My daughter — O my ducats — O my daughter!
———— O my Christian ducats!
Justice — the Law — my ducats, and my daughter!
Merchant of Venice
Leaving the Saxon chiefs to return to their banquet as soon as their ungratified curiosity should permit them to attend to the calls of their half-satiated appetite, we have to look in upon the yet more severe imprisonment of Isaac of York. The poor Jew had been hastily thrust into a dungeon-vault of the castle, the floor of which was deep beneath the level of the ground, and very damp, being lower than even the moat itself. The only light was received through one or two loop-holes far above the reach of the captive’s hand. These apertures admitted, even at mid-day, only a dim and uncertain light, which was changed for utter darkness long before the rest of the castle had lost the blessing of day. Chains and shackles, which had been the portion of former captives, from whom active exertions to escape had been apprehended, hung rusted and empty on the walls of the prison, and in the rings of one of those sets of fetters there remained two mouldering bones, which seemed to have been once those of the human leg, as if some prisoner had been left not only to perish there, but to be consumed to a skeleton.
At one end of this ghastly apartment was a large fire-grate, over the top of which were stretched some transverse iron bars, half devoured with rust.
The whole appearance of the dungeon might have appalled a stouter heart than that of Isaac, who, nevertheless, was more composed under the imminent pressure of danger, than he had seemed to be while affected by terrors, of which the cause was as yet remote and contingent. The lovers of the chase say that the hare feels more agony during the pursuit of the greyhounds, than when she is struggling in their fangs.26
And thus it is probable, that the Jews, by the very frequency of their fear on all occasions, had their minds in some degree prepared for every effort of tyranny which could be practised upon them; so that no aggression, when it had taken place, could bring with it that surprise which is the most disabling quality of terror. Neither was it the first time that Isaac had been placed in circumstances so dangerous. He had therefore experience to guide him, as well as hope, that he might again, as formerly, be delivered as a prey from the fowler. Above all, he had upon his side the unyielding obstinacy of his nation, and that unbending resolution, with which Israelites have been frequently known to submit to the uttermost evils which power and violence can inflict upon them, rather than gratify their oppressors by granting their demands.
In this humour of passive resistance, and with his garment collected beneath him to keep his limbs from the wet pavement, Isaac sat in a corner of his dungeon, where his folded hands, his dishevelled hair and beard, his furred cloak and high cap, seen by the wiry and broken light, would have afforded a study for Rembrandt, had that celebrated painter existed at the period. The Jew remained, without altering his position, for nearly three hours, at the expiry of which steps were heard on the dungeon stair. The bolts screamed as they were withdrawn — the hinges creaked as the wicket opened, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, followed by the two Saracen slaves of the Templar, entered the prison.
Front-de-Boeuf, a tall and strong man, whose life had been spent in public war or in private feuds and broils, and who had hesitated at no means of extending his feudal power, had features corresponding to his character, and which strongly expressed the fiercer and more malignant passions of the mind. The scars with which his visage was seamed, would, on features of a different cast, have excited the sympathy and veneration due to the marks of honourable valour; but, in the peculiar case of Front-de-Boeuf, they only added to the ferocity of his countenance, and to the dread which his presence inspired. This formidable baron was clad in a leathern doublet, fitted close to his body, which was frayed and soiled with the stains of his armour. He had no weapon, excepting a poniard at his belt, which served to counterbalance the weight of the bunch of rusty keys that hung at his right side.
The black slaves who attended Front-de-Boeuf were stripped of their gorgeous apparel, and attired in jerkins and trowsers of coarse linen, their sleeves being tucked up above the elbow, like those of butchers when about to exercise their function in the slaughter-house. Each had in his hand a small pannier; and, when they entered the dungeon, they stopt at the door until Front-de-Boeuf himself carefully locked and double-locked it. Having taken this precaution, he advanced slowly up the apartment towards the Jew, upon whom he kept his eye fixed, as if he wished to paralyze him with his glance, as some animals are said to fascinate their prey. It seemed indeed as if the sullen and malignant eye of Front-de-Boeuf possessed some portion of that supposed power over his unfortunate prisoner. The Jew sat with his mouth agape, and his eyes fixed on the savage baron with such earnestness of terror, that his frame seemed literally to shrink together, and to diminish in size while encountering the fierce Norman’s fixed and baleful gaze. The unhappy Isaac was deprived not only of the power of rising to make the obeisance which his terror dictated, but he could not even doff his cap, or utter any word of supplication; so strongly was he agitated by the conviction that tortures and death were impending over him.
