The Scottish Chiefs by Miss Jane Porter
Bright was the summer of 1296. The war which had desolated Scotland was then at an end. Ambition seemed satiated; and the vanquished, after having passed under the yoke of their enemy, concluded they might wear their chains in peace. Such were the hopes of those Scottish noblemen who, early in the preceding spring, had signed the bond of submission to a ruthless conqueror, purchasing life at the price of all that makes life estimable-liberty and honor.
Prior to this act of vassalage, Edward I., King of England, had entered Scotland at the head of an immense army. He seized Berwick by stratagem; laid the country in ashes; and, on the field of Dunbar, forced the Scottish king and his nobles to acknowledge him their liege lord.
But while the courts of Edward, or of his representatives, were crowded by the humbled Scots, the spirit of one brave man remained unsubdued. Disgusted alike at the facility with which the sovereign of a warlike nation could resign his people and his crown into the hands of a treacherous invader, and at the pusillanimity of the nobles who had ratified the sacrifice, William Wallace retired to the glen of Ellerslie. Withdrawn from the world, he hoped to avoid the sight of oppressions he could not redress, and the endurance of injuries beyond his power to avenge.
Thus checked at the opening of life in the career of glory that was his passion-secluded in the bloom of manhood from the social haunts of men-he repressed the eager aspirations of his mind, and strove to acquire that resignation to inevitable evils which alone could reconcile him to forego the promises of his youth, and enable him to view with patience a humiliation of Scotland, which blighted her honor, menaced her existence, and consigned her sons to degradation or obscurity. The latter was the choice of Wallace. Too noble to bend his spirit to the usurper, too honest to affect submission, he resigned himself to the only way left of maintaining the independence of a true Scot; and giving up the world at once, all the ambitions of youth became extinguished in his breast, since nothing was preserved in his country to sanctify their fires. Scotland seemed proud of her chains. Not to share in such debasement, appeared all that was now in his power; and within the shades of Ellerslie he found a retreat and a home, whose sweets beguiling him of every care, made him sometimes forget the wrongs of his country in the tranquil enjoyments of wedded love.
During the happy mouths of the preceding autumn, while Scotland was yet free, and the path of honorable distinction still open before her young nobility, Wallace married Marion Braidfoot, the beautiful heiress of Lammington. Nearly of the same age, and brought up from childhood together, reciprocal affection had grown with their growth; and sympathy of tastes and virtues, and mutual tenderness, made them so entirely one, that when at the age of twenty-two the enraptured lover was allowed to pledge that faith publicly at the altar, which he had so often vowed in secret to his Marion, he clasped her to his heart, and softly whispered: "Dearer than life! part of my being! blessed is this union, that mingles thy soul with mine, now, and forever!"
Edward's invasion of Scotland broke in upon their innocent joys. Wallace threw aside the wedding garment for the cuirass and the sword. But he was not permitted long to use either-Scotland submitted to her enemies; and he had no alternative but to bow to her oppressors, or to become an exile from man, amid the deep glens of his country.
The tower of Ellerslie was henceforth the lonely abode of himself and his bride. The neighboring nobles avoided him, because the principles he declared were a tacit reproach on their proceedings; and in the course of a short time, as he forbore to seek them, they even forgot that he was in existence. Indeed, all occasions of mixing with society he now rejected. The hunting-spear with which he had delighted to follow the flying roebuck from glade to glade, the arrows with which he used to bring down the heavy ptarmigan or the towering eagle, all were laid aside. Scottish liberty was no more; and Wallace would have blushed to have shown himself to the free-born deer of his native hills, in communion of sports with the spoilers of his country. Had he pursued his once favorite exercises, he must have mingled with the English, now garrisoned in every town, and who passed their hours of leisure in the chase.
Being resigned to bury his youth-since its strength could no longer be serviceable to his country-books, his harp, and the sweet converse of his tender Marion, became the occupations of his days. Ellerslie was his hermitage; and there, closed from the world, with an angel his companion, he might have forgotten Edward was lord in Scotland, had not that which was without his little paradise made a way to its gates, and showed him the slavery of the nobles and the wretchedness of the people. In these cases, his generous hand gave succor where it could not bring redress. Those whom the lawless plunderer had driven from their houses or stripped of their covering, found shelter, clothing, and food at the house of Sir William Wallace.
Ellerslie was the refuge of the friendless, and the comfort of the unhappy. Wherever Lady Wallace moved-whether looking out from her window on the accidental passenger, or taking her morning or moonlight walks through the glen, leaning on the arm of her husband-she had the rapture of hearing his steps greeted and followed by the blessings of the poor destitute, and the prayers of them who were ready to perish. It was then that this happy woman would raise her husband's hands to her lips, and in silent adoration, thank God for blessing her with a being made so truly in his own image.
Several months of this blissful and uninterrupted solitude had elapsed, when Lady Wallace saw a chieftain at her gate. He inquired for its master-requested a private conference-and retired with him into a remote room. They remained together for an hour. Wallace then came forth, and ordering his horse, with four followers, to be in readiness, said he meant to accompany his guest to Douglas Castle. When he embraced his wife at parting, he told her that as Douglas was only a few miles distant, he should be at home again before the moon rose.
She passed the tedious hours of his absence with tranquillity, till the appointed signal of his return appeared from behind the summits of the opposite mountains. So bright were its beams, that Marion did not need any other light to show her the stealing sands of her hour-glass, as they numbered the prolonged hours of her husband's stay. She dismissed her servants to their rest; all, excepting Halbert, the gray-haired harper of Wallace; and he, like herself, was too unaccustomed to the absence of his master to find sleep visit his eyes while Ellerslie was bereft of its joy and its guard.
As the night advanced, Lady Wallace sat in the window of her bed-chamber, which looked toward the west. She watched the winding pathway that led from Lanark down the opposite heights, eager to catch a glimpse of the waving plumes of her husband when he should emerge from behind the hill, and pass under the thicket which overhung the road. How often, as a cloud obscured for an instant the moon's light, and threw a transitory shade across the path, did her heart bound with the thought that her watching was at an end! It was he whom she had seen start from the abrupt rock! They were the folds of his tartan that darkened the white cliff! But the moon again rolled through her train of clouds and threw her light around. Where then was her Wallace? Alas! it was only a shadow she had seen! the hill was still lonely, and he whom she sought was yet far away! Overcome with watching, expectation, and disappointment, unable to say whence arose her fears, she sat down again to look; but her eyes were blinded with tears, and in a voice interrupted by sighs she exclaimed, "Not yet, not yet! Ah, my Wallace, what evil hath betided thee?"
Trembling with a nameless terror, she knew not what to dread. She believed that all hostile recounters had ceased, when Scotland no longer contended with Edward. The nobles, without remonstrance, had surrendered their castles into the hands of the usurper; and the peasantry, following the example of their lords, had allowed their homes to be ravaged without lifting an arm in their defense. Opposition being over, nothing could then threaten her husband from the enemy; and was not the person who had taken him from Ellerslie a friend?
Before Wallace's departure he had spoken to Marion alone; he told her that the stranger was Sir John Monteith, the youngest son of the brave Walter Lord Monteith,** who had been treacherously put to death by the English in the early part of the foregoing year. This young man was bequeathed by his dying father to the particular charge of his friend William Lord Douglas, at that time governor of Berwick. After the fall of that place and the captivity of its defender, Sir Jon Monteith had retired to Douglas Castle, in the vicinity of Lanark, and was now the sole master of that princely residence: James Douglas, the only son of its veteran lord, being still at Paris, whither he had been dispatched, before the defeat at Dunbar, to negotiate a league between the French monarch and the then King of Scots.
**Walter Stewart, the father of Sir John Monteith, assumed the name and earldom of Monteith in right of his wife, the daughter and heiress of the preceding earl. When his wife died he married an Englishwoman of rank, who, finding him ardently attached to the liberties of his country, cut him off by poison, and was rewarded by the enemies of Scotland for this murder with the hand of a British nobleman.-(1809.)
Informed of the privacy in which Wallace wished to live, Monteith had never ventured to disturb it until this day; but knowing the steady honor of his old school-companion, he came to entreat him, by the respect he entertained for the brave Douglas, and by his love for his country, that he would not refuse to accompany him to the brave exile's castle.
"I have a secret to disclose to you," said he, "which cannot be divulged on any other spot."
Unwilling to deny so small a favor, Wallace, as has been said before, consented; and accordingly was conducted by Monteith toward Douglas.
While descending the heights which led to the castle, Monteith kept a profound silence; and when crossing the drawbridge toward it, he put his finger to his lips, in token to the servants for equal caution. This was explained as they entered the gate and looked around. It was guarded by English soldiers. Wallace would have drawn back; but Monteith laid his hand on his arm, and whispered, "For your country!" At these words, a spell to the ear of Wallace, he proceeded; and his attendants followed into the courtyard.
The sun was just setting as Monteith led his friend into the absent earl's room. Its glowing reflection on the distant hills reminded Wallace of the stretch he had to retread to reach his home before midnight; and thinking of his anxious Marion, he awaited with impatience the development of the object of his journey.
Monteith closed the door, looked fearfully around for some time; then, trembling at every step, approached Wallace. When drawn quite near, in a low voice he said, "You must swear upon the cross that you will keep inviolate the secret I am going to reveal."
Wallace put aside the hilt of the sword which Monteith presented to receive his oath. "No," said he, with a smile; "in these times I will not bind my conscience on subjects I do not know. If you dare trust the word of a Scotsman and a friend, speak out; and if the matter be honest, my honor is your pledge."
"You will not swear?"
"Then I must not trust you."
"Then our business is at an end," returned Wallace, rising, "and I may return home."
