THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J.A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
VOL. VIII FICTION
* * * * *
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SCOTT, SIR WALTER (Continued) Quentin Durward Rob Roy Talisman
SHELLEY, MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT Frankenstein
SIDNEY, SIR PHILIP Arcadia
SMOLLET, TOBIAS Roderick Random Peregrine Pickle
STAEL, MME. DE Corinne
STENDHAL (HENRI BEYLE) Chartreuse of Parma
STERNE, LAURENCE Tristram Shandy
STOWE, HARRIET BEECHER Uncle Tom's Cabin
SUE, EUGENE Mysteries of Paris
SWIFT, JONATHAN Gulliver's Travels
THACKERAY, WILLIAM MAKEPEACE Newcomes Virginians Vanity Fair
TOLSTOY, COUNT LYOF N. Anna Karenina
TROLLOPE, ANTHONY The Warden Barchester Towers
TURGENEV, IVAN Fathers and Sons A Nest of Nobles Smoke
VERNE, JULES Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
WALPOLE, HORACE Castle of Otranto
ZOLA, EMILE Drink
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX.
* * * * *
SIR WALTER SCOTT
In mentioning "Quentin Durward" for the first time Scott speaks of himself as having been ill, and "Peveril" as having suffered through it. "I propose a good rally, however," he says, "and hope it will have a powerful effect. My idea is a Scotch archer in the French King's guard, tempore Louis XI., the most picturesque of all times." The novel, which is by many considered one of the best of Scott's works, was published in June, 1823. It was coldly received by the British public, though it eventually attained a marvellous popularity. In Paris it created a tremendous sensation, similar to that produced in Edinburgh by the appearance of "Waverley." It was Scott's first venture on foreign ground, and the French were delighted to find Louis XI. and Charles the Bold brought to life again at the call of the Wizard of the North. The delineations of these two characters are considered as fine as any in fiction or history.
I.—The Wanderer Meets Louis XI.
It was upon a delicious summer morning that a youth approached the ford of a small river, near the Royal castle of Plessis-les-Tours, in ancient Touraine.
The age of the young traveller might be about nineteen or twenty, and his face and person were very prepossessing. His smart blue bonnet, with sprig of holly and eagle's feather, was already recognised as the Scottish headgear.
Two persons loitered on the opposite side of the small river and observed the youth. "Hark, sir, he halloes to know whether the water be deep," said the younger of the two.
"Nothing like experience in this world," answered the other, "let him try."
The young man receiving no hint to the contrary entered the stream, and to one less alert in the exercise of swimming death had been certain, for the brook was both deep and strong. As it was, he was carried but a little way from the ordinary landing-place.
But the bonnie Scot turned wrathfully on the younger of the strangers for not warning him of the stream, and only the reproof of the elder prevented a violent quarrel.
"Fair son," he said, "you seem a stranger, and you should recollect your dialect is not so easily comprehended by us."
"Well, father," answered the youth, "I do not care much about the ducking I have had, provided you will direct me to some place where I can have my clothes dried, for it is my only suit, and I must keep it somewhat decent."
"For whom do you take us, fair son?" said the elder stranger.
"For substantial burgesses," said the youth. "You, master, may be a money-broker or a corn-merchant."
"My business is to trade in as much money as I can," said the elder, smiling. "As to your accommodation we will try to serve you. It is but a short walk from hence to the village. Let me know your name, and follow me."
"My true name when at home is Quentin Durward," said the youth.
Proceeding along a path they came in sight of the whole front of the Castle of Plessis-les-Tours.
"I have some friend to see in this quarter," said Durward. "My mother's own brother, Ludovic Lesly—an honest and noble name."
"And so it is I doubt not," said the old man. "But of three Leslies in the Scottish Guard two are called Ludovic."
"They call my kinsman Ludovic with the Scar," said Quentin.
"The man you speak of we, I think, call Le Balafre; from that scar on his face," answered his companion. "A proper man and a good soldier. Men call me Maitre Pierre—a plain man. I owe you a breakfast, Master Quentin, for the wetting my mistake procured you."
While they were speaking they reached the entrance of the village of Plessis, and presently approached the court-yard of an inn of unusual magnitude.
Maitre Pierre lifted the latch of the side door, and led the way into a large room, where arrangements had been made for a substantial breakfast. He whistled and the landlord entered, and bowed with reverence.
Quentin Durward had eaten little for two days, and Maitre Pierre seemed delighted with the appetite of the young Scot, who indeed devoured an enormous repast. When his appetite had been satisfied, and the old man had put several questions, the door opened, and a girl, whose countenance, so young and so lovely, was graver, Quentin thought, than belongs to an early beauty, entered with a platter and a cup of delicate workmanship.
"How now, Jacqueline?" said Maitre Pierre. "Did I not desire that Dame Perette should bring what I wanted? But I blame thee not, thou art too young to be—what thou must be one day—a false and treacherous thing, like the rest of thy giddy sex. Here is a Scottish cavalier will tell you the same."
But Durward, with the feelings of youth, answered hastily, "That he would throw down his gage to any antagonist, of equal rank and equal age, who should presume to say such a countenance as that which he now looked upon could be animated by other than the purest and the truest mind."
The young woman grew deadly pale, and cast an apprehensive glance upon Maitre Pierre, in whom the bravado of the young gallant seemed only to excite laughter.
Jacqueline vanished, and Maitre Pierre, after filling a goblet with silver pieces, and bidding Quentin Durward take it and remain in the hostelry until he had seen his kinsman, Le Balafre, also left the apartment.
Within a short time Ludovic Lesly, or Le Balafre (as he was generally known), a robust hard-featured soldier upwards of six feet high, was announced.
Quentin greeted his uncle, and the following day the as taken before Lord Crawford, the commander of the Scottish Archers, the king's bodyguard, and enrolled in that honourable corps as esquire to Le Balafre.
II.—The Scottish Archer
Quentin, accompanying his uncle into the presence-chamber of Louis XI., started so suddenly that he almost dropped his weapon when he recognised in the King of France the merchant, Maitre Pierre. No less astonished was he when the king, whose quick eye had at once discovered him, walked straight to the place where he was posted, and addressing Le Balafre, said: "Your kinsman is a fair youth, though fiery. We love to cherish such spirits, and mean to make more than ever we did of the brave men who are around us."
A boar-hunt, wherein the life of Louis was saved from imminent danger by the courage and dexterity of Quentin Durward, brought the young Scot still further into royal favour: "Thou hast begun thy wood-craft well," said the king; "and Maitre Pierre owes thee as good an entertainment as he gave thee in the village yonder. I like thee, and will do thee good. Build on no man's favour but mine—not even on thine uncle's or Lord Crawford's, and say nothing of thy timely aid in this matter of the boar, for if a man makes boast that he has served a king in such a pinch, he must take the braggart humour for its own recompense."
So Quentin kept silence discreetly, and was rewarded by a gold chain from the king, by speedy promotion to the rank of free archer, and by being employed to act as sentinel in the private gallery of Louis. And here he once more beheld the young lady whom he had seen at his memorable breakfast, and who had been called Jacqueline. She proved to be the youthful Countess Isabelle, heiress of the rich earldom of Croye, who had fled with her aunt, the Countess Hameline, from the overlordship of the Duke of Burgundy. Had death been the penalty Durward must needs have rendered to this beauty and her companion the same homage which he paid to royalty. They received it as those who were accustomed to the deference of inferiors; but he thought that the young lady coloured slightly and seemed embarrassed.
Occupation and adventure now crowded upon Durward with the force of a spring tide.
Louis, anxious to be on good terms with Burgundy, induced the ladies of Croye to retreat from their concealment at the Court of France, and to place themselves under the protection of the Prince Bishop of Liege. Durward was delighted when the king told him that he was selected, with four others under his command, to escort the Countess Isabelle and her companion to the little court of their relative the bishop, in the safest and most secret manner possible.
They set out at midnight, and Lady Hameline soon interrogated the captain of her escort, and learnt that he was of noble birth.
"Methinks, my cousin," said the Lady Isabelle softly, "we must be safe under this young gentleman's safeguard."
