Crichope Linn & Tales of the Covenanters #History

Did Claverhouse make a daring leap over the chasm at Crichope Linn? In Ellen Jane Guthrie’s popular Tales of the Covenanters he does, but it is a work of fiction…

Crichope LinnCrichope Linn © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse.

Crichope Linn is a place with many traditions linking it with the Covenanters. It is also a place with many literary associations that have built that tradition. Today, it largely lies forgotten. If you are ever in the vicinity of this little-known, sublime site, then take the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of many Victorian tourists and visit it.

What is it like? Here is an abseil down one of the waterfalls

If you have ever wondered what it is like in the abyss of the chasm at Crichope Linn, a view you will probably not see, watch this.

And this

Guthrie’s story revolves around Crichope Linn and the Souter’s Seat.

Crichhope Burn

Map showing the Souter’s Seat, the Linn and the Covenanter’s Cave.

Like her story on the Peden Stone at Benhar, it builds on traditions.

THE SUTOR’S SEAT.

Having ascertained, during a recent visit in Dumfriesshire, that Crichup Linn—celebrated on account of its wild sublimity, but more especially for the refuge it afforded to the Covenanters during the days of their persecution—was distant about seven miles from the house where I was then staying, I set off one fine morning, with a friend, to explore the dark recesses of that romantic spot.

Dear to the heart of the Scottish peasant is the remembrance of those bloody days; when the mountains and valleys of their native country resounded with the voice of lamentation as [John Graham of] Claverhouse and his dragoons darted like eagles on their prey; and the incense of praise ascended on high from the lonely hill-side and solitary moor, uttered by the lips of those dauntless men who took up arms in defence of a broken Covenant and persecuted Kirk.

Of the many places of refuge sought after by the Covenanters of Dumfriesshire in their hour of danger, Crichup Linn was the most frequently resorted to by them, as its narrow and tortuous paths afforded little scope for the mounted dragoon; while all along the base of the rocks, which rose dark and frowning from the depths of the abyss, Nature had formed a series of caves, as if with a view of sheltering those suffering children who fled to her bosom for protection.

Crichope Linn

A guide being procured—in the person of a grey-haired labourer, to point out the precise spots where lurked those hapless defenders of Scotland’s spiritual freedom—we entered the sequestered shades of Crichup Linn. Few persons could visit this picturesque solitude without being deeply impressed by the almost terrific grandeur of the scene presented to their view while traversing the narrow path along which we followed our venerable guide, who, staff in hand, strode slowly onwards, with head and eyes bent towards the ground, as though he was ruminating, sadly perhaps, on the vanished past. Above our heads gigantic masses of rock towered upward, dark and menacing in their rugged strength, from whose crevices burst forth some withered-looking trees, which wreathed their distorted limbs into fantastic shapes around the huge blocks of stone to which they clung; while at an immeasurable distance beneath, the water—from whence the linn derives its name—fell with a murmuring sound into the basins Nature had formed to receive it.

Evidently enjoying the delighted surprise with which we gazed on the startling scene, our guide exclaimed, as if in answer to his own thoughts, while he pointed with his stick to the gloomy depths below:—“Yes! beneath the shade of these frowning rocks the persecuted Covenanter—friendless and homeless, heart-sick and weary—could lay himself down to rest in as much security as the sleeping child reposing on its mother’s breast!” The old man’s colour rose as he gave utterance to these words; his eyes flashed, and he grasped his staff with a firmness which convinced me that he himself, had he lived in those times, would have been a staunch supporter of the Covenanting cause. I ventured to hint as much, upon which he replied—“Maybe, maybe! there is no saying what either of us might have been had we lived in those wild days; but praise be to God! they are gone—I trust never to return in Scotland.”

Re-echoing this heartfelt prayer, we pursued our way along the giddy ledge of the precipice which stretched beneath. The farther we advanced, the more wild and gloomy the scenery became, until at length we paused, mutually overcome with the stern sublimity of the, formerly believed to be, haunted linn. By means of fissures in the rocks, worn away in some places so as to resemble huge skeletons, we beheld winding passages and numberless cascades—the noise of whose falling waters alone broke upon the stillness of the scene; while in the abyss beneath, gigantic masses of hyperstein-looking rock, jutting boldly out from each bank, seemed to form, what well might have been, the entrance to some subterranean palace of the Genii. So perfect was the resemblance, that, as we gazed affrighted on the towering portals and listened to the murmurs of the water gurgling along its pebbled bed, we almost feared to see some of its terrible inhabitants issue forth, and with denouncing gestures, compel us to enter their unblest abode. After pointing out for our observation the numerous caves which formerly sheltered the adherents of the Covenant, our guide attracted our attention to a seat, in the form of a chair, hollowed out in the solid rock, remarking, as he did so, “You told me you thought from my appearance that I would have been a Covenanter had I lived in their time, and well might you say so, for my forefathers were staunch in the rightful cause; and for many a long hour did my great-grandfather sit in that seat, when Claverhouse and his dragoons were guarding the entrance to the linn. He was a shoemaker in this parish, and from that circumstance alone it is still known as the ‘Sutor’s Seat.’”

“Is there any tradition handed down in connection with your great-grandfather?” I inquired.

“Yes, ma’m, there is; and if you would care to hear it, you are welcome to all that I can remember.” So saying, the old man seated himself on a neighbouring stone and related the story which, clothed in my own language, is now presented to the reader under the name of the Sutor’s Seat.