"Stop!" cried Monteith. "Forgive me, my old companion, that I have dared to hesitate. These are, indeed, times of such treason to honor, that I do not wonder you should be careful how you swear; but the nature of the confidence reposed in me will. I hope, convince you that I ought not to share it rashly. Of any one but you, whose truth stands unsullied, amidst the faithlessness of the best, I would exact oaths on oaths; but your words is given, and on that I rely. Await me here."
Monteith unlocked a door which had been concealed by the tapestry, and after a short absence re-entered with a small iron box. He set it on the table near his friend, then went to the great door, which he had before so carefully closed, tried that the bolts were secure, and returned, with a still more pallid countenance, toward the table. Wallace, surprised at so much actions, awaited with wonder the promised explanation. Monteith sat down with his hand on the box, and fixing his eyes on it, began:
"I am going to mention a name, which you may hear with patience, since its power is no more. The successful rival of Bruce, and the enemy of your family, is now a prisoner in the Tower of London."
"Yes," answered Monteith; "and his present sufferings will, perhaps, avenge to you his vindictive resentment of the injury he received from Sir Ronald Crawford."
"My grandfather never injured him, nor any man!" interrupted Wallace: "Sir Ronald Crawford was as incapable of injustice as of flattering the minions of his country's enemy. But Baliol is fallen, and I forgive him."
"Did you witness his degradation," returned Monteith, "you would even pity him."
"I always pity the wicked," continued Wallace; "and as you seem ignorant of the cause of his enmity against Sir Ronald and myself, in justice to the character of that most venerable of men, I will explain it. I first saw Baliol four years ago, when I accompanied my grandfather to witness the arbitration of the King of Scotland between the two contending claimants for the Scottish crown. Sir Ronald came on the part of Bruce. I was deemed too young to have a voice in the council; but I was old enough to understand what was passing there, and to perceive, that it was the price for which he sold his country. However, as Scotland acknowledged him sovereign, and as Bruce submitted, my grandfather silently acquiesced. But Baliol did not forget former opposition. His behavior to Sir Ronald and myself at the beginning of this year, when, according to the privilege of our birth, we appeared in the field against the public enemy, fully demonstrated what was the injury Baliol complains of, and how unjustly he drove us from the standard of Scotland. 'None,' said he, 'shall serve under me, who presumed to declare themselves the friends of Bruce.' Poor weak man. The purchased vassal of England; yet so vain of his ideal throne, he hated all who had opposed his elevation, even while his own treachery sapped its foundation! Edward having made use of him, all these sacrifices of honor and of conscience are insufficient to retain his favor; and Baliol is removed from his kingdom to an English prison! Can I feel anything so honoring as indignation against a wretch so abject? No! I do indeed pity him. And now that I have cleared my grandfather's name of such calumny, I am ready to hear you further."
Monteith, after remarking on the well-known honor of Sir Ronald Crawford, resumed.
"During the massacre at the capture of Berwick, Lord Douglas, wounded, and nearly insensible, was taken by a trusty band of Scots out of the citadel and town. I followed him to Dunbar, and witnessed with him that dreadful day's conflict, which completed the triumph of the English. When the few nobles who survived the battle dispersed, Douglas took the road to Forfar, hoping to meet King Baliol there, and to concert with him new plans of resistance. When we arrived, we found his majesty in close conversation with the Earl of Athol, who had persuaded him the disaster at Dunbar was decisive, and that if he wished to save his life, he must immediately go to the King of England, then at Montrose, and surrender himself to his mercy.**
**This treacherous Scot, who persuaded Baliol to his ruin, was John Cummin of Strathbogie, Earl of Athol in right of his wife, the heiress of that earldom.-(1809.)
"Douglas tried to alter Baliol's resolution, but without effect. The king could not return any reasonable answers to the arguments which were offered to induce him to remain, but continued to repeat, with groans and tears. 'It is my fate.' Athol sat knitting his black brows during this conversation; and at last throwing out some sullen remarks to Lord Douglas on exhorting the king to defy his liege lord, he abruptly left the room.
"As soon as he was gone, Baliol rose from his seat with a very anxious countenance, and taking my patron into an adjoining room, they continued there a few minutes, and then reentered. Doublas brought with him this iron box. 'Monteith,' said he, 'I confide this to your care.' Putting the box under my arm and concealing it with my cloak-'Carry it,' continued he, 'directly to my castle in Lanarkshire. I will rejoin you there, in four-and-twenty hours after your arrival. Meanwhile, by your affection for me and fidelity to your king, breathe not a word of what has passed.'
"'Look on that, and be faithful!' said Baliol, putting this ruby ring on my finger. I withdrew, with the haste his look dictated; and as I crossed the outward hall, was met by Athol. He eyed me sternly, and inquired whither I was going. I replied, 'To Douglas, to prepare for the coming of its lord.' The hall was full of armed men in Athol's colors. Not one of the remnant who had followed my patron from the bloody field of Dunbar was visible. Athol looked round on his myrmidons: 'Here,' cried he, 'see that you speed this fellow on his journey. We shall provide lodgings for his master.' I foresaw danger to Lord Douglas, but I durst not attempt to warn him of it; and, to secure my charge, which a return to the room might have hazarded, I hastened into the courtyard, and being permitted to mount my horse, set off at full speed.
"On arriving at this place, I remembered the secret closet, and carefully deposited the box within it. A week passed, without any tidings of Lord Douglas. At last a pilgrim appeared at the gate, and requested to see me alone; fearing nothing from a man in so sacred a habit, I admitted him. Presenting me with a packet which had been intrusted to him by Lord Douglas, he told me my patron had been forcibly carried on board a vessel at Montrose, to be conveyed with the unhappy Baliol to the Tower of London. Douglas, on this outrage, sent to the monastery at Aberbrothick, and under the pretense of making a religious confession before he sailed, begged a visit from the sub-prior. 'I am that prior,' continued the pilgrim; 'and having been born on the Douglas lands, he well knew the claim he had to my fidelity. He gave me this packet, and conjured me to lose no time in conveying it to you. The task was difficult; and, as in these calamitous seasons we hardly know whom to trust, I determined to execute it myself.'
"I inquired whether Lord Douglas had actually sailed. 'Yes,' replied the father; 'I stood on the beach till the ship disappeared.'"
A half-stifled groan burst from the indignant breast of Wallace. It interrupted Monteith for an instant, but without noticing it he proceeded:
"Not only the brave Douglas was then wrested from his country, with our king, but also that holy pillar of Jacob** which prophets have declared to be the palladium of Scotland!"
**The tradition respecting this stone is as follows: Hiber, or Iber, the Phoenician, who came from the Holy Land to inhabit the coast of Spain, brought this sacred relic along with him. From Spain he transplanted it with the colony he sent to people the south of Ireland; and from Ireland it was brought into Scotland by the great Fergus, the son of Ferchard. He placed it in Argyleshire; but MacAlpine removed it to Scone, and fixed it in the royal chair in which all the succeeding kings of Scotland were inaugurated. Edward I. of England caused it to be carried to Westminster Abbey, where it now stands. The tradition is, that empire abides where it stays.-(1809.)
"What!" inquired Wallace, with a yet darker frown, "has Baliol robbed Scotland of that trophy of one of her best kings? Is the sacred gift of Fergus to be made the spoil of a coward?"
"Baliol is not the robber," rejoined Monteith; "the halloed pillar was taken from Scone by the command of the King of England, and, with the sackings of Iona, was carried on board the same vessel with the betrayed Douglas. The archives of the kingdom have also been torn from their sanctuary, and were thrown by Edward's own hands into the fire."
"Tyrant!" murmured Wallace, "thou mayest fill the cup too full."
"His depredations," continued Monteith, "the good monk told me, have been wide as destructive. He has not left a parchment, either of public records or of private annals, in any of the monasteries or castles round Montrose; all have been searched and plundered. And besides, the faithless Earl of March and Lord Sculis are such parricides of their country, as to have performed the like robberies, in his name, from the eastern shores of the Highlands to the furthiest of the Western Isles."
"Do the traitors think," cried Wallace, "that by robbing Scotland of her annals and of that stone they really deprive her of her palladium? Scotland's history is in the memories of her sons; her palladium is in their hearts; and Edward may one day find that she remembers the victory of Largs,** and needs not talismans to give her freedom."
**This battle was fought by Alexander III, on the 1st of August, 1263, against Acho, King of Norway. That monarch invaded Scotland with a large army, and drew up his forces before Largs, a town in Ayrshire. He met with a great defeat, and, covered with disgrace, retired to his own country. Wallace's father signalized himself on that field.-(1809.)
"Alas! not in our time!" answered Monteith. "The spear is at our breasts, and we must submit. You see this castle is full of Edward's soldiers. Every house is a garrison for England-but more of this by and by; I have yet to tell you the contents of the packet which the monk brought. It contained two others. One directed to Sir James Douglas, at Paris, and the other to me. I read as follows:
"'Athol has persuaded Baliol to his ruin, and betrayed me into the hands of Edward. I shall see Scotland no more. Send the inclosed to my son at Paris; it will inform him what is the last wish of William Douglas for his country. The iron box I confided to you, guard as your life, until you can deposit it with my son. But should he remain abroad, and you ever be in extremity, commit the box in strict charge to the worthiest Scot you know; and tell him that it will be at the peril of his soul, who dares to open it, till Scotland be again free! When that hour comes, then let the man by whose valor God restores her rights, receive the box as his own; for by him only it is to be opened. Douglas.'"
Monteith finished reading the letter, and remained silent. Wallace, who had listened to it with increasing indignation against the enemies of Scotland, spoke first: "Tell me in what I can assist you: or how serve these last wishes of the imprisoned Douglas."