The journey was accomplished, not without perils and hazards, and then four days after the arrival at the bishop's palace, the townsmen of Liege rose in mad revolt, and, led by a ferocious noble, William de la Marck, whom all men called the Wild Boar of Ardennes, overpowered the bishop's guards, and seized the palace. The bishop himself was murdered by De la Marck's orders, in his very dining hall; the Countess Isabelle escaped under Durward's protection, while the Countess Hameline remained to become the wife of the Wild Boar. The son of a burgher with whom Durward had made friends undertook to guide the Countess Isabelle and her companion to the frontiers of Burgundy.
"My resolution is taken," said the young lady; "I return to my native country, to throw myself on the mercy of Charles, Duke of Burgundy."
"And you resolve to become the bride, then, of the Count of Campo-basso, the unworthy favourite of Charles?" said Quentin, who had been told the reason why refuge had been sought with Louis.
"No, Durward, no!" said the Lady Isabelle, "to that hated condition all Burgundy's power shall not sink a daughter of the House of Croye. Burgundy may seize on my lands and fiefs, he may imprison my person in a convent, but that is the worst I have to expect; and worse than that I will endure ere I give my hand to Campo-basso. Ah, Durward, were I your sister, and could you promise me shelter in some of those mountain-glens which you love to describe, where for charity, or for the few jewels I have preserved, I might lead an unharassed life, and forget the lot I was born to, that were indeed a prospect for which it were worth risk of further censure to wander farther and wider!"
The tenderness of voice with which the Countess Isabelle made this admission, at once filled Quentin with joy, and cut him to the very heart.
"Lady," he said at last, "I should act foully against my honour did I suffer you to think I have power in Scotland to afford you other protection than that of the poor arm which is now by your side. Our castle was stormed at midnight, and all were cut off that belonged to my name. Even had the King of Scotland a desire to do me justice, he dared not, for the sake of one poor individual, provoke a chief who rides with five hundred horse."
"Alas!" said the Countess, "there is no corner of the world safe from oppression! No more of Scotland, then; no more of Scotland!"
In the humour of mutual confidence, and forgetting the singularity of their own situation, as well as the perils of the road, the travellers pursued their journey for several hours.
The artificial distinction which divided the two lovers—for such we may now term them—seemed dissolved by the circumstance in which they were placed. For the present, the Countess was as poor as the youth, and for her safety, honour, and life, she was exclusively indebted to his presence of mind, valour, and devotion. They spoke not, indeed, of love, but the thoughts of it were on both sides unavoidable.
It was two hours after noon when a party of De la Marck's banditti appeared, and shortly after a body of men-at-arms under a knight's pennon. The former were soon put to rout by the superiority of the latter, whose banner Countess Isabelle recognised as that of the Count of Crevecoeur, a noble Burgundian.
"Noble Count!" said Isabelle, as Crevecoeur gazed on her with doubt and uncertainty, "Isabelle of Croye, the daughter of your old companion in arms, Count Reinold of Croye, renders herself, and asks protection from your valour for her and hers."
"Thou shalt have it, fair kinswoman, were it against a host," said Crevecoeur. "This is a rough welcome to your home, my pretty cousin, but you and your foolish match-making aunt have made such wild use of your wings of late, that I fear you must be contented to fold them up in a cage for a little while. For my part, my duty will be ended when I have conducted you to the court of the Duke, at Peronne."
III.—A Prize for Honour
The king had ventured, with a small company of his Scottish archers, to be his own ambassador to his troublesome subject the Duke of Burgundy, and Louis and Charles were together at Peronne when the news of the revolt at Liege was brought to them by Crevecoeur, under whose escort the Countess Isabelle returned to the protection of her suzerain.
The Countess was lodged in the Convent of the Ursulines, and with the Lady Abbess and the Countess of Crevecoeur attended the presence of the Duke.
In vain Charles stormed and swore that she should marry whom he would.
"My lord," she replied, undismayed, "if you deprive me of my lands, you take away all that your ancestors' generosity gave, and you break the only bonds which attach us together. You cannot dispose the hand of any gentlewoman by force."
The Duke, with a furious glance, turned to his secretary.
"Write," he said, "our doom of forfeiture and imprisonment against this disobedient and insolent minion! She shall to the penitentiary, to herd with those whose lives have rendered them her rivals in effrontery!"
There was a general murmur.
"My Lord Duke," said Crevecoeur, "this must be better thought on. We, your faithful vassals, cannot suffer dishonour to the nobility and chivalry of Burgundy. If the Countess hath done amiss, let her be punished—but in the manner that becomes her rank and ours, who stand connected with her house."
The Duke paused for a moment, and looked full at his counsellor with the stare of a bull. Prudence, however, prevailed over fury, he saw the sentiment was general in his council, and, being rather of a coarse and violent, than of a malignant temper—felt ashamed of his own dishonourable proposal.
"You are right, Crevecoeur," he said, "and I spoke hastily. Her fate shall be determined according to the rules of chivalry. Her flight to Liege hath given the signal for the bishop's murder. He that best avenges that deed, and brings us the head of the Wild Boar of Ardennes, shall claim her hand of us; and, if she denies his right, we can at least grant him her lands, leaving it to his generosity to allow her what means he will to retire into a convent."
"Nay!" said the Countess. "Think, I am the daughter of Count Reinold—of your father's old, valiant, and faithful servant. Would you hold me out as a prize to the best sword-player?"
"Your ancestress," said the Duke, "was won at a tourney—you shall be fought for in real melee. Only thus far, for Count Reinold's sake, the successful prizer shall be a gentleman of unimpeached birth, and unstained bearings, but, be he such, and the poorest who ever drew the strap of a sword-belt through the tongue of a buckle, he shall have at least the proffer of your hand. I swear it by my ducal crown, and by the order that I wear. Ha, messires," he added, turning to the nobles present, "this at least is, I think, in conformity with the rules of chivalry?"
Isabelle's remonstrances were drowned in a general and jubilant assent, above which was heard the voice of old Lord Crawford, regretting the weight of years that prevented his striking for so fair a prize.
Le Balafre dared not speak aloud in such a presence, but he muttered to himself:
"Now, Saunders Souplejaw, hold thine own! Thou always saidst the fortune of our house was to be won by marriage, and never had you such a chance to keep your word with us."
The Countess of Crevecoeur whispered to Isabelle, that perhaps the successful competitor might prove one who should reconcile to obedience. Love, like despair, catches at straws, and the tears of the Countess Isabelle flowed more placidly while she dwelt upon the hope this insinuation conveyed.
IV.—The Winning of the Prize
King Louis and his guards sallied from the gateway of Peronne, to join the Burgundian army under Duke Charles, which commenced at the same time its march against Liege. Ere the troops were fully on march Quentin Durward received from an unknown hand a billet which Lady Hamelin had sent to the Countess Isabelle, mentioning that her William—as she called the Wild Boar—had determined, for purposes of policy, in the first action to have others dressed in his coat-armour, and himself to assume the arms of Orleans, with a bar sinister. Durward had also learnt from other sources that the rebels of Liege hoped to scatter confusion amongst the Burgundians by shouting Vive la France!
The battle began on the night of the arrival of the forces outside Liege, when De la Marck boldly sallied out and attacked the invaders. It was not till daybreak that the Burgundians began to show the qualities which belong to superior discipline, and the great mass of Liegois were compelled to retreat, and at length to fly. Soon the whole became a confused tide of fighters, fliers, and pursuers, which rolled itself towards the city walls, and at last poured into the undefended breach through which the Liegois had sallied.
Quentin had seen the arms of Orleans, and made more than human exertions to overtake the special object of his pursuit. Le Balafre, and several of his comrades, were with him marvelling at the gallantry displayed by so young a soldier. On the very brink of the breach, De la Marck—for it was himself—succeeded in effecting a momentary stand. H mace of iron in his hand, before which everything seemed to go down.
Quentin singled him out, and ascended the ruins to measure swords with the Boar of Ardennes. A shout announced that the besiegers were entering the city at another point, and De la Marck endeavoured to effect a retreat, only to be prevented by Quentin, Le Balafre, and their comrades. De la Marck found his retreat cut off, and bade his lieutenant break through if he could, and escape. "With me it is over," he added. "I am man enough now that I am brought to bay, to send some of these vagabond Scots to hell before me." About six of De la Marck's best men remained to perish with their master, and fronted the archers who were not many more in number.
Quentin had but time to bid his uncle and comrades stand back, when De la Marck sprang upon him with a bound; light of foot and quick of eye, Quentin leaped aside.
They then closed like wolf and wolf-dog, their comrades on either side remaining inactive spectators, for Le Balafre roared out for fair play.
