Samuel Crockett.

The Standard Bearer





These words, from the daughter of Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, who was scarcely yet liberate from the prison of Blackness, astonished me so much that I stood speechless.

To persecute in my turn? said I. Nay, my dear mistress, I go to uphold the banner of Christs Kingdom against those that hate Him.

Very scornfully she smiled.

In my short life, she said, Ive heard overmuch of such talk. I know to an ell how much it means. I have a mother, and she has friends and gossips. To me the triumph of what you call the Kingdom means but two things the Pharisee exalted and the bigot triumphant. Prince Jacob of Orange may supplant his father and take the crown; every canting Jack may fling away the white rose and shout for the Orange lily. But not I not I?

She flaunted a little white hand suddenly palm upward, like an apple blossom blown off the branch by the wind.

To say that I was astounded by this outbreak is to say little. It was like an earthquake, the trembling and resolving of solid land under my feet. Alexander Gordons child the Bull of Earlstouns daughter standing openly and boldly for the cause of those who had prisoned and, perhaps, tortured her father, and brought about the ruin of her house!

At last I managed to speak.

You are a young maiden, I said, as quietly as I could, and you know nothing of the great occasions of state, the persecutions of twenty-five years, the blood shed on lonely hillsides, the deaths by yet wearier sickness, the burials under cloud of night of those who have suffered !

I would have said more, but that she prevented me imperiously.

I know all there is to know, she cried, almost insolently. Have I not broken fast with it, dined with it, taken my Four-hours with it, supped with it ever since I was of age to hear words spoken? But to my thinking the root of the matter is that you, and those like you, will not obey the rightful King, who alone is to be obeyed, whose least word ought to be sufficient.

But not in religion not in the things of conscience, I stammered.

Again she waved her hand floutingly.

Tis not my idea of loyalty only to be loyal when it suits my whim, only to obey when obedience is easy and pleasant. The man whom I shall honour shall know nothing of such summer allegiance as that!

She paused a moment and I listened intently.

Nay, she said, he shall speak and I shall obey. He shall be my King, even as King James is the sovereign of his people. His word shall be sacred and his will law.

There was a light of something like devout obedience in her eyes. A holy vestal flame for a moment lighted up her face. I knew it was useless to argue with her then.

Nevertheless, I answered very meekly, at least you will not wholly forget that I brought you to a place of safety, sheltering you in my arms and venturing into dark waters for your sake!

Now though I looked not directly at her, I could see the cold light in her eyes grow more scornful.

You do well to remind me of my obligation.

But do not be afraid; you shall be satisfied. I will speak of you to my father. Doubtless, when he comes home he will be great with the Usurper and those that bear rule under him. You shall be rewarded to the top of your desires.

Then there rose a hot indignation in my heart that she should thus wilfully misunderstand me.

You do me great wrong, my Lady Mary, I answered; I desire no reward from you or yours, saving only your kindly remembrance, nor yet any advancement save, if it might be, into your favour.

That, she said, turning petulantly away, you will never get till I see the white rose in your bonnet instead of those Whiggish and rebel colours.

CHAPTER X
THE BLUE BANNER IS UP

Now though at first I was grievously astonished that the daughter of Alexander Gordon and his wife Janet Hamilton should so speak, yet when I come to consider further of the matter it appears noways so wonderful.

For her father, when I came to know him, showed himself a great, strong, kindly, hard-driving nowt of a man, with a spiritual conceit equal to his knowledge of his bodily powers. But, for all his great pretensions, Sandy Gordon was essentially a man carnal and of the world, ever more ready to lay on lustily with the arm of the flesh than trust to the sword of the Spirit.

The Bull of Earlstoun was he right fitly called.

And with his children his method of training would doubtless be Believe this! Receive that other! Debate and appeal there would be none. So there is nothing to wonder at in the revolt of a nature every whit as imperious as that of her father, joined to a womans natural whimsies and set within the periphery of a girls slender form.

And then her mother!

If Sandy Gordon had proved trying to such a mind as that of Mary Gordon, what of Janet Hamilton, his wife?

She had been reared in the strictest sect of the Extremists. Every breath of difference or opposition to her orthodoxies or those of her brother Sir Robert was held rank treason to the cause. She had constant visions, and these visions pointed ever to the cardinal truth that Janet Hamilton was eternally right and every one else eternally wrong.

