Persecution of the Scottish Covenanters: Incidents in the Life of Lady Greenhill. Part Two


After the incident which we have already narrated…

…the lady saw the necessity of adopting precautionary means, in case of a subsequent attack; and, accordingly, she prepared a hiding-place, to which, in the hour of danger, she might retreat. The dragoons, as was anticipated, were not long in paying Greenhill another visit, for the purpose of apprehending its mistress. Notice of their approach was intimated to the lady, who instantly fled to her concealment. The soldiers, in their usually disorderly and unmannerly way, entered the house, and commenced a strict search. They continued in their work of mischief and impertinence, till an incident occurred which put a stop to their proceedings for that day.

802_covenantersThe lady’s little daughter, a girl of ten years of age, happened to follow the soldiers to a room which was subjected to a very minute search. In this apartment there happened to be a certain piece of furniture in the form of a handsome little chest. One of the dragoons, on observing it, exclaimed: Here is the lady’s charter-chest; let us examine its contents, and we may perchance find something that will reward our morning’s toil. On his opening the lid of this chest, the little girl, who stood immediately behind the plundering dragoon, pushed him forward, and pressed the lid upon his hand. The dishonored trooper, finding his mistake, raised himself from his position, and, red with rage and disappointment, turned round upon the girl, who rushed impetuously from the chamber.

The soldier stormed, and swore, and drew his sword to pursue. ” Hold, sirrah,” exclaimed the officer in command, amused at the mortification of his gallant trooper, hold, and at your peril venture to touch a hair of her head; I like the spunk of the girl, and for the present I will permit the fox to abide in her concealment, for the sport which the young one has afforded us.” No further search was made, and the party instantly left the place.

1For Some time after this, the worthy matron of Greenhill was unassailed in her castle, by her old enemies, the troopers. But one evening,when the rays of the setting sun were gilding the summit of lofty Tinto mountain, the shadows of a company of troopers were seen rapidly approaching. There was not a moment for deliberation: the lady fled from the house, and concealed herself in an adjoining building. The house of Greenhill was an erection of feudal times, and was sufficiently strong to afford protection against the roving bands of rival barons. Connected with the mansion-house was a large court, formed by ranges of office-houses; and it was here that,in the olden times, the cattle were driven for security, when there was any apprehension of the Annandale and other border thieves being abroad.

images (3)Claverhouse sent his troopers into every apartment of the dwelling-house, and they failed not to accomplish a most unsparing search; but, after all their pains,they were unsuccessful –the lady was not to be found. This additional disappointment enraged Claverhouse excessively. The extent of devastation committed within the house on this occasion is not mentioned; but we are informed that, on their departure, they conceived the scheme of barricading the building in such a way, as that neither ingress or egress might be effected. He commanded his powerful and vengeful dragoons to secure every window and door, in the firmest manner, exclaiming, that since it was the lady’s pleasure to go out, it was his that she should not go in. The injunction was instantly obeyed, and every door and aperture were closed and fastened,and the keys carried off by the doughty troopers. By this means it was believed that no small degree of annoyance and trouble would be given to the good lady and her domestics, while the soldiers departed pleased with the thought, that they had at least wrought some mischief in keeping with their lawless occupation.

OssianscaveOn the withdrawal of the soldiers, the lady issued from her concealment, and, in company with the servants, who had now assembled in the court, found the house in the situation described. An attempt to gain admittance at doors and windows was made, but without success. At last the lady, when trial had been made at the different doors without being able to effect an entrance, observing one that had not been attempted, laid her fingers on the handle, and immediately the door swung back upon its hinges, to the astonishment of the domestics, some of whom asserted that it was as firmly locked and barred as the others, and insinuated that a special Providence had interposed to remove the obstacles which their united efforts could not otherwise have been able to accomplish. The lady, however, entertained no such notions; and saw at once that the leaving of the door unlocked was an oversight on the part of the dragoons, and that Providence had no doubt ordered it so; but she bad no belief of anything miraculous in the case. The gratitude of this good woman, on account of this seasonable deliverance, may easily be conceived; and, in reference to the event of that evening, as being a token of the divine kindness to herself and her household, she could lay her head on her pillow, and say –

“Our soul’s escaped as a bird
Out of the fowler’s snare ;
The snare asunder broken is,
And we escaped are.”

And in the morning, after the protection and sweet repose of the night, she could unite with the Psalmist again, and sing with a glad heart–

“I laid me down and slept, I waked,
For God sustained me;
I will not fear though thousands ten
Set round against me be.”

–Taken and adapted from, “Traditions of the Covenanters”

Written by, Robert Simpson, D.D.


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