The huge strength of the Boar of Ardennes began to give way to fatigue, so wounded was he, but he fought on unabated in courage and ire, and Quentin's victory seemed dubious and distant, when a female voice behind him called him by his name, ejaculating, "Help! help! for the sake of the blessed Virgin!"
Quentin turned his head and beheld a maiden, who with her family had aided him to escape with Isabelle, dragged forcibly along by a French soldier.
"Wait for me but one moment!" he exclaimed to De la Marck, and sprang to extricate the girl from her dangerous situation.
"I wait no man's pleasure," said De la Marck, flourishing his mace and beginning to retreat.
"You shall wait mine, though, by your leave," said Balafre; "I will not have any nephew baulked." So saying, he instantly assaulted De la Marck with his two-handed sword.
Quentin was obliged to take the defenceless maiden to her father's house, and in the meantime the King and the Duke of Burgundy entered the city on horseback, and ditched orders to stop the sack of the city. When the terrified town was restored to some moderate degree of order, Louis and Charles proceeded to hear the claims which respected the County of Croye and its fair mistress. Doubt and mystery involved the several pretensions of those who claimed the merit of having dispatched the murderer of the bishop, for the rich reward promised brought death to all who were arrayed in De la Marck's resemblance.
In the midst of conflicting claims Crawford pressed forward into the circle, dragging Le Balafre after him. "Away with your hoofs and hides, and painted iron!" cried Crawford. "No one, save he who slew the Boar, can show the tusks!"
He flung on the floor the bloody head, easily known as that of De la Marck, and which was instantly recognised by all who had seen him.
"Crawford," said Louis, "I trust it is one of my faithful Scots who has won this prize?"
"It is Ludovic Lesly, Sire, whom we call Le Balafre," replied the old soldier.
"But is he noble?" said the Duke. "Is he of gentle blood? Otherwise our promise is void."
"I will warrant him a branch of the tree of Rother, as noble as any house in France or Burgundy," said Crawford.
"There is then no help for it," said the Duke; "and the fairest and richest heiress in Burgundy must be the wife of a rude mercenary soldier."
"May it please your Majesty, and your grace," said Crawford. "I must speak for my countryman and old comrade. He hath acted by my advice and resigns his claim to him by whom the Wild Boar was actually brought to bay, who is his maternal nephew, and is of the House of Durward, descended from that Allan Durward who was High Steward of Scotland."
"Nay, if it be young Durward," said Crevecoeur; "there is nothing more to be said. I have much reason to believe your Grace will find her more amenable to authority than on former occasions. But why should I grudge this youth his preferment, since after all, it is sense, firmness, and gallantry, which have put him in possession of wealth, rank, and beauty!"
The title of "Rob Roy" was suggested by Constable, the publisher, who one day informed the novelist that the name of the hero would be the best possible name for the book. "Nay," answered Scott, "never let me have to write up to a name. You know well that I have generally adopted a title that told nothing." But the bookseller persevered and in the end Sir Walter's scruples gave way. "Rob Roy," by the author of "Waverley," was published on December 31, 1817, and although it is not among the greatest of Scott's novels, it certainly figures among his next best. It is crowded with incident and adventure, and the character of Rob Roy himself will last as long as English literature. Diana Vernon, too, is perhaps the most attractive and surely-drawn in all Scott's gallery of portraits of distinguished women. "Rob Roy" was dramatised shortly after its appearance in book form; Scott himself first witnessed a performance of it at Edinburgh on February 15, 1819, the same company later appearing in it at Glasgow before George IV.
I.—I Meet Diana Vernon
Early in the eighteenth century, when I, Frank Osbaldistone, was a youth of twenty, I was hastily summoned from Bordeaux, where, in a mercantile house, I was, as my father trusted, being initiated into the mysteries of commerce. As a matter of fact, my principal attention had been dedicated to literature and manly exercises.
In an evil hour, my father had received my letter, containing my eloquent and detailed apology for declining a place in the firm, and I was summoned home in all haste, his chief ambition being that I should succeed, not merely to his fortune, but to the views and plans by which he imagined he could extend and perpetuate that wealthy inheritance. I did not understand how deeply my father's happiness was involved, and with something of his own pertinacity, had formed a determination precisely contrary, not conceiving that I should increase my own happiness by augmenting a fortune which I believed already sufficient.
My father cut the matter short; when he was my age, his father had turned him out, and settled his legal inheritance on his younger brother; and one of that brother's sons should take my place, if I crossed him any further.
At the end of the month he gave me to think the matter over, I found myself on the road to York, on a reasonably good horse, with fifty guineas in my pocket, travelling, as it would seem, for the purpose of assisting in the adoption of a successor to myself in my father's house and favour; he having decided that I should pay a visit to my uncle, and stay at Osbaldistone Hall, till I should receive further instructions.
There had been such unexpected ease in the way in which my father had slipt the knot usually esteemed the strongest that binds society together, and let me depart as a sort of outcast from his family, that strangely lessened my self-confidence. The Muse, too,—the very coquette that had led me into this wilderness—deserted me, and I should have been reduced to an uncomfortable state of dullness had it not been for the conversation of strangers who chanced to pass the same way. One poor man with whom I travelled a day and a half, and whose name was Morris, afforded me most amusement. He had upon his pillion a very small, but apparently a very weighty portmanteau, which he would never trust out of his immediate care; and all his conversation was of unfortunate travellers who had fallen among thieves. He wrought himself into a fever of apprehension by the progress of his own narratives, and occasionally eyed me with doubt and suspicion, too ludicrous to be offensive. I found amusement in alternately exciting and lulling to sleep the causeless fears of my timorous companion, who tried in vain to induce a Scotchman with whom we dined in Darlington to ride with him, because the landlord informed us "that for as peaceable a gentleman as Mr. Campbell was, he was, moreover, as bold as a lion—seven highwaymen had he defeated with his single arm, as he came from Whitson tryste."
"Thou art deceived, friend Jonathan," said Campbell, interrupting him. "There were but barely two, and two cowardly loons as man could wish to meet withal." My companion made up to him, and taking him aside seemed to press his company upon him.
Mr. Campbell disengaged himself not very ceremoniously, and coming up to me, observed, "Your friend, sir, is too communicative, considering the nature of his trust."
I hastened to assure him that that gentleman was no friend of mine, and that I knew nothing of him or his business, and we separated for the night.
Next day I parted company with my timid companion, turning more westerly in the direction of my uncle's seat. I had already had a distant view of Osbaldistone Hall, when my horse, tired as he was, pricked up his ears at the notes of a pack of hounds in full cry. The headmost hounds soon burst out of the coppice, followed by three or four riders with reckless haste, regardless of the broken and difficult nature of the ground. "My cousins," thought I, as they swept past me: but a vision interrupted my reflections. It was a young lady, the loveliness of whose very striking features was enhanced by the animation of the chase, whose horse made an irregular movement as she passed me, which served as an apology for me to ride close up to her, as if to her assistance. There was no cause for alarm, for she guided her horse with the most admirable address and presence of mind. One of the young men soon reappeared, waving the brush of the fox in triumph, and after a few words the lady rode back to me and inquired, as she could not persuade "this cultivated young gentleman" to do so, if I had heard anything of a friend of theirs, one Mr. Francis Osbaldistone.
I was too happy to acknowledge myself to be the party enquired after, and she then presented to me, "as his politeness seemed still to be slumbering," my cousin, young Squire Thorncliff Osbaldistone, and "Die Vernon, who has also the honour to be your accomplished cousin's poor kinswoman."
After shaking hands with me, he left us to help couple up the hounds, and Miss Vernon rode with me to Osbaldistone Hall, giving me, on the way, a description of its inmates, of whom, she said, the only conversible beings beside herself were the old priest and Rashleigh—Sir Hildebrand's youngest son.
Rashleigh Osbaldistone was a striking contrast to his young brothers, all tall, stout, and comely, without pretence to accomplishment except their dexterity in field sports. He welcomed me with the air of a man of the world, and though his appearance was far from prepossessing, he was possessed of a voice the most soft, mellow, and rich I ever heard. He had been intended for a priest, but when my father's desire to have one of Sir Hildebrand's sons in his counting-house was known, he had been selected, as, indeed, the only one who could be considered at all suitable.