On the other hand, the stately form of the Norman appeared to dilate in magnitude, like that of the eagle, which ruffles up its plumage when about to pounce on its defenceless prey. He paused within three steps of the corner in which the unfortunate Jew had now, as it were, coiled himself up into the smallest possible space, and made a sign for one of the slaves to approach. The black satellite came forward accordingly, and, producing from his basket a large pair of scales and several weights, he laid them at the feet of Front-de-Boeuf, and again retired to the respectful distance, at which his companion had already taken his station.
The motions of these men were slow and solemn, as if there impended over their souls some preconception of horror and of cruelty. Front-de-Boeuf himself opened the scene by thus addressing his ill-fated captive.
“Most accursed dog of an accursed race,” he said, awaking with his deep and sullen voice the sullen echoes of his dungeon vault, “seest thou these scales?”
The unhappy Jew returned a feeble affirmative.
“In these very scales shalt thou weigh me out,” said the relentless Baron, “a thousand silver pounds, after the just measure and weight of the Tower of London.”
“Holy Abraham!” returned the Jew, finding voice through the very extremity of his danger, “heard man ever such a demand? — Who ever heard, even in a minstrel’s tale, of such a sum as a thousand pounds of silver? — What human sight was ever blessed with the vision of such a mass of treasure? — Not within the walls of York, ransack my house and that of all my tribe, wilt thou find the tithe of that huge sum of silver that thou speakest of.”
“I am reasonable,” answered Front-de-Boeuf, “and if silver be scant, I refuse not gold. At the rate of a mark of gold for each six pounds of silver, thou shalt free thy unbelieving carcass from such punishment as thy heart has never even conceived.”
“Have mercy on me, noble knight!” exclaimed Isaac; “I am old, and poor, and helpless. It were unworthy to triumph over me — It is a poor deed to crush a worm.”
“Old thou mayst be,” replied the knight; “more shame to their folly who have suffered thee to grow grey in usury and knavery — Feeble thou mayst be, for when had a Jew either heart or hand — But rich it is well known thou art.”
“I swear to you, noble knight,” said the Jew “by all which I believe, and by all which we believe in common — ”
“Perjure not thyself,” said the Norman, interrupting him, “and let not thine obstinacy seal thy doom, until thou hast seen and well considered the fate that awaits thee. Think not I speak to thee only to excite thy terror, and practise on the base cowardice thou hast derived from thy tribe. I swear to thee by that which thou dost NOT believe, by the gospel which our church teaches, and by the keys which are given her to bind and to loose, that my purpose is deep and peremptory. This dungeon is no place for trifling. Prisoners ten thousand times more distinguished than thou have died within these walls, and their fate hath never been known! But for thee is reserved a long and lingering death, to which theirs were luxury.”
He again made a signal for the slaves to approach, and spoke to them apart, in their own language; for he also had been in Palestine, where perhaps, he had learnt his lesson of cruelty. The Saracens produced from their baskets a quantity of charcoal, a pair of bellows, and a flask of oil. While the one struck a light with a flint and steel, the other disposed the charcoal in the large rusty grate which we have already mentioned, and exercised the bellows until the fuel came to a red glow.
“Seest thou, Isaac,” said Front-de-Boeuf, “the range of iron bars above the glowing charcoal?27 — on that warm couch thou shalt lie, stripped of thy clothes as if thou wert to rest on a bed of down. One of these slaves shall maintain the fire beneath thee, while the other shall anoint thy wretched limbs with oil, lest the roast should burn. — Now, choose betwixt such a scorching bed and the payment of a thousand pounds of silver; for, by the head of my father, thou hast no other option.”
“It is impossible,” exclaimed the miserable Jew — “it is impossible that your purpose can be real! The good God of nature never made a heart capable of exercising such cruelty!”