Monteith replied by reading over again this sentence-"'Should my son remain abroad, and you ever be in extremity, commit the box in strict charge to the worthiest Scot you know.' I am in that extremity now. Edward determined on desolation, when he placed English governors throughout our towns; and the rapacious Heselrigge, his representative in Lanark, not backward to execute the despot's will, has just issued an order, for the houses of all the absent chiefs to be searched for records and secret correspondence. Two or three, in the neighborhood have already gone through this ordeal; but the even has proved that it was not papers they sought, but plunder, and an excuse for dismantling the castles, or occupying them with English officers.
"The soldiers you saw were sent, by daybreak this morning, to guard this castle until Heselrigge could in person be present at the examination. This ceremony is to take place to-morrow; and as Lord Douglas is considered a traitor to Edward, I am told the place will be sacked to its walls. In such an extremity, to you, noble Wallace, as to the worthiest Scot I know, I apply to take charge of this box. Within the remote cliffs of Ellerslie it must be safe; and when James Douglas arrives from Paris, to him you will resign it. Meanwhile, as I cannot resist the plunderers, after delivering the keys of the state apartments to Heselrigge to-morrow, I shall submit to necessity, and beg his permission to retire to my lodge on Ben Venu."
Wallace made no difficulty in granting Monteith's request; and, there being two iron rings on each side of his charge, the young chief took off his leathern belt, and putting it through them, swung the box easily under his left arm, while covering it with his plaid.
Monteith's eyes now brightened-the paleness left his cheek-and with a firmer step, as if suddenly relieved of a heavy load, he called a servant to prepare Sir William Wallace's attendants.
While Wallace shook him by the hand, Monteith, in a low and solemn voice, exhorted him to caution respecting the box. "Remember," added he, "the penalty that hangs over him who looks into it."
"Be not afraid," answered Wallace; "even the outside shall never be seen by other eyes than my own, unless the same circumstance which now induces you, mortal extremity, should force me to confide it to safer hands."
"Beware of that!" exclaimed Monteith; "for who is there that would adhere to the prohibition as I have done-as you will do? and besides, as I have no doubt it contains holy relics, who knows what new calamities a sacrilegious look might bring upon our already devoted country?"
"Relics or no relics," replied Wallace, "it would be an equal sin against good faith to invade what is forbidden: but from the weight I am rather inclined to suspect it contains gold; probably a treasure, with which the sordid Baliol thinks to compensate the hero who may free his country from all the miseries a traitor king and a treacherous usurper have brought upon it."
"A treasure!" repeated Monteith; "I never thought of that;-it is indeed heavy!-and, as we are responsible for the contents of the box, I wish we were certain of what it contains; let us consider that!"
"It is no consideration of ours," returned Wallace. "With what is in the box we have no concern; all we have to do is, to preserve the contents unviolated by even our own eyes; and to that, as you have now transferred the charge to me, I pledge myself-farewell."
"But why this haste?" rejoined Monteith, "indeed, I wish I had thought-stay only a little."
"I thank you," returned Wallace, proceeding to the courtyard; "but it is now dark, and I promised to be at home before the moon rises. If you wish me to serve you further, I shall be happy to see you at Ellerslie to-morrow. My Marion will have pleasure in entertaining, for days or weeks, the friend of her husband."
While Wallace spoke, he advanced to his horse, to which he was lighted by the servants of the castle. A few English soldiers lingered about in idle curiosity. As he put his foot in the stirrup, he held the sword in his hand, which he had unbuckled from his side to leave space for his charge. Monteith, whose dread of detection was ever awake, whispered: "Your loosened weapon may excite suspicion!" Fear incurred what it sought to avoid. He hastily pulled aside Wallace's plaid to throw it over the glittering hilt of the sword, and thus exposed the iron box. The light of the torches striking upon the polished rivets, displayed it to all lookers on, but no remark was made. Wallace, not observing what was done, again shook hands with Monteith, and calling his servants about him, galloped away. A murmur was heard, as if of some intention to follow him; but deeming it prudent to leave the open and direct road, because of the English marauders who swarmed there, he was presently lost amid the thick shades of Clydesdale.
The darkness was almost impenetrable. Musing on what had passed with Monteith, and on the likelihood of any hero appearing, who, by freeing his country, could ever claim the privilege of investigating the mystery which was now his care. Wallace rode on till, crossing the bridge of Lanark, he saw the rising moon silver the tops of the distant hills; and then his meditations embraced a gentler subject. This was the time he had promised Marion he should be returned, and he had yet five long miles to go, before he could reach the glen of Ellerslie; he thought of her being alone-of watching, with an anxious heart, the minutes of his delay. Scotland and its wrongs he now forgot, in the idea of her whose happiness was dearer to him than life. He could not achieve the deliverance of the one, but it was his bliss to preserve the peace of the other; and putting spurs to his horse, under the now bright beams of the moon he hastened through the town.
Abruptly turning an angle leading to the Mouse River, a cry of murder arrested his ear. He checked his horse and listened. The clashing of arms told him the sound had issued from an alley to the left. He alighted in an instant, and drawing his sword, threw away the scabbard (prophetic omen!), then, leaving his horse with one of his servants hastened, with the other three, to the spot whence the noise proceeded.
On arriving he discovered two men in tartans, with their backs to the opposite wall, furiously assaulted by a throng of Edward's soldiers. At this sight, the Scots who accompanied Wallace were so enraged that, blowing their bugles to encourage the assailed, they joined hand to hand with their gallant leader, and attacking the banditti, each man cut his opponent to the ground.
Such unexpected assistance reanimated the drooping strength of one of the two, with whom the cry had issued. He sprung from the wall with the vigor of a tiger, but at the moment received a wound in his back, which would have thrown him at the feet of his enemies, had not Wallace caught him in his left arm, and with his right, cleared the way, while he cried to his men who were fighting near him-"To the Glen!" As he spoke, he threw the now insensible stranger into their arms. The other man, whose voice had first attracted Wallace, at the instant sunk, covered with blood, on the pavement.
Two of the servants, obeying their master, carried their senseless burden toward the horses; but the third, being hemmed in by the furious soldiers, could not move. Wallace made a passage to his rescue, and effected it; but one base wretch, while the now wounded Scot was retreating, made a stroke which would have severed his head from his body, had not the trusty claymore of Wallace struck down the pending weapon of the coward, and received his rushing body upon its point. He fell with bitter imprecations, calling aloud for vengeance.
A dreadful cry was now raised by the whole band of assassins: "Murder!-treason!-Arthur Heselrigge is slain!" The uproar became general. The windows of the adjoining houses were thrown open; people armed and unarmed issued from their doors and pressed forward to inquire the cause of the alarm. Wallace was nearly overpowered; a hundred swords flashed in the torchlight; but at the moment he expected they would be sheathed in his heart, the earth gave way under his feet, and he sunk into utter darkness.
He fell upon a quantity of gathered broom; and concluding that the weight of the thronging multitude had burst his way through the arch of a cellar, he sprung to his feet; and though he heard the curses of several wretches, who had fallen with him and fared worse, he made but one step to a half-opened door, pointed out to him by a gleam from an inner passage. The men uttered a shout as they saw him darken the light which glimmered through it; but they were incapable of pursuit; and Wallace, aware of his danger, darting across the adjoining apartment, burst open a window, and leaped out to the foot of the Lanark hills.
The oaths of the soldiers, enraged at his escape, echoed in his ears, till distance sunk them into hoarse murmurs. He pursued his way over the craigs; through the valley, and across the river, to the cliffs which embattle the garden of Ellerslie. Springing on the projecting point of the nearest, he leaped into a thicket of honeysuckles. This was the favorite bower of his Marion! The soft perfume, as it saluted his senses, seemed to breathe peace and safety; and as he emerged from its fragrant embrace, he walked with a calmer step toward the house. He approached a door which led into the garden. It was open. He beheld his beloved leaning over a couch, on which was laid the person he had rescued. Halbert was dressing his wounds.
Wallace paused for a moment, to contemplate his lovely wife in this more lovely act of charity. Her beautiful hands held a cup to the lips of the stranger; while her long hair, escaped from its band, fell in jetty ringlets, and mingled with his silver locks.
"Marion!" exclaimed the overflowing soul of her husband. She looked up at the well-known sound, and with a cry of joy, rushing forward, threw herself into his arms; her tears flowed, she sobbed-she clung to his breast. It was the first time Wallace had been from her; she had feared it would have been the last. The hour-the conflict-the bleeding stranger! But now he was returned-he was safe!
"Art thou indeed here!" exclaimed she. Blood fell from his forehead upon her face and bosom: "O, my Wallace!" cried she, in agony.
"Fear not, my love! all is well, since our wounded countryman is safe."
"But you, bleed!" returned she. No tears now impeded her voice. Terror had checked their joyful currents; and she felt as if she expected his life-blood to issue from the wound on which she gazed.
"I hope my preserver is not hurt?" inquired the stranger.
"Oh, no!" replied Wallace, putting back the hair from his forehead; "a mere trifle!" That the action had discovered the gash to be wider than he thought, he saw in the countenance of his wife! She turned deadly pale. "Marion," said he, "to convince you how causeless your fears are, you shall cure me yourself; and with no other surgery than your girdle!"
