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Wilson's Border Tales
Sir Patrick Hume: A Tale of the House of Marchmont

Sir Patrick Hume, of Polwarth, was elected representative of the county of Berwick in the year 1665, being then in the twenty-fifth year of his age. He was a lover of freedom, a lover of his country, and a staunch Presbyterian. In those days, however, a love of freedom was a dangerous principle either to avow or to carry into Parliament. The tyrant Charles, whom some falsely call the Merry Monarch, was then attempting to rule the empire with a rod of iron. You have all heard of his Long Parliament, and of his afterwards governing the country, like an absolute tyrant, without a Parliament at all. Fettered and servile as Parliaments then were, young Hume had boldly stood forward as the advocate of civil and religious liberty; and, when the arbitrary monarch sent down a mandate to Scotland for a levy of men and of money, that he might carry his plans of despotism the more effectually into execution, Sir Patrick resisted the slavishness with which it was about to be obeyed.

‘What!’ exclaimed he, ‘are we mere instruments in the hands of the King; creatures appointed to minister to his pleasure? Are we not representatives of the people of Scotland; the representatives of their wants and of their wishes, and the defenders of their rights; and shall we, as such, at the mere nod of a monarch, drag them from following their plough in the valley, or attending their hirsels on the hill? Shall we do these things, and lay contributions on their cattle, on their corn, and on their coffers, merely because his Majesty wills it? Pause, my countrymen. The King has no authority to compel such a measure, and it can only be rendered legal by the concurrence of the assembled representatives of the people.’

‘Treason!’ vociferated the Duke of Lauderdale, who was the arch-minion of Charles; ‘before the Parliament of Scotland, I denounce Sir Patrick Hume as a dangerous man—as a plotter against the life and dignity of our sovereign lord our King!"

"What," exclaimed Sir Patrick, indignantly fixing his eyes upon Lauderdale, "though there may be amongt us a slave who would sell his country for a royal smile, I still hope that this is a FREE Parliament, and it concerns all the members to be FREE in what concerns the nation."

From that day, Sir Patrick Hume became a suspected man, and the eyes of the King’s creatures were upon him and when, two years afterwards, Charles endeavoured to put down the people by the sword, and establish garrisons throughout the country, again the laird of Polwarth stood foremost in the ranks of opposition, and resisted his power. The King accordingly ordered his privy council to crush so dangerous a spirit, and Sir Patriek was confined in Stirling Castle, where, with the exception of a short interval, he was imprisoned for two years.

Britain had long been distracted with the pretended discovery of fabulous or ridiculous plots against the royal family; aud the perjury of paid miscreants, like the infamous Titus Oates, was causing the scaffolds to run with blood. But tyranny being glutted with Catholic blood, and the extinguishing of what were called the Popish plots, the myrmidons of Charles (who lived a libertine, and died a Papist) professed that they had discovered a Protestant plot againt his royal person. In this plot, the incorruptible Algernon Sydney, Lord Russell, Mr Bailie of Jerviswoode, and Sir Patrick Hume, were included. They beheld their common country withering and wasting beneath the grasp of a tyrant; and true it is that they had united together to restore it to freedom, but they were innocent of designs against his life, or even of a wish to dethrone him. They did not, however, act sufficiently in concert, and were unable to bring their plans in operation. A price was set upon their heads—some fled into exile, and others sought refuge on the mountain and in the wilderness, while the amiable Russell died upon the scaffold.

It was near nightfall, in the month of September 1684, when Jamie Winter, who was joiner on the estate of Polwarth, ran breathless up to Redbraes Castle, and knocked loudly at the door. It was opened by John Allan, the land-steward, who, perceiving his agitation, inquired— "In the name o’ gudeness, Jamie, what’s happened or what do ye want?"

"Dinna ask, Maister Allan," replied Jamie, "but for Heaven’s sake, tell me—is Sir Patrick at hame?—and let me speak to him presently, as ye value his life."

"Follow me then, Jamie," said the other, "and come in quietly, that the servants mayna observe anything extraordinar’—for we live in times when a man canna trust his ain brither."

The honest joiner was ushered into a room where Sir Patrick sat in the midst of his family, acting at once as their schoolmaster and their play-mate.