So Alexander Gordon, as often as he was at home, bullied back and forth concerning Covenants and sufferings, while at other times his wife worried and yammered, bitter as the east wind and irritant as a thorn in the flesh, till the girl was driven, as it were, in self-defence into other and as intolerant extremes.

Yet when her parents were most angered with her for this perversity, some sudden pretty wile or quaint bairnliness would set them laughing in spite of themselves, or a loving word of penitence bring the tears into their eyes. And while she chose to be good Mary Gordon, the family rebel, the disgrace of a godly home, would be again their own winsome little May, with a smile as sweet as the Benediction after sermon on a summer Sabbath morn, when the lilac and the hawthorn blossom scent all the kirk.

But as for me, having had trial of none of these wiles and witchcrafts, I was grieved indeed to hear one so fair take the part of the cruel persecutors and murderers of our brethren, the torturers of her father, the men to whose charge could be laid the pillage and spoiling of the bonny house of Earlstoun, and the turning of her mother out upon the inclement pitilessness of a stormy winter.

But with old and young alike the wearing iteration of a fretful womans yammering tongue will oftentimes drive further and worse than all the clattering horses and pricking bayonets of persecution.

Yet even then I thought within me, Far be it from me that I should ever dream of winning the heart of so fair and great a lady. But if by the wondrous grace of God, so I ever did, I should be none afraid but that in a little blink of time she would think even as I did. And this was the beginning of the feeling I had for Mary Gordon. Yet being but little more than a shepherd lad from off the hills of heather she was to me almost as one of the angels, and I thought of her not at all as a lad thinks in his heart of a pretty lass, to whom one day if he prosper he may even himself in the way of love.

After a day or two at Earlstoun, spent in drilling and mustering, in which time I saw nothing more of Mary Gordon, we set off in ordered companies towards Edinburgh. The word had been brought to us that the Convention was in great need of support, for that Clavers (whom now they called my Lord Dundee) was gathering his forces to disperse it, so that every one of the true Covenant men went daily in fear of their lives.

Whereupon the whole Seven Thousand of the West and South were called up by the Elders. And to those among us who had no arms four thousand muskets and swords were served out, which were sent by the Convention to the South and West under cover of a panic story that the wild Irishers had landed and burnt Kirkcudbright.

Hob and I marched shoulder to shoulder, and our officer was of one name with us, one Captain Clelland, a young soldier of a good stock who in Holland had learnt the art of war. But Colonel William Gordon, the uncle of the lass Mary, commanded all our forces.

So in time we reached the brow of the hill of Liberton and looked northward towards the town of Edinburgh, reeling slantways down its windy ridge, and crowned with the old Imperial coronet of St. Giles where Knox had preached, while the castle towered in pride over all.

It was a great day for me when first I saw those grey towers against the sky. But down in the howe of the Grassmarket there was a place that was yet dearer the black ugly gibbet whereon so many saints of God, dear and precious, had counted their lives but dross that they might win the crown of faithfulness. And when we marched through the West Port, and passed it by, it was in our heart to cheer, for we knew that with the tyrants fall all this was at an end.

But Colonel William Gordon checked us.

Rather your bonnets off, lads, he cried, and put up a prayer!

And so we did. And then we faced about and filed straight up into the town. And as the sound of our marching echoed through the narrows of the West Bow, the waiting faithful threw up their windows and blessed us, hailing us as their saviours.

Company after company went by, regular and disciplined as soldiers; but in the Lawmarket, where the great folk dwelt, there were many who peeped in fear through their barred lattices.

The wild Whigs of the West have risen and are marching into Edinburgh! so ran the cry.

We of Colonel Gordons Glenkens Foot were set to guard the Parliament House, and as we waited there, though I carried a hungry belly, yet I stood with my heart exulting proudly within me to see the downtrodden at last set on high and those of low estate exalted.

For the sidewalks and causeways of the High-street were filled with eager crowds, but the crown of it was kept as bare as for the passing of a royal procession. And down it towards Holyrood tramped steadily and ceaselessly, company by company, the soldiers of the Other Kingdom.

Stalwart men in grey homespun they were, each with his sword belted to him, his musket over his shoulder, and his store of powder and lead by his side. Then came squadrons of horses riding two and two, some well mounted, and others on country nags, but all of them steady in their saddles as Kings guards. And when these had passed, again company after company of footmen.

Never a song or an oath from end to end, not so much as a cheer along all the ranks as the Hill Men marched grimly in.