When Lady Wallace heard his gay tone, and saw the unforced smiles on his lips, she took courage; and, remembering the deep wounds on the stranger, whom she had just assisted to dress, without any alarm for his life, she began to hope that she need not now fear for the object dearest to her in existence. Rising from her husband's arms, with a languid smile she unbound the linen fillet from her waist; and Halbert having poured some balsam into the wound, she prepared to apply the bandage; but when she lifted her husband's hair from his temple-that hair which had so often been the object of her admiration, as it hung in shining masses over his arching brows!-when the clotted blood met her fingers, a mist seemed to pass over her sight; she paused for a moment; but rallying her strength, as the cheerful sound of his voice conversing with his guest assured her fear was needless, she tied the fillet; and, stealing a soft kiss on his cheek when she had finished, she seated herself, yet trembling, by his side.
"Gallant Wallace!" continued the stranger-agitation had prevented her hearing what had preceded this-"it is Donald Earl of Mar, who owes his life to you."
"Then blessed be my arm," exclaimed Wallace, "that has preserved a life so precious to my country!"
"May it indeed be blessed!" cried Lord Mar; "for this night it has made the Southrons feel there is yet one man in Scotland who does not fear to resist oppression, and to punish treachery."
"What treachery?" inquired Lady Wallace, her alarmed spirit still hovering about her soul's far dearer part; "is any meant to my husband?"
"None to Sir William Wallace, more than to any other brave Scot," replied the earl: "but we all see the oppression of our country; we all know the treachery by which it was subjugated; and this night, in my own person, I have felt the effects of both. The English at Lanark dispatched a body of men to Bothwell Castle (where my family now are), on a plea, that as its lord is yet absent, they presume he is adverse to Edward, and therefore they must search his dwelling for documents to settle the point. Considering myself the representative of my brother-in-law, Lord Bothwell, and suspecting that this might be only a private marauding party, I refused to admit the soldiers; and saw them depart, swearing to return next day with a stronger force, and storm the castle. To be ascertained of their commission, and to appeal against such unprovoked tyranny, should it be true, I followed the detachment to Lanark.
"I saw Heselrigge the governor. He avowed the transaction; but awed by the power which he thinks I possess in the country, he consented to spare Bothwell while I and my family remain in it. It being nearly dark, I took my leave, and was proceeding toward my servants in the courtyard when a young man accosted me. I recognized him to be the officer who had commanded the party I had driven from the castle. Heselrigge having told me that he was his nephew, I made no hesitation to go back with him, when he informed me that his uncle had forgotten something of importance, and begged me to return. I followed his steps; but instead of conducting me to the room in which I had conversed with Heselrigge, he led me along a dark passage into a small apartment, where telling me his uncle would attend me, he suddenly retreated out of the door, and before I could recollect myself I heard him bolt it after him.
"I now saw myself a prisoner; and alarmed at what might be intended to my defenseless family, I made every essay to force the door, but it was in vain. Driven to despair, I remained in a state of mind not to be described, when the bolt was withdrawn, and two men entered, with manacles in their hands. They attempted to seize me, telling me I was the prisoner of King Edward. I did not listen further, but wounding one with my dagger, felled the other to the ground; and darting past him, made my way through what passages I cannot tell, till I found myself in a street leading from behind the governor's house. I ran against some one as I rushed from the portal; it was my servant Neil. I hastily told him to draw his sword and follow me. We then hurried forward; he telling me he had stepped out to observe the night, while the rest of my men were awaiting me in the house, wondering at my delay.
"Rejoiced at my escape, and fearing the worst of consequences from the treachery of Heselrigge, I was hastening onward, determined to pursue my way on foot to the protection of my family, when, at the turning of an angle which leads to the Bothwell road, we were suddenly surrounded by armed men. The moon shone full on their faces, and I discovered they were Southrons, and that young Heselrigge was at their head.
"He aimed a blow at my head with his battle-ax, and in a voice of triumph exclaimed to his soldiers, 'The plunder of Bothwell, my lads! Down with its lord! All but the lady Helen shall be yours!"
"In a moment every sword was directed toward me. They wounded me in several places; but the thought of my daughter gave supernatural vigor to my arm, and I defended myself till the cries of my servant brought you, my brave deliverer, to my rescue. But, while I am safe, perhaps my treacherous pursuer has marched toward Bothwell, too sure to commit the horrid violence he meditates; there are none to guard my child but a few domestics, the unpracticed sword of my stripling nephew, and the feeble arms of my wife."
"Be easy on that head," interrupted Wallace: "I believe the infamous leader of the banditti fell by my hand, for the soldiers made an outcry that Arthur Heselrigge was killed; and then pressing on me to take revenge, their weight broke a passage into a vault, through which I escaped-"
"Save, save yourself, my master!" cried a man rushing in from the garden. "You are pursued-"
While he spoke he felt insensible at Wallace's feet. It was Dugald-whom he had rescued from the blow of Heselrigge, and who, from the state of his wound had been thus long in reaching Ellerslie.
Wallace had hardly time to give him to the care of Halbert, when the voice of war assailed his ears. The tumult of men demanding admittance and the terrible sound of spears rattling against the shields of their owners, told the astonished group within that the house was beset by armed foes.
"Blood for blood!" cried a horrid voice, which penetrated the almost palsied senses of Lady Marion. "Vengence on Wallace, for the murder of Heselrigge!"
"Fly, fly!" cried she, looking wildly at her husband.
"Whither?" answered he, supporting her in his arms. "Would this be a moment to leave you, and our wounded guest? I must meet them."
"Not now!" cried Lord Mar. "Hear you not how numerous they are? Mark that shout! they thirst for blood. If you have love, pity, for your wife, delay not a moment. Again-"
The uproar redoubled, and the room was instantly filled with shrieking women in their night-clothes, the attendants of Lady Wallace. She almost expiring, on her husband's breast.
"O my lord!" cried the terrified creatures, wringing their hands, "what will become of us! The Southrons are at the gates, and we shall be lost forever!"
"Fear not," replied Wallace; "retire to your chambers. I am the person they seek: none else will meet with injury."
Appeased by this assurance, the women retreated to their apartments; and Wallace, turning to the earl, who continued to enforce the necessity of his flight, repeated, that he would not consent to leave his wife in such a tumult.
"Leave me," cried she, in an inarticulate voice, "or see me die."
As she spoke, there was a violent crash, and a tremendous burst of imprecations. Three of Wallace's men ran panting into the room. Two of the assailants had climbed to the hall window; and had just been thrown back upon the cliffs, where one was killed. "Conceal yourself, said the Scots to Wallace; "for in a few minutes more your men will not be able to maintain the gates."
"Yes, my dear lord," cried Halbert, "there is a dry well at the end of the garden; at the bottom of that you will be safe."
"By your love for me, Wallace-by all you owe to the tender affections of your grandfather, hearken to him!" cried Lady Marion, falling at his feet, and clasping his knees. "I kneel for my life in kneeling for yours! Pity the gray hairs of Sir Ronald, whom your untimely death would bring to the grave! Pity your unborn child! Fly, Wallace, fly if you would have me live!" She was pale and breathless.
"Angel of my life," exclaimed Wallace, straining her to his heart, "I obey thee. But if the hand of one of the desperate robbers dares to touch thy hallowed person-"
"Think not so, my lord," interrupted Halbert; "it is you they seek. Not finding you, they will be too eager in pursuit to molest your lady."
"I shall be safe," whispered Marion; "only fly-while you are here, their shouts kill me."
"But thou shalt go with me," returned he; "the well will contain us all. But first let our faithful Halbert and these honest fellows lower Lord Mar into the place of refuge. He being the cause of the affray, if discovered, would be immediately sacrificed."
Lord Mar acquiesced; and while the contention was so loud without, as to threaten the tearing down of the walls, the earl was carried into the garden. He was followed by Sir William Wallace, to whose arm his wife yet fondly clung. At every cry of the enemy, at every shock they gave to his yet impregnable gates, she breathed the shorter, and was clasped by the lord of her heart still more closely to his bosom.
At the well-side they found the earl bound with rope that was to lower him to the bottom. By great care it was safely done; and the cord being brought up again, before it was tied round Wallace (for his agonized wife insisted he should descend next), he recollected that the iron box at his side might hurt the wounded nobleman by striking him in his descent; and, unbuckling it, he said it contained matters of great value, and ordered it to be lowered first.
Lord Mar, beneath, was releasing it from the rope, when a shout of triumph pierced their ears. A party of the English, having come round the heights, had leaped the wall of the garden, and were within a few yards of the well. For Wallace to descend now was impossible. "That tree!" whispered Marion, pointing to an oak-tree near which they stood. As she spoke, she slid from his arms, and along with the venerable Halbert, who had seized her hand, disappeared amid the adjoining thicket. The two servants fled also.
Wallace, finding himself alone, the next instant, like one of his native eagles, was looking down from the towering top of the wood upon his enemies. They passed beneath him, denouncing vengeance upon the assassin of Arthur Heselrigge! One, who by the brightness of his armor seemed to be their leader, stopped under the tree, and complained he had so sprained his ankle in leaping the wall, he must wait a few minutes to recover himself. Several soldiers drew toward him; but he ordered them to pursue their duty, search the house, and bring Wallace, dead or alive, before him.
They obeyed; but others, who had gained admittance to the tower through the now forced gates, soon ran to him with information that the murderer could nowhere be found.
"But here is a gay ladie," cried one; "perhaps she can tell of his hiding-place." And at moment Marion, with Halbert, appeared amongst a band of men. The lighted torches which the soldiers held, shone full on her face. Though pale as monumental marble, the exquisite beauty of her features, and the calm dignity which commanded from her eyes, awed the officer into respect and admiration.
