Графични страници
PDF файл

man, having an oaken table before him, on which lay thumb-screws and an iron case, called the Scottish boot, used in those tyrannical days to torture accused persons. Morton, who was unprepared for this ghastly apparition, started when the curtain arose, but Macbriar's nerves were more firm. He gazed upon the horrible apparatus with much composure ; and if a touch of nature called the blood from his cheek for a second, resolution sent i* back to his brow with greater energy.

“ Do you know who that man is ?" said Lauderdale, in a low, stern voice, almost sinking into a whisper.

“ He is, I suppose," replied Macbriar, “the infamous executioner of your blood-thirsty commands upon the persons of God's people. He and you are equally beneath my regard ; and, I bless God, I no more fear what he can inflict than what you can command. Flesh and blood may shrink under the sufferings you can doom me to, and poor frail nature may shed tears, or send forth cries; but I trust my soul is anchored firmly on the rock of ages.”

“Do your duty," said the Duke to the executioner.

The fellow advanced, and asked with a harsh and discordant voice, upon which of the prisoner's limbs he should first employ his engine.

"Let him choose for himself," said the Duke ; “I should like to oblige him in anything that is reasonable."

“ Since you leave it to me," said the prisoner, stretching forth his right leg, “ take the best-I willingly bestow it in the cause for which I suffer."15

The executioner, with the help of his assistants, inclosed the leg and knee within the tight iron boot, or case, and then placing a wedge of the same metal between the knee and the edge of the machine, took a mallet in his hand, and stood waiting for farther orders. A well-dressed man, by profession a surgeon, placed himself by the other side of the prisoner's chair, bared the prisoner's arm, and applied his thumb to the pulse in order to regulate the torture according to the strength of the patient. When these preparations were made, the president of

the council repeated with the same stern voice the question, “ When and where did you last see John Balfour of Burley ?"

The prisoner, instead of replying to him, turned his eyes to Heaven as if imploring divine strength, and muttered a few words, of which the last were distinctly audible, “ Thou hast said thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power !”

The Duke of Lauderdale glanced his eye around the council as if to collect their suffrages, and, judging from their mute signs, gave on his own part a nod to the executioner, whose mallet instantly descended on the wedge, and, forcing it between the knee and the iron boot, occasioned the most exquisite pain, as was evident from the Aush which instantly took place on the brow and on the cheeks of the sufferer. The fellow then again raised his weapon, and stood prepared to give a second blow.

“Will you yet say,” repeated the Duke of Lauderdale, “ where and when you last parted from Balfour of Burley ?"

- You have my answer," said the sufferer resolutely, and the second blow fell. The third and fourth succeeded, but at the fifth, when a larger wedge had been introduced, the prisoner set up a scream of agony.

Morton, whose blood boiled within him at witnessing such cruelty, could bear no longer, and, although unarmed and himself in great danger, was springing forward, when Claverhouse, who observed his emotion, withheld him by force, laying one hand on his arm and the other on his mouth, while he whispered, “ For God's sake, think where you are !"

This movement, fortunately for him, was observed by no other of the counsellors, whose attention was engaged with the dreadful scene before them.

“ He is gone," said the surgeon he has fainted, my lords, and human nature can endure no more."

“ Release him," said the Duke, and added, turning to Dalzell, “ He will make an old proverb good, for he'll

19* VOL. II.

recall ons waters of drudgetence, and 1

scarce ride to-day, though he has had his boots on. I suppose we must finish with him.”

* Ay, despatch his sentence, and have done with him, we have plenty of drudgery behind."

Strong waters and essences were busily employed to recall the senses of the unfortunate captive ; and, when his first faint gasps intimated a return of sensation, the Duke pronounced sentence of death upon him, as a traitor taken in the act of open rebellion, and adjudged him to be carried from the bar to the common place of execution, and there hanged by the neck ; his head and hands to be stricken off after death, and disposed of according to the pleasure of the councilloand all and sundry his movable goods and gear escheat and inbrought to his Majesty's use.

“ Doomster,” he continued, “ repeat the sentence to the prisoner.”