It was late on the evening of the first of June, sixteen hundred and seventy-nine, and the wife and family of Abel Armstrong, who resided in the parish of Closeburn,

were engaged in offering up fervent supplications at the throne of mercy in behalf of all those who had gone forth to fight the battles of the Lord; but the face of the mother waxed pale, and her lips trembled with emotion as she prayed, more especially for the safety of her husband and her son, who had also enrolled themselves beneath the banners of the Covenant. While thus engaged, a low knocking at the outer door caused them to start hastily to their feet, and they stood gazing on each other with looks of eager alarm, at a loss to comprehend the meaning of this unwelcome summons. Again it was repeated; but this time a feeble voice was heard entreating for admission in the name of God. Unable to withstand this earnest appeal, Mrs. Armstrong ran to the door and undid the bar; it flew open, and an officer of dragoons staggered into the cottage. At the sight of the armed intruder, Mrs. Armstrong and her daughters uttered wild screams of alarm; while the sole male inmate of the kitchen, a youth of not more than fifteen years of age, darted to the farthest, corner where stood a loaded gun, and grasping it in his hand, gazed on the soldier with scowling brows, irresolute how to act.

“Fear nought from me,” faintly exclaimed the dragoon, observing the hostile attitude assumed by the boy; “I mean you no harm, nor have I the power to inflict an injury, even had I the inclination.”

As he spoke, a stream of blood, welling from a deep wound in his side, dyed the cottage floor with a crimson stain.

“Water! water!” he murmured, and sank fainting into the nearest chair.

With all their womanly sympathies aroused within them at the sight of the helpless condition of the stranger who had thus thrown himself upon their hospitality, Mrs. Armstrong and her eldest daughter, Lucy, ran to his assistance; the one to bathe his forehead with vinegar, and the other to fetch bandages to bind up anew his bleeding wound.

“O but he has a bonnie sweet face o’ his ain!” said Mrs. Armstrong in pitying accents, as she undid his helmet and stroked down his long fair hair, which, in obedience to the prevailing custom of the Cavaliers, descended in ringlets to his shoulders, “and so young too! My poor lad, what could have tempted you to leave your home to engage in such unprofitable warfare?”

As she spoke, a faint smile stole over the pallid features of the wounded dragoon; he opened his eyes, and warmly pressing the kind hand at that instant engaged in staunching the blood which still flowed from his side, he murmured the name of mother.

“O, an’ it’s maybe you have a lady mother who is even now praying for the safety of her darling son, as I have done for that of mine this night!” exclaimed Mrs. Armstrong, the tears coursing down her cheeks as she spoke; “but fear ye nought, for although you are far from home and kindred, and in the house of one who is hostile to your cause, yet are you as safe beneath the humble roof-tree of Abel Armstrong as though you were lying in your stately hall with your mother’s arms around your neck.”

The exhausted youth again pressed her hand in token of his gratitude for her promised protection, and speedily relapsed into insensibility. Deeply moved on beholding his extreme weakness, Mrs. Armstrong, with the assistance of Lucy, relieved him of his armour, and raising him gently in her arms, conveyed him into their sole remaining apartment, where, according to the usual Scottish custom, two beds were placed in the wall, in one of which they laid the dragoon. Having succeeded, by means of a reviving cordial, in restoring him to consciousness, the tender-hearted woman hastened to examine his bandages, fearful lest they might have slipped during his removal; but their fears proving groundless, they bade God bless him, and left him to repose.

Scarcely had Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter resumed their seats by the kitchen fire, when a low tap on the window pane caused them to tremble anew with apprehension. But soon their fears were allayed when the well-known voice of Abel Armstrong was heard demanding admittance.

With a scream of joy, Mrs. Armstrong darted towards the door which speedily opened to admit her husband and son, accompanied by several others of the Covenanting party.

“My husband! my son!” was all the weeping woman could exclaim, as the clasped them alternately in her arms.

“Father! oh thank God you have returned in safety! but where is William Crosbie? speak!” cried Lucy, as she turned to greet her brother; “Oh, Jamie, is he wounded or dead?”

“Neither!” said her brother, smiling fondly in the face upturned to his with a look of wistful inquiry; “only have patience, and you will see him presently; he is tending his horse, and will be here ere many minutes have elapsed.”

“Oh God in heaven be praised for his goodness in thus having lent an attentive ear to the humble petitions of his servants, which ascended from afflicted, yet trusting hearts!” piously exclaimed both mother and daughter; and they gazed upwards with streaming eyes and hearts full of thankfulness for the safe return of those beloved ones whose absence had paled their cheeks and filled their bosoms with apprehensions of evil.

“Yes, let us praise Him!” said Abel Armstrong, uncovering his head as he spoke, “who hath this day upheld the cause of his saints, and scattered their foes as the dust flies before the winds of heaven.”

“What mean you, Abel?”

“That our arms have been victorious in battle. This morning we encountered the enemy on the moor of Drumclog. We beheld them advancing towards us with helmets glancing and banners waving. We noticed the proud scorn with which they regarded us as we prayed that our cause might be blessed and our hands guided in the fight; and we marked well the contempt written on their countenances as they beheld us drawn up to meet them. But they knew not our hearts. They could not understand the mighty spell that bound us together, and animated our souls with hopes of victory. The bloody Claverhouse, secure in the power of his might, boasted ‘He would soon lay the psalm-singing caitiffs low!’ but we, trusting only in One whose arm is mighty to save, commended our cause to Him, and went forth to battle. We met; they were scattered. Some fled; others lay stretched on the plain. Then we raised our standards aloft, and returned thanks to the God of heaven.”

“The Lord be praised!” said Mrs. Armstrong, “for he hath indeed showered rich blessings on our sinful heads this day; he hath blessed our arms in the field, and restored those dear ones who went forth to fight in his service. Oh, Abel,” she continued, again clasping him in her arms, “God in his mercy grant that you may long be spared; for were you to be taken away from me, the trial would indeed be greater than I could bear.”

“Do not speak thus,” said Abel Armstrong, fondly returning his wife’s embrace: “we are all in the Lord’s keeping; that life we enjoy came from him, and at his command we must resign it. We have, therefore, no right to murmur when those we love are taken from us. At all times let us commend ourselves to him, and he will give us strength to endure the severest trials, and cause us to come forth purified from the furnace of affliction.”

