UNDER SENTENCE OF DEATH
So waiting the arrival and the day of my doom, I continued to abide in the Tolbooth. Anton Lennox, also waiting, as he said, his bridegroom day of marriage and coronation, was with me. In the night alone we had some peace and quiet. For they had turned in upon us, to our horror, that wind-filled fool, John Gib—whom for his follies, Anton Lennox had lundered with a stick upon the Flowe of the Deer-Slunk.
With him was Davie Jamie the scholar, now grown well nigh as mad as himself. Sometimes the jailors played with them, and said, ‘John, this is your Sunday's meal of meat!’
Whereupon, so filled with moon-madness were they, that they would refuse good victual, because it had been given them upon a day with a heathen name. Or, again, the more ill-set of the prisoners made their game of them—for they were not all of them that suffered for their faith, who were with us in the Canongate Tolbooth. But many city apprentices also that had been in brawls or had broken their indentures. And, truth to tell, we were somewhat glad of the regardless birkies. For when we were dull of heart they made sport with us, and we were numerous enough to keep them from interfering with our worship.
So these wild loons would say:
‘Prophesy to us, John Gib, for we know that thou hast the devil ever at thine elbow. Let us see thy face shining, as it did at the Spout of Auchentalloch, when ye danced naked and burned the Bible.’
And whether it was with our expectant looking for it, or whether the man really had some devilry about him, certain it is that in the gloom of the corner, where in his quiet spells he abode, there seemed to be ofttimes a horrible face near to his own, and a little bluish light thrown upon his hair and eyes. This was seen by most in the dungeon, though, for my own part, I confess I could see nothing.
Then he would be taken with accesses of howling, like to a moonstruck dog or a rutting hart on the mountains of heather. And sometimes, when the fear of Anton Lennox was upon him, he would try to stop his roaring, thrusting his own napkin into his mouth. But for all that the devil within him would drive out the napkin and some most fearsome yells behind it, as a pellet is driven from a boy's tow gun.
This he did mostly during worship—which was held thrice a day in the Tolbooth, and helped to pass the time. At such seasons he became fairly possessed, and was neither to hold nor bind. So that for common they had to bring Anton Lennox to him with a quarter-staff, with which he threatened him. And at sight of old Anton, Gib, though a big strong man, would run behind the door and crouch there on his hunkers, howling grievously like a dog.
He was ordered into leg-irons, but his ravings pleased the Duke of York so much (because that he wanted to tar us all with the same stick) that he had them taken off. Also he bade give him and David Jamie as much paper and ink as ever they wanted, and to send him copies of all that they wrote, for his entertainment. But in time of worship after this, Anton Lennox ordered four of the strongest and biggest men to sit upon John Gib, streeked out on the floor, as men sit together upon a bench in the kirk at sermon-hearing. And we were glad when we fell on this plan, for it discouraged the devil more than anything, so that he acknowledged the power of the gospel and quit his roaring.
Yet I think all this rough play kept up our hearts, and stayed us from thinking all the time upon that day of our bitter, final testifying, which was coming so soon. To make an end now of Muckle John Gib, I heard that he was sent by ship to the colonies, and that in America he gained much honour among the heathen for his converse with the devil. Nor did the godly men that are there, ever discover Anton Lennox's weighty method of exorcism—than which I ween there is none better, for even the devil needs breath as well as another.
But for all this, there was never an hour that chimed, but I would wake and remember that at the sound of a trumpet the port might any moment be opened and I be summoned forth to meet my doom. And Anton Lennox dealt with me there in the Cannongate Tolbooth for my soul's peace, and that very faithfully. For there were not wanting among the prisoners those that made no scruple to call me a sword-and-buckler Covenanter, because I would not follow them in all their protests and remonstrances. But Anton Lennox warred with them with the weapons of speech for the both of us, and told them how that I had already witnessed a good confession and that before many witnesses. He said also that there would not be wanting One, when I had overpassed my next stage, to make confession of William Gordon before the angels of heaven. Which saying made them to cavil no more.
men of the moss hags
125th anniversary 'slow reading' serialisation.