"Soldiers, stand back!" cried he, advancing to Lady Wallace. "Fear not, madam." As the words passed his lips, a flight of arrows flew into the bosom of the tree. A piercing shriek from Marion was her only answer. "Hah! my lady's falcon!" cried Halbert alarmed, doubly, for the fate of his master. A sudden agitation of the branches having excited an indefinite suspicion in a body of archers who stood near, with one impulse they had discharged their arrows to the spot. Halbert's ready excuse, both for the disturbance in the tree and his lady's shriek, was prompted and warranted true by the appearance of a large bird, which the rushing of the arrows had frighted from her nest; she rose suddenly from amongst the branches, and soared away, far to the east, with loud screams.
All being again still, Marion hoped that her husband had escaped any serious injury from the arrows; and turning with recovered composure to the officer, heard him, with a glow of comfort, reprimand his men for daring to draw their bows without his orders. Then addressing her, "I beg your pardon, madam," said he, "both for the alarm these hot-headed men have occasioned you, and for the violence they have committed in forcing one of your sex and beauty before me. Had I expected to have found a lady here, I should have issued orders to have prevented this outrage; but I am sent hither in quest of Sir William Wallace, who, by a mortal attack made on the person of the Governor of Lanark's nephew, has forfeited his life. The scabbard of his sword, found beside the murdered Heselrigge, is an undeniable proof of his guilt. Direct us to find him, and not only your release, but the favor of the English monarch will await your allegiance."
"I am Sir William Wallace's wife," returned the gentle Marion, in a firm tone; "and by what authority you seek him thus, and presume to call him guilty, I cannot understand."
"By the authority of the laws, madam, which he has violated."
"What laws?" rejoined she; "Sir William Wallace acknowledges none but those of God and his country. Neither of these has he transgressed."
The officer replied, "This night he assassinated Arthur Heselrigge in the streets of Lanark; and that condemns him, by the last declaration of King Edward: Whatever Scot maltreats any one of the English soldiers, or civil officers garrisoned in the towns of Scotland, shall thereby forfeit his life, as the penalty of his crime."
"A tyrant's law, sir, to which no freeborn Scot will submit! But even were it allowed by my countrymen, in this case it can have no hold on my husband. That he is a Scot, he glories: and not that he maltreated any Englishman in the streets of Lanark, do I glory; but because, when he saw two defenseless men borne down by a band of armed soldiers, he exposed his unshielded breast in their defense; one of the two died, covered with wounds. That the governor's nephew also fell, was a just retribution for his heading so unequal a contest, and no crime in Sir William Wallace; for he slew him to preserve a feeble old man, who had a hundred English swords leveled at his life."
The officer paused for a moment, and then, ordering his soldiers to fall further back, when they were at a sufficient distance, he offered to take Lady Wallace's hand. She withstood his motion with a reserved air, and said, "Speak, sir, what you would say, or allow me to retire."
"I mean not to offend you, noble lady," continued he; "had I a wife lovely as yourself, and I in like circumstances, I hope in the like manner would defend my life and honor. I knew not the particulars of the affair in which Arthur Heselrigge fell, till I heard it from your lips. I can easily credit them, for I know his unmanly character. Wallace is a Scot, and acted in Scotland as Gilbert Hambledon would have done in England, were it possible for any vile foreigner to there put his foot upon the neck of a countryman of mine. Wherever you have concealed your husband, let it be a distant asylum. At present no tract within the jurisdiction of Lanark will be left unsearched by the governor's indefatigable revenge."
Lady Wallace, overcome with gratitude at this generous speech of the English officer, uttered some inarticulate words, expressive more in sound than clearness, of her grateful feelings. Hambledon continued, "I will use my influence with Heselrigge, to prevent the interior of your house from being disturbed again; but it being in the course of military operations, I cannot free you from the disagreeable ceremony of a guard being placed to-morrow morning round the domains. This I know will be done to intercept Sir William Wallace should he attempt to return."
"Oh! That he were indeed far distant!" thought the anxious Marion.
The officer then added, "However, you shall be relieved of my detachment directly." And as he spoke, he waved his sword to them who had seized the harper. They advanced, still holding their prisoner. He ordered them to commit the man to him, and to sound. The trumpeter obeyed; and in a few seconds the whole detachment were assembled before their commander.
"Soldiers!" cried he, "Sir William Wallace has escaped our hands. Mount your horses, that we may return to Lanark, and search the other side of the town. Lead forth, and I will follow."
The troops obeyed, and falling back through the open gates, left Sir Gilbert Hambledon alone with Lady Wallace and the wondering Halbert. The brave young man took the now no longer withdrawn hand of the grateful Marion, who had stood trembling while so many of her husband's mortal enemies were assembled under the place of his concealment.
"Noble Englishman," said she, as the last body of soldiers passed from her sight, "I cannot enough thank you for this generous conduct; but should you or yours be ever in the like extremity with my beloved Wallace (and in these tyrannous times, what brave spirit can answer for its continued safety?) may the ear which has heard you this night, at that hour repay my gratitude!"
"Sweet lady," answered Hambledon, "I thank you for your prayer. God is indeed the benefactor of a true soldier; and though I serve my king, and obey my commanders, yet it is only to the Lord of battles that I look for a sure reward. And whether he pay me here with victories and honors, or take my soul through a rent in my breast, to receive my laurel in paradise, it is all one to Gilbert Hambledon. But the night is cold: I must see you safe within your own doors, and then, lady, farewell!"
Lady Wallace yielded to the impulse of his hand, and with redoubled haste, as she heard another rustling in the tree above her head. Hambledon did not notice it; but desiring Halbert to follow, in a few minutes disappeared with the agitated Marion into the house.
Wallace, whose spirit could ill brook the sight of his domains filled with hostile troops, and the wife of his bosom brought a prisoner before their commander, would instantly have braved all dangers, and have leaped down amongst them; but at the instant he placed his foot on a lower bough to make a spring, the courteous address of Hambledon to his wife had made him hesitate. He listened to the replies of his Marion with exultation; and when the Englishman ordered his men to withdraw, and delivered himself so generously respecting the safety of the man he came to seize, Wallace could hardly prevent a brave confidence in such virtue from compelling him to come from his concealment, and thank his noble enemy on the spot. But in consideration that such disclosure would put the military duty and the generous nature of the officer at variance, he desisted, with such an agitation of spirits that the boughs had again shaken under him, and reawakened the alarm of his trembling wife.
"Omnipotent virtue!" exclaimed Wallace to himself; "if it were possible that thy generous spirit could animate the breast of an invading conqueror, how soon would the vanquished cease to forget their former freedom, and learn to love their vassalage! This man's nobleness, how soon has it quenched the flame of vengeance with which, when I ascended this tree, I prayed for the extirpation of every follower of Edward!"
"Sir William! my master!" cried a well-known voice, in a suppressed tone, as if still fearful of being overheard. It was Halbert's. "Speak, my dear lord; are you safe?"
"In heart and body!" returned Wallace, sliding from the tree, and leaping on the ground. "One only of the arrows touched me; and that merely striking my bugle, fell back amongst the leaves. I must now hasten to the dearest, the noblest of women!"
Halbert begged him to stay till they should hear the retreat from the English trumpets. "Till their troops are out of sight," added he, "I cannot believe you safe."
"Hark!" cried Wallace, "the horses are now descending the craig. That must satisfy you, honest Halbert." With these words he flew across the grass, and entering the house, met the returning Marion, who had just bade farewell to Hambledon. She rushed into his arms, and with the excess of a disturbed and uncertain joy, fainted on his neck. Her gentle spirit had been too powerfully excited by the preceding scenes. Unaccustomed to tumult of any king, and nursed in the bosom of fondness till now, no blast had blown on her tender form, no harshness had ever ruffled the blissful serenity of her mind. What then was the shock of this evening's violence! Her husband pursued as a murderer; herself exposed to the midnight air, and dragged by the hands of merciless soldiers to betray the man she loved! All these scenes were new to her; and though a kind of preternatural strength had supported her over, when she fell once more into her husband's extended arms, she seemed there to have found again her shelter, and the pillow whereon her harassed soul might repose.
"My life! My best treasure! Preserver of thy Wallace! Look on him!" exclaimed he; "bless him with a smile from those dear eyes."
His voice, his caresses, soon restored her to sensibility and recollection. She wept on his breast, and with love's own eloquence, thanked Heaven that he had escaped the search and the arrows of his enemies.
"But my dear lady," interrupted Halbert, "remember my master must not stay here. You know the English commander said he must fly far away. Nay, spies may even now be lurking to betray him."
"You are right," cried she. "My Wallace, you must depart. Should the guard arrive soon, your flight may be prevented. You must go now-but, oh! whither?"
"Not far distant, my love. In going from thee, I leave behind all that makes my life precious to me; how then can I go far away? No! there are recesses among the Cartlane Craigs, I discovered while hunting, and which I believe have been visited by no mortal foot but my own. There I will be, my Marion, before sunrise; and before it sets, thither you must send Halbert, to tell me how you fare. Three notes from thine own sweet strains of Thusa ha measg na reultan mor,** blown by his pipe, shall be a sign to me that he is there; and I will come forth to hear tidings of thee."
**Thusa ha measg na reultan mor, etc., are the beginning words of an old Gaelic ditty, the English of which runs thus: "Thou who art amid the stars, move to thy bed with music," etc.-(1809.)
"Ah, my Wallace, let me go with thee!"
"What, dearest!" returned he, "to live amidst rocks and streams! to expose thy tender self, and thine unborn infant, to all the accidents of such a lodging!"
"But are not you going to so rough, so dangerous a lodging?" asked she. "O! would not rocks and streams be Heaven's paradise to me, when blessed by the presence of my husband? Ah! let me go!"