"Weel, James," said the laird, "I understand ye have been at Berwick the day—ye’ve got early back—what uncos heard ye there?"

"I watna, Sir Patrick," replied the other; "now-a-days, I think there’s naething unco that can happen. Satan seems to have been let loose on our poor misgoverned country. But I wish to speak to your honour very particularly, and in private, if you please."

"You may speak on, James," said the laird—I am private in the midst o’ my ain family."

"Wi’ your guid leave, sir," returned the cautious serrant, "I wad rather the bairns were oot o’ the way, for what I hae to say is no proper for them to hear, and the sooner ye are acquainted w’ it the better."

Sir Patrick led his young children out of the room, but requested Lady Polwarth and their eldest daughter, Grizel, a lovely dark-haired girl, about twelve years of age, to remain.

"You are the bearer of evil tidings, James," said he, as he returned, "but you may tell them now—it is meet that my wife should hear them, if they concern me; and:" added he, taking Grizel’s hand in his, "I keep no secrets from my little secretary."

"God bless her!" said James, "she’s an auld-farrart bairn, as wise as she’s bonny, I ken that. But, your honour, I am, indeed, the bearer of evil tidings. A party o’ troopers arrived at Berwick this morning, and it was nae secret there that they would be baith at Jerviswoode and Redbraes before midnight. I heard them talk o’ the premium that was set upon your life, and slipped out of the town immediately, without performing a single transaction, or speaking a word to a living creature. How I’ve got along the road is mair than I can tell, for I was literally sick, blind, and desperate wi’ grief."

Lady Polwarth burst into tears. Sir Patrick grasped the hand of his faithful servant. Little Grizel gazed in her father’s face with a look of silent despair, but neither spoke nor wept.

"Oh, fly! fly instantly, my dear husband!" cried Lady Polwarth, "and Heaven direct you."

"Be composed, my love," said Sir Patrick; "I fear that flight is impossible; but some means of evading them may perhaps be devised."

"O my leddy," said Jamie Winter, "to flee is out o’ the question a’thegither. Government has its spies at every turn o’ the road—in every house in the country—even in this house. Our only hope is to conceal Sir Patrick; but how or where is beyond my comprehension."

Many were the schemes devised by the anxious wife—many the suggestions of her husband, and honest Jamie proposed numerous plans—but each was, in its turn, rejected as being unsafe. More than an hour had passed in these anxious deliberations; within three hours more, and the King’s troops would be at his gate, Grizel had, till now, remained silent, and dashing away the first tear that rolled down her cheek, she flung her arms round her father’s neck, and exclaimed, in an eager and breathless whisper—

"I ken a place, faither—I ken a place that the King’s troopers and his spies will never find out; and I’ll stop beside ye, to bear ye company."

"Bless my bairn!" said Sir Patrick, pressing her to his breast; "and where’s the place, dearest?"

"The aisle below Polwarth kirk, faither," returned Grizel—"nae trooper will find out such a hiding place; for the mouth’s a bit wee hole, and the long grass, and the docks, and the nettles grow over it, and I could slip out and in without trampling them down; and naebody would think o’ seeking you there, faither."

Lady Polwarth shuddered, and Sir Patrick pressed the cheek of his lovely daughter to his lips.

"Save us a’ bairn!" said Jamie, "there’s surely something no earthly about yer young ladyship, for ye hae mair sense than us a’ put thegither. The aisle is the very place. I’ll steal awa, an’ hae a kind o’ bed put up in it, an’ tak twa or three bits o’ necessary things; and, Sir Patrick, ye’ll slip out o’ the house an’ meet me there as soon as possible."

