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.*
* "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.
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
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
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
"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?*---
* Note E. The range of iron bars above that glowing charcoal
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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"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.
NOTE TO CHAPTER XXII.
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*
* 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.
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.
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,
THE EARL OF CASSILIS' TYRANNY AGAINST A QUICK (i.e. LIVING) MAN.
"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
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
"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.