"Impossible, my lady," cried Halbert, afraid that the melting heart of his master would consent: you are here; and your flight would awaken suspicion in the English, that he had not gone far. Your ease and safety are dearer to him than his own life; and most likely by his care to preserve them, he would be traced, and so fall a ready sacrifice to the enemy."
"It is true, my Marion; I could not preserve you in the places to which I go."
"But the hardships you will endure!" cried she; "to sleep on the cold stones, with no covering but the sky, or the dripping vault of some dreary cave! I have not courage to abandon you alone to such cruel rigors."
"Cease, my beloved!" interrupted he, "cease these groundless alarms. Neither rocks nor storms have any threats to me. It is only tender woman's cares that make man's body delicate. Before I was thine, my Marion, I have lain whole nights upon the mountain's brow, counting the wintery stars, as I impatiently awaited the hunter's horn that was to recall me to the chase in Glenfinlass. Alike to Wallace is the couch of down or the bed of heather; so, best-beloved of my heart, grieve not at hardships which were once my sport, and will now be my safety."
"Then farewell! May good angels guard thee!" Her voice failed; she put his hand to her lips.
"Courage, my Marion," said he; "remember that Wallace lives but in thee. Revive, be happy for my sake; and God, who putteth down the oppressor, will restore me to thine arms." She spoke not, but rising from his breast, clasped her hands together, and looked up with an expression of fervent prayer; then smiling through a shower of tears, she waved her hand to him to depart, and instantly disappeared into her own chamber.
Wallace gazed at the closed door, with his soul in his eyes. To leave his Marion thus, to quit her who was the best part of his being, who seemed the very spring of the life now throbbing in his heart, was a contention with his fond, fond love, almost too powerful for his resolution. Here indeed his brave spirit gave way; and he would have followed her, and perhaps have determined to await his face at her side, had not Halbert, reading his mind in his countenance, taken him by the arm, and drawn him toward the portal.
Wallace soon recovered his better reason, and obeying the friendly impulse of his servant, accompanied him through the garden, to the quarter which pointed toward the heights that led to the remotest recesses of the Clyde. In their way they approached the well where Lord Mar lay. Finding that the earl had not been inquired for, Wallace deemed his stay to be without peril; and intending to inform him of the necessity which still impelled his own flight, he called to him, but no voice answered. He looked down, and seeing him extended on the bottom without motion, "I fear," said he, "the earl is dead. As soon as I am gone, and you can collect the dispersed servants, send one into the well to bring him forth; and if he be indeed no more, deposit his body in my oratory, till you can receive his widow's commands respecting his remains. The iron box now in the well is of inestimable value; take it to Lady Wallace and tell her she must guard it, as she has done my life; but not to look into it, at the peril of what is yet dearer to her-my honor."
Halbert promised to adhere to his master's orders; and Wallace, girding on his sword, and taking his hunting-spear (with which the care of his venerable domestic had provided him), he pressed the faithful hand that presented it, and again enjoining him to be watchful of the tranquillity of his lady, and to send him tidings of her in the evening, to the cave near the Corie Lynn, he climbed the wall, and was out of sight in an instant.
Halbert returned to the house; and entering the room softly, into which Marion had withdrawn, beheld her on her knees before a crucifix; she was praying for the safety of her husband.
"May he, O gracious Lord!" cried she, "soon return to his home. But if I am to see him here no more, oh, may it please thee to grant me to meet him within thy arms in heaven!"
"Hear her, blessed Son of Mary!" ejaculated the old man. She looked round, and rising from her knees, demanded of him, in a kind but anxious voice, whether he had left her lord in security.
"In the way to it, my lady!" answered Halbert. He repeated all that Wallace had said at parting, and then tried to prevail on her to go to rest. "Sleep cannot visit my eyes this night, my faithful creature," replied she; "my spirit will follow Wallace in his mountain flight. Go you to your chamber. After you have had repose, that will be time enough to revisit the remains of the poor earl, and to bring them with the box to the house. I will take a religious charge of both, for the sake of the dear intruster."
Halbert persuaded his aldy to lie down on the bed, that her limbs at least might rest after the fatigue of so harassing a night; and she, little suspecting that he meant to do otherwise than to sleep also, kindly wished him repose and retired.
Her maids, during the late terror, had dispersed, and were nowhere to be found; and the men, too, after their stout resistance at the gates, had all disappeared; some fled others were sent away prisoners to Lanark, while the good Hambledon was conversing with their lady. Halbert, therefore, resigned himself to await with patience the rising of the sun, when he hoped some of the scared domestics would return; if not, he determined to go to the cotters who lived in the depths of the glen, and bring some of them to supply the place of the fugitives; and a few, with stouter hearts, to guard his lady.
Thus musing, he sat on a stone bench in the hall, watching anxiously the appearance of that orb, whose setting beams he hoped would light him back with tidings of William Wallace to comfort the lonely heart of his Marion. All seemed at peace. Nothing was hear but the sighing of the trees as they waved before the western window, which opened toward the Lanark hills. The morning was yet gray, and the fresh air blowing in rather chilly, Halbert rose to close the wooden shutter; at that moment, his eyes were arrested by a party of armed men in quick march down the opposite declivity. In a few minutes more their heavy steps sounded in his ears, and he saw the platform before the house filled with English. Alarmed at the sight, he was retreating across the apartment, toward his lady's room, when the great hall door was burst open by a band of soldiers, who rushed forward and seized him.
"Tell me, dotard!" cried their leader, a man of low stature, with gray locks, but a fierce countenance, "where is the murderer? Where is Sir William Wallace? Speak, or the torture shall force you."
Halbert shuddered, but it was for his defenseless lady, not for himself. "My master," said he, "is far from this."
"I know not."
"Thou shalt be made to know, thou hoary-headed villian!" cried the same violent interrogator. "Where is the assassin's wife? I will confront ye. Seek her out."
At that word the soldiers parted right and left, and in a moment afterward three of them appeared, with shouts, bringing in the trembling Marion.
"Alas! my lady!" cried Halbert, struggling to approach her, as with terrified apprehension she looked around her; but they held her fast, and he saw her led up to the merciless wretch who had given the orders to have her summoned.
"Woman!" cried he, "I am the Governor of Lanark. You now stand before the representative of the great King Edward, and on your allegiance to him, and on the peril of your life, I command you to answer me three questions. Where is Sir William Wallace, the murderer of my nephew? Who is that old Scot, for whom my nephew was slain? He and his whole family shall meet my vengeance! And tell me where is that box of treasure which your husband stole from Douglas Castle? Answer me these questions on your life."
Lady Wallace remained silent.
"Speak, woman," demanded the governor. "If fear cannot move you, know that I can reward as well as avenge. I will endow you richly, if you declare the truth. If you persist to refuse, you die."
"Then I die," replied she, scarcely opening her half-closed eyes, as she leaned, fainting and motionless, against the soldier who held her.
"What?" cried the governor, stifling his rage, in hopes to gain by persuasion on a spirit he found threats could not intimidate; "can so gentle a lady reject the favor of England, large grants in this country, and perhaps a fine English knight for a husband, when you might have all for the trifling service of giving up a traitor to his liege lord, and confessing where his robberies lie concealed? Speak, fair dame; give me this information, and the lands of the wounded chieftain whom Wallace brought here, with the hand of the handsome Sir Gilbert Hambledon, shall be your reward. Rich, and a beauty in Edward's court! Lady, can you now refuse to purchase all, by declaring the hiding place of the traitor Wallace?"
"It is easier to die!"
"Fool!" cried Heselrigge, driven from his assumed temper by her steady denial. "What? is it easier for these dainty limbs to be hacked to pieces by my soldiers' axes? Is it easier for that fair bosom to be trodden underfoot by my horse's hoofs, and for that beauteous head of thine to decorate my lance? Is all this easier than to tell me where to find a murderer and his gold?"
Lady Wallace shuddered; she stretched her hands to heaven.
"Speak once for all!" cried the enraged governor, drawing his sword; "I am no waxen-hearted Hambledon, to be cajoled by your beauty. Declare where Wallace is concealed, or dread my vengeance."
The horrid steel gleamed across the eyes of the unhappy Marion; unable to sustain herself, she sunk to the ground.
"Kneel not to me for mercy!" cried the fierce wretch; "I grant none, unless you confess your husband's hiding-place."
A momentary strength darted from the heart of Lady Wallace to her voice, "I kneel to Heaven alone, and may it ever preserve my Wallace from the fangs of Edward and his tyrants!"
"Blasphemous wretch!" cried the infuriated Heselrigge; and in that moment he plunged his sword into her defenseless breast. Halbert, who had all this time been held back by the soldiers, could not believe that the fierce governor would perpetrate the horrid deed he threatened; but seeing it done, with a giant's strength and a terrible cry he burst from the hands that held him, and had thrown himself on the bleeding Marion, before her murderer could strike his second blow. However, it fell, and pierced through the neck of the faithful servant before it reached her heart. She opened her dying eyes, and seeing who it was that would have shielded her life, just articulated, "Halbert! my Wallace-to God-" and with that last unfinished sentence her pure soul took its flight to regions of eternal piece.
The good old man's heart almost burst when he felt that before-heaving bosom now motionless; and groaning with grief, and fainting with loss of blood, he lay senseless on her body.
A terrible stillness was now in the hall. Not a man spoke; all stood looking on each other, with a stern horror marking each pale countenance. Heselrigge, dropping his blood-stained sword on the ground, perceived by the behavior of his men that he had gone too far, and fearful of arousing the indignation of awakened humanity, to some act against himself, he addressed the soldiers in an unusual accent of condescension: "My friends," said he, "we will now return to Lanark; to-morrow you may come back, for I reward your services of this night with the plunder of Ellerslie."