Scarcely had Abel Armstrong finished speaking, when the door opened, and a young man entered. This was William Crosbie, who, at the time of the breaking out of the religious disturbances then agitating Scotland, had followed the occupation of a shoe-maker in the neighbourhood of Abel Armstrong’s cottage. He and Lucy had been lovers since the days of their childhood, and were to have been married some months previously; but on the morning of the day appointed for the wedding, the aged minister, engaged to perform the ceremony, was taken prisoner by some of Claverhouse’s dragoons, and lodged in Dumfries jail. As no one could be procured to supply his place, the marriage was necessarily postponed until the return of more tranquil days. The disappointment of his hopes, coupled with the imprisonment of one whom he had always regarded in the light of a parent, so wrought upon the hitherto peaceful disposition of William Crosbie, that he, long taught to regard the measures adopted by the then existing Government as being in the highest degree tyrannical, at length threw up his employment, and went forth to fight on the aide of the Covenanters.

On the entrance of her lover, Lucy darted towards him, and exclaiming—“William, you too are safe!” threw herself sobbing on his neck. With a low cry of pain young Crosbie disengaged himself from Lucy’s embrace, and staggered back against the wall; while the excessive pallor overspreading his countenance attested the agony under which he laboured.

“William!” shrieked Lucy, gazing on her lover’s face with lips white and trembling as his own, “you are wounded—perhaps mortally!”

“Oh, no, dearest, it is nothing!” replied her lover, struggling manfully to regain his composure; “it is only a mere scratch in the shoulder; but a sudden twinge of pain caused me to wax somewhat faint——”

“Ha, then; he hit you after all!” said Abel Armstrong, his brows contracting as he spoke.

“How chanced it, William? by whom were you wounded?” anxiously inquired Lucy, who had in some measure regained her composure on being assured by one of the men who had proceeded to examine the wound, that it was not of a serious nature—the ball having merely grazed the fleshy part of the arm.

“It was a cowardly dragoon who fired the shot,” replied Abel Armstrong; “the fellow fled in this direction, and we pursued him on horses taken from the enemy. William Crosbie, who was far ahead of us all, called upon him to surrender; when, for answer, the dastardly fellow turned round in the saddle, and discharged his pistol at him, wounding him, as it now appears, in the shoulder. We soon lost sight of the fugitive in the darkness; but he seems to have found refuge somewhere in this neighbourhood, for we discovered his horse grazing at no very great distance from hence; but of the dragoon himself we saw nothing.

“Why, how came these things here?” suddenly exclaimed one of the party, pointing, as he spoke, to the pieces of armour Mrs. Armstrong had taken off the person of her wounded guest ere removing him from the kitchen, and which, till that instant, had remained unobserved in a corner of the apartment. Mrs. Armstrong and Lucy exchanged quick glances of alarm, but vouchsafed no answer to the startling inquiry.

“The fellow must be here!” said several of his companions; handling the triggers of their guns in a manner which boded no good to the unfortunate youth, should he fall into their hands.

“Wife!” exclaimed Abel Armstrong in a low stern whisper, “you hear the inquiry—‘How came these things here?’ Why answer ye not? Speak—I command you.”

“Oh, Abel, press me not to tell; indeed I cannot!” said the distracted woman, wringing her hands and gazing beseechingly in her husband’s face.

“What!” he cried in wrath; “have you then dared to shelter one of our foes beneath this roof of mine? Woman, you have done me a foul wrong; but tell us instantly where you have concealed him, that we may yet revenge ourselves.”

“He lies there,” said Mrs. Armstrong in trembling accents, and shrinking from the fiery glance of her husband’s eye.

“Ha, then, he dies!” shouted divers others of the party; and they rushed towards the door as they spoke.

“You shall not touch him,” cried Mrs. Armstrong, throwing herself on her knees before them, and endeavouring to prevent their egress; “you dare not pollute my threshold with a stranger’s blood! Oh, spare his young life!” she continued, in tones of earnest entreaty, “and crush not your own souls with the crime of murder——”

“Woman, prevent us not,” was the stern reply; “he is the foe of the Covenant, and as such must die!” and the speaker threw Mrs. Armstrong from him, and darted into the next apartment, followed by several of his companions, eager to wreak their vengeance on the wounded youth.

“Abel! Abel! will you stand idly by and see murder committed beneath your roof. Oh, save him!” and as she uttered these words Mrs. Armstrong seized her husband by the arm, and dragged him from the kitchen. It was a strange wild scene that greeted her eyes on gaining the door of the sleeping apartment. The sterner portion of the Covenanters stood grouped together; their hands grasping their ready muskets, their eyes, whose glances were dark and menacing, glared on the wounded youth, who, aroused from his slumbers by the stormy entrance of the party, sat upright in his bed, and, with undaunted mien, repaid their scowling regards with looks of haughty scorn, while he indignantly exclaimed, “Come you here with the purpose of murder in your hearts that you gaze thus gloomily on me! If so, approach and do your bloody work; I fear you not. It will be a deed worthy of your base-born natures to slay a youth, and he a defenceless one. I despise you from the depths of my heart,” he continued, in tones of withering scorn, heedless of the fiery glances and threatening gestures of the infuriated men who surrounded him; “and learn this, if you need an incentive to urge you to the deed, that on the plain of Drumclog my good broadsword caused one or more of your body to bite the dust.”

“Ha! boastest thou of thy evil doings! villain, thou diest.” And with these words several of the Covenanters rushed towards the undaunted youth, with their guns uplifted, as if to strike him dead where he lay, when Mrs. Armstrong, with a scream of terror, threw her arms around the neck of the wounded dragoon, to shield him from danger, while she exclaimed, “Oh, forbear to slay him! How can you condemn your enemies for their cruelties, if you do such evil deeds as this? Shame on your manhood, ever to dream of harming a defenceless foe, and he a mere boy. You shall not touch him,” she cried, pushing back the men who stood nearest her; “he came to my house, wounded and bleeding, and begged admission in the name of God. Could I refuse to listen to the voice of suffering, even when coming from the lips of an enemy? No; I tended him as though he were mine own child. He spoke of his mother. I too am a mother. And I thought on my husband and son, who even at that instant might be entreating aid from the hands of strangers, and my heart melted within me. Will you be less kind—less forgiving? It is true you heard it from his own mouth that this day his hand was raised against the soldiers of the Covenant, and that to the destruction of some of our party; but did you spare those who fell into your hands? Think ye on that, and forgive the part he hath chosen.”