The day after my arrival, Miss Vernon, as we were following the hounds, showed me in the distance the hills of Scotland, and told me I could be there in safety in two hours. To my dismay, she explained that my timorous fellow-traveller had been robbed of money and dispatches, and accused me. The magistrate had let my uncle know, and both he and Miss Vernon, considering it a merit to distress a Hanoverian government in every way, never doubted my guilt, and only showed the way of escape. On my indignant denial, Miss Vernon rode with me to the magistrate's, where we met Rashleigh, and after a hasty private talk with him, in which from earnest she became angry and flung away from him, saying, "I will have it so." Immediately after we heard his horse's hoofs in rapid motion; and very shortly afterwards Mr. Campbell, the very Scotchman we had met at Darlington, entered the Justice's room, and giving him a billet from the Duke of Argyll to certify that he, Mr. Robert Campbell, was a person of good fame and character, prevailed on the magistrate to discharge me, for he had been with my late fellow-traveller at the time of the robbery, and could swear that the robber was a very different person. Morris was apparently more terrified than ever, but agreed to all Mr. Campbell said, and left the house with him.
Miss Vernon made me promise to ask no questions, and I only entreated her, if at any time my services could be useful to her, she would command them without hesitation.
Before Rashleigh's departure, I had realised his real character, and wrote to Owen, my father's old clerk, to hint that he should keep a strict guard over my father's interests. Notwithstanding Miss Vernon had charged Rashleigh with perfidious conduct towards herself, they had several private interviews together, though their bearing did not seem cordial; and he and I took up distant ground, each disposed to avoid all pretext for collision.
I began to think it strange I had received no letter either from my father or Owen, though I had now been several weeks at Osbaldistone Hall—where the mode of life was too uniform to admit of description. Diana Vernon and I enjoyed much of our time in our mutual studies; although my vanity early discovered that I had given her an additional reason for disliking the cloister, to which she was destined if she would not marry any of Sir Hildebrand's sons, I could not confide in our affection, which seemed completely subordinate to the mysteries of her singular situation. She would not permit her love to overpower her sense of duty or prudence, and one day proved this by advising me at once to return to London—my father was in Holland, she said, and if Rashleigh was allowed to manage his affairs long, he would be ruined. He would use my father's revenues as a means of putting in motion his own ambitious schemes.
I seized her hand and pressed it to my lips—the world could never compensate for what I left behind me, if I left the Hall.
"This is folly! This is madness!" she cried, and my eyes, following the direction of hers, I saw the tapestry shake, which covered the door of the secret passage to Rashleigh's apartment. Prudence, and the necessity of suppressing my passion and obeying Diana's reiterated command of "Leave me! leave me!" came in time to prevent any rash action. I left the apartment in a chaos of thoughts. Above all I was perplexed by the manner in which Miss Vernon had received my tender of affection, and the glance of fear rather than surprise with which she had watched the motion of the tapestry. I resolved to clear up the mystery, and that evening, at a time when I usually did not visit the library, I, hesitating a moment with my hand on the latch, heard a suppressed footstep within, opened the door, and found Miss Vernon alone.
I had determined to seek a complete explanation, but found she refused it with indignant defiance, and avowed to my face the preference for a rival. And yet, when I was about to leave her for ever, it cost her but a change of look and tone to lead me back, her willing subject on her own hard terms, agreeing that we could be nothing to each other but friends now or henceforward. She then gave me a letter which she said might never have reached my hands if it had not fallen into hers. It was from my father's partner, Mr. Tresham, to tell me that Rashleigh had gone to Scotland some time since to take up bills granted by my father, and had not since been heard of, that Owen had been dispatched in search of him, and I was entreated to go after him, and assist to save my father's mercantile honour. Having read this, Diana left me for a moment, and returned with a sheet of paper folded like a letter, but without any address. "If I understand you rightly," she said, "the funds in Rashleigh's possession must be recovered by a certain day. Take this packet; do not open it till other means have failed; within ten days of the fated day you may break the seal, and you will find directions that may be useful to you. Adieu, Frank, we never meet more; but sometimes think of your friend Die Vernon."
She extended her hand, but I clasped her to my bosom. She sighed and escaped to her own apartment, and I saw her no more.
III.—In the Highlands
I had not been a day in Glasgow before, in obedience to a mysterious summons, I met Mr. Campbell, and was by him guided to the prison where my poor old friend Owen was confined. On his arrival two days before, he had gone to one of my father's correspondents, trusting that they who heretofore could not do too much to deserve the patronage of their good friends in Crane Alley, would now give their counsel and assistance. They met this with a counter-demand of instant security against ultimate loss, and when this was refused as unjust to the other creditors of Osbaldistone & Tresham, they had thrown him into prison, as he had a small share in the firm. In the midst of our sorrowful explanation we were disturbed by a loud knocking at the outer door of the prison. The Highland turnkey, with as much delay as possible, undid the fastenings, my guide sprang up the stair, and into Owen's apartment. He cast his eyes around, and then said to me, "Lend me your pistols. Yet, no, I can do without them. Whatever you see, take no heed, and do not mix your hand in another man's feud. This gear's mine, and I must manage it as best I can. I have been as hard bested and worse than I am even now." As he spoke, he confronted the iron door, like a fine horse brought up to the leaping-bar.
But instead of a guard with bayonets fixed, there entered a good-looking young woman, ushering in a short, stout, important person—a magistrate. "A bonny thing it is, and a beseeming, that I should be kept at the door half-an-hour, Captain Stanchells," said he, addressing the principal jailer, who now showed himself. "How's this? how's this? Strangers in the jail after lock-up hours! I must see into this. But, first, I must hae a crack with an auld acquaintance here. Mr. Owen, Mr. Owen, how's a' wi' you man?"
"Pretty well in body, I thank you, Mr. Jarvie," drawled out poor Owen, "but sore afflicted in spirit."
Mr. Jarvie was another correspondent of my father's whom Owen had had no great belief in, largely because of his great opinion of himself. He now showed himself kindly and sensible, and asked Owen to let him see some papers he mentioned. While examining them, he observed my mysterious guide make a slight movement, and said, "I say, look to the door, Stanchells; shut it, and keep watch on the outside."
Mr. Jarvie soon showed himself master of what he had been considering, and saying he could not see how Mr. Owen could arrange his affairs if he were kept lying there, undertook to be his surety and to have him free by breakfast time. He then took the light from the servant-maid's hand, and advanced to my guide, who awaited his scrutiny with great calmness, seated on the table. "Eh! oh! ah!" exclaimed the Bailie. "My conscience! it's impossible! and yet, no! Conscience, it canna be. Ye robber! ye cateran! born devil that ye are—can this be you?"
"E'en as ye see, Bailie," said he.
"Ye are a dauring villain, Rob," answered the Bailie; "and ye will be hanged. But bluid's thicker than water. Whar's the gude thousand pounds Scots than I lent ye, man, and when am I to see it again?"
"As to when you'll see it—why, just 'when the King enjoys his ain again,' as the auld sang says."
"Worst of a', Robin," retorted the Bailie. "I mean ye disloyal traitor—worst of a'! Ye had better stick to your auld trade o' theft-boot and blackmail than ruining nations. And wha the deevil's this?" he continued, turning to me.
Owen explained that I was young Mr. Frank Osbaldistone, the only child of the head of the house, and the Bailie, Nicol Jarvie, having undertaken Owen's release, took me home to sleep at his house.
I was astonished that Mr. Campbell should appear to Mr. Jarvie as the head of a freebooting Highland clan, and dismayed to think that Diana's fate could be involved in that of desperadoes of this man's description.
The packet which Diana Vernon had given me I had opened in the presence of the Highlander, for the ten days had elapsed, and a sealed letter had dropped out. This had at once been claimed by Mr. Campbell, or Rob MacGregor, as Mr. Jarvie called him, and the address showed that it had gone to its rightful owner.
Before we parted, MacGregor bade me visit him in the Highlands, and I kept this appointment in company with the Bailie. Strange to say, in the Highlands I met Diana Vernon, escorted by a single horseman, and from her received papers which had been in Rashleigh's possession. There was fighting in the Highlands, and the Bailie and I were both more than once in peril of our lives.
IV.—Rob Roy to the Rescue
No sooner had we returned from our dangerous expedition than I sought out Owen. He was not alone—my father was with him.
The first impulse was to preserve the dignity of his usual equanimity—"Francis, I am glad to see you." The next was to embrace me tenderly—"my dear, dear son!"
