Castle Dangerous, by Walter Scott


No. I.

Extracts from “The History of the Houses of Douglas and Angus. By Master David Hume of Godscroft.” Fol. Edit.

* * * And here indeed the course of the King’s misfortunes begins to make some halt and stay by thus much prosperous successe in his own person; but more in the person of Sir James, by the reconquests of his owne castles and countries. From hence he went into Douglasdale, where, by the means of his father’s old servant, Thomas Dickson, he took in the Castle of Douglas, and not being able to keep it, he caused burn it, contenting himself with this, that his enemies had one strength fewer in that country than before. The manner of his taking of it is said to have beene thus:— Sir James taking only with him two of his servants, went to Thomas Dickson, of whom he was received with tears, after he had revealed himself to him, for the good old man knew him not at first, being in mean and homely apparel. There he kept him secretly in a quiet chamber, and brought unto him such as had been trusty servants to his father, not all at, once, but apart by one and one, for fear of discoverie. Their advice was, that on Palm-Sunday, when the English would come forth to the church, and his partners were conveened, that then he should give the word, and cry the Douglas slogan, and presently set upon them that should happen to be there, who being despatched, the Castle might be taken easily. This being concluded, and they come, so soon as the English were entered into the church with palms in their hands, (according to the costume of that day,) little suspecting or fearing any such thing, Sir James, according to their appointment, cryed too soon (a Douglas, a Douglas!) which being heard in the church, (this was Saint Bride’s church of Douglas,) Thomas Dickson, supposing he had beene hard at hand, drew out his sword, and ran upon them, having none to second him but another man, so that, oppressed by the number of his enemies, he was beaten downe and slaine. In the meantime, Sir James being come, the English that were in the chancel kept off the Scots, and having the advantage of the strait and narrow entrie, defended themselves manfully. But Sir James encouraging his men, not so much by words as by deeds and good example, and having slain the boldest resisters, prevailed at last, and entring the place, slew some twenty-six of their number, and took the rest, about ten or twelve persons, intending by them to get the Castle upon composition, or to enter with them when the gates should be opened to let them in: but it needed not, for they of the Castle were so secure, that there was none left to keep it save the porter and the cooke, who knowing nothing of what had hapned at the church, which stood a large quarter of a mile from thence, had left the gate wide open, the porter standing without, and the cooke dressing the dinner within. They entered without resistance, and meat being ready, and the cloth laid, they shut the gates, and tooke their refection at good leasure.

Now that he had gotten the Castle into his hands, considering with himselfe (as he was a man no lesse advised than valiant) that it was hard for him to keep it, the English being as yet the stronger in that countrey, who if they should besiege him, he knewe of no reliefe, he thought better to carry away such things as be most easily transported, gold, silver, and apparell, with ammunition and armour, whereof he had greatest use and need, and to destroy the rest of the provision, together with the Castle itselfe, then to diminish the number of his followers for a garrison there where it could do no good. And so he caused carrie the meale and malt, and other cornes and graine, into the cellar, and laid altogether in one heape: then he took the prisoners and slew them, to revenge the death of his trustie and valiant servant, Thomas Dickson, mingling the victuals with their bloud, and burying their carkasses in the heap of corne: after that he struck out the heads of the barrells and puncheons, and let the drink runn through all; and then he cast the carkasses of dead horses and other carrion amongst it, throwing the salt above all, so as to make altogether unuseful to the enemie; and this cellar is called yet the Douglas Lairder. Last of all, he set the house on fire, and burnt all the timber, and what else the fire could overcome, leaving nothing but the scorched walls behind him. And this seemes to be the first taking of the Castle of Douglas, for it is supposed that he took it twice. For this service, and others done to Lord William his father, Sir James gave unto Thomas Dickson the lands of Hisleside, which hath beene given him before the Castle was taken as an encouragement to whet him on, and not after, for he was slain in the church; which was both liberally and wisely done of him, thus to hearten and draw men to his service by such a noble beginning. The Castle being burnt, Sir James retired, and parting his men into divers companies, so as they might be most secret, he caused cure such as were wounded in the fight, and he himselfe kept as close as he could, waiting ever for an occasion to enterprise something against the enemie. So soone as he was gone, the Lord Clifford being advertised of what had happened, came himselfe in person to Douglas, and caused re-edifie and repair the Castle in a very short time, unto which he also added a Tower, which is yet called Harries Tower from him, and so returned into England, leaving one Thurswall to be Captain thereof. — Pp. 26-28.