"May a curse light on him who carries a stick from its grounds!" exclaimed a veteran, from the further end of the hall. "Amen!" murmured all the soldiers, with one consent; and falling back, they disappeared, one by one, out of the great door, leaving Heselrigge alone with the soldier, who stood leaning on his sword, looking on the murdered lady.
"Grimsby, why stand you there?" demanded Heselrigge: "follow me."
"Never," returned the soldier.
"What!" exclaimed the governor, momentarily forgetting his panic, "dare you speak thus to your commander? March on before me this instant, or expect to be treated as a rebel."
"I march at your command no more," replied the veteran, eying him resolutely: "the moment you perpetrated this bloody deed, you became unworthy the name of man; and I should disgrace my own manhood, were I ever again to obey the word of such a monster!"
"Villian!" cried the enraged Heselrigge, "you shall die for this!"
"That may be," answered Grimsby, "by the hands of some tyrant like yourself; but no brave man, not the royal Edward, would do otherwise than acquit his soldier for refusing obedience to the murderer of an innocent woman. It was not so he treated the wives and daughters of the slaughtered Saracens when I followed his banners over the fields of Palestine!"
"Thou canting miscreant!" cried Heselrigge, springing on him suddenly, and aiming his dagger at his breast. But the soldier arrested the weapon, and at the same instant closing upon the assassin, with a turn of his foot threw him to the ground. Heselrigge, as he lay prostrate, seeing his dagger in his adversary's hand, with the most dastardly promises implored for life.
"Monster!" cried the soldier, "I wold not pollute my honest hands with such unnatural blood. Neither, though thy hand has been lifted against my life, would I willingly take thine. It is not rebellion against my commander that actuates me, but hatred of the vilest of murderers. I go far from you, or your power; but if you forswear your voluntary oath, and attempt to seek me out for vengeance, remember it is a soldier of the cross you pursue, and a dire retribution shall be demanded by Heaven, at a moment you cannot avoid, and with a horror commensurate with your crimes."
There was a solemnity and determination in the voice and manner of the soldier that paralyzed the intimidated soul of the governor; he trembled violently, and repeating the oath of leaving Grimsby unmolested, at last obtained his permission to return to Lanark. The men, in obedience to the conscience-stricken orders of their commander, had mounted their horses and were now far out of sight. Heselrigge's charger was still in the courtyard; he was hurrying toward it, but the soldier, with a prudent suspicion, called out, "Stop, sir! you must walk to Lanark. The cruel are generally false; I cannot trust your word, should you have the power to break it. Leave this horse here-to-morrow you may send for it, I shall then be far away."
Heselrigge saw that remonstrance would be unavailing; and shaking with impotent rage, he turned into the path which, after five weary miles, would lead him once more to his citadel.
For the moment the soldier's manly spirit had dared to deliver its abhorrence of Lady Wallace's murder, he was aware that his life would no longer be safe within reach of the machinations of Heselrigge; and determined, alike by detestation of him and regard for his own preservation, resolved to take shelter in the mountains, till he could have an opportunity of going beyond sea to join his king's troops in the Guienne wars.
Full of these thoughts he returned into the hall. As he approached the bleeding form on the floor, he perceived it to move; hoping that perhaps the unhappy lady might not be dead, he drew near; but, alas! as he bent to examine, he touched her hand and found it quite cold. The blood which had streamed from the now exhausted heart, lay congealed upon her arms and bosom. Grimsby shuddered. Again he saw her move; but it was not with her own life; the recovering senses of her faithful servant, as his arms clung around the body, had disturbed the remains of her who would wake no more.
On seeing that existence yet struggled in one of these blameless victims, Grimsby did his utmost to revive the old man. He raised him from the ground, and poured some strong liquor he had in a flask into a mouth. Halbert breathed freer; and his kind surgeon, with the venerable harper's own plaid, bound up the wound in his neck. Halbert opened his eyes. When he fixed them on the rough features and English helmet of the soldier, he closed them again with a deep groan.
"My honest Scot," said Grimsby, "trust in me. I am a man like yourself; and though a Southron, am no enemy to age and helplessness."
The harper took courage at these words; he again looked at the soldier; but suddenly recollecting what had passed, he turned his eyes toward the body of his mistress, on which the beams of the now rising sun were shining. He started up, and staggering toward her, would have fallen, had not Grimsby supported him. "O what a sight is this!" cried he, wringing his hands. "My lady! my lovely lady! see how low she lies who was once the delight of all eyes, the comforter of all hearts." The old man's sobs suffocated him. The veteran turned away his face, a tear dropped upon his hand. "Accursed Heselrigge," ejaculated he, "thy fate must come!"
"If there be a man's heart in all Scotland, it is not far distant!" cried Halbert. "My master lives, and will avenge this murder. You weep, soldier; and you will not betray what has now escaped me."
"I have fought in Palestine," returned he, "and a soldier of the cross betrays none who trust him. Saint Mary preserve your master and conduct you safely to him. We must both hasten hence. Heselrigge will surely send in pursuit of me. He is too vile to forgive the truth I have spoken to him; and should I fall into his power, death is the best I could expect at his hands. Let me assist you to put this poor lady's remains into some decent place; and then, my honest Scot, we must separate."
Halbert, at these words, threw himself upon the bosom of his mistress, and wept with loud lamentations over her. In vain he attempted to raise her in his feeble arms. "I have carried thee scores of times in thy blooming infancy," cried he; "and now must I bear thee to thy grave? I had hoped that my eyes would have been closed by this dear hand." As he spoke, he pressed her cold hand to his lips with such convulsive sobs that the soldier, fearing he would expire in the agony of his sorrow, took him almost motionless from the dead body, and exhorted him to suppress such self-destroying grief for the sake of his master. Halbert gradually revived; and listening to him, cast a wistful look on the lifeless Marion.
"There sleeps the pride and hope of Ellerslie, the mother with her child! O my master, my widowed master," cried he, "what will comfort thee!"
Fearing the ill consequence of further delay, the soldier again interrupted his lamentations with arguments for flight; and Halbert recollecting the oratory in which Wallace had ordered the body of Lord Mar to be deposited, named it for that of his dear lady. Grimsby, immediately wrapping the beauteous corpse in the white garments which hung about it, raised it in his arms, and was conducted by Halbert to a little chapel in the heart of a neighboring cliff.
The still weeping old man removed the altar; and Grimsby, laying the shrouded Marion upon its rocky platform, covered her with the pall, which he drew from the holy table, and laid the crucifix upon her bosom. Halbert, when his beloved mistress was thus hidden from his sight, threw himself on his knees beside her, and in the vehement language of grief offered up a prayer for her departed soul.
"Hear me, righteous Judge of heaven and earth!" cried he; "as thou didst avenge the blood of innocence shed in Bethlehem, so let the gray hairs of Heselrigge be brought down in blood to the grave for the murder of this innocent lady!" Halbert kissed the cross, and rising from his knees, went weeping out of the chapel, followed by the soldier.
Having closed the door, and carefully locked it, absorbed in meditation on what would be the agonized transports of his master, when he should tell him these grievous tidings, Halbert proceeded in silence, till he and his companion in passing the well were startled by a groan.
"Here is some one in extremity!" cried the soldier.
"Is it possible he lives!" exclaimed Halbert, bending down to the edge of the well with the same inquiry.
"Yes," feebly answered the earl, "I still exist, but am very faint. If all be safe above, I pray remove me into the upward air!" Halbert replied that it was indeed necessary he should ascend immediately; and lowering the rope, told him to tie the iron box to it and then himself. This done, with some difficulty, and the assistance of the wondering soldier (who now expected to see the husband of the unfortunate Lady Wallace emerge to the knowledge of his loss), he at last effected the earl's release. For a few seconds the fainting nobleman supported himself on his countryman's shoulder, while the fresh morning breeze gradually revived his exhausted frame. The soldier looked at his gray locks and furrowed brow, and marveled how such proofs of age could belong to the man whose resistless valor had discomfited the fierce determination of Arthus Heselrigge and his myrmidons. However, his doubts of the veteran before him being other than the brave Wallace, were soon satisfied by the earl himself, who asked for a draught of the water which trickled down the opposite hill; and while Halbert went to bring it, Lord Mar raised his eyes to inquire for Sir William and Lady Marion. He started when he saw English armor on the man he would have accosted, and rising suddenly from the stone on which he sat, demanded, in a stern voice, "Who art thou?"
"An Englishman," answered the soldier; "one who does not, like the monster Heselrigge, disgrace the name. I would assist you, noble Wallace, to fly this spot. After that, I shall seek refuge abroad; and there, on the fields of Guienne, demonstrate my fidelity to my king."
Mar looked at him steadily. "You mistake; I am not Sir William Wallace."
At that moment Halbert came up with the water. The earl drank it, though now, from the impulse surprise had given to his blood, he did not require its efficacy; and turning to the venerable bearer, he asked of him whether his master were safe.
"I trust he is," replied the old man; "but you, my lord, must hasten hence. A foul murder has been committed here, since you left it."
"But where is Lady Wallace?" asked the earl; "if there be such danger we must not leave her to meet it."
"She will never meet danger more!" cried the old man, clasping his hand; "she is in the bosom of the Virgin; and no second assassin's steel can reach her there."
"What!" exclaimed the earl, hardly articulate with horror; "is Lady Wallace murdered?" Halbert answered only by his tears.
"Yes," said the soldier; "and detestation of so unmanly an outrage provoked me to desert his standard. But no time must now be lost in unavailing lamentation. Heselrigge will return; and if we also would not be sacrificed to his rage, we must hence immediately."