When the tumult of our joy was over, I learnt that my father had arrived from Holland shortly after Owen had set off for Scotland. By his extensive resources, with funds enlarged and credit fortified, he easily put right what had befallen only, perhaps, through his absence, and set out for Scotland to exact justice from Rashleigh Osbaldistone.
The full extent of my cousin Rashleigh's villainy I had yet to learn. In the rebellion of 1715, when in an ill-omened hour the standard of the Stuart was set up, to the ruin of many honourable families, Rashleigh, with more than another Jacobite agent, revealed the plot to the Government. My poor uncle, Sir Hildebrand, was easily persuaded to join the standard of the Stuarts, and was soon taken and lodged in Newgate. He died in prison, but before he died he spoke with great bitterness against Rashleigh, now his only surviving child, and declared that neither he nor his sons who had perished would have plunged into political intrigue but for that very member of his family who had been the first to desert them. By his will, Sir Hildebrand devised his estates at Osbaldistone Hall to me as his next heir, cutting off Rashleigh with a shilling.
Rashleigh had yet one more card to play. The villain was aware that Diana's father, Sir Frederick Vernon, whose life had been forfeited for earlier Jacobite plots, lived in hiding at Osbaldistone Hall, and this had given him power over Miss Vernon.
Some time after I had returned to my father's office, I decided to visit Osbaldistone and take possession. On my arrival, Diana met me in the dining hall with her father.
"We are your suppliants, Mr. Osbaldistone," said the old knight; "we claim the refuge and protection of your roof till we can pursue a journey where dungeons and death gape for me at every step."
"Surely," I articulated, "Miss Vernon cannot suppose me capable of betraying anyone, much less you?"
But scarcely had they retired to rest that night, when Rashleigh arrived with officers of the law, and exhibited his warrant, not only against Frederick Vernon, an attainted traitor, but also against Diana Vernon, spinster, and Francis Osbaldistone, accused of connivance at treason. He provided a coach for his prisoners, but in the park a number of Highlanders had gathered.
"Claymore!" cried the leader of the Highlanders, as the coach appeared, and a scuffle instantly commenced. The officers of the law, surprised at so sudden an attack, conceived themselves surrounded, and galloped off in different directions.
Rashleigh fell, mortally wounded by the leader of the band, who the next instant was at the carriage door. It was Rob Roy, who handed out Miss Vernon, and assisted her father and me to alight.
"Mr. Osbaldistone," he said, in a whisper, "you have nothing to fear; I must look after those who have. Your friends will soon be in safety. Farewell, and forget not the MacGregor."
He whistled; his band gathered round him, and, hurrying Diana and her father along with him, they were almost instantly lost in the glades of the forest.
The death of Rashleigh, who had threatened to challenge at law my right to Osbaldistone Hall, left me access to my inheritance without interference. It was at once admitted that the ridiculous charge of connivance at treason was got up by an unscrupulous attorney on an affidavit made with the sole purpose of favouring Rashleigh's views, and removing me from Osbaldistone Hall.
I learnt subsequently that the opportune appearance of MacGregor and his party was not fortuitous. The Scottish nobles and gentry engaged in the insurrection of 1715 were particularly anxious to further the escape of Sir Frederick Vernon, who, as an old and trusted agent of the house of Stuart, was possessed of matter enough to have ruined half Scotland, and Rob Roy was the person whom they pitched upon to assist his escape. Once at large, they found horses prepared for them, and by MacGregor's knowledge of the country were conducted to the western sea-coast, and safely embarked for France. From the same source I also learnt that Sir Frederick could not long survive a lingering disease, and that his daughter was placed in a convent, although it was her father's wish she should take the veil only on her own inclination.
When these news reached me, I frankly told the state of my affections to my father. After a little hesitation he broke out with "I little thought a son of mine should have been lord of Osbaldistone Manor, and far less that he should go to a French convent for a spouse. But so dutiful a daughter cannot but prove a good wife. You have worked at the desk to please me, Frank, it is but fair you should wive to please yourself."
Long and happily I lived with Diana, and heavily I lamented her death.
Rob Roy died in old age and by a peaceful death some time about 1733, and is still remembered in his country as the Robin Hood of Scotland.
* * * * *
"The Talisman," the most famous of Scott's "Tales of the Crusaders," was written 1824-25, when the fortunes of its author were already threatened. The building of Abbotsford was finished, and the heavy financial losses which fell on Sir Walter, and drove him to write at a speed fatal to his genius, soon followed. "The Talisman" and "The Fair Maid of Perth," which appeared three years later, are the only two of the Waverley Novels published in those later years which are worthy of their author's fame. The Talisman itself has always been deservedly popular. It is full of colour, mystery, plot, and counterplot, and Sir Kenneth's performances in withstanding the jealous enemies of Richard Coeur-de-Lion glow with life. Conrade of Montserrat, Richard's opponent in the armies of the Crusaders, was a well-known figure in the wars against the Saracens, and when he perished at their hands, it was said that Richard instigated his death.
I.—The Knight of the Leopard
The burning sun of Syria had not yet attained its highest point when a Knight of the Red Cross was pacing slowly along the sandy deserts in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. At noon he joyfully hailed the sight of two or three palm trees, and his good horse, too, lifted up his head as if he snuffed from afar off the living waters which marked the place of repose and refreshment. But a distant form separated itself from the trees, and advanced towards the knight at a speed which soon showed a Saracen cavalier. The Crusader, whose arms were a couchant leopard, disengaged his lance, and well acquainted with the customs of Eastern warriors, made a dead halt, confident that his own weight would give him the advantage if the enemy advanced to the actual shock; but the Saracen, wheeling his horse with inimitable dexterity, rode round the Christian, who, constantly turning, frustrated his attempts to attack him in an unguarded point, until, desirous to terminate the elusory warfare, the knight suddenly seized the mace which hung at his saddle-bow, and hurled it at the head of the Emir, who, though beaten to the ground, instantly sprang again into his seat and regained the advantage, enlarging his circles, and discharging arrows. At the seventh, the Christian knight dropped heavily to the ground, and the Saracen dismounting to examine his fallen foe, suddenly found himself in his grasp. He unloosed the sword belt in which the Knight of the Leopard had fixed his hold, mounted, and again rode off. But the loss of his sword and quiver of arrows seemed to incline the Muslim to a truce; he again approached the Christian, but no longer menacingly.
"There is truce betwixt our nations," he said. "Let there be peace betwixt us."
"I am well content," answered he of the couchant leopard, and the late foes, without an angry look or a gesture of doubt, rode side by side to the palm trees; where each relieved his horse from saddle, bit, and rein, and permitted them to drink ere they refreshed themselves. As they sat down together on the turf, and proceeded to their scanty meal, they eyed each other with curiosity, and each was compelled to acknowledge that had he fallen in the combat, it had been by a noble foe. The warriors arose from their brief rest, and courteously aided each other while they replaced the harness of their trusty steeds, and pursued their way, the Saracen performing the part of guide, to the cavern of the hermit, Theodorich of England, with whom Sir Kenneth was to pass the night in penitence and prayer.
The scene must change to the camp of King Richard of England, who, afflicted with a slow and wasting fever, lay on his couch of sickness, loathing it as much in mind as his illness made it irksome to his body. "Hark, what trumpets are there?" he said, endeavouring to start up. "By heaven! the Turks are in the camp, I hear their lelies!" Breathless and exhausted he sank back. "Go, I pray thee, De Vaux, and bring me word what strangers are in the camp." Sir Thomas de Vaux had not made many steps from the royal pavilion when he met the Knight of the Leopard, who, accosting him with formal courtesy, desired to see the king; he had brought back with him a Moorish physician, who had undertaken to work a cure. Sir Thomas answered haughtily that no leech should approach the sick bed without his, the Baron of Gilsland's, consent, and turned loftily away; but the Scot, though not without expressing his share of pride, solemnly assured him that he desired but the safety of Richard, and Saladin himself had sent thither this Muslim physician. Sir Kenneth's squire had been suffering dangerously under the same fever, and the leech, El Hakim, had ministered to him not two hours before, and already he was in a refreshing sleep.
"May I see your sick squire, fair sir?" at length said the Englishman.
The Scottish knight hesitated and coloured, yet answered at last:
"Willingly, my lord of Gilsland, but I am poorly lodged," and led the way to his temporary abode.
"This is a strange tale, Sir Thomas," said the king, when he had heard the report. "Art thou sure that this Scottish man is a tall man and true?"