“Trust not to that, Isaac,” said Front-de-Boeuf, “it were a fatal error. Dost thou think that I, who have seen a town sacked, in which thousands of my Christian countrymen perished by sword, by flood, and by fire, will blench from my purpose for the outcries or screams of one single wretched Jew? — or thinkest thou that these swarthy slaves, who have neither law, country, nor conscience, but their master’s will — who use the poison, or the stake, or the poniard, or the cord, at his slightest wink — thinkest thou that THEY will have mercy, who do not even understand the language in which it is asked? — Be wise, old man; discharge thyself of a portion of thy superfluous wealth; repay to the hands of a Christian a part of what thou hast acquired by the usury thou hast practised on those of his religion. Thy cunning may soon swell out once more thy shrivelled purse, but neither leech nor medicine can restore thy scorched hide and flesh wert thou once stretched on these bars. Tell down thy ransom, I say, and rejoice that at such rate thou canst redeem thee from a dungeon, the secrets of which few have returned to tell. I waste no more words with thee — choose between thy dross and thy flesh and blood, and as thou choosest, so shall it be.”
“So may Abraham, Jacob, and all the fathers of our people assist me,” said Isaac, “I cannot make the choice, because I have not the means of satisfying your exorbitant demand!”
“Seize him and strip him, slaves,” said the knight, “and let the fathers of his race assist him if they can.”
The assistants, taking their directions more from the Baron’s eye and his hand than his tongue, once more stepped forward, laid hands on the unfortunate Isaac, plucked him up from the ground, and, holding him between them, waited the hard-hearted Baron’s farther signal. The unhappy Jew eyed their countenances and that of Front-de-Boeuf, in hope of discovering some symptoms of relenting; but that of the Baron exhibited the same cold, half-sullen, half-sarcastic smile which had been the prelude to his cruelty; and the savage eyes of the Saracens, rolling gloomily under their dark brows, acquiring a yet more sinister expression by the whiteness of the circle which surrounds the pupil, evinced rather the secret pleasure which they expected from the approaching scene, than any reluctance to be its directors or agents. The Jew then looked at the glowing furnace, over which he was presently to be stretched, and seeing no chance of his tormentor’s relenting, his resolution gave way.
“I will pay,” he said, “the thousand pounds of silver — That is,” he added, after a moment’s pause, “I will pay it with the help of my brethren; for I must beg as a mendicant at the door of our synagogue ere I make up so unheard-of a sum. — When and where must it be delivered?”
“Here,” replied Front-de-Boeuf, “here it must be delivered — weighed it must be — weighed and told down on this very dungeon floor. — Thinkest thou I will part with thee until thy ransom is secure?”
“And what is to be my surety,” said the Jew, “that I shall be at liberty after this ransom is paid?”
“The word of a Norman noble, thou pawn-broking slave,” answered Front-de-Boeuf; “the faith of a Norman nobleman, more pure than the gold and silver of thee and all thy tribe.”
“I crave pardon, noble lord,” said Isaac timidly, “but wherefore should I rely wholly on the word of one who will trust nothing to mine?”
“Because thou canst not help it, Jew,” said the knight, sternly. “Wert thou now in thy treasure-chamber at York, and were I craving a loan of thy shekels, it would be thine to dictate the time of payment, and the pledge of security. This is MY treasure-chamber. Here I have thee at advantage, nor will I again deign to repeat the terms on which I grant thee liberty.”
The Jew groaned deeply. — “Grant me,” he said, “at least with my own liberty, that of the companions with whom I travel. They scorned me as a Jew, yet they pitied my desolation, and because they tarried to aid me by the way, a share of my evil hath come upon them; moreover, they may contribute in some sort to my ransom.”
“If thou meanest yonder Saxon churls,” said Front-de-Boeuf, “their ransom will depend upon other terms than thine. Mind thine own concerns, Jew, I warn thee, and meddle not with those of others.”
“I am, then,” said Isaac, “only to be set at liberty, together with mine wounded friend?”
“Shall I twice recommend it,” said Front-de-Boeuf, “to a son of Israel, to meddle with his own concerns, and leave those of others alone? — Since thou hast made thy choice, it remains but that thou payest down thy ransom, and that at a short day.”
“Yet hear me,” said the Jew — “for the sake of that very wealth which thou wouldst obtain at the expense of thy — “ Here he stopt short, afraid of irritating the savage Norman. But Front-de-Boeuf only laughed, and himself filled up the blank at which the Jew had hesitated.
