clearness and accuracy. The most striking part is the personal encounter between Bothwell and Balfour, or Burley, in which the former falls.
"You are the murdering villain, Burley," said Bothwell, griping his sword firmly, and setting his teeth close-" you escaped me once, but" (he swore an oath too tremendous to be written) "thy head is worth its weight of silver, and it shall go home at my saddle-bow, or my saddle shall go home empty for me.
"Yes, replied Burley," with stern and gloomy deliberation, "I am that John Balfour who promised to lay thy head where thou should'st never lift it again; and God do so to me, and more also, if I do not redeem my word."
"Then a bed of heather, or a thousand marks!" said Bothwell, striking at Burley with his full force.
"The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" answered Balfour as he parried and returned the blow.
'There have seldom met two combatants more equally matched in strength of body, skill in the management of their weapons and horses, determined courage, and unrelenting hostility. After exchanging many desperate blows, each receiving and inflicting several wounds, though of no great consequence, they grappled together as if with the desperate impatience of mortal hate, and Bothwell, seizing his enemy by the shoulder-belt, while the grasp of Balfour was upon his own collar, they came headlong to the ground. The companions of Burley hastened to his assistance, but were repelled by the dragoons, and the battle became again general. But nothing could withdraw the attention of the combatants from each other, or induce them to unclose the deadly clasp in which they rolled together on the ground, tearing, struggling, and foaming, with the inveteracy of thorough-bred bull-dogs.
'Several horses passed over them in the melée without their quitting hold of each other, until the sword-arm of Bothwell was broken by a kick of a charger. He then relinquished his grasp with a deep and suppressed groan, and both combatants started to their feet. Bothwell's right hand dropped helpless by his side, but his left griped to the place where his dagger hung; it had escaped from the sheath in the struggle, -and, with a look of mingled rage and despair, he stood totally defenceless, as Balfour, with a laugh of savage joy, flourished his sword aloft, and then passed it through his adversary's body. Bothwell received the thrust without falling-it had only grazed on his ribs. He attempted no further defence, but, looking at Burley with a grin of deadly hatred, exclaimed, Base peasant churl, thou hast spilt the blood of a line of kings!'
"Die, wretch!-die," said Balfour, redoubling the thrust with better aim; and setting his foot on Bothwell's body as he fell, he a third time transfixed him with his sword." Die, blood-thirsty dog! die, as thou hast lived!-die, like the beasts that perish-hoping nothing-believing nothing-"
"And FEARING nothing!" said Bothwell, collecting the last effort of respiration to utter these desperate words, and expiring as soon as they were spoken.'-vol. iii. pp. 61-64.
At length Claverhouse and his party are totally routed and driven from the field.
This is a lively, but exaggerated account of a remarkable skirmish, the only one in which Claverhouse was ever worsted. The relation betwixt him and the Cornet Grahame who was slain is quite imaginary. The accounts given by Creighton, and by Guild, (author of a Latin poem, called Bellum Bothuellianum,) state that the body of this officer was brutally mangled after death, by the conquerors, from a belief that it was that of his commander Claverhouse. A curious detail of the action which we should be tempted to transcribe had we space, from the manuscript of James Russell, one of the murderers of Archbishop Sharpe, and who was himself present, ascribes the mangling of the corpse of Cornet Grahame, to some indiscreet language which he was reported to have held on the morning of the fight. Both parties, no doubt, made a point of believing their own side of the story, which is always a matter of conscience in such cases.
Morton, set at liberty by the victorious Covenanters, is induced to join their cause and accept of a command in their levy; as well by the arguments of Burley and a deep sense of the injustice with which the insurgents have been treated by government, as by natural indignation at the unworthy and cruel treatment which he had himself experienced. But, although he adopts this decisive step, yet it is without participating the narrow minded fanaticism and bitter rancour with which most of the persecuted party regarded the prelatists, and not without an express stipulation, that, as he joined a cause supported by men in open war, so he expected it was to be carried on, according to the laws of civilized nations. If we look to the history of these times, we shall find reason to believe, that the Covenanters had not learned mercy in the school of persecution. It was perhaps not to be expected, from a people proscribed and persecuted, having their spirits embittered by the most severe personal sufferings. But that the temper of the victors of Drumclog was cruel and sanguinary, is too evident from the report of their historian, Mr. Howie, of Lochgoin; a character scarcely less interesting or peculiar, than Old Mortality, and who, not many years since, collected, with great assiduity, both from manuscripts and traditions, all that could be recovered concerning the champions of the Covenant. In his History of the rising at Bothwell-bridge and the preceding skirmish of Drumclog, he records the opinions of Mr. Robert Hamilton, who commanded the Whigs upon the latter occasion, concerning the propriety and legality of giving quarter to a vanquished enemy.