As Mrs. Armstrong finished her touching address, William Crosbie, who had been speaking apart with Lucy, advanced towards her, and placing one hand in hers, grasped with the other that of the young soldier, and turning round to his still frowning companions, said in a stern voice, “Now look you, my friends, if I, who this evening barely escaped being killed by the hands of this misguided youth, can say I freely forgive and mean him no injury, surely you may do the same. Mrs. Armstrong is right. It is with men like ourselves we should wage war, and not with beardless boys. On the open field and in the broad daylight we should attack our enemy; not in the darkness of night and beneath the roof of one who hath promised him protection. Let the lad go. Remember with what horror we regard the cold-blooded murders daily committed by those who are opposed to our cause; and in what respect should we differ from them did we yield to the dictates of our baser natures, and stain our hearths with the sacred blood of a guest? No, no; let us act as men who have the fear of God before their eyes, and if an enemy fall into our hands, friendless and wounded, as this poor youth is, let us succour him till he is well, and then bid him go in peace from our dwelling.”

“You are right, William,” cried Abel Armstrong, dropping his gun on the floor, and motioning on the others to imitate his example, “let us do good even to an enemy; and if this poor lad hath shed some of our blood this day, his own hath flowed freely in exchange. So come, my friends, let us mount and ride; there is yet much for us to perform, and we must hasten to rejoin our comrades, lest they be uneasy concerning our safety. Nay, nay, now; look not thus sullen at being deprived of your revenge! Remember the nobler purpose that brought us together, namely, to fight for the spiritual freedom of Scotland, and abandon all thoughts which would lead away the heart from the mighty end to be accomplished.” The men hesitated a moment ere they obeyed the voice of their leader; but the command being repeated in a sterner tone, they reluctantly quitted the room, casting, as they did so, lowering glances in the direction of the young soldier, who, wholly overcome by the excitement of the scene, coupled with his late fearful loss of blood, sunk back exhausted on his pillow. As William Crosbie was preparing to follow his companions, the dragoon called him to his bed-side, and clasping his hand in his, said in a faltering voice,—“Young man, under the providence of God, I this night owe to you a life which is precious to me for my mother’s sake. I am her only remaining son, and it would have killed her had anything happened unto me. I will not insult you by offering you money; but, should the chances of war ever throw you into the power of our party, inquire for Lieutenant Musgrave of Claverhouse’s dragoons, and display this chain; it will secure you safety and attention in the meanwhile; and if spared to redeem my promise, I will procure your pardon, even should I die to obtain it.”

With these words, the grateful youth threw a massive gold chain around the neck of William Crosbie, who, after warmly thanking the dragoon for his promised aid, rejoined his companions.

“God bless and protect you both in the midst of battle,” sobbed Mrs. Armstrong, her voice failed her and she turned weeping from the door as her husband and son once more departed from their home to join the Covenanting host.

“And must we then part?” cried Lucy, gazing with tearful eyes in the face of her lover, who had lingered on the threshold to exchange a few parting words with her, as she now clung to him in all the abandonment of grief.

“Yes, dearest; but only for a time; ere the song of the reapers is heard in the fields, I will return—never more to leave you.”

As William Crosbie uttered these words, a dark cloud passed over the face of the moon; and as Lucy beheld the sudden eclipse of its bright rays, a sense of coming evil smote her heart, and a shudder passed through her slender frame, as though the hope of future happiness she ventured to entertain was doomed to wither ere it bloomed. The voice of Abel Armstrong was now heard calling on William Crosbie to join the party. On hearing the fatal summons, Lucy clung yet closer to her lover; and her lips trembled as she bade God guard him from all danger and restore him in safety to her, in company with her father and her brother.

“Think on the coming harvest,” whispered William Crosbie, as he clasped Lucy again and again to his throbbing heart; then resigning her almost inanimate form into the arms of her mother, he mounted his horse, and without daring to turn his head in the direction of her from whom it was almost death to part, galloped after his companions.

Under the fostering care of his kind hostess and her daughter, the soldier speedily recovered from the effects of his wound; the glow of returning health mantled on his cheek, and in the course of a few days he declared his intention of proceeding to Dumfries, there to join his regiment, commanded by the redoubted Claverhouse in person. Mrs. Armstrong was deeply moved as she bade farewell to the departing dragoon, and said, raising the corner of her apron to her eyes as she spoke, “That although a follower of the bloody Clavers, and a dweller in the tents of the wicked, he had such a kindly heart and gentle manners that she loved him as if he were her own son. And oh!” she exclaimed, gazing imploringly in his face, “should you chance to encounter in battle those who are dearer to rue than life, remember the night you found shelter in my house, and spare them for the sake of one who tended you with a mother’s care.”

“I will; I will!” answered the soldier, wringing her hand in the fervour of his gratitude. “God is my witness that I will protect them with my latest breath; and rest assured, my sweet maiden,” he said, addressing Lucy, “your lover’s interference on my behalf, when the hearts of his cowardly companions were intent on my destruction, will never fade from my memory. I have sworn to save him should his life be in danger; and if at any time you think of quitting this part of the country, come to Cumberland; there I will give you a home, and my mother will be the first to welcome those who succoured and befriended her wounded son. Farewell. God grant we may meet again, and that I may be able to testify my gratitude for kindness which can never be repaid and will never be forgotten.”

“Farewell, farewell!” said the gentle-hearted women, and with tearful eyes they stood on the threshold gazing after the departing soldier till his nodding plume disappeared in the distance.