“At the expense of my conscience, thou wouldst say, Isaac; speak it out — I tell thee, I am reasonable. I can bear the reproaches of a loser, even when that loser is a Jew. Thou wert not so patient, Isaac, when thou didst invoke justice against Jacques Fitzdotterel, for calling thee a usurious blood-sucker, when thy exactions had devoured his patrimony.”
“I swear by the Talmud,” said the Jew, “that your valour has been misled in that matter. Fitzdotterel drew his poniard upon me in mine own chamber, because I craved him for mine own silver. The term of payment was due at the Passover.”
“I care not what he did,” said Front-de-Boeuf; “the question is, when shall I have mine own? — when shall I have the shekels, Isaac?”
“Let my daughter Rebecca go forth to York,” answered Isaac, “with your safe conduct, noble knight, and so soon as man and horse can return, the treasure — “ Here he groaned deeply, but added, after the pause of a few seconds, — “The treasure shall be told down on this very floor.”
“Thy daughter!” said Front-de-Boeuf, as if surprised, — “By heavens, Isaac, I would I had known of this. I deemed that yonder black-browed girl had been thy concubine, and I gave her to be a handmaiden to Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, after the fashion of patriarchs and heroes of the days of old, who set us in these matters a wholesome example.”
The yell which Isaac raised at this unfeeling communication made the very vault to ring, and astounded the two Saracens so much that they let go their hold of the Jew. He availed himself of his enlargement to throw himself on the pavement, and clasp the knees of Front-de-Boeuf.
“Take all that you have asked,” said he, “Sir Knight — take ten times more — reduce me to ruin and to beggary, if thou wilt, — nay, pierce me with thy poniard, broil me on that furnace, but spare my daughter, deliver her in safety and honour! — As thou art born of woman, spare the honour of a helpless maiden — She is the image of my deceased Rachel, she is the last of six pledges of her love — Will you deprive a widowed husband of his sole remaining comfort? — Will you reduce a father to wish that his only living child were laid beside her dead mother, in the tomb of our fathers?”
“I would,” said the Norman, somewhat relenting, “that I had known of this before. I thought your race had loved nothing save their moneybags.”
“Think not so vilely of us, Jews though we be,” said Isaac, eager to improve the moment of apparent sympathy; “the hunted fox, the tortured wildcat loves its young — the despised and persecuted race of Abraham love their children!”
“Be it so,” said Front-de-Boeuf; “I will believe it in future, Isaac, for thy very sake — but it aids us not now, I cannot help what has happened, or what is to follow; my word is passed to my comrade in arms, nor would I break it for ten Jews and Jewesses to boot. Besides, why shouldst thou think evil is to come to the girl, even if she became Bois-Guilbert’s booty?”
“There will, there must!” exclaimed Isaac, wringing his hands in agony; “when did Templars breathe aught but cruelty to men, and dishonour to women!”
“Dog of an infidel,” said Front-de-Boeuf, with sparkling eyes, and not sorry, perhaps, to seize a pretext for working himself into a passion, “blaspheme not the Holy Order of the Temple of Zion, but take thought instead to pay me the ransom thou hast promised, or woe betide thy Jewish throat!”
“Robber and villain!” said the Jew, retorting the insults of his oppressor with passion, which, however impotent, he now found it impossible to bridle, “I will pay thee nothing — not one silver penny will I pay thee, unless my daughter is delivered to me in safety and honour!”
“Art thou in thy senses, Israelite?” said the Norman, sternly — “has thy flesh and blood a charm against heated iron and scalding oil?”
“I care not!” said the Jew, rendered desperate by paternal affection; “do thy worst. My daughter is my flesh and blood, dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs which thy cruelty threatens. No silver will I give thee, unless I were to pour it molten down thy avaricious throat — no, not a silver penny will I give thee, Nazarene, were it to save thee from the deep damnation thy whole life has merited! Take my life if thou wilt, and say, the Jew, amidst his tortures, knew how to disappoint the Christian.”
“We shall see that,” said Front-de-Boeuf; “for by the blessed rood, which is the abomination of thy accursed tribe, thou shalt feel the extremities of fire and steel! — Strip him, slaves, and chain him down upon the bars.”