"I cannot say, my lord," replied the jealous borderer; "I have ever found the Scots fair and false, but the man's bearing is that of a true man, and I warrant you have noted the manner in which he bears himself as a knight. He hath been fully well spoken of."
"And justly, Thomas," said the king. "Yes, I have indeed marked the manner in which this knight does his devoir, and he had ere now tasted your bounty but that I have also marked his audacious presumption."
"My liege," said the Baron of Gilsland, "your majesty will pardon me to remind you that I have by mine office right to grant liberty to men of gentle blood, to keep a hound or two within the camp, and besides, it were a sin to harm a thing so noble as this gentleman's dog, the most perfect creature of heaven, of the noblest northern breed."
The king laughed.
"Well, thou hast given him leave to keep the hound, so there is an end of it. But to this piece of learned heathenness—say'st thou the Scot met him in the desert?"
"No, my liege, the Scot's tale runs thus: He was dispatched to the old hermit of Engaddi—"
"'Sdeath and hell!" said Richard, starting up, "by whom dispatched, and for what? Who would send anyone thither when our queen was in the convent of Engaddi?"
"The Council of the Crusade sent him, my lord," the baron answered, "but for what purpose he declined to account to me."
"Well, it shall be looked into," said Richard. "So this envoy met with a wandering physician at Engaddi, ha!"
"Not so, my liege, but he met a Saracen Emir, who understood that Saladin should send his own leech to you. He is attended as if he were a prince, and brings with him letters of credence from Saladin."
Richard took the scroll and read.
"Hold, hold," he said. "I will have no more of this dog of a prophet. Yes, I will put myself in charge of this Hakim—I will repay the noble Soldan his generosity—I will meet him in the field as he proposes. Haste, De Vaux, fetch the Hakim hither."
Scarcely had De Vaux left the royal pavilion when the king, to soothe his impatience, sent a messenger to command the attendance of the Knight of the Leopard, that he might obtain an account of the cause of his absence from the camp.
"Hark thee, Sir Knight," said the king, "I require you to remember that, as a principal member of the Christian League, I have a right to know the negotiations of my confederates. Do me, therefore, the justice to tell me the purport of thine errand."
"My lord," replied the Scot, "I will speak the truth. Be pleased, therefore, to know my charge was to propose through the medium of the hermit—a holy man, respected and protected by Saladin himself—the establishment of a lasting peace, and the withdrawing of our armies from Palestine."
"Saint George!" said Richard. "Ill as I have thought of them, I could not have dreamed of such dishonour. On what conditions was this hopeful peace to be contracted?"
"They were not entrusted to me, my lord," said Sir Kenneth. "I delivered them sealed to the hermit. Might I so far presume, my lord king, this discourse but heats your disease, the enemy from which Christendom dreads more evil than from armed hosts of infidels."
"You can flatter, Sir Knight," said the king, "but you escape me not. Saw you my royal consort at Engaddi?"
"To my knowledge, no, my lord," said Sir Kenneth in some perturbation. "I beheld a choir of ladies do homage to a relic of the highest sanctity, but I saw not their faces."
"I ask you," said Richard, raising himself on his elbow, "as a knight and a gentleman, did you or did you not, know any lady amongst that band of worshippers?"
"My lord," said Kenneth, not without much hesitation, "I might guess."
"And I also might guess," said the king, frowning sternly. "But it is enough. Leopard as you are, Sir Knight, beware o' tempting the lion's paw. Enough—begone!—speed to De Vaux and send him hither with the Arabian physician."
Richard, when the physician, accompanied by the Grand Master of the Templars, Montserrat, with De Vaux and the Knight of the Leopard, entered his apartment, immediately exclaimed:
"So, ho, a goodly fellowship come to see Richard take his leap in the dark. My noble allies, I greet you as the representatives of our assembled league—De Vaux, lives he or dies he, thou hast the thanks of thy prince—There is yet another—What, the bold Scot, who would climb heaven without a ladder? He is welcome, too. Come, Sir Hakim, to the work, to the work."
The physician now felt the king's pulse for a long time, then filled a cup with water, and dipt in it a small red purse, which he took from his bosom. He was about to offer it to the king, but he prevented him, saying:
"Hold an instant, let me lay my finger on thy pulse."
The Arabian yielded his hand without hesitation.
"His blood beats calm as an infant's; so throbs not theirs who poison princes," said the king, "De Vaux, whether we live or die, dismiss this Hakim with honour. Commend us, friend, to the noble Saladin."
He then took the cup, and turning to the Marquis of Montserrat and the grand master: "Mark what I say. To the immortal honour of the first Crusader who shall strike lance or sword on the gate of Jerusalem and to the eternal infamy of whomsoever shall turn back from the plough on which he hath laid his hand." He drained the cup and sank back as if exhausted.
The hour had arrived when the royal patient might be awakened with safety. The fever had entirely left him, and King Richard sitting up and rubbing his eyes demanded what present store of money was in the royal coffers.
"Be it greater or smaller," he said, "bestow it all on the learned leech who hath given me back to the service of the Crusade."
"I sell not the wisdom with which Allah has endowed me," said the Arab. "It is reward enough for me that so great a king as Melech Ric should thus speak to his servant. But now let me pray you to compose yourself again on the couch."
"I must obey thee, Hakim," said the king. "But what mean these shouts and distant music in the camp?"
The Marquis of Montserrat at that moment entered.
"Honoured prince," he said, "I delight to see your majesty so far recovered, and that is a long speech for me to make who has partaken of the Duke of Austria's hospitality."
"What, you have been dining with the Teutonic wine skin!" said the monarch. "And what frolic hath he found to cause all this disturbance? Truly, Sir Conrade, I wonder at your quitting the revel."
"What the Archduke does," said Conrade de Montserrat, not heeding De Vaux's sign, "is of little consequence to anyone; yet to say truth, this is a gambol I should not like to share in, since he is pulling down the banner of England, and displaying his own in its stead."
"What say'st thou?" exclaimed Richard, springing from his couch and casting on his clothes with marvellous speed. "Speak not to me—I command thee, speak not a word to me—Hakim, be silent I charge thee!" And with the last word he snatched his sword and rushed out. Conrade held up his hands as if in astonishment. De Vaux pushed rudely past him calling orders in haste to the equerries, which, imperfectly heard, spread an alarm as general as the cause seemed vague, through the whole British forces.
Without regarding the tumult, Richard pursued his way, followed only by De Vaux and a few servants; but the Knight of the Leopard, as they passed him, aware that danger must be afoot, snatched his sword and shield, and hastened to share it. Richard burst his way through a crowd of the Archduke's friends and retinue, pulled up the standard-spear, threw the Austrian banner on the ground, and placed his foot upon it.
"Thus," said he, "I trample on the banner of Austria!"
A Hungarian nobleman struck at the king a blow that might have proved fatal had not the Scot intercepted it, while Richard glanced round him with an eye from which the angry nobles shrank appalled, until the King of France, whose sagacity Richard much respected, came and remonstrated. The duke at last said he would refer his quarrel to the General Council of the Crusade.
Richard listened to Philip until his oratory seemed exhausted, then said aloud:
"I am drowsy—this fever hangs upon me still. Brother of France, know, at once, I will submit a matter touching the honour of England neither to prince, pope, nor council. Here stands my banner—whatever pennon shall be reared within three butts' length of it—shall be treated as that dishonoured rag."
Philip answered calmly he would have no other strife between the Lions of England and the Lilies of France than which should be carried deepest into the ranks of the infidels. Richard stretched out his hand, with all the frankness of his rash but generous disposition, and replied:
"It is a bargain, my royal brother! Here, Thomas of Gilsland, I give thee charge of this standard—watch over the honour of England."
"Her safety is yet more dear to me," said De Vaux, "and the life of Richard is the safety of England. I must have your highness back to your tent without further tarriance."
"Thou art a rough and peremptory nurse, De Vaux," said the king, and then addressing Sir Kenneth: "Valiant Scot, I owe thee a boon; and I will repay it richly. There stands the banner of England! Watch it as a novice doth his armour. Stir not from it three spears' lengths, and defend it with thy body against injury or insult—Dost thou undertake the charge?"
"Willingly," said Kenneth, "and will discharge it upon penalty of my head. I will but arm me and return thither instantly."
