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which arose between them, and the jealousy and ferocity of their followers, led inevitably to such scenes of spoliation, imprisonment, and murder, as threatened to cut off the country beyond the range of the Grampians from all communication with the more pacific parts of the realm. It was, if possible, to put a period to this state of things, that James now determined to visit his northern dominions.
Surrounded by his barons, who were panied by troops of armed retainers, and attended by a military force which rendered assistance hopeless, he took his progress to Inverness, from which he issued to these northern chiefs his writs commanding their attendance at a Parliament to be held in that burgh. It is singular that they did not dare to disobey his summons; and the fact seems to point to some proceedings upon the part of the king, of which all record has been lost; but bitterly did they repent their weakness or their credulity. Scarcely had they entered the hall of Parliament; when they were seized, manacled hand and feet, and cast into separate prisons, whilst the monarch is described by Fordun as turning triumphantly to his courtiers, and reciting some monkish rhymes, applauding the skill by which they had been circumvented, and warning them of the folly of entertaining any hope of mercy. Amongst these victims the most noted were Alexander of the Isles, Angus Dhu or black Angus of Strathnarvern, with his four sons, Kenneth More or big Kenneth, his son-in-law Angus of Moray, Alexander Macrory of Garmoran, John Macarthur, William Lesley, and James Campbell. Macrory, Macarthur, and Campbell, men notorious for the lawlessness of their lives and the murders which they had committed, were instantly tried, convicted, and executed. Of the rest, some were imprisoned, others were suffered, on a trial of amendment, to return to their homes, whilst Alexander of the Isles, after a temporary restraint, was restored to his liberty, and permitted again to place himself at the head of those vassals whose allegiance, as well as his own, he solemnly engaged should never again be brought into question.
But the promises of this fierce chief, who had long been accustomed to a life of independence and piratic warfare, were broken so soon as he saw the gathering of his clansmen and the white sails of his galleys. At the head of an army of ten thousand men, embracing the whole strength of Ross and the Isles, he broke down from his northern retreats, and, sweeping everything before him, let loose the hottest of his wrath against the lands belonging to the crown, whilst he concluded his expedition by razing to the ground the royal burgh of Inverness. *
The Highlander, however, had yet to learn the uncommon energy of the king, and the royal wrath overtook him with a strength and a rapidity for which he was not prepared. Scarcely had hetime to divide his spoil, when he found himself furiously attacked in Lochaber by a force hastily levied and led by James in person, which scattered his undisciplined troops, more solicitous to escape with the plunder which they had secured, than to risk its loss by making head against the enemy. Deserted by
* Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1485. † Ibid. p. 1286.
the clan Chattan and Cameron, who deemed it prudent to make their peace before the king's wrath was kindled to the uttermost, and convinced of his inability to maintain the struggle, the Highland prince, whose pride was yet unconquered, despatched ambassadors to sue for peace, but they were dismissed from court with the utmost contempt; and the haughty monarch, deriding this feeble effort of a fugitive and outlaw to assume the state of an independent prince, commanded his sheriffs and officers to bring the rebel dead or alive into his presence. Hunted liked a noxious animal from place to place, aware of the stern character of the king, and distrusting the fidelity of the few followers who were left, the unhappy man was driven at last to sue for life in a humiliating form. On a great solemnity, when the king, surrounded by his prelates and nobles, stood in front of the high altar at Holyrood, a wretched-looking mendicant, squalid from suffering and misery, clothed only in his shirt and drawers, and holding a naked sword in his hand, threw himself on his knees before the monarch, and, holding his weapon by the point, presented it to James, and implored his clemency. It was the Highland prince, who had secretly travelled to the capital, and adopted this mode of conciliating the royal · indignation.* James granted him his life, but instantly shut him up in Tantallan Castle, under the charge of the Earl of Angus, and at the same time imprisoned the Countess of Ross, his mother, a proud matron, who was believed to have encouraged her son his rebellious courses. Both, however, were released not long after, and this
* Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1485.
example of mingled severity and mercy had a happy effect in securing for a while the peace of these remote districts.
The state of insubordination, indeed, to which they had arrived during the long usurpation of Albany, can scarcely be conceived; and some anecdotes have been preserved by our ancient historians, which paint it more forcibly than the most laboured description. The Highland districts, to use the language of the Chronicle of Moray, were little else at this moment than a den of robbers, * where might made right; and it happened that, under this state of misrule, a poor Highland widow had been plundered by one of the Ketheran chiefs, who had stripped her of her substance, and left her utterly destitute. Yet the spoiler walked abroad, and none dared to seize him. In the agony of her heart, however, she confronted the robber chief, upbraided him with his cowardice, and declared she would never wear shoes again till she had herself carried her complaint before the king.
6. It shall be a broken vow," said the monster; you shall be shod before
stir from this spot;" and, instantly seizing the defenceless creature, he had two horse-shoes nailed to her naked feet, and, thus bleeding and in agony,
she was thrust upon the highway. But, superior to the sense of pain, and wrought up by her wrongs to a pitch of supernatural endurance, she maintained her purpose, and, falling into the hands of some humane persons, who removed the iron shoes, she travelled to Court, told her story to the king, and held up her feet, still torn and bleeding by the
* MS. Chron. of Moray, Cast. Moray, p. 220.
inhuman treatment which she had received. The character of James has been already described. In a tumult of commiseration for the victim who stood before him, and of uncontrollable wrath against her oppressor, he directed his instant orders to the sheriff of the county where the outrage had been committed, commanding him, on the peril of his head, to have the robber-chief apprehended, and sent to Perth, where the Court was then held. The energy of the king communicated itself to his officers, and in a short time the miscreant was hurried into his presence, and instantly ordered to execution. A shirt, on which was painted a rude representation of his crime, was thrown over him; and, after having been dragged at a horse's heels, he was hanged-a memorable example of the speedy vengeance of the laws. *
It is in circumstances like these that we applaud the stern severity of a character peculiarly fitted to rule over the cruel and iron-hearted hordes which then peopled his northern dominions; but there were other occasions when the heart revolted at the royal severity. A nobleman, nearly related to the king, having quarrelled with another baron, so far forgot himself as to strike his antagonist in presence of the monarch: the crime, by the law, was capital; but the king unsheathed the short cutlass which hung at his side, and, with a look which forbade all further question, ordered the delinquent to stretch upon the table the hand which had offended. A thrill of horror ran through the Court, as he next turned to the baron who had
* Fordun, vol. ii. p. 510.