In spite of the feeble struggles of the old man, the Saracens had already torn from him his upper garment, and were proceeding totally to disrobe him, when the sound of a bugle, twice winded without the castle, penetrated even to the recesses of the dungeon, and immediately after loud voices were heard calling for Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Unwilling to be found engaged in his hellish occupation, the savage Baron gave the slaves a signal to restore Isaac’s garment, and, quitting the dungeon with his attendants, he left the Jew to thank God for his own deliverance, or to lament over his daughter’s captivity, and probable fate, as his personal or parental feelings might prove strongest.
26 “Nota Bene.” — We by no means warrant the accuracy of this piece of natural history, which we give on the authority of the Wardour MS. L. T.
27 Note E. — The range of iron bars above that glowing charcoal
This horrid species of torture may remind the reader of that to which the Spaniards subjected Guatimozin, in order to extort a discovery of his concealed wealth. But, in fact, an instance of similar barbarity is to be found nearer home, and occurs in the annals of Queen Mary’s time, containing so many other examples of atrocity. Every reader must recollect, that after the fall of the Catholic Church, and the Presbyterian Church Government had been established by law, the rank, and especially the wealth, of the Bishops, Abbots, Priors, and so forth, were no longer vested in ecclesiastics, but in lay impropriators of the church revenues, or, as the Scottish lawyers called them, titulars of the temporalities of the benefice, though having no claim to the spiritual character of their predecessors in office.
Of these laymen, who were thus invested with ecclesiastical revenues, some were men of high birth and rank, like the famous Lord James Stewart, the Prior of St Andrews, who did not fail to keep for their own use the rents, lands, and revenues of the church. But if, on the other hand, the titulars were men of inferior importance, who had been inducted into the office by the interest of some powerful person, it was generally understood that the new Abbot should grant for his patron’s benefit such leases and conveyances of the church lands and tithes as might afford their protector the lion’s share of the booty. This was the origin of those who were wittily termed Tulchan* Bishops, being a sort of imaginary prelate, whose image was set up to enable his patron and principal to plunder the benefice under his name.
* A “Tulchan” is a calf’s skin stuffed, and placed before a cow who has lost its calf, to induce the animal to part with her milk. The resemblance between such a Tulchan and a Bishop named to transmit the temporalities of a benefice to some powerful patron, is easily understood.
There were other cases, however, in which men who had got grants of these secularised benefices, were desirous of retaining them for their own use, without having the influence sufficient to establish their purpose; and these became frequently unable to protect themselves, however unwilling to submit to the exactions of the feudal tyrant of the district.
Bannatyne, secretary to John Knox, recounts a singular course of oppression practised on one of those titulars abbots, by the Earl of Cassilis in Ayrshire, whose extent of feudal influence was so wide that he was usually termed the King of Carrick. We give the fact as it occurs in Bannatyne’s Journal, only premising that the Journalist held his master’s opinions, both with respect to the Earl of Cassilis as an opposer of the king’s party, and as being a detester of the practice of granting church revenues to titulars, instead of their being devoted to pious uses, such as the support of the clergy, expense of schools, and the relief of the national poor. He mingles in the narrative, therefore, a well deserved feeling of execration against the tyrant who employed the torture, which a tone of ridicule towards the patient, as if, after all, it had not been ill bestowed on such an equivocal and amphibious character as a titular abbot. He entitles his narrative,
“Master Allan Stewart, friend to Captain James Stewart of Cardonall, by means of the Queen’s corrupted court, obtained the Abbey of Crossraguel. The said Earl thinking himself greater than any king in those quarters, determined to have that whole benefice (as he hath divers others) to pay at his pleasure; and because he could not find sic security as his insatiable appetite required, this shift was devised. The said Mr Allan being in company with the Laird of Bargany, (also a Kennedy,) was, by the Earl and his friends, enticed to leave the safeguard which he had with the Laird, and come to make good cheer with the said Earl. The simplicity of the imprudent man was suddenly abused; and so he passed his time with them certain days, which he did in Maybole with Thomas Kennedie, uncle to the said Earl; after which the said Mr Allan passed, with quiet company, to visit the place and bounds of Crossraguel, [his abbacy,] of which the said Earl being surely advertised, determined to put in practice the tyranny which long before he had conceived. And so, as king of the country, apprehended the said Mr Allan, and carried him to the house of Denure, where for a season he was honourably treated, (if a prisoner can think any entertainment pleasing;) but after that certain days were spent, and that the Earl could not obtain the feus of Crossraguel according to his own appetite, he determined to prove if a collation could work that which neither dinner nor supper could do for a long time. And so the said Mr Allan was carried to a secret chamber: with him passed the honourable Earl, his worshipful brother, and such as were appointed to be servants at that banquet. In the chamber there was a grit iron chimlay, under it a fire; other grit provision was not seen. The first course was, — ‘My Lord Abbot,’ (said the Earl,) ‘it will please you confess here, that with your own consent you remain in my company, because ye durst not commit yourself to the hands of others.’ The Abbot answered, ‘Would you, my lord, that I should make a manifest lie for your pleasure? The truth is, my lord, it is against my will that I am here; neither yet have I any pleasure in your company.’ ‘But ye shall remain with me, nevertheless, at this time,’ said the Earl. ‘l am not able to resist your will and pleasure,’ said the Abbot, ‘in this place.’ ‘Ye must then obey me,’ said the Earl, — and with that were presented unto him certain letters to subscribe, amongst which there was a five years’ tack, and a nineteen years’ tack, and a charter of feu of all the lands (of Crossraguel, with all the clauses necessary for the Earl to haste him to hell. For if adultery, sacrilege, oppression, barbarous cruelty, and theft heaped upon theft, deserve hell, the great King of Carrick can no more escape hell for ever, than the imprudent Abbot escaped the fire for a season as follows.