Tramp! tramp! tramp! So they passed, as if the line would never end. And at the head of each company the blue banner of Christs Covenant the standard that had been trailed in the dust, but that could never be wholly put down.

Then after a while among the new flags, bright with silk and blazening, there came one tattered and stained, ragged at the edges, and pierced with many holes. There ran a whisper. It is the flag of Ayrsmoss!

And at sight of its torn folds, and the writing of dulled and blistered gold upon it, For Christs Cause and Covenant, I felt the tears well from the heart up to my eyes, and something broke sharply with a little audible cry in my throat.

Then an old Covenant man who had been both at Drumclog and the Brig of Bothwell, turned quickly to me with kindly eyes.

Nay, lad, he said, rather be glad! The standard that was sunken in a sea of blood is cleansed and set up again. And now in this our day woe be to the persecutors! The banner they trailed in the dust behind the dripping head of Richard Cameron shall wave on the Nether Bow of Edinburgh, where the corbies picked his eyes and his fair cheeks blackened in the sun.

And so it was, for they set it there betwixt the High-street and the Canongate, and from that day forth, during all the weeks of the Convention, the Covenant men held the city quiet as a frighted child under their hand.

CHAPTER XI
THE RED GRANT

It was while we continued to sojourn in Edinburgh for the protection of the Convention that first I began to turn my mind to the stated ministry of the Kirk, for I saw well that this soldiering work must ere long come to an end. And yet all my heart went out towards something better than the hewing of peats upon the moor and the foddering of oxen in stall.

Yet for long I could not see how the matter was to be accomplished, for the Cameronian hill-folk had never had a minister since James Renwick bade his farewell to sun and moon and Desirable General Meetings down in the Edinburgh Grassmarket. There was no authority in Scotland capable of ordaining a Cameronian minister. I knew how impossible it was that I could go to Holland, as Renwick and Linning and Shields had done, at the expense of the societies for the way of some of these men had even now begun to sour and disgust the elders of the Hill Folk.

So since no better might be I turned my mind to the ministry of the Reformed Kirk as it had been established by law, and resolved to spend my needful seasons as a student of the theologies in the town of Edinburgh. I spoke to my father of my decision, and he was willing that I should try the work.

I will gladly be at your college charges, Quintin, he said; but mind, lad, it will depend how I sell my sheep, whether ye get muckle to put in your belly. Yet, perchance, as the auld saw hath it, hungry dogs hunt best, So mayhap that may likewise hold true of the getting of learning.

So in the autumn of that year of the Convention, and some months after our return, I made me ready to go to college, and to my infinite surprise Hob, my brother, declared that he would come also.

For, said he, my father does not need me now at home, at least, not till the spring and the lambing time.

My father demurred a little. But Hob got his way because he had, as I well saw, my mother behind him. Now Hob was (and is) the best of brothers slow, placid, self-contained, with little humour in him, but filled with a great, quiet faithfulness. And he has abode with me through many tears and stern trials.

So in due time to Edinburgh we twain went, and while I trudged it back and forth to the college Hob bought with his savings a pedlars pack, and travelled town and country with swatches of cloth, taches for the hair, pins for the dresses of women-folk, and for the men chap-books and Testaments. But the strange thing is that, slow and silent as our Hob is at most times, he could make his way with the good wives of the Lothians as none of those bred to the trade could do. They tell me he was mightily successful.

I only know that many a day we two might have gone hungry to bed had it not been for what Hob brought home, instead of, as it was, having our kites panged full with good meat, like Tod Lowrie when the lambs are young on the hill.66
Like a fox in lambing-time.


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And often when my heart was done with the dull and dowie days, the hardness of my heart, and the wryness of learning, Hob would come in with a lightsome quirk on his queer face, or a jest on his tongue, picked up in some of the outlying villages, so that I could not help but smile at him, which made the learning all the easier afterward.

Yet the hardest part of my sore toil at college was the thought that the more I travailed at the theologies, the less of living religion was in my soul. Indeed, it was not till I had been back some time among the common folk who sin and die and are buried, that I began again to taste the savour of vital religion as of old. For to my thinking there is no more godless class than just the young collegers in divinity. Nor is this only a mock, as Hob would have made of it, saying with his queer smile, Quintin, what think ye o a mission to the heathen divinity lads to set the fire o hell to their tails, even as Peden the Prophet bade Richie Cameron do to the border thieves o Annandale?

Connect and Addition to Chapter XI. made in after years by Me, Hob MacClellan.