Within an hour, Sir Patrick had joined Jamie Winter in the dark and dismal aisle. The humble bed was soon and silently fitted up, and the faithful servant, wishing his master farewell," left him alone in his dreary prison-house. Slow and heavily the hours of darkness moved on. He heard the trampling of the troopers’ horses galloping in quest of him. The oaths and the imprecations of the riders fell distinctly on his ears. Amidst such sounds he heard them mention his name. But his heart failed not. He knelt down upon the cold damp floor of his hiding place—upon the bones of his fathers—and there, in soundless, but earnest prayer, supplicated his father’s God to protect his family—to save his country—to forgive his persecutors, and to do with him as seemed good in His sight. He arose, and, laying himself upon his cold and comfortless bed, slept calmly. He awoke shivering and behumbed. Faint streaks of light stole into the place of death through it narrow aperture, dimly revealing the ghastly sights of the charnel-house, and the slow reptiles that crawled along the floor. Again night came on, and the shadows of light, if I may use the expression, which revealed his cell, died away. A second morning had come and a second time the feeble rays had been lost in utter darkness. It was near midnight, and the slender stock of provisions which he had brought with him were nigh exhausted. He started from his lowly couch—he heard a rustling among the weeds at the mouth of the aisle—he heard some one endeavouring to remove the fragment of an old gravestone that covered it.

"Faither!" whispered an eager voice—"faither—it is me—yer ain Grizel!"

"My own, devoted, my matchless child!" said Sir Patrick, stretching his hand towards the aperture, and receiving her in his arms.

She sat down beside him on the bed—she detailed the search of the troopers—she stated that they were watched in their own house—that a spy was set over the very victuals that came from their table, lest he should be concealed near, and fed by his family.

"But what of that?" continued the light-hearted and heroic girl; "while my plate is supplied, my faither’s shall not be empty; and here," added she, laughing, "here is a flask of wine, cakes, and a sheep’s head. But I will tell you a story about the sheep’s head. It was placed on a plate before me at dinner-time. The servant was out o’ the room, naebody was looking, and I whupped it into my apron. Little Sandy wanted a piece, and, turning round for it, and missing the head—‘Au! mother!’ he cried ‘our Grizzy has swallowed a sheep’s head, bones an a’, in a moment!’ ‘Wheesht, laddie!’ said my mother eat ye the next ane then. ‘Oh, ye greedy Grizzy!’ said Sandy, shaking his little neive in my face; ‘I’ll mind you for this.’ ‘I’m sure Sandy will ne’er forget me,’ said I, and slipped away out to hide the sheep’s head in my own room; and as soon as I thought naebody was astir, I creeped out quietly by the window and got down here behint the hedges—and I’ll come every night, faither. But last night the troopers were still about the house."

In spite of his misery, Sir Patrick laughed at the ingenuity of his beloved and heroic daughter; then wept and laughed again, and pressed her to his bosom.

He had passed many weeks in this cheerless dungeon, with no companion during the day save a volume of Buchanan’s Psalms, but every night he was visited by his intrepid daughter, who at once supplied him with food, and beguiled the hours of his solitude. He was sitting in the gloomy cell, conning over his favourite volume—the stone at the aperture had been pushed aside a few inches to admit the light more freely, and the weeds at the entrance were now bowed down and withered by the frost—a few boys were playing in the churchyard, and tossing a ball against the kirk. Being driven from the hand of an unskilful player, it suddenly bounded into the aisle. Sir Patrick started, and the book dropped from his hand. Immediately the aperture was surrounded by the boys, and the stone removed. They stood debating who should enter, but none had sufficient courage. At length, one more hardy than the rest volunteered to enter, if another would follow him. The laird gave himself up as lost, for he knew that even the tale of a schoolboy would effect his ruin. He was aware he could disperse them with a single groan; but even that, when told to his enemies, might betray him. At length three agreed to enter, and the feet of the first already protruded into the aisle. Sir Patrick crept silently to its farthest corner, when the gruff voice of the old grave-digger reached his ears shouting—

"The mischief’s in the callants, an’ nae guid; what are ye doing there? Do ye want the ghaists o’ the auld Humes aboot yer lugs?"

The boys fled amain, and the old man came growling to the mouth of the aisle.

"The deevil’s in the bairns o’ Polwarth," said he; "for they would disturb the very dead in their graves. I’ll declare they’ve tane the stane frae the mouth o’ the isle!"

He stooped down, and Sir Patrick saw his grim visage through the aperture, and heard him thus continue his soliloquy, as he replaced the stone—

"Sorrow tak’ the hands that moved the stane!—ye’re hardly worth the covering up again, for ye’re a profitless hole to me; and I fancy him that I should lay in ye next, be he where he likes, will gang the gate that his freend Bailie, gaed yesterday on a scaffold. A grave-digger’s a puir business, I am sorry to say, in our King’s reign; an’ the fient a ane thrives but the common executioner."