The earl, struck dumb at this recital, gave the soldier time to recount the particulars. When he had finished, Lord Mar saw the necessity for instant flight, and ordered horses to be brought from the stables. Though he had fainted in the well, the present shock gave such tension to his nerves, that he found, in spite of his wound, he could now ride without difficulty.
Halbert went as commanded, and returned with two horses. Having amongst rocks and glens to go, he did not bring one for himself; and begging the good soldier might attend the earl to Bothwell, he added, "He will guard you and this box, which Sir William Wallace holds as his life. What it contains I know not: and none, he says, may dare to search into. But you will take care of it for his sake, till more peaceful times allow him to reclaim his own!"
"Fatal box!" cried the soldier, regarding it with an abhorrent eye, "that was the leading cause which brought Heselrigge to Ellerslie."
"How?" inquired the earl. Grimsby then briefly related, that immediately after the return to Lanark of the detachment sent to Ellerslie, under the English garrison in Douglas, and told the governor that Sir William Wallace had that evening taken a quantity of treasure from the castle. His report was, that the English soldiers who stood near the Scottish knight when he mounted at the castle gate, saw a long iron coffer under his arm, but not suspecting its having belonged to Douglas, they thought not of it, till they overheard Sir John Monteith, as he passed through one of the galleries, muttering something about gold and a box. To intercept the robber amongst his native glens, the soldiers deemed impracticable, and therefore their captain came immediately to lay the information before the Governor of Lanark. As the scabbard found in the affray with young Arthur had betrayed the victor to have been Sir William Wallace, this intimation of his having been also the instrument of wrestling from the grasp of Heselrigge perhaps the most valuable spoil in Douglas exasperated him to the most vindictive excess. Inflamed with the double furies of revenge and avarice, he ordered out a new troop, and placing himself at its head, took the way to Ellerslie. One of the servants, whom some of Hambledon's men had seized for the sake of information, on being threatened with the torture, confessed to Heselrigge, that not only Sir William Wallace was in the house when it was attacked, but that the person whom he had rescued in the streets of Lanark, and who proved to be a wealthy nobleman, was there also. This whetted the eagerness of the governor to reach Ellerslie; and expecting to get a rich booty, without the most distant idea of the horrors he was going to perpetrate, a large detachment of men followed him.
"To extort money from you, my lord," continued the soldier, "and to obtain that fatal coffer, were his main objects; but disappointed in his darling passion of avarice, he forgot he was a man, and the blood of innocence glutted his barbarous vengeance."
"Hateful gold!" cried Lord Mar, spurning the box with his foot; "it cannot be for itself the noble Wallace so greatly prizes it; it must be a trust."
"I believe it is," returned Halbert, "for he enjoined my lady to preserve it for the sake of his honor. Take care of it, then, my lord, for the same sacred reason."
The Englishman made no objection to accompany the earl; and by a suggestion of his own, Halbert brought him a Scottish bonnet and cloak from the house. While he put them on, the earl observed that the harper held a drawn and blood-stained sword in his hand, on which he steadfastly gazed. "Whence came that forried weapon?" cried Lord Mar.
"It is my lady's blood," replied Halbert, still looking on it. "I found it where she lay, in the hall, and I will carry it to my master. Was not every drop of her blood dear to him? and here are many." As the old man spoke he bent his head on the sword, and groaned heavily.
"England shall hear more of this!" cried Mar, as he threw himself across the horse. "Give me that fatal box; I will buckle it to my saddle-bow. Inadequate will be my utmost care of it, to repay the vast sorrow its preservation and mine have brought upon the head of my deliverer."
The Englishman in silence mounted his horse, and Halbert opened a back-gate that led to the hills which lay between Ellerslie and Bothwell Castle. Lord Mar took a golden-trophied bugle from his breast: "Give this to your master, and tell him that by whatever hands he sends it, the sight of it shall always command the services of Donald Mar. I go to Bothwell, in expectation that he will join me there. In making it his home he will render me happy, for my friendship is now bound to him by bonds which only death can sever."
Halbert took the horn, and promising faithfully to repeat the earl's message, prayed God to bless him and the honest soldier. A rocky promontory soon excluded them from his sight, and in a few minutes more even the sound of their horses' hoofs was lost on the soft herbage of the winding dell.
"Now I am alone in this once happy spot. Not a voice, not a sound. Oh, Wallace!" cried he, throwing up his venerable arms, "thy house is left unto thee desolate, and I am to be the fatal messenger." With the last words he struck into a deep ravine which led to the remotest solitudes of the glen, and pursued his way in dreadful silence. No human face of Scot or English cheered or scared him as he passed along. The tumult had so alarmed the poor cottagers, that with one accord they fled to their kindred on the hills, amid those fastnesses of nature, to await tidings from the valley, of when all should be still, and they might return in peace. Halbert looked to the right and to the left; no smoke, curling its gray mist from behind the intersecting rocks, reminded him of the gladsome morning hour, or invited him to take a moment's rest from his grievous journey. All was lonely and comfortless; and sighing bitterly over the wide devastation, he concealed the fatal sword and the horn under his cloak, and with a staff which he broke from a withered tree, took his way down the winding craigs. Many a pointed flint pierced his aged feet, while exploring the almost trackless paths, which by their direction he hoped would lead him at length to the deep caves of Corie Lynn.
After having traversed many a weary rood of, to him, before untrodden ground, the venerable minstrel of the house of Wallace, exhausted by fatigue, sat down on the declivity of a steep craig. The burning beams of the midday sun now beat upon the rocks, but the overshadowing foliage afforded him shelter, and a few berries from the brambles, which knit themselves over the path he had yet to explore, with a draught of water from a friendly burn, offered themselves to revive his enfeebled limbs. Insufficient as they appeared, he took them, blessing Heaven for sending even these, and strengthened by half an hour's rest, again he grasped his staff to pursue his way.
After breaking a passage, through the entangled shrubs that grew across the only possible footing in this solitary wilderness, he went along the side of the expanding stream, which at every turning of the rocks increased in depth and violence. The rills from above, and other mountain brooks, pouring from abrupt falls down the craigs, covered him with spray, and intercepted his passage. Finding it impracticable to proceed through the rushing torrent of a cataract, whose distant roarings might have intimidated even a younger adventurer, he turned from its tumbling waters which burst upon his sight, and crept on his hands and knees up the opposite acclivity, catching by the fern and other weeds to stay him from falling back into the flood below. Prodigious craggy heights towered above his head as he ascended; while the rolling clouds which canopied their summits seemed descending to wrap him in their "fleecy skirts;" or the projecting rocks bending over the waters of the glen, left him only a narrow shelf in the cliff, along which he crept till it brought him to the mouth of a cavern.
He must either enter it or return the way he came, or attempt the descent of overhanging precipices, which nothing could surmount but the pinions of their native birds. Above him was the mountain. Retread his footsteps until he had seen his beloved master, he was resolved not to do-to perish in these glens would be more tolerable to him; for while he moved forward, hope, even in the arms of death, would cheer him with the whisper that he was in the path of duty. He therefore entered the cavity, and passing on, soon perceived an aperture, through which emerging on the other side, he found himself again on the margin of the river. Having attained a wider bed, it left him a still narrower causeway to perform the remainder of his journey.
Huge masses of rock, canopied with a thick umbrage of firs, beech, and weeping-birch, closed over the glen and almost excluded the light of day. But more anxious, as he calculated by the increased rapidity of the stream he must now be approaching the great fall near his master's concealment, Halbert redoubled his speed. But an unlooked-for obstacle baffled his progress. A growing gloom he had not observed in the sky excluded valley, having entirely overspread the heavens, at this moment suddenly discharged itself, amidst peals of thunder, in heavy floods of rain upon his head.
Fearful of being overwhelmed by the streams, which now on all sides crossed his path, he kept upon the edge of the river, to be as far as possible from the influence of their violence. And thus he proceeded, slowly and with trepidation, through numerous defiles, and under the plunge of many a mountain-torrent, till the augmented storm of a world of waters, dashing from side to side, and boiling up with the noise and fury of the contending elements above, told him he was indeed not far from the fall of Corie Lynn.
The spray was spread in so thick a mist over the glen, he knew not how to advance. A step further might be on the firm earth, but more probably illusive, and dash him into the roaring Lynn, where he would be ingulfed at once in its furious whirlpool. He paused and looked around. The rain had ceased, but the thunder still rolled at a distance and echoed tremendously from the surrounding rocks. Halbert shook his gray locks, streaming with wet, and looked toward the sun, now gliding with its last rays the vast sheets of falling water.
"This is thine hour, my master!" exclaimed the old man; "and surely I am too near the Lynn to be far from thee!"
With these words he raised the pipe that hung at his breast, and blew three strains of the appointed air. In former days it used to call from her bower that "fair star of evening," the beauteous Marion, now departed for ever into her native heaven. The notes trembled as his agitated breath breathed them into the instrument; but feeble as they were, and though the roar of the cataract might have prevented their reaching a less attentive era than that of Wallace, yet he sprung from the innermost recess under the fall, and dashing through its rushing waters, the next instant was at the side of Halbert.
"Faithful creature!" cried he, catching him in his arms, which all the joy of that moment which ends the anxious wish to learn tidings of what is dearest in the world, "how fares my Marion?"
"I am weary," cried the heart-stricken old man; "take me within your sanctuary, and I will tell you all."
Wallace perceived that his time-worn servant was indeed exhausted; and knowing the toils and hazards of the perilous track he must have passed over in his way to his fearful solitude, also remembering how, as he sat in his shelter, he had himself dreaded the effects of the storm upon so aged a traveler, he no longer wondered at the dispirited tone of his greeting, and readily accounted for the pale countenance and tremulous step which at first had excited his alarm.