Mr. Hamilton discovered a great deal of bravery and valour, both in the conflict with and pursuit of the enemy; but when he and some others were pursuing the enemy, others flew too greedily upon the spoil, small as it was, instead of pursuing the victory; and some, without Mr.
Hamilton's knowledge, and directly contrary to his express command, gave five of these bloody enemics quarters, and then let them go; this greatly grieved Mr. Hamilton, when he saw some of Babel's brats spared, after the Lord had delivered them to their hands, that they might dash them against the stones. Psal. 137-9.-In his own account of this he reckons the sparing of these enemies and the letting them go, to be among their first stepping aside; for which he feared that the Lord would not honour them to do much more for him; and he says, that he was neither for taking favours from, nor giving favours to, the Lord's enemies.'Battle of Bothwell Bridge, p. 9.*
The author therefore has acted in strict conformity with historical truth (whether with propriety we shall hereafter inquire) in representing the covenanters or rather the ultra-covenanters, for those who gained the skirmish fell chiefly under this description, as a fierce and sanguinary set of men, whose zeal and impatience under persecution had destroyed the moral feeling and principle which ought to attend and qualify all acts of retaliation. The large body of Presbyterians, both clergy and people, were far from joining in these extravagances, and when they took up arms to unite them
*The same honest but bigoted and prejudiced historian of the Scottish worthies has, in the Life of John Nesbit, of Hardhill, another champion of the covenanted cause, canvassed this delicate point still more closely. It would appear that James Nesbit, at the time of his execution, had testified, among other steps of defection and causes of wrath, against the lenity shewn to the five captive dragoons.
He was by some thought too severe in his design of killing the prisoners at Drumclog. But in this he was not altogether to blame; for the enemy's word was,-No quarters, and the sufferers were the same; and we find it grieved Mr. Hamilton very much, when he beheld some of them spared, after the Lord had delivered them into their hand. Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Psal. 1378.-Yea, Hardhill himself seems to have had clear grounds and motives for this, in one of the above-mentioned steps of defection, with which we shall conclude this narrative.'
15thly. As there has been rash, envious and carnal executing of justice on his and the church's enemies, so he has also been provoked to reject, cast off, and take the power out of his people's hand, for being so sparing of them, when he brought forth and gave a commission to execute on them that vengeance due unto them, as it is Psal. 149--9. For as justice ought to be executed in such and such a way and manner as aforesaid, so it ought to be fully executed without sparing, as is clear from Joshua, 7, 24, &c. For sparing the life of the enemy, and fleeing upon the spoil, 1 Sam. 15, 18, Saul is sharply rebuked, and though he excused himself, yet for that very thing he is rejected from being king. Let the practice of Drumclog be remembered and mourned for. If there was not a deep ignorance, reason might teach this; for what master having servants and putting them to do his work, would take such a slight at his servants' bands as to do a part of his work, and come and say to the master, that it is not necessary to do the rest, when the not doing of it would be dishonourable to the master, and hurtful to the whole family? Therefore was the wrath of the Lord against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his inheritance, and hiding his face from his people, making them afraid at the shaking of a leaf, and to flee when none pursueth, being a scorn and hissing to enemies, and fear to some who desire to befriend his cause. And, O! lay to heart and mourn for what has been done to provoke him to anger, in not seeking the truth to execute judgment, and therefore he has not pardoned. Behold! for your iniquitics have you sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away. Isa. 50, 1, &c.'-Scottish Worthies, p. 439.