He (Sir James Douglas) getting him again into Douglasdale, did use this stratagem against Thurswall, Captain of the Castle, under the said Lord Clifford. He caused some of his folk drive away the cattle that fed near unto the Castle, and when the Captain of the garrison followed to rescue, gave orders to his men to leave them and to flee away. Thus he did often to make the Captain slight such frays, and to make him secure, that he might not suspect any further end to be on it; which when he had wrought sufficiently (as he thought), he laid some men in ambuscado, and sent others away to drive such beasts as they should find in the view of the Castle, as if they had been thieves and robbers, as they had done often before. The Captain hearing of it, and supposing there was no greater danger now than had been before, issued forth of the Castle, and followed after them with such haste that his men (running who should be first) were disordered and out of their ranks. The drivers also fled as fast as they could till they had drawn the Captain a little way beyond the place of ambuscado, which when they perceived, rising quickly out of their covert, they set fiercely upon him and his company, and so slew himself and chased his men back to the Castle, some of whom were overtaken and slain, others got into the Castle and so were saved. Sir James, not being able to force the house, took what booty he could get without in the fields, and so departed. By this means, and such other exploits, he so affrighted the enemy, that it was counted a matter of such great jeopardy to keep this Castle, that it began to be called the adventurous (or hazardous) Castle of Douglas: Whereupon Sir John Walton being in suit of an English lady, she wrote to him that when he had kept the adventurous Castle of Douglas seven years, then, he might think himself worthy to be a suitor to her. Upon this occasion Walton took upon him the keeping of it, and succeeded to Thurswall; but he ran the same fortune with the rest that were before him.

For, Sir James having first dressed an ambuscado near unto the place, he made fourteen of his men take so many sacks, and fill them with grass, as though it had been corn, which they carried in the way toward Lanark, the chief market town in that county: so hoping to draw forth the Captain by that bait, and either to take him or the Castle, or both.

Neither was this expectation frustrate, for the Captain did bite, and came forth to have taken this victual (as he supposed). But ere he could reach these carriers, Sir James, with his company, had gotten between the Castle and him; and these disguised carriers, seeing the Captain following after them, did quickly cast off their upper garments, wherein they had masked themselves, and throwing off their sacks, mounted themselves on horseback, and met the Captain with a sharp encounter, he being so much the more amazed that it was unlooked for: wherefore, when he saw these carriers metamorphosed into warriors, and ready to assault him, fearing (that which was) that there was some train laid for them, he turned about to have retired into the Castle; but there also he met with his enemies; between which two companies he and his followers were slain, so that none escaped; the Captain afterwards being searched, they found (as it is reported) his mistress’s letters about him. Then he went and took in the Castle, but it is uncertain (say our writers) whether by force or composition; but it seems that the Constable, and those that were within, have yielded it up without force; in regard that he used them so gently, which he would not have done if he had taken it at utterance. For he sent them all safe home to the Lord Clifford, and gave them also provision and money for their entertainment by the way. The Castle, which he had burnt only before, now he razeth, and casts down the walls thereof to the ground. By these and the like proceedings, within a short while he freed Douglasdale, Attrict Forest, and Jedward Forest, of the English garrisons and subjection. — Ibid. p. 29.

No. II.

[Extracts from The Bruce. —“Liber compositus per Magistrum Johannem Barber Archidiaeonum Abyrdonensem, de gestis, bellis, et vertutibus, Domini Roberti Brwyes, Regis Scocie illustrissimi, et de conquestu regni Scocie per eundem, et de Domino Jacobo de Douglas.”— Edited by John Jamieson, D.D. F.R.S.F. &c. &c. Edinburgh, 1820.]

Now takis James his waige

Towart Dowglas, his heretage,

With twa yemen, for his owtyn ma;

That wes a symple stuff to ta,

A land or a castell to win.

The quhethir he yarnyt to begyn

Till bring purposs till ending;

For gud help is in gud begynnyng,

For gud begynning, and hardy,

Gyff it be folwit wittily,

May ger oftsyss unlikly thing

Cum to full conabill ending.

Swa did it here: but he wes wyss

And saw he mycht, on nakyn wyss,

Werray his fa with evyn mycht;

Tharfur he thocht to wyrk with slycht.

And in Dowglas daile, his countre,

Upon an evymiyng entryt he.

And than a man wonnyt tharby.

That was off freyndis weill mychty,

And ryche of moble, and off cateill;

And had bene till his fadyr leyll;

And till him selff in his yowthed.