The office of Doomster was in those days, and till a much later period, beld by the executioner, in commendam, with his ordinary functions.17 The duty consisted in reciting to the unhappy criminal the sentence of the law as pronounced by the judge, which acquired an additional and horrid emphasis from the recollection, that the hateful personage by whom it was uttered was to be the agent of the cruelties he denounced. Macbriar had scarce understood the purport of the words as first pronounced by the Lord President of the Council ; but he was sufficiently recovered to listen and to reply to the sentence when uttered by the harsh and odious voice of the ruffian who was to execute it, and at the last awful words, " And this I pronounce for doom," he answered boldly-6. My lords, I thank you for the only favour 1 looked for, or would accept at your hands, namely, that you have sent the crushed and maimed carcass which has this day sustained your cruelty, to this hasty end. It were indeed little to me, whether 1 perish on the gallows or in the prison-house ; but if death, following close on what I have this day suffered, had found me in my cell of darkness and bondage, many might have lost the sight

how a Christian man can suffer in the good cause. For the rest, I forgive you, my lords, for what you have appointed and I have sustained-And why should I not ? Ye send me to a happy exchange-to the company of angels and the spirits of the just, for that of frail dust and ashes-Ye send me from darkness into day-from mortality to immortality-and, in a word, from earth to heaven !-If the thanks, therefore, and pardon of a dying man can do you good, take them at my hand, and may your last moments be as happy as mine!"

As he spoke thus, with a countenance radiant with joy and triumph, he was withdrawn by those who had brought him into the apartment, and executed within half an hour, dying with the same enthusiastic firmness which his whole life had evinced.

The council broke up, and Morton found himself again in the carriage with General Grahame.

“ Marvellous firmness and gallantry!" said Morton, as he reflected upon Macbriar's conduct ; " what a pity it is that with such self-devotion and heroism should have been mingled the fiercer features of his sect !"

“ You mean," said Claverhouse, “ his resolution to condemn you to death ?-to that he would have reconciled himself by a single text ; for example, " And Phineas arose and executed judgment,' or something to the same purpose.-But wot ye where you are now bound, Mr. Morton ?".

“ We are on the road to Leith, I observe," answered Morton. “Can I not be permitted to see my friends ere I leave my native land ?.

66 Your uncle," replied Grahame, “ has been spoken to and declines visiting you. The good gentleman is terrified, and not without some reason, that the crime of your treason may extend itself over his lands and tenements-he sends you, however, his blessing, and a small sum of money. Lord Evandale continues extremely indisposed. Major Bellenden is at Tillietudlem putting matters in order. The scoundrels have made great havoc there with Lady Margaret's muniments of antiquity, and

have desecrated and destroyed what the good lady called the Throne of his most Sacred Majesty. Is there any one else whom you would wish to see ??

Morton sighed deeply as he answered, “No-it would avail nothing But my preparations, -small as they are, some must be necessary."

“ They are all ready for you,” said the General. « Lord Evandale has anticipated all you wish. Here is a packet from him with letters of recommendation for the court of the Stadt holder Prince of Orange, to which I have added one or two. I made my first campaigns under him, and first saw fire at the battle of Seneff.18 There are also bills of exchange for your immediate wants, and more will be sent when you require it."

Morton heard all this, and received the parcel with an astounded and confused look, so sudden was the execution of the sentence of banishment.

" And my servant ?he said.

« He shall be taken care of, and replaced, if it be practicable, in the service of Lady Margaret Bellenden ; I think he will hardly neglect the parade of the feudal retainers, or go a-whigging a second time.—But here we are upon the quay, and the boat waits you.”

It was even as Claverhouse said. A boat waited for Captain Morton with the trunks and baggage belonging to his rank. Claverhouse shook him by the hand, and wished him good fortune, and a happy return to Scotland in quieter times.

si I shall never forget,” he said, “the gallantry of your behaviour to my friend Evandale, in circumstances when many men would have sought to rid him out of their way."

Another friendly pressure, and they parted. As Morton descended the pier to get into the boat, a hand placed in his a letter folded up in very small space. He looked round. The person who gave it seemed much muffled up; he pressed his finger upon his lip, and then disappeared among the crowd. The incident awakened Morton's curiosity; and when he found himself on board of # vessel bound for Rotterdam, and saw all his compan

« ПредишнаНапред »