So saying, he enveloped Sir Patrick in utter darkness.

That night Grizel and her father left the aisle together, and from her he learned the particulars of what he had heard muttered by the grave-digger, that his friend, Mr. Bailie of Jerviswoode, had been executed the previous day.

Disguised, and in the character of a surgeon, he, by by-ways, reached London, and from thence fled to France. On the death of Charles, and when the bigot James ascended the throne, Sir Patrick was one of the leaders of the band of patriots who drew their swords in behalf of a Protestant succession.

That enterprise was unsuccessful; and, after contending almost single-handed, against the enemies of his religion and his country, he and his family sought refuge in a foreign land. He assumed the name of Dr. Peter Wallace, and they took up their abode in Utrecht. There, poverty and privations sought and found the exiles. They had parted with every domestic, and the lovely Grizel was the sole servant and helper of her mother, and, when their work was done, the assistant of her father in the education of the younger children; for he had no longer the means of providing them a tutor. Yet theirs was a family of love—a family of happiness--and poverty purified their affections. But their remittances from Scotland were not only scanty but uncertain. Till now, Sir Patrick had borne his misfor tunes with resignation and even cheerfulness; he cared not that he was stripped of attendants, and of every luxury of life; yet, at times, the secret and unbidden tears would start into his eyes, as he beheld his wife and his fair daughter performing, without a murmur, the most menial offices. But the measure of his trials was not yet full—luxuries were not only denied him, but he was without food to set before his children. The father wept, and his spirit heaved with anguish. Grizel beheld his tears, and she knew the cause. She spoke not; but, hastening to her little cabinet, she took from it a pair of jewelled bracelets, and, wrapping herself up in a cloak, she took a basket under her arm, and hurried to the street. The gentle being glided along the streets of Utrecht, with her eyes fixed upon the ground, and shunning the glance of the passengers, as if each knew her errand. She stood before a shop in which all manner of merchandise was exposed, and three golden balls were suspended over the door. She cast a timid gaze into the shop—thrice she passed and repassed it, and repeated the timid glance. She entered—she placed the bracelets upon the counter.

"How much?" was the laconic question of the shopman. Grizel burst into tears. He handed her a sum of money across the counter, and deposited the bracelets in his desk. She bounded from the shop with a heart and step light as a young bird in its first pride of plumage. She hastened home with her basket filled. She placed it upon the table. Lady Polwarth wept, and fell upon her daughter’s neck.

"Where have you been, Grizel?" faltered her father.

"Purchasing provisions for a bauble," said she; and the smile and the tear were seen on her cheek together.

But many were the visits which the gentle Grizel had to pay to the Golden Balls, while one piece of plate was pledged after another, that her father, and her mother, and her brethren, might eat and not die;--and even then, the table of Sir Patrick, humble as it was, and uncertainly provided for, was open to the needy of his countrymen. Thus three years passed—the memorable 1688 arrived. Sir Patrick was the friend, the counsellor, and supporter of King William—he arrived with him in England—he shared in his triumph. He was created Lord Polwarth, and appointed sheriff of Berwickshire; and, in 1696, though not a lawyer, but an upright man, he was made Lord Chancellor of Scotland, and created Earl of Marchmont, and Lord of Polwarth, Redbraes, and Greenlaw. He was one of the most ardent promoters of the Union, and with it ceased his political career. In 1710, when the Tories came into power, the Earl being the staunchest Whig in Scotland, he was deprived of the office of sheriff of Berwickshire, but was reinstated in 1715. His lady being dead, he came to take up his residence in Berwick-upon-Tweed; and there, when the heroic Grizel, who was now a wife and a mother (being married to the son of his unfortunate friend, Mr Bailie of Jerviswoode,) came with her children and friend to visit him for the last time, as they danced in the hall, though unable to walk, he desired to be carried into the midst of them, and beating time with his foot—"See, Grizel," exclaimed the old patriot, "though your father is unable to dance, he can still beat time with his foot."

Shortly after this, he died in Berwick, on the 1st of August, 1724, in the eighty-third year of his age—leaving behind him an example of piety, courage, and patriotism, worthy the imitation of posterity.

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