Those whom the disturbance had assembled now drew off in various directions, and the Marquis of Montserrat said to the Grand Master of the Templars:
"Thou seest that subtle courses are more effective than violence. I have unloosed the bonds which held together this bunch of sceptres and lances—thou wilt see them shortly fall asunder."
III.—Richard and Sir Kenneth
It was about sunrise when a slow armed tread was heard approaching the king's pavilion and De Vaux had time to do no more than arise when the Knight of the Leopard entered, with deep gloom on his manly features. Richard, awaking on the instant, exclaimed:
"Speak, Sir Scot, thou comest to tell me of a vigilant watch?"
"My watch hath been neither safe, vigilant, nor honourable," said Sir Kenneth. "The banner of England has been carried off."
"And thou alive to tell it?" said Richard. "Away, it cannot be. There is not even a scratch on thy face. It is ill jesting with a King—yet I will forgive thee if thou hast lied."
"Lied, Sir King!" returned the knight with fierce emphasis. "But this also must be endured. I have spoken the truth."
"By God and St. George!" said the king with fury. "De Vaux, go view the spot. This cannot be. The man's courage is proof—it cannot be! Go speedily—or send, if—"
The King was interrupted by Sir Henry Neville, who came, breathless, to say the banner was gone, and there was a pool of blood where the banner-spear lay.
"But whom do I see here?" said Neville, his eyes suddenly resting upon Sir Kenneth.
"A traitor," said the king, seizing his curtal-axe, "whom thou shalt see die a traitor's death." And he drew back the weapon as in act to strike.
Colourless, but firm as a marble statue, the Scot stood before him, his head uncovered, his eyes cast down. The king stood for a moment prompt to strike, then lowering the weapon, exclaimed:
"But there was blood, Neville—Hark thee, Sir Scot, brave thou wert once, for I have seen thee fight. Say thou hast struck but one blow in our behalf, and get thee out of the camp with thy life and thy infamy."
"There was no blood shed, my lord king," replied Kenneth, "save that of a poor hound, which, more faithful than his master, defended the charge he deserted."
"Now, by St. George," said Richard, again heaving up his arm, but De Vaux threw himself between him and the object of his vengeance. There was a pause.
"My lord," said Kenneth.
"Ha! hast thou found thy speech?" said Richard. "Ask grace from heaven, but none from me. Wert thou my own and only brother, there is no pardon for thy fault."
"I speak not to demand grace of mortal man," replied the Scot. "I beseech your grace for one moment's opportunity to speak that which highly concerns your fame as a Christian king. There is treason around you."
"Treason that will injure thee more deeply than the loss of a hundred banners. The—the—the Lady Edith—"
"Ha!" said the king, "what was she to do with this matter?"
"My lord," said the Scot, "there is a scheme on foot to disgrace your royal lineage, by bestowing the hand of the Lady Edith on the Saracen Soldan, and thereby to purchase a peace most dishonourable to Christendom."
The mention of his relative's name renewed the King's recollection of what he had considered extreme presumption in the Knight of the Leopard, even while he stood high on the rolls of chivalry, and now appeared to drive the fiery monarch into a frenzy of passion.
"Silence," he said, "infamous and audacious. By heaven, I will have thy tongue torn out with hot pincers for mentioning the very name of a noble damsel! With lips blistered with the confession of thine own dishonour—that thou shouldest now dare—name her not—for an instant think not of her."
"Not name—not think of her?" answered Sir Kenneth. "Now by the cross on which I place my hope, her name shall be the last word in my mouth. Try thy boasted strength on this bare brow, and see if thou canst prevent my purpose."
"He will drive me mad," said Richard, once more staggered by the dauntless determination of the criminal.
A bustle was heard and the arrival of the queen was announced.
"Detain her, Neville," cried the king. "Away with him, De Vaux; let him have a ghostly father—and, hark thee, we will not have him dishonoured; he shall die knight-like in his belt and spurs."
The entrance of Queen Berengaria was withstood by the chamberlain, and she could hear the stern commands of the king from within to the executioner. Edith could no longer remain silent:
"I will make entrance for your grace," she said, putting aside the chamberlain.
On their sudden entrance Richard flung himself hastily aside, turning his back to them as if displeased.
"Thou seest, Edith," whispered the queen, "we shall but incense him."
"Be it so," said Edith, stepping forward. "I—your poor kinswoman, crave you for justice rather than mercy, and to that cry the ear of a monarch should be ever open."
"Ha! our cousin Edith!" said Richard, rising. "She speaks ever king-like, and king-like I will answer her."
"My lord," she said, "this good knight whose blood you are about to spill hath fallen from his duty through a snare set for him in idleness and folly. A message sent to him in the name of one—why should I not speak it?—it was in my own—induced him to leave his post."
"And you saw him then, cousin?" said the king, biting his lips to keep down his passion. "Where?"
"In the tent of her majesty, the queen."
"Of your royal consort! Now, by my father's soul, Edith, thou shalt rue this thy life long in a monastery."
"My liege," said Edith, "your greatness licences tyranny. My honour is as little touched as yours, and my lady, the queen, can prove it if she thinks fit. But I have not come here to excuse myself or inculpate others—"
The king was about to answer with much anger, when a Carmelite monk entered hastily, and flinging himself on his knees before the king, conjured him to stop the execution. It was the hermit of Engaddi, and to the king's fierce refusal to listen, he said with irritation:
"Thou art setting that mischief on foot thou wilt afterwards wish thou hadst stopped, though it had cost thee a limb. Rash, blinded man, forbear!"
"Away, away," cried the king, stamping. "The sun has risen on the dishonour of England, and it is not yet avenged. Ladies and priests withdraw, for by St. George, I swear—"
"Swear not!" said the voice of one who now entered—
"Ho! my learned Hakim," said the king, "come, I hope, to tax our generosity."
"I come to request instant speech with you—instant."
"Retire then, Berengaria," said the monarch. "Nay, renew not thy importunities—nay, this I give to thee—the execution shall not be till high noon. Edith, go—if you are wise."
The females hurried from the tent, and El Hakim made his humble prayer for the knight about to die. The king hardening himself as the leech assumed a more lofty tone:
"Know, then," he said, "that through every court of Europe and Asia will I denounce thee as thankless and ungenerous."
Richard turned fiercely from him.
"Hakim, thou hast chosen thy boon, and I may not, king-like, refuse thee. Take this Scot, therefore, use him as thy bond-slave if thou wilt, only let him beware how he comes before the eyes of Richard. Is there aught else in which I may do thee pleasure?"
"Let me touch that victorious hand," said the sage, "in token that should Adonbec El Hakim hereafter demand a boon of Richard of England, he may do so."
"Thou hast hand and glove upon it, man," replied Richard.
"May thy days be multiplied," answered the Hakim.
"Strange pertinacity," said the King, gazing after him as he departed, "in this Hakim to interfere between this Scot and the chastisement he has merited so richly. Yet, let him live! there is one brave man the more in the world."
IV.—The Victory of Sir Kenneth
Surrounded by his valiant knights, Coeur de Lion stood beside the banner of England while the powers of the various Crusading Princes swept round before him; their commanders, as they passed, making a signal of courtesy "in sign of regard and amity," as the protocol of the ceremony heedfully expressed it, "not of vassalage." By the king's side stood an Ethiopian slave, recently sent to Richard by Saladin, holding a noble dog in a leash, who watched the ranks with a sagacious look as they passed. King Richard looked more than once at the Nubian and his dog, and at last said:
"Thy success, my sable friend, will not place thee high in the list of wizards."
But Conrade of Montserrat no sooner came within his ken than the noble hound, uttering a furious yell (the Nubian at the same time slipping his leash), leapt upon the noble charger, and seizing the marquis by the throat, pulled him from the saddle.
The Ethiopian, though not without difficulty, disengaged the dog; while the voice of Richard, loud and sonorous, was heard clear above all others:
"He dies the death who injures the hound. Stand forward for a false traitor, Conrade of Montserrat. I impeach thee of treason!"
When King Richard returned to his tent some hours later, he commanded the Nubian to be brought before him, and his keen glance surveyed him for some time in silence.
"Thou art about to return to the camp of the Soldan, bearing a letter requiring of his country to appoint neutral ground for the deed of chivalry, and should it consort with his pleasure to concur with us in witnessing it. Now, we think thou might'st find in that camp some cavalier, who, for the love of truth, will do battle with this same traitor of Montserrat?"
