« AnteriorContinuar »
ful with the men, that, believing he would get but few followers, Kilsyth thought it best to keep his own counsel and let the matter drop in the meantime. Hours were precious, and Claverhouse, unwilling to risk an attack upon the town, at once struck northward toward the Angus Highlands. When Mackay in his turn was retreating before the gathering army of Claverhouse, he was joined on the Spey by Kilsyth and his troopers. Mackay had heard whispers of his disaffection, but was loath to believe the story. Thinking, however, that discretion was necessary, he placed Kilsyth and his men in a position where they were surrounded by English horse. The consequence was that the favourable opportunity for which Kilsyth waited never came. Mackay very soon got his eyes open to the nature of the conspiracy which Kilsyth had been planning. Having been strongly reinforced, rather than retreat further before Claverhouse he resolved he would suddenly turn upon him and attack him. Unaware how his enemy had been strengthened, Dundee was lying at Edinglassie, on the Don, in fancied security, while Mackay was creeping upon him stealthily in the hope of overwhelming him by a sudden surprise. Kilsyth trembled for the fate of Claverhouse when he saw the scheme of destruction which Mackay was preparing for him. Despatching one provencal, his sergeant, along with his personal servant, he sent to Viscount Dundee and warned him of the jeopardy in which he stood and the bolt that had been forged against him. The messengers discharged their duty, and Dundee was saved. Before, however, the emissaries had time to return, Mackay had commenced his advance on Dundee's encampment. When he reached it he found to his chagrin the place deserted and his plans upset. Close to the camp the two messengers
were found hid in the woods. They were immediately pounced upon and examined. Mackay's eyes having been opened, he did not allow the grass to grow beneath his feet. Lord Kilsyth, along with three captains, one lieutenant, and several dragoons, was at once arrested. They were sent to Edinburgh, and each was confined in a dungeon in the Tolbooth until such time as they should be brought to trial. Mackay advised that the emissaries who had been captured near the camp should be put to death, and, that the full truth might be elucidated, that the other troopers should be put to the torture. At this juncture Lord Kilsyth's position was critical in the extreme. He had been the leader of the conspiracy beyond doubt, and William being every inch a soldier, and well aware of the enormity of his offence, it is highly probable the signing of a warrant for Kilsyth's execution would not have caused him the slightest concern. Kilsyth's friends were both powerful and influential, and they did everything they could to save his head. After the court-martial, Kilsyth's case was delayed, and it is supposed the good offices of Dalrymple and Melville were secured by substantial bribes. Be this as it may, to the crime of conspiracy Kilsyth certainly did not add that of murder. The story that Claverhouse received his death-wound from the hand of Kilsyth that he might marry his widow is found upon investigation to be a mere popular imagination. When the battle of Killiecrankie was fought, Kilsyth was lying a close prisoner in the Tolbooth waiting the pleasure of the King. The Government were unwilling to proceed to extremities, but the nature of the doom hanging over his head, united to the irksomeness of the suspense and the privations of prison life, so thoroughly broke down the spirit of Kilsyth that he wrote and forwarded to William an appeal for mercy couched in pitiable language. The King read his unofficerlike letter and spared his life. The rents of his estates were, however, sequestrated, and for the next five years he remained a prisoner. Kilsyth's captivity terminated on the ioth May, 1694. On that day the Scottish Council received a letter from the King making intimation that William Livingston was to be liberated on the condition of his leaving " the three kingdoms," and that he was not to return without the King's permission under penalty of one thousand pounds sterling. Livingston took passage on board a Dutch vessel from Leith to Holland. The ship not being ready to sail on the expiry of the short period of grace granted him, he received a further extension of time. Kilsyth used the interval allowed him in bringing to a termination the addresses he had been paying to Jean Cochrane, the widow of Viscount Dundee. These addresses must have been paid for the most part by letter, as the opportunities afforded them for meeting during the period of Kilsyth's imprisonment were of the very scantiest kind. Around this marriage there clusters a large amount of romantic tradition, and not the least interesting of these stories is that which recounts the curious episode of the exchange and loss of the engagement, or betrothal, rings. The late Sir Archibald Edmonstone said that the marriage of Kilsyth with the beautiful widow of Claverhouse took place at Colzium, and that they met there about a year after the battle of Killiecrankie. At this meeting Kilsyth presented Lady Dundee with a gold ring as a pledge of his affection. As bad luck would have it, the lady dropped the ring the next day in the garden. The circumstance was regarded as of evil omen, and a liberal reward was offered to the fortunate finder. The offer proved fruitless, and after nearly a century had rolled away the incident was passing rapidly into oblivion. When, however, in 1796, the ring was discovered in a clod of earth by the gardener when he was digging, the whole story was once more brought freshly to the recollection, and the newly found ring was at once held to be the lost ring of Lady Kilsyth. It is a hoop of gold without any stone, and of the intrinsic value of ten shillings. It is ornamented on the external surface with a myrtle wreath, and on the internal surface it bears the inscription, "Zours onlly and Euver." But this is not all. Some years after another gold ring was found not very far from the spot where the first was discovered. This second ring is larger, and bears the inscription, "Yours till dathe." Of the loss of this second ring there is no tradition, but it may well be supposed it was the ring Lady Dundee gave to Lord Kilsyth. Both rings are now at Duntreath, and in the possession of the present Sir Archibald Edmonstone. The story is romantic, and may be defective in its details, and the hands of the lovers are long cold, but the rings and their inscriptions remain the tangible and visible memorials of an extinct passion. Having accompanied her husband to Holland, Lady Kilsyth some time afterwards gave birth to a son. They took up their residence at Utrecht in a very modest house. The roof of it was loaded with turf, which served the purpose of fuel. One afternoon in October, 1695, Kilsyth had two friends to dinner. One of his guests, a Mr. Blair, left early, but the other lingered on into the evening. In a moment, through the weight of the fuel, the joisting gave way, and the little party were buried beneath the turf and rubbish. After three quarters of an hour Kilsyth and his friend were extricated. Lady Kilsyth, however, and her infant son, along with Mrs. Melville, the nurse, perished. To his wife Lord Kilsyth was greatly devoted. Whatever the enormity of his original offence, there can be little doubt that the sudden and appalling visitation which had desolated his hearth softened somewhat the hearts of his political opponents, and made the period of his exile much shorter than otherwise it would have been. The broken-hearted man stanched his grief by honouring as he was able the poor remains of wife and child. Using the most costly nards and ointments, he had the bodies embalmed after a manner worthy of the time of the Pharaohs. A year after, when the purpose of his heart in this particular was accomplished, he recrossed the German Sea, and deposited the embalmed bodies in a vault in the churchyard of Kilsyth. The burial service was conducted amidst the greatest pomp and ceremony. There was an enormous crowd, and the county had never seen a costlier funeral.
The Presbyterian preachers made more of Lady Kilsyth's death than they were entitled to do. They represented it as a witness of that divine vengeance which would sooner or later overtake the enemies of the Covenant. Wodrow writes :—" Lady Kilsyth, the relict of Clavers, was very violent against the Presbyterians, and it is said she used frequently to say she wished that day she heard a Presbyterian minister, the house might fall down and smother her, which it did." The story referred to is to the effect that, on the morning of the day on which she was killed, she had gone to hear Mr. Robert Fleming, one of Scotland's banished pastors. Dr. Rennie, on the other hand, gave credence to a story he found floating in the parish, which laid the whole blame of Lady Kilsyth's death on the Covenanters. There being at that time a considerable number of members of Scotland's persecuted Church in Holland, it was