Barely three short weeks had elapsed since the victory of Drumclog, when the fatal battle of Bothwell Bridge extinguished, it seemed, almost for ever, the hopes of the Covenanting party in Scotland. A prey to treachery, and divided among themselves, the soldiers of the Covenant were slaughtered without mercy by Claverhouse and his dragoons, who burned to wipe out the stain of their defeat on the moor of Drumclog. Tidings that a great battle had been fought, and the Covenanters defeated, found their way to the sequestered home of Abel Armstrong, filling the minds of both mother and daughter with fearful apprehensions lest those they loved might be among the number of the slain. Each succeeding day beheld Lucy—trembling, yet hopeful—stationed at the door, eager to obtain the first glimpse of their well-known forms—but she looked in vain. At distant intervals a few way-worn Covenanters—fugitives from the disastrous field of Bothwell—might be seen dragging their weary steps along, but all passed on their way, unable to afford any information regarding the missing men. Then hope for ever fled from the mother’s breast, and she wept in the solitude of her dwelling for those whom she felt she should never more behold on earth. The younger portion of her children—whose tender years did not permit of their sharing in their mother’s grief—stood gazing in wondering silence on beholding her bitter sorrow; while Lucy strove to reassure her by comforting words regarding the speedy return of her father and brother, the tears running down her own pale cheeks as she thought on the probable fate of one still more loved than they. Weeks rolled on. The vernal tints of summer had given place to the more sober hues of autumn, still they came not. Then she too ceased to hope, and mourned for her absent relatives and lover as one mourneth for the dead.

One lovely evening, towards the end of August, Lucy—too wretched to enjoy the childish prattle of her younger brothers and sisters—went forth from the cottage to indulge, in solitude, in her own sad thoughts. She paused on the threshold, overcome with the tranquil beauty of the scene. The sun was slowly sinking behind the distant hills, and its bright rays tinged with a yet richer hue the now golden corn as it slowly waved to and fro in the grateful breeze. With a heart torn with anguish, Lucy recalled her lover’s parting words—“Ere the song of the reapers is heard in the fields, I will return!” and she wept, for the harvest was come—but where was he? Unconsciously, as it were, she lifted her eyes to traverse the far-stretching plain, when the figure of a young man, approaching in the direction of the cottage, at once arrested her attention. For the quick eye of affection one glance sufficed. It was William Crosbie who was rapidly advancing towards her. With a scream of “Mother, he is come!” Lucy darted forward to meet him. Already she is within two hundred paces of him. He sees her—he quickens his pace—their arms are outstretched to embrace each other, when, oh, horror! the sun’s bright rays flash on the brass helmets of two mounted dragoons as they gallop swiftly across the plain. Paralysed at the sight, Lucy endeavours in vain to apprise her lover of his danger. She warns him back. He notices them not. Thinking only of her, he rushes eagerly forward. Suddenly the stern command—“Halt, in the King’s name!” rings out in the silence of the night. He staggers at the awful sound. He turns to fly—too late. The soldiers dismount from their horses, and with unslung carbines, command him to yield—or die!

“O, Lucy! and is it thus we meet?” groaned forth William Crosbie, as the frantic girl rushed madly forward, and throwing herself on her knees before the dragoons, besought them in the most moving terms to free her lover. “For many a weary day, when hungry and homeless, and forced to seek refuge in the caves of the earth, did I comfort myself with thoughts of my return to claim you as mine. I dreamt of it—prayed for it; and now I have seen you, but to lose you for ever.”

“Say not so, William! Men, men! you have hearts—God gave you them—hearts to feel—to share in another’s sorrow. O think on mine—close not your breasts to the voice of pity; free him—let him go, and I will bless you!” and the distracted girl clung in her agony to the knees of the rude soldiers, who repulsed her with violence, and laughed at all her efforts to move their stern natures to compassion.

“Waste not your breath on us!” one of them exclaimed, “you will require it soon; there are those behind us to whom you may kneel for mercy——”

“But to little purpose I fear,” said the other with a laugh, in which his companion joined. “Sir Robert Grierson [of Lag], not to mention our own worthy leader, is by no means fond of being bothered by praying women when in the discharge of duty; so you need not expect to obtain any favour from him,” he said, addressing Lucy, who became deadly pale on hearing those dreadful words, and with one more frantic appeal for mercy, she sank senseless on the ground.

Claverhouse and his dragoons

“Lucy! oh heavens, you have killed her by your brutal speech!” cried William Crosbie in an agony of fear, on beholding her death-like countenance, “let me go—let me—men, devils! will you not release me?” and he made violent efforts to free himself from their grasp, but in vain. And incensed by his stout resistance, the soldiers seized him by the throat, and beat him with the butt-end of their muskets till he reeled beneath their blows. At this instant a large party of dragoons, headed by the stern Claverhouse, rode up to the spot.

“What is the meaning of this?” said the dreaded leader, gazing alternately on William Crosbie and Lucy Armstrong, who, in some measure recovered from her faint, lay on the ground, her hair dishevelled, and her eyes fixed on the dragoons with a vacant stare, as though unable to comprehend the nature of the scene.

“Why, most noble Colonel,” said one of the soldiers, “as we, in obedience to your commands, were scouring the fields in search of rebels, we came upon this young fellow who was running to meet his sweetheart. It appears he was returning to marry her, and——”

“So, ho! then we have arrived most opportunely to witness a bridal!” said Sir Robert Grierson, who accompanied Claverhouse on this occasion; “what say you, my friend,” addressing Sir James Graham, “to hanging them both on a tree, and having a stone placed beneath, bearing this inscription—‘They were lovely in their lives, and in death they were not divided?’” And the speaker laughed long and loudly.

“Surely I have seen this fellow before,” said Claverhouse, gazing sternly on William Crosbie, who met his eye with a gaze unflinching as his own. “Tell me, young man, were you at Bothwell?”

“I was.”

“You confess it?”

“I do.”

“And you were one of those who slew the dragoon and bore back your colours from the bridge?”

“I did the deed myself!” said William Crosbie proudly.

“Ha! I thought so! Soldiers, unsling your carbines—he dies!”