“After that the Earl spied repugnance, and saw that he could not come to his purpose by fair means, he commanded his cooks to prepare the banquet: and so first they flayed the sheep, that is, they took off the Abbot’s cloathes even to his skin, and next they bound him to the chimney — his legs to the one end, and his arms to the other; and so they began to beet [i.e. feed] the fire sometimes to his buttocks, sometimes to his legs, sometimes to his shoulders and arms; and that the roast might not burn, but that it might rest in soppe, they spared not flambing with oil, (basting as a cook bastes roasted meat); Lord, look thou to sic cruelty! And that the crying of the miserable man should not be heard, they dosed his mouth that the voice might be stopped. It may be suspected that some partisan of the King’s [Darnley’s] murder was there. In that torment they held the poor man, till that often he cried for God’s sake to dispatch him; for he had as meikle gold in his awin purse as would buy powder enough to shorten his pain. The famous King of Carrick and his cooks perceiving the roast to be aneuch, commanded it to be tane fra the fire, and the Earl himself began the grace in this manner:— ‘Benedicite, Jesus Maria, you are the most obstinate man that ever I saw; gif I had known that ye had been so stubborn, I would not for a thousand crowns have handled you so; I never did so to man before you.’ And yet he returned to the same practice within two days, and ceased not till that he obtained his formost purpose, that is, that he had got all his pieces subscryvit alsweill as ane half-roasted hand could do it. The Earl thinking himself sure enough so long as he had the half-roasted Abbot in his own keeping, and yet being ashamed of his presence by reason of his former cruelty, left the place of Denure in the hands of certain of his servants, and the half-roasted Abbot to be kept there as prisoner. The Laird of Bargany, out of whose company the said Abbot had been enticed, understanding, (not the extremity,) but the retaining of the man, sent to the court, and raised letters of deliverance of the person of the man according to the order, which being disobeyed, the said Earl for his contempt was denounced rebel, and put to the horne. But yet hope was there none, neither to the afflicted to be delivered, neither yet to the purchaser [i.e. procurer] of the letters to obtain any comfort thereby; for in that time God was despised, and the lawful authority was contemned in Scotland, in hope of the sudden return and regiment of that cruel murderer of her awin husband, of whose lords the said Earl was called one; and yet, oftener than once, he was solemnly sworn to the King and to his Regent.”
The Journalist then recites the complaint of the injured Allan Stewart, Commendator of Crossraguel, to the Regent and Privy Council, averring his having been carried, partly by flattery, partly by force, to the black vault of Denure, a strong fortalice, built on a rock overhanging the Irish channel, where to execute leases and conveyances of the whole churches and parsonages belonging to the Abbey of Crossraguel, which he utterly refused as an unreasonable demand, and the more so that he had already conveyed them to John Stewart of Cardonah, by whose interest he had been made Commendator. The complainant proceeds to state, that he was, after many menaces, stript, bound, and his limbs exposed to fire in the manner already described, till, compelled by excess of agony, he subscribed the charter and leases presented to him, of the contents of which he was totally ignorant. A few days afterwards, being again required to execute a ratification of these deeds before a notary and witnesses, and refusing to do so, he was once more subjected to the same torture, until his agony was so excessive that he exclaimed, “Fye on you, why do you not strike your whingers into me, or blow me up with a barrel of powder, rather than torture me thus unmercifully?” upon which the Earl commanded Alexander Richard, one of his attendants, to stop the patient’s mouth with a napkin, which was done accordingly. Thus he was once more compelled to submit to their tyranny. The petition concluded with stating, that the Earl, under pretence of the deeds thus iniquitously obtained, had taken possession of the whole place and living of Crossraguel, and enjoyed the profits thereof for three years.