The Nubian turned his eyes to the king with eager ardour, then to heaven with solemn gratitude, then bent his head as affirming what Richard desired.
"It is well," said the king; "I see thy desire to oblige me in this matter; with thee to hear is to obey."
* * * * *
The two heroic monarchs embraced as brothers and equals, the pomp and display on both sides attracted no further notice. No one saw aught but Richard and Saladin. The looks with which Richard surveyed Saladin were more curious than those which the Soldan fastened on him, and when later Saladin exchanged his turban for a Tartar cap Richard gazed with astonishment and exclaimed:
"A miracle—a miracle! That I should lose my learned Hakim and find him again in my royal brother? It was by thy artifice the Knight of the Leopard visited my camp in disguise? He will do battle on the morrow?"
"He is full of preparation and high in hope," said Saladin. "I have furnished him with weapons and horse, thinking nobly of him from what I have seen under various disguises."
* * * * *
Drum, clarion, trumpet and cymbal rung forth at once in honour of England's champion!
"Brave Knight of the Leopard," said Coeur de Lion, "thou hast shown the Ethiopian may change his skin, and the leopard his spots. I have more to say to you when I have conducted you to the presence of the ladies. And thou, princely Saladin, will also attend them."
Saladin bent his head gracefully, but declined.
"I must attend the wounded man," said he, "and further, Royal Richard, he saith the sage who hath forfeited a treasure doth not wisely to turn back to gaze on it."
"Come," said Richard, "we will to the pavilion, and lead our conqueror thither in triumph."
The victor entered and knelt gracefully down before the queen, though more than half the homage was silently rendered to Edith.
"Unarm him, my mistresses," said the king. "Let Beauty honour Chivalry. Undo his spurs, Berengaria. Unlace his helmet, Edith—by this hand, thou shalt. Here terminate his various disguises. The adventurous Knight Kenneth, arises David, Earl of Huntington, Prince Royal of Scotland."
The next day saw Richard return to his own camp, and in a short space afterwards the young Earl of Huntington was espoused by Edith Plantagenet.
The Soldan sent, as a nuptial present on this occasion, the celebrated talisman; but, though many cures were wrought with it in Europe, none equalled in success and celebrity those which the Soldan achieved.
* * * * *
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the daughter of William Godwin (see Vol. IV) and Mary Wollstonecraft, was born in London, August 30, 1797, and married to the poet Shelley in 1816, on the death of his first wife Harriet. Two years previous to this she had eloped with Shelley (see Vol. XVIII) to Switzerland, and they lived together in Italy till his death in 1823, when Mrs. Shelley returned to England, and continued her literary work. "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus," the first of Mary Shelley's books, was published in 1818, and owed its origin to the summer spent by the Shelleys on the shores of Geneva when Byron was their neighbour. It was "a wet, ungenial summer," according to the account Mary Shelley has left. "Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French, fell into our hands." Then one evening Byron said, "we will each write a ghost story," and the proposition was agreed to, and Mary Shelley's contribution was developed till at length "Frankenstein" was written. The story is at once a remarkable and impressive performance. The influence of Mrs. Shelley's father is apparent throughout, but probably the authoress was most influenced by the old German tales of the supernatural. The theme of a mortal creating, by the aid of natural science, a being in the shape of man, was at the time a bold and daring innovation in English literature. Mrs. Shelley died February 21, 1851.
I.—Robert Walton's Letter
August 5, 17—
My Dear Sister.—This letter will reach England by a merchantman now on its homeward voyage from Archangel; more fortunate than I, who may not see my native land, perhaps for many years. We have already reached a very high latitude, and it is the height of summer; but last Monday, July 31, we were nearly surrounded by ice which closed in the ship on all sides. Our situation was somewhat dangerous, especially as we were compassed round by a very thick fog. About two o'clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld in every direction, vast and irregular plains of ice. A strange sight suddenly attracted our attention. We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the North: a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress of the traveller until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice. Before night the ice broke and freed our ship.
In the morning, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck, and found all the sailors apparently talking to some one in the sea, it was, in fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night, on a large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive, but there was a human being whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel.
On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English. "Before I come on board your vessel," said he, "will you have the kindness to inform me whither you are bound?"
I replied that we were on a voyage of discovery towards the northern pole.
Upon hearing this he consented to come on board. His limbs were nearly frozen, and his body dreadfully emaciated. I never saw a man in so wretched a condition, and I often feel that his sufferings had deprived him of understanding.
Once the lieutenant asked why he had come so far upon the ice in so strange a vehicle. He replied, "To seek one who fled from me." "And did the man whom you pursued travel in the same fashion?"
"Then I fancy we have seen him; for the day before we picked you up, we saw some dogs drawing a sledge, with a man in it, across the ice."
From this time a new spirit of life animated the decaying frame of the stranger. He manifested the greatest eagerness to be upon deck, to watch for the sledge which had before appeared.
August 17, 17—
Yesterday the stranger said to me, "You may easily perceive, Capt. Walton, that I have suffered great and unparallelled misfortunes. My fate is nearly fulfilled. I wait but for one event, and then I shall repose in peace. Listen to my history, and you will perceive how irrevocably my destiny is determined."
I am by birth a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My father has filled several public situations with honour and reputation. He passed his younger days perpetually occupied by the affairs of his country, and it was not until the decline of life that he became a husband and the father of a family.
When I was about five years old, my mother, whose benevolent disposition often made her enter the cottages of the poor, brought to our house a child fairer than pictured cherub, an orphan whom she found in a peasant's hut; the infant daughter of a nobleman who had died fighting for Italy. Thus Elizabeth became the inmate of my parents' house. Every one loved her, and I looked upon Elizabeth as mine, to protect, love, and cherish. We called each other familiarly by the name cousin, and were brought up together. No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself.
When I had attained the age of seventeen, my parents resolved that I should become a student at the University of Ingolstadt; I had hitherto attended the schools, of Geneva.
Before the day of my departure arrived, the first misfortune of my life occurred—an omen of my future misery. My mother attended Elizabeth in an attack of scarlet fever. Elizabeth was saved, but my mother sickened and died. On her deathbed she joined the hands of Elizabeth and myself:—"My children," she said, "my firmest hopes of future happiness were placed on the prospect of your union. This expectation will now be the consolation of your father."
The day of my departure for Ingolstadt, deferred for some weeks by my mother's death, at length arrived. I reached the town after a long and fatiguing journey, delivered my letters of introduction, and paid a visit to some of the principal professors.
M. Krempe, professor of Natural Philosophy, was an uncouth man. He asked me several questions concerning my progress in different branches of science, and informed me I must begin my studies entirely anew.
M. Waldman was very unlike his colleague. His voice was the sweetest I had ever heard. Partly from curiosity, and partly from idleness, I entered his lecture room, and his panegyric upon modern chemistry I shall never forget:—"The ancient teachers of this science," said he, "promised impossibilities, and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little, and have, indeed, performed miracles. They have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of the heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows."
Such were the professor's words, words of fate enounced to destroy me. As he went on, I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy. So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein. More, far more, will I achieve: I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation. I closed not my eyes that night; and from this time natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, became nearly my sole occupation. My progress was rapid, and at the end of two years I made some discoveries in the improvement of chemical instruments which procured me great esteem at the University.
I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, and often asked myself, Whence did the principle of life proceed? I observed the natural decay of the human body, and saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted. I examined and analysed all the minutiae of causation in the change from life to death and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me. I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect, and surprised that among so many men of genius I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.
Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I collected bones from charnel houses, and the dissecting room and the slaughter house furnished many of my materials. Often my nature turned with loathing from my occupation, but the thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter I might in process of time renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption, supported my spirits.
In a solitary chamber at the top of the house I kept my workshop of filthy creation. The summer months passed, but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. Winter, spring, and summer passed away before my work drew to a close, but now every day showed me how well I had succeeded. But I had become a wreck, so engrossing was my occupation, and nervous to a most painful degree. I shunned my fellow-creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime.
It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toil. With an anxiety that amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard; and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but his watery eyes seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set.
I had worked hard for nearly two years for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. But now that I had finished, breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room. I tried to sleep, but disturbed by the wildest dreams, I started up. By the dim and yellow light of the moon I beheld the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtains of the bed, and his eyes were fixed on me. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs.
No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, no mummy could be so hideous. I took refuge in the court-yard, and passed the night wretchedly.