Guthrie Covenanters

[Illustration captioned:
“Mercy, mercy!” cried Lucy, now fully alive to the horrors of her lover’s situation; and dragging herself to the feet of Claverhouse, she seized his hand and besought him in the most heart-rending terms to spare her lover.]

“Mercy, mercy!” cried Lucy, now fully alive to the horrors of her lover’s situation; and dragging herself to the feet of Claverhouse, she seized his hand and besought him in the most heart-rending terms to spare her lover. “He will never more fight against the King,” she said, “he was returning here to live in peace—oh let him go!”

With a calm, cold smile, Claverhouse withdrew his hand from her hold, and made a signal to his men to prepare their arms.

“Mother, mother!” shrieked Lucy, as Mrs. Armstrong, almost breathless from her exertions, reached the spot where she knelt, “kneel with me before these men. The sight of your grey hairs may move their hearts to compassion, and they may grant you the mercy they have denied me.”

“William!” exclaimed Mrs. Armstrong in faltering accents, “what of my husband and son—where are they?”

Young Crosbie’s lips trembled. He sadly shook his head. She was answered—both had fallen at Bothwell Bridge.

“Now may I indeed kneel—kneel in sorrow and in anguish, for I am bereaved!” And with these words the weeping widow threw herself on her knees, and with clasped hands and upturned eyes, besought pardon for the youth about to suffer.

“O!” she exclaimed, “if your hearts still retain one human feeling; if they are not yet wholly seared by the bloody scenes through which you have passed, hearken unto me this night. It is a heart-broken woman who addresses you—one who is sorrowful even unto death. Husband and son have fallen. The lover of my youth, and he who would have been the stay of mine old age, are taken from me; and yet, I trust, in the midst of my affliction, I can say, God’s will, not mine, be done! Will not, then, the blood of two suffice you——?”

“Two!” shouted Sir Robert Grierson, “though you had lost twenty such rebellious knaves, what matters it to us? death to all such rascals!”

“Surely,” continued the widow, regardless of the interruption, “you will feel for me, and grant my prayer. Kill not the prisoner. I have grown old and gray with affliction, and my time on earth may not be long; but my daughter is young in years, and her happiness is bound up in the life of this young man. O spare her the fearful trial of losing him—bring not down her youthful hairs with sorrow to the grave. Pardon him, I beseech you!”

Claverhouse sternly answered “No!” and impatiently waved his hand for them to be gone.

“Lucy, Lucy!” cried William Crosbie, “let not your mother kneel to these cold-blooded wretches! Do not debase yourself by imploring mercy from creatures who know it not. I can face death like a man. I do not fear it. Farewell, Lucy, we shall, I trust, meet in another and a better world where none can part us.” Then bidding the soldiers do their worst, the brave youth uncovered his head, and stood prepared to receive the fatal fire. These last words, uttered in a louder tone, reached the ears of a young officer who stood at some little distance from his companions, as though unwilling to witness the bloody tragedy about to be enacted. He started on hearing the familiar voice; and coming hastily forward, gazed earnestly on the prisoner as he stood bold and erect before the dragoons. A flush passed over the officer’s face, and advancing to the spot where Claverhouse stood conversing with Sir Robert Grierson, he requested to speak a few words with him in private. Claverhouse at once complied with the request; and withdrawing his horse a little apart from the others, a long and earnest conversation ensued. The conference seemed to terminate unfavourably, for a darker frown sat upon Claverhouse’s brow, and his voice sounded harsh and cruel as he uttered these last words aloud—“I am sorry to refuse your request; but his life is forfeited by the laws of this land, and my conscience would for ever upbraid me should I fail in my duty to my king and my country.” The red blood mantled on the cheeks of the supplicant; and he seemed about to make an angry reply, but instantly checking the impulse, he bowed his head, and then added carelessly, “As you please, Colonel; but since the poor fellow must suffer, have I your permission to exchange a few words with him ere he dies? I should like to tell him I have done what I could to procure his pardon, as I promised faithfully to save him.”

“Most certainly!” said Claverhouse with a courtly smile, apparently well satisfied to get off with so small a concession. “Soldiers, down muskets! Lieutenant Musgrave wishes to speak with the prisoner.”

At mention of the name, Lucy, who had been weeping passionately on her mother’s shoulder, raised her head, a ray of hope animated her countenance, and she watched the young officer’s movements in breathless anxiety—William Crosbie also looked disturbed and anxious. With a swaggering gait and careless mien, young Musgrave approached the prisoner, and taking him by the arm, led him some little distance apart, when he addressed him as follows:—“I have vainly endeavoured to procure your pardon. I vowed to save you; and my oath must be kept. Therefore listen to me. Accept this purse; you may stand in need of money, and when I say aloud farewell! dart off as quickly as you can in the direction of Crichup Linn. The darkness will favour your escape, and I will, if necessary, prevent the soldiers from following, until you are beyond their reach. Fear not for Lucy! I will protect her as though she were mine own sister. God bless you—farewell!” Scarcely had the word escaped Lieutenant Musgrave’s lips, ere William Crosbie was speeding along the plain towards Crichup Linn; and so thoroughly was the whole party overwhelmed with astonishment at this unlooked-for proceeding on the part of the prisoner, that ere the soldiers could mount their horses and set off in pursuit, he was already lost in the gloom. With a cry of thankfulness Lucy fell down on her knees; but not to man she knelt. She was breathing a prayer of gratitude to Heaven for her lover’s safety.

“Traitor!” shouted Claverhouse, his eyes sparkling with fury, “how dare you do this? By heavens! you shall answer for it, and that presently.”

“When and where you please,” said Lieutenant Musgrave haughtily; “you have yourself to blame for what I have done. I begged the young man’s life. I told you this good woman and her daughter had sheltered me when wounded, and that William Crosbie had prevented my blood being shed by his companions. In return, I vowed I would protect him if ever he fell into your hands. You refused to listen to my petition. It was the first request I had ever made, and I told you it should be the last; but you scorned my entreaties, and now you have reaped the fruits of your cruel refusal. Disgusted by your cold-blooded murders,——”

“Ha! this insolence to your commanding officer? Consider yourself under arrest! Captain Lennox, relieve Lieutenant Musgrave of his sword.”