The doom of the Regent and Council shows singularly the total interruption of justice at this calamitous period, even in the most clamant cases of oppression. The Council declined interference with the course of the ordinary justice of the county, (which was completely under the said Earl of Cassilis’ control,) and only enacted, that he should forbear molestation of the unfortunate Comendator, under the surety of two thousand pounds Scots. The Earl was appointed also to keep the peace towards the celebrated George Buchanan, who had a pension out of the same Abbacy, to a similar extent, and under the like penalty.
The consequences are thus described by the Journalist already quoted. —
“The said Laird of Bargany perceiving that the ordiner justice could neither help the oppressed, nor yet the afflicted, applied his mind to the next remedy, and in the end, by his servants, took the house of Denure, where the poor Abbot was kept prisoner. The bruit flew fra Carrick to Galloway, and so suddenly assembled herd and hyre-man that pertained to the band of the Kennedies; and so within a few hours was the house of Denure environed again. The master of Cassilis was the frackast [i.e. the readiest or boldest) and would not stay, but in his heat would lay fire to the dungeon, with no small boasting that all enemies within the house should die.
“He was required and admonished by those that were within to be more moderate, and not to hazard himself so foolishly. But no admonition would help, till that the wind of an hacquebute blasted his shoulder, and then ceased he from further pursuit in fury. The Laird of Bargany had before purchest [obtained] of the authorities, letters, charging all faithfull subjects to the King’s Majesty, to assist him against that cruel tyrant and mansworn traitor, the Earl of Cassilis; which letters, with his private writings, he published, and shortly found sic concurrence of Kyle and Cunynghame with his other friends, that the Carrick company drew back fra the house: and so the other approached, furnished the house with more men, delivered the said Mr Allan, and carried him to Ayr, where, publicly at the market cross of the said town, he declared how cruelly he was entreated, and how the murdered King suffered not sic torment as he did, excepting only he escaped the death: and, therefore, publickly did revoke all things that were done in that extremity, and especially revoked the subscription of the three writings, to wit, of a fyve yeir tack and nineteen year tack, and of a charter of feu. And so the house remained, and remains (till this day, the 7th of February, 1571,) in the custody of the said Laird of Bargany and of his servants. And so cruelty was disappointed of proffeit present, and shall be eternallie punished, unless he earnestly repent. And this far for the cruelty committed, to give occasion unto others, and to such as hate the monstrous dealing of degenerate nobility, to look more diligently upon their behaviuours, and to paint them forth unto the world, that they themselves may be ashamed of their own beastliness, and that the world may be advertised and admonished to abhor, detest, and avoid the company of all sic tyrants, who are not worthy of the society of men, but ought to be sent suddenly to the devil, with whom they must burn without end, for their contempt of God, and cruelty committed against his creatures. Let Cassilis and his brother be the first to be the example unto others. Amen. Amen.”*
* Bannatyne’s Journal.
This extract has been somewhat amended or modernized in orthography, to render it more intelligible to the general reader. I have to add, that the Kennedies of Bargany, who interfered in behalf of the oppressed Abbot, were themselves a younger branch of the Cassilis family, but held different politics, and were powerful enough in this, and other instances, to bid them defiance.
The ultimate issue of this affair does not appear; but as the house of Cassilis are still in possession of the greater part of the feus and leases which belonged to Crossraguel Abbey, it is probable the talons of the King of Carrick were strong enough, in those disorderly times, to retain the prey which they had so mercilessly fixed upon.
I may also add, that it appears by some papers in my possession, that the officers or Country Keepers on the border, were accustomed to torment their prisoners by binding them to the iron bars of their chimneys, to extort confession.
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