He haid done mony a thankfull deid.

Thom Dicson wes his name perlay.

Till him he send; and gan him pray,

That he wald cum all anerly

For to spek with him priuely.

And he but daunger till him gais:

Bot fra he tauld him quhat he wais,

He gret for joy, and for pite;

And him rycht till his houss had he;

Quhar in a chambre priuely

He held him, and his cumpany,

That nane had off him persaving.

Off mete, and drynk, and othyr thing,

That mycht thuim eyss, thai had plente.

Sa wrocht he thorow sutelte,

That all the lele men off that land,

That with his fadyr war duelland,

This gud man gert cum, ane and ane,

And mak him manrent cuir ilkane;

And he him selff fyrst homage maid.

Dowglas in part gret glaidschip haid,

That the gud men off his cuntre

Wald swagate till him bundyn be.

He speryt the conwyne off the land,

And quha the castell had in hand.

And thai him tauld all halily;

And syne amang them priuely

Thai ordanyt, that he still suld be

In hiddillis, and in priwete,

Till Palme Sonday, that wes ner hand,

The thrid day eftyr folowand.

For than the folk off that countre

Assemblyt at the kyrk wald be;

And thai, that in the castell wer,

Wald als be thar, thar palmys to ber,

As folk that had na dreid off ill;

For thai thoucht all wes at thair will.

Than suld he cum with his twa men.

Bot, for that men suld nocht him ken,

He suld ane mantill haiff auld and bar,

And a flaill, as he a thresscher war.

Undyr the mantill nocht for thi

He suld be armyt priuely.

And quhen the men off his countre,

That suld all boune befor him be,

His ensenye mycht her hym cry.

Then suld thai, full enforcely,

Rycht ymyddys the kyrk assaill

The Ingliss men with hard bataill

Swa that nane mycht eschap them fra;

For thar throwch trowyt thai to ta

The castell, that besid wes ner

And quhen this, that I tell you her,

Wes diuisyt and undertane,

Ilkane till his howss hame is gane;

And held this spek in priuete,

Till the day off thar assembly.

The folk upon the Sonounday

Held to Saynct Bridis kyrk thair way,

And tha that in the castell war

Ischyt owt, bath les and mar,

And went thair palmys for to her;

Owtane a cuk and a porter.

James off Dowglas off thair cummyng,

And quhat thai war, had witting;

And sped him till the kyrk in hy

Bot or he come, too hastily

Ane off his criyt, “Dowglas! Dowglas!”

Thomas Dicson, that nerrest was

Till thaim that war off the castell,

That war all innouth the chancell,

Quhen he “Dowglas!” swa hey herd cry,

Drew owt his swerd; and fellely

Ruschyt amang thaim to and fra.

Bot ane or twa, for owtyn ma,

Than in hy war left lyand

Quhill Dowglas come rycht at hand.

And then enforcyt on thaim the cry.

Bot thai the chansell sturdely

Held, and thaim defendyt wele,

Till off thair men war slayne sumdell.

Bot the Dowglace sa weill him bar,

That all the men, that with him war,

Had comfort off his wele doyng;

And he him sparyt nakyn thing.

Bot provyt swa his force in fycht,

That throw his worschip, and his mycht,

His men sa keynly helpyt than,

That thai the chansell on thaim wan.

Than dang thai on swa hardyly,

That in schort tyme men mycht se ly

The twa part dede, or then deand.

The lave war sesyt sone in hand,

Swa that off thretty levyt nane,

That thai ne war slayne ilkan, or tane.

James off Dowglas, quhen this wes done,

The presoneris has he tane alsone;

And, with thaim off his cumpany,

Towart the castell went in hy,

Or noyiss, or cry, suld ryss.

And for he wald thaim sone suppriss,

That levyt in the castell war,

That war but twa for owtyn mar,

Fyve men or sex befor send he,

That fand all opyn the entre;

And entryt, and the porter tuk

Rycht at the gate, and syne the cuk.

With that Dowglas come to the gat,

And entryt in for owtyn debate;

And fand the mete all ready grathit,

With burdys set, and clathis layit.

The gaitis then he gert sper,

And sat, and eyt all at layser.

Syne all the gudis turssyt thai

That thaim thocht thai mycht haiff away;

And namly wapnys, and armyng,

Siluer, and tresour, and clethyng.

Vyctallis, that, mycht nocht tursyt be,

On this manner destroyit he.