“Never!” said young Musgrave; “here I resign my commission, and for ever abandon a cause characterised only by cruelty and oppression.”

With these words he drew his sword from its sheath, and breaking it across his knee, threw the pieces on the ground. Then taking Mrs. Armstrong by the hand, he led her and Lucy from the spot. Claverhouse remained motionless with rage on beholding himself deprived of his revenge; while Sir Robert Grierson exclaimed with a shrug of his shoulders—“We are well rid of the fellow. He has been too long in the society of these psalm-singing rascals not to have imbibed some of their notions. Let him go. He is not fit for the society of loyal-hearted subjects like ourselves; his place is the conventicle; there he will have whining and praying enough.” Unwilling to exhibit any further annoyance before his soldiers, Claverhouse joined in the laugh occasioned by this speech of Sir Robert’s, and after issuing a command to one of his men to follow in the direction of the dragoons and ascertain whether they had discovered any traces of the fugitive, he set out on his return to Dumfries. Favoured by the darkness which now enveloped the earth like a mantle, William Crosbie succeeded in baffling the dragoons. More than once their bullets whistled close past his ears, and their voices sounded ominously near, still he held on his way; and at length, when nearly exhausted, he gained the entrance to Crichup Linn. With a shout of triumph, which sounded in the ears of his pursuers like the yell of a demon, William Crosbie darted into its friendly shades; and, as he sped along its narrow path, he heard with unmingled pleasure the voices of the dragoons—who, unwilling to encounter the evil spirits said to infest the linn, had turned back from the pursuit—grow faint in the distance. The first act of the grateful Covenanter, on reaching a place of safety, was to fall on his knees and return thanks to God for his deliverance. This done, he proceeded, so far as the increasing darkness would permit, to examine the nature of the place he had chosen as a refuge against his enemies. For never before had he dared to venture within the haunted precincts of Crichup Linn.

The shades of night lent a still deeper gloom to the savage character of the linn; and as William Crosbie gazed on the huge rocks, which seemed from their tottering appearance as though the slightest touch would dislodge them, and listened to the noise of the ceaseless cascades, as they fell from rock to rock, a feeling of wonder, not unmixed with awe, took possession of his breast. As he stood beneath the shade of a beetling crag, his eyes striving to penetrate the darkness below, all the strange tales he had heard told around the cottager’s ingle-nook regarding the linn, rose up, unbidden guests, in his imagination. He remembered, with cold shudderings, the weird dance described by his uncle as having been seen by him when forced, from adverse circumstances, to seek refuge among its caves; and how the precise spot where he beheld the midnight revelry of the unearthly crew was still familiarly known as the “Elf’s Kirk,”[#] and the strange lights frequently seen leaping from crag to crag by those whom necessity had forced to be unwilling spectators of the unnatural flame.

[#] Crichup Linn, vide Fordyce’s Beauties at Scotland, vol. 2, page 312. [in fact, Forsyth’s Beauties of Scotland, II, 212-213.]

All these and more did fancy conjure up, like spectral demons, to haunt him with their presence, until at length, excited beyond measure at their remembrance and the thought of spending an entire night in a place so infested with horrors, William Crosbie wrought himself up to believe that he too was about to become the victim of supernatural agency. The air seemed filled with wild unearthly sounds. The blasted trees which burst forth from the rocks above his head appeared like so many hideous forms pointing at him with warning gestures from amid the gloom, while the abyss beneath was peopled with gigantic beings, who, as they issued forth from the portals of their unhallowed mansion, regarded him with malignant eyes, and tossed their menacing arms aloft in the air, as though invoking the elements to lash themselves into fury and descend on the doomed head of him who had thus dared to invade their dominions. As if in obedience to their call, a loud peal of thunder suddenly broke overhead, announcing an approaching storm. Another and another succeeded, and the blue electric fluid, fraught with death and disaster, quivered in the air like the sword of Divine wrath suspended over a guilty world. William Crosbie stood trembling and aghast as the storm, which had now reached the climax of its fury, rolled along the sky in terrible majesty. Crash followed crash with incredible velocity, while the forked lightning darted through the gloom like some heavenly messenger sent from the realms of bliss on an errand of mercy to the pit of woe. Appalled at the scene, the terror-stricken Covenanter, in acknowledgment of the Almighty’s power to preserve him in this awful hour, fell on his knees amid the fierce strife of the elements, and raised his right arm on high as though appealing for protection against the horrors that surrounded him. To his inexpressible relief, the storm-cloud, having spent its fury, at length passed over the linn. The flashes of lightning became less frequent; the peals of thunder waxed fainter and fainter, and then died away in broken murmurs in the distance.

Under cover of a protecting rock, William Crosbie passed, what seemed to his terror-struck imagination, an eternal night; and, as soon as the early beams of the rising sun proclaimed the presence of morning, he forsook his hard couch and made for the nearest outlet; determined rather to face Claverhouse and all his host, than be doomed again to encounter the horrors of a night spent in Crichup Linn. While threading his way through the tangled brushwood, which then almost obscured the entrance to the linn, William Crosbie was startled on observing several persons running in his direction. Apprehensive of danger, he screened his person behind some bushes, in order that he might ascertain their purpose ere discovering himself to them. On they came, panting and breathless, evidently making for the linn. On their nearer approach, William Crosbie discovered them to be friends of his own, and staunch adherents of the Covenanting party. He then came forth from his place of concealment, and addressed them by their names.

“Back! back!” they cried with one voice, “he is coming! he is coming!”

“Who is coming?”

“Claverhouse! do you not see him yonder?”

William Crosbie turned his eyes in the indicated direction, and there he beheld the dreaded persecutor, mounted on a splendid black charger, galloping furiously towards them, followed by his dragoons.

“Come back with us!” said one of the new-comers, addressing William Crosbie, “we know the way to the caves; there we shall be safe.”