It is well seen from the foregoing that Quintin, my brother, had no easy time of it while he was at the college, where they called him Separator, Hill Whig, Young Drumclog, and other nicknames, some of which grieved the lad sore.

Now they were mostly leather-jawed, slack-twisted Geordies from the Hieland border that so troubled our Quintin who, though he was not averse to the sword or the pistol in a good cause, yet would not even be persuaded to lift his fist to one of these rascals, lest it should cause religion to be spoken against. But I was held by none of these scruples.

So it chanced that one night as we came out of the College Wynd in the early falling winter gloaming, one of these bothy-men from the North called out an ill name after us porridge-fed Galloway pigs, or something of the kind. Whereat very gladly I dealt him so sound a buffet on the angle of his jaw that his head was not set on straight again all the winter.

After this we adjourned to settle our differences at the corner of the plainstones; but Quintin and the other theologians who had characters to lose took their way home, grieved in spirit. Or so at least I think he pretended to himself.

For when I came in to our lodging an hour after his first words were: Did ye give him his licks, Hob? And that question, to which I answered simply that I had and soundly, did not argue that the ancient Adam had been fully exorcised from our Quintin.

All the same the Highlandman was none so easy to handle, being a red-headed Grant from Speyside, and more inclined to come at you with his thick skull, like a charging boar of Rothiemurchus, than decently to stand up with the brave bare knuckles, as we are wont to do in the South.

A turn or two at Kelton Hill fair would have done him no harm and taught him that he must not fight with such an ungodly battering-ram as his head. I know lads there who would have met him on the crown with the toe of their brogans.

But this I scorned, judging it feater to deal him a round-arm blow behind the ear and leap aside. The first of these discouraged the Grant; the second dropped him on the causeway dumb and limp.

Well done, Galloway! cried a voice above; but ye shall answer for this the morn, every man o ye!

Run, lads, run! Tis the Regent! came the answering cry from the collegers.

And with that every remaining student lad ran his best in the direction of his own lodging.

Well, sir, have ye killed the Speyside Hielandman? said the Doctor from his window, when I remained alone by the fallen chieftain. The Regent came from the West himself, and, they say, bore the Grants no love, for all that he was so holy a man.

I think not, I answered doubtfully, but Ill take him round to the infirmary and see!

And with that I hoisted up the Red Grant on my shoulders, carried him down the Infirmary Close, and hammered on the door till the young chirurgeon who kept the place, thinking me to be drunk, came to threaten me with the watch.

Then, the bolts being drawn, I backed the Highlandman into the crack of the door and discharged him upon the floor.

Theres a heap of good college divinity, I said. The Regent sent me to bid ye find out if he be dead or alive.

So with no more said we got him on a board, and at the first jag of the lancet my Grant lad sat him up on end with a loup like a Jack-in-the-box. But when he saw where he was, and the poor bits of dead folk that the surgeon laddies had been learning on that day, he fetched a yell up from the soles of his Highland shoon, and bounced off the board, crying, Yell no cut me up as lang as Donald Grants a leeving man, whatever ye may do when hes dead!

And so he took through the door as if the dogs had been after him.

Then the blood-letting man was for charging me with the cost of his time, but I bade him apply to Regent Campbell over at the college, telling him that it was he who had sent me. But whether ever he did so or not I never heard.

Now the rarest jest of the whole matter was on the morrow, when Quintin went to attend his prelection in Hall. The lesson, so he told me, was in the Latin of Essenius, his Compend, and Quintin was called up. After he had answered upon his portion, and well, as I presume, for Quintin was no dullard at his books, Dr. Campbell looked down a little queerly at him.

Can you tell me which is the sixth commandment? says he.

Thou shalt not kill! answers Quintin, as simple as supping brose.

Then, are you a murderer or no this morning?

Quintin, thinking that, after the fashion of the time, the Regent meant some divinity quirk or puzzle, laid his brains asteep, and answered that as he had certainly hated his brother, in that sense he was doubtless, like all the rest of the human race, technically and theologically a murderer.

But, said the Professor, what of the Highland Grant lad that ye felled like a bullock yestreen under my window?

Now it had never struck me that I was like my brother Quintin in outward appearance, save in the way that all we black MacClellans are like one another long in the nose, bushy in the eyebrows, which mostly reach over to meet one another. And I grant it that Quintin was ever better mettle for a lasss eye than I though not worth a pail of calfs feed in the matter of making love as love ought to be made, which counts more with women than all fine appearings.





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