All the vrctalis, owtane salt,

Als quheyt, and flour, and meill, and malt

In the wyne sellar gert he bring;

And samyn on the flur all flyng.

And the presoneris that he had tane

Rycht thar in gert he heid ilkane;

Syne off the townnys he hedis outstrak:

A foule melle thar gane he mak.

For meile, and malt, and bluid, and wyne

Ran all to gidder in a mellyne,

That was unsemly for to se.

Tharfor the men of that countre,

For swa fele thar mellyt wer,

Callit it the “Dowglas Lardner.”

Syne tuk he salt, as Ic hard tell,

And ded horss, and sordid the well.

And brynt all, owtakyn stane;

And is forth, with his menye, gayne

Till his resett; for him thoucht weill,

Giff he had haldyn the caslell,

It had bene assegyt raith;

And that him thoucht to mekill waith.

For he ne had hop of reskewyng.

And it is to peralous thing

In castell assegyt to be,

Quhar want is off thir thingis thre;

Victaill, or men with their armyng,

Or than gud hop off rescuyng.

And for he dred thir thingis suld faile,

He chesyt furthwart to trawaill,

Quhar he mycht at his larges be;

And swa dryve furth his destane.

On this wise wes the castell tan,

And slayne that war tharin ilkan.

The Dowglas syne all his menye

Gert in ser placis depertyt be;

For men suld wyt quhar thai war,

That yeid depertyt her and thar.

Thim that war woundyt gert he ly

In till hiddillis, all priuely;

And gert gud leechis till thaim bring

Quhill that thai war in till heling.

And him selff, with a few menye,

Quhile ane, quhile twa and quhile thre,

And umqumll all him allane.

In hiddillis throw the land is gane.

Sa dred he Inglis men his mycht,

That he durst nocht wele cum in sycht.

For thai war that tyme all weldand

As maist lordis, our all the land.

Bot tythandis, that scalis sone,

Off this deid that Dowglas has done,

Come to the Cliffurd his ere, in hy,

That for his tynsaill wes sary;

And menyt his men that thai had slayne,

And syne has to purpos tane,

To big the castell up agayne.

Thar for, as man of mekill mayne,

He assemblit grret cumpany,

And till Dowglas he went in hy.

And biggyt wp the castell swyth;

And maid it rycht stalwart and styth

And put tharin victallis and men

Ane off the Thyrwallys then

He left behind him Capitane,

And syne till Ingland went agayne.

  Book IV. v. 255-460.

Bot yeit than Janvss of Dowglas

In Dowglas Daile travailland was;

Or ellys weill ner hand tharby,

In hyddillys sumdeill priuely.

For he wald se his gouernyng,

That had the castell in keping:

And gert mak mony juperty,

To se quhethyr he wald ische blythly.

And quhen he persavyt that he

Wald blythly ische with his menye,

He maid a gadringr priuely

Off thaim that war on his party;

That war sa fele, that thai durst fych

With Thyrwall, and all the mycht

Off thaim that in the castell war.

He schupe him in the nycht so far

To Sandylandis: and thar ner by

He him enbuschyt priuely,

And send a few a trane to ma;

That sone in the mornyng gan ga,

And tuk catell, that wes the castell by,

And syne withdrew thaim hastely

Towart thaim that enbuschit war.

Than Thyrwall, for owtyn mar,

Gert arme his men, forowtyn baid;

Aud ischyt with all the men he haid:

And foiowyt fast eftir the cry.

He wes armyt at poynt clenly,

Owtane [that] his hede wes bar.

Than, with the men that with him war,

The catell folowit he gud speid,

Rycht as a man that had na dreid,

Till that he gat off thaim a sycht.

Than prekyt thai with all thar mycht,

Folowand thaim owt off aray

And thai sped thaim fleand, quhill thai

Fer by thair buschement war past:

And Thyrwall ay chassyt fast.

And than thai that enbuschyt war

Ischyt till him, bath les and mar

And rayssyt sudanly the cry.

And thai that saw sa sudanly

That folk come egyrly prikand

Rycht betuix thairn and thair warank,

Thai war in to full gret effray.

And, for thai war owt off aray,

Sum off thaim fled, and some abad.

And Dowglas, that thar with him had

A gret mengye, full egrely

Assaylyt, and scalyt thaim hastyly:

And in schort tyme ourraid thaim swa,

That weile nane eschapyt thaim fra.

Thyrwall, that wes thair capitane,

Wes thar in the bargane slane:

And off his men the mast party.

The lave fled full effraytly.

  Book V. v. 10-60

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