“You need not fear pursuit now!” said one of his companions, “not even the evil spirit, were he mounted on horse-back, would dare to follow us hither!”

As he spoke, a crashing of the boughs behind them caused them to start and look back, when to their unutterable horror they beheld their terrible enemy dashing through amidst the trees. William Crosbie stood transfixed at the sight. He had neither power to move nor speak, while Claverhouse, with dishevelled locks and flashing eyes, rode towards him, with his sword uplifted in the air as if to hew him down.

“Have you a mind to be killed that you stand there while the arch-fiend himself is within a few paces of you?” said one of the men, and seizing William Crosbie by the arm he dragged him onwards to the verge of the precipice. “Down, down!” he cried, “we will cheat him yet!” and with these words the man, still holding young Crosbie by the hand, slid down among the rocks, whither his companions had gone before. “He has lost his prey; he dare not follow us.”

The speaker was interrupted by a cry of horror proceeding from his companions. He looked up, and beheld the horse with its rider bounding over the chasm. In his eager haste to capture the men, Claverhouse did not perceive the danger which lay in his path, until too late to retreat; so clapping spurs to his steed, which equalled in spirit its fiery master, he urged it to the leap. His horse cleared the chasm at a single bound, and landed its rider safe on the opposite side. The noble animal fared not so well; one of its legs was broken in the effort; and from his seat in the face of the rock William Crosbie beheld with admiration the feat achieved by the gallant charger, and witnessed with sorrow its death inflicted by the hands of his master. The dragoons on foot now rushed into the linn, and discharged their muskets down the abyss, thereby hoping to kill or wound some of the men who had taken refuge there. But their bullets glanced harmlessly off the rocks; and at length, wearied with their futile attempts to capture the Covenanters, they departed, venting maledictions on all such rebels. For the space of four days and nights did William Crosbie and his companions remained concealed in Crichup Linn. Their food was regularly supplied by a shepherd boy, who always managed to visit them unseen, and to furnish them with information regarding the movements of the dragoons.

On the morning of the fifth day he brought the welcome tidings that the soldiers, wearied of guarding the entrance to the linn, had abandoned their post, and gone off in search of a more promising expedition. This was indeed joyful news to the oppressed hearts of the Covenanters; and when the shades of evening rendered their escape easy, they abandoned their hiding-places, and set out for their respective habitations. William Crosbie at once directed his steps towards Mrs. Armstrong’s cottage; the door of which was opened by Lucy in person. The meeting of the lovers, after the fearful scene through which they had so lately passed, may be better imagined than described. Suffice it to say that Lucy clung to her lover’s neck, and cried and laughed alternately; while William Crosbie kissed the tears away, and whispered sweet words of affection, which soon restored the rose to Lucy’s cheek. During this affecting scene, Mrs. Armstrong stood a little apart; her eyes were filled with tears, and her lips moved as though engaged in mental prayer. It was so. Her tears were to the memory of her husband and son; while her prayer was for the continued happiness of those who had, through the providence of God, been permitted to taste of joy after having drunk so deeply of the cup of affliction. Lucy listened in breathless awe as William Crosbie recounted the horrors he had experienced during his solitary vigil in Crichup Linn; and in her turn she related all that had befallen her since that fearful evening, dwelling at considerable length on the more than brotherly kindness of Lieutenant Musgrave, who had done everything in his power to render her happy during the absence of her lover. “And what do you think, William?” she said at the conclusion of her recital, “he has offered us all a home in Cumberland; and my mother, to whom this part of the country has now became unbearable, has decided upon accepting his kind offer, so it only remains for you to consent to accompany us.”

The answer her lover gave is not recorded; but that it was in the affirmative may be gathered from the fact that in the course of a few days Mrs. Armstrong, her family and her future son-in-law, set out on their journey to another home. As the humble vehicle, which bore the travellers, proceeded on its way, the eyes of Lucy, beaming with love and happiness, were fixed on the blue hills of Cumberland, as they rose up before her in yet distant beauty, while the tear-stained eyes of the widow wandered back to the lowly cottage, which never seemed so dear to her as at that instant when she was leaving it for ever. Youth was looking hopefully to the future—age was ruminating sadly on the past.

On their arrival at their destination, they found Mr., no longer Lieutenant, Musgrave in waiting to receive them; who, taking Mrs. Armstrong by the hand, led her towards a lovely little cottage embowered in woodbine and roses.

“This,” he said, “is your home; and yonder,” pointing as he spoke to a smiling farm-house peeping out from amongst some venerable poplar-trees, “stands the future residence of William and Lucy.”

“O, sir!” exclaimed Mrs. Armstrong with streaming eyes, “your kindness——”

“Nay, thank not me!” he replied with a smile, “it is the gift——”

“Of a grateful mother,” said a soft womanly voice, and the speaker, a mild-benevolent looking lady—whom Mr. Musgrave speedily introduced as his mother—came forth from the cottage, and, with deep emotion, welcomed the Scottish Covenanters to their English home.

At her bridal, which took place shortly after her arrival in Cumberland, Lucy looked more than usually pretty in her simple white muslin dress; while her neck was adorned with the gold chain given to her lover by the grateful benefactor, to whom, they were proud to say, they owed all their present happiness. Long and happily did William Crosbie and his Lucy live on the shores of Cumberland; and even Mrs. Armstrong forgot, for a while, the sorrows of the past, as she dandled her fair-haired grandchildren on her knee. Some of the descendants of this worthy family are still to be found on the banks of the Solway; and in their possession may be seen the massive gold chain, which is carefully treasured up by them in remembrance of the sufferings their forefathers were called upon to endure in the dark and dismal days of persecution.

Still is the story of Claverhouse’s daring leap related in the parish of Closeburn; and the natural chair in which the young shoemaker sat during his brief sojourn in Crichup Linn is pointed out to the curious visitor, as The Sutor’s Seat.

Return to Homepage

Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Advertisements

~ by drmarkjardine on October 24, 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: